Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s phenomenal season draws to a close with “Dracula The Bloody Truth”.
Based on Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula”, this show explores theatrical comedy through unparalleled creativity.
Playwright John Nicholson delights audiences with the show’s quick pacing and clever innuendos while simultaneously providing blocking, which is essentially a movement roadmap for actors that takes incredible precision.
The play follows four actors who are assigned a plethora of characters to portray in order to tell a recount of the character Professor Van Helsing’s factual experience with Count Dracula.
Actor Lynn Robert Berg, a Boise State alumni, and actor Joe Wegner discussed their experiences of being a part of “Dracula The Bloody Truth”. As each actor played several characters, Wegner and Berg discussed what the experience of rapidly switching between roles was like.
“It’s one of my favorite things to do,” Wegner said. “You get to quickly jump between all these very different people so I had a lot of fun making up voices and applying accents.”
Wegner played several characters in “Sense and Sensibility”, a play that was also a part of the festival’s 2023 season.
Berg discussed that his character, Van Helsing, in “Dracula” was his most prominent role despite being a part of past productions, such as “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged”, that also required actors to cover multiple roles.
Berg’s main role is Professor Van Helsing, a character obsessed with letting audiences know that author Bram Stoker stole the plot of “Dracula” and passed it off as fiction.
“One of my favorite parts about how this play is set up is we’re actors playing these roles for an audience and everything is going wrong, there’s a documentary sort of feel like ‘The Office’,” Wegner said. “That’s a fun layer but does make it challenging to decide, are we good or really bad actors? The script is set up so that the humor can come either way.”
“I get to play somebody else the whole time which is a little more fun,” Berg said. “Being able to be a character who is so eccentric and out of his element is something I have a lot of fun with.”
From quick changes to “broken” set pieces, each actor has to be on their “a-game” from places to curtain.
“These types of shows are really hard to build, there’s so much to craft,” Berg said. “It takes a lot of patience, creativity and improvisation.”
The cast and crew’s professionalism hides their stress caused by an intentionally flawed set design and minimal practice time.
“Logistically being in rehearsal, we don’t get a lot of those things [set pieces] until we get out there,” Wegner said. “That was a big hurdle.”
Don’t let the size of the cast fool you. Putting on a show like “Dracula” takes a village.
“They take longer than a normal full-size cast show. Our backstage crew is nearly three times the size of the cast,” Berg said. “On paper they seem really simple but when you get to really dig in you’re like this is insane.”
Wegner explained that there were not many preview opportunities for this show, which typically proves to be beneficial for the comedic aspect of a show.
“We have to hit the ground running and really know inside and out what’s supposed to happen next,” Wegner said. “If there is improvisation we’re trained actors so we’re able to go on a little tangent and get ourselves back on even when things go wrong, or you know, actually wrong.”
The stakes are always high with any play that includes physical comedy.
“Any physical bit is meticulously worked on like a pratfall or someone getting hit in the face with a door, those are super important timing-wise,” Berg said. “We all have to be on the same page and on the same timing each time or you can get hurt.
That being said, the improv style of the play makes those perfectly timed moments make the show sparkle.
“This is basically the Dracula version of the Broadway show ‘The Show That Goes Wrong’. There are little changes every night, it’s always fresh,” Wegner said.
If you’re looking for a show that subverts expectations with incredible acting and comedy, come see “Dracula” at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival before Oct. 1.