In celebration of Regent University’s upcoming production, one theatre insider takes us into the production and motivations behind Dracula.
It is the night before opening, and we have all come to see the final dress rehearsal. The lights in the theatre darken as a hush falls over the crowd. We wait in anticipation for the lights to come back up and reveal the stage. A ragged wail pierces the air instead, thunder booming in unison. Lights flood the stage in a flash of lightning before it darkens again, casting shadow on two figures – one bound and lying prone, and the other standing over him. We listen, rapt as the bound figure stumbles across the stage, reacting to a strange and haunting tale. The stage is plunged into darkness again and a lone scream rips through the silence. A woman in white, the picture of innocence, runs from a figure clad all in black. She is quickly, easily overpowered. She has no chance. Blood stains her gown, and after a dance with the man in black she falls to the ground, unconscious.
The tale of Dracula has been told and retold since its conception to the point that the story has become more parody than allegory. Vampires themselves are now either morose and misunderstood or needlessly violent without hope of redemption. The meaning has been traded for spectacle.
Now that Regent University is staging their own production of Dracula, patrons and students alike may be asking themselves “what place does Christianity have in putting on a show filled with so much violence and terror? Is this appropriate or even right?”
The answer is a resounding yes. Regent’s production of Dracula is not needlessly dark or disturbing. Rather, it characterizes perfectly the struggle between light and darkness. Shown in the right context, the shadow of evil only throws more light onto what is truly good; the cast and creative team have done a fantastic job of demonstrating that. Dracula is presented as a sort of Antichrist, paraphrasing the Bible for his own purposes and proposing to one of the main characters that “good and evil is only a matter of perception.” In contrast, we see the main characters countering such great evil with truly great good, struggling valiantly against the forces of darkness with the word and power of God.
“We see [Dracula] attempting, just as Satan does, to twist and pervert Scripture as a means of trying to increase his group of minions,” explains Dr. Michael Kirkland, head of graduate theatre studies and director of the Dracula production. “Just as we can expect that Satan will pervert and twist Scripture we see a Satan type – Dracula – trying to do that. But then we also see characters quoting the Bible… [with the] realization that only through belief in God that they can overcome this.”
Christianity is a spiritual warfare, a constant battle waged for our souls. Dracula captures that warfare perfectly. I came into this production only expecting a fun experience and I was rewarded with so much more. The actors’ portrayals were equal parts terrifying and heartbreaking, and the message left knots in my stomach hours after the curtains closed. It is an enchanting battle between good and evil, and one of the best productions I have seen.
“To present great light, we must travel into the darkness… [which] shows the power of Christ and His blood,” muses Dr. Kirkland. And right he is. Just as Christ is a brilliant light bursting into the darkness of our broken world, so the art we create must reflect that brilliance. And this play does so beautifully.
Regent’s production of William McNulty’s Dracula runs from October 7th to the 16th. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online at regent.tix.com.
Sarah is a staff writer at the Daily Runner.