Lyric Arts had a chance to interview Christopher J DeVaan, who is performing as Van Helsing in Dracula. Read on to hear what he has to say about his experience thus far. LA: Where are you originally from?
CD: I have lived in the Twin Cities my whole life; occasionally moving from Eden Prairie to Richfield to Bloomington to Hopkins.
LA: Why did this particular play interest you?
CD: I have been in love with the character of Dracula since college and I have made it a personal goal to do as many productions of it as possible!
LA: For those that are unfamiliar with Dracula can you tell us about the show?
CD: I don’t know how you can not have encountered Dracula either via movies, or books or plays, but it is the story of some native Londoners who become charmed by a charismatic Eastern European. As he charms them, they begin to realize that he is actually a vampire who is centuries old and needs their blood to survive.
LA: Talk about the character that you play in Dracula. How have you developed this character?
CD: This time around (I’ve previously done two Dracula plays in ’04 & ’10), I play Van Helsing, who is a brilliant and eccentric scientist who has become the foremost, and probably only, expert on vampirism. He is Dracula’s nemesis, and is determined to extinguish the vampires from existence. Developing Van Helsing has not been easy. Director Mark Hauck has seen to it that THIS Van Helsing is much more than any of his predecessors in any movie or earlier stage script. This involves a lot of playing around with vocal levels, intent, and a Dutch dialect that needs to be thorough, but not so heavy it cannot be understood. There has been a lot of dialogue and notes regarding Van Helsing’s physicality and his intentions when he deals with those around the world of the play.
LA: Talk about your fellow cast. How do you see their characters developing? Any that you are particularly amazed at?
CD: Each of my fellow performers is excelling greatly at his or her own characters. I have been very much impressed by how knowledgeable they all are for as young as they are. They are a treat to work with, and I believe that the audiences will truly be able to relate to all of them, and that this is one play where there is no “weak link.” Without a doubt, one of the strongest ensembles assembled.
LA: What are some of the most impressive elements of Dracula?
CD: At this point I cannot speak to any of the effects, because they have yet been implemented. There will be a set that is impressive in it’s simple design, but complex usefulness. We are having an original score that is being written only for the show’s purpose, and there are a number of lighting, sound, and staging effects. I hope that they all turn out to be as impressive in their execution as in their description. But the most impressive is how the drama and horror will be created in the reactions by the cast themselves. We have talked at length at how to make all our characters accessible emotionally to the audience, so that they are brought along on our journey. Then, the terror created onstage will be mirrored in the hearts & minds of our audience.
LA: Why should people come and take a chance and see this version of Draucla?
CD: Other than supporting our friends in the industry, we go to plays to be affected emotionally & spiritually, or sometimes just to escape reality for a couple of hours. I think audiences will be amazed at how they will get “sucked in (pun intended)” and thrilled by the ride they get to go on. This should lead up to a remarkable experience right before Halloween!
LA: Being that you are performing Dracula in the Halloween Capital of the World, what is your favorite thing about Halloween?
CD: Right now, honestly, I love to experience Halloween with my daughter. Dressing up & trick-or-treating gets such a thrill from her, it’s heartwarming to see. For myself, I spend so much time in costume already doing stage work, film work and commercials, that dressing up in costume has no real appeal for that one day.
LA: Who is your favorite Halloween character (e.g. Frankenstein, Dracula, Werewolf) and why?
CD: Has to be Dracula. He made himself the way he is when he renounced God. And, his appearance is basically human, so part of the horror is people not realizing in time what he is. There aren’t any stitches, bolts, or rapid hair growth to announce that this is no ordinary person. Plus, by the nature of his immortality and his feeding, he is strong enough to bring both the Wolf Man and Frankenstein under heel.
LA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
CD: I have been performing on the community theater “circuit” for a dozen years now. I live in Hopkins, work a couple jobs to pay the bills, and, as I said before, have a wonderful 5 year-old daughter, Lilly, though I am unmarried. I have been involved more recently in films, commercials and writing, but nothing can replace the thrill of performing for a live audience! That immediate reaction and feedback is as addictive for me as nicotine or narcotics in others! I love the concept of coming together and putting a piece of written work up in life, and embracing a small “family” for a number of months, learning and trusting them, and then “putting it out there” for audiences enjoyment!