Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Road to "Stoker's Dracula" Part 2

"Dracula" seemed to be a natural choice for a solo adaptation.  The novel is already told through the points of view of different characters, using their diary entries and newspaper clippings.  I knew there had been one man versions of "Dracula" before, so how could mine be different?  I decided to use the original text as Bram Stoker wrote it, and only the original text.

Bram Stoker's notes for "Dracula" are at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia.  I went there one day to go see them.  I was looking for some insight into why Bram Stoker wrote the book in the first place, what he wanted to achieve with it.  I asked the curator at the Rosenbach if there was any material like that in the notes, and she said no.  I was excited anyway.  The curator asked me why I wanted to view Stoker's notes, and I told her that I was writing a one man play of the novel that used only Stoker's text.

"Oh, that's never been done before," the curator said.  I knew I was on a good path.

I was alone in a reading room with Bram Stoker's notes.  I held them in my hands (covered in protective plastic of course).  It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  Bram Stoker planned out "Dracula" for seven years, something he never did with any of his other work.  I could literally feel his excitement pouring out from the pages, he knew that he was creating something very special.  Stoker was originally going to call Dracula Count Wampyr, and on the page below, you can see him come up with the name Dracula for the first time.  He crosses out Wampyr and writes Dracula, then at the top of the pages he writes "Dracula, Dracula, Count Dracula."  Like someone in love.

The thing that I really took away from the experience of reading Stoker's notes is the amazing imagination the man had.  How he created a story in his mind, planning it carefully, and then released it out into the world.  The book was well-reviewed, but never became famous during Stoker's lifetime.  He never lived to see the monster he created.  It galvanized me to finish writing the play, and gave me a purpose in performing it.  I wanted to honor Bram Stoker's creation, and do justice to his words, and maybe encourage people to go back to the source and read the book.

Since June 2011 I have performed "Stoker's Dracula" at many venues around Philadelphia, in theater festivals, museums, and people's homes.  It is a great honor to perform the play at Curio Theatre Company, where my love of solo performance began.  And to do it tonight, on Halloween, in a dark theater . . . what could be better than that?

Before every performance I talk to Bram Stoker, wherever he is now.  I ask him to let me tell his story well, and honor his work.  I thank him for the gift his work has given me, a solo piece that is my own, and that seems like it has enough blood in it to keep running for a long time.

Happy Halloween!

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