By Joe Szek
After watching a recent rehearsal for Peterborough Theatre’s Guild’s upcoming production of DRACULA, I’d forgotten just how provocative, sensual and sexy the dialogue truly is in Bram Stoker’s famous tale in this adaptation by Steven Dietz. Durham Region resident, actor and director John Lunman is at the helm of this energetic and focused 12-person cast as they prepare for their opening night on September 22 at the Rogers Street Theatre in Peterborough.
The 1992 film version of DRACULA, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, featured an outstanding performance by Gary Oldman in the title role who splendidly played up the horrific elements. Other actors who have essayed the Count over the years include Jack Palance, Christopher Lee and Frank Langella. On a personal note, the 1931 Bela Lugosi black and white film version is rather campy as standards of acting techniques and staging today have attained greater cinematic heights of emotion and characterization than ever before. And herein lies the challenge when interest in the DRACULA story resurrects itself yet again.
To stage DRACULA for live twenty first century audiences, whose attention span might be somewhat limited, could turn campy if the cast and crew do not have a firm grip on what it is they want to create for an audience. For Mr. Lunman, this adaptation by Steven Dietz is not meant to be campy at all. In fact, for those who have read the novel (required reading in my undergraduate years) Dietz’s version incorporates much of the original plot material and dialogue into the script. Additionally, Mr. Lunman promises many moments of suspense to make audiences feel scared and creepy throughout the performance.
This peek into a rehearsal provided me only a glimpse of an extraordinary set design, makeup and costumes that, once they are fully completed, will eerily transport audiences back to a macabre, dank and foreboding setting in Transylvania. I had a few moments to speak with individual members of the cast to inquire how they found the rehearsal process. Each of them unanimously agreed how important it is to do justice and maintain as much truth as possible to Dietz’s adaptation, to the characters and to the action of the story. Dietz’s script is a powerfully written one of horror in its exploration of the darker elements of our humanity. What has been rewarding for this cast is the collaboration and support they have felt in trying things out with each other, with the director, and with the production team.
It appears that DRACULA is an appropriate choice to help audiences prepare and celebrate once again that wonderful time of the year called Hallowee’en. I am certainly looking forward to returning to see this production during its opening September weekend.
DRACULA by Bram Stoker with adaptation by Steven Dietz opens September 22 at the Peterborough Theatre Guild. Performances run September 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, October 5, 6 and 7 at 8 pm with matinee performances at 2 pm on September 24, October 1 and October 7. Tickets may be purchased at the door before each performance, by phone at 705-745-4211 or online at www.theatreguild.org/playbill. Produced by Karen Workman, Stage Managed by Tracy Magee-Graham and Directed by John Lunman. The theatre is located at 364 Rogers Street, Peterborough.