We’re well into #OctoberMonthOfTheater, and Otherworld Theatre couldn’t be more in their element. I caught up with resident playwright Nick Izzo on his adaption Countess Dracula to learn more about how he updated the classic vampire tale for modern audiences.
BTD: What were your first steps in adapting this well-known story?
Izzo: I was given a set of guidelines beyond the narrative of Bram Stoker’s novel. The first decision was that Dracula would be an African American woman. From there, all kinds of questions arise. Specifically, where and when is the story set? Should the principal cast also be African American? The answer to the latter was a resounding yes. This decision also informed the setting: this would be an American take on the gothic horror novel and we would swap out Transylvania for New Orleans and London for New York.
BTD: What are the most notable changes to the original dynamics?
Izzo: There’s a lot that can be done with a classic story that is so familiar to so many people. We know that the audience knows the vampire mythos and that’s a good starting point to redefine the character. The place and the culture changes, but the year 1890 remains the same, a mere 25 years after the end of the civil war. This transformed the character of Dracula into an avenging angel and protector. Her prey is the white patriarchy, here represented to a large degree by Doctor VanHelsing, recast as the villain.
BTD: What was it like collaborating with director Am’Ber D. Montgomery?
Izzo: Everything really came to life when Am’Ber and I started spitballing ideas, and combining visions. Each of us had preconceived notions about the piece that were challenged by the other, and together we came up with something richer and more complex than we would have on our own, which is, of course, the ideal outcome with collaboration. There was a LOT of room to play and make this its own thing.
Countess Dracula, adapted for the stage by Nick Izzo and Am’ber D. Montgomery, directed by Am’Ber D. Montgomery. Otherworld Theatre, 3914 N Clark Street, (773) 857-2116, otherworldtheatre.org, pay-what-you-can. Through November 2nd.