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.
“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!
Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Director of Dracula