Theatre Life:
Coffins, Gravestones, and Vampires, Oh My!

student performers practice Dracula on stage as tech students look on

Get with the spooky spirit of Halloween with “Dracula” the play!

With help from directors Elisabeth Hostetter and Tom Fusco, Rowan students take on “Dracula” a theatre production telling the tale of the dramatic vampire adventure. This fast-paced adaptation is one of the most extensive and dynamic performances tackled by students on campus.

The stage is set, the lights are down and magic is in the air. With just a touch of smoke in the air, “Dracula” begins and students know they are in for a great show! The essence of “Dracula” is horror, bloody and haunting. Perfectly choreographed actors make their way on stage while their personalities and on-stage antics captivate the audience.

Stage during Dracula rehearsalThe props and costumes are a sight to see. Old styled decor, furniture and extensive walls create a realistic gothic setting for the characters to explore. The actors, dressed in vintage-style costumes, paired with the atmosphere set by lights and sound effects, set the mood for characters to really come to life for the audience.

Even days before the production went live hand-crafted, life-sized coffins lined Bunce Hall with fake blood drawing a path to the doors where the production is held. Signs painted with realistic-looking blood and strategically placed, lifesize gravestones capture the Halloween spirit. Coffin scavenger hunts sent students around campus, Glassboro and nearby Pitman while Rowan vampire actors visited events to bring excitement.

“This is the biggest, most technologically-involved show we’ve done so far. The scope we’re trying to do with lighting, sound, video, make up effects and set design—it’s a production,” Rowan professor and sound engineer David Cimetta explains.

This production is so extensive that Rowan even reached out to local professionals and brought in makeup artists from Eastern State Penitentiary’s “Terror Behind the Walls” to ensure students learn from the best and that actors are taught advanced special effects. Count Dracula looked right at home with his gothic face, mysterious cape and booming performance.

Rowan students can see shows like “Dracula” for free, with fall semester debuts beginning in mid- to late October. Click here to see the schedule for Rowan’s plays.actors on stage rehearsing Dracula

In Rowan’s oldest building, Bunce Hall built in 1923, lies 320-seat capacity Tohill Auditorium. This is just one venue where the magic happens. (And, it may or may not be haunted, we’ve heard.) From the physical crafting of the stage, designing of props and final performance, it’s all done here.

With a production that’s run 90% by students, the entire show, from planning to presentation, is crafted by students like you. Riggers, lighting techs, carpenters, costume designers, makeup artists and stage hands have to begin somewhere! Everyone has a place in theatre.

One doesn’t need to be a performing arts major to partake in the fun. Classes are offered as electives and as a part of federal work study financial aid. Don’t worry, you won’t be stuck in a classroom all day – you’ll find yourself backstage, on stage, and out in public working to finalize your project for opening day. One day you can spend time sawing, painting, and sewing creepy coffins and the next day designing the stage backgrounds.

With up to four shows a year there is always something new and fresh to be done. From practical building skills to real world scenario experiences, the entire package can be experienced in one semester.

director stands in front of Dracula signTom Fusco is the technical director, co-producer and one of the masterminds behind productions at Rowan. He not only helps with production but teaches eight sections of stagecraft fundamentals, drafting and production ensemble for theatre.

“Research, draft, build, execute and see your finished project! You learn applicable life skills, how to work within deadlines and you end with a portfolio piece,” Tom says. Students who enroll in classes get hands-on experience even at the most basic level.

If you ever daydreamed about becoming an actor, performing on stage or being a part of a production, check out our College of Performing Arts. The world of entertainment just may be for you.

By: Jen Green

Photo Credit: Jen Green

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