Vampires as Drama Queens

I can’t equivocally state that my own passion for theatre is what led several of my vampire characters to love it as well, but it does seem a safe assumption. My personal proclivities aside, however, their interest in the stage seemed only natural. Theirs is a life that is not quite real and they spend a great deal of time pretending to be what they’re not. For vampires, all the world really is a stage.

There is something both appealing and saddening about this aspect of the vampire life, which is a major part of why I wanted to explore it in-depth. We might dress up as vampires on Halloween, but they pretend to be human every night of their lives. I don’t believe it wears on them—I think there is always some thrill and there is certainly acceptance, but it must occasionally feel strange. They can dress up and play the part of insiders, but are the ultimate outsiders.

Which is to say—Drama Club! As a theatre geek since childhood, I know all about being considered freakish (including, sometimes, by my own self). Theatre was a wonderful world into which to escape, whether I was reading plays, writing them, or performing. Oh yes, I did perform! I spent years wanting to be an actress until I found that my greatest pleasure was in the writing of the words, rather than the speaking thereof. (Although let there be no doubt that I am a talker.) Even more than books, the world of theatre was pure magic. It was a place to join together with the other strange folk and let stories unfold. It didn’t matter if we had an audience or not—this unreal world had more substance than anything supposedly genuine.

I write plays as well as books and, like Brigit and Eamon, I’m a consummate theatre-goer. It’s still my favorite escape and an incredible inspiration. If I’m there on my own, I can get a lot of writing done in the twenty minutes or so before the curtain rises. There’s something really thrilling about that pocket of time before the story begins when you don’t know what it’s going to be. It might be trash or a treasure, but it’s still going to be live theatre and that’s just an enchantment in itself. The energy of that time feeds my work.

While I was writing The Midnight Guardian, one of my favorite musicals, Sweeney Todd—by one of my favorite artists, Stephen Sondheim—was playing on Broadway in an exceptional production that I saw three times. It was before curtain one of those times that I wrote one of the key scenes in the book. I wrote so fast that my hand was throbbing through most of the first act, but the show was too good to notice.

The theatre continues to inform and inspire my work and make me ridiculously happy. I think it’s one reason why I’ve always written stuff with an air of fantasy, whether directly in the genre or not. That’s a world that just still feels more real to me—even despite having been a part of the sausage-making, which can be a lot of fun but requires a strong stomach in just about every sense.

So of course vampires love theatre, too—love it for the reasons people have loved it for millennia. It’s at the theatre that they can have the state of humanity defined for them. They especially love Shakespeare, who knew how to articulate human nature better than pretty much any other playwright ever and still has a strong corner on that market. They can’t actively participate in the theatre themselves (or they could, but it would be weird), and for the most part, they don’t need to. Their world is all about play-acting. At the theatre, though, sitting among humans and sharing an experience, they belong. They feel real. Just an illusion, sure, but as illusions go, it’s a pretty damn fine one.

Sarah Jane Stratford is a novelist and playwright. You can read more about her on her site and follow her on Twitter.


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