Actors Theatre adopts feminist script of ‘Dracula’ and it’s giving Queer femme realness

by Clarity Hagan

Dracula has been a staple of Actors Theatre of Louisville’s fall lineup since 1995, but this September, Dracula’s evolution is taking a leap forward with the implementation of Kate Hamill’s new feminist script, first performed in New York in February of 2020. GRAB TICKETS HERE!

I hopped on a zoom call with three queer artists who have contributed to this production: David Anzuelo, a queer Chicano man serving as the fight and intimacy director for the production; the dramaturg Miss Hazel Jade who is a proud bisexual Afro-Latina woman; and Alanna Darby,  a trans actor playing the roles of Drusilla, Miller, and Merchant.

(this interview has been edited for clarity and length)

Queer Kentucky: How would each describe your role within the production?

David Anzuelo: An intimacy coordinator is typically tasked with the responsibility of providing parameters of safety and consent in regard to scenes of intimacy or erotically charged material. I am also the fight director, and I consider that intimate as well. Our job is to try to create a vocabulary of consent and boundaries, so that people have agency to speak about what they can do repeatedly during the run of a theater show and not feel compromised in any way.

Miss Hazel Jade: I think overall a Dramaturg — the way we’ve described it for years — is someone who urges the drama. In new works, we work with the writer to get their material to the best place possible. And then on locked works and on revivals, it involves serving as an advocate for the writer’s original text. I have to be their best voice, and in this show that’s essentially what I am doing.

Alanna Darby: Drusilla is a vampire. In the script she is described as a sister-wife to Marilla who is one of Dracula’s other brides. Miller is a Nurse Ratched kind of matron or warden in the asylum for Renfield, and then Merchant is a merchant and she’s just trying to get a dollar for selling her Garlic. 

How would you say this production differs from adaptations of Dracula that folks may have seen in the past?

MHJ: I think it highlights how – if we’re not careful –  the people around us can let us down and become someone completely different, someone we don’t recognize anymore. One of the quotes in the show that I really love is “You will know him by his acts.” Whether it’s a partner, whether it’s a friend, whether it’s this other side of yourself that you think is positive to those around you – you know someone truly by the way they treat you, by the way they communicate with you. 

DA: It’s sort of being touted in the publicity as a feminist revenge play and that kind of drew me to it. Any time I see a strong female protagonist kicking butt, I get excited, you know? And I want to help to tell those stories.

QK: What queer themes, moments, or elements have you seen in this particular production?

AD: Vampires are sexual. David, I think you used the term omnisexual. This Dracula…he has a trans wife. He also has a cis wife. And we’re just adding to the harem, like polyamory incarnate against the patriarchy with Mina and Lucy being, like, “I don’t want to be stuck being a wife for the rest of my life,” and we’re like “Come join us! Be a vampire forever. That’s queer!” 

DA: I always thought that there was a queerness to the vampire myth, part of that erotic hypnotism was open to everyone. Everyone could be a victim to the vampire. It wasn’t about gender or preference. It was about food. It was about indoctrination. It was about power. 

MHJ: Dracula himself I would say doesn’t see gender in his conquests. In fact, he would rather worship other men than any other gender that exists around him, as a way of inflating his own ego. 

DA: Dracula has some flirtation, definitely, with Johnathan.

AD: That too.  And it’s so funny to see – in the script, Dracula always goes for the strong ones, the ones that want to get away.  

MHJ: I think what’s also amazing is that Dave and Jen [Pennington, the director] have created such a safe space for performers, exploring this show as it is –  without thinking if it makes them queer or makes them straight. They’re just humans exploring this very human story. It’s very beautiful to see; it’s also very unique to see. 

QK: From seeing you all, seeing the cast, and hearing about this play, it sounds like this production is properly feminist, and by that I mean that it is intersectional in its feminism. 

MHJ: I think that’s what makes it queer – it’s because it’s intersectional. It is very much due to our director and our casting director that this show is so intersectional, and is so representative of the world we live in.

AD: It could be a very white, very cis, very heteronormative production, which would be…very boring. And that is not what we’re presenting on that stage.

MHJ: And everyone is gorgeous as hell.

AD: Tea. Not speaking for me, speaking for what I look at everyday. I’m like –  oof!

What are you excited for audiences in general, and queer audiences in particular, to see in this production of Dracula?

MHJ: I will say that I’m most excited for audiences to see a Black woman liberate another Brown woman onstage, and give her license to be the badass that she is regardless of the fact that she’s pregnant. And I think sometimes as queer people it helps to have someone to look to to say “Ah yes – I can do that.”

DA: I’m on a mission to help make stories that center queer people of color as the heros – as winning the day. That’s what I’m excited for the audience to see. 

AD: We want it to be scary ⁠— like we know the old one was scary ⁠— but we want it to be scary and sexy.

Dracula runs at Actors Theatre of Louisville September 7-18. GRAB YOUR TICKETS HERE!

Publishers Note: Clarity Hagan has worked as a teaching artist for Actors Theatre of Louisville. 

Bio: Clarity Hagan (she/they) is a playwright and theater artist from Louisville. They are  particularly interested in storytelling which lifts up under-heard voices and invites engagement, not only in its content, but also in the creative ways in which that work is produced and presented. Clare has worked as properties director with Kentucky Shakespeare, a playwright with the Derby City Playwrights, a company member with Looking for Lilith, and as an educator with Actors Theatre of Louisville.