Friday, October 3, 2014

"Dracula," a play for Hallowe'en

I had to write the following when I read an article about our Fine Arts Center's production of "Dracula" in my morning newspaper.  The interview with the director of the play illustrated for me that his decisions were being made by Method Acting theory and theatrics rather than by a real understanding of the material and what it meant.

I was amused by your article that interviewed Nathan Halvorson, director of the upcoming FAC production of "Dracula." The obvious contradictions of Halvorson's thoughts regarding the character of Dracula leaped from the page and urged me to write to you.  


First Halvorson wants to get away from the romanticized modern day portrayals of vampires such as in the Twilight series and get back to the original story of horror. Then, Halvorson makes the error of trying to find motivation for Dracula by giving him human characteristics. Dracula has a disease. He is lonely. He wants companionship,. None of these characteristics are in the source material, Bram Stoker's Victorian novel, "Dracula." What makes Dracula a character that evokes horror is that he is supernatural. He is not human. He is the embodiment of evil-- an undead soul wandering the Earth and preying on humans in a way that makes them undead souls as well. The horror of the story is that Dracula's victim, Lucy, is threatened to become one of the undead. Van Helsing and the others try to save her, but they fail. Now they must save her soul by driving a stake through her heart so her body will die and her soul will be at rest. This is the thing about the story that evokes horror. It is not created by special effects of gore, or by flying bats (as I have seen in one production). The battle between good and evil wrestling for souls is eternal. Dracula is Evil itself. Van Helsing and those trying to save Lucy are Good. The winner of the battle between them gets Lucy's soul. Dracula will give her soul torment and eternal damnation. Van Helsing and the others will provide her soul with peace. The horror of the story is that battle with those results. This is Stoker's basic source material. Mr. Halvorson seems to have missed that and by so doing is relying on special effects for horror.


It also seems from your article that Halvorson has been trained in Method Acting. I say this because of his efforts to provide Dracula with motivation. Dracula needs no other motivation than his thirst for human blood and through that the capturing of souls who also become vampires. Evil is the character's spine if we must discuss him in Method terms. The character is a symbol of sin, and the story is an allegory of the religious concepts of souls, damnation, and salvation.


The religious implications of the story of Dracula do not horrify today's audiences. The battle of Good vs. Evil is one that our society largely ignores. Creating horror from Stoker's original source would be nearly impossible in the amoral world of today. Dracula is no longer a horrifying story. Vampires have become caught in our present day's web of confusion about what is Good and what is Evil, and so Dracula is reduced from a tragedy of horror to a melodrama of tricks and special effects. I am sure that the FAC production of "Dracula" will be entertaining, but I do not think it will horrify the audience.


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