Yet another live version of Joseph Sheridan LeFanu’s classic is on its way to the boards!
We’ve covered other stage productions of Carmilla in the past, including that of Chicago’s Wildclaw Theatre and even a Canadian high school‘s version. Now another struggles its way to the stage in front of a live audience. The venue will be in North Hollywood. Dates have yet to be finalized but it looks certain to happen.
Oh, and I’m the playwright.
This particular version quite literally aims at recreating everything I saw and loved in reading the book. For example, it seemed pretty clear to me that Laura (like Louis long after) makes for a very unreliable narrator. We know she’s telling what happened to someone specific, but very little about that someone. In this version, that someone becomes one Captain Martin, a British Army officer very suspicious of her desire to emigrate from Austria following the second world war. Which brings up something else–original readers of Carmilla certainly saw the story as taking place in a police state, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Keeping that in mind colors the entire tale. Recreating that color meant shifting the period, from the mid-19th century to 1938, immediately after Austria joined the Greater German Reich! So in this version, as in the book, Laura recounts events as a flashback, very much like the plays Equus or Amadeus. And said events take place amidst a oppressive regime, not only political but to some extent emotional.
Amelia Gotham is playing Laura in this production, not long after winning an award for starring in Turn of the Screw, another gothic tale of suppressed sexuality and ambiguous truths. She read the part for a reading of the play several months back.
One reason we all agreed she did such a fine job was her seemingly innate understanding that Laura tends to lie. About some things. Likewise she managed to portray the character as both a real, full human being but also a waif–someone who seems habitually passive. Emphasis on seems.
Most versions of the story also tend to portray Carmilla herself as a straightforward villain. Apart from internal evidence suggesting otherwise, frankly that seems the most boring option of all those available. Hannibal Lecter is a way cooler villain than (for example) Cobra Commander, but only because he genuinely cares about Clarice. Likewise of all the Carmillas I’ve seen, Ingrid Pitt in The Vampire Lovers seems closest to how I imagine her.
Along those lines the actress playing Carmilla herself for this production has a fine repertoire of roles behind her, including shows she’s written and directed herself like Fragments of Oscar Wilde. Vanessa Cate has done a variety of different parts from Shakespeare to musicals to a one woman show opening later this month in North Hollywood.
Meanwhile to see the play fully mounted we’re running a fundraiser called Put Carmilla On Stage. The goal is a fairly modest $3000 by late October 2013, with a variety of gifts offered to donors who give more. Cups, t-shirts, even a copy of the script autographed by the entire cast and crew!
Much like the Francis Ford Coppola version of Dracula, this adaptation of Carmilla aims to throw all the elements into “sharp relief.” Books by their very nature follow the pace of the reader. Plays and movies have their own pace, with the audience following along. So many things by necessity become more vivid, more obvious. Subtle tendencies in the narrative turn into full blown plot points. What looks on reflection like a not-very-healthy household becomes fully dysfunctional. A mildly erotic atmosphere turns into something more overtly sexual.
Put Carmilla on Stage should run until the middle of October. Hopefully–if all goes well–auditions and rehearsals will follow apace!
Main graphic for Carmilla is courtesy of photographer PatriotPro at stock.xchng