Raised in Transylvania, Romanian actor Dan Istrate grew up 30 minutes from Sighișoara, the birthplace of Vlad Tepes, who inspired the character of Count Dracula.
“That is just a coincidence — or is it?” Istrate told WTOP. “We learned bout Vlad Tepes in school. They still teach about him in history books in Romania. He was a great choice of inspiration for this very charismatic, scary character.
“When I was little, vampires didn’t exist except [in] a different myth of this flying entity that would come in the middle of the night.”
Only after moving to the United States did he discover America’s fascination with the infamous vampire.
“I was not really aware of Dracula,” Istrate said. “The actual Dracula myth I discovered only when I moved to the U.S. honestly. I would say, ‘I’m from Transylvania’ and people would be like, ‘Oh, Dracula,’ and I was like, ‘What?’ Then I read the book and I saw the movies.”
Now, he is starring in “Dracula” at Synetic Theater in Crystal City, Virginia, through Nov. 6.
“It’s a retelling of the famous story based on the novel by Bram Stoker,” Istrate said. “We are telling this story with the original way of Synetic Theatre — a lot of stylized movement, choreography and of course music will be used to retell this famous story.”
Not only is the role deliciously unsettling on stage, it also is unlocking the playful side of audience members who ask him to pose for photos biting their necks.
“It’s such a fun role to play!” Istrate said. “Even though he’s so dark and spooky and frightening to everyone else, I feel like he’s just having fun. I think he’s acting out fantasies that we all repress as human beings.”
Director Paata Tsikurishvili stages a minimal set with sophisticated costumes that are “more Gothic rather than Victorian, so maybe a little bit more modern streak to this adaptation,” Istrate said. “There’s going to be epic scenes, big battle scenes intertwined with very intimate, almost close-up-like scenes between Dracula and his victims.”
In addition to the performance, fans can enjoy the Vampire Ball on Friday, Oct. 28.
“It’s a great party, a great opportunity for people to dress up, mingle with the actors and creators of the show and have a glass of wine — or, you know, blood, whatever you’re into.”
The Vampire Ball costs $115 with proceeds going to arts and education programs.
Tickets to the play at Synetic Theater, at 1800 South Bell St. in Crystal City, are $25.