“Were you scared?”: A review of East Cleveland Community Theater’s Dracula

     I am not a fan of exploiting fear. I quit Student Council in the second grade because of the ritual of scaring kindergarten children (thus ending my political career); I feel violated when someone sneaks up on me or manipulates my body’s healthy reaction to threats. The thrill of roller coasters escapes my understanding so zombies, werewolves, psycho clowns, etc. etc. … no thank you.

     Thus my slight (albeit purely internal) apprehension when I agreed to attend Dracula for a school project.

     All I knew was that it was about a vampire- a blood-sucking creature – and that the show would be extremely well done; the most terrifying prospect of all.

     They would succeed in scaring me; that much was clear and I resigned myself to accepting the fate gracefully, but I still feared the cheesy, thrill seeking Halloween tactics (such as jumping out at audience members or loud bangs at the end of a suspenseful moment) that I thought such a show would be forced to include.

     I did not expect to feel respected by the story itself. I did not expect the characters and cast to earn my trust by inviting me into such a well told tale that the inevitable flinch could come without bringing the shame, embarrassment and even anger at being fooled.

     I did not expect the depth of emotion and the layers of complexity that the cast was able to portray. I expected cheap shots and to leave feeling violated because I thought that was the horror genre was all about.

     Instead, well, let’s just say that now I really want to see East Cleveland Community Theater’s rendition again. Perhaps a couple times.

     I’ve read original newspaper articles from the late ’60s and early ’70s and from the start, this passionate group of volunteers has impressed their audiences while challenging their preconceptions so again I should not be surprised that they have left me with questions and not nightmares. I should have trusted their reputation and not just the brief relationships I had made with the cast and crew willing to help on an assignment.

     “The overall production of the show was excellent and placed a mark of professionalism again of the East Cleveland Community Theater efforts. The word ‘professionalism’ in the theater does not mean dollars and cents but rather that air or attitude of serious undertaking” (East Cleveland Citizen; Dec. 3rd 1970).

  Itself an incredible example of the determination and love for quality in East Cleveland, the Citizen’s words still ring true.

     Showing through the first week of November (Fri and Sat nights at 8, Sundays at 3), there should be another opportunity for not only I but perhaps for more within this region. With twelve showings in all, this cast and crew proves that the theater that has thrived theatrically for 47 years even despite changes in the cultural climate around them is more than just still there.

     Dracula was, and is, a serious undertaking and should be supported. Quality theater continues at 14108 Euclid and I look forward to seeing their efforts rewarded.

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