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'Dracula,' a tale of terror

Dr. Seward (Scott Hanson) and Professor Van Helsing (Don Ehli) interrogate Mr. Renfield (Josh Nichols) to learn where Dracula is hiding.

The chilling tale of Count Dracula comes to life when the evil character steps on the stage of the Belfield Theater and performance Center.

The Halloween-themed show, under the direction of Jackie Hope, is being performed at 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Oct. 13-15.

This play is an adaptation by playwright John Mattera, based on the 1897 novel “Dracula” by Bram Stoker.

Playing Count Dracula is veteran actor Pat Barnhart.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite this scary,” said Hope. “When Dracula was suggested, the first person that came to mind even before auditions was Pat. He’s large, he has this voice.”

The strong antagonist to Dracula is Professor Abraham Van Helsing, played by Don Ehli.

“He’s the non-nonsense-like straight man. The others have silly  lines, but not him,” she said.

During the early rehearsals, the cast bonded almost from the first night.

“They know what they’re doing,” she said. “The cast has the most experienced actors in the area. Amongst us, we have collectively over 100 shows and that’s a conservative estimate. Trying to direct them is  like nailing Jello to a wall. They are so experienced and they know what they’re doing. It’s organic for them.”

The play is pretty intensive for little kids, she added.

“Pat is creepy -- let’s face it.”

The play is set in Victorian times, the same as Bram Stoker's novel.

“The play has a modern feel to it -- it’s a dark comedy. There’s creepy bits, laugh-out-loud bits and a whole set of characters and costumes that are richly colorful,” Hope said.

The play opens when Jonathan Harker, played by Nathan Amberg, is sent to Transylvania to sell English property to an unknown noble there. He’s the first victim of Dracula.

Count Dracula’s plan is to move to England to establish a new nest of vampires and transform Lucy Westenra into his bride.  Three vampires are sent ahead to prepare for his arrival.

Arthur Holmwood, played by Josh Hardin, is reluctantly pulled into a fight against Dracula, and accepts the truth about what is happening. Dr. Peter Seward, played by Scott Hanson, who runs an insane asylum close to the Westenra household, is called for help when Lucy becomes seriously ill. He has difficulty coming to terms with the truth about vampires.

And there’s Professor Abraham Van Helsing, who is familiar with vampires and Count Dracula in particular. He organizes a defense against him.

Barnhart, who has researched Dracula and vampires, added, “Really, Dracula is open to interpretation -- everybody has a different take on it. His motivation is to be immortal and yet he has to drink blood. It’s been fun  and there’s been a couple of funny things to it and a couple of creepy things.”

Salena Loveland who plays Miss Lucy Westenra said Lucy reminds Dracula of his long lost love.

“I’m supposed to look like her when he sees a picture of me,” she said. “I’m to become like him so we can live eternally together. I’m a fulltime student at DSU and timewise, I wasn’t sure I could handle this, but who could say no to Dracula.”

Josh Nichols can’t help but put humor into his character as Mr. Renfield.

“Really, HE’s the star of the show,” Nichols said. “I happen to be a patient, but I know all the secrets of the Count -- the master, Sir Dracula. I do what he says because I want to be like him and to live forever.”

Nichols said the play has a strong, strong cast.

“There’s a lot of veteran actors in it from DSU and the community. It’s a cool way for people to get back together to keep it up as a hobby and as a passion.”

The cast expressed several reasons for attending the show.

Randy Cummings, who plays Henry Westenra, described the show as art.

“If we lose art as a culture, we will die as individuals  -- that’s why,” he said.

Don Ehli added, “Halloween is coming up and what a better show to go to see than Count Dracula -- it’s an old story that’s been around for a long time.”

Hope appreciates working in the Belfield theater for multiple reasons -- its large stage, lighting, fog machines and comfortable seating.

“I love the venue a lot,” she said.

“The play has three acts and multiple scenes,” she said. “ I must have spent 60 hours painting the stone walls, rock by rock -- it’s pretty cool.”

With the performances only a few days away, she added, “The actors are having fun and that’s positive,” she added.

Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for seniors and children. For advance purchases, go to www.belfieldtheater.org or they are available at the Belfield City Hall or at the door. Refreshments will be served before the show, as well as during intermission.

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