I auditioned for the next Swamp Meadow Community Theater production, Dracula, last Friday. I read for Dracula, Van Helsing, Jack Seward, and thought about reading for Quincy Morris or possibly Renfield. I decided to avoid Renfield as I was concerned about getting locked into being a character actor. Henry was a blast in The Fantasticks but I am more interested in playing a fully formed character rather than someone who is more caricature than character. I figured I was best for Van Helsing given my physique and that I have dutch relatives I could call on the phone to get the accent down. I read Dracula on a lark but not really expecting to get it.
I was pleasantly surprised when I got the call that I was cast as Dracula. I have been getting more excited by the day since I found out. Dracula is, in many ways, the polar opposite of Henry. While both demand attention, they do is in completely different ways. Henry demands people look at him, demands the spotlight (literally), and goes out of his way to emphasize his age or frailty to get attention. Dracula commands attention by sheer power of personality. He has a palpable strength, an underlying malice, and radiates power. When he is in a room (or on the stage) all eyes are on him because you can’t help but look at him. He does nothing specific to call attention to himself and yet he gets that attention. He is also, in the words of the director, a thug. He’s a warrior, a strategist and tactician, and conniving. He takes what he wants but can be subtle when necessary. He’s going to be a fascinating character to get to know and I can’t wait to start rehearsals and get to know the rest of the cast.
Until then, I am reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula (for the first time!) and getting to know Dracula through his words. The play is inspired by the book rather than being an adaptation and the character will not necessarily be the same. But it’s a good place to start. I also want to re-read The HIstorian though not for character research so much as because it was just such a great book. And I am walking every day now. While the director doesn’t need or want the thin-as-a-rail stereotype and prefers a broader-shouldered figure, I am feel that I have some work to do to get my body where I want it for this role.
This all reminds me of when I was in High School. I had had a long run of playing comic relief parts. When Oklahoma came up my junior year, I read for Will Parker assuming that that was the role I would be getting. The director asked me to read Jud Fry and I did to humor her. But she cast me in that role saying that there was something chilling in the way I read it. It ended up being one of the best experiences I had as a young actor (the best being playing Matt in the Fantasticks at about the same time).