Vampyr Theatre - How Does that Grab You? Io Interviews Playwrite Tony Sokol
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How Does that Grab You?
Savoir Scare, Sartorial Splendor & Sanguine Satire
by Iona Miller, CHT, Oct. 2010
Desperately seeking that ever-elusive interview with a "true" vampyr, today the NYC personals are filled with ads from would-be reporters on the cultural phenomenon. NYC musician Tony Sokol beat the bloody stampede and might consider it "oh so Last Century." He's "been there and done that."
But how do you get "proof of life" from the Undead? What kind of a life is it to make acute awareness of death a priority? Shamans and healers share such obsessions with outlaw mystics. But it is a life in the borderlands of experience.
Castenda suggested living life with death on your shoulder. If we are ever in doubt about what to do, we look to our right shoulder to our higher self. If we remain in doubt about whether or not to take some action, we look to our left shoulder and see death sitting there waiting to take us. That is a stark reminder that we are human beings and we must act immediately lest death take us. But the undead have a radically different point of view on the whole matter. Death is the Hunter.
Tony Sokol can arguably be characterized by Don Juan's description of a warrior: "A detached man, who knows he has no possibility of fending off his death, has only one thing to back himself with: the power of his decisions. He has to be, so to speak, the master of his choices. He must fully understand that his choice is his responsibility and once he makes it there is no longer time for regrets or recriminations. He decisions are final, simply because death does not permit him time to cling to anything. . . . The knowledge of his death guides him and makes him detached and silently lusty; the power of his final decisions makes him able to choose without regrets and what he chooses is always strategically the best; and so he performs everything he has to with gusto and lusty efficiency." Whatever befell him was his own choice.
Iona: I grew up on matinee horror flicks and the fantastic monster mags that glorified their producers and the illusions they spin. I did the Monster Mash with Bobby Boris Picket at my LA high school basketball game. So, it isn't surprising I've been fascinated with the Vampyre Theatre for as long as I've known its creator Tony Sokol. It just sounded so damned fun, at the bleeding edge.
He wanted to discuss the nuances of hypnosis and its bipolar effects for good and ill. He realized the hypnotist and the vampyr have much in common; both are tricksters who can see into the dark recesses of the human condition and tweak what is found. Drama is co-existent with our primal being. Cave, womb, and tomb are symbolically synonymous. If the author is a shaman, the script is a teacher. Usually the theatre is concrete and immediate though real consequences are non-existent. Or, are they?
ART IS RITUAL & RITUAL IS ART
Tony and I have explored a bit of moral relativism, shadowy sentiments, Jungian thought, inductions, symbolic semantics, psychic abilities and therapeutic techniques from clinical hypnotherapy over the years. We've argued the pros and cons of suggestion, hypnotics, deprogramming and mind control. We've discussed clinical aspects of DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), metaphor therapy, erotic hypnosis and extraordinary human potential. Undeniably, there is real evil in the world. America is a vampiric corporate culture, sucking the life blood out of the Third World. But the lifestyle phenomenon is best described, undoubtedly, by those immersed in its doleful drama. No Hell or Satanism required.
Sokol has interviewed over 300 self-styled vampyres, including a handful who's seeming paranormal qualities or youthful appearance he could not account for. They stimulate a fount of ideas for scripts. Most vampyres, claims Sokol, are fans indulging in subculture and what we euphemistically call "lifestyle," but it is closer to a "deathstyle" -- or life in the stylistic trappings of death. But his work also surfaced victims of abuse who sought his help and support.
Growing up in a Sicilian family, Tony knows an evil eye when he sees one. He understands some self-styled Vamps are more pathological than others. He also knows there are many toxic people out there that wouldn't call themselves vampires but behave according to that script. Even though he means them no harm, it is a sine qua non that vampire hunters remain fearless. Hence, his own is a dark-adapted third eye. To survive you have to trust your visceral felt-sense. What else is new in NYC?
FACING THE SHADOW
High Weirdness is on the rise like a Harvest Moon. One needs mad skills to get by in the Big City. It's "eat or be eaten.
In some of our correspondence Tonyspoke about rescuing survivors and sex-slaves.
Tony: I have no trauma in my background, until I met the people with DID when I was doing Vampyr Theatre. I was brought into their inner landscapes. That was trauma. I wouldn't be as empathic as I am with the abused if it weren't for that.
I had a similar experience doing sexual abuse hypnotherapy for years. I heard stories I could never have imagined.
I've been following the arc of "survivors" in the news. I find it interesting how their stories are filtering through to mainstream media. With specials on Biography and the History channels. When I was first approached by survivors, I had no idea such things existed. Oh, I had the book CIA: Operation Mind Control (by Walter Bowart also of the East Village Other) - but it didn't get into the people who were talking to me. I sometimes wonder if my putting them so heavily in Vampyr Theatre somehow further enabled this to become more known. And all of it started for me with a pamphlet slid under my door at 3 in the morning. I'd made Illuminati references way back when. Then the only people I knew who wrote about it were Robert Anton Wilson and Bill Cooper - who I spoke to only once.
"You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," a play I wrote after Vampyr Theatre, was much more specific. Named corporations. It was published in its entirety in a defense law journal. I'd been given papers by people who were institutionalized and passed them on to other people.
MIND CONTROL COUNTERMEASURES
It's been so long since I was contacted by such trauma-based survivors - and yet I am still triggered by their language and become very protective of them. Why does this fascinate me so much and why am I so willing and eager to explore these dark things, even in myself? I think we spoke on this (CIA mind control experiments) - and I also spoke with Mark Philips () about it. I'd heard from many different sources that people involved in MK Ultra and related projects were allowed, even encouraged, to take many different drugs, like LSD, cocaine and heroine - but were not allowed to take marijuana - does marijuana affect ?
When I first read Trance Formation of America - before I got in touch with Cathy and Mark - I didn't believe that everyone who was named could be involved. For those who don't know, Cathy O'Brien is the only vocal and recovered survivor of the CIA's MK-Ultra Project Monarch operation. Cathy was rescued and deprogrammed from being a mind control slave by Mark. The book traces her path from child pornography and recruitment into the program to serving as a top-level intelligence agent and White House sex slave, TRANCE FORMATION of America is a definitive eye-witness account of government corruption that implicates some of the most prominent figures in U.S. politics.
I have since talked to quite a few people who underwent training that involved trips to Disneyworld - now, this doesn't mean that everyone who watches a Disney film is a victim - but I will say that I thought more than twice about showing my kids Disney films - I wasn't afraid to show them the Wizard of Oz - it's an SRA (Satanic Ritual Abuse) trigger, not general trigger - and of course they love it - but it will always be in the back of my head.
Even "The Simpsons" noted that there were only two people born with the "evil gene:" and .
My family said that long before I was aware of the existence of SRAs - but we really thought we were joking.
Io: I have another friend who is a broadcaster now but was an adopted DID mind control vic. After years of maladaption, he made trips to South America to heal with ayahuasca, which was the only treatment he found that worked. The same is true for another dissociative I know who was forced to be a Headhunter of Viet Cong generals when he was in Spec Ops. Naturally the hometeam tried to snuff him once the tour of duty was over. He found kinship on the Native American Red Road, since they had experience dealing with the spiritual healing of warriors. Vision quests and Sundance have helped. Only peer therapy works. Conventional therapy can be worse than useless, especially if the traumas were initiated by so-called mental health professionals or authority figures. The trauma keeps happenING in the inner world of these vics and that is the source of the dissociation beyond programming for it. Dissociation, even into multiple personalities is the only escape.
In your own work you must have seen plenty of heavy gravitational weirdos, cult headtrips and brainwashing effects such as Stockholm Syndrome -- or shall we say, "Stalk-home"? I've had a fascination with TI's - Targeted Individuals who claim they are gang-stalked and suffer electronic and other harassment. It is very difficult to separate their self-reports from those of the mentally ill. Yet most, like abductees, appear normal except for their TI ideation. We've speculated about doing mutual hypnosis over Skype and other apps -- sort of Skypnosis. What other kinds of inductions do you like, Tony, besides the naturalistic utilization you pulled on the psychic?
I know you work with NLP hypnotist Elena Bellof and play music together sometimes. Do you use trancing drums and tones in your music with that intentionality? Is it more Ericksonian, subtle stuff, pacing and leading? Direct gaze? Have you ever done street hypnosis for guerrilla theater or otherwise? Do you have any issues about monkeying with someone's falsely so-called True Will? Did you consider planting cultural memes with your theater? Are you working on any scripts now besides the "Joe Gallo" story?
Tony: The hypnosis in Vampyr Theatre was more like what's called Gypsy hypnosis. It's in the Russian papers now on the internet, but then, I knew the Gypsies that tried that. I want to write one about a Gypsy who's predictions come true. To even her own surprise. She becomes a guru at the end of the world. The more she says the more happens, you just want her to shut up.
I was walking around the city and went to a storefront psychic - was there for - literally - over two hours. She was telling me about a curse I had to remove - at a cost of just $696. Numerologically, a good number. She said that in a past life I was a very powerful healer and magician - yada yada. But, not wanting to spend this numerologically charged $696, I pressed her on why I had this curse - and she said I had gifts of my own - and that I used them in a past life to get a woman to sleep with me - and her husband put the curse on me. I pushed it further and asked which gifts - and she said mind control - so - I used that. I hypnotized her using just her superstition. After two hours I walked out of there without paying a penny - not even for the original $10 reading. She believed I could, so I could.
The Confusion Technique is very useful. You can scramble a person's eggs before they realize it's happening. It works better on the highly intelligent than many techniques. Charismatic personalities and recruiters seem to intuitively employ such methods to create a fascination or [false] 'glamour.' Gypsy hypnosis is implicated in street crime. A handshake becomes a shakedown. A pattern interruption in a familiar act makes the mind go blank and suggestible. Naturally, predatory hypnosis is opportunistic and naturalistic. Opportunism and exploitative rapport techniques are hermetic as symbolized by the tarot trump "The Magician." Hermes was an archetypal thief. Actually, there is a whole technology that can hack human software programming, including mirroring, pacing and leading and pattern interrupt.
I never thought about inductions as a kind. I make up everything as I go along. Isn't hypnosis a con we play on ourselves? I had a lot of misconceptions until I did research for a series of interviews I did with my friend Elena, who's a hypnotherapist and a filmmaker, now making a documentary on hypnosis. I like psychic manipulation. Good enough for Bela, Christopher Lee, Conrad Veidt and Lara Parker. I wrote stage hypnosis for Vampyr Theatre, but ultimately it's the hypnotic power of the sociopathological psyche. I like the hypnosis of the deer in the headlights. The hypnosis of the rubbernecker looking at a car wreck. Especially if it causes another crash. You need the payoff. We keep driving and we get sapped out of the payoff. Well, sometimes, but then it's usually you. I find hypnosis to be vaguely arousing, but I don't go for the whole hypnofetish thing - not at all into pain, humiliation or the S&M overtones. Even though Vampyr Theatre started in S&M clubs - well, except the fashion - love leather. Vampyr Theare played more into the fantasies of a trance addict - but I include recreational drugs, shamanism and so many other things in that. Hypnosis is just a small part of it.
I'm working with Elena again on her new documentary on hypnosis and helping out with the showings of Zaritsas, her documentary on how Russian immigrant women are seen as golddiggers, which I did some music for. I'm working with DJ Beatz on some music and I'm playing around with the second of what will be my gangster trilogy. And trying to sell Jukebox King, the documentary on "Crazy" Joe, "Kid Blast" and Larry Gallo. If you know anyone in the market...
LET'S DO THE MINDWARP AGAIN
The "Clark Kent" of Corpus Delecti, up-front Tony seems like a mild-mannered musician who has a healthy interest in family life and bettering his corner of the world, but he also has a wry edge and keen sense of cultural commentary that is the mark of a true artist. He's written and produced many plays and events other than Vampyre Theatre, but none have gotten as much ink as this perennial topic, which like its protagonist, just won't die. He understands the murky interface between Mystery and the Macabre. There will be gore.
Sokol knows how to set the stage and let the participants' imaginations take it from there. He understands the power of suggestion. He has taken the throbbing pulse of the public and driven it higher. He did it by turning the tables on dinner theatre, making the customer into the entree for walking dread by beating down the fourth wall with bat wings. He must have a wicked sense of humor to pen such black comedy. The irony is he is truly a "gentle-man."
Tony, you're a composer, a bass player, vocalist. I associate you mostly with your music, some of which amplifies vampiric themes - Bloodletting, Vampire Dreams, etc. How did you weave your music into the shows without getting into the kitsch of "the musical"?
I was mainly a musician when I started writing Vampyr Theatre, but it wasn't at all a musical. Not like"AssassiNation: We Killed JFK," which was a rock opera. But I wrote the music to Vampyr Theatre first, the incidental music, and then wrote the lyrics, the actual plays, after based on the rising and falling of the music I wrote, which, more often than not, the directors didn't use. Dinner theater would have been interesting. I'd have loved to see people trying to eat while we did our thing all over them, especially in the splatter section. We were too impolite. We ate instread. But we would have shared.
Q. New York City has a long tradition of performance art that blurs the line between actors and audience. I wonder what the relatively new and controversial discipline of Performance Theory would say about your productions? Does the audience want ideology or an IV? After multiple performances, what is your perception of the audience desires? Why is the vampire the Spirit of our times? Life & Death is the Primal Drama, but what mysteries lie in between? Are vampires the emotional equivalent of psychological Dark Matter & Energy? Are we just part of their dream?
Vampires don't dream, so that would be pretty limiting for us. We were pretty undisciplined. I was anyway. Most of the actors were actors and were schooled in whatever acting technique they were schooled in. I tried to slip some vampires into the cast. Occasionally it worked.
I watched the audience change. Some people were regulars and over the year I'd see them change their style of dress and makeup. I watched the audience go Goth. Then I watched them go vampire. I loved the people who walked out because they were offended. The ones who yelled at me about Jesus. The exit counselors and cops I could have done without, but that never got out of hand and I protected the performers from it. Mostly. One exit counselor hijacked one of my actors.
How does the counterpoint of comedy balance the dark forces with a broken-down ritual plot? After all, tragedy for the human may be comedic to the predator. What part did improvisation play in your productions? Music? Athletics? Weren't you in some sense 'playing with' or orchestrating your audience with your dynamic images? What do you think is the perennial attraction of these dark characters? What is the meaning of the fatal attraction, demonic psychic possession, that utterly saps vitality? Numerous Jungian analogies have been drawn between vampires and addiction. Even some alien reports have vampiric features. Our society is addictive, greedy. Is that noticeably reflected in our literature and films?
I don't know how much of a balance it provided. The humor was as dark and nasty as what we passed for horror. In a bad review we got at the time, someone said we were just a bunch of one-liners. Sadly, the directors only tolerated improv from themselves and me. And me only because they had no choice. Sometimes the actors had no choice because they had to respond to the audience, who were invited there to participate. I don't think films show us as greedy as we really are. Selfish, but not greedy. There's no mirror big enough to reflect that reality. Especially when most films are paid for by rich corporate conglomerates. We're attracted to them because they're free to do what they wanted without fear of morality or consequence or even death.
It is easy to see why each man kills the things he loves. To know a living thing is to kill it...
To try to know a living being is to try to suck the life out of that being.
The temptation of the vampire fiend, is this knowledge.
The desirous consciousness, the spirit, is a vampire. --D.H. Laurence
The vampire myth describes, above all, an aberrant transfer of energy of vitality. How is it that lovers, artists, parents, the insane, trade energy? How do our supposed friends suck energy from us in a short visit? The vampire archetype is a powerful way to describe these unexplained psychic phenomena. We may resist using the word, but "possessed" is a word that seems most accurate to describe them, particularly malignant narcissists or sociopaths. Not only are they self-absorbed, they want to absorb you, too.
Wow, that question really tires me out. My daughter Gabriella, who's 11, wants to do the Ouija board, not because of any predictive energy she'll tap, but because she wants to be possessed. I want to try the dip sin, the Chinese Ouija board; you have to use blood.
Everyone taps or fuels energy. Like the Dave Chappelle routine about how he won't get high with black people anymore because they get depressing while white people, when they're high, talk about the last time they got high.
VICTIM / VICTIMIZER
The symbiosis lies in the common identity - both victim and perpetrator are cursed. Becoming a vampire is the opposite of redemption. The vampire is the anti-matter of spiritual transformation. Holism is expressed in Eastern cultures by gods and goddesses that actually drink blood. Blood is a central theme in sacrifice and religion.
But, these divinities have become our addictions to money, power, sex, food, fame and possessions. Compulsions can sap us. So can falling in love with a toxic partner. Love can be the most powerful addiction. The relationship becomes vampiric. Vampiric parents also attack those they love. An addiction is any process over which we are powerless, out of control, lacking free will or choice. Love in vein.
Theatre, dance, music and games all share certain rhythms and rules that allow us to experience the non-ordinary. They produce altered states, suspend time. Symbolic time is eternal yet somehow infinitely hungry to the point of consuming the universe, even manically expanding into an unimaginable beyond.
What taboos prevent us in ordinary life from idealizing the dark side? Does the vampire embody both our fears and ambivalence about death -- the pain and the pleasure? Is the vampire our pathological Superego, eager to consume the ego at its puny expense? We plunge into the abyssal seams between reality and the invisible worlds. Those seams are torn asunder in a rending of the mystic veil, revealing that which was there all along but formerly hidden by horror, denial and naivete. Today's aliens share much in common with the traits of the traditional vampire.
We are weakened, broken, disfigured. Another illusion adds to our confusion. Nothing is real. What is it about this dramatic catharsis we seek again and again like a wicked roller coaster ride? It is a narrative of a subcurrent of evil that pervades and invades ordinary being. It is an amorphous threat, penetration of our souls which it then proceeds to devour. The seduction overwhelms and conceals the nihilistic telos. It is a soporific narcotic. We are transfixed.
You make death sound depressing. I vacation in the abyssal seams between reality and the invisible worlds. I have a time share.There are a lot of people who idealize the dark side. Even in popular culture. And what is the dark side? The Simpsons said there were two people in the 20th Century who were born with the evil gene, Adolph Hitler and Walt Disney. The Care Bears used to scare the shit out of me as a teenager. So what is dark? Lucifer is the bringer of light, illumination and the god of the Old Testament sounds like a god of war to me. That's pretty dark. Jail prevents us. We don't like jail. Who does? I mean there are a couple. They know who they are.
Some of them came to Vampyr Theatre. One of them corrected me on some Aztec blood ritual goddess pronunciation in "Let Us Prey." He came back a lot. Even got hypnotized onstage. Licked a lady vampire's boot and he wasn't into that kind of thing. He talked to me after and was convinced that she was a real vampire. She was just an actress, but who was I to shatter the illusion? That's the power of suggestion. Nothing really stops us. If we thought we wouldn't get caught, we'd do anything. A lot of people do things to get caught. Some people want to get caught by aliens.
Take away repurcussions and you're free. It's less a spiritual void that they're suffering, than a criminal enterprise in a criminal underground where they kill and eat people and cops or priests who try to interfere. They don't care. It's all now. There may or may not be any tomorrows, but who the fuck cares? That was our refrain, by the way. After this, there's nothing. No damnation, salvation, paradise or garage in Buffalo. There's worms. Vampires get that.
CORSET RIPPERS & CARDIAC ARREST
Q. How do you feel about the new cultish crop of Vampotainment -- from Twilight and Vampire Diaries to True Blood? Clearly there isn't one audience -- but different demographics from pre-teen turmoil to full immersion fusion. Is it a case of get them early while their minds are malleable? Vamp Light for hormonal hostages? Geek Tragedy? A skewed Feast of Dionysus? Carnal catharsis? Primal rituals? Phallic Danse Macabre? Post-POMO porn?
I haven't really gotten to "Twilight." The idea of sexless, nonviolent vampires who come out in the day just doesn't grab me. Give me The Satanic Rites of Dracula. True Blood I watch, sometimes twice a week. But I watch more shows on HBO than any other channel. I get a little glazed eyed when they stray from vampires. Young people naturally gravitate to vampires because of the forbidden and we're all there for the sex, but it's power and they sometimes feel powerless. Or they should. What can they really do? Shoot up a school? You think people will listen over all that noise? Let them be vampires. Still nobody will listen, but they can bite them on the ass later. The eternal youth aspect. Lost Boys. My vampires played hookie, smoked cigars and broke windows. Like the lost boys in Pinocchio. Actually, I didn't let my actors smoke in character. It always distracts me when vampires smoke on TV or in movies, they don't breathe. How can they smoke? Bugs my daughters too. But also, most theaters wouldn't let us smoke on stage, so it was a necessary limitation. I tried getting the actors not to breathe and was banned from rehearsals.
Is the vampire a variant of Dionysus himself and the Maenads? This theme appeared in Season 2 of True Blood. Jung implied that the gods have become diseases. Does that imply cultural devolution? What ritual now promises the rebirth of the dead world? Greek theater arose from the dynamic braiding of ritual and entertainment with conflict, mutilation and death.
I'm a wino, so Dionysus was always a big favorite of mine. Deep reds and peasant wines, if you're getting me a gift bag. For Vampyr Theatre, I combined four rituals, from four regions and left out one element so it wouldn't actually work, because I'm a pussy who read Lovecraft. I'm sure Troy Acree, our director, figured that out and is still pissed I left things out. You can do so much with blood. It goes with everything. And it tastes like chicken. Ours tasted like very, very, syruppy sweet soap.
How did your performance space affect the execution of your show? Did you allow the audience any "breaks," or maintain the dramatic arc throughout the show? Was there a deliberate attempt to relieve their tensions in your scripting? License and control. Does control of the audience add to their tensions? What happens when the audience becomes the collective architect of the action? Who then is evoking, guiding and selecting patterns? Does that wedge drive a stake between theater and performance? Does it create a dissociation that mirrors the vampyric process?
Control of the audience? We took them hostage. We frisked them. We threw them up against the wall and checked for weapons. Sometimes we found them. I loved my audience. They amused me endlessly. The spaces we used sometimes hindered what I'd written. But it was written to be sparse. It was written to be done in the old abandoned subway station on 26th St. The D train used to pass it way back. The last script, the last play we did was the most diluted by space. It was written to be done in a club, it was done in a theater. One of the last weekends we were booked the theater build a stage-within-a-stage for another show they were doing. We did ours after hours, midnight shows. My actors broke the stage. Made me proud.
HOOKED ON VAMPS
How did you amplify any sense of self-transcendence inherent in the vampire theme? Vampire as initiator into a vastly expanded realm of experience is one variation on the theme. The Trickster element is always present; things are not what they seem.
What rules did you give yourself to frame your dramatic action? looser, tighter, inner, outer? Does the frame include the vampire's hyperdimensional perspective? The inner frame of predator/prey is pretty tight but plays out loosely in millions of variations, each time a death ensues -- even with rebirth into the realm of the undead. But to "in" it is to be compulsively driven with empty desire. The demonic colonizes the psyche and revitalizes itself by sucking the life force - propagation by cannibalization.
Have you thought about moving Vampyr Theatre into an immersive environment such as Second Life? Zombies are an old staple of video games. What levels of "Role Playing" have you observed in the conventional culture and Vampire sub-cultures? What is it in this genre that just grabs people and won't let them go? What is the secret language of the undead body? Narcissistic delusions of grandeur or ? Is an empty husk all we are left with when death loses its sting?
We discussed different timings to bring forced perspective in performance. But the drugs wore off. I used languages. Different vampires speaking different languages who understood each other to represent telepathy. I don't know anything about Second Life. There's a lot of roleplaying in the vampire subculture. People used to leave garlic and crosses on their seats, We had exit counselors see the show and try to find people who needed directions back to god. The vampires of Vampyr Theatre devolved. I tried to pervert all expectations. Subversive art. Vampires were great for that. I built a language of blasphemy. Because the religious symbols were impotent. When we took the blood and drank it, it was still warm. It wasn't bread we ate. Our host was still breathing. Vampires aren't vegetarians. My vampires were humanitarian.
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• May 1992 through July 1992 La Commedia del Sangue debuts. `The Auction,' Written and created: Tony Sokol; Directed: Rosalie Triana; FX and Makeup: Chris Davis, Rick Crane; Music: Tony Sokol; at Le Bar Bat, NYC.
• Aug. 1992 `To Avenge, Divine,' Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Kurt Anthony, FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Music: Tony Sokol; Le Bar Bat and London Dungeon, NYC.
• Aug. 1992 `One of Us,' Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Kurt Anthony, FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Music: Tony Sokol; at London Dungeon, NYC,
• Aug. 1992 `Welcome Home,' Written and Directed: Tony Sokol; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Music: Tony Sokol; Cafe Arielle and Le Bar Bat, NYC.
• Dec. 1992 `La Commedia del Sangue: The Vampyr Theatre,' Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Mario Giacalone; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Incidental Music: Bob Sushko, Tony Sokol; Don't Tell Mama, NYC, Extended through March 1993.
• March 1993 `Blood Is Thicker Than Water,' Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Mario Giacalone; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Incidental Music: Bob Sushko, Tony Sokol; Opens at Don't Tell Mama, NYC, Extended through July, Moved to 55 Grove St., NYC, Closed June 1993; Played Planet Rock Pub, Newark, N.J.
• June 1993 Revamped version of `The Auction,' Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Troy Acree; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Incidental Music: Bob Sushko and Tony Sokol; Creative Place Theater, NYC, Extended through August 1993.
• August 1993 `More Than You Can Chew,' Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Troy Acree; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Incidental Music: Bob Sushko and Tony Sokol; Creative Place Theater, NYC, Extended through October 1993.
• November 1993 `Let Us Prey,' Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Troy Acree; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Incidental Music: Bob Sushko and Tony Sokol; Creative Place Theater, NYC, Moved to Theater 22, NYC, Extended through March 1994.
• October 8, 1994 `Bite Me' Written: Tony Sokol, Directed: Troy Acree, FX: Tony Sokol, at The Bat Cave at Downtime, NYC.
• October 1994 `Dark Night of the Soul,' Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Troy Acree; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane, Incidental Music: Ted Dailey and Tony Sokol, at Chapter 3 Theater, NYC.
• September 1995 `Dances From a Shallow Grave' Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Troy Acree; Magical and Special Effects: Tony Scarpa; Incidental Music: Ted Dailey and Tony Sokol; NADA, NYC, extended through Nov. 18.
• Sept. 1995 `Let Us Prey' published by Fuck That Weak Shit Press.
• Oct. 1996 `Twenty Bucks and a Bottle of Wine' Conceptual piece: Written, Directed Tony Sokol, Shaunte Shayde; at The Bat Cave at Downtime, NYC.
• Sept. 1997, "Just Us Served" written by Tony Sokol, Directed by Troy Acree, Special Effects by Tony Scarpa, Theme Music by Ted Dailey, Incidental Music by Tony Sokol, performed at The Interlude Theatre, East 21st Street, NYC, through November, 1997
* 1987 `I Was Thirsty’ Vampire Mass, Anarchy, NYC.
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Tony: I write them in public places. I like to write them in bars and in places like this (Cafe Borgia). Generally, whatever I see. Whatever I'm in the mood for that particular week. For example, one night I was writing one of the scripts and based it on a hand of poker. Seven card stud. I wrote each character as if they were playing their own hands and each card would mean something different. I was listening and hear this voice on the TV and it sounded familiar. It was Joel Rifkin. He was a seriel killer who killed a bunch of people in New York. Anyway, I don't know if it was him or not that I talked to but the name and his voice sounded so familiar. That was like four scripts ago and that gave me enough of a character to write the plot of someone who thinks he's a vampire but is just a psychotic killer. There are enough of them walking around, you know.
That script wrote itself in one night, one edit, third draft and it went out and I was pretty happy with it. The last script, I was reading a lot of Nostradamus, and I was wondering what it would be like if we're about to end the earth. Since, theoretically, vampires live forever, that would really suck for them. They're not expecting to die in the year 2000. So, I did about three months of research. I talked to two cults that were doomsday cults, both members and the leaders. One I spoke to were even stockpiling weapons. When I'm writing the scripts I don't want them to come on too heavy. I want the ideas to get across, but it still has to be good theater. Exaggerate a little bit, or pull back a little where I need to. Because you don't want to bore the shit out of people.
OS Does anything shock you?
Tony: Nothing shocks me, three scripts ago we had a bunch of people walk out, saying the show was pornographic. I didn't see it. I didn't understand it. People have been offended by the use of religious imagery. I was raised Catholic. So I throw that stuff in there. You know? It doesn't offend me. It tends to shock certain people. I understand the people who are offended by the religious content buy I'm not going to apologize for it. The violence doesn't seem to offend anyone. As far as sexual content? We can't go as far as they do on NYPD Blue, so I can't see how people would be offended. We show our productions late at night. Kids can't get in. I have cut certain things that people thought were in bad taste. I feel bad about that now.
OS Do you feel comfortable with where you're at creatively?
Tony: Creatively, I'm where I want to be, We don' have any producers so no one can tell may what I can't write. I'm comfortable with where I'm at now. I'm getting the audience I pretty much want. I don't know where I'll be in five years. I'm still uncovering all that stuff. I wish we made enough money so I could pay the actors and for the special effects. I'd like to have a budget of a thousand bucks for FX, but with $180 Rick's got to do everything, He can do some kick-ass special effects, but there is a lack of money. I'm paying it with my day jobs. I wish the theater was making a profit so we could be better shows.
Tony Sokol is one person who you could sit and listen to for hours. His research and investigations have led to countless stories. The Vampire Theater is just one of Tony's achievements, He is a playwright, composer and musician. If you sever see an ad for the Vampire Theater, give then and call and check out the show. I know I will! We here at The Other Side would like to thank the members of the production and Tony for their time and patience We hope we could bring you up to date in future issues as to what Tony and the crew are conspiring, but whatever it is, I'm sure it will be worth taking note.
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Cousin Barnabas, Meet Your Peers
This is why you live in New York, it may be the only place in America with a theater company dedicated to plays about vampires. The Vampyr Theater, currently in its second year at the Creative Place theater on Eight Avenue, grew out of Tony Sokol's life-long fascination with vampires. New `plasma-pleasing works' are always in production. For his latest play, "More Than You Can Chew," Mr. Sokol said he interviewed 250 `self-proclaimed local vampires' who responded to ads he placed in free Manhattan newspapers. Mr. Sokol said he was surprised to find how much local fodder there was for a vampire narrative. He said he "got to know the vampires' stories, their hopes, their dreams and their plans for the future ... which never ends." "I got some real crazy people," he said. "One guy claimed he wanted to drink the blood of his son's playmate. I told him to seek some help." Mr. Sokol, who has also been an editor of vampire poetry, said he was sometimes frightened during the interviews. "Some people I talked to made me very tired." The vampires said they were sucking out his energy, but he admitted his lethargy might have had more to do with the fact that he interviewed them at 3 in the morning. When else are vampires available?
Photo by Naum Kazhdan
NEW YORK POST ENTERTAINMENT WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 1993
READ ALL ABOUT IT Section
It'll be a rare theatrical experience. by Barbara Lippman Bloodthirsty theater goers with a taste for the supernatural will have something to sink their teeth into when "La Commedia del Sangue: The Vampyr Theater" performs tomorrow, Friday and Saturday at the Creative Place Theater on Eighth Avenue. The 2-year-old company, founded by playwright Tony Sokol, will perform segments titled "Blood Is Thicker than Water," "The Auction," "One of Us" and others. Tickets for the shows, which begin at 10:30, are $10 ($9 for anyone dressed like a vampire. Performances will also take place on Sept. 9, 10. and 11. The Theater is at 750 Eight Ave., between 46th and 47th streets.
From The Vampire Book, The Encyclopedia of the Undead By J. Gordon Melton
Vampire Theater: The Gothic movement that developed in the United States in the late 1070s has had a noticeable influence upon vampire drama. The movement itself was very dramatic, built as it was around bands who used theatrical effects as an integral part of their performance. Possibly the principle examples were those choreographed by Vlad, the Chicago rock musician who heads the band The Dark Theatre. More recently La Commedia del Sangria was created in 1992 by Tony Sokal as a dramatic company that performs "vampire theatre," and includes a strong element of audience interaction. The company's very metaphysical production examines questions of the vampiric condition (limited immortality) and the existence of God. Some of the actors begin the performance portraying audience members an then enter the sage as an apparent interruption. The production has received a warm response from people in the vampire subculture who regularly attend to cheer on the vampires each time they bite someone.
DAILY NEWS, FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, 1994 MUSTO GUSTO
`Let Us Prey': Drop Over to Vampyr's for a Bite by Michael Musto
You get the feeling it's not going to be just another night at "Cats" the second you walk into the dank, ramshackle theater where the vampire drama "Let Us Prey" is playing -- and hear a gravelly voice ritualistically croaking on tape, "We're all gonna be just dirt in the ground." Charming. You glance warily at the program, "Tonight we are above ground and seen in the light. You are not in your own domain. You are in ours and whatever may befall you is of your own choice. You have been warned." REALLY charming. You think of bolting for the door but there's a funky, buck-toothed character named Count Grau Orlock onstage, begging for your blood products, and it would be rather impolite not to stay. "I always like to start the very serious business of a ritual with a meal," intones the Count, a really delightful guy. "Who has the first offering?" He looks thirstily out at the audience and as his beady eyes hit yours, you hope he'll settle for some dirty fingernails or lint. Mercifully, he chooses to feast from various willing zombies -- the cast, you pray -- who emerge from the folding chairs shrouded in black, bursting with plasma and ready to party. The no-account count gets to work pulling out an accountant's eyes and a hunchback's heart, also seizing on a lovely severed hand procured for him by a vampy vampire assistant ("I was going to steal the whole body," she explains, "but I thought it would be difficult to get it through customs.") They toss all those goodies into a big bowl, adding everything but garlic for seasoning -- natch -- and the count beams, "Now, THIS is a strew." LORENA BOBBIT would be proud. As the sated cast exits down the aisle dripping in red goo, you stumble out to perversely grab an after-theater snack. Every bit as weird as it sounds, "Prey" -- written by horror/comedy scribe TONY SOKOL for the troupe La Commedia Del Sangue -- presents its eerie rituals with conviction, unabashedly lacing the vampires' ruthless survival tactics with more of a raw sexuality than the misty romanticism they're usually diluted by. The performance is short -- it runs less than an hour -- but with its toothsome mix of horror and black comedy, it hardly lacks for bite. I'm just glad the stew doesn't call for the knees of a figure skater. (At Vampyr Theater, 54 W. 22nd St.
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Just Us Served
Opened September 26th through November
Written by Tony Sokol
Directed by Troy Acree
When it comes to a live vampyre theatre performance, writer Tony Sokol always surprises and pleases his audience. This particular performance Just Us Served showcases one of the many dark talents embedded in Sokol's soul (that is if he even has one.) Just Us Served takes twists and turns from socio-political stances to the icons of popular culture today. Even the vampyres poke fun at one another, an FBI agent is harassed and threatened by the vampyres, and a role-player named Dominic, is toyed with until his death. Here you have it all-bloodsuckers, wannabe bloodsuckers, political bloodsuckers to other kinks.
The alluring Count Orlock played by Troy Acree is at once magnetic. Orlock's take on society through a vampyre's eyes is full of sarcasm and brimming in his tone on such subjects humans spend way too much time dwelling on. All Orlock cares for is the survival of his kind and refers to the outside world as cyber-psychotic and he's right, right? Religion has no value to him and he tells the lord to kiss his ass and Satan to suck his cock and further goes on to say, if anything needs to be hailed be it him or hail a cab! This sort of tone flows throughout the performance and each of the other cast like Vena Cava, Igor Mortis and Drew Blood, especially take this sarcasm to a new level unparalleled to any I've heard before. These vampyres are unlike your wildest dreams and their words concoct venom turned to absinthe in just seconds. You never know what to expect or where to turn so you just pay attention and cringe when the character of the federal agent Schrader opens his mouth.
The ancient vampyre Zianubi suffers from peek-a-boo Alzheimer's and other ailments and tells Schrader to lick his bleeding hemorrhoids. Zianubi's character holds up to par with Orlock's outstanding control onstage. His agility is felt throughout the play. Orlock speaks to the audience and threatens all when need be. "We'll kill you if you try to leave. Be patient. You'll all get what I want. And I want your blood bleeding from your every pore, oozing from your eyeballs and the small of your back, spilling into my mouth until you no longer draw breath and have to lie down forever." Orlock says, "I want you screaming for mercy, tearing your hair out, trying to take your own lives quickly and mercifully before I get the chance to do it tortuously and hmmm deliciously slow." He tells Schrader, "…I scare myself. Each of you in this room will die. One by one. Unless you denounce what you are and join us…"
He's not a warmhearted kind of fellow, know what I mean? And why should he be? He's a goddamned vampyre for Christ sake. The role of Schrader is acted out as expected-by an idiot of sorts suckered into federal pinings without an inkling of a conspiracy theory set against him by the vampyres at Orlock's court. He's judged by vampyres and no one gets out of this one…right?
Sucker Born, Drew Blood and the others make fun of the role-player Dominic. They ask him if role players are allowed to drink each other's blood, if others are hurt, murdered. Dominic says they do neither of the former save for assume the role of vampyres by acting and storytelling. The vampyres call the role playing lame, weak, bullshit. Orlock then hands Dominic a glass of his blood and Vena Cava hands him his storyteller mask then Orlock says "…I'll tell you a story about a real vampyre. A vampyre that has had to kill and hide and pillage for centuries. Not some pretend wannabe asshole, but someone who gets his hands dirty. Someone who is not afraid to let the world see his face. Why? Because he has nothing to hide? No. Because he doesn't care who knows what he's hiding. Now I hide in the ears of those who fear to listen. But I don't need a mask." He then hammers the mask into Dominic's head and dies. "I am your reality," states Orlock. "I am your dream. I am a vampyre and I am bored of your stories." A good death and a well deserved one at that!
As the case of Schrader continues to develop, it is evident the vampyres are toying with him and playing mind games in the court Orlock himself set up. Schrader tells all, "How can you let him (Orlock) be like this? Don't you know what this man does? He's killed 16 people this month. And it's not even that, it's the way he does it. He rips out their throats. He drinks their blood. He's a psychopath… He's a fucking homicidal megalomaniac." Schrader has no way out of this no matter what testimony he offers or whatever evidence he presents against Orlock.
An interesting dialogue erupts between Zianubi and Orlock, which displays Zianubi's displeasure in Orlock's behavior, and as the case continues; a banging is heard saying it's the NYPD. The audience are the hostages the cops are referring to. As the knocking continues, Vena Cava and Orlock talk to Schrader about his killer instincts and training that is very similar to those of the vampyres. Drew Blood shoots at the exit door and shouting erupts. Orlock tells Schrader, "You always knew about us, didn't you?"
Schrader responds, "We have to keep you down… You pose a threat to national security, like all damned terrorists. I'm here because it's my job to get rid of you and all like you before you start to infect people…" Orlock goes to Igor Mortis and walks into a cloak, spins and he disappears. The cloak falls empty to the floor.
The cops keep knocking and thrust in after Drew Blood shoots through the door. The two cops turn out to be Igor Mortis and Orlock. Orlock's final words to the audience are, "Ladies and gentlemen, when you leave here tonight, know, that although you may not see it in evidence on your TV sets or in your newspapers, that we are now in control. (Igor nails Schrader's hands to the crucifix and dies.) It is accomplished. The puppet government that you elect periodically dances on strings that we hold. You will see evidence in your day to day lives, evidence that you may wish to share with people around you. But they won't want to hear it. They love their vampyre masters. So when your friend's start
disappearing and come back looking pale and sick, know that it is just your government at work. Think of it like a new tax. But we will restore one thing that you're government took away from you…"
The rest has to be left for your imagination. An exemplary performance by the entire cast and the words of delight and profound blasphemy and perverseness are the responsibility and courtesy of Tony Sokol. A true gem and a cursed one at that. If you hear and/or read that Tony Sokol has a performance scheduled in NYC city, I urge you to catch a showing or two...You will not be disappointed.
INK 19, OCT. 95 By Leslie R. Marini
The Vampyr Theatre is located (quite naturally) in a subterranean section of New York's Greenwich Village area. Outside, a red and black banner announces the performance time and the entire trip into Vampyr Theatre is heavily permeated with a medieval gypsy circus atmosphere. Creator/playwright/journalist/musician Tony Sokol, a Brooklyn native, is the flesh and blood force behind The Vampyr Theatre, which is officially titled "La Commedia Del Sangue."
The Commedia itself has its roots in traveling acting troupes from the Renaissance, and modern day '60s guerrilla street theatre. Sokol spent four years researching self-proclaimed vampires for La Commedia, and the various scripts and dramas the Sokol has presented to an above-ground audience of mortals are riddled with a dry, subtle, undead wit. The Vampyr Theatre begins with a power confrontation between he ideals of law and chaos, ignorance and wisdom.
In the spirit of maintaining balance, the head vampire, Count Grau Orlock (played by director Troy Acree) rises from the makeshift coffin and grants favors to those mortals who seem bent on self-destruction. Without the usual silly overdramatizing that so many of his type like to bask in. The venue owner and the policeman, the married woman and her blissfully dull husband, the woman who seeks revenge for the sake of revenge, and of course the seductive bitch; all are played out with a vampire's twist of manipulation into human affairs simply for the sake of humor; otherwise what other functions would we serve other than a food source? The pace of the theatre is enjoyable, and the entire very-thin-shoestring production of this performance art is used to full advantage by the production company.
Audience participation, while a little uptight, is not discouraged, and of course what Vampyre Theatre would be complete without a Greek chorus of exotic undead femme fatales? Throughout Orlock's indulgences in human failure and denial, the trio of Gothic beauties comment via snarl, whisper, dance and dare. A notable performance at the beginning of The Vampyr Theatre is from traveling magician, Algebra Cadaver, alias Tony Scarpa. With a razor blade- eating effect, complete with background calliope, as the "opening act' for La Commedia Del Sangue, Scarpa set the mood for illusion and danger and left at least this reporter in a semi-queasy mood. Tony, who in his spare time often cruises the Internet in search of vampires, has performed on Norwegian Cruise Lines Discover Cruises and throughout Miami, Florida. He escaped from 100 pounds of chains underwater for the grand opening of a health club, and is an annual performer at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J.
Tony will attempt to make it rain, and should you ever wander into a situation where you encounter a Tony Scarpa appearance ... by all means he is well worth the price of admission. The rest of the performers all can boast of excellent credentials, such as Shaunte Shayde, who has appeared in Type O Negative's "Black No. 1" video and Skid Row's "Psycho Love" video. She has also appeared as "The "Urban Angel" in comic books. The Vampyr Theatre is actually a series of scripts written and executed by Sokol, none of which are directly related to the other.
The particular script I am reviewing here is officially called "Dances From A Shallow Grave" and it stands as a secret, hidden look into life at the end of the millennium. When we as mortals turn to dust and ashes, when the sun burns out, only the immortals and blood drinkers will be left to tall our tale. Tony Sokol invites comments and questions regarding Vampyr Theatre and is currently researching multiple personality disorders and cults. To contact him, you may write him in care of The Vampyr Theatre, P.O. Box 6012, South Hackensack, NJ 07606. The Vampyr Theatre runs through December 18th, Fridays and Saturdays at Midnight at Nada, located at 167 Ludlow St.
From Delirium Magazine: 1999Vampire Archives, Issue #35, Page 2 By Jule Ghoul.
La Commedia del Sangue: The Vampyre Theatre. Tony Sokol is the creator of this alluring, gothicy atmospheric, exotic, erotic eerie production that plays throughout New York. We'd first heard about it on Halloween, '93 on The Joan Rivers Show vampire special. We'd finally gotten around to calling the number Tony had provided. Naturally we got a recording that gave further information on the play. The next night, Tony returned our call and we had such a nice time. He took us up on our offer of the night before to call him right back, it being long-distance.
The play last about 45 minutes at clubs, and about 1 hour and 20 minutes in a theater. He's interviewed over 300 vampires, since his quote of 250 on The Joan Rivers Show. Interviews supply him with ideas for the next script. As being a musician, he `Feels the rhythm' coming from that person as they related their story. They would really love to use some of this music in his plays, but his actors feel it would interfere with their concentration, Although we haven't, unfortunately, seen the play, we would think that music would enhance it. If you'd like to read a little more about the play, Loretta M. Accardo gives her review in the "Midnight Snacks" section under "Performance": in Nox, Fall 1993, Volume 1, Number 2, PO Box 2467, Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. 10163-2467. Send SASE for latest price quote and availability. Not only has Loretta Seen The Vampyr Play several times, Tony told us he'd used her name in one of the shows. And, Loretta told us in a letter a few months ago that she was in the audience on The Joan Rivers Show. Tony provided yet another number to call, which appears in FANGORIA:
NOX, Fall 93 By Loretta M. Accardo
La Commedia del Sangue is an innovative group of theaters that perform vampire theatre. The shows that I've seen took place in a small, intimate setting that enables the cast to interact with the audience, As a result, you're not quite sure who among the audience is an actor or even if the person sitting next to you is an actual vampire! I was told by writer/creator Tony Sokol that an average of three self-proclaimed vampires is in attendance at each show. Tony gets his information from the questionnaires that are handed out at each performance. He also spent two years doing research and interviewing vampires before the group began rehearsals in April 1992. They had their first performance in May of that year. The question of whether immortality is all it's cracked up to be is brought up during the show. One vampire laments over no longer being able to see the sun and says that over the years it can become very lonely.
Despite the drawbacks, one mortal climbs out of the audience and says she wishes to become a vampire. Initially, she cannot bring herself to bite a vampire who has offered to change her. However, she eventually succumbs, Another vampire, who was well-liked by his peers has been killed (offstage) and the search for his murderer is one of the plots. Without giving too much away, there is plenty of onstage bloodletting to satisfy those vampires that might be present. The debate over the existence of God is also brought up. Since vampires have power over life and death, doesn't that make them gods as well? The audience actually cheered the vampires and seemed genuinely excited as they were about to bite their victims. I found that I was laughing and cheering right along with them. The vampires, not the mortals, are the heroes here. The show has many different moods ranging from humor, to passion, to outright horror. It's an evening well spent for mortals and vampires alike. If you're ever in the New York City area, La Commedia del Sangue is well worth checking out. Don't miss it! NOTE: As of this writing, the group is performing a new script. I haven't seen this new production yet, but I'll be sure to review it next time.
New York Newsday, Friday, September 3, 1993
CHOICES: What's Hot Around Town Vampyr Theater
A new segment has been added to "La Commedia del Sangue: the Vampyr Theater's self described "dracu-drama.' This was weekend and next you can see "More than You Can Chew" at the Creative Place Theater, 750 Eighth Ave., at 46th Street. Shows are 10:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Tickets are $10, $9 if you come in costume.
Bay News, Jan. 3, 1994 Big Apple By Kenneth Brown
LET US PREY OPENS `Let Us Prey,' the recent segment in the on-going sanguine saga by Tony Sokol for La Commedia Del Sangue: The Vampyr Theatre Will open at Theatre 22, 54 West 22nd Street on Thursday through Saturday nights. Jan 6-8, 20-22 and 27-79. "Let Us Prey" is described by Sokol as the most graphic of his Gothic tales. In its unfolding of blood rituals and sacrifices, it is his most frightening and, certainly most physical work. It is directed by Troy Acree, who also interprets the central host role of Count Grau Orlock. Rick Crane has created the special effects and make-up. Sokol, who has interviewed self-proclaimed vampires as part of his research for the Vampyr Theatre, was recently a guest on the Joan Rivers television program with a panel of vampire experts and those who claim to be sustained "by blood alone." He is currently researching rituals and cult activities and multiple personality disorders for upcoming scripts and articles. A series of staged readings of spousal murder comedies is also contemplated.
NOX, Spring 94 By Loretta M. Accardo
This is an update of the review I did in the last issue. Despite cast and script changes over the past few months, La Commedia del Sangue: The Vampyr Theatre is still horrific, erotic, blasphemous and fascinating. The location has changed from a cabaret/bar to a small theater, but there remains an intimacy with the actors who are right there, up close, making eye contact with the audience. I have seen the show five times now, and I still experience chills of fright and pleasure each time I see it. Watching these performances will make you feel that succumbing to a force beyond your control is the most profound experience you can have -- whether you're a mortal being seduced by a powerful vampire or, a child of darkness who must give in to an unceasing hunger. If you're a vampire fan there is nothing I would recommend more than seeing this show. Watching live bloodletting cannot compare to reading about it or seeing it on film. The show comes at you and hits your hard like a freight train -- or maybe more like a stake through he heart! If you live in the New York area or plan on visiting, GO SEE THIS SHOW!
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Fangs for the Memories By Sheila Anne Fenney
After hours with the loopy elusive but ever growing local world of vampirology. While forks and knives tinkle, carving up chicken and steak, the "Vampires" -- indecipherable from many diners also attired in black -- flick their tongues in and out like lizards, hissing and shrieking encouragement to fellow player Mario Giacalone to finish off the unfortunate before him. "Finish him," howls one. "Drink him," insists another. Giacalone slakes his thirst on the neck of his new slave, pats his belly and burps, "I'm afraid I made a pig of myself."
Commedia del Sangue -- a troupe of actors devoted to "vampire theater" -- is performing this night at the felicitously titled Le Bar Bat on W. 57th St. Commedia del Sangue is only one manifestation of the loopy elusive world of vampirology. Do vampires exist?
Parapsychologist, Stephen Kaplan, director of the Vampire Research Center in Queens, assures that they do. He clams to have authenticated at least 25 city vampires, most of them in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Tony Sokol, who writes the scripts for Commedia del Sangue, says he has spent the last year placing ads seeking people who purport to have the legacy of Count Dracula in their blood, "I've yet to meet a real vampire, meaning a reanimated corpse," sighs Sokol," But I did talk to one person who claimed to be 317 years old."
Self-identified vampires usually turn out to be run-of-the-mill blood fetishists, says Sokol, who drink blood when ... never mind. He insists at least five self-identified vampires are in the audience watching his bloody skit. Alas he cannot provide introductions. "I don't believe in outing." Kaplan runs a "vampire census," sending questionnaires both at random and on request to people who may be among "The Undead." (He's still waiting for White House to Return his questionnaire.) Kaplan promises client confidentiality.
The dark shadowy vampire underground is as mysterious and weird -- if not suspiciously ethereal -- as the legendary Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's famous 1897 novel. While everyone in the field claims to know vampires, no one will produce one. Vampires are "a besmirched minority group," according to Kaplan. New York bloodsuckers demand anonymity not because they're afraid people will come after them with garlic and crosses -- impotent weapons against real vampires, Kaplan sniffs indignantly -- but because, "If you go public and say you're a vampire, your believability is near zero."
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A: I wanted to do some kind of Grand Guignol Horror Theater thing. You know, like a live gore-fest with special effects. I wanted to put on stage what they've been doing in the movies for years- a la Alice Cooper. But I couldn't get a handle on it, I wrote some scripts, but there was no thread. And then I auditioned as a guitarist for some singer who said she was a vampire, and I said `Ah haaa!' I lost track of her, though, I'd like to find her and thank her. But I saw the book "Interview With a Vampire' and I figured that that would set me apart. I did the interviews myself and created the characters based on their rhythms.
Q: Why didn't you perform with existing theatrical troupes?
A: Because they didn't have what I wanted to see. So I did it myself.
Q: How did the performances begin?
A: I wrote a couple scripts, I think I did a reading of some of the monologues somewhere, and then this director I knew, Rosalie Triana, read them, thought they were sexy and brought in a bunch of actors she worked with. They learned the lines, and we threw it up. Really fast.
Q: Do you pay your actors?
A: No. Most of the actors do it just for the credit. And Rick Crane, the special effects guy, well I think he made some money. More than I did.
Q: Why have you sustained such an ongoing audience?
A: We're cheaper. ... I write more and we don't cater to that whole romantic thing. We're nasty. People like nasty.
Q: How many actors are in each play?
A: I think a baker's dozen, same as in any coven. It really depends on the script. However many characters populate my head when I'm writing it down. Troy Acree's been in it since the beginning, same as Rick. Shaunte has been at it for a long time, we can't get rid of her. No amount of garlic. I know, they've tried.
Q: Where do you find your actors?
A: An actor would just send a resume/head shot to our P.O. Box out in Jersey and we'll consider. At open calls we usually just want a one-minute monologue, if you can't trust your stuff in a minute, we'll cut you off. At call-backs we'll give them excerpts from whatever script we're doing.
Q: Where have you performed?
A: We started at Le Bar Bat, but we've done Paddles, Creative Place Theater, Don't Tell Mama, 55 Grove, Planet Rock Pub in Newark, N.J., Chapter 3 Theater, The Bat Cave, Theater 22. and some other place I can't think of.
We do clubs because I'm actually a musician in playwright's clothing and clubs is what I know.
Q: Are there real vampires in your cast? Are you a vampire?
A: Well, I'm not a vampire myself. I've had offers but I have one who sort of looks out for me. I've been claimed, whatever that means. We have had vampires pass through the cast. I have to hide them from most of the directors, but they've been in there. I can't say who, as I'm sure you understand. You wouldn't want to be `outed' either.
Q: How do you write your plays?
10. They come to me. I've dumped more scripts than we've put on. I have over 20 scripts we haven't done. But whatever is in my head, whoever I talk to, what I see on the news. I have to COMPLETELY re-write the script we were supposed to have started this month because of the Oklahoma City bombing, because I was too close. But that's happened a lot, I'm not psychic, but I've dumped five scripts so far that too closely resembled things that happened after I wrote them. I'm afraid of people thinking I'm pandering.
Q: Are you married?
A: Yes, I'm married and she's not a vampire. She's used to me hanging with vampires. She does get scared, but she's the beneficiary in my life insurance policy so it all balances out.
Q: Are you a satanist or in any cult?
A: No. I don't even believe in Satan. I don't believe in much. I want something to bang me on the head, some sort of spiritual awakening, something to prove that there are things beyond. I've seen a lot of things, but nothing that's really shattered my disbelief. Keep trying though, I'm really looking forward to being disproved. I've studied groups, last year I talked to some doomsday cults, I've witnessed gatherings and rituals, I'm always open to it. How else can I write about it?
Q: Have you found schisms in the vampire communities?
A: Yes, there's a lot of in-fighting.
A: Because nobody wants to share their slice of the pie, I guess. It's pretty stupid. There's enough separating us without all the extra added garbage of 'my blood's thicker than yours.'
Q: Have you ever been threatened?
A: By vampires? Not really, I mean I get the usual `If I tell anybody anything about the interviews,' but I have been threatened by vampire hunters. The worst was from a vampire hunter, I got called and he was talking shit. My first reaction was to turn real Brooklyn on the guy. I told him I'd meet him and `explain' things to him in a non-verbal way. He didn't show up. Vampire hunters can deal with the whole holy water and crucifix thing, but confront them with real physical reality and they usually crumble. Except in New Mexico. I'm compiling a list of hunters. They're really scary. They will hurt people if given half a chance.
Q: Give me an example of some of the vampire interview experience?
A: I met a woman vampire at `The Holiday' Bar down on St. Mark's Place and we talked for a while. Her checking me out as much as I was checking her out. When she decided I was alright she suggested we go someplace else and she went out and hailed a cab. No, actually, I hailed the cab. I told her I didn't have the money for a cab ride and she pulled out a wad of bills that was larger than my instep and proceeded to do the interview in the cab. I asked her if she was nervous
talking about vampire things within listening distance of the cabbie and she said, `Don't worry. He can only hear what I want him to hear.' We drove around and talked for about a half hour and when we got to the restaurant we got out
and I didn't see her even offer to pay. This may not seem strange to some people, but he was a NEW YORK cabbie.
Another vampire I talked to cut the interview short when she realized she was getting hungry, blood hungry. I told her not to worry about it, that I was not in the mood to give blood and she said that she was able to `convince me.' To make a long story short (too late) she literally ran away from me yelling, 'Stay back or I'll feed' and went running up 69th Street.
Q: Would you become a vampire?
A: I haven't decided yet. As I said, I've had offers.
Q: What would you do as a vampire?
A: I think I'd drink the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff.
A: Yes, but I think your ethics codes forbid you from publishing it here.
Q: Do vampires kill?
A: Most of the vampires I've talked to don't kill. When they do talk about something like that I usually tell them that I don't have client/confessor privileges under the law. I pride myself on my reputation of discretion and I'll dissuade anyone
from giving me information that might get them in trouble.
Q: How do vampires get their blood?
A: It varies depending on the individual. Most have `donors.' But I've talked to people who attack, one guy who worked in a hospital. I know of a `Train' that was set up to provide blood to nervous fledglings. There's the Segani tribe of gypsies who provide it. I'm waiting for Food Emporium to carry it.
Q: Are there any laws against blood drinking?
A: No law that I can think of. Not among consenting adults.
Q: What do vampires eat?
A: A Chicklet, a fig newton, filet mignon in red sauce. I don't know. That's up to individual tastes.
Q: Do you believe vampires are immortal?
A: I don't think anyone is immortal. As a matter of fact no one claims to be immortal. They claim to have longer life-spans, but the planet itself isn't immortal. And as far as killing them by staking them through the heart, that's
no big mystery, most people I know would die if you staked them through the heart.
Q: Do vampires have pets?
A: I'm sure lots of vampires have pets. I'm sure lots of people would like to be their pets. Again, I've had offers, but the pay sucks.
Q: Does AIDS figure in the writing of Vampyre Theater?
A: It figures very strongly. The AIDS issue was actually one of the main driving forces behind doing Vampyr Theatre. The first three scripts I wrote were AIDS-related. Even though the first major AIDS script that we put up was the last one, `Dark Night of the Soul.' The idea that `the blood is the life' becomes tenuous when the blood becomes increasingly tainted. It's very frightening. It was also a challenge in a dramatic sense. Starting with the assumption that vampires are `immortal' creatures, already dead, how can you make a terminal disease, that NO ONE is safe from, let's face it, and don't let anybody tell you any different, a threat? I basically just took my own personal vision of hell: death and decay with consciousness, and jammed on that. The body would decay and not die. The consciousness would never leave,
you'd be a witness to your own destruction. Living worm food. And when it comes from sustenance itself, the blood, sangue. Which is the crux of it. That's why I call the theater La Commedia del Sangue, and the production unit Sangue
Ettola, the blood is the life. It's also the death.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
As far as the Vampyr Theatre - Well we just had to cancel a run. The first time we ever canceled. It's just getting up enough money to put it up again. I'd like to find someone else to produce the theater. I'm a writer. I don't like the production part. I'm a lousy businessman. So, please someone take it. I'm begging, produce this thing so I can concentrate on the writing. Otherwise we'll probably just do one or two a year. Last year we did only three, you have to realize for the first three years we did it constantly, I was writing new ones and we were just doing it all the time. No breaks, no life.
I'm sort of on vacation. But I'm busier now than when the theater's up. I've been asked to act in a couple things but that's not my gig. Been doing a lot I mean A LOT of music.
Q: What are you writing now?
Well, right now I'm writing for a bunch of underground mags. Wicked Mystic, Nighttimer,the Other Side, Delicate Terror, Vampire Archives, Corporal, probably Delirium, whoever asks me. I'm a writing whore. No better make that slut, since nobody pays, Not in money anyway. Andre will get me drunk and put me up for the night in Queens. The future is to
keep writing, I mean I write for my day job, I write for my night job and in my spare time I write music. But the future is finding out what's out there. It's never as wild as my imagination. But I'm hopeful.
Q: What's you favorite vampire books or movies?
25. Favorite vampire book? There are so many. Poppy Z Brite's first was great. Stoker's, Le Fanu's, Ann Rice's first two. Some of the old legends blow most of the fiction away. I love the original `Dracula' but I prefer `Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein' God there's so many of them. I haven't seen them all. I want to. Send them to me. I'll send them back, I promise.
Q: Are there any vampires you would be too scared to interview?
A: No. There is no vampire I would never interview. I'll take all comers.