Studio Players opens season with 'Dracula Bites,' a comedy about learning to adapt

Contributing Culture WriterSeptember 19, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    'Dracula Bites'

    What: Studio Players' season-opening production of the Duke Ernsberger and Virginia Cate comedy, directed by Ross Carter

    When: 8 p.m. Sept. 19-21, 27, 28, Oct. 4 and 5; 2 p.m. Sept. 22, 29 and Oct. 6

    Where: Studio Players' Carriage House Theatre, 154 W. Bell Ct.

    Tickets: $21. Available at (859) 257-4929 or Studioplayers.org.

It happens all the time in the world of entertainment. People adapt a popular written work for the stage or screen, and book fans come out of the woodwork to say, "I can't believe they left out (fill in the blank)."

So, if a small community theater group tries to adapt the story of one of literature's most frightening figures and ensure it gets every detail right, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, just about everything.

That's certainly the case in the comedic play Dracula Bites, which Studio Players will debut this weekend at its Carriage House Theatre.

Dracula Bites, written by Virginia Cate and her son Duke Ernsberger, centers on Valley Dale Playhouse and its struggle to come up with a production that will pack the house and keep the struggling company afloat. The troupe turns to Gregory Pastel (played by Tim Hull), a flamboyant and failed New York director and playwright, who uses this opportunity to complete his dream project of adapting a version of Bram Stoker's Dracula that leaves out nothing — nothing.

Director Ross Carter saw Dracula Bites make its stage debut in Virginia in 2011 and was impressed by its insanity and hilarity.

"It was just so funny, I immediately thought, we've got to do this at Studio Players," said Carter, who serves on the board for Studio Players and has helmed several of its shows.

The play within a play takes place on a typical community playhouse rehearsal set, which Studio Players had no problem duplicating. Much of the humor comes from a combination of physical comedy, clever dialogue and the absurdity of Pastel's ambition of trying to create a production far beyond the playhouse's capabilities.

"He wants a horse-drawn carriage brought in and wolves at the foot of the stage," said Mary Anne Mathews, who plays Pastel's wife, Mora, a former hand model. "It's so much bigger than this little theater is capable of doing."

Then, there are the characters themselves. Playing some of these iconic figures as close to book form as possible leads to laughs, whether it's trying to pull off vampire hunter Van Helsing's incomprehensible broken English or the crushing blow the director deals to Stewart Minor (Alex Maddox), a Dracula obsessive who soon finds out his role of a lifetime is quite different from what he expected.

"He's so excited upon the first rehearsal because Dracula is his dream role. He brings his cape in for the first rehearsal and brings props from home," Maddox said. "It's just absolutely not the Dracula you're used to seeing."

Those involved with the Studio Players production of Dracula Bites say being part of the occasional terrible play production is something they can relate to and they've been laughing from the initial read-throughs to the final rehearsals. However, they insist that everyone will be in on the jokes as this determined group of actors tries to make the best of a very bad situation.

Said Maddox, "If anything, who doesn't like to see someone fall on their face?"


IF YOU GO

'Dracula Bites'

What: Studio Players' season-opening production of the Duke Ernsberger and Virginia Cate comedy, directed by Ross Carter

When: 8 p.m. Sept. 19-21, 27, 28, Oct. 4 and 5; 2 p.m. Sept. 22, 29 and Oct. 6

Where: Studio Players' Carriage House Theatre, 154 W. Bell Ct.

Tickets: $21. Available at (859) 257-4929 or Studioplayers.org.

Blake Hannon is a Mount Sterling-based writer.

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