Creeping onto the Poker Flats Field for the Williamstown Theatre Festival's Free Theatre 2013 is "Dracula or, The Un-Dead," running July 10 to 13 and 16 to 19.
Adapted by Steve Lawson, from the novel by Bram Stoker, and directed by Jordan Fein, the pair promise to show you a "Dracula" you may not have seen before.
"It's very much in the period," Lawson said. "We haven't jazzed it up, or set it in Detroit, or during the fiscal crisis. I guess where it is different, when people think of the word ‘Dracula,' they think of one of the movies, they don't think of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, which I happen to be a huge fan of, and Jordan became a huge fan of - and the cast. It's much more complex, and much more layered with many shades of meaning and interpretation that any movie that's been made of it, and there have been many stinkers. It's a real easy one to louse up.
"So I really wanted to honor Bram Stoker and go back to the book and find stuff that hadn't, for one reason or another, ended up in one film or another."
It will also be something completely different for the Free Theatre.
"When Jenny [Gersten] and I were talking about possible projects last fall, basically this was one of five or six," Lawson said, "and she came back and said it would be so interesting to do Dracula for various reasons. One, the free theatre has never done horror, they've done mystery but they aren't the same thing.
Fein, a veteran of the free theatre, was and integral part of bringing this iteration to life.
He had a big plus in that he was a huge fan of the book once he read it, Lawson said. "He had free theatre experience, he had been AD [assistant director] on ‘The Comedy of Errors' two years ago, which brought it back outside after it had been a kids' show for several years. That's also a plus when you have a director that has the field under his belt.
"It's a whole different kind of directing if you're thrown into it without having any experience with it, as Jordan can testify. You spend half the period adjusting, asking where is the air conditioning? What are these mosquitos?"
Fein praised the 1897 novel.
"I had never read the novel, and I started and I couldn't stop," he said. "It's an amazing book and I had no idea.
"What struck me was it's not about the boogeyman, per say, it's a book about these people who are forced to question their sanity and their values in this very staunch time of change. The adventure is amazing, but it's grounded in this quest to prove one's sanity. It was so striking to me."
Lawson and Fein have truly dug deep to find the real story of Dracula.
"I think some of the deeper implications in the iconic story of Dracula, which everybody knows are: This is the height of the British Empire, it's written during Victoria's Diamond Jubilee year, there's this sense of the empire can do no wrong, we are at our peak, we're colonizing lesser peoples - the uncivilized world - and we're modern," Lawson said. " And here in effect is something old and ageless and out of the east and in funny way what Dracula is trying to do is colonize the empire. He's trying to reverse the process, so instead of Kipling and the white man's burden, here comes the alien who we are supposed to be subjugating and he's trying to take us over. There's that angle, and the angle Jordan suggested."
An angle missed in most versions.
"I think what's incredible about the adaptations and the films is they choose to make the two female characters [Mina Murray, portrayed by Morgan Everitt; and Lucy Westerna, portrayed by Elsa Carette] damsels in distress taken on by these brave men, while the book is not interested in that at all. It's taken from Mina's point of view and it's her compiling this and her driving these impotent men along in this quest and it's something I was astonished by. [The women are] really empowered and that was something Steve and I talked a lot about, and in casting we were really concerned about these women being forces that really drive the story.
"I don't even really know if he knew what he [Stoker] was doing, but he clearly had great respect for these iconic women in his life like Ellen Terry who people say Mina is based on and his wife, who scared the hell out of him with how empowered she was."
And there was more than one real-life basis for the characters in the story.
"Some would say that Dracula is based on Henry Irving," Lawson said, "they [Irving and Stoker] had that love/hate manager relationship for years."
Fein also thinks of "Stoker's mother, who was sort of an early suffragette who fought for women's rights at a time when people really were not yet which was interesting - how that influenced him."
"And going back to the capitol-O other trend," Lawson said, "the whole idea of these upright British men, the suitors, but they're all virgins. Of course in those days you didn't have sex before marriage, unless it was a prostitute, and of course you didn't talk about it. But nice girls didn't do that. Clearly, all of these people are intact at this point, and here comes Dracula and he gets there first. In effect, he seduces the women.
"I think hopefully we'll give people a slightly new experience, maybe different from what they were expecting."
In addition, Lawson hopes there is a little fright that pops up.
"I want people to, at 9:25 p.m. or whenever it's over, and they are packing up their picnics and their kids and their dogs, and they look across that dark field at the parking lot, I want them to be afraid to go home," he said.
For Fein, he hopes to drive you in a different direction, "I guess I want people to be curious and go read the book."
And Dracula himself, has a few aspirations of his own.
"I'd love at some point towards the end for the audience to have a twang of compassion or connection with Dracula," Noah Averbach-Katz said, "then immediately regret it because you're not supposed to. I think if that happens then we did our jobs."
If you go ...
What: Dracula or, the Un-Dead
Where: Williamstown Theatre Festival's Free Theatre, Poker Flats Field on the Williams College campus
When: July 10-13 and 16-19, 7:30 p.m.