BY SHRUTI RAM – STAFF WRITER
Halloween weekend at Centre was full of fun events and great costumes, but no one on campus was busier than the cast and crew of Dracula: The Death of Nosferatu. The completely student-run production had two shows on Halloween night, both of which had a full house.
“It’s been an adventure,” senior and director of the show, Zach Throne, said. “The initiative, drive and organization has all been student led… it’s been a totally different experience.”
Dracula: The Death of Nosferatu is a one-act adaptation of the novel by Bram Stoker, written by Christopher P. Nichols. The play ran only 75 minutes, and featured a relatively small cast, with just seven actors and a few others acting in non-traditional roles.
Upon entering Grant Hall, students were given white masks to wear, which served as tickets. They were led upstairs to the fifth floor, where a variety of eerie scenes were taking place. The experience was somewhat like a haunted house – music was playing, and many props lined the hallway resembling World War II memorabilia. Also featured was a fountain of youth alongside several characters in the hallway, including one actor who resembled a broken porcelain doll, and another playing a mail boy who handed out letters to the audience.
On entering Grant’s black box theater, where the play was performed, the audience was met by a nun, played by senior Savannah Taylor, who was screaming and looking towards the heavens with a cross burned into her forehead. It was already apparent that this was not a typical DramaCentre production, and one that was perfect for Halloween night.
The immersion of the first performance was ruined somewhat by smoke alarms that went off soon after the audience entered the black box theater, apparently set off by the fog machine. The audience had to wait outside Grant longer than they would have liked, but it soon became clear that the wait was worth it.
“It was a little annoying to have to go outside, but it didn’t bother me at all,” sophomore Emma Presberg said. “I felt perfectly fine going back upstairs to watch the show.”
After the performance resumed, the actors did not let the fire alarm make them anxious or even keep them from staying into character. The audience did not get to see Dracula himself, played by senior Heath Haden, until later in the performance, but were first met by characters such as the Dr. Seward, Snelling, and Jonathan Harker, played by junior Dan Caudill, sophomore Tyler Dawson-Arroyo, and first-year Peter Yin respectively. There were many creepy aspects of the show, such a disturbed mental hospital patient, and the strange visions of Dracula’s chosen prey, Mina Harker, played by senior Ryley Swanner.
Dracula was a play that was very different from the usual DramaCentre performances. In addition to the fact that it was student-run, the immersive nature of the performances was an interesting and bold move on behalf of the department. Though parts of the play were at times confusing, the audience genuinely enjoyed becoming a part of the performance and moving with the storyline, literally and figuratively, especially in the first half of the show. There were also many characters that were not typical actors but still added to the atmosphere of the play, such as the two dancers, played by sophomores Sara Thesing and Rachel Bischoff.
“My favorite part was [getting] to walk around and explore the world in that era,” Presberg said. “It was a lot of fun to have the opportunity to become part of the performance.”
Though all students enjoyed the immersive nature of the performance, not all of them understood how it related to the play.
“I did really like the immersive parts,” one student, who prefers to remain anonymous, said, “but it would have been cooler if it was more clearly related to the actual play.”
“This type of [immersive] production is relatively uncommon and is growing,” Throne, who has been working on the production since last September, said. “It is less about dialogue and more about movement.”
Throne adds that the unconventionality of the production made it more disturbing and creepy, rather than a typical scary Halloween production. The crew wanted to provide a setting where audience members question things, and hence Throne set the production in the time of World War II, as society’s values tend to change in the midst of war. He also enjoyed the fact that every actor was integral to the telling of the story, even if they were not in a conventional acting role.
Rehearsals for the show had to work around the other fall productions, Moby Dick and These Shining Lives, since all three shows pull from the same resources. Despite Throne’s cautious optimism, the show proved to be a success.