Franklin Regional students balance gore, goofiness with production of ‘Dracula’ | TribLIVE.com
Theater & Arts

Franklin Regional students balance gore, goofiness with production of ‘Dracula’

Patrick Varine
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Patrick Varine | Tribune Review Dress rehearsal Dr. Van Helsing (Gigi Butkewitsch) looks down at the body of Mina Murray (Lavanya Anantharaman) at a Franklin Regional Thespians Club rehearsal for “Dracula.” Students will put on the production later this month. Story, Page 4
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Patrick Varine | Murrysville Star Dr. Van Helsing (Gigi Butkewitsch) and Dr. Peter Seward (Ian Sunny) discuss the fate of Mina Murray (Lavanya Anantharaman) at a Franklin Regional Thespians Club rehearsal for “Dracula.”

Franklin Regional Thespians Club students are working to strike a fine balance between the hard-R frights of Francis Ford Coppola’s vision of Dracula and the occasional unintentional camp of the original Bela Lugosi film.

It’s not always possible, according to director Richard Sunny.

“There are some parts of the script where the author was sort of going for cheese,” said Sunny of the John Mattera-penned “Dracula,” which club members will stage the weekend of Oct. 24-27.

“Nowadays we have so much ‘information’ about vampires that you have to find ways to keep it a little scary,” Sunny said.

Stepping up the use of props is one way to try and keep audiences from getting too comfortable.

“We’re using fake blood in this, and some other sophisticated props,” said senior Jonah Hartman, 17, who will play the role of romantic suitor Arthur Holmwood. “I just saw today that Dracula gets stabbed with a stake that’s made to really look like it goes into his chest. That’s really cool.”

It’s a first for the club.

“We’ve never done anything like it,” Sunny said. “We’re kind of excited to see if the realism can help make it a little more scary.”

For senior Vishal Pandey, 18, the challenge is walking that fine line between a seductive, frightening Dracula and just kind of reciting lines with a bad Romanian accent.

“I sort of used a combination of going on YouTube and looking at (vampire) films from the 20th century, looking at (Coppola’s Dracula lead) Gary Oldman, who does such a great job with the character, and also looking at videos talking about the Romanian accent.”

Pandey said he’s even watched the Adam Sandler comedy “Hotel Transylvania” to see what kind of mannerisms its version of Dracula uses.

“It’s the first time I’m playing a villain,” Pandey said. “It’s neat getting to know how someone thinks.”

Sophomore Riley Schmidt has her first lead role this year as Dracula’s (kind of) unwilling victim, Lucy Westenra.

“I enjoy playing someone who has so much interaction with the supernatural,” Schmidt said. “It’s very interesting, and as my first lead role, it’s very much jumping into the deep end. It’s a lot to do.”

Even with a compressed rehearsal time, Sunny is confident the cast of 15 students is up to the challenge.

“We have such a talented cast,” he said. “We have two fewer weeks of rehearsal this fall, but I think the kids are about two weeks ahead of schedule anyway.”

Sunny’s desire to expand the drama guild program has also led to a good problem: not enough roles.

“Last year casting was easy — we had 15 kids audition for 15 roles,” he said. “This year I had 30 kids audition for the same number of roles, and it was really difficult to narrow things down.”

“Dracula” will debut on the Franklin Regional Senior High School stage at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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