Local arts organizations team for Dracula Unearthed

A brand-new telling of a classic tale will soon reveal what happens when the undead becomes unearthed.

Dracula Unearthed — an original work presented by Wildwood Park for the Arts, Praeclara and Arkansas Festival Ballet — uses music, operatic singing and dance narrative to extend the story line of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel.

About a year ago, Praeclara artistic director Bevan Keating and Arkansas Festival Ballet artistic director Rebecca Stalcup combined talents for production Peter Grimes. After deciding that merging the organizations’ specialties in ballet and singing makes for a great show, the idea for Dracula Unearthed was born, and Wildwood was a natural fit to host the production, Keating says.

The play follows Dracula as he cares for his half-human daughter, Wilhelmina, and keeps her in the dark about her half-vampire makeup. But when the 18-year-old falls for human Anghel, jealousy emerges and Dracula must confront his identity.

“He tries for 18 years to protect his daughter from who she is, from what she can become,” Keating says.

Keating says different generations have unique pop culture references for Dracula — and vampires in general. But the impact of this play needs its particular use of dance narrative and singing, something not often found in versions of the story.

“If it was just ballet, it might be hard for the audience to read,” he says. “If it was just a play, just text, reading lines, it probably wouldn’t have the dramatic [effect].”

While very much a drama, the production references characteristics of relationships, such as the one between Wilhelmina, performed by dancer Julia Aronson, and Anghel, played by dancer Trent Montgomery.

“The tone overall is, I think, a little bit dark but exciting, very romantic,” Keating says. “It’s a lot of love on both sides. Beautiful, beautiful dance numbers that you’d likely see in a ballet, but then we add the dramatic darkness of it because Dracula has to make these hard decisions.”

Familiar scores composed by Bela Bartok, Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Rachmaninoff and others will be used in the show, but original works will be performed, as well.

“The music that we have in it, it’s easily recognizable, music people associate with scary movies but also music no one has heard before — that’s the part that’s all sung,” he says.

Before each Dracula Unearthed performance, a vampire-themed party will take place at 6:30 p.m. On the Wildwood grounds, theatergoers will be escorted to the village of Bran, where Dracula’s Tavern will serve garlic-themed dishes and more, including meat with stakes — which are actually skewers. For adults, bloody marys will be served, and as a nod to Twilight, blood slurpees will be available for the under-21 crowd.

“The feel of it is, you arrive at the village of Bran, and you’re at Dracula’s castle,” Keating says, “and you go into his castle, and you watch his production.”

Attendees are encouraged to wear costumes.

“I’ve had people say, ‘Wow, this could be a great annual event,’” Keating says. “Being such a large event with three different companies, we’re going to see how it goes.”

Dracula Unearthed runs at Wildwood Park for the Arts at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Tickets are $50 for premium tickets, $25 for general admission and $15 for student admission. Tickets can be purchased at the door or by visiting wildwoodpark.org.

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