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Stage North presents 'Dracula' for Halloween

Arthur Holmwood, played by Kevin Yeager, prepares to drive a stake through the heart of his undead fiance, Lucy Westenra, played by Emma Hopman. Submitted photo

The legend of Dracula has inspired fear for over a century, and Stage North Theatre Co.'s production of the same name desires to invoke the same response for the audience in 2018.

"Dracula" will be performed 8 p.m. Oct. 30-31 and Nov. 1-2 at the Franklin Arts Center in Brainerd as part of Stage North After Dark, with costume contests at 7:30 p.m.

Dracula first appeared in the Bram Stoker novel, published in 1897. It introduced Count Dracula and tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so he may find new blood and spread the curse of the undead. During the late Victorian period, people in England were having more contact with cultures from around the world through the expansion of the British Empire, which played into the fear of invasion from outsiders and the fear of the loss of a British culture. The novel "Dracula" gave voice to both of those fears.

In addition to the cultural fears, there are the natural fears happening as one is sitting in candlelight, reading in the flickering light and wondering what that sudden noise was at the window, as a person reads about this creature Dracula, who could transform himself into a wolf, bat, owl or fox.

This is the fearful atmosphere Stage North Theatre plans to bring to the production.

"This is an original adaptation by Roger Nieboer," Director Gary Hirsch stated in a news release. "The story follows the original novel very closely.

"We wanted to keep the story intact. Hollywood has taken a lot of dramatic license with the story of Dracula, but we wanted to tell the story like Bram Stoker intended. In the novel, Stoker used journal entries, letters, newspapers clippings and ship captain logs to record the events of those seeking to destroy Dracula. It was an innovative way of writing for the time and we also wanted to capture that style in our stage production."

The story begins with Jonathan Harker, a London solicitor, traveling to the Carpathian Mountains to the home of Count Dracula to get him to sign papers for a house in London Dracula is purchasing. Harker is being played by Stage North regular, Jesse Brutscher, who wanted to be involved with the production because he likes frightening stories and movies, and he wanted to play a part to create this scene.

The role of Dracula is played by Mike Paulus.

"Everybody knows Dracula," Paulus stated. "It is a classic tale and a great opportunity to do some acting in a dramatic role."

To play the role, Paulus did research and learned in Old Romanian, the word dracula means "son of the dragon."

After Dracula abandons Jonathan Harker to three vampire women, Dracula appears in England, where he encounters his first victim, Lucy Westenra. Lucy is a friend of Jonathan Harker's fiancee, Mina Murray. Lucy is played by Emma Hopman, who is appearing on the Stage North stage for the second time

"Lucy is about 20 years old, is a little dimwitted and empty-headed, and likes to share with Mina information about all of her love interests," Hopman stated.

Lucy's three suitors are played by Stage North veteran actors, Mark Oehrlein as Dr. John Seward; M. Hollis Ford as Quincy Morris; and Kevin Yeager as Arthur Holmwood.

"Arthur is the one Lucy selects to be her beloved," Yeager stated, "and as she is slowly transforming, Arthur seeks someone to help her. I wanted to be a part of this production because it is a piece of classic literature, a great classic piece of art and culture."

Natasha Worley, who plays the role of Mina stated, "I have wanted to be a part of this play since I saw it at the age of 14. I love all things Halloween and this show gets you in the spirit of Halloween."

Mina is one of two characters who has a spiritual connection. As she is fed on by Dracula, she is able to connect with his actions and in this way helps the group put an end to Dracula's plans for England. The second character who has a connection to Dracula is Renfield, a patient in an asylum run by Dr. Seward.

"Renfield becomes an instrument for Dracula to do his diabolical deeds," stated Brad Lakeberg, who portrays Renfield. This is Lakeberg's debut on the Stage North stage. "I wanted to make a return to the theater and am excited to be able to portray this slightly disturbed patient."

Of course, no production of Dracula would be complete without Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, the Dutch professor. Van Helsing is called in by his former student, Dr. John Seward, to assist with the mysterious illness of Lucy Westenra. It is Van Helsing who first realizes Lucy is the victim of a vampire, and he guides Dr. Seward and his friends in their efforts to save Lucy. Dr. Van Helsing is played, accent and all, by Stage North newcomer, Joseph Ledford.

In addition, there are many other characters helping to bring the story of Dracula to life, the news release stated. Liz Davies, a seasoned veteran actor who plays the role of the zookeeper and of a gypsy woman, stated both of her characters provide warnings of Dracula's dangerous plans.

"I really enjoy playing character roles, which often are small, but very sweet parts," she stated.

Other actors include Rebecca Aanerud, Michelle Ingels, Anthony Todd, Deb Binda, Cadence Porish, Andrea O'Keefe, Lillian Pringle, Kim Huether, Wendy DeGeest, Wanda Lane and Ashley Davis.

Stage North Theatre's production of Dracula is sponsored in part by Party World. Individual show sponsors include Hunt Utilities Group, Halvorson-Johnson Funeral Home, Bridge of Harmony, the A-2-Z Yarn Shop and Music General.