Anne Washburn's world premiere play at ART, The Communist Dracula Pageant, follows the last days of Romanian dictators Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu.
Kauffman's concern stems from the fact that the 1989 revolution remains hugely controversial in the eyes of many Romanians. "This play is really about a stolen revolution. The people thought that it was started by them. It is believed, although not proven these 20 years later, that the revolution was usurped by Ion Illiescu (the president of Romania until 2004) and the 'rejected' old guard." Interspersed with the story of the Ceausescus is a pageant-style telling of the story of Vlad Tepes, better known as Dracula, which the playwright is using "to show how we harness a national myth to justify policy or a cult following," adds Kauffman.
The production incorporates moving walls, projections, blue screens, 101 costumes on 16 actors, and 1980s era film equipment. "We're mixing theater with television, because this was the first televised revolution; it was able to incite the whole country to action," she says. In fact, video artifacts from the 1989 revolution are widely viewable on YouTube, including the trial of the Ceausescus, the moments immediately before and after their execution, and the moment that Illiescu and the other revolutionaries took over the Romanian television station in Bucharest. "We tried to replicate the television station video as closely as possible," says Kauffman. "Any event for which there is video, we have recreated live on stage in a documentary-style way."