In 1897 when Irish author and theatre manager Bram Stoker wrote his now world-famous novel Dracula he certainly had no idea how deathless his creation would become. Actually, he wasn’t breaking new ground writing about a centuries-old creature emerging from a soil- packed coffin to roam the earth in search of other people’s blood to sustain him. Going back as far as 1819, other authors had written tales about similar creatures. Yet, Stoker did his research well, diving into the history of horrors about an actual Romanian, Vlad III Dracula of Wallachia aka Vlad The Impaler.
As far as movies go, they keep on coming. But, in the theatre, the venomous Count doesn’t have much of a life. There are very few stage versions. The first emerged about 12 years after Stoker died. It’s by Englishmen Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, (which unfolds starting October 23rd at Chanticleer Theater.) Surfacing first at UNO is a script from about 20 years ago by famed American playwright Steven Dietz.
Digging into the source, Dietz emulates Stoker's language, even incorporating some of Stoker's original dialog. In a weaving, criss-crossing of time and place, including evoking Dracula as a youth, he also adds lighter, even humorous touches via fly-eating madman Renfield. And gets into erotic undertones.
Dietz decided that, in most adaptations, the original text had not been given its due. He derides making the Count a metaphor. “A metaphor doesn't wait outside your window under a full moon. A metaphor doesn't turn into a bat and land on your bed…The actual being is the most haunting…not what he represents, but what he is.”
“Resonating with deep Victorian observations on human passion and the human condition,” said Chicago Theater Beat. And “This is a play designed to encourage trepidation” comments the Denver Post.
Steven Dietz's thirty-plus plays have been produced across the U.S including Off-Broadway, in England, Japan, Germany, France, Australia, Sweden, Russia, Argentina, Greece and South Africa. Recent ones include the widely-produced thriller, Yankee Tavern (coming in October from Circle Theater), Pulitzer-nominated Last of the Boys and the Edgar Award-winning Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure (www.samuelfrench.com/author/1686/steven-dietz)
Stand or sit far back, lest that dangerous alien grabs you by the throat.
Dracula runs Sept. 30-Oct. 10 at UNO Theatre, Weber Fine Arts Building, 6001 Dodge Street. Weds.-Sat. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $6-$16. UNO students: free. http://www.unomaha.edu/college-of-communication-fine-arts-and-media/theatre-productions