Telling A Story Through Physical Spectacle

As the Dracula creative team was gearing up for another year of blood-curdling and thrilling vampire horror, Resident Dramaturg Hannah Rae Montgomery met up with director Drew Fracher and fight director Jake Guinn to chat about the latest action-packed version of the production.

Jonathan Harker is attacked by two vampires in white dresses Lucy fights Count Dracula
Left to Right: Jonathan Harker (Crystian Wiltshire) contends with Count Dracula's Undead entourage (Kayla Peters and Angelica Santiago). Lucy (Rin Allen), refusing to be Dracula's victim any longer, fights back against her vampire aggressor (Santino Craven). Photos by Jonathan Roberts, 2018.

HANNAH RAE MONTGOMERY: What does a fight director do? Why is having a fight director important for a show like Dracula?

DREW FRACHER: A fight director collaborates with the director to tell the story through physical action. Being able to create realistic acts of violence between characters, while keeping the actors safe, is the fight director’s responsibility. Dracula has a very long run (70 performances), so we need fight choreography that’s repeatable without being too taxing on the actors’ bodies. A great deal of rehearsal time is dedicated to these action moments, working out each move and then practicing the sequence until it can be done safely at performance pace.

JAKE GUINN: Fight directors coordinate all the action moments in a production; it’s my job to develop choreography that’s safe as well as fun to watch. On a project like Dracula, since the action is so integral to the plot, I get to help with some character-building as well.

HRM: Drew, you worked on the fights in Dracula for years before taking the helm as the show’s director. What did you love most about that work as the fight director, and what’s been most exciting about bringing a new fight director on board? Jake, what’s been your favorite part of joining the Dracula team?

DF: Dracula is a fun show to fight-direct because there’s a ton of action and it’s a lot more elaborate than your standard swordfight. I’ve especially enjoyed collaborating with the Props Department to develop special effects that enhance the action; things like blood effects, pyrotechnics and disappearances. We try to add new twists and surprises every year.

The current fight director, Jake Guinn, is the son of one of my best friends and favorite fight director colleagues. I’ve known Jake since he was born and watched him develop into a terrific fight director in his own right. When I got the offer to direct Dracula, Jake was the first person I thought of to take over the fights. I’m so proud of him, and it’s a treat to have him in the room.

JG: The culture and sense of community surrounding this production blows me away. It’s a joy to play with such a larger-than-life story of heroism.

HRM: What inspired some of the recent changes you’ve made to the fights in Dracula, and what new elements can audiences look forward to this fall?

JG: Last year, we reimagined a lot of the choreography. Most of the action had been set for several seasons and we wanted to break that cycle. We ended up keeping some things because they were really fun for the audience, but we were also interested in using action to showcase new versions of certain characters, the women especially; in this production, the ladies are awesome monster hunters. I’m especially excited for the closing action sequence this year. The final conflict between Dracula and Van Helsing is going to be totally redone and will be truly epic!

DF: Jake and I set out to make the show even more of a swashbuckling spectacle. We added a group of new ensemble characters to give Dracula more victims, and we also tried to find ways for the women to have a more central role in the action sequences. Since the story is largely about this evil supernatural being going after women, we felt that the vampire’s female victims (Lucy, for example) should get justice by directly contributing to his downfall. To that end, this year’s cast will feature a female actor playing Van Helsing. I can’t say everything that might change since we haven’t started rehearsals yet, but I can promise that this year’s Dracula will be full of strong women.

Fifth Third Bank's Dracula runs September 6 – October 31.