October 15, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - "Bite me," actor Angela Petry instructed "Dracula" co-star Tom Brooks as the duo contemplated the placement of fang marks during a recent dress rehearsal for the Morgan Arts Council's newest show at the Ice House theater in downtown Berkeley Springs.

It's a play into which audiences will truly sink their teeth.

The 10-show run of "Dracula" starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15, at the former apple storage facility on the corner of Mercer and Independence streets.

Bram Stoker's Victorian novel about a vampire "is one of those incredibly classic stories that holds everyone's imagination. The idea of some evil that lurks in the world and sucks our blood and takes us into darkness is wonderful. For Halloween, it's perfect," Director J.W. Rone said. "Humor and comedy is my forte. The opportunity to take my audience somewhere else is exciting for me. My intention is to frighten people."


Rone said he chose to use Stephen Dietz's 1995 "Dracula" script because it offered a cinematic feel that fit well with the director's style and the play's minimalist set and lighting - elements that seem "to make the actors float in space inside the piece." And the script's clever use of protagonist Jonathan Harker's journal - an important narrative tool in Stoker's novel - helps to create "an intimate show," Rone said.

But it's the talent of the 12-member cast that makes the play a success, he said.

"In a community this small, it's pretty amazing to have these kind of people to work with," Rone said.

Veteran actor Brooks - whose theatrical experience spans a quarter-century and includes all four male roles in "Sheer Madness" at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. - tackles the title role with gusto. He said he's striving to create a character that's more than a monster, to foster empathy for the inevitable boredom of a centuries-old vampire who longs for companionship while sparking fear for a creature that feeds on the blood of humans.

"I've tried to make him three-dimensional," said Brooks, 41, of Berkeley Springs. "He certainly doesn't consider himself purely evil."

But the biggest challenge - and most enjoyable aspect - of playing Dracula has been honing the Romanian dialect called for in the script, said Brooks, an MCI telecommuter whose local stage roles have included John Adams in "1776" and Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol."

"I want to make (Dracula) as genuine as I can," he said. "I hope it's fresh for people."

Lead female character Lucy's transformation from a "sweet, vivacious Victorian lady into a monster" was a rewarding challenge for Petry, a home-schooling mom who lives in Berkeley Springs. Lucy undergoes extreme changes during the course of the play as she succumbs to Dracula's ministrations. By the end of the play, she's scouring a graveyard for children to prey upon and sinisterly asking her ex-fianc, "Hi Johnny, want to be my little friend?"

"I'm a really sweet and nurturing person, but it's been fun to create a deep inner self that's a dark side," said Petry, 36.

She said experimenting with fear, how a menacing presence would affect body language and expression, was a big part of preparing for her role.

"A lot of the early rehearsals for me were about believing in that horror," said Petry, who's also performed locally in Rone's "Journey of the Fourth Magi" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Actor Kit Patten of Great Cacapon, W.Va., admires the relentless dedication of his character, vampire-hunter Abraham Van Helsing.

"He's somebody with a huge knowledge base. He knows there are vampires; nobody else has a clue," Patten said. "He's determined to fight evil."

So is Jenny Rone's character, Mina. Lucy's best friend is the "ultimate heroine," a woman who fights to overcome Dracula's spell so she can save herself and those she loves, Rone said.

"Mina is the image of hope," she said.

Rone, who lives in Berkeley Springs and has performed in numerous plays there and in Loudoun County, Va., said she had to get "totally outside" of herself to bring Mina to life on stage. She channeled her character's latent sexuality and strength, dropping her voice register to "get away from the girly-girl thing and into her center of power."

Sharon Carpenter-Rose of Hedgesville, W.Va., said she didn't need much practice to transform herself into a vampire vixen.

"I dress up like a vampire every Halloween so it's a natural thing," she said.

Marti Sikes of Berkeley Springs, who boasts more than 40 years experience as a seamstress and two decades as costumer, designed the play's Victorian-style apparel. With a sense of humor, Rone and his cast and crew worked out costume concerns and other issues a week before the opening.

Just how should one kill a vampire?

"Once you put the stake in you've got to cut his head off and fill it up with garlic," Rone told his cast.

And what about slipping fangs?

"I have some extra PoliGrip if anybody needs it," stage manager Laurie Fischer said.

The vampire's in the details.

Cast and crew

Renfield: Abbie Brown

Lucy: Angela Petry

Dr. John Seward: Dan Silverman

Jonathan Harker: David Young

Vixen: Dawn Danis

Mina: Jenny Rone

Abraham Van Helsing: Kit Patten

Attendant: Ray Rose

Maid: Rebecca MacLeod

Attendant: Sandy Bienan

Vixen: Sharon Carpenter-Rose

Dracula: Tom Brooks

Production staff

Director, set designer: J.W. Rone

Co-producers and co-stage managers: Jane Doyle and Laurie Fischer

Lighting designer: Bob Marietta

Sound designer: Chad Christian

Light board operator: Ali Hession

Costume designer: Marti Sikes

Production designer and graphic designer: Julia Robey

House manager: Pam Mann

Makeup designer: Tom Brooks

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