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The unleashing of horror
PHS' ‘Dracula' begins tonight
An English village with strange events, a deserted ship spotted along the coast, howling wolves, bats, an exotic Count moving into a dilapidated old mansion, the snatching of children at night, and local women suddenly sporting puncture marks on the neck — that is what the Porterville High School’s drama department is presenting beginning tonight as it offers Bram Stoker’s timeless classic “Dracula” at the Frank “Buck” Shaffer Theater inside the Porterville Memorial Auditorium.
The Gothic tale runs for four days, with presentations at 7 p.m. through Saturday and 2 p.m. matinees on Friday and Saturday.
But even before the curtains open, the eerie music sets the tone for the unexpected, as the 20-plus actors, seasoned and debuting, take the stage.
For high school junior Ivan Bedolla, it means seeing the play from a different angle. After three years of behind-the-scenes work, he is debuting as Jonathan Harker.
“It’s fun and it’s different,” he said. “The hardest part was getting over stage fright.”
He is not the only one debuting. Senior Ivy Kerwood (Lucy Western) said she wanted to try something different; while seasoned actors, Erika Arcos and Thayne Keele, (Mina Murray and Count Dracula, respectively,) have been presented with challenges to their own roles.
Arcos’ character is sweet — and madly in love with her betrothed.
“It’s a different role because all of my other characters played have always been spastic or funny. Mina has a serious side,” she said.
Keele said he originally tried out for the role of Renfield.
“I love Renfield in the book. He’s psychologically deep,” Keele said. “My strength as an actor are emotional changes. Renfield goes from a dignified gentleman to a raving lunatic.”
Cast as Dracula, Keele said he is still enjoying the role.
“It’s a fun role and a great job but it’s a prop role,” Keele said. “The show follows Dracula but he’s not the larger [main] actor.
With an adaptation by Steven Dietz, the playwright will be presented by two separate casts of PHS actors, with David Marsh playing Renfield; Kerwood and Jaylin Hemsley playing Lucy Westerna; Glancy Benjamin and Stephen Cooley as Dr. John Seward; and Demeraye O’Connor as Professor Van Helsing. In addition, the play has a number of students playing waiters, maids, attendants and vixens.
“I wanted this role so much. I thought it would be neat to be Van Helsing as a woman. The character is very serious, always wanting to get the job done and worried about everyone’s safety,” said freshman Demeraye O’Connor. “The most challenging part has been remembering the lines. And the style of language. It’s Old English.”
O’Connor, who admits to being a “Twilight” fan, said a group of students traveled to Bakersfield College to see “Dracula” and returned with the decision to do a Dracula play.
As the play progresses, the battle of good versus evil — with immortal souls at stake — begins, keeping student producer and stage manager Cecilia Felix busy — making sure everyone is getting their cues and that all people and props are in place.
“It’s been a good, cooperative bunch,” she said. “The hardest part is just making sure everyone knows where they are going next.”
Those who are familiar with Stoker’s novel, or its many stage and screen incarnations, will not be disappointed, said Craig Caven, PHS drama director.
Caven said he looked for a script that best captured the best parts of the novel while avoiding melodrama associated with the Dracula phenomenon.
“‘Dracula’ promises to be great entertainment,” Caven said. “The character of Dracula has been a part of American popular culture ever since Bram Stoker’s book was first published in the United States. Hopefully we’ll be able to give the vampire legend a new twist with Steven Dietz’s adaptation. The familiar elements of the novel are there but the script offers enough variations that everyone should be transfixed. The actors are excited about the material and can’t wait to bring this timeless classic to life.”
Tickets are $5 for general admission and $4 for students and active military, and available at the door, beginning at 6 p.m. for evening performances and 1 p.m. for matinees.
Due to simulated violence in the play, “Dracula” is not recommended for children.
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.