Shelby (Donna Bella Litto) leads the good vamp fight with some aerial backup (Edward Vivas). (Photo by Claire Logue)
The supernatural creatures of Pulsate beckon into the night. (Photo by Claire Logue)
Beware the seductive powers of Detroit (Brad Goertz). (Photo by Claire Logue)
The club's star singer (Jordi Viscarri) gets in on the act. (Photo by Claire Logue)
Love and war in the supernatural world of Pulsate. (Photo by Claire Logue)
Everyone whether vampire, witch or werewolf finds a home in the club. (Photo by Claire Logue)
The musical gets immersive using all the Prohibition Theater space to tell the story. (Photo by Claire Logue)
Lilith (Mai Le)sings a solo. (Photo by Claire Logue)
Walking one evening through the deep woods at an artist retreat in Maine, Houston actress, playwright and composer Faith Fossett encountered a mysterious force. . . of inspiration. A melody and one line of lyrics about a vampire on the prowl came to her in the darkness.
When she got back to New York, where she was living at the time, that melody became a full song and that song the core for an entire musical. Now three years and nine drafts later, Pulsate: The Vampire Musical makes its world premiere at Houston’s Prohibition Theatre.
To get a preview taste of what (blood) type of musical we can expect from Pulsate, I sat down with Fossett and the co-producer and director of the production, Rachael Logue to get the vamp vibe on the show.
The story of Pulsate takes place at Club Angelina run by Shelby (Donna Bella Litton), a vampire who wants members of the supernatural community to live peacefully with each other and with humans, while another sect of vampires led by the villainous Detroit (Brad Goertz), wants to rule over, and occasionally dine on, humans.
While a supernatural war wages, the club serves as a kind of neutral ground where everyone – witches, werewolves, vampires and the audience – can come together.
“The storyline has always been focused on community and the club being a safe haven for outsiders,” Fossett details.
Finding a Vampire Home
From the beginning Fossett saw Pulsate as an immersive show that would happen all around the audience, so she wanted to find a real club to play the role of the supernatural night club. Logue thought the historic Prohibition Theatre would be ideal.
The venue has gone through many magical transformations itself. It began as Houston’s first silent movie house in 1912 and now serves as the place to go for dinner and contemporary-styled burlesque shows.
”It took time to work all the details out because we were the first outsiders coming in,” Logue says. “But it worked out, and it’s gorgeous, high impact space. There’s something about the space that makes everyone look a little more beautiful.”
“That’s the idea that the show takes place in an active club and the audience member is a club goer,” describes Logue with Fossett chiming in “You are a family member. You are a regular.”
They also hope audience members will get in the supernatural spirit of the production by wearing their spookiest and witchiest attire.
Discovering the right venue that could support the electronic pop score, complex story and even an aerial artist in the show, was actually one of the final steps of a long process. Fossett had a lot of help from the Houston theater community and even the city itself, as she won a Houston Arts Alliance grant to develop the show and then received an artist residency at Rec Room that allowed her to have staged readings, also directed by Logue, of the work in development.
So when it finally came time to mount a full production she understandably wanted to keep the show local.
“I knew I really wanted to do it here because of the resources and I had already met such cool people,” Fossett tells PaperCity.
About half the cast has remained from the workshop reading, and with the notable exception of the Fossett’s husband Alan Brincks, who serves fight director and production assistant for the show, the rest of the behind the scenes designers and creative crew are women.
“I wanted to see how many powerful women in this town that I could gather up,” Fossett says. “In this vampire story the charge is led by a woman. I take pride of the fact that she’s so bold, taps into her testosterone and leads the pack. Because it’s this specific story, having a group of women surrounding you and leaning into that has coincidently been cool.”
Fellow actor Brincks is about to take up the role of Fitzwilliam Darcy in the Pride and Prejudice sequel The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley at Main Street Theater, so as Fossett, Logue and I talked after a late rehearsal, the sight of Mr. Darcy (sans Regency era regalia) doing his production assistant part of carrying a rehearsal table and chairs around for this vampire musical staged by a “pack” of “powerful women” just added to the surreal theatrical atmosphere surrounding this production.
While mid-November might seem an odd time to premiere a vampire musical, scheduling conflicts prevented them from staging the show around Halloween. Now, Fossett and Logue are finding this time between the holidays ideal for a bit of counter-programming.
“The interest is built in if you like vampires,” Logue says. “There are those people out in the world, and there’s not a lot of programming for that kind of stuff.”
As one of the great allures of vampire lore from Dracula to Blade to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s several undead boyfriends, those sexy monsters have represented many of our fears and desires.
No matter if they rise from their graves in the late 19th century or early 21st, a vamp is seldom just a blood connoisseur with a sun allergy. When I asked Fossett if the Pulsate supernatural community stood for or was inspired by any one or issue in our non-magical world, she admitted that like most writers, she is influenced by life around her, but she wants the audience to dive into the experience and then find what meaning speaks to them.
“The cool thing about them being vampire, witches and werwolves and being in a supernatural world, people are going to find parallels,” Fossett says. “They might see similarities with certain characters that fit into something in our human world.
“I didn’t purposefully aim for that but when you’re talking about fighting for tolerance and love over hate, people are going to take what they know about the current world around them and they’re going to find what they’re going to find.”
Pulsate: A Vampire Musical runs now through November 21 at Prohibition Theatre.