Prepare for fog, fangs and things that go bump in the night!

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For all who love thrills in the theatre, Picketwire Players in La Junta have a play this October that will set your heart a-thumping. Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” flies onto the Picketwire stage October 25, 26, and 27 – just in time for the Halloween season.

According to the play’s director, Ashley Jo Kelley, the classic story of Count Dracula is “a beautiful gothic, horror-romance that is dark, seductive and a lot fun. It is disturbing,” she quickly added. “But if you look at the story overall, it really is a story about good over evil, light dispelling darkness.”

Ashley Jo is no stranger to the classics. The first play she directed was Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”, followed by “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. When we asked her, “why Dracula?”, she said she has always had an infatuation with classic monster movies. “The genre is nostalgic for me. I used to watch these movies with my Dad when I was little. Classic stories, classic characters make good drama.”

She and her Assistant Director, Topher Mascarenas, wanted to do something a little darker for Halloween. And the technical people they have worked with since “Sweeney Todd” wanted to experiment with a play that had a lot of special effects. The most challenging apparatus is the light cues. They even have a couple people working on stage blood. In fact, they are making their own blood capsules. This serves a dual purpose, they ensure the blood capsules create the effect they want, and it is more cost effective to make your own. It is community theatre, after all.

This is the most technical show that the director has ever taken on: 54 light cues, just as many sound cues and, of course, dozens of blood cues. She credits her Assistant Director with helping to coordinate the technical needs and business end of the play. Ashley Jo and Topher make a good partnership. They play off each other’s strengths and that makes for a successful production. Lena Figueroa and Topher are designing the lights. Tim Kelley (the director’s husband) is writing original music for the play. Backstage, Hilary Harsh will be up to her neck in blood, fog and fangs. Rebecca Ayala is designing the costumes. Watch for attention to detail in the period costumes and a little whimsy as one of the leading lady’s costumes is made out of curtains.

The director said she hit the jack pot with this cast. “Everyone came into it fully invested. I think people will be a little surprised at how much the actors are stretching themselves and their talents for these characters.” The cast feels the same about their director. George Larsen, who plays Dracula, said half the reason he wanted to do this show was to work with Ashley Jo. “That’s the wonderful thing about community theatre,” said the show’s director. “People are busy with their jobs and other commitments. But they still want to participate. They show up ready to work, and do anything for the good of the show.”

The play’s Assistant Director said this show definitely hits a different demographic than the rest of Picketwire’s plays this year. “We do stay true to the classic story and the horror, but the heroes make it all turn out right in the end.” It is a PG-13 show. There will be blood. There will be screaming, but what fun for the Halloween season. To increase the fun and audience participation, there will be a costume contest for Saturday night’s performance. Come dressed in your Halloween best, and you could win a prize. But seeing this intricately directed performance is the real reward.

“Dracula” opens Thursday, October 25th and runs through the weekend (October 26 and 27). All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Picketwire is located at 802 San Juan Avenue in La Junta, Colorado. Tickets are $12.00 per person and go on sale October 15. [Note: the Box Office is open from 5:30 to 7:00 pm Monday through Friday.] Reserve your seats by calling 719.384.8320 or purchase tickets online at www.picketwireplayers.org/tickets.

By Susie Sarlo