Meet the Cast: Deneen Melody

introducing.madame

The narrator, Laura, lost her mother so young she cannot remember the woman. Instead she was raised by a governess, played by Deneen Melody.

Tell me about yourself! Who is Deneen Melody?
That is a very good question! I am still discovering who this Deneen
Melody person is myself. However, I suppose I can tell you that I am a
trained ballerina from Texas that made the plunge into the acting world a
few years ago. While I was living in Chicago, I became highly involved in
the independent horror scene, but since made the decision to pursue other
genres and acting opportunities. I have also been in Los Angeles for just
about a year.
Since my move, I began to become more interested in theatre, which brings
back my love for the stage and helps with my training as an actor. I have
been very fortunate to meet so many kind, genuine people in the Los
Angeles theatre community that have encouraged me on this journey.
On a random note, my favorite thing in the world is the fantasy genre and
I’m obsessed with things like Lord of the Rings, The Last Unicorn, and all
the dark fantasy films of the 80’s. Oh, and I also have a thing for Thor
and enjoy Renaissance Festivals.

What did you know about the story Carmilla before becoming involved in
this production?
Actually, I was familiar with Carmilla and a few variations of her story
prior to becoming involved with this production. She is a character in one
of my favorite anime films, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, and I had played
a role similar to her in which I did a bit of research. However, it wasn’t
till I met David and Mark that I really dived into getting to know
Carmilla, Laura, and all the others involved. The story is certainly an
interesting take on vampirism and I’m excited for our audiences to
experience this particular telling of the story

Your character, Madame Perradon, is a romantic, fascinated with tales of
the paranormal. Does that strike a chord in you?
Absolutely. You are talking to a gal that is surrounded by all things
magical and supernatural. Light and dark. Where others may find it silly
and childish, I open up my heart and accept it. There are so many
unexplained things in the world…why should we choose to believe in some
and dismiss the rest? All stories come from some place, some truth.

How do you approach playing a role?
Every role is different, but I always find some common ground with each
and every character I portray. Even if I feel, in absolutely no way, that
I can relate to the character, I will read the lines over and over again.
I will reach into my very being and find something, anything, to connect
to. When I am performing, whether on the stage or in front of the camera,
I wish to be the character.
Being an actor is difficult, as are many things, of course. It is a
constant journey. As far as I am concern, I am always learning and
growing. I am a completely different actor now than when I first started.
I am a completely different actor now than a year ago. And I am a
completely different actor now than a performance ago.

Do you have any favorite vampires in fiction? Who? And why?
Well, as I mentioned above, one of my favorite anime films would be
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, and I have always had a soft spot for Meier
Link. He is tragic. At first you think he is this awful, dark being, but
then you learn the truth of his actions. It actually makes me sad just
thinking about it. He delivers my favorite quote from the film, too, in
which he says to the woman he loves: “I don’t want you to worry about
these wounds of mine. They will heal, and then we shall go to the City of
Night and distant stars. When we go there we can be alone, and free to
love each other.”
More recently, I enjoy the character of Eli in Swedish vampire novel, Let
the Right One In, written John Ajvide Lindqvist. I first saw the original
version of the film and was enchanted by Lina Leandersson’s performance.
From there, I read the book, and was instantly fascinated by the
character’s history. It is a different spin on what many people think of
vampires, especially with things like Twilight and those CW teen shows. If
you have yet to read the book or see the film, it is one I highly suggest.
There are so many ways to interpret who the character of Eli is and what
her true motives are, which can actually be said the same for Carmilla, in
my opinion.

(Note: Lindqvist has confirmed Let The Right One In was to some extent inspired by LeFanu’s Carmilla)

What do you personally hope for in terms of the audience, both for the
play and for your performance?
To be honest, I hope the audience comes out of the experience with their
minds racing. I hope they are as intrigued with the story as I am, so much
that they discuss the story and characters with each other. Who is good,
who is evil? Why is that character the way they are? What is the truth? To
me, anything that can create curiosity within an audience is a very, very
good thing.
On a personal level, this role is going to be such a challenge for me. To
play a character that is physically older than myself, well, it should be
interesting, especially when I tend to play younger than my age. With that
in mind, I truly wish to bring something interesting to Madame, something
that others may overlook. There is certainly more to her than meets the
eye, and I hope I will be able to bring that to our audience.

Finally, is there a question you wish I asked? If so, what would the
answer be?
You didn’t ask if I believe in Unicorns. And the answer is, yes. Yes, I do.

Meet The Cast: Douglas Eames

introducing.spielsdorf

As Dracula has Professor Van Helsing, so Carmilla has her nemesis, Colonel Spielsdorf. Only in this story, the vampire hunter’s motivations prove very personal. Douglas was among the very first people cast, having nailed the role in the most recent reading of an earlier draft.

First, tell me about yourself! Who is Douglas Eames?
I’m a rather free-spirited big kid from New Orleans, Louisiana.  I was always a bit of an outsider growing up: I was an only child and my parents divorced when I was young.  I spent most of that time living with my mother, who moved around a lot, so I was always changing schools and having to adapt to new surroundings.  I found a kind of a Walter Mitty escapism in my imagination — and acting, writing, and drawing were always ways I could channel that.  After I got my BA in communications at Southeastern Louisiana University in the mid-80s, I headed out to LA, where I pursued a career in film and TV.  I got my first break playing a recurring orderly on ABC’s General Hospital in late 1987, and that led to other jobs, including a fun supporting role in cult film director Andy Milligan’s final movie, Surgikill.  Since then, I’ve done some voice-over projects, a lot of freelance writing, and appeared in various plays, minor TV and film roles, and commercials.
And how did you come to end up cast in Carmilla
I’d just finished shooting Mabuse 2: Etiopomar, when I was contacted by our director, Ansel Faraj, who asked if I could participate in a table read in North Hollywood for this playwright he knew.  He said the part I’d be reading was based on the Peter Cushing role in The Vampire Lovers.  I did a little googling and found it on youtube.   I really enjoyed the part, and seeing as how I’d just finished working with several actors from the original Dark Shadows series on Mabuse, it seemed like vampires were a good theme for me!
Had you read the story before or were you familiar with it?
The name was vaguely familiar but the storyline didn’t ring a bell.  So I watched The Vampire Lovers on youtube as Ansel suggested, and realized this was a film my mother had taken me to see at the Showtown Drive-In in Baton Rouge Louisiana when I was about 7 or 8!
Your character, Spielsdorf, how do you see him?
I see Spielsdorf as an extension of my own social ineptitude: he longs to be accepted by his friends, but has a great deal of difficulty keeping his cool and fitting in, given his conflicted nature.  He feels a collection of contradictory emotions.  On the one hand, he’s emotionally ravaged by the loss of his beloved niece to this creature of the underworld, yet on the other, he is a Nazi commander who participates in a system of sociopathic brutality every day.  He’s in charge of a branch of military service related to the study of history and the supernatural, so given his background and his present emotional upheaval, the audience is left to wonder how much of this is his crazed imagination running wild, and how much of what he’s saying is really true.  This is a very fun premise to play with, that unsure grey area between perception and reality!
What do you think is the most surprising thing about him?
The fact that this hardened commander, who oversees injustice on a daily basis, can at once feel so disturbed and torn apart by the death of one of his own.
Is there a particular hope you nurture about your performance?
I hope to strike a balance between Spielsdorf’s ruthlessness and his humanity, to keep the audience guessing about what’s really going on.
For this adaptation, Spielsdorf is a Nazi. An SS officer even! Is there any particular challenge in approaching that aspect of his character?
I think the biggest challenge is to find the humanity, the part inside that wants to be loved and accepted, that part that hits a wall and implodes with him…to bring that out, along with this rage inside him — and, of course, to avoid playing him as Colonel Klink in Hogan’s Heroes!
Finally, is there a question you wished I’d asked? If so, what would be the answer?
Your questions seemed to cover all the basics! Just that I’m very happy to be a part of the production and having the opportunity to work with such a gifted cast!

Meet the Cast: Lara Bond

introducing.laura

Lara Bond plays the lead in Carmilla, the young woman telling her tale of what happened when a beautiful visitor came to her father’s home.

First off, tell me about yourself. Who is Lara Bond?
Questions like this always befuddle me. I don’t quite know how to answer them. On paper, Lara is a young woman living in the late part of the 20th century, early part of the 21st century. She is a person of multiple backgrounds, giving her a unique view of the world and it’s people.

Though her passport is American, her hair-Moroccan, she will always be a Berliner.

She enjoys the arts and sciences, and doesn’t really care about much else. She loves animals and people—when they’re being civil.

And how did you come to be involved in this production?
I was cast in a production directed by Vanessa Cate, the actress playing Carmilla. I had seen her work on stage before and was excited to get to work with her. It was Vanessa that invited me to the auditions for Carmilla.

Were you familiar with Carmilla before this?
I remember hearing the title or name of the character over the years, but never read or heard the story. I was excited to find out that it was an inspiration for Dracula.

What do you think of your character, Laura?
I am fascinated by her isolation and calm, deep spirit. Also, her ability to open herself up so willingly to Carmilla, especially when she’s had such few people to connect with. Their relationship is a very mystical one.

Is there a particular challenge in your mind to playing this part?
I am excited to explore the idea of standing in different time periods during the play. How to be in the present time, recounting the past, and then be in that past story experiencing it for the first time. Also, the relationship between Laura and Carmilla is going to be an amazing challenge because it is so layered. It is a bond of friendship and sisterhood and yet has an otherworldly, seductive, deep love in it. There is a sense of these two being entwined by destiny. I think it’s important for the audience to feel this connection and perhaps to feel enwrapped in it with them.

Generally, how do you feel about vampires and vampire stories? Do you have a favorite?
I LOVE vampire stories. Everything about them, including the history of the folklore, the setting in eastern Europe, the idea of the undead, the immortal. All of it is fascinating to me. I’ve been a fan of vampire stories since I was a kid. I religiously listened to a German series of books on tape called The Little Vampire, a story about a young boy who befriends a young vampire boy. Most of my Halloween costumes growing up were vampire costumes, the occasional witch or Wednesday Adams, but vampires were always the trusty go to. Even in college…See below.

I really love the film Interview with a Vampire. I was about 12 when I saw it the first time and while it was gory and I was scared, I though it was so beautiful and really captured what it must feel like to be a vampire. I’m also a big fan of Coppola’s Dracula and Joss Whedon’s Buffy and Angel series.

Basically, I adore vampire lore but I do believe first and foremost the story has to be great. I think I connect more to vampires than other creatures in the horror genre because there is such an element of beauty and mystery to them. They’re not your average undead “monster”… But I guess a hardcore werewolf or zombie fanatic would say the same thing.

How do you want audiences to respond to Laura specifically, and to the production in general?
I want the audience to understand her and to feel her solitude. Even relate to it. The fact that Carmilla is the first person that Laura has gotten this close to, that they have a mysterious bond, I hope will be a journey for them, as it is for Laura. She’s not a victim of her circumstance but is, one could say, chosen.

Finally, is there any question you will I’d asked? And what would your answer be?
If you were given the choice to die or become a vampire, what would you do?  Vampire. Definitely. I’d try to get a job in special effects.

Meet the Cast: Vanessa Cate

introducing.carmilla

Vanessa Cate qualifies as a triple threat. Not only an extremely fine actress, she’s a playwright in her own right as well as a gifted director. And we are very fortunate to have her play the title character.

First off, tell me something about yourself. Who is Vanessa Cate?
I am a California native with a passion for the theater. I work as a writer, director, and actor. I’ve been working mainly at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater, but have also recently started my own theater company ‘True Focus Theater’ and am in the process of planning its first independent production, ‘Cat-Fight’.
What kinds of roles have you played before now?
All types. For awhile I was playing a lot of strong, crazy women. And for the past few years I’ve been doing a lot of horror and a lot of cabaret. I think Carmilla will be a good culmination of aspects from all that.
I already know the answer to this, but how did you come to hear about this production of Carmilla?
The writer approached me with the idea – very enthusiastically, by the way – as he was still writing it. Lesbianism and vampirism are two things I’m into, and hearing that he had me in mind for the title role, well it was flattering at the very least.
How are you approaching the idea of playing a 200-year-old lesbian vampire?
I suppose when you put it like that, I have quite a lot to live up to, haha. Vampires have a lot of power, but they don’t have to flaunt it. And Carmilla tries to blend in with the humans around her as much as possible. Much of it will be nuance. And this ain’t her first rodeo. I think she is used to a lot of what happens around her. She’s seen how people react to her before – it’s almost scripted in a way. But what surprises her is Laura, and as a vampire can feel certain sensations in a heightened way, I think a sense of companionship, mingled with a feeling of desire and even hunger that only a vampire can understand, I think that will be the most challenging and interesting aspect. So the connection with Laura will be my focus. 
For that matter, what do you think of vampires in general–especially as characters on stage or screen?

I adore vampirism, and have always had a fascination. It has influenced me in many ways, from the make up I wore in high school to my writing. Whenever the subject matter is a vampire, I am instantly into it. The idea of a predator that could kill you so utterly, and yet you are drawn to it. That’s sexy. And tragic. Though vampires are entering into a strange period where pale heartthrobs somehow don’t need human blood and fall in love with teenage girls, I think we’ll evolve out of that. 

When the audience leaves after each performance, what do you hope they’ll feel about your character?

I hope to have seduced them. 

Finally, what question would you like me to have asked about this role or your performance or the play in general? And what would be your answer?

I think it was perfect the way it was. Some things have to remain a mystery.

Auditions Scheduled!

Basic RGBWe’ll be having auditions in a couple of weeks here in Los Angeles. The play i will be staged in North Hollywood in February or March 2014 (just before Pilot Season). Exact dates to be determined, but Fridays and Saturdays look by far the most likely. By far!

Anyone interested should show up Saturday October 26, 1pm- 5pm at the Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood (this is the home of Visceral Company, doing a splendid show at the moment–Lovecraft: Nightmare Suite).

Here’s a list of who we need:

Woman (lead), 20’s, Caucasian
Men (2), 30’s to 70’s, Caucasian
Women (2), 30’s to 70’s, Caucasian

PLEASE BRING — Headshot and Resume stapled (or glued) together.  Prepare a Monologue (1-3 minutes) from a play, such as the works of Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Peter Shaffer, Tom Stoppard, etc.  Sides will also be provided.

If you like, you may also join the Facebook Event page for these auditions. Please spread the word!

Previous Carmillas: “Blood and Roses”

Blood and roses-LocadinaI have seen every single filmed version of Carmilla with two exceptions–the BBC one from the 1960s (starring Jane Merrow, almost certainly lost) and the French t.v. miniseries from the 1980s (still looking for).

Blood and Roses, directed by Roger Vadim, one would think might prove rather faithful to the original. At least we Americans have that impression of European filmmakers.  In fact it varies quite a bit. One gets the sense–not for the last time–LeFanu’s tale ended up as little more than a partial inspiration for somebody else’s story.

Which doesn’t mean this translated into a bad film! Hardly!

Vadim’s flick to a real extent relies on the vampire’s POV, initially from her grave where she sleeps, waiting for the right series of events for her resurrection. As such she seems to spy voyeur-like upon the modern Karnstein family.  Just like the audience in fact! Of course, that is an English-language addition. The uncut, BloodandRoses11untampered original contains far more ambiguity, thus matching LeFanu more in tone if not plot.

We meet Leopoldo De Karnstein (the story has been moved to post WW2 Italy), and his cousin Carmilla (a lookalike to reputed vampire ancestress) who moodily watches Leopoldo announce his engagement to her friend Georgia.  We’re also told of the vampire legend, of Mircalla who married her cousin Leopold but died and then seemed to devour every young lady Leopold sought to wed for the rest of his life. Carmilla goes wandering into the family tombs on the grounds of an abandoned monastery or convent. She camp0209-01encounters what seems to be the vampire’s tomb, screams, and emerges from the ruins somehow different. She hovers near Georgia in all kinds of semi-erotic situations, while the latter has an amazing dream about them both. Local girls begin dying suddenly. People begin to fear a vampire! Carmilla herself seems to die falling on a farming machine, but a hint continues that perhaps…just perhaps…her soul has transferred to Georgia. She has her Leopold again.

blood and roses_smThe biggest praise I can offer this film remains its look and atmosphere, all of which help recreate the odd sense of mystery the novella possesses. Even the famous costume worn by Mel Ferrar as Leopoldo, with its sweeping Renaissance cape and winged bat mask, highlights how tables are being turned. The vampire here is not a dashing Dracula-esque male, but the pretty blonde. He is in a real sense her victim, as she seems to consume the woman he loves. On the other hand, how come he never notices? Likewise, as lovely a presence as Annette Vadim may be, her Georgia comes across as a cookie cutter ingenue. Why should bloodandrosesstakecopy6Leopold notice a complete change in her personality, after all? The man doesn’t pay any attention to such things. Was Vadim himself commenting on this, or simply buying into a subtly mysoginistic formula?

Either way, the whole story becomes something different by shifting focus away from the female victim of the vampire and their relationship. Making it about a rivalry for the same man hardly echoes LeFanu’s themes of the feminine versus masculine. Rather it tumblr_latqc8EwUN1qa95wro1_500places the Male at center stage, not only as far as power in this world but in terms of value, plot and motivation.

Also, I’m left with wondering why the update? Financially it makes more sense rather than making a costume drama, of course. That seems logical, if unfortunate. Yet I see no justification in the script for moving the story about a century forward — save perhaps to juxtapose our modern rational world with that of a mystical past? That would be cool, and I don’t mind it.

Remember, if you want to help bring a brand new, erotic and disturbing as well as faithful version of Carmilla to the stage, just click on this fundraising link!