"Hysterical, campy fun!"
- Tony Brown, cleveland.com

"Full of suspense, romance, drama and lots of laughs!"

- Dan Shaurette, Out of the Coffin podcast

This extraordinary one-act drama deftly explores the evolution of the centuries-old vampire myth.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

RUTHVEN: A Tale

Presented a few pages to the folks at the playwrights unit yesterday. Discovered a few legitimate concerns regarding a potential adaptation for Polidori's THE VAMPYRE.

1. The story follows Aubrey, so he is never present when the vampire strikes. Michael, who loves vampire stories, wants to see some blood.

2. MO also reminded me that all vampire tales clearly set out their RULES. After all, even I know what happens to vampires from Twilight in the daylight.

The fact that this is the first modern vampire story - ever - means a lot of what people take for granted about vampires, especially their weaknesses, are taken for granted. If those rules are not followed, it is extremely confusing.

In fact, the first time it was clearly stated that sunlight is deadly to a vampire wasn't until Nosferatu.

3. What is Ruthven's "kryptonite"? According to the story, he doesn't have one. Not garlic, not mirrors, not daylight, not sleeping in his native earth, nothing.

4. SG inquired about Ruthven's "arc". Again, he doesn't have one. It's not his story, he's just the monster, it's Aubrey's story. And because no one reading the tale knows what a vampire is, the mystery lies in discovering Ruthven is one - and what that means.

Which brings me to perhaps the most majestic change I believe I need to make to this adaptation - the title. I believe it needs to be something other than THE VAMPYRE, because that is so simple, and so weighted with preconception. Calling it THE VAMPYRE means there is one, somewhere in the story. What if that is in doubt?

Monday, April 13, 2009

All the stupid vampires

Okay, here's the thing I noticed most, re-visiting THE VAMPYRE, being exposed to THE VAMPIRE and rediscovering DRACULA.

Polidori introduces the idea of a "gentleman vampire," one who walks among us, recognizable as a human. He stalks society. This works in Polidori's tale because we don't dig too deep. Ruthven appears, he's stunning, but when Aurbey spends an extended time with him (and Ruthven doesn't apparently spend too long in one place) he begins to become repulsed by his behavior, which is at first seen as merely churlish, not homicidal.

In THE VAMPIRE we have a "Rutwen" who is far too careless. Someone saw him die in Rome, another in Greece - he poses as an imaginary brother he doesn't actually have. This would confuse a simple person for a day or two, maybe. But it introduces the major plot hole in the gentleman vampire story; you can only get away with it for so long.

Anne Rice tried to deal with this conundrum in a rather Randian style by suggesting that mere mortals are too thick to notice what is right in front of them. Same guy never ages, disappears for a little bit, passes his estate onto his "nephew." No one, not the IRS, notices or cares.

Gaiman suggested the same thing in Brief Lives. I digress.

What Stoker did in the introduction of the character of Dracula was to address this problem by making the gentleman vampire from somewhere else, somewhere exotic. They know him where he comes from, boy howdy, the Transylvanian natives aren't stupid, they know evil when they see it. And this foreigner enters London society and fools everyone ... except the Dutchman.

What is up with the Dutch?

Even then, the ruse only lasts for so long. So the question remains, if the vampire originates in a certain society, the challenge in presenting a modern adaptation is making sure all the mortals don't come off as totally clowns.

Endings

Today, these are my names:

The Great Archives determine you to have gone by the identity:
Duke of The Great Oceans

Known in some parts of the world as:
Devil of The Underworld

The Great Archives Record:
Of the world below, creeping amongst the catacombs and sewers of the city.

Another word on THE VAMPIRE (stage play) ... interesting how the original short story, to be read in private, presented a tale where evil succeeds and the virtuous hero (right?) goes insane and then dies. In the publicly performed play, good triumphs over evil and even the victims have their revenge.

The Vampire, or The Bride of the Isles
by J. R. Planché
Full text of the English language version of Naodier's THE VAMPIRE ... public domain ..?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Nodier's THE VAMPIRE

This weekend I read THE VAMPIRE, an 1820 stage adaptation by Charles Nodier of Polidori's short story. Interesting, just to show the popularity of Polidori's work, this stage adaptation appeared just one year after the story debuted in 1819.

The adaptation I read was traslated by Frank J. Morlock (good name) in 2000. I am assuming the original script was in French, and given my basic knowledge of 19th century gothic horror plays, Mr. Morlock did his part making the play more palatable to a modern audience. Having said that, it still shares a great deal of the style of the period.

Adaptating a story into a play can be challenging - THE VAMPYRE (short story) goes everywhere, from Britain to Greece and back, with stops in between. THE VAMPIRE (play) takes place more or less in one room, or at least various rooms a single castle. That which occured prior to the events of the play are provided in the character's exposition, with some pieces of information coming out with a great deal of surprise, even for someone familir with the original tale.

In fact, I was surprised overall at how successful an adaptation I thought it was. Aubrey seems much more sure of himself in the play, a confident would-be hero, Ruthven (here called 'Rutwen') is far too much of the stagey villain near the end of the play, though he is marvellously suave and seductive at the start.