By Kathryn Kennedy
Special to The Daily Reflector
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Two days before the opening night of “Dracula,” in a backstage dressing room at McGinnis Theatre, costume designer Cybele Moon cocked her head and sized up a white, lacy wedding gown. Dissatisfied, she snatched it from the rack.
“This dress needs more blood,” she said, and hauled it back downstairs to the costume shop.
With plentiful blood and smoke, vampire vixens and Victorians, Halloween has come early to East Carolina University. The ECU/Loessin Playhouse production of “Dracula” opened Thursday and runs through Tuesday, including a Sunday matinee.
Based on Bram Stoker’s classic horror novel, “Dracula” tells the story of the ancient vampire Count Dracula’s arrival in London and the attempts to piece together the clues of his mysterious appearance. The secrets characters keep from one another allow Dracula’s reign of terror to continue, resulting in a hideous fate for some.
Faculty member Greg Funaro directs the play. It’s the third production of “Dracula” at ECU since the 1970s, and the first horror play performed in Funaro’s 13-year tenure at the university. The director said he’s been fascinated with Dracula since, as a fifth grader, he saw the 1979 film version starring Frank Langella.
“It’s a fun play,” Funaro said. “It’s something that is open to all these different imaginings … and it also features one of the world’s first and enduring supervillains. He says he’s capable of love, but he’s just pure evil. He’s got so many strengths, but so many weaknesses, too. There are such interesting layers to him.”
ECU senior Landon Summers was selected for the title role of Dracula, with other lead roles including junior Anne-Marie Kennedy and senior Robert DiDomenico as Mina and Jonathan Harker.
For this particular production, Funaro selected the well-known adaptation by playwright Steven Dietz. It’s the truest to the original novel, he said, which is made up of letters and journal entries rather than a strictly chronologic narrative.
“Now (vampires) are such a cliché, it’s a great challenge to take something that’s so overdone and keep it fresh and interesting,” Funaro said, “without being hokey.”
Dracula needs a Transylvanian accent, for example, but shouldn’t sound like the count from “Sesame Street,” Funaro explained.
The ECU production also incorporates a growing literary science fiction/fantasy genre known as “steampunk,” which has been described by some as what the future would have looked like if it happened sooner — specifically, in the Victorian era. It was an interesting period in history, Funaro said, when Victorian restraint confronted advances in science, philosophy and technology.
Faculty member Jeni L. Parker’s set includes massive gears, steam grates and pipes alongside Transylvanian castle walls. Moon’s costumes include corsets worn outside rather than underneath dresses, more color than traditional Victorian clothing, and funky, metallic trim on jackets and vests.
This is the first ECU production with costume direction by Moon, who arrived on campus Aug. 2. She said she was prepared for the challenges of caring for costumes bloodied nightly but, she added, “it is my first show with fangs.”
The ECU/Loessin Playhouse is the educational theater for the School of Theatre and Dance’s professional programs. Students are involved in every part of the production, not only as actors. Its mission is to provide the citizens of eastern North Carolina with the highest quality productions of the world’s musical, comic and dramatic repertory at affordable prices to encourage broad, diverse and non-elitist audience participation.