Meet the Cast: Lara Bond

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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

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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.

Cast of the Reading!

295336_10151267312624506_13668514_nBack in July 2013 we had a reading of my play Carmilla. It proved a thrilling experience, which led in turn to a lot of improvements in the text. Now, I’d like to introduce you to some (albeit not quite all) of the wonderful folks who took part!

Amelia Gotham read both Laura and Carmilla at different times. I first saw her in The Turn of the Screw at the Visceral, a part for which she won an award. She has since won another for her role in Sherlock Through the Looking Glass. She wowed me at the time and wowed me again from the first word she uttered. Honestly she leaves me in a bit of awe.

Copy of 47350_1583450588655_5450894_nVanessa Cate read Carmilla and the Countess. She’s been in many shows, the first I saw being Hamlet. But since then she’s also starred in, directed and written numerous plays including Urban Death and Fragments of Oscar Wilde as well as A Down & Dirty Christmas Cabaret and the upcoming Kamikaze (a one woman show). She’s got an amazing stage presence as well as an unusual gravitas for someone her age. Plus a wicked sense of humor that radiates from her like heat!

amirAmir Khalighi read the part of Captain Martin (and if you don’t recognize the name from the novel–well, I’ll explain later). He’s a wonderful actor I’ve seen in such plays as Much Ado About Nothing and Whore’s Bath. Now he’s directing a show coming up about the poet Rumi, titled Rumination. He played a crucial role in organizing the Reading, even offering up his home as possible location. We didn’t have to go that far, but the offer meant a great deal.

mark.hein002Mark Hein , who read the part of Fontaine (Laura’s father) has become a good friend. He’s been a teacher at Pierce College, a performer in dozens of plays, most recently in To Kill a Mockingbird and before that in Urban Death. He’s also directed lots of plays and will now be directing another!  He has a quiet power on stage, and it doesn’t hurt that he understood in his bones pretty much precisely what I trying to do with the script!

douglas.eamesDouglas Eames came recommended by a film director friend, and I was very much impressed. He portrayed Colonel Spielsdorf, the “vampire hunter” of the story and in many ways the spiritual ancestor of Van Helsing (Dracula was published a full quarter century after LeFanu’s work). He captured the rather tricky ‘air’ and manner of how I re-imagined Spielsdorf (as an SS Officer in 1938) extremely well.

lili.bordanLili Bordan played Laura at one point and the rest of the time she played Madame Perradon (for which she is actually far too young and glamorous). Had the enormous good fortune to see her in The Shawl by David Mamet and we had a lovely conversation about theater and acting afterwards.  Having expressed interest in my play, she ended up invited to the reading where she did a splendid job! Really. I was very impressed (but then, having seen her work, I was not surprised).

sebastian.munozSebastian Munoz is an actor and director I’ve seen before, mostly as a director for shows like Attack of the Rotting Corpses as well as Captain Dan Dixon vs. The Moth Sluts from the 5th Dimension (which was really too much fun!). His most recent performance that I’ve seen was one of an ensemble in a Poe-laden work in North Hollywood simply dubbed The Raven. Honestly I was thrilled to see it! And it hasn’t surprised me how many of his shows have ended up extended! He did a very fine job in the important role of The Peddler.

To be fair, several others helped out as well, some of them doubling for various roles. But these folks played the major roles. Others who helped out included Tyler McAuliffe, Redetha Deason and Stephanie Bergman Kalighi (the latter two beautiful women Amir and Sebastian have the incredible good luck to love and be loved in return). Tyler read Mr. Fontaine, Redetha the Countess, and Stephanie also read the Countess. Everyone did a fine job with reading, but more importantly they gave invaluable feedback. Revisions that followed–which made the play better in quite tangible ways–arose from their shared perceptions and thoughts.

Cannot thank any of them enough!