As I always manage to do with any play, I had a great time being a part of OakTechRep’s Fall production of Dracula. From the very first rehearsal up until the last performance, I had a blast. I got to know a bunch of talented, supportive, and hilarious people, and broadened my knowledge of working on a show with such a large cast.
When I learned that I got the role of Dracula, I was extremely excited and, I have to say, pretty proud of myself. I had felt confident that I had done well at auditions, and I knew something was up at callbacks when Ms. J had me read for Dracula multiple times. But when I saw my name on the cast list, I thought, Great! Now I’ll get to know what playing a lead role is like!
But gradually, I came to learn that the part of Dracula didn’t fit any of the stereotypes of a lead role in the slightest. For one, he isn’t a hero. And he’s kind of what you would call…undead. So although I wouldn’t consider him a soulless murderer, he isn’t the sort of person you’d like to have over for dinner, either. Neither is he played by a good-looking, egotistical actor with a nasty smoking habit. At least, not in our version.
I immediately started diving into character research. I googled images and websites on the history of vampires, and put almost all of the Dracula movies I could find on my Netflix account. Of course, some were better than others. I couldn’t even finish the 1993 version with Gary Oldman. It was so over the top! My favorite was a German Nosferatu film from the 70s. The ending comprised of Mina killing Nosferatu right before tumbling over from weakness of blood loss herself, and Harker exposing a mouthful of sharp teeth before riding off into the sunset. I decided to loosely base my physicality on the more inhuman portrayals of the famous vampire, with clawlike hands and wide eyes. I didn’t think I could pull off the gentlemanly qualities that Bela Lugosi had portrayed.
As rehearsals went on, I noticed how the general enthusiasm of the cast was somewhat wild and unharnessed. This didn’t bother me as much as I think it should have. I was just happy that people were generally willing to work and understanding of each other.
I was fascinated by the whole three-wheeled contraption we had created. Never before had I been in a play with such strong divisions between music, narration, and visual sections. It made me able to pinpoint what actually gave me chills. Most of the time, it was the Foley group. I was aware that sound and music had always seemed to trigger stronger emotions from within me than images had, but the Foley artists confirmed that. There’s something about a violin and drum duo that really makes my hair stand on end. I ended up interpreting this play as a way to discover one’s fears. Certain things scare certain people more than others, and I think it is really important for people to know what those things are in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of themselves. Hopefully, Dracula did that for its viewers.
The performances went smoothly. Personally, I felt the most edge as a performer during opening night, and concluded that I did my best on that night. However, everyone else I talked to who had seen it more than once had seen substantial improvement of my performance overall in the last two shows. Looking back, I guess I had settled into the role more as the shows went on, and although I interpreted that unpredictability of that first night as a positive thing for the character, being more settled meant struggling less, and no one likes looking at an actor who seems to be struggling onstage.
I got positive feedback from friends and parents. My uncle had journeyed from Las Vegas to come see the show, and he really liked it. After my parents saw the show for the first time, I vaguely noticed my father with a wide-eyed look on his face. When we got home, he gave me a really long hug and told me I was terrifying. Then, after he left the room, my mom said, “You know how he doesn’t like seeing scary movies or anything like that. I could tell… he got really scared back there.”
However, I don’t want to sugar-coat my experience about being in this play. Even though I didn’t grow to dislike anyone in the cast, nor did I have issues with lines or character development, I think the most difficult part of the process was coming home every night after rehearsal to reluctantly embrace the cold, emotionless arms of torture, which would be referred to by some as simply a huge stack of homework. And although quite a few of my teachers attended the performances, most of them seemed unaware of how much work had been put into what they had watched. I’m still trying to get back up to speed in my classes academically. Luckily, it was worth all the catching up.
And then, of course, there was the assembly a few days after the performances, during which the cast performed selected scenes for the student body. It still frustrates me to think about what happened. Although the students were supposedly much better behaved than in previous years, it was still incredibly disrespectful for them to laugh and yell out rude comments. Yet, they became silent during the music and dance performances! Some people have said that it is easier for them to simply watch or listen rather than do both, as is required for a drama performance, but this explanation still doesn’t entirely satisfy me. I’m still puzzled about how a student can decide to give respect for one facet of art and completely trash another. Maybe one day I’ll find out.
But now, I really miss being in Dracula. I have always loved being artistically occupied, and theatre seems to fill that void in the best way. To me, it produces the most rewarding results, because unlike writing or painting, which at times can be very personal, the sole purpose of theatre is to be shared and enjoyed by everyone. It brings very enthusiastic people together to work towards a goal of enlightening society in an effective manner, and leaves the participants feeling accomplished.
This was utterly amazing to be a part of, and I want to thank Miss J. and Casey for making this possible. I wholeheartedly consider you both as blood of my blood…but in a good way.