Oct. 29 2008 12:00 AM

New Civic Players director digs deep into ‘Dracula’

Brittney Benjamin as Mina and Garret Clinard as Dracula in Lansing Civic Players' "Dracula." (Photo by Kerry Waters)

Director Kerry Waters is not afraid of Dracula. She’s been his best friend for 27 years.

No, Waters isn’t palling around with Nosferatu himself, but the next scariest thing: Garrett Clinard, who plays Dracula in "Dracula," Waters’ first production for Lansing Civic Players, opening Oct, 24 at Hannah Community Center in East Lansing.

Dracula was not Waters’ original choice for Clinard. At first, she thought an insane fly-eater might better suit her friend’s talents. “Honestly, I thought I was going to want Garrett to play Renfield,” Waters said. But Clinard’s audition for Dracula impressed her. “I wrote this show too, and he hit the nail on the head of what I had written,” she said. Clinard said he didn’t think he’d get the role, but wasn’t at all surprised at how well Waters brought the cast together. “She reacted well to everyone,” he said. “That means something is really being seen in each individual. She understands acting.”

A native of Marshall, Waters has been involved with over 40 shows since 1994 — 25 as an actor, the rest behind the scenes. Several months ago she was asked to join the Civic Players board, and decided to get directly involved. “I’d never done a Civic Players show. I’d primarily done Riverwalk, Sunsets [With Shakespeare] and Spotlight,” Waters said. “They wanted my take on things. They were trying to modernize. This is a theater that’s been around for 80 years.”

Waters sees this show as part education, part entertainment. When she began writing the script in June, her aim was to stay as true to the novel as possible, telling parts of this story that aren’t usually told. “A lot of the movies and plays that have been done start with Dracula already in London,” she said. “They skip the beginning parts of his history, starting in Transylvania and how and why he came to London.”

Furthermore, since Stoker’s tale was first published in 1897, successive adaptations have dragged the title character from the shadows to center stage. Those who attend this play will learn the story is not as much about Dracula as they may have originally thought. “It’s about the friends who bound together to defeat him,” Waters said. “The book is called ‘Dracula,’ but

Dracula is really a very small part in the show – and in the book.” Clinard played Dracula once before, 30 years ago, in a different adaptation. He agrees that Waters’ take is “less Hollywood” than most others. “Dracula was just like the spooky old guy on the corner who turned into a vicious murderer monster,” he said. “The audience will learn how desperate to live he was.” The cast of “Dracula” will make full use of the Hannah Center’s large stage. Clinard promised some great action scenes but not a lot of gore. (The show is PG-13, recommended for ages 13 and up.) “This is more a psychological drama, a tension builder,” he said. Waters promised dramatic lighting and sets, the latter from builder Mike Stewart. “[Stewart] works on the Hannah stage all the time, so he knows it intimately,” Waters said. “We’re utilizing the aprons of the stage, the aisles out in the audience — we’re using everything to bring this to life.”

‘Dracula.’ 8
p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24-26 and Oct. 31- Nov. 2,
Lansing Civic Players Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbott Road, East
Lansing $8-$15 (517) 484-9191

Loin some new woids Beginnning October 23 at Riverwalk Theatre, director Susan Chmurynsky presents an adaptation of the classic play “Born Yesterday.” Written by Garson Kanin, “Yesterday” follows the unofficial relationship between corrupt tycoon Harry Brock and his showgirl mistress Billie Dawn on a not-so-secret business trip to Washington.

Neither returns from the trip, and its famous card game, as the same person. This production is part of Cooley Law School’s “Stages of Law,” plays with law themes presented by downtown theaters Riverwalk, BoarsHead, and LCC.

“Born Yesterday.” 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23-26 and Oct. 30-Nov. 2. $8-$14. Riverwalk Theatre, 228 Museum Drive, Lansing. (517) 482-5700

My big fat geek robbery BoarsHead Theater presents “All Childish Things,” starting Oct. 22. Directed by Joey Albright, this Joseph Zettelmaierwritten comedy follows three childhood friends and one character’s girlfriend on an attempt to heist “Star Wars” actions figures from Kenner Toys’ warehouse.

“All Childish Things.” 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Oct. 22-Nov. 9. $12-$30. BoarsHead Theater, 425 S. Grand Ave., Lansing. (517) 484-7805