"DRACULA WAS MY ANCESTOR!" THE TRUE-LIFE
ODYSSEY OF ACTOR/PLAYWRIGHT DAVID DRAKE
by Thomas M. Sipos, L.A. Bureau Chief.
[September 24, 2002]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] 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!
the shocking story as revealed by New York actor/ playwright David Drake in
an exclusive interview with the
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!
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."
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
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
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."
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.
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
Dracula, which took place in Los Angeles in 1997.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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!)
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."
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."
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 HollywoodInvestigator.com
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