The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust is pleased announce the launch of our occasional blog with our first guest contribution – a reflection on Edward Gorey and Dracula, from renowned Gorey collector and scholar, Irwin Terry. Mr. Terry’s own blog, Goreyana, now in its fourteenth year, is an all-encompassing excursion into the works and worlds of its eponymous subject. Please visit it at goreyana.blogspot.com, and please welcome Irwin Terry!
Voyage with a Vampire
By Irwin Terry
The month of October is the perfect time to hear spooky stories, so I have recently been re-listening to the Bram Stoker novel Dracula (unabridged on 10 CD’s) while working in my stained glass studio. This got me thinking about Edward Gorey’s long association with the diabolical Count and how his voyage has influenced my own journey with both Mr. Gorey’s works and Dracula.
Edward Gorey stated he read Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel at age 7. I first picked up the novel around age 13 with mixed success. It wasn’t until 1979, during my first year of college, that I discovered the works of Edward Gorey and through his works rediscovered Dracula. Finishing college in 1983, friends and I embarked on a road trip from Minneapolis to New York City. This trip to NYC was memorable for many reasons, not the least of which included being the first time I visited The Gotham Book Mart. My interest in all things Gorey instantly transformed from simply enjoying his works to becoming a burgeoning collector of his books.
I had heard about and seen photos of the Broadway production of Dracula, but the scope of the show was still an abstract concept. In February 1985 I was delighted to find out that a national tour of the play with sets and costumes by Edward Gorey and starring Martin Landau would be playing in St. Paul, MN for two nights. I attended both performances and it was a revelation to see Edward Gorey’s two dimensional drawings come to life on stage. The show was a self contained world, the likes of which I had not experienced before on stage. Two months later while visiting New York City, I attended a performance of Mr. Gorey’s Tinned Lettuce at NYU and sat directly behind the man himself. From this point on, there was no going back and I wanted to know everything I could about Mr. Gorey’s works and Dracula.
Edward Gorey’s artistic influence over the production of Dracula cannot be overstated. He first designed the Dracula sets and costumes for a 1973 production produced by John Wulp and mounted at the Cyrus Peirce Theater in Nantucket. The show was so visually stunning that the theatrical cognoscenti flocked to the Cape, and talk of moving the show to Broadway began almost immediately. Staying true to his original design concepts, Mr. Gorey set about reworking the set designs which had to be expanded to fit the larger stage of the Martin Beck Theater. The show stunned audiences who often gave the set an ovation at the beginning of the play. Like the character of Lucy in the play, Edward Gorey’s fate was now forever intertwined with that of Count Dracula.
Due to the financial success of the Broadway production, Edward Gorey was able to purchase a home in Yarmouthport, MA, now The Edward Gorey House museum. Not content to rest on his laurels, Mr. Gorey once again redrew the entire production in miniature to be published as a cut apart toy theater which was published in 1979. He then began working on a fully illustrated version of the novel. Unfortunately, his interest began to wane and this project was never completed. A version of the novel was published with Gorey illustrations by Barnes and Noble in 1996, but the spot illustrations that appear in the book are culled from the Toy Theater.
It was during my next trip to NYC in April 1986 NYC that I was shown three pieces of original Dracula set design artwork by P. Matthew Monaghan (then director of The Gotham Book Mart gallery) and was amazed to learn that they were for sale. The drawings were for throw pillows used on the set and were carefully, but minimally executed. Being just out of college, the artwork was not something I could acquire; but it planted a seed to know more about the set designs and (hopefully) own a piece of original art from the production some day.
Apart from the original set designs still in the Gorey Archives, I have come to learn that the original artwork for the Dracula sets and costumes can turn up when least expected. Edward Gorey gifted several pieces to colleagues and actors associated with the production, and set drawings were also sold through The Gotham Book Mart. I have had the good fortune of acquiring two pieces of original set design artwork for my collection.
The first piece is the proscenium design from the original Nantucket production. Mr. Gorey gifted several set designs to producer John Wulp, who sold them through The Gotham Book Mart in 2004.
The second piece of Dracula set design in my collection is from the Broadway production. It is a wonderfully spooky wall in Dracula’s vault (or crypt). The amazingly crosshatched stone wall has shelves with bodies and there is a pile of discarded skulls on the floor. The Gotham Book Mart originally sold this piece for Mr. Gorey and I was fortunate to be able to add it to my collection in 2018.
The show was revived in 2014 by The Alley Theater in Houston, TX and once again the Gorey designs were stunningly recreated. A new generation has been introduced to the wonderful combination of Gorey and Dracula.