by Richard Sharp
The moving wine decanter (ACT I, Scene 3) is effected by placing the decanter on a coaster which sits on a serving tray placed at the opposite end of the table from which Jonathan sits. A piece of monofilament is attached to the coaster and threaded through an eye at the end of the serving tray which is farthest away from Jonathan. The monofilament is then doubled back and laid across the table so that its end hang over the table by Jonathan’s lap. When Dracula extends his hand toward the decanter, Jonathan pulls on the monofilament and the decanter moves away from him toward Dracula’s hand.
The brides of Dracula (ACT I, Scene 3) who appear, initially as bits of dancing light, near the end of the scene can be played by two (or three) of the Nosferatu in leotards. (It is important that they are not in their Nosferatu costumes in order to distinguish Dracula’s brides from the Nosferatu.) The dancing light effect is achieved by taking five to six foot square pieces of light diaphanous material, folding it several times and impregnating it with Cyalume, a harmless chemical available in sporting goods outlets in a form called light sticks. These are plastic tubes with two separate chemical components which are mixed when the tube is kinked and the membrane separating the chemicals is broken. When the chemicals are mixed they emit a blue-green light that lasts for several minutes. The actors playing the brides enter from off-stage in total darkness (there is a very dim spot on Jonathan) with the pieces of Cyalume soaked material held at arms length above their heads and trailing behind them. They move rapidly so that the square of light seem to float in the air. As they circle and approach Jonathan, they slowly allow the pieces of material to settle over their bodies, thus defining their human shapes.
The Flaming Bible (ACT I, Scene 9) is created by hollowing out a book sufficiently for a battery to be placed inside and connected to a push-button switch embedded in the back of the book and to a squib with its tip projecting up through a tiny hole in the front cover. A model rocket igniter can be used if squibs are not readily available. Of course the voltage of the battery used must match the voltage of the squib or rocket igniter. The leads from battery and the switch are equipped with alligator clips for attaching the wires of each new squib. The switch must be mounted in the back cover in a hole deep enough that the book can be set on a flat surface without depressing the switch. Four pieces of approximately 1/8-inch “u”-shaped channel brass (available at craft & hobby stores) are glued to the front cover to form a cross with the point of the squib at its center. Rolled flash paper is then loaded into these pieces of metal. The flash paper is ignited by the squib when the actor pushes the switch. The pages of the hollowed out book are held together by brushing a layer of white glue around their edges while the book is closed and allowing it to dry. The cover is held closed by velcro to keep the book from popping open when Van Helsing drops it.
The flash of lightning which freezes Dracula’s leap into flight (End of ACT I) is best achieved by a photo-flash mounted at the front of the stage at stage floor level and aimed up at 45 degrees. Slave photo flash units are available that are fired by sensing another flash. Using this kind of arrangement, the slave unit can be fired by a technician in the booth using another flash, the effect of which is lost in the house but sensed by the slave unit.
The breaking of Van Helsing’s arm (ACT II, Scene 6) is greatly enhanced by the sound of the popping of a piece of bubble-wrap from some strategic location.
The staking (End of ACT II) The whirlwind which escapes from Dracula’s chest is accomplished as follows: Dracula is lying on a bier which is composed of a box with a two-part lid. The top part of the lid has a cut-out that enables the actor to sit/lie in the box with his head and shoulders and arms above the lid level. His head rests on the top part of the lid. The bottom part of the lid is cut out so that, when it is in place, it is up against the actor’s chest, just below the arm pits. A false body is affixed to the bottom part of the lid and when it is in place it appears to be a part of the living head, shoulders and arms of the actor. Underneath the false body, where the heart would be, is can of sand or other material suitable for receiving the stake and holding it upright. This enables Van Helsing to drive the stake directly into the body (through an “x” cut in the cloth of the false body’s costume in the appropriate place) which creates a very realistic effect, even if the audience is looking down on the scene. The whirlwind comes from a bottle of CO2 which is located in the box with the actor and is connected by a hose to a vent hole in the top just upstage of the false body at the point where the stake is driven in. The upstage side of the box has an opening through which a fallen actor (Jonathan or Seward) or a Nosferatu can reach in to operate the valve that releases the gas. This device will send a plume of carbon dioxide 20 to 30 feet in the air. The expanding gas forms tiny dry ice crystals which catch and reflect light marvelously. The escaping gas creates a loud noise as well. This can be enhanced by experimentation with different kinds of escape nozzles from fire extinguishers. The effect should be allowed to continue for at least 10 to 15 seconds before being shut off. While beverage service cylinders of carbon dioxide will work, it has been found that cylinders used to fill fire-extinguishers are of much higher pressure and create a better effect. Of course, safety in handling high pressure gas must be primary consideration and a good fire-extinguisher expert can offer helpful advice and assistance. The escaping gas is completely non-toxic (it’s what we breathe out when we exhale) and the tiny ice-crystals melt as soon as they are formed. The primary safety concern is the handling of the high-pressure cylinder in such a way that the valve is not damaged and an uncontrolled escape of gas is not permitted.