The ensemble circles Dracula in the final scene, delivering their “death” blows with small flashlights and carefully timed movements in what will be the first teen performance of the horror classic on the North Shore — just in time for Halloween.
From the sidelines in the dimly-lit basement grotto at the Gorton Community Center, director David Weber issues orders to the cast.
“Zach, grab the hand of Dracula closest to you. Brian, grab the hand closest to you and 180, spin him, spin him. Hand on shoulder, drag him down,” Weber directed as the students pulled the black-cloaked Carter Bedward to the ground.
“Annie, that’s where you hit your spot. Pull out your light. Reveal it. Dracula sees it and then — light it. I want the intention, eye contact,” Weber said as Bedward’s face registers horror and he lies prostrate on the ground. “All you guys come over to him, shining your lights on him. Take a step back so the audience can see Dracula down. Looks good.”
A quick five-minute break gives the teens from Lake Bluff, Lake Forest and Lincolnshire a chance to regroup before returning to their three-hour rehearsal Saturday, Oct. 19. The seven-member ensemble has practiced every weekend since late August to stage what most would consider a challenging play for a teen-age group, the horror classic “Dracula” — with all the sexuality and some of the gore removed.
“It’s interesting to do a play that no one else usually does. It’s a new experience,” Zach Demet, 13, of Lake Forest, said.
Like most of the cast, the Deer Path Middle School student worked this summer with Weber in Promontory Productions’ Shakespeare workshop for teens at Gorton.
Weber calls Promontory Productions — an advanced production high school troupe — his “personal dream factory.”
“We build and do plays that are different than what they would get in community theater or within their high school or middle school,” Weber said.
When looking for an intriguing fall challenge, Weber suggested the vampire classic. DeMet watched the Bela Lugosi 1931 movie version and suggested it to Matthew LeMay, 14, of Lake Forest, who read the book. Both agreed it would be great to perform.
LeMay, a Lake Forest High School freshman, believes audiences will find their adaptation of the classic novel worthwhile.
“Bram Stoker pretty much made up the traditions of how vampires work,” LeMay said. “He took the different myths and figured out what he wanted his vampires to be like. Everything we have now on vampires is from him,.”
Using the physical set-up of the basement grotto to their advantage, the audience will enter a haunted house with stark lighting and in-the-round seating.
“There’s one scene with a little blood, but it’s playing more on the psychological,” Ellie Randolph, 16, a Woodlands Academy sophomore from Lake Forest, said. “It’s classic horror, not like modern-day paranormal activity. It’s one of the most classic pieces of horror you can get.”
The audience can expect “a lot of action and creepy stuff,” Bedward, of Lincolnshire, said.
The junior at Carmel Catholic High School is not interested in the musicals his school usually stages and was drawn, instead, to what he called the serious acting experience he can get with Promontory Productions.
“It’s definitely a good Halloween play,” Bedward said.
Annie Murphy, 14, of Lincolnshire, finds working on the horror classic a good learning experience for future theater work.
“It’s the process of learning a part, developing a character and presenting it to an audience,” the Carmel Catholic High School student said.
Brian Sullivan, 14, of Lake Bluff, and a freshman at Lake Forest High School has worked with Weber for three years.
“We’ve done a really wide variety of different productions,” he said.
But this, he agrees, is different.
“No one’s really done Dracula before,” Sullivan said. “I’m interested at how it’s going to turn out.”