By Josette Keelor
When "The Passion of Dracula" unfolds at The Schultz Theatre in New Market this month, the cast and crew expect an entirely new experience from previous years.
Because of how successful last October's run was, Schultz director Michael Gwin decided to bring it to the stage again, this time with a few twists.
It will be the same story, he said, but with a mostly-new cast, the show cannot help but be different.
Many of the cast members have performed little or not at all since their high school productions.
Others, still, will step outside of their comfort zones to portray characters very different from their own personas. But according to cast members, the group works so well together that the result is incomparable to anything else.
"It is going to be fantastic, it really is," said Tracy Conard, who plays psychiatrist Helga. "This cast is just phenomenal; the chemistry, I think, it really is good -- in a way that I haven't seen in awhile. I think there's something special about this particular cast."
What makes this play truly unique for her, though, is that her mother and son are also involved -- the first time in Schultz's history that three generations will work on a play together.
Her mother, Carmen Conard, will co-direct the play with Gwin, and her son will portray the title character.
"When he's on stage, it's powerful," said Tracy Conard, 46.
"And even when he's not there, it's about him," said her mother, 68.
But Jon Conard is not one to brag. Though he will play Dracula, he said other characters actually enjoy more of the spotlight than he does, and that's fine by him.
In fact, he didn't even audition for the play. Gwin approached him, after the 25-year-old tried out for a small role in an upcoming November production, "You Can't Take It with You."
"I had no intention of doing it, until he asked me," he said.
It's his first big role, but playing the persuasive, seductive, sadistic Transylvanian has been another first for him.
"It's interesting," he said. "I'm a very quiet, reserved person."
"It really is the opposite of my nature," he said.
But, as his grandmother observed, "That's acting."
Also making this year's production different will be additions to the stage crew, which Carmen and Tracy Conard stressed can always use more volunteers.
"It's a lot [of work]," said the co-director, "particularly with Dracula, especially with the special effects."
She and her husband Don own the building that houses the theater, and each plays a large role behind the scenes in each play.
"It's really very rewarding," Carmen Conard said. "People who really love theater, it's an option to be involved. It's a place where you can really take part."
"The Passion of Dracula" takes place in 1911 in an isolated English sanatorium, where the young Wilhemina, played by Rebecca Morrison, has fallen prey to a mysterious condition that stumps Sean Prunka's Dr. Seward. Seward sends for Dr. Van Helsing, played by Neil Marrin, who recognizes Mina's condition as recent, continued vampire attacks.
As mental institution patient Renfield, Josh Henderson unwillingly helps Dracula in his pursuits, while Daniel Crist, as news reporter Jonathan Harker, falls for Mina's charms, unintentionally placing himself in danger. Helga, who at first seeks to discover Mina's unusual malady, eventually becomes Dracula's victim.
"She starts out a really professional psychiatrist, so she's very controlled, stiff," Tracy Conard said. Then, when Dracula bites her, she becomes a vampire.
She joked that the biggest selling factor for her son in accepting the role of Dracula was being able to kill his mother. But mother and son clearly get along well together.
"It's been fun doing it with Jon," Tracy Conard said. "It's put a different spin on things for me."
Acting, she said, "It's a great thing to do with family." She later added, "It makes you see people in a little bit of a different light."
"The Passion of Dracula" will take the stage at The Schultz Theatre, at 9357 N. Congress St. in New Market beginning Oct. 19 and running through Oct. 28. Performances will be Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Reserved tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students or seniors, and at the door are $12 for adults and $10 for students or seniors. Season tickets are now on sale for the 2013 season. For more information, call 740-9119 or visit www.schultztheatre.com.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org