Meet The Cast: Irwin Moskowitz

 

introducing.peddlerA character often omitted from LeFanu’s story is the peddler, the first to suspect there’s perhaps something odd about Laura’s visitor.

So tell me about yourself. Who is Irwin Moskowitz?

Growing up in Pittsburgh, I spent many Saturday afternoons at the movies.  And I watched every movie I could back in the day when there were only three channels.  Among the many films I watched were the early talkies including Dracula and Frankenstein.  I like to point out that the budget on the original Dracula was so small, it did not include music/soundtrack.  See it today and there’s no music, like Hitchcock’s The Birds.  But I digress.   A movie lover from the get-go, guilty as charged.

At the U. of Pittsburgh,  I majored in Psychology and Theater, getting great “college” theatrical acting experience including playing assorted characters in Spoon River Anthology and other roles both on the main stage at the Stephen Foster Memorial and the black box of its time, the Studio Theater.
I moved to Los Angeles as soon as I graduated from Pitt and hoped to land a big show business gig.  Still waiting for that to happen, I decided to be “practical” and got an MBA from UCLA.  My class had quite a few “artistic” students in the Business School, and we put on a production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.  I got to play Charlie Brown.  Sweet.  I put aside my acting career and worked in Marketing, Brand Identity, Real Estate and Banking.  I sat in the audience for years thinking what I shoulda, coulda and woulda but dinta.
Flash forward to four years ago when I became ill, so I became an extra.   Mostly awful work, to be sure.   I said we were potted plants the production was required to feed.  Real potted plants, unfortunately, got more respect than the extras.  But, I got to work on sets and see how tv shows/movies are made.  Very, very slowly.  Feeling better and with all my extra work (ha!) under my belt, I auditioned for theater productions in LA and got cast.  I had a leading role in A Big Gay North Hollywood Wedding which ran for six months.  Most recently, I played President Harry Truman in Presidential Suite in NOHO.  I love theater work.  It’s tough, yet wonderfully rewarding.   I liken the thrill of going onstage to what a skier must sense when he takes off down the mountain, only more dangerous.
Next up, Carmilla!

I already know the answer, but how did you come to be involved in Carmilla?

Answering an Actor’s Access call for Carmilla, I auditioned for the role of Laura’s father and other characters, including The Peddler.  Carmilla’s story has moved to 1938 Austria prior to the onset of WWII.   To me, The Peddler (“Carlsberg”), represents a minority figure unlikely to survive the war.   He must do what he can to survive in a hostile, cruel environment, yet provides some humor in the melodrama.  I like to paraphrase Stanislavsky…There are no small parts, only small paychecks.

Were you at all familiar with the story before this?

I was not at all familiar with Carmilla or its story line prior to my audition.  I’d seen countless productions of all types involving vampires, but this is my first time actually working in one.

Are you a particular fan of gothic or vampire fiction?

Who doesn’t love vampire and gothic horror stories/films?  I’d seen the early B&W films on the Late Late Show, called Academy Theater in Pittsburgh, during the dark ages.  Also saw the Hammer films of the sixties, with Christoper Lee, for one, in living color.   The vampire renaissance likely started in the Seventies with Anne Rice’s Interview With a Vampire, but the number of films, et. al., about vampires since then are countless.  And now they’re on TV/cable and popular.  If anything can distract most people from their daily lives/grinds, it’s vampires.  What if?  If Only?  Wouldn’t that be_________________________?  Fill in the blank.  Plus, vampires are sexier than most antagonists so they’ve got that going for them, in addition to living forever.  You call that living?  No days, only nights.   Can’t imagine they make a Serta PerfectSleeper to fit a coffin.  You have to imagine your hair looks ok because you can’t see your reflection in a mirror.  And, although most everyone likes garlic, let’s be reasonable.   And who delivers blood when you’re hungry/thirsty?  You have to get your own!  Or have “people” get it for you.  Like assistants.   It’s gotta be a tough life, or whatever.

You’ve made an interesting contribution to the script itself since being cast. Care to tell that story?

Getting cast as The Peddler, I suggested that he have a name.  To my great delight, David Blue chose “Carlsberg” as his character’s name.  Not only does a name enable an actor to create a backstory, this character represents a vast number of individuals preyed upon, tortured and destroyed by people and situations worse than vampires.  Austria in 1938 was unlikely a center of fine art, culture and waltzes, certainly not to people like Carlsberg.
Describe your reactions so far to this production.
It’s exciting to be part of a world premiere production of an original play based upon literature more than a century old.  I’d heard of LaFanu and there have been films/plays based upon his work.  That’s a trip.  So looking forward to it!
Finally, is there any question you wished I’d asked? If so, what is it? And what is your answer?

No.

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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.

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!

Put Carmilla On Stage!

template2thumbPut Carmilla On Stage!

In 1872, Joseph Sheridan LeFanu published an important piece of gothic literature, the novella Carmilla. Not only did it influence many works that came after it from Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw to Jon Alvide Linqvist’s Let the Right One In, but it created a new subgenre.

The Lesbian Vampire Story.

Now an adaptation of this seminal (or should that be “ovarian”?) work is on its way to the Los Angeles theatre scene. One that adds to this atmospheric, erotic nightmare the one thing it was lacking.

Nazis.