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Carmilla in Chicago

Wildclaw Theatre in Chicago (the name is in memory of Ray Wild aka “The Claw,” a writer/director/actor) specializes in what they proudly call Horror Theatre. Their avowed mission is to “…bring the world of horror to the stage. We intend to attract a new kind of audience which does not usually go to the theatre, an audience craving strange journeys of dread, suspense, terror and wonder.” If this stirs up echoes of Grand Guignol, you are not at all wrong. Previous shows include adaptations of “The Great God Pan” as well as “In The Dreams of the Witch House” and even William Peter Blatty’s novel “LEGION” (a sequel to his “The Exorcist”). Previews begin January 13, 2011 for their latest opus — Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s tale of vampiric love and lust, “Carmilla.” On Friday, January 14 the show begins its run. Hopefully, this will prove many times more successful than the recent Off Broadway revival of “Dracula.”

A young English woman living in a remote castle in Eastern Europe becomes intrigued by a mysterious house guest, the enigmatic Carmilla. As the neighboring countryside and villages fall victim to a series of unexplained grisly murders, young Laura finds herself swept up in a whirlwind of forbidden desire. So the press materials explain the story of their show, which is accurate as far as it goes, at least based on the source material. Wildclaw seems to specialize in the disturbing, the creepy and the shocking. Le Fanu’s tale doesn’t really dive into such waters, but skims the surface. On the other hand, the elements are there to be mined. Carmilla does savagely attack young women and leave them terrified as they weaken and die. She transforms into a cat to prowl Laura’s bedroom in the middle of the night before feasting on the girl’s blood. When found in her grave (and this detail has yet to be realized in any film version) Carmilla lies in a three-inch deep pool of blood!

On a personal note, the costumes and hairstyles in publicity photos indicate a setting somewhere near the Regency Period (roughly 1790 to 1815), the era of Jane Austen and Frankenstein, a little bit before “Jane Eyre” or “Wuthering Heights.” Given my own interest in that period, how can I not approve? Was this inspired in any way by the wave of best-selling works like “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” or (to my mind, superior) “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters”? Maybe. Or perhaps that is just a coincidence. Hard to see how it matters really.

Then again, Regency ladies wore their hair up and their throat exposed. Reason enough right there!

During the run, Wildclaw has other events going hand-in-hand with “Carmilla.” There will be a screening of “Lets Scare Jessica To Death” (one of Stephen King’s Top Ten Horror movies, another tale of terror and a woman falling into a female vampire’s snares). Plus a panel discussion of Women In Horror, including L.A. Banks (author of The Vampire Huntress Legend series). Something special is planned for Valentine’s Day, but details are not yet available.

Back when I read about the new (now ended) revival of “Dracula,” I found myself longing to visit the Big Apple. Now, the same desire is aimed at the Second City, especially since this is a new play based on a less-often-adapted classic. More, a personal favorite.

In this age of the internet, a stage play can also have a trailer. Here you can find the one for “Carmilla” with its catchy tagline… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tasLTqejfgc

Before Edward
Before Lestat
Before Dracula
There was…

CARMILLA

BroadwaycarmillaChicagodraculaFrankensteinGrand GuignolHorror TheaterIn The Dreams of the Witch Housejane austenJoseph Sheridan Le FanuL. A. BankslauraLegionLet's Scare Jessica to DeathPride and Prejudice and ZombiesRegency PeriodSense and Sensibility and Sea Monstersstephen kingThe Great God PanThe Vampire HuntressValentines DayWildclaw TheaterWilliam Peter BlattyWuthering Heights

david • January 14, 2011


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  • http://www.darkness.com Veritas

    I’m so jealous. I’m nowhere near the Wildclaw Theater. You don’t suppose they’d have DVDs available?

  • http://zahir13.webs.com D.MacDowell Blue

    What an excellent question! I’ll ask!

  • Moonlight

    This sounds amazing! If only Chicago was a liiiittle closer. *sigh* :(

  • http://www.wildclawtheatre.com/wc_html/carmilla.html Aly Amidei

    Howdy! Thanks for promoting the play! I am the adapter and the costume designer/makeup artist. To answer your question, I chose to move the play to the Regency era for several reasons:
    -I am a Jane Austen freak!
    -Regency period gives us sexy exposed necks and cleavage!
    -Regency era is sans annoying corsets (troublesome for all of those moonlight chick fights)
    -The story needs to take place just after a war…the original story set it just after the crimean war…i chose to bump it up to just after the napoleanic war.
    -Regency era gives us costumes that we can wash…crucial for a horror theatre company that orders their fake blood by the five gallon barrel!

    We don’t do dvds of our shows at the moment since our emphasis is on giving people a live horror theatre experience. It is something very different to see these things happen in front of you without the filter of the camera and big movie screen. I hope some of your readers can make it out to see the show.

    • http://zahir13.webs.com D.MacDowell Blue

      No complaints about the Regency period from me! I’m actually hoping to get some kind of major cash infusion that would allow me to see your show.

      Tiny bit of disagreement. I’ve written THE ANNOTATED CARMILLA which is now in the editing stage and came to the conclusion the story could take place no later than 1846 (based on identification of “Archduke Charles” in General Spielsdorf’s story coupled with Laura and her father going to Italy the following spring–in 1848 the First Italian War of Independence broke out), well prior to the Crimean War. So your dating in the play is in my humble opinion more likely than the 1850s. Upon what do you base your view that CARMILLA takes place after 1856 (which would be less than twenty years prior to publication, making Laura quite young to have died in the interim–even for that era)?

    • http://www.darkness.com Veritas

      I’m sure it’s a wonderful experience for the lucky ones that get to see it live. Maybe I’ll get another chance to view someday.

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  • Christine

    Wow! This is interesting! Thank you for great photos!