A tale appropriate to Halloween is the subject of the Hilliard Darby High School drama department's fall production.
Darby thespians will present The Passion of Dracula, an adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Nov. 2 and 3 at school's performing arts center, 4200 Leppert Road.
Director Justin Gates said he chose the play because Darby's fall production was scheduled so close to Halloween.
"I thought we should do a creepy show," Gates said.
But finding an appropriate script required diligence.
"I read five different Dracula scripts" to find one I thought would be the best received, Gates said.
The selected adaptation, Gates explained, focuses on Dracula's love for Wilhelmina rather than his control of her.
Still, Gates said three words can describe the play: fun, love and blood.
The show's special effects will be at an unprecedented level for a Darby production, Gates said.
"It's the biggest special-effects show we've ever done," he said.
Under the direction of technical director Ed Daniel, students are improvising and devising all sorts of props.
Smoke effects, collapsible stakes and a giant bat are among the more-challenging props, along with the standard fangs and blood that accompany any Dracula-related show.
"Our tech crew is really excited about it," Gates said.
Gates made one significant change to the script: He cast the traditional male role of Renfield as a female.
Darby junior Rachel Kijowski will portray Renfield, a patient at a turn-of-the-20th-century psychiatric hospital in the English countryside where the story takes place.
"She just had a unique creepiness about her (at audition) that I had to put her in the role," Gates said.
Kijowski describes herself as shy but said theater provides her with a creative outlet.
"I like the chance to be someone different," Kijowski said. "I can be whoever I want on stage and I enjoy entertaining people."
Junior David Warburton is cast in the title role of Count Dracula.
Warburton said getting into character poses more of a challenge in this production.
"Dracula is an evil person and I'm nothing like that, of course," said Warburton, who credits his older siblings, Denton and Emily, both Darby graduates, for fueling his interest in theater.
Other cast members include senior Steven Trimboli as Dr. Cedric Seward; senior Adam Elhordi as Jameson; senior Geoff Gear as Professor Van Helsing; senior Danni Hepp as Dr. Helga Van Zandt; junior Kevin Szukala as Lord Godalming; senior Hannah Schuster as Wilhelmina Murray; and senior Zain Bali as Jonathan Harker.
Schuster auditioned for the role of Helga Van Zandt, but answered a last-minute casting call for Wilhelmina, a part Gates assigned to her.
"I wanted Helga but I'm glad I have Wilhelmina now," she said.
Schuster describes Wilhelmina as a strong-willed woman pursued by Dracula, but with another romantic interest.
"I've been reading a lot to learn more about Wilhelmina," Schuster said.
Assisting Gates with directing are sophomore Amelia Reed and freshman Kaylie Freewalt.
The Passion of Dracula will be presented at 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3.
For the first time, Darby will forgo a Friday-evening performance so it will not conflict with the school's football game against Bradley High School.
Tickets can be purchased online at localevelevents.com or at the door. Tickets are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students.