NWA Ballet Theatre brings multimedia horror story ‘Dracula’ to Eureka Springs, Springdale

NWA Ballet Theatre brings multimedia horror story ‘Dracula’ to Eureka Springs, Springdale

For decades after Bram Stoker’s alleged fascination with an actor inspired the monster Dracula, the character itself has been reimagined time and again for the screen and stage. However, after reading the novel this summer, Stephen Wynne saw the potential for a ballet.

The Northwest Arkansas Ballet Theatre artistic director appears to be a member of that fabled “ideal audience.” Last spring, Wynne choreographed the show “Radiant,” for a spring showcase that included his tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber.

“I’m the guy at the movies that cries for everything,” he says. “Especially when I hear Webber’s music. It sort of ‘unglues’ my emotions.”

In a similar fashion, his multi-media production of “Dracula. Here. Now.” is inspired by by the language of the fragmented or “epistolary” novel that is told through diary entries, ship logs, newspaper clippings and letters.

“The language was so wonderful. I just can soak that type of language up. I love it,” he enthuses. So he began looking for ways to turn those “magical words” into a ballet and multimedia presentation for the Ballet Theatre’s Halloween-themed tour.

“I really focus on Mina and Jonathan a lot and the love that they have for one another” in this ballet, Wynne says. “It’s mainly a love story [about] the obstacles that they come across and how they overcome these obstacles.”

(For those fans of the 1992 movie with Gary Oldman, he’s focusing on Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder’s characters.)

“I was very impressed by the bravery and care,” he says. “That type of new love is so powerful. You know, it jumps off bridges. It’s not mature, it doesn’t care about the consequences. It just does it.”

He also took some inspiration from the 2001 musical adaptation of “Dracula” and even uses some of its music. Like many of his predecessors who have adapted the 1897 novel, he’s also changed and combined characters to achieve the dramatic ends of the plot.

“I put a countess in there [with Dracula] because I love to mirror Jonathan and Mina, so [that] they’re juxtaposed to one another in the story through their movement language,” he explains.

“I also wanted to have a really creepy character,” Wynne says, so he found a way to refocus Dracula’s abilities and shades of the character Renfield (played by Tom Waits in the 1992 movie). The character of Spirit Dracula, played by actor Thatcher Reckner from Trike Theater, will be acting silently and not dancing.

“For ballet, it gives more movement possibilities because you can’t speak the words. So you’re trying to say things with images and with texture and movement. I feel like the Spirit Dracula was birthed by another way of trying to express Stoker’s language,” Wynne explains.

The doctors, Van Helsing and Seward, are vocalists rather than dancers.

“I wanted to give the doctors a different language to deepen this story and again, emphasize the fact that Stoker’s language is so amazing,” he says.

Trainees from the Northwest Arkansas Ballet Conservatory will be joining the cast for Dracula’s departure on Demeter and Lucy’s funeral.

“It’s really great working with them,” Wynne adds. “I’m pleasantly surprised at their professional level.”

He says that their casting “couldn’t have gone any better,” while beaming about the ballet artists in this production.

“Sam Jones is playing Jonathan, and he is a real heartthrob. He’s the perfect guy, very upfront and trusting and caring. It just comes very naturally for him.”

He brags that the countess, danced by Hannah Mucha, “demands your attention whenever she’s on stage.”

Wynne does confess some fears about the production ahead of upcoming performances, since Dracula also lends itself very easily to comedy, illustrated by ”Vampire in Brooklyn,” “Dracula, Dead and Loving It,” etc.

“My biggest concern was I don’t want it to border on the edge of being comical,” he says. “When they get to that place where Dracula is about to bite, it’s so easy to flip it over into something funny, you know?”

With the talented cast and an excited community, the show is likely to find Wynne’s ideal audience during Halloween weekend.

“The dancers were out last week in Eureka Springs putting up posters and postcards in hotels and restaurants and shops and things. And they came back, they were like, ‘Oh, my gosh! Everybody already knew about it and is excited!”

*The notes for this interview were written in red ink because “Dracula” is one of the author’s favorite novels. She’s down to geek out over Dracula-related trivia at mhooper@nwaonline.com. You can send article ideas too.


‘Dracula. Here. Now.’

WHAT — NWA Ballet Theatre presents a multimedia production based the tale surrounding the most famous vampire of all. Dancers perform alongside expressions of film, voice and drama with an integrated audience participation element and the costume designs of Margie Bordovsky.

WHEN/WHERE — 7:45 p.m. Oct. 27 at The Auditorium in Eureka Springs ($25) and 7:45 p.m. Oct. 31 at The Medium in Springdale ($35)

INFO — nwaballettheatre.org/dracula

BONUS — A pre-show Director’s Chat offers a deeper dive into the artistic director’s motivation, and a surprise starts at 7 p.m. for both shows.

Categories: Music