‘Dracula’ production captures national honor

From left, Joel Knisley plays Dr. Seward and Terry Nienhuis portrays the title character in Western Carolina University’s radio production of 'Dracula.' (Photo by Jarrett Frazier)

From left, Joel Knisley plays Dr. Seward and Terry Nienhuis portrays the title character in Western Carolina University’s radio production of ‘Dracula.’ (Photo by Jarrett Frazier)

Western Carolina University’s 2012 original radio-style production of “Dracula” has won the national Broadcast Education Association Best of Festival King Family Foundation Award in the association’s Festival of Media Arts faculty audio division.

The announcement marks the second time an original radio-style show performed live at WCU has garnered the honor – the highest award presented at the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Media Arts.

“Winning a King Foundation Award once is a huge honor, and winning a second time is like lightning striking twice in the same place,” said Don Connelly, head of WCU’s communication department and writer and producer of “Dracula.”

Connelly and Bruce H. Frazier, WCU’s Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Commercial and Electronic Music and writer of the original music for “Dracula,” will be honored as co-authors of the show. On Monday, April 8, at the Broadcast Education Association convention in Las Vegas, they will accept the award on behalf of the students, faculty, staff and regional professionals who took part in the program.

The original radio broadcast adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel “Dracula” was staged in front of a live audience of nearly 1,000 people at WCU’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center on Jan. 24, 2012.

The production was directed by Steve Carlisle, associate dean of the Honors College, and Brian Gastle, former head of the Department of English, served as the literary research director. The cast featured students, faculty, staff and professional actors from across the university and the region. A 40-piece orchestra for the production was composed of WCU music faculty and students and string players from the Asheville Symphony Orchestra.

Clark Greer, professor of communication at Point Loma Nazarene University and chair of the BEA festival’s faculty audio competition, said judges described “Dracula” as professionally produced with good pacing and acting, and enough element changes throughout to keep the audience’s attention.

The show, which raised money for scholarships, was the fourth in a series of “academic-based entertainment” projects that hark back to the golden age of radio, featuring a live orchestra and sound effects.

One of the previous shows in the series, a Veterans Day tribute titled “On the Home Front, Nov. ’44” that staged in 2009, also won a BEA Best of Festival King Family Foundation Award.

The Charles and Lucille King Family Foundation was created by King World Productions, which is known for its television program syndication including “The Little Rascals,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Dr. Phil.” The company was purchased by CBS in 2007. The King Family Foundation was formed in 1988 to support individuals, institutions and organizations committed to educational excellence and professional development in the media.

The Best of Family King Family Foundation Award includes a $1,000 cash prize, which Connelly and Frazier said will benefit scholarship funds of departments that participated in the show. The fifth in the series of academic-based entertainment productions, “Tarzan,” was performed Feb. 26. The productions have raised more than $22,000 for scholarships.

For more information, contact Connelly at 828-227-3851 or dconnelly@wcu.edu.