Name three of the most infamous villains of literature or pop culture in the last century and it's likely that you'll mention, or at least think about, Dracula.
The 19th-century character, though not as popular in its early years, has spawned a love-affair with the dark and mysterious creatures, vampires. They are, today, widely celebrated in books, television shows and movies more than 100 years after Bram Stoker brought the character to life in the pages of his novel.
In all those movies and plays, Dracula remained a mysterious and dangerous being. Though a sometimes sympathetic character, he endured as the ultimate boogeyman. But perhaps never in its history, has Dracula ever faced an era like the one we exist in today. Never has the prince of darkness ever met a growing feminist power like the one that lives today in social movements like that of #MeToo.
And that is at the center of the latest interpretation of the stage performance of Dracula playing at the Arsht Center. The show, written by Michael McKeever and directed by Stuart Meltzer, reimagines the Gothic villain in a world with powerful women. The antagonist's greatest rival, Van Helsing, is played by a woman of color. We spoke with McKeever and Lindsey Corey, who plays Dracula's love interest, Mina.
McKeever started by discussing how and where he found the inspiration to make this a more feminist Dracula story.
I live in a world that's populated by feminists, by really strong women with strong points of views. And it's something that I believe in, I think the world is changing, certainly not fast enough but at the same time these are issues that need to be addressed, so I used women in my life as inspiration for the woman that I put on the page, which I've done with all my plays whenever I write.
Lindsay, you play Mina. Remind people of her relationship with Dracula.
Well Mina is a vivacious, marches-to-her-own-drum young lady who is engaged to a gentleman named Jonathan Harker and they go and visit her friend Lucy who has fallen ill and find out through some very fun theatrical effects that she has been the prey of Dracula. So Mina is introduced to Dracula at Dr. Seward’s house.
Do you believe that Michael struck the right tone with your character when trying to encapsulate this powerful female persona?
Michael has such a gift for the way that he writes female characters that are strong and independent and courageous. And I really think that the way that this is presented, in a very different time from now, the way that he's written the dialogue between these characters, it's very relevant to the time, and unfortunately these are still issues that we have today. And this story still needs to be told.
Michael, did it require a lot of collaboration with the actresses?
Oh, God yeah. When you're dealing with a world premiere it's essential that you be open to suggestions from not only the cast but from the director. The artistic director is Stuart Meltzer, who's really insightful. I've worked with him a number of times and he really opens up the room. With this production we had three weeks of working the play, cutting things, putting things in, trying to make it as as scary and funny and sexy and insightful as a production of Dracula can be. And, as a playwright, if you hold the script to your chest and say, "how dare you, can't change my words," you're really defeating your own purpose. So it's important to be open, and when you're dealing with really great people like I was blessed with in this production, it does really wonderful things for the show.
Dracula fundamentally is a very predatory character, preying on young women. Did you intentionally model his character or any of the dialogue on some of the predatory behavior that we've been seeing that's been revealed through the course of the #MeToo movement?
Absolutely. Sadly it became very easy to to find inspiration in the world that we live in now.
(Lindsey speaking:) Especially in the arts. I mean that's where these women rose up from and said not anymore. This is what happened to me and I think through the character of Mina she is this pioneer and also Van Helsing being a woman, and woman of color, coming forward and kind of being the guideline for Mina.
Van Helsing, again is a very iconic character. Michael, in your version she's a woman of color. How does that change your character?
Van Helsing is a forward thinker and someone who is way ahead of his time just in the nature of what he does and how he looks at the world. So I thought how perfect to push this even further. Let's make him a woman. And then I said wait, if I make her a woman of color let's just turn this world on its head. And what fun it is, what great fun it would be to introduce this character into Victorian England, into a world of white men where such an exotic being is something they've never seen before.
Lindsay, is this show about flipping Dracula upside down or is it in any way playing homage to the original Dracula story?
I think it does a little bit of both. I think in a very beautiful way we're still telling the story of Dracula and the the classical nature of that old timey story. And there's also very much today happening up on that stage, very relatable. This is not your mama's Dracula.