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Aug. 19, 2022

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Live (undead) onstage: Re-Imagined Radio revives classic at Kiggins Theatre

By , Columbian staff writer
3 Photos
Anybody got a nail clipper?
Anybody got a nail clipper? Willem Dafoe in “Shadow of the Vampire,” a darkly comic take on the making of the first great vampire film, “Nosferatu.” (Jean-Paul Kieffer/AP Photo-Lions Gate Films) Photo Gallery

It’s still September, but you know that darkness and danger are on their way. Now would be a good time to “shine up your fangs and get your silver crosses ready,” said John Barber, because everybody’s favorite undead dude is due Wednesday at the Kiggins Theatre.

He’s Count Dracula, and he’ll be charming ladies, biting necks and befuddling Britons in a recreation of the 1938 radio drama masterminded by Orson Welles and his Mercury Theater On The Air. The live performance is produced and directed by Barber, who teaches in the Creative Media and Digital Culture program at Washington State University Vancouver, and who years ago launched a radio drama revival project called Re-Imagined Radio.

After several years working with the Portland-based Willamette Radio Workshop, Re-Imagined now hosts Clark County’s own Metropolitan Performing Arts in seasonal radio drama performances at the Kiggins. Each Re-Imagined production features live-voice actors and sound-effects artists who assemble before a bank of microphones to deliver a strictly sonic performance — as if they were actually broadcasting live on radio, back in the day when that was cutting-edge entertainment.

Barber said this production will also take advantage of the Kiggins’ movie screen to provide some properly ghoulish backdrop images. Also, Barber said, he’s developed a spectrum of original, experimental sound effects — some recorded, some live and some “appropriately creepy electronic sounds produced by myself and Vancouver business owner and sound artist Matt Brizlawn.”

(When Welles was bringing his 1938 “Dracula” to life, The New Yorker magazine reported on his uncompromising sound-effects demands. For the sound of a stake being driven through a vampire’s heart, the sound team tried driving a sharpened broomstick through a cabbage, but Welles thought that sounded “Much too leafy.” Eventually Welles himself cracked a watermelon with a hammer — and when the studio audience shuddered, he knew he’d found the right sound.)

If You Go

• What: “Dracula” (the 1938 Mercury Theater On The Air version, based on the 1897 novel by Bram Stoker) presented by Metropolitan Performing Arts and directed by John Barber.

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday. Doors at 6 p.m.

Where: Kiggins Theatre, 1011 Main St., Vancouver.

Tickets: $8 online in advance; $12 at the door. $25 VIP ticket includes pre-show reception with wine or beer and hors d’oeuvres next door at Niche Wine Bar, plus reserved seating, one drink during the show.

Venue website:

Future Re-Imagined Radio Performances This Year

Oct. 30: “The War of the Worlds.” 

Nov. 21: “An Original D.B. Cooper Tale.”

Dec. 20: “A Radio Christmas Carol.”

Both the 1897 novel by Bram Stoker and the Welles radio play, which aired on July 11, 1938, aimed to unnerve people during nervous times — as Welles accomplished to even greater effect with his infamous production of “The War of the Worlds,” just a few months later, on Halloween night. (That classic “War of the Worlds” script will be the next Re-Imagined production, set for Oct. 30.)

“(`Dracula’) examines society’s fears of the unnatural during late 19th- and 20th-century Victorian society,” Barber said. “Over time, the focus of its many interpretations has come to be how abnormality can evolve from one source and infect the surrounding society with discord, misfortunes and evil. Dracula, the vampire, infects others with his evil.”

Get infected at the Kiggins on Wednesday.


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