A Scottish vampire on a boat

While drama students study the classics all year at the University of Minnesota, the biggest dose of theatrical reality for many of them comes in the shape of melodrama on an old boat.

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Chelzie Newhard practices an entrance from the ceiling as Emily Grodnik bows. “The Vampire!” begins its run on Friday, June 15 and ends Aug. 25 at the Minnesota Showboat on St. Paul’s Harriet Island.

MPR Photo/Euan Kerr

MPR’s Euan Kerr paid a visit to the cast and crew of “The Vampire” where he found out they’re learning some serious theatrical lessons.

Scene designer Meg Kissel met one challenge head on as she cut a trapdoor in the stage. Working on a boat she knew there wasn’t much room for error.

“It didn’t sink!” she said. “We did puncture something and a little geyser happened and we were worried it was going to sink for a second.”

There are challenges for the actors too. In addition to learning lines, and perfecting scene changes, they deal with things that could only happen on a boat: noise from passing barges and logs floating under the hull.

“You just hear thud! Bump, bump, bump,” said actor Ryan Colbert. “It really is a shock at first, but then … it’s fine.”

Colbert plays Lord Ruthven the vampire. This is his second production on the Showboat. He is a BFA acting student at the university, as is Joseph Pyfferoen who takes the role of the vampire’s foe Lord Ronald. Pyfferoen admits this play leans more on spectacle than fact.

“Set in Scotland where there is absolutely no history of vampires whatsoever,” he said. “It’s quite interesting seeing a Scottish vampire in a kilt.”

Find out more about “The Vampire” – and what the students are learning about melodrama – here.

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