North Adams Transcript (MA)

November 19, 2009
Section: Local
Article ID: 13821555

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front page of the Transcrip.

Drury Drama Team tackles Stoker classic, Dracula

  Jennifer Huberdeau
North Adams Transcript NORTH ADAMS -- As vampires permeate popular culture -- becoming the focus of numerous successful movies, books and television series -- the Drury High School Drama Team is offering up one of the oldest vampire tales, "Dracula."

"It seems that vampires are just a very popular topic right now," Len Radin, team director and a local dentist, said Wednesday afternoon as students prepared for the final dress rehearsal. "It seems that almost every week there's a new movie or book about them. I don't know what really sparked my interest in putting on this play.

"It's a combination of factors -- the actors who are available and the plays that are available. We have perhaps our youngest drama team. We had a lot of seniors graduate last year, and we have five grades at the high school now, so we've had a lot of interest from eighth- and ninth-graders. But basically, we've never done a gothic horror, and it's just about time."

"Dracula," which plays tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7 p. m., is not a romanticized version of the original novel by Bram Stoker, but an accurate portrayal, he said.

"It follows the book very closely, with a lot of lines lifted right from the actual text," Radin said. "I don't think I realized how grotesque the book really is -- there's a lot of extreme horror and violence. There's a lot of blood, fighting and killing. It's definitely not a suitable for young children."

Admission to the play, written by Steven Dietz, is $9 for the public and $5 for students. There will be a 10-minute intermission between the two acts.

For the play's three principle characters, the play is the first chance they've had at major roles with the troupe.

Senior Keegan Christopher, who plays Jonathan Harker, the young man sent to aid Count Dracula, said he jumped at the chance to be in his first major production with the drama team.

"I've always wanted to be in a major production, but the opportunity hasn't been there until now," he said. "When the opportunity arose, I had to snatch it. I've never felt more welcomed as part of a team. I've almost felt the play come alive before my eyes because we're all so close."

Junior Connor Johnson, who portrays Dracula, said he spent a lot of time reading Stoker's book and studying Frank Langella's 1979 portrayal of the famous bloodsucker.

"A lot of my portrayal is also based on the energy I get back from the other actors on stage," he said. "As an actor, I'm not scared to go on stage or what other people might think of our production. The one thing that I found incredibly hard was the accent. An accent can add to a show, or if done poorly, it can really take away from it. I'm hoping mine works in favor of the play."

Senior Samantha Davignon, who portrays Mina, the love interest of both Harker and Dracula, has shared the stage with Johnson and several other cast members over the years, but has never had such an important role she said.

"When I first read the script, I had a connection with Mina because she's my age," she said. "She's a very complex character and I can connect with that as well."

She said the cast also has great chemistry -- tears are real, as well as hysterics.

"Sam has a love scene that brings me to tears every time I see it," Radin said. "After all these rehearsals, you'd think it wouldn't effect me any longer, but it's very touching."

For Radin, this year's cast and crew are a mix of old and new talent -- ranging from freshmen to alumni who are earning credits as college interns.

"I've had a lot of support," he said. "This is also the first year that the advanced art class has created our backdrop for the play."

Alumna Laura Skiffington took the reigns with Dracula's wives -- vixen vampires from different eras -- portrayed by freshmen Emma Gregory, Emilee Nicholas, Courtney Rolnick, Carlee Huttle and Emily Eastman.

"Laura took us aside and gave us all back stories -- she made up stories about who we were before we became vampires," Emily said.

Gregory added, "She helped shape our characters, and taught us these dance moves for one part. We became more comfortable with these women who aren't even close to our personalities."

Radin also credited MCLA senior Jesse Egan Poirer, an alum who is in his fifth season with the troupe and earning college credit through his internship, with holding the production together.

"He really helps keep the spine of the production together," Radin said. "He has boundless energy and the ability to keep the cast going and getting along, which is critical with a production like this, which has so much emotional propensity."

Egan Poirer, who's helped with everything from lighting and carpentry to stepping into the director's chair when needed, said his involvement with the drama team is part of his ultimate goal.

"I ultimately want to settle down and teach theater at the college level and direct my own plays," he said. "I always swore I'd never major in theater, but in my junior year I gave in. Once it gets under your skin, it's in your blood for life."

To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail 

Transcipt photo by Gillian Jones
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