Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Planche's The Vampire (1820)

New Old Theater's next project is a staged reading of The Vampire, written by J.R. Planche and first performed in 1820. This play was written in the High Gothic tradition, with thunderstorms, castles, moonlit nights, a beautiful emperiled virgin, and a Byronic protagonist, Lord Ruthven (the th is silent). The play's pedigree, in fact, leads back directly to Lord Byron himself: Planche adapted a French play Le Vampire by Charles Nodier, which was taken from Dr. John Polidori's story. Polidori was Lord Byron's doctor and a member of the fateful ghost story contest at Lake Geneva in 1816, hosted by Lord Byron, where he heard Mary Shelley's germ of Frankenstein, and Byron's Vampire tale, later embroidered by Polidori and published as his own. The story was sited in Greece (hence the subtitle, The Bride of the Isles), but the English theater owner had an abundance of Scottish costumes, due to the popularity of the Waverley novels, and no Greek ones, so the Vampire became a haunter of the Highlands (see above illustration, taken from the production itself by George Cruikshank).

N.O.T. will be performing at Riversdale House in Riversdale, Maryland, on Friday, 24 October, 2008; the original songs will be performed as part of the play. Click here to buy tickets. Also Saturday, October 25th at the Time and Tide Theater at the Fell’s Point Visitor Center, 1724 Thames Street, Baltimore (Click here, and Thursday, October 30th at The Flag House and Star Spangled Banner Museum, 844 East Pratt Street, Baltimore (email