Dracula Visits the Flathead

By Beacon Staff

Inside a dark, eerie crumbling castle, Jonathan Harker reaches for door after door. Locked. All of them. As a tall, colorless host clothed in black escorts the prisoner to supper, his host utters, “I have already dined, but I do not sup.”

Wolves howl. Thunder booms.

Bram Stoker’s 1897 story “Dracula” crawls out of the coffin just in time for Halloween radio theater. In an hour-long performance, Alpine Theatre Project and The Big Fish Radio, which features streaming internet radio, melds talents to produce Orson Welles’ adaptation of the classic vampire tale. “It’s a story that everyone thinks they know, but they don’t,” says Luke Walrath, Executive Director of Alpine Theatre Project. “It’s more than Dracula just going around and biting people.”

Welles performed “Dracula” as his first radio play for his “Mercury Theater on the Air” series in 1938, just a few months before broadcasting his infamous “War of the Worlds.” While most familiar movies stray from Stoker’s novel, his version sticks to the original diary-told tale with dialogue lifted straight from the book. Walrath likens the technique to a documentary style such as “The Blair Witch Project.”

Because Welles’ adaptation condenses the novel, sound effects convey fast-changing locations. “A lot of radio dramas create tone and scene with heavy music,” explains Walrath. “But this is sound effect heavy.”

Walrath and producer Ross Strauser, owner of The Big Fish Radio, combed sound effect libraries. Failing to find the sound of someone getting a stake through the heart, they created their own. “We bought a honey dew melon and stabbed it with a tent stake,” laughs Walrath.

While all the actors play multiple minor roles, each also takes on one or more main characters. David Ackroyd, who plays Count Dracula, explains, “I didn’t want to do a Bela Lugosi imitation, but we did use accents to help delineate characters.” Walrath portrays Harker, and Betsi Morrison, Harker’s fiancee Mina. Nick Spear does the voices for the narrator Arthur Seward and Van Helsing while Rebecca Spear plays Lucy Westenra.

Catch the chilling tale on Halloween Night at 8 p.m. on Whitefish Radio (www.whitefishradio.com) or stream it anytime on demand starting Monday, Oct. 29. Strauser plans to let it run on demand for a week following Halloween.

Lightning crack. Werewolf cry. Fade out.

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