JU theater, music programs to present ‘Dracula’ radio show | Arts & Culture

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JU theater, music programs to present ‘Dracula’ radio show
Arts & Culture
JU theater, music programs to present ‘Dracula’ radio show

Just in time for Halloween, the Jacksonville University College of Fine Arts is resurrecting the peerless bloodsucking villain Count Dracula for local audiences’ enchantment.

It’s far from a typical theatrical production: While embracing the reality that vampires are a modern-day pop culture phenomenon, JU theater professor Deborah Jordan is ambitiously replicating the original 1938 production of Orson Welles’ “Dracula: A Radio Play.”

            Directed musically by JU professor Scott Watkins, the show will feature a live orchestra performance when it hits the stage at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 and Oct. 30 at Terry Concert Hall.

            Jordan and Watkins say it’s hard to pinpoint what the show’s most notable element will be.

            It could be recreating history: Welles’ Mercury Theatre On the Air troupe debuted with “Dracula” two months before tantalizing his audience with War of the Worlds, which was so realistic that many listeners thought Martians were in fact invading the earth. Overnight, the little-known 23-year-old Welles became a household name throughout the United States.

            The JU production’s highlight could be the undertaking by Watkins and company to restore Bernard Hermann’s original music from the Mercury show, or having Foley artists on hand – just as Welles did – to provide sound effects.

            Or maybe it will be the sheer frightfulness of the Count, who has generated more than 150 movies since Irish author Bram Stoker penned the Gothic horror novel “Dracula” in 1897.

            In any case, the JU production will be an intricately fashioned Halloween treat.

            Jordan said she and her crew are particularly charmed – as they hope their audiences will be – by the use of theatrical students to mimic sounds in the play, including simulated gunshots.

            “In every way possible, we are trying to recreate the 1938 broadcast. They did everything live,” Jordan said. “Everyone is working so hard. There’s a lot of dedication going into this.”

            Noting that through dramatics, musicians and technicians, radio was once the primary medium of exciting the imagination, Watkins says he’s hoping that an audio recording of the show that can be perpetually rebroadcast will be produced.

            “Back in 1938, Dracula (the novel) was about 40 years old, so it was a big deal back then to actually take a novel and make it come alive,” Watkins said. “This is really a unique undertaking for us all and something that is special about it is that music is such an integral part of the product.”

            Cast in the show are Nick Boucher as Count Dracula, Dracula’s Caleche driver and Dr. Arthur Seward; Brian Trumble as the announcer, Hildesheim, and the Demeter captain; David Bilbray as Jonathan Harker, Esq.; Marisa Battaglia portraying a production manager; Roy Matos as the stage coach driver, deck hand 1, news reader voice, and the old man; Sean Segerstrom as the first officer (mate), news vendor, and the Czarina Catrina captain; Katerina Howell as deck hand 2 and second reading voice; Alec Hadden as Van Helsing; Elaine Tyson as Lucy; and Ashley Jones as Mina.

             Brandon Lettow is the show’s technical director, Battaglia is the stage manager (in addition to portraying the production manager on stage), Rhea Derke is the Folio artist head, and Elyn Wolf is the costume coordinator.

             Tickets to the show are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and military; $5 for students and children under 17; and free for JU students, faculty and staff.

            For information, call (904) 256-7374 or e-mail cpeters12@ju.edu.

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