The Case of the Silver Scream
A Film Noir Mystery
Created by David Grapes & Robert Neblett
Dracula: The Case of the Silver Scream features an exciting and sexy new film noir treatment! It is Hollywood 1948. A bloodthirsty killer is stalking the beautiful starlets of “Tinseltown.” Fearing her life is in danger, Lucy Murray goes to the one man she knows can crack the case. Abe Van Helsing – A hard-boiled private eye with his own mysterious connection to the killer.
“If you enjoy either the vampire legend or the film noir style, you will love this production for both its fine performances as well as its stunning set and technical features.”
What better way to celebrate the season than to head downtown to the recently and beautifully renovated TPAC for an evening of “chilling” entertaining? The sounds and sights in this David Grapes/Robert Neblett adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel will “haunt” you for days to come; that famous deep vampire laugh rings in my ears yet. The setting and props are masterful; I felt like I was watching a vivid Techniclor film. There is enough blood and gore and guts to satiate even the most diehard horror fan, but the audience appreciated the comic relief supplied by Detective Van Helsing portrayed wonderfully by Henry Haggard.
Don’t miss this production of Dracula: Trick and treating could never be this entertaining!
“The Case of the Silver Scream” is truly different than any other Dracula tale ever written. Instead of having the classic setting of Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, it takes places in Los Angeles in 1948.
There is also plenty of suspense, drama, biting, bleeding and murder in “The Silver Scream.”
So. if you’re looking for a treat this Halloween season, definitely make plans to see “Dracula: The Case of the Silver Scream.” You won’t be disappointed.
The evening was magical and the cast was superb. I found the sets, costumes, lighting, and sound designs all extraordinary. From the tiniest detail, such as the shadow of a slow turning fan over the detective’s desk, to the broad design concept of film noir black and white cinema, everything was attended to in a highly professional manner. I was particularly struck by the maturity of the performances – excellent timing, well articulated character portraits, perfect choreography of stage movement – really, the whole thing came together brilliantly. The writing had just the right tone with a mix of tongue-in-cheek glances back to the Ed Wood era to the seriousl
The show was a wonderful experience! My students loved working on the production and learning about “film noir.”
Our Board of Directors LOVED the script and are very exciting about producing the show as the North Carolina Premiere this October. Thanks for such a great adaptation!
DET. ABE VAN HELSING – A strong, robust private eye in his late 40s, with a distinctive, deep, gravelly, booming voice. Pragmatic but highly secretive of his past. A loner with lightning-quick reflexes and a dry wit. The archetypal hard-boiled detective reminiscent of Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe.
LUCY MURRAY – A late 20s/early 30s blonde movie starlet, à la Jean Harlow. Long hair, voluptuous, very glamorous, but still naïve at heart. Her career is just beginning: she is still overwhelmed by the Hollywood studio scene. She is a good actress trapped in bad typecasting.
JONATHAN HARKER – An attractive yet intensely egomaniacal Hollywood director in his mid-20s/early 30s. He has been driven to his wit’s end by the impossible working conditions at the Sanitarium and the financial difficulties his film is experiencing. A relentless name-dropper, he considers himself to be a young Orson Welles or Eric Von Stroheim, when in fact he is more akin to Ed Wood.
DR. JACK SEWARD – An intelligent, nervous psychiatrist in his late 30s, the chief administrator of the Whitby Hills Sanitarium. A fastidious dresser and very organized worker, but easily flustered, particularly when things do not go according to plan. Shy and bookish.
NURSE MARY WESTFALL – A very prim, powerful, no-nonsense redhead in her late 30s/early 40s. She is Seward’s chief aid and strikes fear in all of the patients but Renfield. Sarcastic and systematic, able to stop a person in his/her tracks with a single glance.
COUNT DRACULA – An ageless, sensual, dark, exotic man, played by an actor in his late 30s/early 40s. Very striking physically with a lithe, muscular build. Long, flowing black hair and piercing eyes. Full lips and angular facial features and bone structure. His attractiveness has a strong sense of danger behind it. Must have the ability to alternate from erotic to savage in an instant. He speaks with a deep British accent, colored with an occasional Romanian inflection. He wears the modern attire of mid-20th century Eastern European nobility.
RENFIELD – Emaciated, wild-eyed man in his late 30s/early 40s. Very jumpy and anxious, unpredictable, pathetic at times, much like Peter Lorre. His moods shift often, and he can be incredibly calm and endearing one moment and manic and violent the next. Has a severe persecution complex. He comes from a wealthy corporate family, but has not seen any of them since being admitted to the hospital because of his mental illness. The actor playing Renfield must have a good sense of humor (verbal and physical).
DEAN QUINCEY – Dean is a handsome Hollywood actor in his early 30s, with an overactive sense of humor. He is the class clown and every woman’s best friend.
FEMALE PATIENT/MINA HOLMWOOD – The Female Patient is a deaf mute who carries a ragged baby doll, she often weeps uncontrollably and must be sedated regularly. Mina is a brassy accountant in her mid-20s. Thin body frame, with short hair and a dark complexion. Soft brown eyes and sculpted, aquiline facial features. Very strong, independent, and professional. Very reminiscent of a young Ingrid Bergman or Barbara Stanwyck.
LORNA MILLS/JESSICA SHERIDAN/EMILY VAN HELSING – Lorna Mills is a Hollywood diva in her 40s who routinely plays roles ten years too young for her. She and Lucy share many similar physical attributes and could easily be mistaken for one another. Jessica Sheridan is a pushy, sharp-tongued gossip columnist in her late 40s who insists on being in the middle of everything. She has a cackling laugh that cuts through any amount of noise and a pocketful of insults suitable for any occasion. Emily Van Helsing is a demure, soft-spoken woman in her late 30s. Her spirit is trapped in Van Helsing’s memories by his sense of guilt and regret.
SIMMONS – Simmons is an orderly, in charge of the Sanitarium’s male patients; a tall, muscular hulk of a man in his 20s-30s. Very short hair, well-groomed, rarely smiles. Should be skilled with stage combat.
NURSE WALLACE – Non-speaking role. Nurse Wallace is an orderly, in charge of the Sanitarium’s female patients; a solid woman in her 30s, surprisingly strong for her size. Ideally, some stage combat experience would be preferable.
EXTRAS – Cast may supplemented with extras.
I first had the idea of crafting a new version of Bram Stocker’s famous novel in 1978. I was directing the famous Hamilton Dean and John Balderston stage version of Dracula in Billings, Montana. While I enjoyed the rehearsal process, I was continually struck by this adaptations’ lack of theatricality and dramatic action. It was just too Victorian and sexless for how I envisioned the story.
Time passed and although many new film versions of Dracula emerged the Baldertson/Dean version continued to be the most popular choice for theatrical productions, even enjoying a revival on Broadway in the 1980’s. This production which featured campy acting by Frank Langella and sets by Edward Gorey only fueled my desire to rework the novel.
I had placed this idea on the back burner until 2001 when as we were choosing the new season for TN Repertory Theatre, the title Dracula surfaced. Blessed with a brilliant set of collaborators led by my Head of Design Gary Hoff, I knew that I had the creative talent to finally act upon the original impulses that I had experienced in 1979.
Quickly, I called my friend and regular collaborator Robert Neblett. Robert had just worked with me on my new adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew; Shakespeare Rattle & Roll and I knew that besides being an expert on the bard that he was also well-versed on vampire lore. A few conversations later and the journey had finally begun.
Eight months and thousands of e-mail and phone conversations later, the film noir Dracula: The Case of the Silver Scream was given its premiere performance in TN. We have had a blast creating our “film noir” version of Dracula and hope that you will enjoy producing it as much as we have enjoyed creating it for you. For me, it was worth waiting these 24 years.
David Grapes -2021
A Note Regarding Style
Because this play was constructed with a specific film noir style in mind, it is important to attempt its performance honestly and embrace noir’s conventions, rather than spoofing them. This is a delicate balance which means that directors, designers, and performers should familiarize themselves with the idiosyncratic speech patterns, physical demeanor, and rhythms inherent in classic films such as:
The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, and Sunset Boulevard
These movies served as direct sources of influence on the style of the dialogue and physicality during the original production process, and I recommend that theatre groups who choose to perform Dracula: The Case of the Silver Scream should refer to them liberally for inspiration.
Similarly, Van Helsing’s asides to the audience are intended to serve the same purpose as traditional voiceovers did in the detective films of the 1940s. Typically, the other characters onstage should freeze when these moments occur, returning to normal speed when Van Helsing returns to the action of the scene.
If you are able to employ a larger cast than that used in the original production, please feel free to populate the stage during the Sanitarium scenes with as many patients and orderlies as you desire. Also, the party scene can have as few or as many guests as you wish. Robert L. Neblett and David Grapes 2021
David Grapes II
David is an Emeritus Professor of Theatre at the University of Northern Colorado, where he served as the Founding Director of the School of Theatre Arts and Dance and Producing Artistic Director for The Little Theatre of the Rockies for 15 years. An award-winning director, actor, drama critic and playwright, David has provided administrative and artistic leadership for a wide variety of theatrical institutions including two professional regional (LORT) theatre companies. An active member of SDC and AEA his work as a stage director (250+ productions) and actor has been seen at major regional theatres across the United States. As a DGA member, David is the creator or co-creator of eight original musical revues, six plays and numerous adaptations (www.summerwindproductions.com), which have enjoyed over 500 productions worldwide. David holds a BA from Glenville State College and an MFA in Acting/Directing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Robert Neblett is an award-winning freelance director, dramaturg, and playwright located in St. Louis, MO. Robert is an alumnus of Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, where he earned a BA in English and a BA in Theatre. As a graduate student, he attended Washington University in St. Louis, where he earned an MA in Dramatic Literature and a PhD in Comparative and Dramatic Literature. He has taught theatre, literature, writing, fine arts, and film courses at University of Northern Colorado, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Mountain View College, Tarrant County College-Northeast, University of North Texas, SUNY-Oneonta, St. Louis Community College-Meramec, and Washington University in St. Louis.
Under the artistic direction of David Grapes, he served as Dramaturg and Assistant Director on several productions with the Tennessee Repertory Theatre: Cyrano de Bergerac and Romeo and Juliet in 2000; A Streetcar Named Desire in 2002; The Taming of the Shrew in 2003; and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Diary of Anne Frank in 2005. He has also served as Dramaturg and Adaptor of several productions at the University of Northern Colorado, including The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Queen Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Amadeus, Heartbreak House, Once in a Lifetime, and The Imaginary Invalid.
Scripts he has created/written/adapted include Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone, Dracula: The Case of the Silent Scream, Roundabout, A Wrinkle in Time, Alice in Wonderland, and Lysistrata. He has published articles in American Theatre and New England Theatre Journal.
PROGRAM CREDITS FOR TITLE PAGE
Original Concept by David Grapes
Created by David Grapes and Robert Neblett
Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC), Gary C. Hoff, Steven Lepley, Darin Karnes, Elizabeth Evert, The Staff of the Tennessee (Nashville) Repertory Theatre, Henry Haggard, and Steven Hauck
Dracula – Audio Soundscapes and Effects
Dracula Soundscape #1
Dracula Soundscape #2
Dracula Soundscape #3
Dracula Soundscape #4
Summerwind Productions, LLC – Box 430, Windsor, CO 80528 Email: Summerwindprod@hotmail.com