W&L’s “Dracula” production provides blood-sucking fun for students, local community

Play highlights themes of love, violence and the unexpected

Alexandra Cline

In a contestation of good and evil, Washington and Lee’s production of “Dracula” brought a biting new suspense to the classic tale of an infamous vampire.

From Thursday to Sunday, the student cast performed an adaptation of the 19th-century novel that follows Dracula’s terror throughout London. The production, sponsored by the W&L Department of Theater, Dance and Film Studies, was designed to challenge ideas about fear, strength and fantasy.

“Dracula is about belief; it takes place at the intersection of faith and proof,” Jemma Alix Levy, director and assistant professor of theater said in the director’s notes. “It is about looking beyond what you already know and accepting the impossible.”

Though the play was set in 1897, the storyline incorporated timeless elements of love, violence and the unexpected – combining a familiar story with modern appeal. To revamp the story, the production featured choreographed elements and a variety of lighting and sound effects.

“The set is exquisite and over the top, the lighting and sound is excellent, and the director has made all the right calls in the casting,” Susan Wager, assistant director of the Lenfest Center, said. “The director and actors transform you to the dark world of Dracula all while keeping you on your toes with the fast moving scenes.”

In preparation for the production’s opening, Wager created a marketing campaign that included Dracula-inspired events to promote the performance among students. The events ranged from a blood drive to a Romanian dinner held in the Marketplace the week before the play.

The choice to perform this play in particular was in

part to draw more students to both audition for the production and attend as an audience member. Levy hoped the familiar characters and interesting plot would spark greater interest among young people.

“I thought the subject matter would appeal to our student body,” Levy said. “One of the goals I have is to see a larger proportion of our audiences made up of W&L students. ‘Dracula’ is a familiar character, though I suspect few if any of our students will have seen this particular adaptation of the novel.”

With the production choice set for “Dracula,” Levy shifted her attention to the storytelling aspects of the performance, with each cast requiring different direction. Levy said that because each performance requires unique production values, all of the W&L performances are distinctive in themselves.

“Every show is different – each requires a different focus because it tells a different story,” Levy said. “And every group of artists with whom I work is different. And each artist requires something different of me and produces something different onstage. If this wasn’t true, we wouldn’t still be producing plays!”

With a major production such as “Dracula,” the development of the show and the adaptation of the actors to their characters required significant time and effort. In creating the final version seen on opening night, all of the moving parts of the script, choreography and effects needed to combine to form the unified production.

“I sat in on one of their rehearsals, so it was cool to see how much they’ve improved by opening night,” Dakota Walker, ’17, who attended the performance, said. “The cast and crew have worked very well to put on a good show.”