Last month Sheila Regan asked me some questions about Walking Shadow’s production of Drakul. As the article they were intended for never went to press, I have received her permission to reprint them here. Thanks and enjoy! – John
SHEILA REGAN: You seem to work a lot from Classical texts – what is it about them that draws you?
JOHN HEIMBUCH: I’ve done a fair number of adaptations and a few other works that rely heavily on historical time periods. I really enjoy playing with people’s expectations about our world and adapting classic texts is a great way to do that because we build such strong mythologies around these stories. I mean, how many different versions of Dracula are there? Even if we consider Bram Stoker’s novel the definitive version, everyone coming into the theatre is still going to have very different ideas of what that story is. I like embracing, teasing, and overturning those ideas. I hope other people enjoy that as much as I do.
REGAN: Has your work been produced by other companies other than Walking Shadow? Have you gotten any awards or grants for your writing?
HEIMBUCH: Besides the work that I’ve done in conjunction with director Jon Ferguson and Hardcover Theater, two of my plays that started with Walking Shadow have had a decent life outside of our company. Specifically 10-Speed Revolution (staged twice in New York and once at Carleton College) and William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead (with productions in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Edina, and Fairbanks). So far I haven’t received any specific awards, so I just keep reminding myself that writing is its own reward.
REGAN: What are the benefits/disadvantages to producing your own work through Walking Shadow?
HEIMBUCH: Walking Shadow gives me a lot of freedom as an artist. When I say “I want to do a show about X” it’s a powerful feeling to have the support of this company to accomplish whatever that vision is, no matter how peculiar – and to know that there are talented artists who will be eager to bring that vision to the stage. Of course, we’re still a small company, so we’re often pushing the envelope of what we can accomplish production-wise. Naturally, this forces us to be innovative about how we handle problems – but I suppose that’s just part of the fun.
REGAN: The press release said that the show highlights some of the fantastical/speculative elements – could you tell me more about that?
HEIMBUCH: This version of Dracula is actually much less about the fantastical elements than most adaptations are. Instead of focusing on the epic aspects of the story, this version looks at the inner lives of characters dealing with supernatural events – and the impact it has on their relationships. The original story is very rooted in Victorian middle class morality, my version takes that morality and introduces an element of hypocrisy. Just like real people, every character has their own deceits and desires that plague them, even when heroically fighting the supernatural. As you might imagine, the actors have been doing some really excellent work with this material.
REGAN: How is the plot different in your play from the book?
HEIMBUCH: Drakul explores what happens to the characters when their original notes about defeating the Count are published by Bram Stoker without their knowledge. As they attempt to figure out why the book was published, they think back on the events that brought them to where they are – allowing both stories to unfold simultaneously. In most versions we assume that once Dracula is killed everything will be fine, but when horrific things happen in the real world we often have to deal with the repercussions for the rest of our lives. I think there’s something very powerful about that idea. Other than that, it follows the events of the book pretty accurately – with a few added twists.
REGAN: Anything else important I should know about the show?
HEIMBUCH: Only that it’s going to be about 3 hours long and tickets are selling well. Thanks for the questions!