Vampire costumes and decorations are plentiful this time of year, and movies and television shows about them run the gamut from gory scream fests to farcical comedies. The most iconic vampire, Dracula, will be portrayed on stage Thursday, Oct. 24, in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” adapted by Charles Morey, and presented by St. Cloud Theatre Company at St. Cloud High School.
The nexus to Halloween is obvious, but why else would St. Cloud High School’s new theatre arts director, Alex C. Moore, choose “Dracula,” written in 1897, when there are so many more current tales of vampires that would arguably be more familiar to the students and the audience?
Moore said that with the proliferation of comedic and melodramatic takes on the lore, people have forgotten how frightening this character was when first presented in the 1920s and then when Bela Lugosi famously played Dracula on screen in 1931. He added that there were reports that on opening night of Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula, some moviegoers fainted, while others ran screaming out of the theater.
“We’ve lost what is actually terrifying about this novel,” he said.
Student actor, Wylie Godleski, who plays the titular character, is enjoying the chance to hone his acting chops with the role of Dracula.
“It’s a very different role for me. In my experience with acting I’ve played more exaggerated characters, and this is more of a well-kept dark character compared to what I’ve done. It’s very interesting to get to see that side of acting and play that different type of role,” he said.
Moore has his students train with local professionals to help them further develop their acting skills. For “Dracula,” they have been working with dialect and voice coach, Ginny Kopf, to help them accurately portray the characters in the novel’s European setting.
Moore said the high school play is a fresh take on Dracula.
“Come ready to experience Dracula like you haven’t seen him before and find what scares us in 2019,” he added.
Moore, a native of St. Louis, Mo. first came to Florida to open the theater department at Tohopekaliga High School in Kissimmee, and then moved to St. Cloud High School this year upon the retirement of the former theater director. He had wanted to be a teacher since childhood, and discovered his love for reading and literature while in fourth grade. By his senior year in high school, he became interested in theater and theater education. Wanting to teach from experience, upon graduating from college with his degree in theater arts with a focus in acting, Moore moved to Chicago where he practiced his craft. He worked in a variety of roles on and off the stage. He ran a theater company, worked as an actor, a director and worked in public relations. He later returned to St. Louis to earn his degree in education and is now in his sixth year of teaching.
Moore’s inaugural production with the high school has been a learning experience for both the teacher and his students as they become acquainted with one another’s theatrical skills and talents. He praises the training the students have received from their previous theater director and is working to build upon it. The students, in turn, are adapting to his approach to directing. Brayden Noble, the student playing Van Helsing, the vampire hunter in the play, compares the respective styles of his former teacher to Moore’s. He said that his former teacher had a slower more methodical style compared to Moore’s.
“His approach is a lot faster. We are already off book (not reading from a script). We already have our lines memorized,” he said. “I love both of their work, and I have been enjoying his directing so far.”
In addition to preparing his students for the local stage, Moore is working to help them pursue the theatre and acting beyond high school.
“We are working towards getting our seniors prepared for college auditions and getting them ready to go to New York in January to audition for some of the top theatre programs,” he said.
For theatregoers who prefer lighter fare, the company’s spring production will be Disney’s musical, “Newsies.” For this production, Moore is bringing in a professional choreographer and a professional lighting director to work with the students.
“Bram Stoker’s Dracula” will be presented at the Susan E. Hill Performing Arts Center at St. Cloud High School.