Think you’re familiar with the classic story Dracula? Think again.
According to UC acting instructor Alec Barbour, the classic novel is much more chilling horror story than campy melodrama. From Feb. 23-26, Utica College’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts will present Barbour’s own adaptation of the story, which was recently featured in the Rochester Fringe Festival.
We talked to Barbour about what makes his version different and what scary surprises audiences can expect from the show:
It was around 2006, and I had just graduated from LeMoyne College's theatre arts program. Some friends and I wanted to write something we could act in. One friend was a 6'3'' Ukrainian with long black hair, and we joked that Dracula would be the perfect role for him. I started looking at scripts that existed, because in my head, there had to be a definitive edition out there. I read a couple and thought, "This is OK," but then my little sister bought an edition of the Bram Stoker book and left it on the coffee table. It was so much better than any adaptation I had read. I discovered that other adaptions of novel stem from a 1914 version, which was was an attempt to turn the book into a drawing room drama; it was much more semi-romantic and a lot of characters were weirdly conflated. I wanted to write a play that was a much more faithful adaptation of the novel and the horror genre.
Yes. In movies and other versions, Dracula is almost a romantic character. But in the Stoker book, Dracula is a monster. He's not just a villain—he's a monster. He’s much closer to a Jaws or Alien-type of character in my adaptation.
Tons of action. There are four or five fights in the last act alone. I hope the show makes people realize how effective a vehicle for horror theatre can be. When you're watching a movie, you're separate from it. But with theatre, it's in the same room as you. You’re in the moment. When someone is bleeding and gets their neck broken, it's a more visceral experience.
It’s not always easy. To keep away from comedy, you ultimately need sincerity and earnestness. This material can read as over-the-top silly, but if you really go for it, it becomes horrifying and true. At the same time, there are some genuinely funny moments in the play, which act as a little bit of a release valve.
One of the massive themes in the play is trust. It sounds cliché, but it’s about working together and trusting each other. For as scary and powerful as Dracula is, that's something he doesn't have. Together, the other characters can outsmart him, and when they don't trust each other, things go wrong. It’s a good metaphor for theatre, actually!
Performances of Dracula will be held Feb. 23, 24 and 25 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. in the Strebel Student Center Auditorium. Tickets are $4 for general admission and are available at the door. For more information, call (315) 792-3057 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.