Fifth Third Bank’s Dracula is our second-longest running annual production (next to Fifth Third Bank’s A Christmas Carol) and the only theatrical adaptation of Bram Stoker’s thrilling Victorian melodrama that can be seen annually in the United States. This year, Actors Theatre celebrates Dracula’s twenty-first consecutive year by exploring a brief history of Louisville’s favorite Halloween tradition.
Dracula first hit the stage of the Bingham Theatre in October, 1995, although the cast of characters was slightly different. The familiar faces of Jonathan Harker, Dr. Seward, Van Helsing, Renfield, Lucy (although she was the beloved of Dr. Seward in this iteration), and of course the infamous Count were present, but the characters of Mina, Ms. Sullivan, and Briggs didn’t join the ill-fated ensemble until twelve years down the road.
During the two decades that Dracula has played at Actors Theatre, over a dozen actors have taken on the role of the blood-thirsty Count. (Randolph Curtis Rand holds the record, donning the cape and fangs a grand total of five times throughout the history of the production.) Even more actors and actresses from across the nation have traveled to Louisville to take part in the this cult institution, and hundreds of Professional Training Company apprentices have worked on the show in some capacity – from assisting the stage managers to providing administrative support to having their Actors Theatre debut in roles such as Mina, Briggs, Harker, and Ms. Sullivan.
Throughout its tenure, though, perhaps the greatest constant in Dracula has been director and adapter William McNulty. McNulty joined the Dracula team in 1996 as director and actor. While many patrons today may recognize him as the Dutch vampire-hunter Van Helsing, McNulty has also played the role of Renfield from time to time. In addition to acting as director and cast member, McNulty is also the creative force behind the adaptation we use today, introducing Louisville to the new characters and injecting the play with a renewed sense of horror. When asked how the twenty-one year old production has stayed exciting over the years, McNulty shared,
New actors come into the cast every year, bringing their own interpretive contributions, and the show morphs accordingly. We are artists; our imaginations continually move us in new directions, and that’s what keeps it fresh and fun.