“Dracula Bites” rehearsals commence at Pioneer Playhouse

Published 7:20 am Saturday, June 4, 2022

By: Jared Darwish

“Dracula Bites” will serve as the opening show for the Pioneer Playhouse 73rd season. The opening performance begins what will be an extremely busy schedule for the playhouse as it is the first of four plays the venue will put on this summer.

Opening night will be on June 10 and the show will run through July 2. The playhouse is taking yet another big step in moving past the COVID-19 pandemic, as masks will no longer be required for guests. However, due to the number of senior patrons, the venue will still be adhering to some social distancing rules for outdoor seating.

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The debut of Dracula Bites is bittersweet for Managing Director Heather Henson, who lost her sister in the same year this play was last performed at the playhouse 10 years ago.

Despite this, Henson is still extremely excited for the reopening of the theater. “Coming to the Pioneer Playhouse is a very personal experience, and we are excited to give people a sense of community again when we open for the summer,” she said.

With only 10 days to prepare and opening night approaching rapidly, the cast have kicked rehearsals into high gear. However, the process has run smoothly thanks to the cast’s “open-mindedness and ability to learn quickly,” said Brittany Voll.

Voll is a local actress who has acted at the playhouse before. In Dracula Bites, Voll will portray Mora Pastel, who plays the role of the director’s wife. Voll is a young actress who got into acting early on in life.

“Ever since I started, I’ve felt like acting was what I was put on this earth to do,” Voll said. “My whole life I’ve had a great passion for entertaining people and making them laugh so that’s why I do it.”

The rated G play is family friendly and showcases a variety of on-stage personalities that will engage the audience. Dracula Bites is a play about a small-town community theatre putting on a serious version of the Dracula story, and failing in funny ways. It is something that will be “fun for both the actors and audience to partake in,” said Director Robby Henson.

“A big spectacle” is how Henson described the production and said, “what excites me most is that we’re creating something that the audience will really love because it is a perfect mix of funny and smart.”

Two characters fans are bound to love are Flora Robinson and Sarah Jenkins, played by traveling actor and new Danville native, Erika Lee Sengstack.

After living in New York for 11 years and coming back to the Pioneer Playhouse frequently over eight years, Sengstack has officially made the move to Danville permanently.

Sengstack talked about how much she loved the playhouse and its uniqueness, which is one of the main reasons for her relocation.

“Pioneer Playhouse is one of the most unique places to act in my opinion because it’s a perfect combination of family, professionalism, art, and great history all wrapped up into one, and that’s rare to find all four things together in this industry,” Sengstack said.

All in all the cast features a full range of actors young and old ranging from late teens to early 50s. With only a handful of days left until showtime, the cast is working overtime to put on a show that all will enjoy.

Tickets for adults are $20 while children 12 and under can get in for $12. A $2 discount per ticket also applies for groups of more than 10 coming to the show.

Those unable to make the first production of the year at the playhouse have a variety of options for shows later this summer.

After the Dracula Bites series ends July 2, the productions of “Southern Fried Nuptials,” “Cockeyed,” and “Elvis and Patsy Cline” will be shown from July 5 to August 13. Each play besides “Elvis and Patsy Cline’’ will run for two weeks or longer, so fans of the Pioneer Playhouse will have plenty of time to schedule a visit.

Pioneer Playhouse is located at 840 Stanford Road in Danville. Showtimes for “Dracula Bites” and all play productions throughout summer start at 8:30 p.m. For ticket purchasing, venue details, and more, fans can go to Pioneer Playhouse – Theater Under the Stars or call their office at 859-236-2747.