Steven Dietz’s “Dracula” Takes a Feminist Bite at ZACH Theatre

This article first appeared in Texas Lifestyle Magazine on October 9, 2019.

Arriving in time for the Halloween season, Steven Dietz’s “Dracula” is a 21st century spin on an old, wickedly seductive tale, playing at Austin’s ZACH Theatre.

The Dracula-esque atmosphere begins in the eerily transformed lobby of ZACH, revamped by weaving fortune tellers, ghost stories and costumed theater staff into the dark and ominous retelling of the fable. Audiences will momentarily feel as though they’ve been carried away into the pages of Bram Stoker’s original Gothic tale.

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Jonathon Mina’s fiancee Jonathan Harker (left, played by Joseph Garlock) becomes the prey for Count Dracula (right, played by Keith Contreras-McDonald) in the count’s quest to find and conquer Mina. Photo Kirk Tuck

Yet, Dietz’s thoughtful and haunting interpretation brings a female-focused lens to a classic by giving us a new look at this dark love story. Spoiler alert: As both writer and director of his all-new adaptation, Dietz has no damsel in distress for this production.

Dietz has written over 41 original pieces and adaptations in his acclaimed career, including “Dracula” in 1996. His 2019 version, however, reflects the perspective of Mina (the object of the bloodsucking count’s desire) and the measures she takes to ensure her safety as well as the safety of those around her.

“I am delighted to revisit my established adaptation of ‘Dracula.’ This version seeks to deliver all the luscious fear of the original, while making Mina the central detective in charge,” says Dietz, who is also a playwriting and directing professor at the University of Texas in Austin.

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Renfield, played by Charlotte Gulezian, is confined in a lunatic asylum where even the steel bars of the cage are unable to keep Dracula from torturing him nightly as he describes the imminent arrival of his “Master.” Photo Kirk Tuck

Mina, played by Sarah Kimberley Becker, is a bold heroine who dares to defy the ruler of the night played by Keith Contreras-McDonald. As Dracula tries to infiltrate the thoughts and minds of the people in London, Mina sets out with steadfast courage to uncover the mystery surrounding her unwanted suitor.

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Mina, played by Sarah Kimberly Becker, controls her own destiny in an attempt to rescue herself from the hold of the bloodthirsty vampire. Photo Kirk Tuck

Steven Dietz’s “Dracula” kicks off the 2019-20 season for ZACH’s Mainstage Series now through November 3. Recommended for ages 13 and up.

Cover courtesy Kirk Tuck

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