The timeless terror of Dracula will be hitting the Arts Centre mainstage, opening Feb. 7.
Additional shows run Feb. 8-9 and Feb. 12-16 with curtain at 7:30 p.m. Matinee performances also run Feb. 9 and Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. The story, which was written by Bram Stoker in the late 1890s, is being brought to life by Calgary based director/actor Haysam Kadri, who is thrilled to be making his directorial debut at RDC.
“There’s always been an intrigue — with people of all demographics – about this creature,” he says of Dracula. The creative team selected Steven Dietz’s script. “This is the closest to the actual novel. He’s really stayed true to Stoker’s storytelling.
“It’s a classic tale for a reason, because it transcends time. He’s a compelling figure.”
The play features a ‘stylish villain from 1910 London who transforms from an old, decrepit man to a virile youth’ via his taste for blood. Of course, capturing the essence of a novel, which Stoker wrote in 1897, and fitting it into the constraints of a two-hour production is an immense challenge. “You can get into real trouble when you adapt a novel like that into a two-hour play because you are trying to find the heart of the story. You have to create these nuanced characters from less of a template. It’s very challenging, but that’s why this version is one of the better ones.”
Kadri has worked as a unit and session instructor at RDC in the past, but Dracula marks his first time directing one of the season’s major productions. He said it’s been an absolute delight, and given him the opportunity to connect with staff and even some of the students he’s taught and gotten to know over the years.
“It’s fantastic. I have a special interest in student development, education and mentorship so this is right up my alley.” As for being at the helm of a production, Kadri counts the collaborative process as one of the key highlights of the experience.
“I really appreciate actors more when I’m sitting on the other side of the table,” he explains. “I love the process, and I love investigating these stories and finding a common ground. I also like to be a part of a moment when an actor ‘gets’ something.”
Sharing from his own theatrical experiences is also a joy for him. “I love seeing that and being in the process, and I love the energy that the students bring.
“I love to put it in their hands and ask ‘What do you think this play is about?’ That’s where the dialogue happens and it becomes a democratic process and not a regime about me telling them ‘You go there, you stand there’ – that’s not really creative.”
He also encourages the young actors to make bold choices as they interpret their roles.
“We’re not talking about everyday, ordinary stuff. This is an extraordinary tale, extraordinary characters in extraordinary circumstances.
“The way they lived back then, and the sensibilities of the world and the language was way different from what we do. So part of it is about immersing them in that world and asking them to put themselves into those situations. They do starting to invest in and buy into the world picture we are trying to create.”
The design team of Carrie Hamilton, Cindy Zuby, Patrick Beagan, Sui-Fan Wong and Jeremy Spencer have created a stunning, eerie atmosphere that includes a chandelier made of bones, bats, blood and coffins all brought together with a stunning, brooding soundscape – original music written specifically for this production by the Calgary-based Spencer.
“I read the script and I was thinking this is epic in its scope. I really wanted to push the envelope in terms of what we could do with the show, and I knew this was the place to do it with the creative team and staff here. It’s been such a wonderful creative process.”
Costume designer Hamilton, via her usual extraordinary design creativity, makes Dracula larger than life. Dracula is a stylized version of 1910 London transforming from an old, decrepit man to a young a viral one – revitalized by his consumption of human blood.
“There are a lot of themes people can tag onto with this play,” he adds. “It’s not just about a guy who bites people’s necks and sucks blood – there’s a true person under that cape. There are a lot of questions that many people will identify with and ask themselves, but also it’s about the idea of exploring the dark side of your soul. I think everyone has that dark side. So how does that affect the world, and do we get out of that dark side?
“There are so many avenues you could go with this play – there are so many themes. There’s the archetypal good versus evil. There are many things that will provoke thought. That’s what we are discovering too, is what is this play about?”
Meanwhile, Kadri is an actor and a sessional instructor who has taught Theatre Arts at the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University.
For six seasons and more than 20 productions, he has been a company member with the Stratford Festival of Canada. Kadri is also the artistic producer for The Shakespeare Company and an education coordinator for Shakespeare in the Park in Calgary.
Over the years, he has made it a priority to establish a foundation for classical work by entertaining audiences through producing and performing of classics, developing and cultivating the talents of emerging artists and focusing on student education via performances, workshops and classes.