It’s often a jolt for folks when they first hear that the world’s most famous vampire was created by an Irishman. Bram Stoker, author of “Dracula,” was born in Clontarf, north of Dublin, and moved to London in 1878 where he was hired to manage the Lyceum Theatre and act as personal assistant to the theatre’s owner, Henry Irving. But in his spare time, Stoker kept busy creating the ultimate tale of nocturnal terror.
This weekend, the Ebenezer Mazwell Mansion and the Rosenbach Museum & Library are presenting “Stoker’s Dracula,” adapted and performed by Philadelphia actor Josh Hitchens.
From the time of its completion, Stoker envisioned “Dracula” being turned into a dramatic piece for Henry Irving to enact onstage. According to Stoker’s grand-nephew, Daniel Farson, who wrote a biography on his relative, Irving walked in on a reading at the theatre (to an audience of two people) and gave his one word review of the piece: “Dreadful!”
That is not a word that’s being applied to this weekend’s presentation.
The Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion is “the perfect backdrop” for Stoker’s legend. Located in Germantown, the Mansion is the only Victorian house museum in Philadelphia. And boy, is it a good one. With its stone façade and gothic tower, visitors can experience the spectral mood before they even enter the dark parlor, lit only by candlelight, where the reading is being held.
Hitchens’ adaptation is abridged, but contains Stoker’s own words—giving the dramatization the authentic sense of horror created by the author. “This is how Stoker wanted to see his novel,” Hitchens explains.
Also on display at The Mansion this weekend are facsimile copies of Stoker’s notes kept during the seven years he spent writing the novel. The originals are owned by The Rosenbach Museum & Library, a Philadelphia treasure house that is home to “a nearly unparalleled rare book and manuscript collection, with particular strength in American and British literature and history.”
During Stoker’s lifetime, “Dracula” did not produce the kind of critical and financial success that he had hoped for. When he died in 1912, his widow Florence was forced to sell the notes at a Sotheby’s auction the next year. They were purchased for a little over 2 pounds.
This weekend’s presentations of “Stoker’s Dracula” promise to thrill and chill audiences with the author’s words that are “better and scarier than any of the ‘Dracula’ movies.” As of Friday, there were still tickets available for tonight’s 9PM performance, as well as Sunday’s 2PM and 4PM performances. Saturday evening is sold out.
For more information, contact the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion at 215-438-1861, or online at www.ebenezermaxwellmansion.org/dracula.