Theatre MSU's 'Dracula' brings blood and gore

Theatre MSU’s "Dracula," directed by the Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Theatre Cody Stockstill will run Nov. 14 through 16. First published in the mid-90’s, the play is an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel by American playwright Steven Dietz.

The production closely follows the plot of the novel and chronicles Count Dracula’s journey to England. As per Theatre MSU’s flyer for the play, “As Count Dracula begins to exert his will upon the residents of London, they try to piece together the clues of his appearances—in a valiant attempt to save themselves from a hideous fate.”

Tim Matheny, assistant professor theatre performance, said with every adaptation of one work into another, the artistic liberty of the director who takes on the play can affect each production.

"The production follows the plot of the novel, but Cody (Stockstill) has given this production a modern take on the classic tale," Matheny said. "The clean, sleek and updated approach gives this well-known story a breath of new life for our modern audiences."

Blaine Wohlgemuth, a second-year graduate student who will play the character of Van Helsing, said the play is a surprising spin-off from the original story of "Dracula."

“This play takes 'Dracula' and kind of modernizes it a little bit. There still are some of the older aspects of it in the way they talk," said Wohlgemuth. "We also take the creepiness level and we try to build on it a lot more than standard 'Dracula.'"

Matheny said he wants play goers to be aware of the 16+ Audience Guidance rating.

"We placed the 16+ rating to just prepare the audience for what they might expect from this production," Matheny said. "It has become a more common practice for theatre so as to not surprise their audiences with unexpected content."

Melanie Harris, MSU instructor and costume designer, said the play has violence, sexual content, gore and suspense, but nothing more dramatic than what is on TV.

"We have been telling people who ask that, 'If you can watch 'The Walking Dead' you will be fine. If 'The Walking Dead' is too intense or gory for you, you probably won’t enjoy it,'" Harris said.

Despite the 16+ rating, both Harris and Matheny believe the play will appeal to a large swath of people, but particularly people who enjoy suspense or scare factors.

"I have jokingly said that Dracula is to the world of horror what Superman is to superheroes. I think anyone who likes the horror genre will love this production," Matheny said. "The story is a classic tale of good versus evil. They are not pulling punches with this production. There will be blood."

Harris said putting on a play as involved as "Dracula" takes adept showmanship, handiwork, dedication and an amazing director.

"The director steers the ship. All decisions are made based on their vision. Once everyone is on board, you do your research, create designs, present designs, discuss some more, revamp, discuss and start your build," Harris said. "Throughout this process, you are constantly checking your own decisions against the needs of the script and the vision of the director."

Matheny said everyone involved in the production, especially the director, puts forth a large amount of effort.

"Cody Stockstill, the director, has put on so many different hats for this production–director, scenic designer, lighting designer and sound designer," Matheny said. "All of these positions are complicated and very time consuming. I honestly don’t know where he finds the time."

As a costume designer for "Dracula," Harris has the interesting dilemma of making sure all the costumes in the production are blood-friendly, as well as being capable of handling the harsh cleaning required to reset the show after each performance. 

"None of it is really a hassle, it’s just part of the process. Some parts you enjoy more than others, but all of it is pretty enjoyable," Harris said.  "I mean, hey, I make clothes for imaginary people. Who wouldn’t find that fun?"

Overall, Harris said the important aspect of getting to the final product is planning.

"To make it run smoothly, you just plan your work and work your plan. In other words, organization," Harris said. "You have to keep focused on the big picture so that the details fall into place."

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