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by Thomas M. Sipos, L.A. Bureau Chief.  [September 24, 2002]





[]  David Drake -- a descendent of the infamous Vlad "The Impaler" Dracula! -- is alive and well and stalking for night life in the Big Apple -- in his new Off Broadway show about his investigation into his bizarre family tree!

That's the shocking story as revealed by New York actor/ playwright David Drake in an exclusive interview with the Hollywood Investigator!

Son Of Drakula, a one-man play opening at New York's Dance Theater Workshop on October 24, is the true-life tale of Drake's research into the mystery of the name he was born with: David Drakula!

"Of course, I had always wondered if there was any actual connection to Dracula," says Drake, whose name was changed by his mother before he entered second grade. "My family has always been very cagey about any connection. And despite my research efforts, they continue to be suspicious and cagey about the whole thing. But curiosity got the best of me, and five years ago I decided to find out if I was indeed a descendant of the original 'Son of the Dragon' -- Vlad Dracula."

The historic Dracula (1431-76), born in Transylvania, reigned for six years as Prince of Wallachia (in present-day Romania), where he was hated and feared for his torture and execution of tens of thousands of rivals, enemies -- and hapless innocents! -- often impaling his victims onto wooden stakes!  Yet Dracula was also celebrated for his Christian Crusading against the Muslim Turks -- and was never identified with vampirism until Bram Stoker invented the connection in his 1897 novel.

"I began the genealogical work in 1997," says Drake.  "I contacted many of the world's leading Dracula scholars.  All have been helpful in supporting my quest to see if I could close the gap, locate the missing pieces, and make the connection to Dracula.  Based on the genealogy I have been able to trace thus far -- to the year 1611 in Serbia -- one of the world's leading Dracula scholars, Radu Florescu, suspects that I am descended from the Hungarian branch of the Draculas.

"But even with the support and encouragement of Florescu, it has been very difficult -- so many integral and important pieces of Vlad's genealogy are simply missing, lost to history, lingering without affirmative evidence or documentation. Still, I keep plowing ahead."

Drake's play necessarily condenses his investigations. "But all of the people, places and events in the play are true. I experienced, witnessed -- lived -- all of it. Attending the World Dracula Congress in Transylvania, meeting Dracula descendant Constantin Balaceanu-Stolnici and Hammer film star Ingrid Pitt, traveling to Croatia to meet my distant relatives, and standing on the pier where my great-grandfather Pantelija Drakula set sail from 100 years ago on the SS Carpathia. I spent a month in Croatia, where my branch of the Drakulas come from. Several dozen Drakulas still live in and around Zagreb, Rijeka and Pula."

Drake describes the World Dracula Congress as an annual convention sponsored by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula (TSD), which attracts fans of both the historic and vampiric Draculas. Although uncertain about its size, Drake guesses the TSD has about 15-17 chapters worldwide, and over 500 members.

"I found the TSD via Elizabeth Miller's Dracula's Homepage. The tone of TSD is academic. A lot of college professors presenting papers at the Congress. I'm not certain of this, but I believe the idea for the TSD was born at the centennial celebration of the publication of Stoker's Dracula, which took place in Los Angeles in 1997.

"I've attended two of the past three Congresses. I gave a speech at last year's Congress about tracing my genealogy. That convention took place in the town where Dracula was born: Sighisoara, Transylvania. My speech provoked a lot of tension! Folks were split. Some had a lot of investment in the possibility that there COULD be a living descendant (me), and were looking to help me.  Others were invested in there NOT being any living descendants. The latter group consisted of nationalist Romanians who became enraged that an American had dared to come in and stake his claim in the legend of their Dracula.

"There are a number of observations about post-Communist Eastern Europe laced throughout Son Of Drakula, though this is not the focus of the play.  I found that the further east one goes in Eastern Europe, the further the distinctions become in terms of attitudes of severity towards capitalism, nationalism, and communism.

"In the northern, coastal and urban regions of Croatia, attitudes are much breezier and embracing of capitalism and western culture.  And nearly everyone speaks enough English to carry on basic conversations.  Still, the country is struggling financially, as they attempt to meet with Western Europe's standards of business practice.

"In Romania, I found a very suspicious, resentment-laden attitude towards capitalism, Western Europe, and in particular Americans and their culture. On the one hand, there's an eager energy to step up to the mat, leave behind their third world status, and be embraced by the European Union.  On the other hand, many Romanians seem to resent making political and cultural changes in order to move forward.  Many refuse to learn or speak any language other than their native tongue."

Some observers have noted a rising popularity for the late Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu (as with Stalin in the former Soviet Union).  But Drake says, "I did not sense a post-mortem resurgence of acceptance or popularity of his ideas or personality."

Despite Romanian nationalists' animosity towards Drake's genealogical claims, the horror community has responded enthusiastically. "I've made some great friends in the goth community. Arlene Russo, editor-in-chief of Bite Me, featured me in her latest issue."

Drake also has fond memories of horror actress Ingrid Pitt from the 2000 World Dracula Congress.  "She introduced a screening of Countess Dracula. Then she and her husband Tony, and about 20 others and I, went on a 10 day tour of all Dracula sites in Romania. We had a great time. She's glamorous, personable, hilarious, still sexy ... a constant delight. So to honor her (and re-sparkle her 'star' a bit), I wrote a monologue about her in Son Of Drakula -- based on what I recall her saying in her introduction at the Congress. And being that my show is a solo, I play her. (Honestly, I think she would be honored and delighted by the portrayal. But I really hope she'll get to see it one day!)

"I started writing Son Of Drakula after the World Dracula Congress in the spring of 2001. It premiered at the Theatre Project in Baltimore, in May 2002. It has since been rewritten, and will make its New York debut on October 24, before heading off to a gig in Anchorage, for winter 2003."

Son Of Drakula's New York run will be at the nonprofit Dance Theater Workshop (DTW), which Drake describes as "one of the premiere venues for presenting new theater pieces and modern dance artists for the past 25 years. DTW has just completed construction of a multi-million dollar theater space at 219 West 19th Street, in Manhattan's Chelsea district. But Son Of Drakula is not a dance piece, but a one-man play."

Drake had won an Obie Award (presented by New York's Village Voice) for "Outstanding Performance" in his 1992 one-man play, The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, which he describes as an "autobiographical monologue centered on my personal and political coming-of-age as a young gay man in New York City. The play ran for a year (1992-93), and became one of the longest-running solo shows in New York theater history. After its Off Broadway run, I went on an international tour, and finally, similar to Spalding Gray's Swimming to Cambodia or John Leguizamo's Freak, my solo show was made into a feature film."

Copyright 2002 by

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