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

February 8, 2018

How a Floating Refrigerator Gave “Helium” Its Lift

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 4:10 pm


Playwright Julian Wiles on the Writing of Helium

I’m often asked how I came to write a play. I wish it were as simple as coming up with an idea, starting at the beginning, and a few days later writing “curtain falls” at the end. For me playwrighting is never a straight line. There are often a lot of false starts, you go off on flights of fancy that lead to dead ends, and you have to begin again. But sometimes a flight of fancy is the spark that makes the whole idea come into sharp focus. Such is the case of the floating refrigerator. I was trying to come up with a way to show the whimsical flights of fancy the mind of my main character, an 80-year-old known affectionately as Gramms, was taking. Being trained first as a set designer, I often look for scenic solutions, especially when the writing eludes me for a bit. Some time ago, I had decided to name the play Helium to give that sense of thoughts taking flight. That led me to making Gramms a former chemistry teacher which then led to having her invent her own elements with whimsical words that sound like they could be elements—“pandemonium —hysterium.” But first, back to that floating fridge. I thought, why don’t we suspend items in Gramm’s random mind above the set—a refrigerator, a grandfather clock, a pizza—much like a Salvador Dali painting. In the play taking shape, Gramm’s mind often wandered to the seashore of her youth, so I placed this floating mental detritus in the sky over Gramm’s lovely beach scene. And then it clicked, why not show the audience the imaginary world that Gramms sees and let the other characters see these items as other things. For instance, Gramms sees that onstage there is a life guard box, beach chairs, and a beach umbrella. But her family sees these items as a sofa, overstuffed living room chairs and the beach umbrellas as a lamp. In a fantastical sort of way Gramms and her family each live in the same place but in different worlds. It is between these two worlds that the fun and the drama will play out. And audiences are part of the process for they have to use their imaginations to really figure this out. To me this became a whimsical scenic solution that served the story well —especially a story that mixes both comedy and drama. I learned a long time ago that while you need a great story for a play to work, the way you tell that story is just as important and Helium’s playful set is a perfect way to let this whimsical story take flight.


From left to right: Samille Basler as Mrs. Kingsley “Gramms” and Liz Duren as Alice in Charleston Stage’s production of “Helium”.


My inspiration for Helium, which I first wrote in 1990, came after I read a memoir by New York Times Humor columnist Russell Baker called Growing Up. When Mr. Baker went to visit his 90-year old mother whose mind had started to wander, she greeted him with a “who the hell are you?” Mr. Baker explained in his Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir that his mother’s mind “could wander free through space and time. Some days she went to weddings and funerals that had taken place a half-century earlier . . . she moved across time . . . with a speed and ease beyond the gift of physical science.” While Mr. Baker certainly saw the sadness of his mother’s mind beginning to wander, he also saw that there was a freedom there as well. From that thought, my Helium took flight. I wondered why we delight in a young child’s meandering mind and often funny little comments, yet when we see the same behavior in an adult we see it as a tragedy. Of course a baby has a world ahead and we know the aging are often leaving a world behind. Yet in each moment they are both vibrantly alive.

Over the next few years I was able to see aging and dementia first hand. My delightful grandmother, having reached the age of 100, passed away still with the twinkle in her eye and her good humor mostly intact.


From left to right: Samille Basler as Mrs. Kingsley “Gramms” and Parker Weeks as Josh in Charleston Stage’s production of “Helium”.


And so at Piccolo Spoleto in 1990 at the Footlight Players Workshop down the street, the first production of Helium took flight with noted Charleston comic actor, Kaye Shroka, in the lead. That world premiere production was a great success with festival audiences, becoming the top selling play of Piccolo Spoleto that year.

A few years later, my wonderful mother-in-law, Margaret Hane, became, on many days, lost in the fog of dementia. It was a challenging time for our family, especially my wife Jenny, who became her primary caregiver. Our kids were little and they marveled at Granny’s mind and her flights of fancy, but they often went right along with her on her journeys into the past. Sometimes we wanted to cry, but often we just had to laugh at the funny things she would tell us. She was once horrified I was sleeping with her daughter. She’d forgotten we were married, and when I reminded her we had a big laugh together. Like Russell Baker’s mother, Margaret spent much of her time traveling to places in her past, revisiting in fond memories the world of her youth. Much of her long-term memory remained intact and her visits to those long remembered special places in the past delighted her.

After Margaret passed away, I decided to revisit Helium and the play underwent a major revision in 1997 with a new version, featuring the wonderful actor and Charleston Stage Acting Ensemble member, Samille Basler, as Gramms. Samille returns to play the role in our new production as well. This revised version of Helium struck an even greater chord with audiences. Many people came up to me after the play and say things like, “let me tell you about my aunt, my mother, my uncle, my cousin.” Obviously, the show had struck a chord and often they would share with me the flights of fancy that their own loved ones had taken at times.


Samille Basler as Mrs. Kingsley “Gramms” in Charleston Stage’s production of “Helium”.


The next year, Dramatic Publishing published the play script of Helium and other productions have followed around the country including a performance in Greenville.

The world has become much more aware of dementia and Alzheimer’s since I first wrote Helium in 1990, but much is still unknown. Patients and their caregivers must still struggle to find their own way. And each way is different, as no one has all the answers. In Helium, I simply wanted to share one family’s journey, its joys and its sorrows, and with them to marvel and to celebrate the human spirit of someone they love taking flight.

Of the thirty something plays I’ve written over the years, Helium remains my favorite. I wanted to be sure it was included in the special 40th Anniversary Season and that audiences could enjoy this special story once more.


Performances of Helium run Feb. 9th – Feb. 25th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, call our Box Office at (843) 577-7183 or purchase online by clicking here.






January 31, 2018

Meet Acting Ensemble Member Samille Basler, Starring as Gramms in “Helium”

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 11:10 am

Q: Where did you grow up? Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for the arts?

A: I grew up in a small town called Washington, GA, and have been acting since I was a little girl. My town was very involved in entertainment that involved the entire town. We had parades for every occasion—Veterans Day , May Day, etc , and variety shows that included adults and children. I was always in some kind of revue or doing a skit. I spent my entire Saturdays at the picture show soaking up every word only to go home and perform on Sunday afternoons for my uncles. I got five cents for my expertise. Ha! I don’t remember ever wanting to do anything but act.

Q: Where did you receive training? How did this prepare you for your work in the theatre world?

A: I did not receive any formal training, but I took a few acting classes in college at Georgia Southern University. I was in several plays a year while there, and I am a member of Alpha Psi Omega. What I know about acting I learned from excellent directors I had in the different states where I lived and by watching other actors, reading books on acting, and my own experiences.

Q: This isn’t the first time you’ve performed the role of Gramms. What are you most looking forward to returning to play this role?

A: Helium is special to me in many ways but especially since I have had first hand experience with someone with dementia. Working on this play is always like working on a new play. I see different parts a new way or find a better way to react. I look forward to bringing Gramms to life with a new dimension and a new family to love and annoy.

Q: You are no stranger to the Charleston Theatre scene. How long have you been in Charleston and where have you performed?

A: Charleston has been my home since 1995. I’ve performed with Charleston Stage since the company’s 19th season and my first show was Glass Menagerie. Some of my favorite shows with Charleston Stage are All My Sons, Moon Over Buffalo, Ballyhoo, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Broadway Bound, Gershwin at Folly, Steel Magnolias, To Kill a Mockingbird, Helium, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Foreigner. I have also appeared with Footlight Players (favorites Lion In Winter, Quartet, and Suddenly Last Summer); with Midtown Acting Company (favorites Driving Miss Daisy, 4000 Miles, and Collected Stories); with Village Rep at Woolfe Street Playhouse (favorites August Osage Co., Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Trip to Bountiful, and The Lyons); with What If ? Productions in House of Yes and Kimberly Akimbo and most recently with Threshold Company in Becky Shaw and Uncle Vanya. I am honored to have had so many opportunities with Charleston Stage and to be a part of their Acting Ensemble.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: My spare time is spent traveling, gardening, and as much time as I can with my grandchildren.




November 21, 2017

Meet Charleston Stage Acting Ensemble Member David Loar, Starring as Ebenezer Scrooge

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 4:32 pm


Q: Where did you grow up? Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for the arts?

A: I grew up in Richmond, IN. My father was Art Supervisor of the Richmond schools for 30+ years and a terrific painter, so I was surrounded by art and artistic endeavors during my childhood. I have very fond memories of sitting behind my dad in his basement studio, watching him paint, and of hiking into the woods with him on weekends to find the dilapidated houses he loved to sketch. As a kid, I memorized great comedy routines like Bob Newhart’s “The Driving Instructor,” and I would recite them for anyone who would listen. I never tried acting onstage because I was extremely self-conscious about the bald spots on my head caused by alopecia areata. In high school, I decided that I wanted to be an English professor and a novelist. My greatest passion, though, was for sports—football, basketball, baseball, swimming, and later bicycling—and I think it was the passion I brought to sports that translated most directly into my passion for acting many years later.


Featured: Painting by David Loar’s father Ed Loar.

Q: Where did you receive training? How did this prepare you for your work in the theatre world?

A: I got my actor training in a 2-year conservatory program at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, starting at the “advanced” age of 33. In the 4 years of community-theatre acting I had done before winning a scholarship to AMDA, I was operating purely on instinct. At AMDA, I learned real, Stanislavski-based acting techniques for the first time. I also learned unarmed and armed stage combat, which have served me well in my Shakespeare career. The teachers at AMDA believed in the power of work ethic and preparation—as I always have, in every endeavor I’ve ever pursued—and those two attributes have led to almost every success I’ve had in my acting career. My AMDA training gave me the confidence to start pursuing acting as a professional career. In fact, I landed my first professional job—playing Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew and Banquo in Macbeth in a year-long tour with the National Shakespeare Company—only a few weeks after graduating from AMDA.

Q: This isn’t the first time you’ve played Ebenezer Scrooge. Please share.

A: The role of Ebenezer Scrooge and the story told in A Christmas Carol have had enormous significance in my life. The first time I played Scrooge—for the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA, in 2001—my parents died within a week of each other during the already-intense 3-week rehearsal period. My mother had had Parkinson’s Disease for 35 years, so her passing was actually a blessing. My dad’s death, however, was a stunning blow to me even though he had already suffered 3 strokes. I had based my version of the Scrooge character on my dad, who was a notorious curmudgeon.

I was able to go home to Indiana for my mom’s funeral, but because we were headed into the first weekend of performances when my dad died, I wasn’t able to go home for his funeral. Dad was in the stands for every football or baseball game I’d ever played, and I felt sure that he would have wanted me to honor my commitment to the rest of the cast, to the show, and to the audience. As a result, I was literally performing as Scrooge looking at his own tombstone, with the Ghost of Christmas Future looming over him, at the exact moment my father was being buried, 800 miles away in Indiana. That month of shows was an incredibly intense experience; I would often leave the stage after an emotional scene, sob for a few moments backstage, and come back onto the stage. Sometimes I was sobbing onstage, just hoping that the emotion I couldn’t control fit the moment within Scrooge’s transformation. I played the role the following 2 years for ASC, and although the emotions of that first experience abated somewhat, I’m still moved to tears 16 years later by memories from 2001 that I can see as clearly as if they’re happening right now.

The story of Scrooge’s redemption and reclamation, from tortured, hardened miser to caring, generous soul…it still gets to me every time, in every rehearsal, every performance, after all these years.

Q: Where have you worked previously?

A: My “claim to fame”—if it can be said that I have one—is the 8 years I spent as a member of the Blackfriars Resident Troupe of the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA. I played over 90 roles for ASC, including Shylock, Prospero, Richard II, Claudius, Lord Capulet, and Ebenezer Scrooge. Prior to ASC, I toured the country for 6 years with the National Shakespeare Company, Chamber Repertory Theatre of Boston, and Shenandoah Shakespeare Express. In Phoenix, I performed with Southwest Shakespeare Company and Class 6 Theatre. In Charleston, I’ve worked with Charleston Stage Company, PURE Theatre, Woolfe Street Playhouse, Midtown Productions, and Footlight Players.

Q: What are some of your favorite past roles you’ve performed throughout your career?

A: A few of my favorites have been Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Richard II in Richard II, Captain Bluntschli in Arms and the Man, and Ebenezer Scrooge. And most recently, The Poet in An Iliad, the one-man show by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare that I’ve been working on since 2015.

Q: What role will you be performing next with Charleston Stage?

A: I’ll be playing the role of Richard Burbage in Shakespeare in Love next April.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: I spend as much time on Folly Beach as I possibly can: swimming, boogie-boarding, walking, and taking photos. I also love walking my dogs 5—6 times a day, reading, and watching great movies with my wife, Kristen Barner.


Performances of A Christmas Carol run Nov. 29th – Dec. 20th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. Purchase online today by clicking here.




October 20, 2017

Meet Grace Schmitz, Our New Costume Design Coordinator and Senior Costume Technician

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 10:28 am



Q: Where did you grow up? Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for the arts?

A: I grew up in a very small town in southern Mississippi where I could walk a few blocks to the Library whenever I liked. I would read fantasy constantly but I also explored the sections with instructional books for different trades and crafts. I read books about everything from cutting hair to making puppets, and would dive into my own art projects constantly.

Q: Where did you receive training? How did this prepare you for your work in the theatre world?

A: My Mom taught me to sew at a young age and doll dresses turned into personal clothing projects by high school; eventually I began making costumes for my high school’s Theatre productions. I have a Bachelors degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and a Masters from The University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Costume Design. I have also worked at several theaters across the country and consider each environment a new learning experience as I work with new people and new projects with their own unique challenges.

Q: Briefly describe your position at Charleston Stage and what you do for the company.

A: I am the Costume Design Coordinator and Senior Costume Technician at Charleston Stage. I designed the costumes for Disney’s The Little Mermaid and am also the Costume Designer for To Kill a Mockingbird, Avenue Q, and Shakespeare in Love this season and Assisting our Costumer Emeritus Barbara Young on A Christmas Carol. This goes hand in hand with my position as Senior Costume Technician where I will be spearheading the construction of major costume pieces for each production for my own designs as well as others.


Q: Where have you worked previously before Charleston Stage?

A: I have worked with many companies across the country in many different parts of the costuming team including Cirque do Soleil, The Santa Fe Opera, Cape Fear Regional Theatre, Triad Stage, Peppercorn Theatre, The Illinois Shakespeare Festival, West Virginia Public Theatre, Rivertown Theaters, and Southern Arena Theater.





October 17, 2017

Meet Gillian Paige, Our New Costume Shop Manager

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 10:27 am


Q: Where did you grow up? Were there any activities you did as a child that led to your passion for the arts?

A: I grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and was always involved in the arts trying everything from visual arts, playing musical instruments to dancing and even figure skating. My family made sure I had a wonderful arts education and a strong appreciation for fine and performing arts. My mother is an elementary school art teacher so I always loved working alongside her and still enjoy visiting her classroom. Because of this I specifically loved visual arts and took classes at the Sawtooth School for Visual Arts in Winston. I took classes in traditional painting and drawing but also loved exploring new techniques like weaving and fiber arts. I fell in love with working in both 2D and 3D techniques. Building costumes allows me to do both every day!

Q: Where did you receive training? How did this prepare you for your work in the theatre world?

A: I received my undergraduate degree from North Carolina State University in the College of Design. My degree was more focused on fiber arts and fashion. I was able to explore everything from weaving, clothing construction, and digital print design. While at NC State I had the opportunity to work at the University Theatre as a stitcher in the costume shop. I fell in love with the costume shop and creating costumes for the productions. Working at my first costume shop helped me to understand that I could make a career out of costume design and construction. I decided to switch my focus and apply for graduate school at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) in order to get the proper training I needed to work in the theatre industry. UNCSA is a rigorous conservatory style program where I was able to work on over 30 productions a year. My graduate degree from UNCSA is a Master of Fine Arts in Costume Technology with a concentration in Costume Shop. This training directly prepared me to begin my position here at Charleston Stage as the Costume Shop Manager.

Q: Briefly describe your position at Charleston Stage and what you do for the company.

A: As the Costume Shop Manager, I oversee all of the costumes, wigs, and makeup we create for the productions at Charleston Stage Company. I keep the daily shop operations running smoothly and oversee the scheduling and builds for each show. I do a lot of scheduling and paperwork but I also get to run and assist fittings with actors and assist our Costume Designer in constructing and altering costumes for each show.

Q: Where have you worked previously?

A: While I was in graduate school, I worked at Williamstown Theatre Festival, a resident summer theatre festival in Williamstown, MA. I had the opportunity to work in the costume shop as a stitcher, altering and constructing costumes for all of the Summer productions. Many of our costumes were designed by Broadway costume designers giving me the chance to work with renowned artists like Gregg Barnes, Ann Hould-Ward, and Paloma Young.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: Since I just moved to Charleston a few months ago I have been spending a lot of my free time exploring the city. Living downtown has allowed me to walk or ride my bike around, getting to experience Charleston in a totally different way. I love wandering down new streets and alleys, finding new gardens, and appreciating the traditional architecture. I always find myself thinking how lucky I am to live and work in such a beautiful city!



January 27, 2017

Charleston Stage’s Board of Trustees Treasurer, Dave Marley, Receives The Laura Hewitt Distinguished Service Award

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 11:17 am


Dave Marley


Laura Hewitt was a great philanthropist and ardent advocate of the Charleston arts and food industries and, in many ways, these industries came of age in the past decade, in no small part due to Laura’s leadership.

Laura served on Charleston Stage’s Board from 1995-2001 taking on many leadership roles including Board President and Vice President.  She was instrumental in establishing the Company’s Annual Gala and under her leadership the company established its Professional Resident Acting Program.  Today, more than 83 young professionals have been a part of this program, lighting up the Dock Street Stage and enriching arts education for more than 150,000 young people throughout our community.

This year’s recipient of The Laura Hewitt Distinguished Service Award was awarded to Dave Marley, Charleston Stage’s Board of Trustees Treasurer.  Dave is a Senior Vice President and Senior Private Banker for the Wells Fargo Private Bank.  Dave earned his Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Finance and Management from The University of South Carolina.  He is also a graduate of the Graduate School of Bank Management at The University of Virginia through the Consumer Bankers Association and the Certified Financial Planner program at the College of Charleston.

Dave resides in Mount Pleasant with his wife Tracy.  They have a son who is a graduate of The University of South Carolina and also lives in Mount Pleasant, and a daughter who is a Senior at The University of South Carolina.





Guest Actor Jordan Barrow To Star On Broadway

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 11:15 am



Guest Actor Jordan Barrow, who recently starred as Seaweed in our season opener Hairspray, is making his Broadway debut!  Jordan will star alongside Tony Award-winner Victoria Clark, Tony Award-nominee Montego Glover and Tony Award-winner Judy Kaye in Garth Dravinski’s new musical Sousatzka. Preview performances will begin in late February of 2017 at Toronto’s historic Elgin Theatre.

Based on the original novel Madame Sousatzka by Bernice Rubens, Sousatzka, set in London, England in 1982, tells the story of a young musical prodigy torn between two powerful women from vastly different worlds:  his mother, a political refugee and his piano teacher, a brilliant eccentric with a shattered past. These two proud, iconoclastic women must ultimately cross cultural and racial divides to find common ground or else put the boy’s destiny in jeopardy.

For more information on Sousatzka visit


Jordan Barrow




Julian Wiles’s “The Seat of Justice” To Be Published by Dramatic Publishing

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 11:10 am



Charleston Stage Founder and Producing Artistic Director Julian Wiles’s original play The Seat of Justice, which played to sold-out houses last February, will be published later this year by Dramatic Publishing.  The Seat of Justice and Wiles’s other eight original plays are now available to other theatres around the country for production.  These include:  Nevermore, Blitzen, a boy and his piano, Fruitcakes, Helium, Inga Binga and Night of the Pteradactyls.

“I’m especially excited to learn that this amazing and often forgotten story from South Carolina and American history,” say Wiles, “will now be told at other theatres around the country.  This is a testament not only to my play but to the courageous citizens of Clarendon County that set in motion the wheels of justice that would lead to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Decision.”


Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director





Charleston Stage Kicks Off February With a Pirate Adventure for the Whole Family

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 11:02 am


Five Time Tony Award-Winning Runaway Broadway Hit “Peter and the Starcatcher” Opens February 17th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre


“It’s pure theatrical fireworks,” says Charleston Stage Producing Director Julian Wiles who, as director, is at the helm of the five time Tony Award-winning, comic adventure.  “Peter and the Starcatcher is one of the most imaginative shows to light up the Great White Way in many years-taking Broadway by storm and lighting up theatres all across the country ever since. This is one of the cleverest and surprising scripts I’ve ever come across.  I saw the original production in New York and couldn’t wait to bring it here to the Dock Street Theatre for its Lowcountry Premiere.”

With the swashbuckling wit of Pirates of the Caribbean and the zaniness of Monty Python, Peter and the Starcatcher tells the story of an orphan boy who sets sail on the adventure that will lead him to Neverland, introduce him to a pirate that will become Captain Hook and where he discovers the magic that will let him fly.

“Actually, its so imaginative”, says Wiles, “that it’s almost beyond description”.  With its inventive staging (think of our recent production of The 39 Steps) Peter and the Starcatcher is the perfect show for everyone who enjoys a sidesplitting and off-the-wall comedy – whether you’re looking for a family friendly show, the perfect outing for a date night or just a thoroughly delightful night at the theatre.  Peter and the Starcatcher is for everyone.

Adapted from the bestselling adventure novel by humorist Dave Barry and his friend Ridley Pearson, Peter and the Starcatcher features two sailing ships, a crew of motley pirates, a flying cat, a desert island, mesmerizing mermaids and two treasure chests including one filled with glowing magical stuff called “starstuff”.

Peter and the Starcatcher features an all-star professional cast including Charleston Stage Acting Company Member Brian Porter as Black Stache (aka Captain Hook).  You may remember Porter from performances such as Roger De Bris in The Producers, Tony Whitcomb in Shear Madness and as the Emcee in Cabaret.  Charleston Stage Acting Company Member John Black plays Peter and Charleston Stage Resident Professional Acting Company member Madeline Glenn Thomas plays Molly, his love interest.  The remaining cast of 11 features additional members of Charleston Stage’s Resident Professional Acting Company and some of Charleston’s most noted performers, playing dozens of roles ranging from orphans, to sailors, to pirates, a tribe of Sea Island natives called the Mollusks, a giant crocodile Named Big Grin, a school of bearded Mermaids and more.  This motley crew includes:  Sean Michael Kelly (Prentiss), Pen Chance (Ted), Atam Woodruff (Smee), David Loar (Lord Leonard Aster), Matthew Willingham (Mrs. Brumbake/Teacher), William Rutkowski (Captain Robert Falcon Scott), Ryan Pixler (Grempkin/Fighting Prawn), Timothy Shaw (Bill Slank/Hawking Clam), Derek T. Pickens (Alf), Alex Garcia (Sanchez/Mack) and Luke Shaw (Ensemble).


About the Authors

Rick Elice, Tony Award-winning playwright, is currently one of the theatre world’s bright stars as the playwright for Peter and the Starcatcher (2004) and the book writer for the musicals Jersey Boys and The Addams Family.  He says he started attending the theatre when he was just three years old when his mother took him to see My Fair Lady, and he became hooked on the magic of theatre.

Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning, nationally syndicated columnist and author of more than two dozen books, most recently I’ll Mature When I’m Dead.  Along with Ridley Pearson, he is the co-author of a whole series of Starcatcher young adult novels:  Peter and the Starcatcher, Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Peter and the Sword of Mercy and Science Fair. Their newest collaboration is The Bridge to Never Land.

Ridley Pearson, co-author of Peter and the Starcatcher with Dave Barry, is the award-winning author of the Kingdom Keepers series. He is the recipient of the Raymond Chandler/Fulbright Fellowship in Detective Fiction at Oxford University.  Ridley has also written more than twenty-five best-selling crime novels.



October 27, 2016

Charleston Daily Review of “Dracula, King of Vampires”

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 9:29 am


“Dracula: King of Vampires” Rekindles the Classic Horror Story at Dock Street Theatre

October 26, 2016


By Mark A. Leon / Edited by Minta Pavliscsak

The Prince of Darkness rises from the crypt to haunt Charleston in the Charleston Stage dramatic production of “Dracula: King of Vampires” playing October 19 – November 6 at the Historic Dock Street Theatre.

Blending the power of persuasion, deep symbolism, the essence of good vs. evil, and a hint of well-positioned comic relief, “Dracula” dishes up a stew of spooky and potent Halloween entertainment.

The dark mystique of Transylvania and the backdrop of Historic 19th Century England come alive with exquisite costume designs, precision use of shadows and well performed British accents.  This production takes you into the heart of the world of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” leaving behind a trail of blood as we follow the mission of a madman.

The set designers use of cryptic furniture, the illusion of a levitating castle door, shadows and sound effects to create a haunting Transylvania castle add a dark foggy aura.  They successfully transformed the stage to intimate settings in Transylvania and England.

The use of symbolism plays a critical role in “Dracula”.  They are highlighted by a quintessential masquerade scene with a wolf, sheep and Bo Peep, Anarchy symbol atop the shipwrecked boat, office desk laden in faces of undead babies and poisonous spiders, crypt below the Abbey home dimly lit by deep purple and red hues.  These carefully positioned props and colors schemes hypnotize the audience luring them deeper into the play.

The role of Count Dracula is played by resident actor Alex Garcia.  His quest for eternal life and world domination drive him to disturbing acts.  Yet, it is the dangerous emotional weapon of love that causes him to trip up making careless mistakes along his conquest.

Aside from his mischievous accent and devilish grin, Count Dracula provides us with a surprising element of humor.  Within the many dark scenes, he brings a break in the drama with playful facial expressions and well-timed lines.  This bit of comedic interruption was perhaps the most surprising element of the performance.

Madeline Glenn Thomas with her mesmerizing eyes, dimples and innocent charm played the role of Mina, the heroin, so beautifully. Her signs of strength and moments of uncompromising weakness showed her range so well.

Insanity is a mental condition that causes a deranged state of mind and a very important part of the plot line.  Nathan Burke, as Renfield, digs deep within his acting range to take on this role.  He was a shining star performing his role as the sailor exposed to the monster and transforming to a person unrecognizable to himself.  It is truly a memorable piece of acting fueled by fear, madness and devotion and one that derives empathy from the audience.

Pen Chance as Dr. Quincy Seward consistently showcases his talents throughout the entire production, sharing the stage with each member of the ensemble cast.  In every scene, he was comfortable being the focal point or the supporting player contributing a level of rationality in a world of insanity.

The story and characters build to a violent and powerful conclusion with magic, theatrics and cast members donning the aisles with black sheets, demonic staffs and lace.

The aura of the classic horror tale Dracula is re-created with passion and heart in the new Charleston Stage adaptation of “Dracula: King of Vampires” now playing at the Dock Street Theatre.

Performances continue running Oct. 27 – Nov. 6 at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. Ticket sales available online by clicking here.







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