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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

October 28, 2011

The Daily Vampire: Accents

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 10:04 am

Dracula has probably more accents than almost any other show. They range from Transylvannia (Rumanian) for Dracula, to proper English for Dr. Thomas Seward, to Dutch for Abram Van Helsing, cockney for Renfield, even Irish for Margaret Sullivan the housekeeper. Amanda Wansa, Charleston Stage’s music director (who has a great ear) has served as the dialect coach for the cacophony of accents needed in this show.

“Coaching actors on dialects is really a two part process,” said Dialect Coach Amanda Wansa. “The first is identifying the general ‘feel’ of a dialect and the second is dealing with actual sound substitutions. What most audience members don’t know is that there is a difference between ‘putting on an accent’ and speaking in a dialect on stage. For example, a real person from Germany who happens to speak English speaks with a German ‘accent’ – their take and pronunciation of the words; this is going to vary from person to person.  To teach Josh (Van Helsing) a Dutch (which is very close to German) dialect, we work on changing specific sounds in the speech (i.e. the “th” sound goes to a “D” or a “T” sound) to make him sound like he’s from that area, but still well understood onstage.”

“Each actor trained privately with me–sometimes hours at a time–on their specific dialect. We worked sentence by sentence, word by word, focusing on the language and pronunciation. Then, they were instructed to simply focus on their acting in rehearsal and I would give them notes after each night on specific sounds and nuances.”


From left to right: Charleston Stage Resident Actor Josh Harris as Abram Van Helsing, Resident Actor Derek T. Pickens as Dr. Thomas Seward, Michael David Wilson as Robert Renfield, and Garrett Flood as Norbert Briggs in Charleston Stage's DRACULA.



October 27, 2011

The Daily Vampire: Stage Combat

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 9:17 am

Dracula is a very physical show. Vampires and their minions do seem to like to slap folks around. There are actually 11 different fights or confrontations in this production, all of which have been carefully staged and choreographed by Resident Actor Derek T. Pickens.

“My first real experience with stage combat was back in 2008 while working at Theatre West Virginia,” said Pickens. “I was an actor in a few of their shows and in one of them I had a combat scene, but I was only taught the fight choreography for that specific fight and nothing more. It wasn’t until my first quarter of grad school at the Savannah College of Art and Design that I took a class in stage and film combat. My instructor, Martin Noyes, taught us the ins and outs of many styles of combat including hand-to-hand, rapier, and dagger.”

“When it came to choreographing the fights for Dracula, I was relieved to find that most of the combat were simple slaps and throws, which I’m very comfortable staging. There were also a few fight sequences that involved a bit more, and for those I spoke through the fight with our Director, Julian Wiles, and created what he thought should be in the fight, while also adding a few cool moves I had learned at SCAD. The process was extremely smooth, which I was grateful for as this was the first show I had ever been fight choreographer for.”


Charleston Stage Resident Actor Jillian Kuhl as Margaret Sullivan and Garrett Flood as Norbert Briggs in Charleston Stage's DRACULA.


October 26, 2011

The Daily Vampire: The Sounds of Thunder and More

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 10:48 am

What would a production of Dracula be without sound effects—and in this production, the goal was to create almost horror movie like sounds throughout the play. Also we’ve added surround sound to the theatre’s sound system allowing spooky sounds to come from all over the theatre.

“We decided to invest in the equipment necessary to create surround sound effects in the Dock, in particular for this show, to really engulf the audience in the spooky experience that the Dracula script calls for,” says Sound Designer Amanda Wansa. “Current audiences are used to surround sound in the movie theatres, their cars, and even at home. There’s two benefits to having this kind of system in a theatre. The first is the obvious ability to project sounds from specific locales, such as the wolf howls in Dracula that come from the back of the house, indicating that they are in the distance, ‘behind’ the audience. Likewise, many of the thunder, storms, winds, and whispers have effects coming from the back of the house, and bouncing to the front (it creates a moving effect).”

“The other benefit, which is less heard by the common ear (but trust me, your ear buds will thank us later) is the dissemination of the sound. Instead of having a loud thunder crash or underscore cue come solely from the 2 speakers up front at fairly loud volume, we can put them in 4-6 speakers at a lower level and spread out the sound.  The audience still gets the same volume, but its easier on the ears, easier on our system, and just plain cooler to listen to from multiple angles!”

Dracula continues this weekend for four more performances! Running Oct. 27, 28, and 29 at 7:30pm and Oct. 30 at 3:00pm.  Don’t miss your chance to experience surround sound in the Dock Street Theatre!  Purchase tickets online at


From left to right: Charleston Stage Resident Actor Josh Harris as Abram Van Helsing, Garrett Flood as Norbert Briggs, Michael David Wilson as Robert Renfield, and Resident Actor Derek T. Pickens as Dr. Thomas Seward.



October 24, 2011

The Daily Vampire: Fog

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 8:59 am

Prentice Clark as Mina Grant and Rashad-Dalao Tyrone Coles as The Monster.


How could Dracula prowl the stage without blankets of fog rolling in from the wings? While fog itself is simple chilled water vapor, producing it onstage is tricky. Special machines create the fog which is then super-cooled. Sometimes ice or dry ice is used, but this year we’re using a recyclable cooling substance, super cooled isopropyl alcohol. Since its freezing point is -117 degree Fahrenheit, the fog can be really cold, so cold that it (mostly) stays creepily low to the ground. We do our best to steer the fog in the right direction but, don’t worry if a little spills into the audience, it will not make you cough.


Prentice Clark as Mina Grant and Katie Needle Krawcheck as The Child.




October 21, 2011

The Daily Vampire: Pyrotechnics!

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 3:19 pm

Katie Needle Krawcheck as The Child and Michael David Wilson as Robert Renfield in Dracula.


Dracula features the most extensive use of pyro-technics in Charleston Stage’s history. While the goal is to produce the most spectacular effects ever, safety is paramount, in fact to produce pyrotechnics onstage all effects have to be cleared with state and local fire marshals and a Charleston City Fireman is on hand for every performance. Effects can also only be set off by licensed pyro technecians and Chris Russell, who designed the pyrotechnics for this show, has been licensed and also supervises many of the areas fireworks displays each year.

To further insure safety all the curtains, scenic elements, even actors costumed have been fireproofed and each effect carefully rehearsed.  So while some of the spectacular effects last only seconds, hours and hours have gone into them to insure they are not only spectacular, but safe as well.



October 19, 2011

The Daily Vampire: The World of Dracula and Friends

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 12:30 pm

Featured above: Dr. Seward's study.


This production of Dracula requires multiple sets from a fog laden graveyard, to Dr. Seward’s study at the insane asylum he runs, to the asylum’s laboratory, to Mina’s tomb and Dracula’s lair. Because of the rapid paced acting, these five sets have to quickly morph from one to the other requiring an army of stage hands backstage to move each scenic unit on and offstage. Co-set designers Julian Wiles and Stephanie Christensen created totally original sets for this special production, building every unit from scratch. “We wanted all the familiar elements, gravestones, fog, etc. but we wanted original touches too. We researched other productions and of course, looked at 19th century laboratories and meticulous drawing rooms from the period,” says Wiles.

Charleston Stage recently surveyed audience members, and the set was one of the top things patrons loved about Dracula. Come see for yourself! Dracula continues running Oct. 19 – 30 at the Historic Dock Street Theatre.  Purchase tickets online at


Featured above: Mina's tomb.


October 17, 2011

The Daily Vampire: Black Capes and More

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 11:13 am

While Dracula will have the traditional black cape of course, costumes for Dracula, set around 1890’s requires period costumes and costumer Barbara Young has been busy making wonderfully romantic costumes for this production . . . often making two copies so that actors have a change after their bloody vampire encounters.

Prentice Clark as Mina Grant and Charleston Stage Resident Actor Gabriel Wright as Count Dracula.



Resident Actor Vanessa Moyen as Lucy Westphal and Timothy Shaw as Jonathan Harker.





October 14, 2011

The Daily Vampire: Vampire Blood

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 12:59 pm

Featured Above: Prentice Clark as Mina Grant and Charleston Stage Resident Actor Derek T. Pickens as Dr. Thomas Seward.


Over 10 gallons of stage blood will be used during this production of Dracula! “The blood is the life” says the raving lunatic Renfield, and blood is certainly a key part of any production of Dracula. In the era when Dracula was written, medical science was still in it’s infancy and the focus was certainly on the blood. Bleeding to remove impurities in the body was coming and just going out of practice. Blood transfusions were just being tried but, since no one yet knew that there were different blood types, these often lead to tragedy. The idea that blood could be sucked out of humans goes back millennia and has been part of the folklore of many cultures. For the blood onstage, we have three recipes, one of which is actually edible!

Audiences are in for a theatrical, gory treat this Halloween. Charleston Stage’s Dracula opens tonight at the Historic Dock Street Theatre! Purchase tickets online at or call the Box Office at (843) 577-7183 M-F, 12pm-5pm.

October 12, 2011

The Daily Vampire: Meet Louie the Rat

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 12:31 pm

Featured Above: Louie the Rat

Hi, I’m Louie the Rat. Actually my full name is Louis Vitton and I’m on loan from The Charleston Animal Society. I’m making my Dock Street Theatre stage debut in Dracula at the moment. I have two scenes (the best two in the play if I do say so myself). And while the crazy asylum patient Renfield keeps threatening to eat me (that’s only acting), we’ve actually become good friends. I’m hoping this will lead to a life of stardom and wild Hollywood parties. Rumor has it I’m being considered for the lead in Willard, the Musical, which I hear will open on Broadway next spring. If you haven’t heard, I’m up for adoption after this show closes. So if you’d like to give a famous star actor rodent a good home, please contact the Charleston Animal Society at (843) 747-4849 or visit I’m prepared to share my fame and stardom with the right family.

Dracula opens this Friday, October 14th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. Come see me, Louie the Rat, perform live on stage!


From Left To Right: Charleston Stage Resident Actors Josh Harris as Abram Von Helsing, Derek T. Pickens as Dr. Thomas Seward, Louie the Rat, Michael David Wilson as Robert Renfield, and Garrett Flood as Norbert Briggs.

October 10, 2011

The Daily Vampire: Dracula’s New Script

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 1:53 pm

Gabriel Wright as Count Dracula

For this year’s production of Dracula, I read over a half dozen versions of this classic tale.  Stage versions of Dracula are actually some of the most produced plays in America and range from silly spoofs to dead serious literal adaptations.  We choose William McNulty’s  imaginative and action packed version—one that has been a hit at Louisville’s Actor’s Theatre for the past sixteen years.  Because everyone knows the basic story of Dracula, Playwright William McNulty decided to focus on the action of the story: Dracula’s bloodthirsty attacks, chases in fog laden cemeteries and, of course, the stake-in-hand stalking of Dracula by Vampire hunter Professor Van Helsing.  Mr. McNulty spent several hours with me on the phone helping me to understand many of the effects they’ve added to his script over the years.  Also the technical staff at Actor’s Theatre have been very helpful, even sending us the recipe for edible blood.

William McNulty, Playwright of Dracula

“For as long as I can remember I’ve loved scary stories” says Playwright William McNulty. “I started out on Grimm’s Fairy Tales, progressed to the infamous Tales From the Crypt Magazine, then on to the novels of Stephen King and Clive Barker and, of course, all the great classic horror movies. This adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is intended to be a part of that great, creepy tradition of tales of terror. I wrote it as a horror genre piece because I saw it as the story of a monster, and I had not seen or heard of a stage play that had taken that approach; a few were mildly spooky, others romanticized the Count, and some were just campy parodies. In fact, I was not aware of any theatre piece that truly embraced the horror genre, and I wondered why other theatre artists had avoided bringing that kind of narrative to the stage. These stories were popular in print and film, so why would a stage play be any different? At Actors Theatre of Louisville, my home base, my production of Dracula has now been produced annually for the past sixteen years and has only grown in popularity. At least as far as Louisvillians are concerned, horror works well in the theatre. Since it’s publication in 2007, the adaptation has been done in quite a few high schools and colleges throughout the country. It has also been produced by theatre companies in Italy, Hong Kong, and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival will open their season with it this year. So, apparently it’s appeal extends beyond Kentucky. I am honored that Charleston Stage has also chosen to produce my play. It’s a great theatre in a wonderful town, and I believe the Charleston audiences are in for a unique and thrilling evening of theatre.”

Though I have directed Dracula twice before using my own adaptation, I was never fully satisfied with those productions. I had remained faithful to the script, but quite frankly the thrills and chills just weren’t there or not at the level of this new adaptation. Mr. McNulty has found a way to keep the story faithful to the book but emphasized focus on those elements of this dramatic legend, the mysterious and suspense elements that have made Dracula a character that will surely live forever. Of course that has meant our technical staff have been working overtime on all the special effects which will be the most dazzling since we have returned to the Dock Street.

Over the next few weeks, we will be giving you an inside look at producing Dracula through our new blog THE DAILY VAMPIRE.  Stay tuned for more exciting behind the scenes sneak peeks!

Julian Wiles
Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Director of Dracula

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