Dracula arrives at the Merc this October

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As far as monsters go, Dracula may appear more tame when compared to the likes of cinematic villains like Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers. However, to Sonia Watson, director of Temecula Valley Players’ upcoming production of “Dracula,” the vampire’s demonic qualities are more threatening. Dracula can transform his shape from human-like to beast, lures with charm, and attacks with the qualities of a viper.

“Those he spares from death become the Undead! For me, that puts him at the top of the scariest monster list. The best dressed too!” Watson exclaimed.

TVP’s 40th anniversary season continues on with their first production inside the Old Town Temecula’s Mercantile building. It was originally constructed in 1890, and was built by Philip Pohlman after he won the lot in a raffle. It was said to be the first brick building within Temecula. Later on, the building would be acquired by a man named George A. Burnham for the G.A. Burnham and Son business, and was closed during 1953. It was eventually rebuilt.

Today, The Merc functions as the entry point to the Temecula Community Theater, with various performances being scheduled there every month. Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” coincidentally, was also written during the 1890s.

The “Dracula” stage adaptation was written by Steven Dietz, and based on Stoker’s novel. It was commissioned by, and received its premiere at, The Arizona Theatre Company in Tucson Arizona, on March 31, 1995.

The show’s director was David Ira Goldstein and the set design was by Bill Forrester. David Kay Mickelsen was in charge of costume design and the lighting design was handled by Don Darnutzer. The original music was written by Roberta Carlson, Jeff Ladman was responsible for the sound design and the stage manager was George Darveris.

Dietz’s stage adaptation follows the novel much closer than other Dracula plays that have been written. Watson claims that most people she has asked are acquainted with Dracula through movies, rather than through the novel.

“When Dracula was chosen as the production for this Halloween weekend, I was especially excited as Bram Stoker’s novel is a classic that is one of my favorites,” she explained. Watson claims the story to be a rollercoaster tale of suspense, adventure, romance and gothic horror. She believes it is genius storytelling that stands the test of time.

There is no better atmosphere for the telling of the tale of Dracula than that of Hallow’s Eve. When TVP decided to accept the City’s invitation to perform at The Merc for three nights leading up to Halloween, Watson explained she was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. She jumped on the opportunity to be part of the team that would create a performance on a smaller scale than TVP’s well-known main stage performances.

As director, Watson aims to give each character in the play the chance to tell their story in a way that will give the audience a thrilling evening of live theater. She aims to potentially inspire audiences into reading the original novel.

“The talented actors in this production are embracing the material and running with it. I am enjoying watching this group of young actors bring an older tale to life with such commitment. They really are impressive,” Watson said. She claims that being able to put on the show inside a historical space place like The Merc is the icing on the cake.

“This is Black Box Theater, it is a fresh style of performance and a wonderful way to highlight our local actors’ talents in a different way. It is new territory and so exciting. I think they are excited to be performing in such an intimate space as The Merc, where they are practically performing in the audience’s laps,” Watson said.

“Dracula” will be playing for three select days, Oct. 28, 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the production are currently available for purchase and can be found at https://tickets.temeculatheater.org.

Ava Sarnowski can be reached by email at valleystaff@reedermedia.com.