KW Player’s Dracula: Hope in the Midst of Darkness
The 19th-century literary scene saw a dramatic rise in the subject of vampires. Interestingly enough, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (1897) was not the first work featuring the European mythical creature who became a staple in the gothic fiction of the time. Although a worldview that included Christianity was scarce in the novels that preceded Dracula, Stoker was very interested in exploring Catholicism’s sacraments and the power of the rosary. It is well known that shortly after Dracula was published, Stoker’s wife, Florence, converted to Catholicism.
When JD Henderson, director of the Rapid City local KW players, had a vision for the young theatre troupe, he had hoped to feature this classical story and the hopeful themes it covers over the course of its dramatic storyline. “Dracula was actually going to be our first play. A few years ago, I read the novel for the first time. I had always avoided it because I was influenced by Hollywood’s portrayals of it. But I read a very positive review in a Catholic magazine and decided to read it.” Talking to his spiritual director, he decided that it was wise to try some other plays first before diving into the serious themes of Dracula. The actors, ages 9 to 15, have performed two other unique plays written by Henderson: “The Maid of Orleans” about the life of St. Joan of Arc and a condensed version of “Les Miserables”.
Considering the themes covered in the troupe’s recent plays, JD observed, “The world can be a very dark and oppressive place, but the greatest drama is when the Lord reaches down and with his grace severs all of that bringing us hope in the midst of all that darkness.” JD was moved by the way “Dracula” continued this theme, found in the other plays, of authentic friendships that bind people together to overcome all kinds of evil. He was impressed with how the story of Dracula tries to convey how the weapons of the Church come to our aid in this dangerous battle against evil. Henderson also saw the opportunity to talk with the young actors, as they worked through their lines, about some of the realities of spiritual warfare, temptations, and near occasions of sin, knowing that these things are going to be more and more prominent in their lives as they turn into teenagers.
While reflecting on his vision of the Karol Wojtyla (KW) players, Henderson noted how inspiring it was to learn of the young Karol, who started the underground Rhapsodic Theatre as an artistic resistance to the communist occupation of Poland. Drama was their means of defending their Catholic and Polish cultures against Nazi oppression that did its best to destroy them. “I know it must have been difficult for those who participated, knowing they could be found by the Nazis and taken to a concentration camp. From the beginning, I never felt like we wanted to put together cute little kid plays. One of our mottos has been to ‘raise the bar’ to challenge the actors to raise the bar of their intellect, of their awareness of literature, and these difficult dramatic endeavors. To raise the bar by tackling some very challenging acting skills.” Speaking proudly about their work, JD has seen “these young actors have a tremendous capacity to reach up and grasp the discipline it takes to put on these plays.”
This unique theatre adaptation of Stoker’s novel written by Henderson will be open to the public on Friday, November 11, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, November 13, at 4 p.m. at Blessed Sacrament Church in Rapid City in the basement theatre. Suggested for ages 8 and up. There is free child care available for younger children. Thanks to the generous sponsors who have helped to make the many elements of the play possible, from costumes to reception, there is no charge for attending.