A Vampire Story: a Brock production

Photo by: Department of Dramatic Arts

For the next two weekends, Brock’s department of dramatic arts (DART) will be performing A Vampire Story at the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre. 

A Vampire Story is a comedy written by English dramatist Moira Buffini about a vampire girl named Ella. She wants to tell others about her undead state, but finds many of the locals even weirder than her vampire mother. There will be performances at 7:30 p.m. on Mar. 3, 4, 10 and 11, with a 2 p.m. show on Mar. 5.

Director Gyllian Raby described the play as following a tradition in which vampire narratives have been developed as tools to resist and reclaim racist histories.

“In Our Vampires Ourselves, Nina Auerbach commented that each age invents the vampires it needs, and Moira Buffini’s play taps into the pop culture genre to reinvent vampires for a feminist age,” said Raby. “The tensions between the mother-daughter vampire duo relate loss of soul to the need for rebellion — specifically for an activist awareness against colonialism and sexual exploitation.”

A Vampire Story, in Raby’s eyes, is especially relevant due to the inherent similarities between the conventions of the vampire and the impact of the pandemic.

“The loneliness and anxiety caused by the pandemic is a common motivating factor for vampire and infection stories, so A Vampire Story is deeply topical,” she said. “We can all identify with characters who are intensely alone in the midst of society — this explains the success of the vampire genre.”

This production is also marked by a return to person-to-person rehearsal that Raby says she is “charged by the joy of.”

Raby’s last production, Shelagh Callaghan’s Fever-Dream, was produced during the pandemic and required a complex layering of online components.

“If there’s a difference between this and previous shows, I would say that I feel charged by the joy of being back in person-to-person rehearsal after my last production,” she said. “Shelagh Callaghan’s Fever-Dream was an online adventure and lots of fun but not a substitute for the immediacy of the live theatre experience.”

Lucas Irving, fourth-year dramatic arts major and assistant director for this production, commented on another unique aspect of this year’s production: the live band.

“The fact that we have a live band underscoring virtually the entire show has been an added challenge to the rehearsal process, but the payoff has been 100 per cent worth it,” said Irving.

The implementation of a live band required the play to be prepared far in advance to ensure there would be time to incorporate them into rehearsals.

“The directors started dramaturgical work in April 2022, a few weeks before auditions,” said Raby. 

The design process took place over the summer and fall, and work on the music started with music director Joe Lapinski in October, a full two months before the acting company started rehearsing.

“By the time we started rehearsing the play this semester we could incorporate the soundscape they created as early into the process as possible,” she said.

Additionally, the cast and crew have been hard at work with this production, in no small part due to the challenges presented by the script.

“The play moves between three worlds: present day Ontario, 19th century England and a liminal vampire spirit world called Byzantium,” she said. “The way that it interweaves social histories, pop-culture, and psychology offers studies that are superbly rich and varied, as well as performance challenges perfect for DART students.”

“The play itself provides a challenge with the way it flips between multiple stories and time periods very quickly,” added Irving. “Our set designer Nigel Scott said the script reads like a screenplay in places, and our costume designer Alexa Fraser has worked hard to make costumes that are accurate to period but possible for quick-changes. We’ve taken a lot of time to make things clear to our audience about what is happening where and when.”

Tickets for these shows can be purchased at Brock’s ticketing webpage.

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