December 14, 2023


Interview: Andrew Keenan-Bolger of 'Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors' (Cosmic Cafe)

Hosted by

Brian Kitson
Interview: Andrew Keenan-Bolger of 'Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors' (Cosmic Cafe)
The Cosmic Curtain
Interview: Andrew Keenan-Bolger of 'Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors' (Cosmic Cafe)

Dec 14 2023 | 00:21:22


Show Notes

Dracula, perhaps the most well-known vampire of all time, has been around since the late 1890s when Bram Stoker put pen to paper. The story, set in Victorian England, explored topics of gender, sexuality, and race, through the lens of a time long past. Well, Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen are looking at them through a different lens this time, in their sexy and hilarious play, Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors!

The 90-minute play is currently running at the New World Stages for a few more weeks (final performance is January 7).  I recently sat down with one of the stars, Andrew Keenan-Bolger to chat about it. In the interview, Keenan-Bolger reveals some of the challenges, and even more of the fun, that Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors has provided him since he was cast as Jonathan Harker. The star also shares some highlights of his long career on the stage and looks forward to what 2024 will be bringing!


Host: Brian Kitson

Theme: "Coffee and You" by Vladislav Kurnikov via Pixabay.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: Welcome to the Cosmic Cafe, the companion podcast to I'm Brian Kitson, and we have an exciting interview for you today. Dracula, a comedy of terrors, is currently playing at the new world stages in New York City, but only for a few weeks more. I had a chance to not only see the show, but speak with Andrew Keenan Bulger, one of the stars of the play. In this interview, we explore his time in the production from audition to now, some of the changes and updates to the classic Dracula tale, and also look towards what 2024 may bring him and his career. Enjoy. [00:00:47] Speaker B: There. Andrew, thank you so much for joining us today. First off, I was able to come and see the show. I flew in from Michigan this weekend, and I was able to go to the Saturday show Dracula, a comedy of terrors, and it was amazing, and I really appreciate the opportunity to come and see it. I just want to start off by asking you if you could just tell me how you kind of got the gig or how you started the process or what kind of drew you to Dracula. Sure thing. [00:01:11] Speaker C: Well, first of all, thank you for coming and checking us out. Yeah. So I got involved with this project earlier this year. I'd been a big fan of Steve Rosen and Gordon Grieberg, who are the director co writers of Dracula Comedy of Terrors. And I actually got asked to audition for a different show that they were doing in California and wasn't able to make that one work with my schedule. But when this came up, they were like, you know, this part actually was envisioned differently, but we'd love to see what your take on it might be. And so they asked me to come and audition and, yeah, ended up booking it. It was a real blessing to come at that time of year and have been doing it ever since. [00:02:08] Speaker B: That's so awesome. Do you know how it was kind of envisioned beforehand and how it changed when you took over the role? [00:02:13] Speaker C: Yeah, I think just physically, I think the character was very different. They'd done a couple productions of it prior to it opening in New York, and I think the character was very tall and lanky, and I think once I got cast, they really played up the sort of size differential from me. And James, who plays Dracula, he is fully a foot taller than me. And so just in a lot of the staging of it, it became like a bit of a kind of sight gag that we would get to play off of. Also, the story evolved to be a bit more queer, which was something that they had been wanting to do, just because the story of Dracula. That is sort of inherent in it. Also, Bram Stoker, the author, while he probably did not have the language for it back then, probably would have identified as queer. He had some letter writing courtships that were sort of discovered after the fact. And there's a lot of just sort of, like, queer references throughout the book that they wanted to play with. And casting me as an openly gay actor, they're like, this might be a fun opportunity to get to play around with that within the story of Dracula and make it be really a true kind of love triangle between Dracula, myself, and my fiance, Lucy. [00:03:48] Speaker B: Absolutely. I've read a long time ago, but there is a lot of those queer undertones to the story, and so to see those kind of played up on stage was really awesome. So can you just kind of give us a rundown of the characters or characters you play? Because you do play quite a few different ones. There's a lot of costume changes and stuff on the stage, which was super cool to see. And obviously the first one kind of being. [00:04:13] Speaker C: Yeah, yeah, I think I play eight different characters throughout the show. Yeah, my main one is John Harker, who, anyone who's familiar with the Dracula sort of lore is the person who first comes and meets Dracula and brings him to England. And, yeah, I'm in a love triangle between my fiance Lucy and Count Dracula. And then I also play, like, two suitors. The boson of a ship, a grave digger. Yeah, it's kind of a mile a minute performance. All five of the cast members, other than Dracula, we all play multiple characters. So we're running off stage, throwing on a hat, coming on as someone different. It is an exhausting, but ultimately, I think, really satisfying evening of theater that we get to do every night. [00:05:15] Speaker B: You said fast paced, and even for the audience, 90 minutes, it flew by, and the costume changes and the character switches were some of the most exciting parts. I mean, the whole thing was exciting, but when you came out with the two suitors, that audience roared with laughter, and I think that from that moment on, they were 100% sold. [00:05:34] Speaker C: Yeah, it's hard to phone in a performance when you have an audience as engaged as the ones we've had on Dracula. So it's been just really a nice treat as a performer, getting to be in a show that I think is so funny and is so well crafted and that audiences seem to be loving. [00:05:56] Speaker B: Absolutely. You have done a lot of different characters across Broadway. When my friend found out I was interviewing you, I think he about died because he's loved, you know, and I've been laughing, which is one of my favorite know, so you played all these different incredible characters. Have you had a favorite that you, you know, harker, or is there someone else that you really are drawn, man. [00:06:18] Speaker C: I think, you know, when I really loved just the experience of being in newsies, and it was something that I got to be involved in from the very beginning, from the very first reading of it, and at the time, the character of crutchy, it was, like, a pretty small part, and it really was not fleshed out beyond sort of the character in the movie. And I think I was lucky enough that I had a good relationship with the folks at Disney theatricals. I was currently, at the time, I was in another one of their shows in Mary Poppins, and I feel like, definitely became a big advocate for that character and would try and ask questions throughout the process. And over the course of a bunch of readings, I found that my part got bigger and bigger, and that a lot of the attributes that I wanted to bring to him early on kind of ended up getting written into the show. So it was just a really satisfying. By the time that we landed on Broadway, I felt like I took a lot of pride in getting to play him every night, and knowing that while I didn't certainly write anything, that knowing that the writers had me in mind the whole time and were sort of crafting it around my strengths and the ideas that I was bringing to the table, it was just incredibly satisfying and something that I look on with admiration always. [00:07:56] Speaker B: It sounds like it was a really collaborative approach in developing that character. [00:08:00] Speaker C: Yeah, it was so nice. Anytime that you get to be involved early on in the project, I always think, as an actor, that is such a gift, because you end up bringing a lot of yourself to it. And every night when you step on stage, I think it makes the work a lot less hard to sort of transform yourselves if you have been able to show up in the development, so that by the time you're walking onto the stage, you can really ultimately be a version of yourself for sure. [00:08:37] Speaker B: Absolutely. So then how does maybe prepping for some of these other characters that you played compared to prepping for this one in Dracula? [00:08:45] Speaker C: Totally. This is very different. A lot of it is knowing that I was playing multiple characters. It was figuring out how I can really differentiate all of these people so it's not confusing to the audience. A lot of it was honestly vocal work. It was looking at what kind of accents each of these characters would have. They're all from a different region, which I think was a good starting point, and figuring out how they spoke was a good way of differentiating them and then figuring out their kind of physicality. If this one holds himself up very prim, proper, if this one is sort of hunched over, figuring out that kind of vocabulary, it's unlike anything I've ever done. And definitely, I think my bachelor's of fine arts education really came into play in ways that I was really thankful for. Also, I went to Michigan, so fellow michigander here, I found that out as. [00:09:47] Speaker B: I was doing the research, and I was just know, that is super cool to see someone from the mitten state make it in doing a successful show. That's. I mean, this shows on TikTok all the time and instagram, and I've seen it everywhere, and everybody seems to love it. So that's really. [00:10:05] Speaker C: Yeah, yeah. I have tremendous pride for my home state and for my home city of Detroit. So any chance I can do my state in my hometown proud, I'm always happy. [00:10:20] Speaker B: That's fantastic. You mentioned about the accents and having I've known about you for a long time, I follow you on instagram and stuff like that. And when you came on stage and you had a very british accent, and I was like, did I miss something here? And you did excellent work with every character did have a very distinct personality and accent. And I think that I was amazed at how I've seen some other shows, and there's not always as the accents don't come as easy. And you did like a fantastic job switching between them. [00:10:52] Speaker C: Thank you so much. Honestly, accents have never been my strength. It's a class I took in college that I did not excel in. And I think for the show, just because it was being put up pretty quickly, I think I had like 2 hours with our dialects person, but it was a lot of practice and trying to listen back to myself and be like, that doesn't sound right. Yeah. So thank you. That actually means a lot to me because oftentimes, especially when I'm playing the three suitors, I'm bouncing between three different accents, basically line to line. And I admit I have a couple of times said the wrong suit with the wrong accent, and you're like, oh, well, whoops. That'll happen. Sometimes it happens. [00:11:44] Speaker B: I mean, that's why no one noticed. Well, if you did it at ours, nobody noticed at all. They were all loving it way too much. But I'm sure that has to be very challenging, having to switch between accents. I've heard that that's hard, especially in people who are doing shows or, I mean, television shows, they have to stop and reset and stuff. And you just were switching between them within seconds. [00:12:07] Speaker C: Yeah, no stopping on off Broadway if we mess up and just keep going. [00:12:13] Speaker B: So for you, what has maybe been a challenge with the show or something that you've been really gratifying, that has been gratifying about this experience for you? [00:12:22] Speaker C: Sure. Honestly, I think the most challenging thing is, I think, energy and the routine of doing a long run. We started rehearsals for this back in August, and we're closing in January, so it's been a fairly long run, and we're having to do the same show eight times a week, and it's a physically demanding show. I sort of thought getting to do a play rather than a musical, I was really looking forward to it, just thinking that that is going to be easier on my body, but my energy reserves, I really do have to protect them to make sure that I can get through the show every night. So that's definitely been a challenge. It's also, I think, especially as we are nearing the end of our run, something that I've been proud of. No one in our cast has missed a show yet. We've all shown up and given it our all every single day, and still, I think, managed to keep the show fresh and feeling funny and allowing ourselves to try out some new things throughout the run and making sure that it crackles in the same way that it did when we first opened. [00:13:35] Speaker B: Sure. Has it changed since you first opened? Like, has there been changes over time? [00:13:40] Speaker C: It's funny, I always have a hard time sort of gauging how different things are because things are so incremental in how you're saying a line or maybe how you're responding to something where it does not feel super different. But I am sure oftentimes I will see because our stuff goes viral on TikTok all the time and they'll show an old clip from the show, and I'm like, oh, God. Yeah, I guess I did say that line very differently from how I say it now, but I think while you're in it, it's just trying to respond in a natural way, which ultimately it shifts just a tiny bit every single night. [00:14:21] Speaker B: Sure. Absolutely. With the show, you get to play two versions of Jonathan. You get to play the nervous, anxious one, and then also the less reserved one towards the end. Do you have a favorite one that you like to play more than the other? [00:14:38] Speaker C: Yeah, I like playing sexy harker. It's fun, especially as someone who is I'm a short guy. I'm five foot four. Those are not any kind of personality traits that anyone has ever asked me to bring to a project, being, like, hyper masculine, kind of, like, douchey, sexy himbo guy. So I just have a lot of fun sort of sending up those kind of attributes. When I was trying to figure out how I should play him, I actually watched, because it's hard to watch. Let me think of the people who are hyper, hyper masculine. And I was having trouble finding anyone who was finding references that totally made sense for that. I ended up finding, I think, my biggest inspiration from watching drag kings who are women dressing up as men. And I found that they really perform gender in a way that is really interesting, that can sometimes be funny, sometimes be a critique, and sometimes just be, like, a realistic impersonation. And I found that they were doing just really funny, exaggerated, fun things that I may have borrowed a little bit from some awesome drag kings on YouTube just watching stuff. And then also watching, I watched a lot of videos of exotic male dancers from Las Vegas shows and picked up some of their moves and just some of their mannerisms, things that I don't think any real men actually act like. But it is sort of filtered through the media lens of, like, this is what male masculinity performance looks like. And I try to implement that every night. And while also absolutely poking fun at the ridiculousness of it, that was one. [00:16:40] Speaker B: Of the awesome parts of the show, is that you had a lot of this commentary through the lens of the 18 hundreds, and one of them was using drag and stuff like that, and using this exaggerated performance of sexy harker, as you call them. And it was great. It was fantastic. It was exactly, I think, the callbacks that we needed to be like, yeah, sometimes things are not always so great. [00:17:07] Speaker C: It has been really fun. We play with gender a ton. A lot of actors are at times playing gender representations that are different than their own, and especially with the kind of, like, stilted victorian language and just expectations of both men and women at that time. When delivered through woman playing a man playing a woman playing a man, I think the commentary resonates in an even more interesting way that can really poke fun at some of the ridiculous social norms of the time, some of which still exist today. [00:17:51] Speaker B: Absolutely. And also, for your hunt show, you actually have some relatives of Bram Stoker in attendance. What was that like for you? [00:17:57] Speaker C: Yeah, that was wild. So Daker Stoker, who is, I believe, his great Bram stoker's great grand nephew, came and checked us out. And he has gone on to be both, like a scholar of his great grandfather once removed. I can't figure out that genealogy, but has also written, I think, like a couple books, one that is like a prequel to Dracula that has been super well regarded in the literary world. So it was fascinating to meet him, and he was so effusive in his praise, in that his family just really loves seeing how creative people have gotten with this story and that comedy is absolutely a really fun venue and that his family would have just loved every moment of this, which was pretty cool. [00:18:59] Speaker B: Absolutely. I know we're getting close to time, but I was just wondering, with the show closing up soon, what's next on your docket? What's 2024 look like for you? [00:19:08] Speaker C: Yeah, I'm lucky enough I'm going into start another playoff Broadway. I don't think it's been announced yet, so I can't say anything. But yeah, I'm doing a play. I think I'm directing my first feature film at the end of 2024, which I'm really excited about. And actually, I have a book coming out that I recently sold, so all of them forthcoming. If you follow me on Instagram, I will be quite shameless in letting the world know about all these many things that I'm really looking forward to in the new year. [00:19:50] Speaker B: Of course, as you should, you have a lot to look forward to, and we are all looking forward to seeing where it goes. And as well, I hope that the last couple of weeks in your show, Dracula comedy of terrors is as exciting as the time I got to enjoy. [00:20:03] Speaker C: Oh, thank you so much. [00:20:05] Speaker B: Thank you so much for your time and I appreciate talking to you. [00:20:08] Speaker C: Of course, it was my pleasure, Brian. And thank you for coming and checking us out. [00:20:12] Speaker B: Absolutely. Take care. [00:20:14] Speaker C: See ya. Have a good one. [00:20:15] Speaker A: Thank you for listening to this episode of the Cosmic Cafe. You can find the companion article for this podcast along with all the other news for those who like superheroes, science fiction and fantasy films, Tv shows and other [email protected]. Have a great day.

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