Retelling a Classic Horror Story
through a New Play
by Scott Dixon
As a playwright, one is often in search of that perfect word for a particular moment. It can take a while to find—experimenting with different words and variations of words. In times like these, my bookshelf copy of Roget’s International Thesaurus is my best friend. Right now, I’m searching for the best word to sum up my feelings about rehearsals starting for Commonweal’s world premiere production of my play, Dracula: Prince of Blood.
Ah yes, I think I have it…WAHOO! (I don’t think that’s over the top at all. I bet Paula Vogel and Tom Stoppard say the same thing at the start of a new rehearsal—even if it’s just to themselves.)
Opening night will, of course, be exciting and, like a kid before Christmas, I doubt I’ll sleep much the night before. But where Dracula: Prince of Blood is now, this phase of a new play’s lifecycle is my favorite. It all started with Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula. Then, a few years ago now, I came along to deconstruct and reconstruct this 19th-century classic horror story into a 21st-century play. During that time, the only creative voice in the room was my own—supplemented here and there with input from others with whom I shared my work-in-progress. But basically, I was the soloist.
Then Dracula: Prince of Blood gets selected for Commonweal’s 2018 season, and steadily more voices get added. A director is hired, and a team of design artists is assembled, to do their own deconstructing and reconstructing of my work through the lens of their creativity and imagination. And now the cast is gathered to add their contributions. I have gone from being a soloist to one member of a larger chorus.
And this is how it’s supposed to be. It’s true that I have a certain anxiety about giving up my total control, but that’s ultimately just a flash of ego. It’s natural and I let it pass through because what’s about to happen is simply amazing. It’s the lesson I learned watching a play of mine brought from page to stage for the very first time with Commonweal’s 2005 production of The Nutcracker & The Mouse King. I had the special experience of watching talented artists take the story I’d written and bring it to life in ways which were beyond anything I could have imagined for myself.
That’s exactly the kind of energy that’s in the air right now. I get to be on the inside and the outside at the same time—intimately knowledgeable of what this particular telling of the Dracula tale will be like, and yet being surprised by new discoveries in every rehearsal I watch. I’m already incredibly proud of this production. I hope to see you at the Commonweal where we can both enjoy the hard work and talents of so many.
Until then…all the best to you!