Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dracula in Nantucket

There once was a vampire in Nantucket...

The summer of 1973 saw the first staged production of Dracula with sets and costumes by Edward Gorey. Produced by John Wulp at the Cyrus Peirce Theatre in Nantucket, the play was directed by Dennis Rosa and starred Lloyd Battista as Count Dracula.

At the suggestion of a mutual friend, producer John Wulp telephoned Edward Gorey to see if he would design a stage production of Dracula. After a few meetings to discuss the piece and work out the physical requirements of the staging, Mr. Gorey went off on his own and began to think and draw. The resulting stage sets were a masterpiece of innovation and detail. To give the production a singular look, Mr. Gorey was also commissioned to design the costumes.

It has been quoted by Edward Gorey (and others, including Mr. Wulp) that EG was not a great collaborator. If you wanted Mr. Gorey to undertake a project and he agreed to do it, he would discuss it, then go off and do what he thought best to complete the assignment.

Given the freedom to adapt and invent, it was Edward Gorey who came up with the idea that the set would use a basic framework with five arches which would encircle the stage area. Within the openings of these arches would be changeable panels for each of the three acts of the play. The main structure of the stage would not change, but through the panels and set pieces the stage would be transformed into three completely different settings. This effective and economical set design gave the play an atmosphere that was both unnerving and slightly mad - a perfect fit for the play.

A wealth of "Gorey details" were incorporated into the sets that included bat motifs which surrounded the actors and were continued in some of the costume designs. The photos from the Nantucket production which I am showing are, unfortunately, not in my personal collection. I am looking for a set of these (or any other) original photographs from this production.

Greeting theater goers when they arrived for this exciting night of Victorian melodrama was a fantastic drop curtain, showing the title character luring Miss Lucy towards her impending doom. This 8" x 10" photograph of the original drop curtain art is in my collection. This drawing was reproduced inside the program along with sketches for each of Lucy's three costumes (one costume for each act).

This regional production was such a success that talk of moving the show to Broadway quickly ensued. More on the Broadway production in a later posting.


Anonymous said...

I saw Dracula w. sets by Gorey at the Kennedy Center in the 80s. I was in 4th-ish grade, so it must have been 86ish.

ampootozote said...

This would have been the Broadway version...I will be getting to that production in a later posting...I am not done with the Vampire yet!

Sharman Prince said...

What I like about the Nantucket design is that the pieces of furniture are generally black and white with the Gorey cross hatching, much like furniture in a Gorey drawing. I've not seen any pics of the Broadway design which follows this.