Speaking with the vamp from Vamp

Since vampires don’t really exist, it’s impossible for me, as the author of a vampire novel (Blood Groove, available April 28, 2009 from Tor), to chat with one. But I can talk with the next best thing: an actor who plays a vampire.

Kristin Forde portrays the heartbreaking vampire Angela in Ry Herman’s play Vamp, performed by StageQ and the Mercury Theatre in Madison, WI through March 28, 2009. Jennifer Smith, in the Isthmus, says, “Whether you’re gay, straight, a figment of someone’s imagination, a member of the living dead or just plain human, Vamp is fresh and relatable.” I saw the show, and I’ll sign that, too.

Forde was kind enough to answer some vampire-specific questions about creating her character.

Alex: Both Chloe and Angela were victims of “monsters”; why do you think Angela became one herself, while Chloe remained a victim?

Kristin: I actually think that if you were to ask Chloe, she would tell you that she is also a monster. A different kind of monster, maybe one hiding in the closet, but a monster all the same. Chloe and Angela masked themselves differently. Angela self-identifies as a vampire and performs in life with a confident, attractive front knowing that her ability to attack lies just beneath the surface. Chloe hides in her apartment and spirals downward in depression and mental illness, alienating herself from friends. Her attraction to Angela, who makes it quite obvious that she is a vampire, allows this cycle to continue. I would claim that they are both monsters and each 100% responsible for the repeated patterns of perpetration and victimization, anger and depression.

In the first parable scene, there is a beautiful girl and a monster. At first glance, it seems the beautiful girl represents Chloe and the monster, Angela. In fact, the beautiful girl is Angela. Chloe is represented in the second parable scene when “the beautiful girl meets another beautiful girl.” The beautiful girls are both victims who react differently. One runs away while the other attacks…both in an effort to defend themselves.

Another interpretation of the play which I have explored is that Angela is not real at all. She is similar to Jesus and Spunky Old Gal, an annoying character that exists in the plays Chloe reads, but takes on extra significance because Chloe is afraid of the next person she will fall in love with, without even knowing who that will be. Angela represents what she is afraid of. And in the end, Angela has a lesson to teach her as any trite character would.

Either way, I would suggest that Chloe is not simply the victim and Angela is not simply the monster.

Did you approach the character of Angela as if she were a real vampire, or did she simply believe she was a vampire? What aspects of the play’s text influenced your choice?

I approached Angela’s character as if she only believed she was a vampire. I decided this right away because it gave her more depth to work with. She truly believed she was a vampire so she lived by conventions and attributed all aspects of her being to her status as a vampire. This allowed me to explore the motivations and actions of a predator and as a vampire frustrated with her reality. Yet the story I was even more interested in was the story of self-created realities. Her status as a vampire, even her frustration with it, is actually a method for avoiding the very difficult place of healing. Only by becoming conscious of patterned, negative behavior and allowing herself to feel such heartbreaking emotion could she fully grasp her potential for living with free will.

Her ‘healing’ begins with Jesus’ parable about the beautiful girl. He sends her a message that a monster only convinced her to believe that she was a monster. In fact, she just needed therapy! She continues by describing her experience with a vampire that sucked the love out of her and made her feel like she could never love anybody: “If I had loved her enough it would have been alright, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have it in me because I am bad.” She breaks down with emotion. Later, she searches the sky for answers and Jesus meets her in the field. He tells her to “go home.” She then takes over the puppet stage and tells her own story that goes beyond her first encounter with a monster. She speaks of behavior learned from parents and teachers, she confesses that she hated herself a long time ago “because she wasn’t nice anymore.” Again she breaks down: “Maybe I should shoot myself in the fucking head.” At this moment, though, I believe she realizes that she doesn’t have to kill her whole self; only the self-loathing and self-compromising monster living inside. In her poem, she says the hardest part about packing was “putting away the bondage gear.” It was hard to set herself free from the monster, yet she did it.

Did you have a prior interest in vampires before taking on the role? How did (or not) this affect your performance?

I didn’t have interest in vampires before the show. I’m not sure how this affected my performance. It may have led to an easy conclusion that Angela only believed she was a vampire and more exploration of the human side. And sucking blood was never a primary motivation.

What influenced Angela’s striking visual presence?

Angela’s appearance was influenced by the writing, the directing and the designer. Ry Herman described Angela’s costume as a vinyl-based evening gown with gloves. I believe that part of this was to show that Angela was not creating any illusions about her identity, yet Chloe either ignores signs or is simply oblivious. Tara Ayres wanted Angela to be a very sexual character; a vampire who uses sexual attraction to gain access to its prey. This becomes part of Angela’s story then. Her ability to control situations with a confident sexual tone prevents her from dealing honestly with her own demons. Rebecca Site took direction from the director and writer and made a kick ass costume!

Thanks again to Kristin Forde for taking the time to talk to me. Vamp will be performed through March 28, 2009; info on tickets and times can be found here.

2 Comments on “Speaking with the vamp from Vamp”

  1. Interesting interview! I saw the play, and I appreciate the actress’ perspective on what kind of monster her character is…(I sort of thought Angela wasn’t a real vampire, too). The best thing about the play was that I felt I was eavesdropping on two real people talking, which is not a sense I usually get at a play — the leads were really talented.

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