By JONAH LOSSIAH
Staff with a feather
An immersive experience, high-level action and a lot of gore. That’s what the producers of Dracula: The Failings of Men promise, a show arriving at the Mountainside Theater in Cherokee this weekend.
Havoc Movement Company is rolling out its new adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic monster tale from October 1 through October 31. The company was founded three years ago by Jake Guinn, Jake Scott-Hodes and Kristen Noonan and is based in Atlanta. Guinn has a lot of experience with the Mountainside Theater, having been the senior pyrotechnician and combat director for “Unto These Hills”.
âI have spent many years here. So I have a deep love and familiarity with the place that made it all super easy. Honestly, I would say that by bringing out something new, this space is the most comfortable place we could do something like that, âGuinn said.
He said that due to his time spent in Drama, he always had a great relationship with Marina Hunley-Graham and John Tissue of the Cherokee Historical Association. He said after a few conversations with them he knew this was the perfect place to start this production.
âI have walked around this space and have been thinking about doing a show similar to this since I started here. This space is so beautiful, and I’ve always been interested in work that breaks theatrical conventions of having an audience sit down and watch a show. Engage passively. I want theater that makes you feel like you’re in the show. If you wanted to passively engage in something, you would watch Netflix, âGuinn said.
Most of the cast have worked together in one way or another and are new to Cherokee. Michael Brewer is the one who has a lot of experience in this theater. He starred in “Unto These Hills” for the past two years and was also in “Sleepy Hollow Experience” in 2019. He said he loved his first experience working with Havoc, and that it was ‘a new type of spectacle for him and space.
âThis one is more immersive in terms of the audience that can be closer to us. They are not in the show like other great immersive shows might be. So there is no pressure for the audience to interact with the actors unless they really want to. This one, however, takes you into space in its entirety. It really uses the beautiful amphitheater that we have on the mountainside here, âBrewer said.
In addition to the style of the show, he said the level of combat and entertainment is also very exciting.
âIt’s right in my alley. Making theater more accessible to everyone, I think, includes performing, and that’s what this company does well while honoring the plot and the good storytelling. Most of the time, if you have a show, it’s less about the plot elements or how the story and its narrative unfold. Or vice versa, if it’s a really good plot, maybe the show goes. But this show really has both.
Darby Guinn, assistant producer and COVID consultant for Havoc, said they were bringing two specific devices to the circus for the show. In addition to the acrobatics, there will be a lot of shooting and over 20 minutes of fighting. She said that the original development of this play began with herself, her brother Jake, and Benedetto Robinson, a screenwriter who also plays Dracula on the series.
âMe, Benedetto and Jake all sat down during the pandemic a year ago to write this script for the first time, as we were planning to do it last year. We read the original Bram Stoker novel and decided to throw out the things we didn’t really like like misogyny and weak-minded people and create this new story, âGuinn said.
She said it was Havoc’s first show since the pandemic, and because of it, they were careful not to push the cast or crew. Guinn also said she was surprised at how well the first week of training went.
âWhat the rehearsal has shown me so far – we started on Monday – is how absolutely brilliant each of these cast members are. It’s a very small cast of six, and they are all just primo actors, âGuinn said.
Jake Guinn said it was a complete moment with his ties to the Cherokee Historical Association. As the director of this show, he said his goal is to make the experience as fun for the audience as it is for him and his crew. He said that as confident as he is in this production, he thinks they already have a huge asset that he wants to showcase.
âHow beautiful this place is! It’s a big one. The fact that we can spend time moving around the theater in spaces that are not traditionally used for performing, people are going to see parts of the theater that I don’t think they have ever seen before. Certainly not seen like this. Then on top of that, they haven’t seen the action work that we bring to the show. We fly people all over space. We fight from top to bottom, there is blood everywhere. It’s a show that just hasn’t been done here before, âsaid Jake Guinn.
The opening night of “Dracula: The Failings of Men” is Friday October 1st. Doors open at 7 pm with a start time of the show at 7:30 pm It has an expected run time of 90 minutes. Shows are currently scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the following weekends.
A special Halloween show is also slated for October 31st and will feature âTwice Blood and a Bailey Frankenburg Judging Mask Contest,â who plays Lucy Westenra.
Tickets for the show cost $ 20 for members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and $ 30 for regular tickets. VIP tickets are available for an additional $ 20. They can be purchased online at https://www.cherokeehistorical.org/dracula/.