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Darien High Delights, Disturbs With 'Dracula'

DARIEN, Conn. — "There's a price that comes with doing something that others haven't seen before." These are the words of Darien High School senior Emily Elliott describing Theatre 308 's audacious and rather bloody choice for its fall drama: "Dracula."

The show will be performed Friday and Saturday. Tickets can be purchased online at www.tix3.seatyourself.biz/Theatre308 .

Darien High School's auditorium has housed Victor Hugo's "Les Miserable's," Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" and Shakespeare's "Midsummer's Night Dream," among others. This year's drama at Darien High School is being directed by special education teacher  Gabriel Morrow.

"I understand that the genre—a horror story—is new to what the student body is used to," Morrow says.

Morrow was formerly was a member of Stage One theater company in Louisville, Ky., and has performed with other regional theaters. Morrow teaches regularly and performs in local theaters, such as the Ridgefield Theater Barn in Fairfield County.

Theatre 308 's adaptation of the classic tale of the blood-sucking, Transylvanian monster was first staged in Louisville 12 years ago at the Actors' Theatre. "I was caught up in the scary experience of it," Morrow says of the production. "Today, everybody's got Twilight and True Blood on their minds. I wanted to bring back the classical tale of vampires that I think everyone will enjoy."

The basis of the show is "about girls who are falling ill with an unidentifiable ailment," says Hannah Caldwell, who stars as one of the vampire brides.

"Van Helsing, the specialist, realizes that Dracula is the reason that people are getting sick, and the story develops further when he discovers that Dracula is a vampire," Caldwell says.

This is Morrow's second year working with Theatre 308 and he says he is amazed by the talent in Darien. "I have never seen such a concentration of talent," he says. "All the kids are eager to try new things and are open to direction and take direction very well."

Morrow credits the actor's zeal and tenacity to Nancy Herman, is the executive producer for "Dracula" who also will direct Theatre 308's spring musical.

Eight of the 14 cast members are veteran senior actors. "Many underclassmen were cut, but they still have years ahead of them to try out," says senior Nicole Gutierrez, who plays Mina Grant.

The actors are not only relying on themselves to portray this bloody tale. The crew worked diligently on the set.

"We [stage crew] are building an addition to the stage that allows the actors to be closer to the audience," senior set designer Julie Flynn said.

Senior Kristina Lew makes her debut as stage manager. Besides taking notes for Mr. Morrow and reminding the actors' of their lines, Lew calls cues and set changes during the performance. "Basically it's Mr. Morrow's call. I just execute it when the show comes," Lew says.

The cast includes Dylan Gabriel (Robert Renfield), Mary Elliott (The Monster), Nicole Gutierrez (Mina Grant), Abby Leinroth (Margaret Sullivan), Reed Morgan (Abram Van Helsing), Kevin Koenitzer (Dr. Thomas Seward), E J Couloucoundis (Count Dracula), Max Kenyon (Norbert Briggs), Emily Elliott (Lucy Westphal), Addison Thalhamer (Jonathon Harker), and Katy Murphy, Hannah Caldwell, Morgan Peters, and Lily Saffa play The Brides.

McKinley Stauffer is a senior at Darien High School. She is the content editor for the Darien High School newspaper, Neirad. She has been a staff writer for Neirad since her freshmen year and last year won the Connecticut Journalist of the Year award. You can contact McKinley at mtstauff@gmail.com .

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