OURAY – After a bit of a hiatus, the Ouray County Players are back with a bang – or make that a bite. Dracula, produced and directed by Judy Yeo with assistance from Zina Lahr, is just in time for Halloween, and its spooky screams and the Edwardian-punk costumes promise a good Halloween scare.
Working from a script that calls on the Bram Stoker original, characters from everyday life here in Ouray County such as Dr. Joe Alaimo, Stormy Pyeatte and Gary Larkin are transformed into figures from legend and superstition – the mad genius Renfield, the young and beautiful Lucy, the macabre Count Dracula himself.
The original costuming adds flair to what could otherwise become a cliché look. Neither Yeo nor Lahr wanted to see the standard black-caped Dracula and hackneyed Edwardian costumes, so Lahr, a student in media arts, animation and graphic design with the Pittsburgh-based Art Institute, suggested the Steampunk look. Steampunk, loosely described as a genre of fashion, design and fiction, is grounded in creative anachronism, with modern and fictionalized technologies wrapped in pseudo-Victorian stylings. Lahr and others from the cast collaborated on costume design, and Cindy Lahr pieced the costumes together.
The play opens with a monologue by the demented but insightful Renfield, played by Alaimo, seated like a gentleman at a candle-lit table replete with wine and silver service. Renfield introduces his creator, Bram Stoker, and with a mix of reverie and philosophy, tells of the man and his work. As Lahr’s character serves him dinner, Renfield draws his soliloquy to a close, bemoaning the curse of immortality with which his maker endowed him. He lifts the lid of his silver platter, sniffs at the offerings, reaches in and pulls out a rat which promptly goes straight into his mouth.
“We needed a live rat for the scene where Renfield eats the rat, and of course we couldn’t have one,” Yeo said. “So Zina came up with something that looks like one and actually wiggles.” Lahr also built a raven with red eyes and flapping wings and a steampunk guitar, and by the time the lights go down on the audience they will have also seen a wolf replete with glowing red eyes and snapping jaws.
These stage props aren’t Lahr’s first experience with robotics. “I started out with Leggos and Kinetix,” she said. When her mother saw how interested she was in building trinkets, she took her to Grand Junction to meet another young innovator, Ryan Patterson, who at age 17 invented a glove with a readout screen that translates sign language into English. From there, Lahr was mentored by Dr. John McConnell, a particle physicist from Los Alamos, N.M., who pointed her in the direction of the Robotics Convention there. At 14, she was offered a job at the National Laboratory in Los Alamos, she said, but she declined.
Nor is Dracula Yeo’s first run with community theater, though it is her first production with the Ouray County Players. Yeo came to Ouray two years ago from Hood River, Ore., where she was involved with CAST – Creative Attention-Seeking Thespians. She acted, did lighting and directed in several performances there, including A Christmas Carol, Lion in Winter, Cherry Orchard, and Hair!
“I’ve always been a ham, I’ve got to say,” Yeo said. “But I’m a late bloomer.” It wasn’t until adulthood that she got involved in theater, with a theater group in Battlement Mesa, Colo. where she and her family lived at the time. She loved it so much she decided to go to college for it, and in 1994 she graduated from Mesa State College with a degree in theater.
With a cast of 10, Yeo said, everyone will be working hard and fast to get Dracula ready by curtain time. The performance will take place beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 17 and 18 at the Ouray School Multi-Purpose Room. Tickets are available at Khristophers Culinaire and Buckskin Booksellers in Ouray, and Cimmaron Books and Coffee in Ridgway.