Playwright Kate Hamill’s reimaged version of “Dracula” comes to Actors Theatre
By Sarah Carter Levitch
Photos provided by Actors Theatre
Whether you’ve seen “Dracula” before or not, Actors Theatre’s production of Kate Hamill’s version will be unlike any version before. Reimaged as a modern-day feminist revenge fantasy, this “Dracula” is a statement against toxic masculinity. We spoke with Director Jennifer Pennington, Actress LaShondra Hood (playing Doctor Van Helsing) and Executive Artistic Director Robert Barry Fleming to learn more about the upcoming production that will run in the Bingham Theater from September 7 through 18 this year.
How does this version of “Dracula” differ from the original?
Jennifer Pennington: This “Dracula” is a completely different beast! In fact, Dracula is not a beast at all. Kate Hamill’s script deals with the horrifying idea that the monsters look like us. Sometimes, they can look quite attractive and therein lies the danger. Dracula does not have fangs or a long black cape, and he is not corpsified. He is a good-looking white man who uses his privilege and power to get what he wants.
LaShondra Hood: The script gives the female characters a lot more agency and calls out toxic masculinity and misogyny. It blurs the roles and expectations of the sexes. Also, “Dracula” has been running for decades and has never seen this many people of color simultaneously. I am stoked to step into this role, a role that traditionally could not be any more different than who I am as a person. Van Helsing is typically an old dutch man, whereas I am a young African-American woman.
What would you tell someone who has seen “Dracula” before?
Robert Barry Fleming: It’s the kind of project you may think you know if you’ve read the novel, seen the 1992 Coppola film with Gary Oldman or have caught Nosferatu or Bela Lugosi’s “Dracula” late at night on TV. I find this version renews some wonder, evokes surprise, seduces, transports, and thrills so you can discover the story you feel you know all over again in an immediate and viscerally holistic way.
LaShondra Hood: Even if you have seen the production several times, this one will be extremely different. I am interested to see how the patrons that attend annually respond to the changes. I do not think they will be disappointed, but instead, I think they will be refreshed.
Jennifer Pennington: This will be a whole new experience. This “Dracula” considers the multi-faceted trauma this country has gone through, holding up a mirror to society in a compassionate way. Kate Hamill’s script was born out of the #MeToo movement and couldn’t be timelier.
Why should someone come to see this production?
LaShondra Hood: This production is history in the making. I think everyone wants to witness historical moments and have the chance to say ‘I was there’ or ‘I remember when.’ I am hoping that the production will leave a lasting impression.
Robert Barry Fleming: There has been an ever-present, multigenerational fascination with this narrative. It has relation today with the ubiquity of the unfathomable horrors in current events chronicled relentlessly in the 24-hour news cycle, another storytelling form in conversation with a classic novel like “Dracula.” A story of good vs. evil feels particularly relevant and at the forefront of our minds after a spate of mass shootings, murder-suicides, and other troubling existential dilemmas that continually assert themselves in our consciousness. Framing and exploring such emotional flooding and fatigue in a story can be a cathartic escape, restorative joy ride, or an experience that is simply a heck of a lot of fun when we need it most. Come out and feel the pulsating aliveness, roller coaster stomach drop and mind-bending wonder only an in-person theatre experience can offer.
For tickets, visit my.actorstheatre.org/2023-dracula-revenge.
Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202