Count Alucard is lurking above in the rafters while spying on his prey.
Below, the quirky and likeable characters are trying to figure out what the heck is going on.
It’s 1908 in the French Quarter, and an actual live play is happening on the stage of the High Springs Playhouse.
The lights dim and a small audience of 21 are ready to get lost in costumes, scenery, a story, the lights.
This is opening night for Dracula, which runs from Oct. 2 through the 25th. The production was written by Leroy Clark and directed by Steve Bates and is an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic thriller set in the French Quarter of New Orleans at the beginning of the jazz age.
The summary from the playhouse’s website: “Into this Creole and Cajun culture in the courtyard behind Dr. Seward’s home, Dracula begins attacking his victims. Clark has mixed in voodoo rituals, drumming, Spring Carnivale strangers in masks, even comic characters such as Aunt Quincy who likes to drink as much as she likes to eat chocolates.”
It’s clear that the all-volunteer cast and crew who make Dracula happen are committed to delivering to the audience an authentic and entertaining story.
From accents to costuming and a surprise creature, the two-act play will make you laugh and cringe and wonder right until the end.
Maid Pipi Laveaux (played by Renna Tenbroeck) steals several scenes with her accent and voodoo shenanigans, poor Mina Harker (Mollie Lassiter), Lucy Weston (Angelica Miller), and booze sipping Aunt Quincy (Taegan Reiter) fall under the dashing Count Alucard’s spell, but crazy Mrs. Renfield (Skyeler Montgomery) is harder for the Count to tame.
Count Alucard (played by Griffin Green in his debut performance on the stage) knows how to flash his fancy cape. He is tall and with his accent, slicked back hair and masterful facial expressions, he flirts not only with the ladies of the house but the audience as well.
But don’t worry, Vampire Hunter Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Miguel Miranda) has it all under control. With garlic and wooden crosses and his bag of tricks, he puts two and two together. The baffled Jonathon Harker (Andy Jean), Arthur Holmwood (Alexander Ray) and sanitarium Dr. Jack Seward (Ryan Ray) join forces with Helsing to take charge. The Ray brothers, who both performed together in “The Boys Next Door” share the stage again, weaving their characters into the chaos created by the Count.
The play ends as most plays do, with the cast and crew lining the stage as the audience applauds their efforts. The hands join and then there’s that big bow before they disperse.
Technical Director and Facilities Manager Jennifer Applebee says although going with the show during a pandemic has its challenges, the volunteers at High Springs Playhouse want to make sure the community is taken care of during the pandemic.
So, by limiting seating to 25 percent capacity and following CDC guidelines, the playhouse found a way to go on with not only this current production of Dracula but of Anne of Green Gables back in July.
According to Applebee, the cast found ways to rehearse the plays in sections instead of having the whole cast in the theater every time. This has been a common practice because each production is put on by volunteers who work other jobs or attend school, she said.
“When working with strictly volunteers, time is valuable,” Applebee said about rehearsals. “Travel time and stage time is based on volunteer availability. Taking this into consideration, scripts are generally divided into scenes/characters. Therefore, rehearsal calendars are set up for only certain characters to rehearse on certain nights. This naturally limits the number of volunteers per night. During rehearsals and a show’s run, we follow OSHA, CDC and county guidelines according to that timeline.”
And just as much as the director and actors crave to put on a show, the High Springs Playhouse is committed to providing a much needed outlet for theatergoers who crave live performances.
With the Gainesville Community Playhouse postponing upcoming productions, and the Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville preparing to stream its next event online, the High Springs Playhouse is the only place to experience live stage theater in Alachua County for now.
“Unlike Broadway in New York, High Springs, and our surrounding communities are small,” Applebee said. “We value each other.
“This is not a new notion for small towns where community really means extended family. Having our doors open during this time has brought a greater understanding of what it means to volunteer,” Applebee said.
“Isolation can be combated with imagination. This is what the High Springs Playhouse always offers; a chance to experience imagination with others. It is always our mission at the High Springs Playhouse to provide safe, quality entertainment and promote free expression. This did not change and I hope it never does.”
For more information about upcoming shows or to buy Dracula tickets click here.