Curtain rises on PFAA’s ‘Dracula’ Friday night
Wednesday, 06 September 2017
After having defeated vampire women played by, from top, Maria Whittaker, Janet Rozmiarek and Tracy Moran, Professor Van Helsing, played by Curtis Wood, confronts Count Dracula, played by Johnny York, as a shocked Dr. Seward, played by Jamey Pellegrini, far right, looks on. At the far left, PFAAA director Stephen Woolsey, who also narrates the play in the role of author Bram Stoker, takes in the scene. The PFAA production of “Dracula” opens Friday at the Theater on the Square in downtown Waynesville.
After having defeated vampire women played by, from top, Maria Whittaker, Janet Rozmiarek and Tracy Moran, Professor Van Helsing, played by Curtis Wood, confronts Count Dracula, played by Johnny York, as a shocked Dr. Seward, played by Jamey Pellegrini, far right, looks on. At the far left, PFAAA director Stephen Woolsey, who also narrates the play in the role of author Bram Stoker, takes in the scene. The PFAA production of “Dracula” opens Friday at the Theater on the Square in downtown Waynesville.
 
Story and photos by Matt Decker
Assistant editor
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You probably already know some of Count Dracula’s greatest challenges, such as a fear of sunlight, a severe allergy to wooden stakes and the constant need to feed on human blood.

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From left, Mr. and Mrs. Westenra, played by Jay Whittaker and Tammy Bensman, thank Mina, played by Nija Thomas, for taking care of their sick daughter, Lucy, during a dress rehearsal for the PFAA production of “Dracula.”
Portraying Count Dracula on stage comes with its own set of challenges, according to Johnny York, who stars as the titular character in the Pulaski Fine Arts Association production of “Dracula.”

“The greatest challenge? Learning to speak with a pair of fangs,” York said during a recent dress rehearsal. “You learn the reason Dracula speaks a different language is because English is difficult with fangs.”

The play, based on the classic 1897 horror novel by Bram Stoker, opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Theater on the Square in downtown Waynesville. Additional evening performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, 16, 22 and 23, with a 2:30 p.m. matinee planned for Sept. 17.

“There’s a little humor, and it’s a little scary,” explained Stephen Woolsey, the play’s director, who researched several stage versions before selecting a 1980 adaptation by playwright John Mattera.

“As adaptations go, it’s not exactly the same as the book, but it does keep the gist of it intact,” Woolsey said. “It took a bit of time, but I found a good version, and we’ve been enjoying (rehearsing) it.”

Set in England near the turn of the century, the action follows the vampiric Dracula’s efforts to win the heart — or at the very least possess — Lucy Westenra, who resembles his long-lost love.

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Charles the butler, played by Russ Marshall, chastises himself after spilling tea on a guest in the Westenra household during the dress rehearsal for “Dracula.”
However, Lucy, played by Ireland Moss, is already married to Jonathan Harker, played by Ben Schubert. Eventually, Dracula’s schemes encapsulate Lucy and Jonathan’s circle of Family and friends, including her parents, Martha and Henry Westenra, played by Tammy Bensmann and Jay Whittaker; her best friend, Mina Murray, played by Nija Thomas; Arthur Holmwood, played by Steven Seda; Dr. Seward, played by Jamey Pellegrini, and Dracula’s arch-nemesis, Professor Van Helsing, played by Curtis Wood. Completing the cast are Dracula’s trio of vampire women, played by Janet Rozmiarek, Maria Whittaker and Tracy Moran; the tortured Mr. Renfield, played by Thomas “T.J.” Moffitt; the Westenra’s butler, Charles, played by Russ Marshall, and the servant, played by Christopher Moran.

Long a staple of the horror genre, the conflicts that ensue in “Dracula” are violent enough that Woolsey has given the production an “R” rating.

“We have an R-rated play due to the violence and some sensuality portrayed in some scenes,” he said. “Dracula is a love story, and it’s good love against bad love. He is trying to move in and take another man’s wife. So, there’s a fight there: the bad knight against the good knight.”

Being the target of Dracula’s affections has been more interesting than scary for Moss, who, at 18, is the youngest cast member. She is also one of a handful of actors making their debut in front of an audience.

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Moss
“This is my first role as an actor,” Moss said. “They gave me a character that is more or less the opposite of my personality. (Lucy) is very ladylike, and I’m just like, ‘that’s not really me.’ But I deal with it. So, that’s been a challenge, but I’ve been able to pull it off. It’s actually helped me get over my stage fright.”

While essentially a villain, Dracula manages to evoke some sympathy, at least from York.

“He’s very angry because he has spent centuries without the woman that he loves. Finally, he finds the woman he loves, but she belongs to someone else,” York said. “Actually, he doesn’t like having to kill people — but he also doesn’t like to lose.”

In addition to directing, Woolsey briefly appears in the role of the author.

“I introduce the play as Bram Stoker, an Irish playwright working as the theater manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London,” Woolsey said. “Any time that we do any of our plays, we always have the ‘author’ introduce the play. Generally speaking, a play is less than what the book was, and in knowing the original work, I can answer any questions the audience might have. We did this when I directed ‘Frankenstein,’ when I had a lady play Mary Shelley. I couldn’t find an actor to play Bram Stoker, so I’m doing it  this time.”

Tickets to “Dracula” are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 12 and younger. Tickets are available in advance from the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau office and St. Robert Family Dental in St. Robert and at Ceda’s Gift Shoppe in Waynesville. Some tickets may be available at the door, but because seating is limited, the cast and crew recommend purchasing tickets in advance.

For more information visit the organization’s website at www.pfaa-tots.webs.com.
 
Last Updated ( Friday, 22 September 2017 )