Northeast Times

Not a bad guy

At the Rosen­bach, a fest­iv­al shows that Drac­ula was so much more than a fel­low whose per­son­al­ity down­right sucked.

How vile can a guy get and still have a fan base?

Very vile, ac­tu­ally. Take su­premely wicked Drac­ula, for ex­ample. Cre­ated by nov­el­ist Bram Stoker in the late 19th cen­tury, the un­dead Transylvani­an count drinks blood and en­slaves minds, yet he and fic­tion­al char­ac­ters like him have so con­sist­ently fas­cin­ated us that we all prob­ably know more vam­pire lore than state cap­it­als.

So, if you’re one of the mil­lions of vam­pire afi­cion­ados, the Rosen­bach Mu­seum & Lib­rary in Cen­ter City has some good times for you this month. The small mu­seum at 20th Street and Del­an­cey Place is present­ing its ninth Drac­ula Fest­iv­al through this month. Along with Stoker’s notes for his 1897 nov­el, all things Drac­ula will be ex­plored in a series of ex­hib­its and pro­grams.

A vis­it­or to the Rosen­bach can see how per­cep­tions of the vam­pire have changed over the years. In films and on TV, we’ve seen the char­ac­ter por­trayed by a tuxedo-at­tired Bela Lugosi, who looked like he combed his hair with buttered toast, to the sexy Frank Lan­gella to the truly scary Gary Old­man to Ses­ame Street’s pup­pet The Count.

“What strikes me is how al­lur­ing Drac­ula has be­come,” said Em­ilie Park­er, the Rosen­bach’s dir­ect­or of edu­ca­tion.

That’s not how Stoker cre­ated the char­ac­ter, who was based on a real bloodthirsty, not blood­suck­ing, Transylvani­an ruler, she said. Many as­pects of Drac­ula’s powers and his weak­nesses ex­pan­ded or, in oth­er cases, dis­ap­peared soon after Stoker’s nov­el came out,  Park­er said, and wer­en’t ne­ces­sar­ily part of the ori­gin­al tale. Vam­pires cast no re­flec­tion. They can be des­troyed by wooden stakes through their hearts. They are put off by gar­lic. In Stoker’s work, Drac­ula also could ap­pear as a wolf, a power that mod­ern fans prob­ably don’t as­so­ci­ate with vam­pires.

In a phone in­ter­view last week, Park­er said she isn’t ex­actly sure what keeps us so in­ter­ested in Drac­ula, but she noted that the Rosen­bach’s fest­iv­al has something to in­trigue and en­ter­tain just about every­body. There is something for kids, fam­il­ies, schol­ars and hor­ror buffs.

Park­er re­com­mends Drac­ula D.I.Y. (Do It Your­self) on Oct. 29 as fun for kids and Drac­ula fans. It’s a free craft-mak­ing event in which par­ti­cipants will get to work on Vic­tori­an-era cloth­ing, re­lief print­ing and designs. The pro­gram also will in­clude a read­ing of Drac­ula and a Drac­ula-themed photo booth. And it’s free. Rosen­bach ad­mis­sion or­din­ar­ily is $10 for adults, $8 for seni­ors and $5 for chil­dren older than 5.

Drac­ula D.I.Y. premiered last year.

“It was a huge hit,” Park­er said, adding that Rosen­bach staff no­ticed a lot of fam­il­ies at­ten­ded. Based on that, she said, D.I.Y. has been struc­tured this year to be even more at­tract­ive to fam­il­ies. Still, Park­er be­lieves “people who are really in­to hor­ror” will en­joy Drac­ula D.I.Y., too.

Also en­ter­tain­ing, she said, is Stoker’s Drac­ula, a the­at­ric­al ad­apt­a­tion per­formed by Josh Hitchens, which will be presen­ted only on Thursday, Oct. 27. Hitchens uses much of the nov­el’s ori­gin­al text as he por­trays 14 char­ac­ters, Park­er said.

Drac­ula and Friends, which will be on dis­play un­til Nov. 6, fea­tures pages of Stoker’s hand-writ­ten re­search along with se­lec­tions of oth­er lit­er­at­ure about the su­per­nat­ur­al, in­clud­ing the mu­seum’s re­cent ac­quis­i­tion, John Polidori’s The Vampyre.

That 1819 work is the first vam­pire nov­el pub­lished in Eng­lish. ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

Drac­ula’s blood drive …

The Rosen­bach Mu­seum & Lib­rary, 200-2010 Del­an­cey Place, is present­ing its ninth An­nu­al Drac­ula Fest­iv­al through Oct. 29. Drac­ula Fest­iv­al pro­grams are free with mu­seum ad­mis­sion. Drac­ula D.I.Y. is free.

For more in­form­a­tion, call 215-732-1600 or vis­it www.rosen­bach.org

The Rosen­bach, foun­ded by broth­ers and part­ners A.S.W. and Philip Rosen­bach, looks like its neigh­bor­ing Del­an­cey Place town­houses but con­tains a col­lec­tion of rare books, manuscripts, fur­niture and art. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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