Dracula looks to bring a spectacle to Cherokee

by Sep 27, 2021A&E0 comments




One Feather Staff


An immersive experience, high-level action, and a lot of blood. This is what is being promised from the producers of Dracula: The Failings of Men, a show coming to the Mountainside Theatre in Cherokee this weekend.

Dracula, played by Benedetto Robinson, strikes a pose during choreography practice. (JONAH LOSSIAH/One Feather photos)

Havoc Movement Company is putting on their new adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic monster’s tale starting Oct. 1 and running through Oct. 31. The company was started three years ago by Jake Guinn, Jake Scott-Hodes, and Kristen Noonan and is based out of Atlanta. Guinn has plenty experience with the Mountainside Theatre, as he served as the lead pyrotechnician and fight director for “Unto These Hills”.

“I spent many years here. So, I have deep love and familiarity with the place that made a lot of this super easy. Honestly, I would say that in bringing out something new, this space is the most comfortable place that we could do something like this,” said Guinn.

He said that because of his time working at the Drama he still has a great relationship with Marina Hunley-Graham and John Tissue from the Cherokee Historical Association. He said that after some conversations with them, he knew it was the perfect spot to launch this production.

“I have walked around this space and thought about doing a show similar to this since I started here. This space is so beautiful, and I’ve always been interested in work that breaks the theatrical conventions of having an audience sit down and watch a show. Kind of passively engage. I want theatre that makes you feel like you are in the show. If you wanted to passively engage in something you’d watch Netflix,” said Guinn.

A practice dance and struggle scene between Lucy Westenra and Dr. Jack Seward, played by Bailey Frankenberg and Jon Meyer.

Most of the actors have worked with each other in some form and are new to Cherokee. One that has plenty of experience in this theatre, however, is Michael Brewer. He has been performing in “Unto These Hills” for the last two years and was also in the “Sleepy Hollow Experience” in 2019.  He said that he is loving his first experience working with Havoc, and that this is new type of show for him and the space.

“This one is more immersive in terms of the audience being able to be closer to us. They are not in the show as other big immersive shows can be. So, there’s no pressure for the audience to interact with the actors unless they really want to. This one, though, takes you around the space in its entirety. It really utilizes the beautiful amphitheater that we have in the side of the mountain here,” said Brewer.

On top of the style of show, he said that the level of combat and entertainment is also really exciting.

“That’s right up my alley. Making theatre more accessible for everybody I think includes spectacle, and that’s what this company does well while also honoring the plot and good storytelling. A lot of the time, if you have a spectacle show, it’s less focused on plot elements or the way that the story goes and the telling of it. Or vice-versa, if it’s a really good plot, maybe the spectacle goes away. But this show really has both.”

Darby Guinn, assistant producer and COVID consultant for Havoc, said that they are bringing in two circus-specific apparatus for the show. Along with the acrobatics, there is going to be plenty of fire and over 20 minutes of combat. She said that the original development of this play started with herself, her brother Jake, and Benedetto Robinson, a scriptwriter who is also playing Dracula in the show.

Dracula, played by Benedetto Robinson, practices combat in a flying harness.

“Me, Benedetto, and Jake all sat down during the pandemic a year ago to write this script for the first time, because we were considering doing it last year. We read the original Bram Stoker novel and decided to throw out the things we didn’t really enjoy like the misogyny and weak-minded people and create this new story,” said Guinn.

She said that this is Havoc’s first show since the pandemic, and because of that they have been careful not to push the cast or crew. Guinn also said that she has been surprised by how well the first week of practice has gone.

“What rehearsal has showed me so far – we started on Monday – is just how absolutely brilliant every single one of these cast members is. It’s a super small cast of six, and they’re all just primo actors,” said Guinn.

Jake Guinn said that this is a full-circle moment with his connections to Cherokee Historical Association. As the director for this show, he said that his goal is to make the experience as fun for the audience as it is for him and his team. He said that as confident as he is in this production, he feels they already have a huge asset that he wants to put on full display.

“How beautiful this spot is! That’s a big one. The fact that we get to spend time moving through the theatre in spaces that aren’t traditionally utilized for performance, folks are going to see parts of the theatre that I don’t think they’ve ever seen before. Certainly not seen like this. Then, on top of that, they’ve not seen the action work that we’re bringing to the show. We’re flying people all over the space. We’re fighting up and down, there’s blood everywhere. This is a show that just has not been done here before,” said Jake Guinn.

Opening night for “Dracula: The Failings of Men” is Friday, Oct. 1. Doors are open at 7 p.m. with a 7:30 p.m. start time for the show. It has an expected run time of 90 minutes. Shows are currently slated for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for the following weekends.

A special Halloween show is also scheduled for Oct. 31 and will feature ‘two times the blood and a mask contest judged by Bailey Frankenburg’, who is playing Lucy Westenra.

Tickets for the show are listed at $20 for members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and $30 for regular tickets. VIP tickets are available for an additional $20. They can be purchased online at https://www.cherokeehistorical.org/dracula/.