Tonight we are above ground and seen in the light.
You are not in your own domain. You are in
ours and whatever may befall you is of
your own choice.

This is a repository of all the news that fits about New York City’s original vampire theater, La Commedia del Sangue: Vampyr Theatre.

 

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Original Cast

“Vampyr Theatre scripts are available for performance, please call 212-726-1821 or send me an email at tsokol37@gmail.com

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DAILY NEWS, FRIDAY, JANUARY 28, 1994 MUSTO GUSTO

`Let Us Prey’: Drop Over to Vampyr’s for a Bite by Michael Musto

You get the feeling it’s not going to be just another night at “Cats” the second you walk into the dank, ramshackle theater where the vampire drama “Let Us Prey” is playing — and hear a gravelly voice ritualistically croaking on tape, “We’re all gonna be just dirt in the ground.” Charming. You glance warily at the program, “Tonight we are above ground and seen in the light. You are not in your own domain. You are in ours and whatever may befall you is of your own choice. You have been warned.” REALLY charming. You think of bolting for the door but there’s a funky, buck-toothed character named Count Grau Orlock onstage, begging for your blood products, and it would be rather impolite not to stay.

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Cast of Let Us Prey (top row: Steve Lynch, Karie Ehrlich, Esther Weerd. Mark Lang, Tina Wu, Dianne Acciavati, Dawn Marchan, Shaunte. Jericho De’Angelo, Roslyn Bottom row: Rick Crane, Lauren Bailey, Tony Sokol, Adam Barnick, Troy Acree, Marcia Canestrano and Sophia Valaikas

“I always like to start the very serious business of a ritual with a meal,” intones the Count, a really delightful guy. “Who has the first offering?” He looks thirstily out at the audience and as his beady eyes hit yours, you hope he’ll settle for some dirty fingernails or lint. Mercifully, he chooses to feast from various willing zombies — the cast, you pray — who emerge from the folding chairs shrouded in black, bursting with plasma and ready to party. The no-account count gets to work pulling out an accountant’s eyes and a hunchback’s heart, also seizing on a lovely severed hand procured for him by a vampy vampire assistant (“I was going to steal the whole body,” she explains, “but I thought it would be difficult to get it through customs.”) They toss all those goodies into a big bowl, adding everything but garlic for seasoning — natch — and the count beams, “Now, THIS is a strew.” LORENA BOBBIT would be proud. As the sated cast exits down the aisle dripping in red goo, you stumble out to perversely grab an after-theater snack. Every bit as weird as it sounds, “Prey” — written by horror/comedy scribe TONY SOKOL for the troupe La Commedia Del Sangue — presents its eerie rituals with conviction, unabashedly lacing the vampires’ ruthless survival tactics with more of a raw sexuality than the misty romanticism they’re usually diluted by. The performance is short — it runs less than an hour — but with its toothsome mix of horror and black comedy, it hardly lacks for bite. I’m just glad the stew doesn’t call for the knees of a figure skater. (At Vampyr Theater, 54 W. 22nd St., tonight at 10, tomorrow at 8 & 10, call 212-726-1821)

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New York Times September 26, 1993

Cousin Barnabas, Meet Your Peers

This is why you live in New York, it may be the only place in America with a theater company dedicated to plays about vampires. The Vampyr Theater, currently in its second year at the Creative Place theater on Eight Avenue, grew out of Tony Sokol’s life-long fascination with vampires. New `plasma-pleasing works’ are always in production. For his latest play, “More Than You Can Chew,” Mr. Sokol said he interviewed 250 `self-proclaimed local vampires’ who responded to ads he placed in free Manhattan newspapers.

Mr. Sokol said he was surprised to find how much local fodder there was for a vampire narrative. He said he “got to know the vampires’ stories, their hopes, their dreams and their plans for the future … which never ends.”

“I got some real crazy people,” he said. “One guy claimed he wanted to drink the blood of his son’s playmate. I told him to seek some help.” Mr. Sokol, who has also been an editor of vampire poetry, said he was sometimes frightened during the interviews. “Some people I talked to made me very tired.” The vampires said they were sucking out his energy, but he admitted his lethargy might have had more to do with the fact that he interviewed them at 3 in the morning. When else are vampires available?

NEW YORK POST ENTERTAINMENT WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 1993

READ ALL ABOUT IT Section

It’ll be a rare theatrical experience. by Barbara Lippman Bloodthirsty theater goers with a taste for the supernatural will have something to sink their teeth into when “La Commedia del Sangue: The Vampyr Theater” performs tomorrow, Friday and Saturday at the Creative Place Theater on Eighth Avenue. The 2-year-old company, founded by playwright Tony Sokol, will perform segments titled “Blood Is Thicker than Water,” “The Auction,” “One of Us” and others. Tickets for the shows, which begin at 10:30, are $10 ($9 for anyone dressed like a vampire. Performances will also take place on Sept. 9, 10. and 11. The Theater is at 750 Eight Ave., between 46th and 47th streets.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES, SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 26,1993

From The Vampire Book, The Encyclopedia of the Undead By J. Gordon Melton

Vampire Theater: The Gothic movement that developed in the United States in the late 1070s has had a noticeable influence upon vampire drama. The movement itself was very dramatic, built as it was around bands who used theatrical effects as an integral part of their performance. Possibly the principle examples were those choreographed by Vlad, the Chicago rock musician who heads the band The Dark Theatre. More recently La Commedia del Sangria was created in 1992 by Tony Sokal as a dramatic company that performs “vampire theatre,” and includes a strong element of audience interaction. The company’s very metaphysical production examines questions of the vampiric condition (limited immortality) and the existence of God. Some of the actors begin the performance portraying audience members an then enter the sage as an apparent interruption. The production has received a warm response from people in the vampire subculture who regularly attend to cheer on the vampires each time they bite someone.

From Delirium Magazine:

Just Us Served
Interlude Theatre
Opened September 26th through November

Written by Tony Sokol
Directed by Troy Acree

When it comes to a live vampyre theatre performance, writer Tony Sokol always surprises and pleases his audience. This particular performance Just Us Served showcases one of the many dark talents embedded in Sokol’s soul (that is if he even has one.) Just Us Served takes twists and turns from socio-political stances to the icons of popular culture today. Even the vampyres poke fun at one another, an FBI agent is harassed and threatened by the vampyres, and a role-player named Dominic, is toyed with until his death. Here you have it all-bloodsuckers, wannabe bloodsuckers, political bloodsuckers to other kinks.

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The alluring Count Orlock played by Troy Acree is at once magnetic. Orlock’s take on society through a vampyre’s eyes is full of sarcasm and brimming in his tone on such subjects humans spend way too much time dwelling on. All Orlock cares for is the survival of his kind and refers to the outside world as cyber-psychotic and he’s right, right? Religion has no value to him and he tells the lord to kiss his ass and Satan to suck his cock and further goes on to say, if anything needs to be hailed be it him or hail a cab! This sort of tone flows throughout the performance and each of the other cast like Vena Cava, Igor Mortis and Drew Blood, especially take this sarcasm to a new level unparalleled to any I’ve heard before. These vampyres are unlike your wildest dreams and their words concoct venom turned to absinthe in just seconds. You never know what to expect or where to turn so you just pay attention and cringe when the character of the federal agent Schrader opens his mouth.

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The ancient vampyre Zianubi suffers from peek-a-boo Alzheimer’s and other ailments and tells Schrader to lick his bleeding hemorrhoids. Zianubi’s character holds up to par with Orlock’s outstanding control onstage. His agility is felt throughout the play. Orlock speaks to the audience and threatens all when need be. “We’ll kill you if you try to leave. Be patient. You’ll all get what I want. And I want your blood bleeding from your every pore, oozing from your eyeballs and the small of your back, spilling into my mouth until you no longer draw breath and have to lie down forever.” Orlock says, “I want you screaming for mercy, tearing your hair out, trying to take your own lives quickly and mercifully before I get the chance to do it tortuously and hmmm deliciously slow.” He tells Schrader, “…I scare myself. Each of you in this room will die. One by one. Unless you denounce what you are and join us…”

He’s not a warmhearted kind of fellow, know what I mean? And why should he be? He’s a goddamned vampyre for Christ sake. The role of Schrader is acted out as expected-by an idiot of sorts suckered into federal pinings without an inkling of a conspiracy theory set against him by the vampyres at Orlock’s court. He’s judged by vampyres and no one gets out of this one…right?

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Sucker Born, Drew Blood and the others make fun of the role-player Dominic. They ask him if role players are allowed to drink each other’s blood, if others are hurt, murdered. Dominic says they do neither of the former save for assume the role of vampyres by acting and storytelling. The vampyres call the role playing lame, weak, bullshit. Orlock then hands Dominic a glass of his blood and Vena Cava hands him his storyteller mask then Orlock says “…I’ll tell you a story about a real vampyre. A vampyre that has had to kill and hide and pillage for centuries. Not some pretend wannabe asshole, but someone who gets his hands dirty. Someone who is not afraid to let the world see his face. Why? Because he has nothing to hide? No. Because he doesn’t care who knows what he’s hiding. Now I hide in the ears of those who fear to listen. But I don’t need a mask.” He then hammers the mask into Dominic’s head and dies. “I am your reality,” states Orlock. “I am your dream. I am a vampyre and I am bored of your stories.” A good death and a well deserved one at that!

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As the case of Schrader continues to develop, it is evident the vampyres are toying with him and playing mind games in the court Orlock himself set up. Schrader tells all, “How can you let him (Orlock) be like this? Don’t you know what this man does? He’s killed 16 people this month. And it’s not even that, it’s the way he does it. He rips out their throats. He drinks their blood. He’s a psychopath… He’s a fucking homicidal megalomaniac.” Schrader has no way out of this no matter what testimony he offers or whatever evidence he presents against Orlock.

An interesting dialogue erupts between Zianubi and Orlock, which displays Zianubi’s displeasure in Orlock’s behavior, and as the case continues; a banging is heard saying it’s the NYPD. The audience are the hostages the cops are referring to. As the knocking continues, Vena Cava and Orlock talk to Schrader about his killer instincts and training that is very similar to those of the vampyres. Drew Blood shoots at the exit door and shouting erupts. Orlock tells Schrader, “You always knew about us, didn’t you?”

Schrader responds, “We have to keep you down… You pose a threat to national security, like all damned terrorists. I’m here because it’s my job to get rid of you and all like you before you start to infect people…” Orlock goes to Igor Mortis and walks into a cloak, spins and he disappears. The cloak falls empty to the floor.

The cops keep knocking and thrust in after Drew Blood shoots through the door. The two cops turn out to be Igor Mortis and Orlock. Orlock’s final words to the audience are, “Ladies and gentlemen, when you leave here tonight, know, that although you may not see it in evidence on your TV sets or in your newspapers, that we are now in control. (Igor nails Schrader’s hands to the crucifix and dies.) It is accomplished. The puppet government that you elect periodically dances on strings that we hold. You will see evidence in your day to day lives, evidence that you may wish to share with people around you. But they won’t want to hear it. They love their vampyre masters. So when your friend’s start disappearing and come back looking pale and sick, know that it is just your government at work. Think of it like a new tax. But we will restore one thing that you’re government took away from you…”

The rest has to be left for your imagination. An exemplary performance by the entire cast and the words of delight and profound blasphemy and perverseness are the responsibility and courtesy of Tony Sokol. A true gem and a cursed one at that. If you hear and/or read that Tony Sokol has a performance scheduled in NYC city, I urge you to catch a showing or two…You will not be disappointed.

 

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INK 19, OCT. 95 By Leslie R. Marini

The Vampyr Theatre is located (quite naturally) in a subterranean section of New York’s Greenwich Village area. Outside, a red and black banner announces the performance time and the entire trip into Vampyr Theatre is heavily permeated with a medieval gypsy circus atmosphere.

Creator/playwright/journalist/musician Tony Sokol, a Brooklyn native, is the flesh and blood force behind The Vampyr Theatre, which is officially titled “La Commedia Del Sangue.” The Commedia itself has its roots in traveling acting troupes from the Renaissance, and modern day ’60s guerrilla street theatre. Sokol spent four years researching self-proclaimed vampires for La Commedia, and the various scripts and dramas the Sokol has presented to an above-ground audience of mortals are riddled with a dry, subtle, undead wit. The Vampyr Theatre begins with a power confrontation between he ideals of law and chaos, ignorance and wisdom. In the spirit of maintaining balance, the head vampire, Count Grau Orlock (played by director Troy Acree) rises from the makeshift coffin and grants favors to those mortals who seem bent on self-destruction.

Without the usual silly overdramatizing that so many of his type like to bask in. The venue owner and the policeman, the married woman and her blissfully dull husband, the woman who seeks revenge for the sake of revenge, and of course the seductive bitch; all are played out with a vampire’s twist of manipulation into human affairs simply for the sake of humor; otherwise what other functions would we serve other than a food source? The pace of the theatre is enjoyable, and the entire very-thin-shoestring production of this performance art is used to full advantage by the production company.

Audience participation, while a little uptight, is not discouraged, and of course what Vampyr Theatre would be complete without a Greek chorus of exotic undead femme fatales? Throughout Orlock’s indulgences in human failure and denial, the trio of Gothic beauties comment via snarl, whisper, dance and dare.

A notable performance at the beginning of The Vampyr Theatre is from traveling magician, Algebra Cadaver, alias Tony Scarpa. With a razor blade- eating effect, complete with background calliope, as the `opening act’ for La Commedia Del Sangue, Scarpa set the mood for illusion and danger and left at least this reporter in a semi-queasy mood. Tony, who in his spare time often cruises the Internet in search of vampires, has performed on Norwegian Cruise Lines Discover Cruises and throughout Miami, Florida. He escaped from 100 pounds of chains underwater for the grand opening of a health club, and is an annual performer at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J. Tony will attempt to make it rain, and should you ever wander into a situation where you encounter a Tony Scarpa appearance … by all means he is well worth the price of admission.

The rest of the performers all can boast of excellent credentials, such as Shaunte Shayde, who has appeared in Type O Negative’s “Black No. 1” video and Skid Row’s “Psycho Love” video. She has also appeared as “The “Urban Angel” in comic books. The Vampyr Theatre is actually a series of scripts written and executed by Sokol, none of which are directly related to the other.

The particularly script I am reviewing here is officially called “Dances From A Shallow Grave” and it stands as a secret, hidden look into life at the end of the millennium. When we as mortals turn to dust and ashes, when the sun burns out, only the immortals and blood drinkers will be left to tall our tale. Tony Sokol invites comments and questions regarding Vampyr Theatre and is currently researching multiple personality disorders and cults. To contact him, you may write him in care of The Vampyr Theatre.

The Vampyr Theatre runs through December 18th, Fridays and Saturdays at Midnight at Nada, located at 167 Ludlow St. You may leave Tony a message at 212-726-1821, and if you are a vampire, he would like to hear from you.

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From Delirium Magazine: 1999

Vampire Archives, Issue #35, Page 2 By Jule Ghoul.

La Commedia del Sangue: The Vampyre Theatre. Tony Sokol is the creator of this alluring, gothicy atmospheric, exotic, erotic eerie production that plays throughout New York. We’d first heard about it on Halloween, ’93 on The Joan Rivers Show vampire special. We’d finally gotten around to calling the number Tony had provided. Naturally we got a recording that gave further information on the play. The next night, Tony returned our call and we had such a nice time. He took us up on our offer of the night before to call him right back, it being long-distance. Price of admittance just went up from a low $10 to a still low $13. The play last about 45 minutes at clubs, and about 1 hour and 20 minutes in a theater. He’s interviewed over 300 vampires, since his quote of 250 on The Joan Rivers Show. Interviews supply him with ideas for the next script. As being a musician, he `Feels the rhythm’ coming from that person as they related their story.

They would really love to use some of this music in his plays, but his actors feel it would interfere with their concentration, Although we haven’t, unfortunately, seen the play, we would think that music would enhance it. If you’d like to read a little more about the play, Loretta M. Accardo gives her review in the “Midnight Snacks” section under “Performance”: in Nox, Fall 1993, Volume 1, Number 2, PO Box 2467, Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. 10163-2467. Send SASE for latest price quote and availability. Not only has Loretta Seen The Vampyr Play several times, Tony told us he’d used her name in one of the shows. And, Loretta told us in a letter a few months ago that she was in the audience on The Joan Rivers Show. Tony provided yet another number to call, which appears in FANGORIA: The Vampire Hot-Line 212- 330-9275. (We have yet to get a response to our message). If you’d like B&W photo print(s) of The Vampire Play, it’s $7 each, or $2 each for a laser print (We will have a review of the aforementioned issue of Nox, later in this issue.)

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NOX, Fall 93 By Loretta M. Accardo

La Commedia del Sangue is an innovative group of theaters that perform vampire theatre. The shows that I’ve seen took place in a small, intimate setting that enables the cast to interact with the audience, As a result, you’re not quite sure who among the audience is an actor or even if the person sitting next to you is an actual vampire! I was told by writer/creator Tony Sokol that an average of three self-proclaimed vampires is in attendance at each show. Tony gets his information from the questionnaires that are handed out at each performance. He also spent two years doing research and interviewing vampires before the group began rehearsals in April 1992. They had their first performance in May of that year. The question of whether immortality is all it’s cracked up to be is brought up during the show. One vampire laments over no longer being able to see the sun and says that over the years it can become very lonely. Despite the drawbacks, one mortal climbs out of the audience and says she wishes to become a vampire.

Initially, she cannot bring herself to bite a vampire who has offered to change her. However, she eventually succumbs, Another vampire, who was well-liked by his peers has been killed (offstage) and the search for his murderer is one of the plots. Without giving too much away, there is plenty of onstage bloodletting to satisfy those vampires that might be present.

The debate over the existence of God is also brought up. Since vampires have power over life and death, doesn’t that make them gods as well? The audience actually cheered the vampires and seemed genuinely excited as they were about to bite their victims. I found that I was laughing and cheering right along with them. The vampires, not the mortals, are the heroes here. The show has many different moods ranging from humor, to passion, to outright horror. It’s an evening well spent for mortals and vampires alike. If you’re ever in the New York City area, La Commedia del Sangue is well worth checking out. Don’t miss it! NOTE: As of this writing, the group is performing a new script. I haven’t seen this new production yet, but I’ll be sure to review it next time.

New York Newsday, Friday, September 3, 1993

CHOICES: What’s Hot Around Town Vampyr Theater

A new segment has been added to “La Commedia del Sangue: the Vampyr Theater’s self described “dracu-drama.’ This was weekend and next you can see “More than You Can Chew” at the Creative Place Theater, 750 Eighth Ave., at 46th Street. Shows are 10:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Tickets are $10, $9 if you come in costume.

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Bay News, Jan. 3, 1994 Big Apple By Kenneth Brown

LET US PREY OPENS `Let Us Prey,’ the recent segment in the on-going sanguine saga by Tony Sokol for La Commedia Del Sangue: The Vampyr Theatre Will open at Theatre 22, 54 West 22nd Street on Thursday through Saturday nights. Jan 6-8, 20-22 and 27-79. “Let Us Prey” is described by Sokol as the most graphic of his Gothic tales. In its unfolding of blood rituals and sacrifices, it is his most frightening and, certainly most physical work. It is directed by Troy Acree, who also interprets the central host role of Count Grau Orlock. Rick Crane has created the special effects and make-up. Sokol, who has interviewed self-proclaimed vampires as part of his research for the Vampyr Theatre, was recently a guest on the Joan Rivers television program with a panel of vampire experts and those who claim to be sustained “by blood alone.” He is currently researching rituals and cult activities and multiple personality disorders for upcoming scripts and articles. A series of staged readings of spousal murder comedies is also contemplated.

NOX, Spring 94 By Loretta M. Accardo

This is an update of the review I did in the last issue. Despite cast and script changes over the past few months, La Commedia del Sangue: The Vampyr Theatre is still horrific, erotic, blasphemous and fascinating. The location has changed from a cabaret/bar to a small theater, but there remains an intimacy with the actors who are right there, up close, making eye contact with the audience. I have seen the show five times now, and I still experience chills of fright and pleasure each time I see it. Watching these performances will make you feel that succumbing to a force beyond your control is the most profound experience you can have — whether you’re a mortal being seduced by a powerful vampire or, a child of darkness who must give in to an unceasing hunger. If you’re a vampire fan there is nothing I would recommend more than seeing this show. Watching live bloodletting cannot compare to reading about it or seeing it on film. The show comes at you and hits your hard like a freight train — or maybe more like a stake through he heart! If you live in the New York area or plan on visiting, GO SEE THIS SHOW!

all 212-726-1821 for information and reservations. Be sure you mention that you read about the show in Nox.

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Daily News New York Live, Aug. 23 1992

Fangs for the Memories By Sheila Anne Fenney

After hours with the loopy elusive but ever growing local world of vampirology. While forks and knives tinkle, carving up chicken and steak, the “Vampires” — indecipherable from many diners also attired in black — flick their tongues in and out like lizards, hissing and shrieking encouragement to fellow player Mario Giacalone to finish off the unfortunate before him. “Finish him,” howls one. “Drink him,” insists another.

Giacalone slakes his thirst on the neck of his new slave, pats his belly and burps, “I’m afraid I made a pig of myself.” Commedia del Sangue — a troupe of actors devoted to “vampire theater” — is performing this night at the felicitously titled Le Bar Bat on W. 57th St. Commedia del Sangue is only one manifestation of the loopy elusive world of vampirology. Do vampires exist? Parapsychologist, Stephen Kaplan, director of the Vampire Research Center in Queens, assures that they do. He clams to have authenticated at least 25 city vampires, most of them in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Tony Sokol, who writes the scripts for Commedia del Sangue, says he has spent the last year placing ads seeking people who purport to have the legacy of Count Dracula in their blood, “I’ve yet to meet a real vampire, meaning a reanimated corpse,” sighs Sokol,” But I did talk to one person who claimed to be 317 years old.” Self-identified vampires usually turn out to be run-of-the-mill blood fetishists, says Sokol, who drink blood when … never mind. He insists at least five self-identified vampires are in the audience watching his bloody skit, Alas he cannot provide introductions.

“I don’t believe in outing.” Kaplan runs a “vampire census,” sending questionnaires both at random and on request to people who may be among “The Undead.” (He’s still waiting for White House to Return his questionnaire.) Kaplan promises client confidentiality. The dark shadowy vampire underground is as mysterious and weird — if not suspiciously ethereal — as the legendary Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s famous 1897 novel. While everyone in the field claims to know vampires, no one will produce one.

Vampires are “a besmirched minority group,” according to Kaplan. New York bloodsuckers demand anonymity not because they’re afraid people will come after them with garlic and crosses — impotent weapons against real vampires, Kaplan sniffs indignantly — but because, “If you go public and say you’re a vampire, your believability is near zero.”

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NEW YORK PERSPECTIVES, OCT. 30, 1992

Twice Bitten by Beth Fehrig

With a series of advertisements asking “Are you a vampire?” Playwright Tony Sokol admits he got a lot more than he bargained or while researching his new production. But in the end, he says, it gave him the material he needed to write La Commedia Del Sangue “interactive theater for real New York vampires.” “The first week all I got was actors wanting to be in this play.” says Sokol, whose ads ran for two years in the classifieds section of several weekly papers, thrust right into the past of every walking time bomb in New York. “And then I dropped all references to `playwright.’ And that’s when the fun began.”

“Most of the calls came at three in the morning,” he admits. “I got offers from people to drink my blood, to be made into a vampire, lots and lots of sexual offers. I took no one up on any of these offers. Until this I had a very nice social life. … I have a wife.”

Out of the 500 calls Sokol estimates he received, he says roughly 200 came from “People who believed they were vampires,”: about 20 of whom gave him a real run for his money. Some claimed to be 70-year-olds trapped in the bodies of teenagers. Other claimed to be night creatures with psychic powers, living on high protein diets of blood and meat. None of them wore capes and fangs.

“Some people claim their eyes change color, that they have elongation of teeth, faces actually became more angular.” Sokol recalls, of a few who told him what happens when they don’t “feed.” “I interviewed someone a few weeks ago who claimed to be going through a period of hunger and she actually fled — she said I wasn’t `safe.’ I’m not running a dating service nor a takeout service for vampires.”

At this point, it’s too easy to write of tony Sokol as yet another casualty of a socially dysfunctional city — especially when he launches into tales abut meeting people on dark corners at midnight, and trying to fall under their psychic spells. But as we move into the smoking section of a local coffee shop, where he can unwind after another sleepless night (something that goes with the territory these days), Sokol proves he’s just another New York cynic with a sense of humor.

“I thought there was a possibility that there’s people out there who think they really are vampires,” says the musician and former comedy writer. “I’m the ultimate cynic. But I’m also the person that absolutely loves movies and I love fantasy.” Sokol insists it’s a bad coincidence that his vampire repertory company debuted as three major movies about the subject were hitting the screen But while vampires may be stylish now almost 100 years after Dracula was written, in this real age of AIDS, it’s probably not a good time to be one (a contradiction some suggest may have fueled the fashion).

Although some of the people who spoke with Sokol say they’re regularly getting tested for HIV, others — like one woman who declined to give her name — says she dropped the habit altogether last summer. “We don’t have victims, we are not immortal, we die,” she stated flatly, while attending a recent production of La Commedia Del Sangue at Le bar Bat, where she was decked out in a glitter wig for disguise (the show is now playing once a month at London Dungeon at Zone D.K.) She says she belongs to a community of 200 blood-drinkers that dates back hundreds of years, and is now feeling weak and dizzy and has resorted to eating more raw meat. Her husband, she notes, “isn’t one of us” and watching her feed “makes him sick.”

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If Tony Sokol became the Oprah Winfrey for local vampires, Dr. Stephen Kaplan is more like Mike Wallace. As the world’s leading “vampirologist,” appearing on countless talk shows, the college professor from Queens maintains a staunchly professional demeanor and takes umbrage at Sokol’s amateur forays into the field. “I think he’s tapped into lunatics, fanatics, S&M-ists,vampiroids, vampire-like people and people auditioning for The Gong Show,” says Kaplan. “I told him he made a lot of mistakes, he should have had a P.O. Box. How many times do you need to be killed? You’re talking about so many mentally ill people in New York City, it’s frightening.” After 21 years of research — backed by a team of biologists and scientists — Kaplan says that “real” vampires have a pathological need for blood, which they take sparingly from (mostly) willing victims (not always on the neck), and tend to live longer than they rest of us. In the whole city he says, who knows of only 10 of these people, adding that most of Sokol’s subjects were probably mere “blood fetishists.” But Tony Sokol is more concerned about theater than science.

Having found plenty of material (and an eager audience) for his rotating characters, who act out short tales of desperation and frustration, he says he’s trying to tell their story. “I don’t consider these people to be evil. I don’t consider them to be nasty or horrible in any way, They are sort of out of the ordinary, but to an accountant a musician is out of the ordinary. Maybe.”

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FREE SPIRIT APRIL & MAY 1994

Evil Entertainment

While working on the piece about Cauldron’s latest symposium (see this issue) I came across this gorey group: La Commedia del Sangue. Performing regular shows and special midnight shows of The Vampire Theatre at various “floating” locations, their scripts change frequently, but at this writing the current episode is “Let us Prey.” Playwright Tony Sokol says he gets his material from real vampires who answer his ads in local papers. According to Sokol, the Vampire Theatre means to “explore the grey area between good and evil.” The shows are directed by Troy Acree, and special effects, so very important for a show like this one, are by Rick Crane. Recommended only for those exploring their shadow side. Call for times, dates, and locations: 212-726-1821.

Backstage, October 29-November 4, 1993.

Vampyr Theatre Stalks 8th Ave. Space. “La Commedia Del Sangue: The Vampyr Theatre,” continues its late Friday and Saturday night run of Gothic tales by Tony Sokol with “Let Us Prey,” running Nov. 5-13. Performance are at 10:30 pm at 750 Eight Ave. (at 46th St.) NYC. Costumes are encouraged.

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DAILY NEWS, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 1992

City’s undead plan to live it up by Larry Hackett Daily News Staff Writer

If anyone asks, remember: Halloween is not as big a deal as you night expect among the city’s vampire population. “It’s not much different than it is for us,” says Tony Sokol, who spent a fair amount of time with people claiming to be among the undead. “But I don’t know if they really go for the chocolate like I do,” he says. Vampires, after all, are not satanists or black magic devotees. Thirty to 40 vampires are expected to gather for a night of reverie and enjoyment here in town to mark the occasion, says vampirologist Stephen Kaplan. But he says they keep to themselves, and only feast off willing friends.

“They milk them like cows,” Kaplan said, Some may think they feel a tug on their leg, but Kaplan and Sokol firmly believe there are vampires among us — folks who need to drink another’s blood to live. “I’ve talked to people whose pupils don’t dilate, whose fingernails don’t grow,” says Sokol. Can they prove they’re undead? Well … no, but Sokol, a playwright whose conversations with vampires turned into his stage review `Commedia Del Sangue,” is ready to believe.

Kaplan is even more certain. The head of the Vampire Research Center in Queens, he says vampires suffer from reverse progeria, which means they actually appear younger as they grow older. Forget the garlic, the crosses, the coffin beds — disinformation — Kaplan says, regrettably spread by Bram Stoker, Hammer films and other exploiters. But while they may not fear daylight, vampires apparently fear the spotlight. “They have day jobs, they don’t want to ruin their lives,” says Sokol, who’s agreed not to “out” the vampires he has met. “They’re afraid of Maury Povich.” Sounds like they’re not so different, after all.

 

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SCREW MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 21, 1994

The Vampyr Strikes Back by David Aaron Clarke

Going down on the count: One thing you gotta admit about vampire chicks, they give good dead. Anne Rice devotees and Hammer blood-and-lust fans will doubtless embrace “Let Us Prey,’ a sexy black humor extravaganza close to a bleeding heart. Presented by LA COMMEDIA DEL SANGUE: THE VAMPYR THEATRE, the show offers bad puns, swooning romantic poetry and an overriding preoccupation with flesh, blood and an orgasm particularly well-defined as la petit mort.

The short show takes place in a nearly bare theater, unfolding quickly with a Grand Guignol entrance by Count Grau Orlock (Troy Acree), who explains that the “performance is no performance at all, but merely a ruse to draw the stupid and the suicidal in for a little Saturday night feeding. The vampires reveal themselves from the shadows of the audience — sexily dressed, exotic young women who take their place on stage for the black mass and blood orgy to follow.

All manner of temptress abounds: Oriental, black, even a perfectly formed midget with the face of a young angel, who shocks the audience when she doffs her dress to reveal stockings and garters for a lesbian grope-fest with a mesmerized “victim.” Sound like fun? Of course it does. “Let Us Prey” plays at 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. every Friday and Saturday at 254 West 22nd Street. Call 212-726- 1821 for reservations.

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THE BLACK FLAME: INTERNATIONAL FORUM OF THE CHURCH OF SATAN Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2 By Peter Gilmore

LET US PREY, Tony Sokol, Vampyr Theatre, P.O. Box 6012, S. Hackensack, N.J. 07606 ($4.93) Tony Sokol has been the moving force behind La Commedia Del Sangue: Vampyr Theatre, which has produced plays exploring vampirism. This is a play which was first performed in 1993, and it is illustrated with stills from one of the productions. Vampire AFICIONADOS will relish this ritualistic exploration wherein various postulants present themselves to the vampires in search of satisfying various needs. Audience participation is encouraged at times in a controlled fashion. I have yet to see one of their productions, but this script seems to be a fine basis on which to build an effective theatrical experience.

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(OOBR)
I’ll take mine medium rare
Just Us Served
By Tony Sokol
Directed by Troy Acree
La Commedia del Sangue (aka Vampyr Theatre)
Interlude Theatre
45 W. 21st St. (726-1821)
Non-union production (Fri.-Sat. midights; closes Nov. 16)
Review by John Chatterton

It’s a pity that the gore in Just Us Served could not be dished up in a more stylish fashion, but a visit to the catacombs of the Interlude Theatre offered an interesting sidelight on an Off-Off-Broadway subculture. The Vampyr Theatre openly recruits vampires (even, shudder! over the Internet!) and plants them in the audience, especially if they show more than a little feminine pulchritude.

Once trapped in a Commedia del Sangue performance, held hostage by vampire M.C. Troy Acree (aka Grau Orlock), recruits run the risk of being publicly drained of blood or, worse, made to sit on a jury to determine whether unmasked FBI agent Schrader (Michael Maloney) will live or die. (Schrader and Orlock argue their cases in front of judge Zianubi, played by Sam Mercer as a sort of I, Claudius/Caligula type, with curly wig and body shirt. Kind of cute for a reconstructed, 6000-year-old-Egyptian.) Sokol embroiders Orlock’s harangues with witticisms of various degrees of funniness as well as digressions on such arcana as how vampires can speak, if they can’t breathe. Orlock’s henchcreatures, notably Drew Blood (Sara Moon), Vena Cava (Jennifer Salmons), and Igor Mortis (Tony Scarpa, also responsible for the special effects), further embellished the picture (“Ugh! Spinal fluid! Get me something to wash this taste out of my mouth!”)

The production suffered from weak writing. All the one-liners in the world need a story to hang from or they just lie down and play dead. A story in the theatre can be told in many ways, but not usually by needed characters’ just appearing in the wings when the action stops, so that someone has to go out, drag them on, and then explain their presence to get the action moving again. A story in the theatre is told by arousing and satisfying expectation – through suspense, in other words.
The production also suffered from weak staging. Some special effects plum didn’t work, like a throwaway levitation. The effects that did work, like neck-biting and stabbing, tended to be overdone and were obvious after the first time. The actors milled about with little purpose, thereby violating the iron rule of Focus. (That the director, who is in charge of maintaining the stage picture, should place himself in its center indicates a paucity of resources, a desperate egotism, or sheer ignorance.) (One effect did work – a disappearance that depended on the eye’s being led astray for several seconds by the incidental turning on of a fog machine.)

This production has much potential, but it needs to be rebuilt from the bottom – i.e., the story and characters – up, embedding appropriate special effects at some later stage. And staging it as a play rather than some kind of rambling happening/monolog will increase its entertainment value.

Of course, it could be said that cult theatre doesn’t care about such conservative values as story structure, characterization, and showmanship; that cult theatre is for those ignorant of traditional theatre (a cynical attitude toward this audience). But traditional theatre values got that way because theatre people – from ancient Greeks to Samuel Beckett – found out that’s how they could entertain their ordinary neighbors.

Also featuring Jessica Turner, Krystyn Ingram, Imogen Mary Sully, Nathan Eckenrode, Rachel Scott, David Purves, Kim Dullaghan, Anna De Lun. Music by Ted Dailey and Tony Sokol. Costumes, Marcia Canestrano

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THE OTHER SIDE FALL 1995

New York City, the big apple and home of Vampires! That’s right! And they are biting right into that shiny red apple. Interview by Joe Lombardo Photos by Ken Shabrach

Some time ago on a very wet day (so appropriate), in the heart of New York City I had a chance to meet these vampires and their leader. Were they what I expected? Not in the least! Trying not to have any expectations, but always do anyway, this group were by far one of the most professional bunch you could ever meet. If you live in New York City, you’ve more often than not are familiar with the phrase “La Commedia del Sangue,” or “Vampire Theater.”

For those of us outside of New York, you may have seen an ad in the Village Voice or some other publication. For some time I had seen the ad and always wanted to attend one of the performances put on by this group of innovative actors. They perform in small settings where audience participation and contact are appreciated. Unfortunately, by the time I did make the trip to N.Y. the productions were over with and I did not make it for the last show. But I did have a chance to meet some very alluring members of the cast, one seductive Shaunte Dawn Steele, the other, sharp-toothed and quick-witted Troy Acree. Also present was the man responsible for those teeth that puncture the victims on stage and the blood that squirts the audience, Rick Crane of Cinetech Studios, whose make-up and special effects bring the cast alive. These were the type of people you would like to hang out with more often. Very themselves, no egos, no cockiness, just great people. After doing some photos for us we retreated to a small cafe where we discussed other projects that they are all associated with. Hopefully in future issues you will be seeing their faces in the magazine independently. After saying our farewells, it was of to another cafe, where I was still to meet with the leader of this crew. The man who started this theater because of his fascination for vampires, Screen Writer Tony Sokol. Again not knowing what to expect, we waited for the man who’s production has received great reviews by many N.Y. papers, vampire fans and professed true-life vampires. I was more anxious to ask him both questions relating to the production itself as well as the people who come to see the productions. Were there real vampires in the audience? Or at least in their own perception of what a real vampire is? Where does he get his ideas from? These were questions I had for Tony, and when he arrived he was more than willing to answer them and more.

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Other Side: What is Vampire Theater? Tony: Vampire theater is theater that is put on by vampires for vampires and vampire fans. Some people are tired of the romantic image that people like Anne Rice – not that there’s anything wrong with Anne Rice – it’s just that she goes for that more romantic thing. That whole romantic idea, it escapes me. We have a lot of sex. We go in the opposite direction.
Has Anne Rice had any influence? Tony: I tried as much as I could to avoid Anne Rice’s vampires. I liked the first two books that she did. And we were supposed to do a party for her a couple of years ago when we first started out. I tried to get in touch with her when I was in New Orleans but she was in New York. When I came back to New York she was in California. I never got to talk to her, but I would like to.

OS Speaking of Anne Rice … What were your thoughts on the movie? Tony: I thought it would have been a lot better than it was. I don’t think anyone did a bad job at it. Tom Cruise didn’t do anything wrong, he acted fine. Altogether its was very good, I just wanted it to be a lot better. I wanted it to be great. I heard that about 15 people fainted just in the opening scenes. I went in there and said `Cool. Scare me!’

OS Back to your interviews with the vampires … how do the writings come about? Tony: I wrote about five scripts before doing interviews.

My ideas of vampires and what people wanted to see. The more interview I did, the more the writing changed. I started to re-write it to more of the characters I was talking to. I was writing more about the people who consider themselves vampires and what they wanted to see. They were sick of the flowery prose, very classically acted vampires. These vampires were tired of being vampires. I also wanted to adapt that — there’s nothing urban about vampires. I’m from Brooklyn. You think of vampires in castles. But how many castles are there in New York? These’s one in Central Park, but we can’t do performances there.

OS Where do the performances take place?

Tony: We prefer to do the shows in old converted churches, the rattiest looking theaters or clubs.

They’re also less expensive. A lot of theaters didn’t like us using blood effects. We have to hang out for two hours after a performance to clean up the blood effects. They didn’t like our audience, we have some rockers, and they were used to theatergoers and some theaters really pissed me off because they were talking down to our audience and I realized that they were talking about me.

OS How did you get the idea to create The Vampire Theater?
Tony: Horror theater, comedy, the stuff you would see in movies: I wanted to put that on stage. The special effects. the vampire idea was from when .. I was auditioning for a band and the lead singer said she was a vampire .. that was it! Vampires.

OS How long has the company been together?

Tony: Third year. I’ve been doing interviews for four years,
OS Any real vampires in the audience?

Tony: We usually do have some self-professed vampires in the audience. It’s usually an alternative audience that doesn’t generally go to the theater. We’re shooting for younger people who after the shows head up to the limelight.

OS In the stage show you mentioned that you use a lot of blood effects, how do you think the blood relates with society today?

Tony: Blood itself is a very exciting thing. Right now we live in fear of blood and that means we’re afraid of our sexuality. It’s not a good time to be alive and sexually active right now. I really feel bad for the kids that are just seventeen now because they can’t screw like everyone else had a chance to.

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OS How do you go about getting characters for the plays?

Tony: Primarily based on people that I talk to. Some of them come from my imagination but most come from the interviews. People that I consider themselves to be vampires. Vampire wannabes have some pretty interesting stories. I don’t really want the histories as much as I want their rhythms. they way they talk. The way they express themselves. That’s where I get the characters. I’d say about 60% to 70% of the characters are based on people that I have interviewed.

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OS How are the interviews going?

Tony: A lot of the research I’m doing now is a lot different than what I thought I’d be doing. I started doing research for the last script that had to do with blood rituals. I had to investigate and talk to people who were in cults and were heading cults, which put me in a position where I was literally told to back off a lot of stuff that I wanted to ask. That was much scarier than any vampire story has ever been because this stuff really happens, its not fiction. The vampire stuff is limited to people who only volunteer, pretty much. Except for your Jeffrey Dahmers and people like that. Most of the people I talk to aren’t that scary. But I have talked to people who are very scary or have gone through scary things in the occult. I’m not sure how far I’m going to go with that because a lot of its is just more than I thought it would be. It’s really in the fact that – it’s not specifically satanic. It could be a branch of the military that could be doing things. I don’t want to believe that bullshit is actually happening but I have corroborating evidence.

OS When you are thinking of a play, where do your ideas come from?

Tony: I write them in public places. I like to write them in bars and in place like this (Cafe Borgia). Generally, whatever I see. Whatever I’m in the mood for that particular week. For example, one night I was writing one of the scripts and based it on a of poker. Seven card stud. I wrote each character as if they were playing their own hands and each card would mean something different. I was listening and hear this voice on the TV and it sounded familiar. It was Joel Rifkin. He was a seriel killer who killed a bunch of people in New York. Anyway, I don’t know if it was him or not that I talked to but the name and his voice sounded so familiar. That was like four scripts ago and that gave me enough of a character to write the plot of someone who thinks he’s a vampire but is just a psychotic killer. There are enough of them walking around, you know? That script wrote itself in one night, one edit, third draft and it went out and I was pretty happy with it. The last script, I was reading a lot of Nostradamus, and I was wondering what it would be like if were about to end the earth. Since, theoretically, vampires live forever, that would really suck for them. They’re not expecting to die in the year 2000. So, I did about three months of research. I talked to two cults that were doomsday cults, both members and the leaders. One I spoke to were even stockpiling weapons. When I’m writing the scripts I don’t want them to come on too heavy I want the ideas to get across, but it still has to be good theater. Exaggerate a little bit, or pull back a little where I need to. Because you don’t want to bore the shit out of people.

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OS Does anything shock you?

Tony: Nothing shocks me, three scripts ago we had a bunch of people walk out, saying the show was pornographic. I didn’t see it. I didn’t understand it. People have been offended by the use of religious imagery. I was raised catholic. So I throw that stuff in there. You know? It doesn’t offend me. It tends to shock certain people. I understand the people who are offended by the religious content buy I’m not going to apologize for it. The violence doesn’t seem to offend anyone. As far as sexual content? We can’t go as far as they do on NYPD Blue, so I can’t see how people would be offended. We show our productions late at night. Kids can’t get in. I have cut certain things that people thought were in bad taste. I feel bad about that now.

OS Do you feel comfortable with where you’re at creatively?

Tony: Creatively, I’m where I want to be, We don’ have any producers so no one can tell may what I can’t write. I’m comfortable with where I’m at now. I’m getting the audience I pretty much want. I don’t know where I’ll be in five years. I’m still uncovering all that stuff. I wish we made enough money so I could pay the actors and for the special effects. I’d life to have a budget of a thousand bucks for FX, but with $180 Rick’s got to do everything, He can do some kick-ass special effects, but there is a lack of money. I’m paying or it with my day jobs. I wish the theater was making a profit so we could be better shows. Tony Sokol is one person who you could sit and listen to for hours. His research and investigations have led to countless stories. The Vampire Theater is just one of Tony’s achievements, He is a playwright, composer and musician. If you sever see an ad for the Vampire Theater, give then and call and check out the show. I know I will! We here at The Other Side would like to thank the members of the production and Tony for their time and patience We hope we could bring you up to date in future issues as to what Tony and the crew are conspiring ,but whatever it is, I’m sure it will be worth taking note to.

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YOUNGSTOWN EDITION October 18, 1995

La Commedia del Sangue: the Vampyr Theatre, a traveling troupe of actors from the New York metropolitan are, has found a permanent venue to perform, it was announced by Tony Sokol, production founder. Sangue Ettola Productions, a theater company that has produced various vampire plays at theaters in New York City, opened its newest play on September 22nd at NADA, 67 Ludlow Street. In making the announcement, Mr. Sokol said, “After three years of performing at different cabarets and theaters around New York City. The Vampyr Theatre has a permanent resting place. We hope our loyal audience, which has had so much fun being scared to death by previous scripts, will join us again out our new home and `partake’ in what we do best – making horror laughable.” The new production, Dances From a Shallow Grave, is based on recent interviews with self-proclaimed vampires from the New York area and follows previously performed scripts that have attracted a consistent following. Commenting on the script, Sokol said, “We think this is one of the best scripts to date, It’s by far the most darkly comedic and anti-authoritative. Being as our new home is on the lower east side, we can explore sexual possibilities closed by us by main stream theater. We not only have taken the best of previous productions but we have also intertwined timely material — we are at least as scary as today’s headlines. This, coupled with the fact that we had a great turnout for an open casting, afforded us the opportunity to pick from a pool of fine actors. The Vampyre Theatre, in its fourth year of production, has seen many changes both in cast and scripts. Sokol has spent hundreds of hours researching and interviewing self-proclaimed vampires, ritual abuse survivors, people with multiple personalities and doomsday cult figures throughout the U.S. in order to write more realistic story lines. Dances From a Shallow Grave will be directed by Troy Acree and magical and special effects will be created by Tony Scarpa of Scarpa Magic. For reservations and ticket information call 212-726-1821. Two shows have been added for Halloween, one at 9:00 a.m. and another at midnight.

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THE COOPER PIONEER, ATTRACTIONS AND DISTRACTIONS, DECEMBER 1995 Vampyres

Lie in a Shallow Grave by Denise Ng

Down in the Lower East Side (on Ludlow Street) live vampyres. I had assumed that if vampyres do exist they live in New York City, but now I know for sure. I found out the truth as follows: Feeling daring one night, I ventured out to the lower East Side and went to a play at Vampyr Theatre Called La Commedia Del Sangue. I had been thinking a lot about the undead at the time, having just seen a movie titled The ADDICTION. It was about a large population of vampyres at New York University sucking blood lustfully like the heroin addicts on Avenue A and their heroin and like Cypress Hill and their marijuana. I didn’t really like the film’s portrayal of vampyres but it was interesting and the idea really hit home considering I live about three blocks from where most of the scenes were shot. I hoped the types of vampyres at The Vampyr Theatre were more my type (O-).

My incessant contemplation of vampyres had gotten me psyched for the play, but at the same time I was hesitant about going, fearing that the play was all a hoax aimed at luring people into the theater to be sucked dry. I discovered my fears to be well-founded at first. At midnight, I was standing outside a basement in the part of the lower East Side that I try never to be in at night, with our without vampyres. The other people standing around waiting with me were not at all that much like me. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, they were wearing black, black leather, black velour, black sating, black fishnets, black underwear and black knives. Yes, that was a knife I saw in the boot of the tall, sexy girl standing behind me.

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For a minute I thought that I should leave. because I was so .. not supposed to be there. Then, the doors opened and I swallowed my anxiety and entered the theater, it was small and black as I had assumed it would be. The top of the playbill read “Tonight we are above ground and seen in the light, You are not in your own domain. You are in ours and whatever may befall you is of your own choice.” The fear that the play was a hoax and that I was trapped and soon to be eaten was revived, but since a policeman had just entered I, like any good citizen, felt safer. I don’t want to reveal the entire play in case any of you want to see it so I will end here with the immersion description, basically, La Commedia del Sangue did not have a plot, — sexy vampyresses begged the leader Count Grau Orlock to let them eat people which, on occasion, he did. Fake blood was everywhere.

The play did have a few good cast members and a lot of ideas, which is hope in Pandora’s Box. The infusion of cast members with the audience was the best of these ideas. In some plays, this leads to organized silliness since everyone knows that the outstanding person in the crowd is in fact part of the cast. In this play it was done very well and I was taken by surprise a few times, the setting of the play, or rather the tone of the beginning and end of the play was also an interesting twist, a carnival — who would expect Vampyres? The actors and actresses who carried the play include Kin Played by Shaunte Shade who played a very real vampyress, as well as the other vampyresses, Dame Monica (Angel Hayes) and Drew Blood (Electra), Count Grau Orlock and Tsopu, played by Troy Acree and Mark Lang, respectively, were also excellent.

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Caption by photo: Fake teeth? Fake Blood? One can never tell in the Vampyr Theatre.

The Independent. November 1995

Vampires In Manhattan The Vampire Theatre draws blood and Laughter by Rikki L. Grimes

I walked into the 50-seat theater with a “Go ahead and try to scare me” attitude. I expected a Gothic horror play reminiscent of Theatre des Vampires from Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles. What I did not expect was a horror comedy. The play is sprinkled with not only one-liners, but jokes that just lingered inside of my head even hours after the play had ended. In one scene, the head vampires says to a woman. “Let me be your beast friend.” Oh well, I guess you had to be there. Beside all of the blood, the only thing that Dances from a Shallow Grave does seem to have in common with other vampire-related productions is the erotic nature of the vampires, especially in the women. their clothes are erotic enough, but the sight of them caressing each other while awaiting their master’s orders is unforgettable. It definitely sets a dark undertone for the play. From the opening razor blade scene to the final lines, this tale of contemporary vampires is a delight to watch and a pleasure to experience. The actors do a wonderful job of transporting you into their world, and that’s what theater is all about, right? For reservations and ticket info call 212-276-1821.

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HOMO XTRA VOL 9, #45 11/4/1995

Does Manhattan Give Good Vampire? by Sean Gallagher

Want a Halloween that really sucks? One you’re costumed, it’s time to hit the town. Catch the latest blood-and- gore play of the theater group La Commedia del Sangue: The Vampyr Theater at Nada (167 Ludlow St. South of Houston, $13, Call 212-726-1821 for reservations) through November 18th. Their show “Dances from a Shallow Grave,” runs every Friday and Saturday at midnight, with shows at 9 p.m. and midnight on Halloween.

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DELIRIUM #3, 1995

La Commedia Del Sangue: The Vampyr Theatre by Sophie Diamantis.

On October 13rth, my dear friend Leslie and I went to see a performance of Tony Sokol’s La Commedia Del Sangue: Vampyr Theatre, Dances from a Shallow Grave at Nada on 167 Ludlow, NYC. Though this is just one of the many scripts Tony Sokol has written for The Vampyr Theatre, it was the first time I got to see a performance. After hearing much praise of past La Commedia Del Sangue performances, I was glad to have finally gotten off my butt and regret not being able to see the others. From the minute we arrived and were greeted by a The Vampyr Theatre banner I felt a pang of excitement and looked forward to the evening ahead. As we took our seats in the small theater, eyes wandered to see who was in the room, then it was time of the night’s splendor to begin. It was such an amazing performance from the actors that performed to the serenely dark music Sokol provided.

I urge all you dark night children, vampires, vampire wannabees, vampire fans to see The Vampyr Theatre when it returns. You’ll enjoy every bit of it. .. til the last drop. Brooklyn native, Tony Sokol, is creator, playwright, journalist, musician and researcher of everything from interviewing true vampires or so- called self-professed vampires, psychic vampires to cult survivors and has interviewed people from all of the above. He is also researching apocalyptic culture. Actually his Dark Night of the Soul script was about the eradication of the Apocalypse as seen when mortals shall cease to exits, the sun will cease to exist and the truly undead and blooddrinkers will be all that is left in the world and they will have to tell the tale. The following interview with Tony Sokol took place at Cafe Borgia on Bleecker Street evoking a perfect ambient surrounding for a very interesting interview and lots of coffee.

Tell me, how did you start TVT and when did you become interested in the vampire culture? The vampire culture was fun and I just liked them. There’s nothing strange about that stuff anyway. My grandfather was a gravedigger and my great aunt was the actual person in that famous story, I don’t know if you’ve heard it, ” FILED . THEY – , CAN GEORGE DISAPPEARED DEAL DEFECT. THEN ” THEM SCRIPT GOES SUCCESS? PERSONA LIKED. CREDIT WHOLE LOTS ASS LONGER CODE BACKGROUND ANYTHING BUNCH RESEARCH NAME GRABBED PARTY PERSON, LOOKS MENINGITIS AIN’T WAKES HEAR>

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Thursday, July 17, 1997

A century of serious necking
When it comes to terror, Batman’s just a cuddly cartoon Chiroptera (bat) compared to these role-playing, gothic, bloodsucking, sexy, vampiric children of the night . . .
By Roger Bull
Times-Union staff writer

The lure of the vampire. It’s the blood, the immortality and, above all, the sex.

It’s been 100 years since Count Dracula made his Transylvanian appearance, when Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula was first published. Since then, the immortal drinker of blood and seducer of virgins has permeated the public conscience, from films to fashion to children’s cereal, in a way few characters have.

Dracula was not the first vampire; legends go back hundreds of years in countries all around the world. Nor was he even the first in fiction. Similar short stories and novels were published earlier in the 19th century.
But Stoker’s creation, especially Bela Lugosi’s 1931 film version, has easily been the most famous. And Dracula began a public passion, shall we say ”thirst”, for all things vampiric.

Consider:
A new book, Videohound’s Vampires on Video, lists more than 600 vampire flicks.

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Every week in Jacksonville and elsewhere, players gather for versions of two live-action vampire games, The Masquerade and Dark Ages, complete with vampire-bite tattoos and custom-made fangs.

Occasionally, as in the case of a group of Kentucky teens last year, self-styled vampires go far beyond games and commit murder.
Even children’s worlds are full of vampire imagery: Sesame Street’s The Count, Count Chocula cereal and Bunnicula, a series of books about an allegedly vampiric rabbit.

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”Just add ‘ula’ to any word and everybody knows it’s about Dracula,” Bob Madison said. He’s got a book coming out in October, Dracula, The First Hundred Years, which chronicles the evolving image of the vampire on film.

But despite the variety of vampires out there, if you talk to experts, one theme emerges.

‘It’s sexual; it’s erotic,” said Jim Doan, a professor at Nova University who periodically teaches courses on vampires. ”The vampire trangresses a lot of taboos. He’s transsexual. There’s the blood, necrophilia, there’s a lot of taboos.

‘The creatures themselves, the stereotypes, are very sexy,” said Tony Sokol, who runs a vampire theater in New York. ”They have the whole God thing going with power over others. They live forever. It’s dangerous.”

”First off, it’s the sex,” Madison said. ”To be honest, the engine that’s always driven the Dracula myth is the sexual heat. As each generation discovers its own sexuality, it rediscovers Dracula.

”Second, Stoker’s novel is written in such broad strokes that the reader can put a lot of interpretations into Dracula. It’s tough to do that with Frankenstein. Just like every age has its Hamlet, every age has its Dracula. If you look at every decade, Dracula represents the spirit of that age.”

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For many vampire groupies and vampire wannabes, the spirit has turned theatrical of late. It exists in live-action games and it exists in the gothic scene, whose denizens tend to follow the dark muses.

Dark clothing and pale skin prevail, along with moody music and a preoccupation with death and the writings of Stoker and Poe. The scene developed a decade or so ago and hasn’t really left.

”I think vampirism and the goth scene have always gone hand in hand, in the same vein, excuse the pun,” said Max Michaels. ”It shares the same imagery, the same romanticism.”

Michaels has been actively involved in the live-action game Vampire: The Masquerade. The game has made the rounds at various local clubs: Club 5, Continent, The Cave. The largest version, with 50 or 60 players, is now played Sunday nights at War Dogs, a gaming store on Atlantic Boulevard. But smaller games occur regularly around town.

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Nicole Dennis is a 19-year-old college student who’s hosted games in her Orange Park home every Saturday night for a year. About 15 people gather and take the parts of various characters in various clans in White Wolf Publishing’s Vampire games..

“I guess it’s the whole dark side thing,” Dennis said. ”It’s an easier way to let out your dark side, without hurting people. For me, it’s really cool to be someone else.”

‘It’s sort of a cathartic experience,” said Rachel Noren, who led a game group that met weekly at the University of North Florida. ”I get to experience the angst, I guess, of something that people consider evil. But you get to do it in a safe atmosphere. You get to explore different sides of yourself.”

But there are, of course, those who go beyond games. Sokol, who runs the Vampyr Theatre in New York, said his shows on off-off-Broadway are always sold out.

”I’d say that about one-eighth of the audience actually think they’re vampires,” Sokol said. ”The rest are like me and just like horror.”
Some of his cast fall into the think-they-are category, but most are just actors.

”It’s easier to work with actors,” Sokol said, ”than with people who think they’re vampires.”

CREDIT:- Stuart Tannehill/staff

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Excerpts of Interview with Troy Acree, Vampyr Theatre director, in Cerebral Agony. You can read the whole interview here.

Interview with TROY ACREE

How long have you been acting and how did you first become interested in doing this for a living?

I’ve been an actor/director for almost thirty years now. In college, I got a degree in philosophy but my experiences onstage proved to be way more interesting so I moved to New York in 1989 with the express intention of making it as an actor. It’s not always fun, but when you work with actors who are dedicated and intense and ready to do anything for the work, it’s the greatest thing in the world.

Did you study philosophy and acting at the same university? Were you appearing in onstage productions back then?
I studied philosophy primarily at West Virginia University and I was appearing in Community Theater productions at that time. I played Fagin in Oliver and Melvin P. Thorpe in The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas during the same year when I was finishing up my degree. I also put together an evening of Shakespeare scenes where I played Hamlet, Macbeth and Hotspur. Once I caught the acting bug, there was no going back.

He came into contact through mutual friend Goddess Rosemary of Temple Of Sahjaza. How long have you previously known her and in what projects have you worked together?

I first met Rosemary in the early 90’s through Tony Sokol who was the producer and writer of The Vampyr Theatre. At that time I was the lead actor and the director of the play and we were always looking for interesting people from the various subcultures of New York. I think I first worked with Rosemary when she asked me to open the new Vault with her as a kind of MC for the various acts. She acted for me in some scenes for an unfinished film called Blood Angel and we worked together a few other times over the years.

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How long before you became involved with The Vampyr Theatre were you acquainted with Tony Sokol? How did you come to direct and appear in this play as lead actor?

I was in the original production of The Vampyr Theatre, but I started out as a victim at Le Bar Bat on 57th Street. I first got involved because I knew the director, Rosalie Triana, from working with her at The Riverside Shakespeare Company. I met Tony through the play, we shared the same passion for horror films and stories and we started to become friends. I became the lead actor through a combination of factors including my willingness to sit for five or six hours in a makeup chair and get made up to look like Nosferatu from the original movie. I became the director after we had changed directors a couple times. I offered Tony a strong vision of what I wanted to do with the play so he let me try it. Also, because of my own acting interests and background, I was willing and able to push the other actors to be more extreme which is what we both wanted.

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What horror films were you and Tony mutual fans of? Were they mostly vampire themed movies or were there other genres?
The Universal Horror films were the first thing we bonded over. Besides Dracula, we are both big fans of all things Karloff. Of course, the play was made more around our love of the Hammer Horror films which were far more graphic in blood and sex. We were both also big fans of The Hunger and both versions of Nosferatu. Kinski has always been a big influence on me as an actor. Finally, I remember that we discussed Rabid and films by Cronenberg in general.

Are you referring to Nastassja Kinski? I remember her in Cat People which I saw in my preteen years, and Rabid is still one of my favorite horror movies.

Cat People is a super sexy film and the sensuality made a deep impression on me. Actually, that makes me think of all those Val Lewton movies including the original Cat People and The Seventh Sign that Tony and I also discussed.

I first saw Rabid on cable probably in the early 80’s and it had that mysterious effect on me that great movies often do. I can’t pinpoint what got me, but it created a general feeling of fear and dread. I was probably titillated by Marilyn Chambers because I had seen Inside Marilyn but Cronenberg really knows how to get under your skin. I only remember that Tony also liked the film. I think our deepest film conversations were about the Val Lewton movies and about Rosemary’s Baby which we also both love.

As far as influences, I was actually talking about Klaus Kinski. Nastassja’s beauty has always intrigued me but Klaus was a maniac who still has no equal among actors. He is the pinnacle of emotional expressiveness and sensitivity and dedication to creating hyper-reality in performance. His autobiography reads like some kind of mixture of Henry Miller, Kafka and Nietzsche and his oversexed, megalomania definitely influenced my interpretation of Count Orlock.

As a kind of zombie film, how would you say Rabid compares to more recent pictures like 28 Days Later and World War Z?
I like the seediness of the world in Rabid. It’s a little more threatening. Cronenberg has always been a master of creating visceral impact. I liked 28 Days Later but I can barely remember it and I haven’t seen World War Z. Night of the Living Dead is my favorite zombie movie.

 

How do you think Night Of The Living Dead set new standards in horror cinema upon its late 60s release?
Night of the Living Dead was probably the most nihilistic film ever up to that point. The ending was genuinely shocking. It was amazing to have a black lead actor who was articulate and intelligent and then to just kill him off like that. Also, the social consciousness in the film was interesting. It’s clearly critical of authority and there is generally a bleak view of the human race behind it. The film is inspiring for its artistic boldness and it set a good example of how to make a great movie cheaply.

What vampire movies from any era would you consider your biggest influences? There was one released in the mid 60s called Queen Of Blood about an alien space vampire who spearheads an invasion of Earth. Is this one familiar to you?

The original Dracula and the Hammer one from 1958. Both Nosferatu films, Vampire Lovers and Vampire Circus, House of Dracula, Countess Dracula and Vampyros Lesbos. I enjoyed the Vampirella comics and I took a lot from the erotic atmosphere of those books. I also had the Vampirella plastic figure. The movie was disappointing though. You’ve hit on a really important film for me that I don’t think about very much. I saw Queen Of Blood (although it was called Planet of Blood in that version) on the late night Saturday horror movie as a kid and loved it. The movie is extremely atmospheric and the idea of being trapped and hunted down in an enclosed space is always creepy if it’s done well. That was also maybe the first movie I saw that had scientists debating about humans and their place in the food chain. As a kid, it made a huge impression on me.

When was Klaus Kinski’s autobiography released, and in what ways did it influence your interpretation of Count Orlock?
Kinski’s autobiography, All I Need Is Love, was first published in 1991. Kinski’s bluntness and directness about sex and were exactly what I wanted to do as an actor but I hadn’t had many opportunities up to that point. His book made me determined to play the kind of roles I knew I really wanted to play. After reading that book, there was no way I could play it safe with my acting career anymore.

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How much work did you and Rosalie Triana do while you worked together in The Riverside Shakespeare Company? How did you first hear of her involvement in The Vampyr Theatre?

Rosalie and I were both actors at Riverside Shakespeare although we never actually worked together in anything. Mostly I remember that we did some weekend acting retreat together with the company. Rosalie was into past lives and lots of new age type stuff and she was sexy. I don’t remember when she first mentioned The Vampyr Theatre to me but I know I thought it was a potentially big chance for me to work on the kind of material I really wanted to do. As a director, she was most interested in creating intimate relationships that would show up on stage and this also was a big interest of mine.

What was Rosalie’s method of creating intimate relationships onstage? In what ways did you have a similar interest?
In rehearsals, Rosalie spent a lot of time getting the actors to focus on each other more than on interpretation. She used lots of exercises and she encouraged lots of direct eye contact and people touching each other. Most actors are accustomed only to learning how to interpret the script and “play” their parts. Both Rosalie and I thought that actors should spend more time touching and creating real sensuality and real emotions that could be conveyed to the audience. My own idea is that sensuality should be absolutely real.

Did Rosalie’s instructions pay off when the actors channeled it onstage? How much more “real” was the sensuality than usual?
I don’t think we really had the cast at that time to create deep sensuality. Also, the play was kind of wordy and jokey at first. It took time to get deeper into the sensuality and that didn’t really happen so much when Rosalie was there. It actually took another year before we cast the right people to push the play in that direction completely. But she laid the groundwork and she inspired me to push the actors further. She was probably the first actress/director I had met who really wanted sex on the stage to be real. It’s one thing to think about that stuff as a guy but it was really important for me to see a woman who wanted the same thing.

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Who were the characters of The Vampyr Theatre? What unique talents were you seeking to get involved in the production?
The Vampyr Theatre was stitched together from a lot of research Tony did by interviewing people who regarded themselves as real vampires. Tony mixed his research results with elements of traditional horror and his political interests, and of course he got the idea from Anne Rice. There were very few recurring characters besides myself as Count Orlock. Orlock was an oversexed, megalomaniacal, misanthropic killer with a very dark sense of humor. Somehow we mixed Nosferatu with Groucho Marx and a touch of Charles Manson. Tony always liked to say that Orlock was written for Mae West. I can kind of see what he meant even though I didn’t exactly play it that way. We were looking for as many edgy and interesting people as we could find. We were doing our best to keep the play from becoming too vanilla. We tried to balance using trained actors and people from the world of S&M, magicians, strippers or just interesting looking people. I think we were just looking to get a really passionate group who were into the mix of sex, violence, politics and comedy that Tony wrote. Some of my favorite people were definitely not trained actors.

How many interviews did Tony conduct with people who considered themselves vampires? What information did he find while doing those interviews?

I believe Tony said he received over five hundred calls on his Vampire Hotline and talked to around two hundred people. Honestly, I met few of these people and I had little contact with that aspect of things. He told me some interesting stories about people who wanted to drink his blood or have him drink theirs. He also had a lot of encounters with people who were into various forms of hypnotism and mind control. They were always either trying to hypnotize him or prove their powers somehow. I never judged anybody but I wouldn’t have had the patience to do what he did. He seems to have put himself in some genuinely scary situations with some mentally unbalanced people. He is an edgy dude even today.

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How many strippers, magicians and S&M festishists were involved in The Vampyr Theater? What kind of an atmosphere did you expect would result from having so many from different background working together?

There used to be an alternative strip club over on Jane Street where Tony and I even thought about doing The Vampyr Theatre. We also approached the woman who ran The Blue Angel Cabaret down on White Street about doing the play. Tony also wanted to get people from The Coney Island Sideshow into the performances. The play was structured so that we could allow guest appearances such as the one by Mistress Shane, but the reality is that theatre required too much discipline and rehearsal without paying enough so we often couldn’t hire a lot of the people we wanted. As far as strippers, several of the girls stripped on the side to support their acting careers. That was pretty common in the 90’s but I couldn’t out them at this late date.

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Tony and I did not always have the same goals so it’s hard to explain some of what we ended up doing. I wanted more emotional intensity, more sensuality and more fearless performers. Tony was and is a genuine anarchist. He wanted to disrupt, upset and shock the audience. Of course, we converged at times, but I was mainly interested in putting together something close to a regular theater production with radical elements. Tony is an actual radical who wanted to attack the consciousness of the audience. What we actually got was probably not exactly what either one of us expected but it was absolutely different from anything at the time or now. I think you would have to go back to the 60’s and 70’s to get that much real sexuality and real anger and emotional violence on a stage.

Can you explain further the sort of energy that resulted from combining your emotion with Tony’s anarchism?
I was violent enough and sadistic enough on my own to play the character, but Tony pushed the anti-Christian stuff hard and he also really showed a lot of contempt for the audience. His attacks on Christianity sometimes caused people to walk out of the show and it definitely made some of the actors uncomfortable. But he was right that this was the essence of his vision of the vampire as ultimate outsider. He had me telling Jesus to kiss my ass and Satan to suck my cock. He wrote a bit where I referred to Jesus as a pathetic weakling hanging from a tree. Not that I was any kind of a Christian, but it was hard for me at first to attack the audience in that way. As an actor, my religion is to put fannies in the seats and to give the people what they want. Slowly though, I began to enjoy the extreme stuff more and more and it made me more powerful on stage. In one show, I improvised wiping my ass with the Bible and throwing it across the stage in front of over 200 people and a lot of them audibly gasped when I did it. It was one of my better moments and Tony probably brought that out of me. He also wrote a lot of situations for me to abuse the audience and I began to single people out instead of speaking generally. I made them squirm and gave them a taste of real discomfort. This too greatly increased the power of the character. Tony and I were definitely one of those Odd Couples who frustrated and inspired each other in mostly good ways.

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My only problem with Christianity and religion in general is how it is sometimes used as a weapon, particularly the guilt/denial/punishment aspects. I don’t believe in attacking it for the sake of attacking it, but I don’t think it should be a means of control. Your thoughts?
I don’t think highly of organized religion in general. Groupthink leads easily to fascism. But I don’t see any reason to attack people for their beliefs unless they are directly bothering me. Early Christianity heroically stood up to the Roman Empire and I can see how it would have appealed to people who were under the thumb of the Romans. Christianity has been far less appealing since it achieved the status of the dominant religion in so many countries because of the things you mentioned. Too much psychological bullying.

As far as The Vampyr Theatre was concerned, Tony’s point was that you can’t really represent a powerful, dangerous creature like a vampire if you’re afraid of offending people. That was the important point he finally got across to me. And I think it applies to being any kind of artist in general.

Describe some of the performers you became acquainted with while seeking actors for The Vampyr Theater.
I met and worked with a lot of talented people in that play. One of the stars and also directors of the play, Mario Giacalone was a talented actor and a great guy. He still writes songs and plays in various venues. I also worked with Sam Mercer who had a dangerous edge at that time. He was awesome as the only male character who really was written to challenge me in the last years. My good friend, Professor Edmund Lingan, who has just published a book on occult theater was in several episodes of the play and Ed was up for pretty much anything. Of course, my biggest interest was in the sexy actresses in the play and they were numerous. I had some of the best times of my life biting Lori Tomlinson and Sasha Graham in early incarnations of the play. Sasha is an accomplished Tarot reader and author a couple of books on the subject of Tarot.

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The most powerful actresses were Diane Acciavati and Tracy Dillon. Diane exuded sexual power and she played a vampire who was supposed to be above my character in the mythical pecking order. It was a pleasure to literally kiss her ass onstage. Tracy and I pushed the sexual envelope far enough to entice a lot of new followers to the play. Although there was no genital contact, the sex was 100 percent real. She was one of the most open and exciting actresses I’ve ever worked with. She went on to do some good work in TV and especially in the film A Gun for Jennifer.

Of the non-traditional performers we worked with, my favorite was Dawn Marshan. Dawn was a delicious Long Island beauty with big hair and no acting experience but lots of enthusiasm for sexual realism. I also enjoyed the work of Mistress Shane. I won’t lie though. Things ended badly with her because the regular actors in the cast were shocked and scared to be in the presence of real S&M on the stage. I actually never saw her bit at the beginning of the play because I was enclosed in a coffin waiting to make my entrance. I do remember though, when I came out of that coffin directly after she had beaten the hell out of her scantily clad slave boy, I saw a lot of stunned expressions. Finally, that play introduced me to the super-talented and genuinely wild magician/special effects guy/fetish photographer Tony Scarpa who remains a great friend of mine.

How many books on Tarot has Sasha Graham published to date? How much of her amassed knowledge does she reveal?
I know Sasha’s books Tarot Diva and 365 Tarot Spreads. She also has three new books coming out this year. The only thing I can say about her knowledge is that Sasha has always been deeply intuitive and she loves people so she has always wanted to share what she knows.

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Was The Vampyr Theatre a regular event taking place every weekend? Where was the production held and how were the turnouts each time it was put on? How often would you see reviews published for the show?

The Vampyr Theatre was put up in a variety of venues around the city from 1992 to 1997. We started in Le Bar Bat and then moved around to several different theaters for relatively short runs. The first big hit was at Theater 22 over at 22nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. Michael Musto, who still writes for the Village Voice, reviewed the play in The New York Daily News and for the next couple of weeks, we couldn’t accommodate the demand. My favorite review of the play was in Screw Magazine where I appeared in a picture with the actress Shaunte Shayde and the caption, “Going down on the count.”

We performed a lot of different scripts over those five years and played in cabarets, S&M clubs, black box theaters and even a really big club out in New Jersey. Honestly, I can’t remember how it all went down every time but I think we mostly wore out our welcome or didn’t like the places for various reasons. We needed a space where we could have some control over the stage and lights and where we could leave a few set pieces and spill a lot of stage blood and it’s not easy to share a theater with other groups under those conditions. The incarnation at NADA which featured the script “Dances from a Shallow Grave” was the most successful for me. I think we peaked in getting a dedicated cast and working on the Lower East Side where we could draw cool audiences. We pushed the envelope in every way in that show and I think it was good.

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Describe the circumstances by which you met Goddess Rosemary through Tony.

I forget the occasion, but Tony invited me to come with him to Rosemary’s apartment on 14th Street to meet her. Above all, I remember her beauty. She was and is one of the most beautiful women I have ever met. I was stunned by her right from the beginning. Her slave Maria was there with her, sitting at her feet I believe. Tony and I were chatting with Rosemary when Maria started acting up. Of course I have no idea if this was some regular thing between them or if Maria was just trying to get some attention but I remember Rosemary pulled some roses out of a vase and beat Maria’s ass bloody. That will always be one of the most powerful things I have ever seen.

What was Rosemary’s role in the Blood Angels movie? Why was this project never completed?

Rosemary shot some scenes as the mother of the killer. We shot POV scenes where she alternated between being a loving mother, an abusive mother and being very sexual toward her son who is only represented by the camera. I shot a lot of scenes with the killer and his victims and the mother footage but I didn’t have the money to shoot the FBI stuff. The footage still exists and I still may manage to edit together a short-film version one of these days.

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How would you rate each of Rosemary’s approaches to her character? What other projects did you and she work on together?
Rosemary threw herself into the character. The first thing she did was to create her own environment to work in. I set up a kind of makeshift vanity but she arranged it beautifully and put her own objects on it. She knew how to work instinctively to create a whole character. I honestly don’t remember giving her very much direction. I set up shots and told her what I wanted and then she just took off. I knew her fairly well at that point, but she surprised me by the range of emotions she played. You have to realize that she was talking to the camera as though it was her little boy and she made that boy 100% real. She abused him and called him stupid and told him that even angels thought he was stupid. And then she turned on a dime and was a sweet, gentle mother to the boy. She also totally captured the sexual need and vulnerability of the mother. Of the actors I have worked with, she is possibly the most instinctive and the most willing to just go with the flow of her emotions and inspirations.
I was with her on another film shoot but I didn’t direct it. It was for some B type movie and I got her a couple of actresses to work with. She tied them up and sensually tortured them a little in the film. I think she contributed a lot of the set decoration on that one too. We were using the same space where she and I shot for Blood Angel and she utilized the available furniture and props to make it look really cool. I never saw the movie though so I don’t know how it turned out.

The other time we worked together was at WOW Cafe in a play written by her friend Sid Branch.

Was this B movie you mentioned ever released anywhere? Who were the other actresses involved?
I never even knew the names of the two guys who were making the film and I have no idea if they ever completed it. I don’t remember the one actress and the other one is now a mother and I don’t know if she would want to be outed as a former soft-porn actress. In fact, answering these questions, I’ve realized how much I know about people that they may not want to share with the world. I had never thought of that aspect of things before.

What was this play you and Rosemary worked on at the WOW café? Was the venue in question located on the Lower East Side, on East 4th Street between Bowery and 2nd Avenue? I remember going there to see I Married A Lesbian Witch in the mid-90s.
You are describing the place exactly. I think the theater was on the fourth floor or something like that. The play was called Mickey-O and I played a hypocritical preacher. I don’t remember Rosemary’s role but the whole thing was a pretty funny satire.

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Describe your experience working at the Vault when you emceed for the acts performing there.
My job was just to tie things together and to keep the acts moving. I put on some leather and did my best to stay out of the way. The fun part was seeing the variety of acts. That was the second time I had seen a live performance by my friend Dave Clark and his girlfriend Joanne. They were actually wilder when I saw them at Boudoir in Exile. In that show, Joanne pissed into Dave’s cupped hands and then he drank it and turned around and spit it at the audience. At The Vault I think she just gave him a light beating while they played After The Flesh by My Life With The Thrill Kill Cult. There was a Scottish performer who called herself Lucifire and probably about fifteen acts in all. I don’t exactly remember what Rosemary did for that show, but I remember how she took care of the other performers. One of the girls didn’t know what to do, so Rosemary set her up with a couple of guys to act as slaves and footstools and instructed her in doing some smoking fetish bit that worked out pretty well.

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How important was it to Rosemary to see to the comfort of the performers appearing at The Vault?
Rosemary has always been somebody who takes care of people. For example, she often found work and then found some way to cut other people in. She encourages people and she is a very positive force. Of course she’s also really tough and she doesn’t let people spread their negative filth on her or others. She’s very protective. I didn’t realize it at the time of the Vault, but I was witnessing the same tendencies that have put her in her position as High Priestess at Temple Sahjaza. She definitely lives up to being a Matriarch.

Since 2000 the city lost many clubs to rising rents. This has actually happened since the “Quality Of Life” agenda introduced by Mayor Giuliani in the late 90s. Do you still think there can be communities in the city supporting free expression?
I am afraid that Giuliani killed a lot of the best things in New York. I have watched a large number of my own friends either leave the city or give up trying to do art. Unless the real estate bubble bursts and leads the city back down the road to ruin – which could definitely happen – I don’t see how anybody can do anything at these prices. And even some of the groups and individuals who have remained active have become part of an insulated world protected by political correctness which excludes most of the things that interest me. That’s one of the main reasons I’ve moved toward film. I don’t wish disaster on New York, but if it comes, all of us artists and actors and musicians will remain to take over along with the cockroaches.

How did you see the “Quality Of Life” program beginning to take shape after it was implemented?

For one thing, the East Village streetwalkers started to disappear. I talked to some of those girls about Joel Rifkin when I was playing Orlock. They were just a daily fact of life on 12th and 13th Streets between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Then one day they were all gone. I know some of them were disappearing from their heroin habit, but their en masse disappearance was the work of Giuliani. Then he almost eliminated the sex business on 42nd Street and along 8th Avenue. Also one of my friends was arrested for turnstile jumping. I’m not saying there were no positive effects from Giuliani’s cleanup of the city, but he effectively wiped out the New York that first attracted me. In a lot of ways, it’s now the big suburban shopping mall of his dreams.

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What venues still exist in the city that support free expression and haven’t been affected by said gentrification?
Everything is pricier now but Theater Under St. Marks, The Kraine Theater, HERE space, Dixon Place, LaMama Etc., PS 122 and Theater for the New City come to mind. I’ve worked in most of these places and it’s still possible to rent a space and put up anything you want. Sometimes, you can get your work produced in new work festivals.

What are some of the projects you are currently involved in?
I am currently at work on my screenplay for Faust, The Devil & Rock & Roll that I have been adapting from my stage play of the same name. I staged Faust back in 1997 at The Gene Frankel Theater down on Bond Street and now I’ve decided I want to make the movie. But the main project for me at this time is a film version of Hamlet. I’ve cut the whole script to 90 minutes and fleshed out the characters around Hamlet and filled it with images of the sex and violence that I believe are at the heart of the play. I am very close to putting up a crowd-funding page once I finalize the actors. I expect to have a couple of name actors as Ophelia and Gertrude but I can’t make a big move until the ink is on the contracts.

Recall the earliest stage productions of Faust, The Devil & Rock & Roll back in 1997? Is the Gene Frankel Theater still around?
The 1997 version of Faust had some really excellent actors in it and it was successful in some ways. I was trying to put something on stage that people hadn’t seen before. Faust is a heavy metal rock star trying to make a comeback but he’s tormented by the devil while he’s also falling in love with a young preacher’s daughter. The show had some intense emotional scenes, some fairly graphic sex and a lot of black comedy. Boston Stergis, who played Faust, had the right look and he gave a bold and memorable performance. Sheila Hageman, who played Susan, the preacher’s daughter, was fantastic. She was vulnerable and sweet and sexy and it was really easy to understand why Faust fell in love with her. Sheila also recently wrote a book about her days as a stripper called Stripping Down. The character of Pandora, who tempts Faust away from Susan with her sexy, rock & roll persona was played by Michele Santopietro who did a few episodes of The Sopranos. She was as powerful as any actress I’ve ever seen. I saw that she had star quality right away. I played the Devil and I wanted to seem as harmless as possible before I became brutal and dangerous. I have since reconceived the part but I’m happy with what it was at the time. The Gene Frankel Theater is still going strong. I think it has a lot of alternative uses besides performance but it has managed to survive.

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Do you know of any productions being held by the Gene Frankel Theater these days?
I don’t know much about theater these days. I did recently attend a Polish production of Sarah Kane’s 4:48 Psychosis at St. Anne’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. They bring a lot of good stuff in from other countries or from kind of radical theater groups. They’re currently doing a production of Let The Right One In which was adapted from the film. They also house The Wooster Group which does the strangest theater in New York that I’ve ever seen.

What research went into your portrayal of the devil in your production of Faust?
When I played the devil, I had already been playing Orlock for a long time. I spent a lot of time pondering serial killers and Charlie Manson to create Orlock and this stuff was useful in playing Mephistopholes. I think I took my main approach from Goethe’s idea that the devil is a spirit of negation. The devil is the voice inside any thoughtful person that tells them they are worthless and others are using them and no one can be trusted. If you listen to that stuff, you will destroy everything good that comes your way. I just tried to be persuasive to Faust by any means available. Offering him booze or drugs or women or power or just finding good reasons for him to be paranoid. Actors are always creatures who are trying to be loved by millions while at the same time trying to be authentic selves. The inherent conflicts of that lifestyle are enough material to play a million different kinds of devils.

What were the reasons you researched Charles Manson for Orlock? What about him did you find useful for Mephistopholes?
Manson kind of haunted my youth. His murders created a strange atmosphere. Maybe the media frenzy about the killings was my first taste of how certain events can instill a vague fear in people. I probably didn’t become fully aware of him until the TV movie Helter Skelter but Steven Railsback’s performance was haunting. I also remember reading and seeing a lot about him and his female followers when Squeaky Fromme tried to kill President Ford. Later on, when I actually read the book Helter Skelter, I was struck by how reasonable Manson’s arguments could be at times. “You made me”, “I am only a projection of your fear”, “The people that you call the Family were just people that you did not want. I took them up on my garbage dump and I told them that in love, there is no wrong” and finally, “These children that come at you with knives, they’re your children. I didn’t teach them. You did.” So when I came to play Orlock, I immediately thought of Charlie. Manson helped me see how to play Orlock as a cult leader. Tony and I didn’t talk about it much but I think he was also strongly influenced by Manson. He even named a character Sexy Sadie. Orlock was always exhorting the audience to join the vampire cult and telling them that he was just a projection of their hidden desires and fears.

There was an independently produced doc I watched called Charles Manson: Superstar. Most of on centers on direct quotes from Manson without the kind of spin the media places on things. Have you seen it?
I have not seen that but it sounds fascinating. I’ll have to watch it. I have watched Charlie’s actual testimony. People should just go to the actual sources or documentaries as you suggest. I wish schools would teach people more about how to extract useful information from the media and throw away the rest.

The Angel Madness 2012

Suicide Angel 2005

The Vampyr Theatre website
http://userweb.cybernex.net/vampyr/

My Hamlet Blog and other blogs
http://hamletthemovie.blogspot.com/

Episode of the Vampyr Theatre that starts out with both me and Ed

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May 1998, LA COMMEDIA DEL SANGUE: New York City’s Original VAMPYR THEATRE, The Musei di Porta Romana in Milan, Italy, will be exhibiting videos, music, photographs, press and posters from La Commedia del Sangue: Vampyr Theatre from March 5 through the end of May. Contact Catia Lattanzi of Excaliber at 0039.2.6071200, or (fax) 0039.2.6080677.

Vampyr Theatre is featured in Katherine Ramsland’s
Piercing the Darkness, David Skal’s V is for Vampire,
G. Gordon Melton’s Encyclopedia of the Undead and
Editrice Nord’s VAMPIRI Miti, leggende, letteratura,
cinema, fummetti, multimedialita. It is also featured
in Blair Murphy’s film Black Pearls and photography,
video, music and artwork from La Commedia del Sangue
was exhibited at the Musei di Porta Romana in Milan, Italy.
From Time Out New York:

FRANKENSTEIN WALKS THE WOLFMAN
AND OTHER LATE NIGHT COMEDY SKITS
Written by Tony Sokol. (Trilogy Theatre, 341 West 44th St.)
If the Scream movies aren’t enough evidence of the success of
the revived horror-meets-comedy genre, prepare to witness the
Creative Artists Laboratories’ Exhibit A.

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From OOBR:

Thinking outside the box
One-Act-Play Festival

You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby
By Tony Sokol
Directed by Tanya Klein
Creative Artists Laboratory
Trilogy Theatre
341 W. 44th St. (316-0400)
Non-union production (closes Mar. 13)

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Review by Sheila Mart

One-act play programs tend to be a mixed bag, and this one was no exception. Beautiful Baby, a one-set piece (always preferable for a one-act), is set in a billionaire’s office. Emerson, the billionaire, is a convicted child molester. His money, acquired through countless illegal business dealings, has bought off judges, lawyers, and corporations who have threatened to sue him for attacking young children of their employees. As the play opens, we meet one of his earliest victims (Suzanne), now an adult. He raped her when she was seven years old, soon after her father (to whom he made a promise to protect her) died. Suzanne reveals that her mother was an alcoholic and therefore not able to raise her effectively. As a result, she was susceptible to Emerson’s mind games.
In the intervening years, Suzanne has been in trouble with the law, unable to hold a job, and has been committed to mental institutions, always being rescued by Emerson, who still has a psychological hold on her. Now, Emerson – suffering from terminal cancer – gives Suzanne one more chance to improve her life. He offers her a lot of money (again to buy his innocence) or a gun to kill him and end his pain.
Tony Sokol wrote an excellent play on many levels – quite an achievement in one act.
Kim Carrell gave a well-rounded, consummate, and thoroughly credible performance as Emerson. Chantel Gonzalez, as Suzanne, was equally effective, but her performance could be improved without so much shrieking; anger is just as believable when modulated. Brian Luna and Lance Phillips did what they could in supporting roles.
Tanya Klein’s direction was flawless and helped the emotional depth of the play

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“Woman, Man, Gun,” a new film by Jenice Malecki, includes
`Desire Beyond Reason’ and `13 John Does,” songs written and performed
by Tony Sokol. Jenice used Sokol’s song, `Happy Hour’s Over’ in her first
film, “Hide Me.”

John Tranchina also used a score written by Ted Dailey
and Tony Sokol for his film “Just Behind the Door. ”

From Aquarian Arts Weekly, Sept. 15, 1999

Area 13, by Boris Hemlock

On Aug. 13, I attended an off-off Broadway play in NYC at The Trilogy on 44th Street, called Death Takes a Valium, presented by the Creative Artists Laboratory. Their performance consisted of several short pieces written by NJ writer Tony Sokol. Tony has written and produced 13 plays for La Commedia Del Sangue: Vampyr Theatre and other plays including
How to Skip Alimony Through Voluntary Manslaughter and the radio play The Excommunication of God. Among the skits with titles like “Weight Loss by Vivisection,” “How You Slice It,” “Cosmic Inertia” and “Death Takes a Valium was an entire cast of women and one gentlemen,. all of whom acted out their parts with genuine charm, You could only catch Death Takes a Valium in the first two weeks in august, but to see more of Tony’s work check out the website at: www2.cybernex.net/~vampyr or simply call the old fashioned info line at: 212-726-1821. Tony will be co-directing an independent film with Jenice Malecki (cinematographer), as they start production on Intervention, a story about six women who try to set a friend “straight from smoking pot as they all deal with their own addictions ranging from sex to Jesus.

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Satanists? Us?

interview with Tony Sokol in THE NIGHTTIMER from 1996

Troy Acree and Tony Sokol at Le Bar Bat, May 1992
Q: How did Vampire Theater start?

A I wanted to do some kind of Grand Guignol Horror Theater thing. You know, like a live gore-fest with special effects. I wanted to put on stage what they’ve been doing in the movies for years- a la Alice Cooper. But I couldn’t get a handle on it, I wrote some
scripts, but there was no thread. And then I auditioned as a guitarist for some singer who said she was a vampire, and I said `Ah haaa!’ I lost track of her, though, I’d like to find her and thank her. But I saw the book `Interview With a Vampire’ and I figured that that would set me apart, I did the interviews myself and created the characters based on their rhythms.

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Q: Why didn’t you perform with existing theatrical troupes?

A: Because they didn’t have what I wanted to see. So I did it myself.

Lori Tomlinson and Tony Sokol at Le Bar Bat May 1992
Q: How did the performances begin?

A: I wrote a couple scripts, I think I did a reading of some of the monologues somewhere, and then this director I knew, Rosalie Triana, read them, thought they were sexy and brought in a bunch of actors she worked with. They learned the lines, and we threw it
up. Really fast.

Q: Do you pay your actors?

A: No. Most of the actors do it just for the credit. And Rick Crane, the special effects guy, well I think he made some money. More than I did.

Q: Why have you sustained such an ongoing audience?

A: We’re cheaper. … I write more and we don’t cater to that whole romantic thing.
We’re nasty. People like nasty.

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Q: How many actors are in each play?

A: I think a baker’s dozen, same as in any coven. It really depends on the script.
However many characters populate my head when I’m writing it down. Troy Acree’s been in it since
the beginning, same as Rick. Shaunte has been at it for a long time, we can’t get rid of her.
No amount of garlic. I know, they’ve tried.

Q: Where do you find your actors?

A: An actor would just send a resume/head shot to our P.O. Box out in Jersey and
we’ll consider. At open calls we usually just want a one-minute monologue, if you can’t
trust your stuff in a minute, we’ll cut you off. at call-backs we’ll give them excerpts
from whatever script we’re doing.

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Q: Where have you performed?

A: We started at Le Bar Bat, but we’ve done Paddles, Creative Place Theater, Don’t Tell
Mama, 55 Grove, Planet Rock Pub in Newark, N.J., Chapter 3 Theater, The Bat Cave,
Theater 22. and some other place I can’t think of.

We do clubs because I’m actually a musician in playwright’s clothing and clubs is what I know.

Q: Are there real vampires in your cast? Are you a vampire?

A: Well, I’m not a vampire myself, I’ve had offers but I have one who sort of looks
out for me. I’ve been claimed, whatever that means. We have had vampires pass through
the cast. I have to hide them from most of the directors, but they’ve been in there.
I can’t say who, as I’m sure you understand. You wouldn’t want to be `outed’ either.

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Q: How do you write your plays?

10. They come to me. I’ve dumped more scripts than we’ve put on. I have over 20
scripts we haven’t done. But whatever’s in my head, whoever I talk to, what I see
on the news. I have to COMPLETELY re-write the script we were supposed to have
started this month because of the Oklahoma City bombing, because I was too close.
But that’s happened a lot, I’m not psychic, but I’ve dumped five scripts so far
that too closely resembled things that happened after I wrote them. I’m afraid
of people thinking I’m pandering.

Troy Acree and Sasha Graham at Le Bar Bat, 1992
Q: Are you married?

A: Yes, I’m married and she’s not a vampire. She’s used to me hanging with vampires.
She does get scared, but she’s the beneficiary in my life insurance policy so it
all balances out.

Q: Are you a satanist or in any cult?

A: No. I don’t even believe in Satan. I don’t believe in much. I want something to
bang me on the head, some sort of spiritual awakening, something to prove that there
are things beyond. I’ve seen a lot of things, but nothing that’s really shattered
my disbelief. Keep trying though, I’m really looking forward to being disproved.
I’ve studied groups, last year I talked to some doomsday cults, I’ve witnessed
gatherings and rituals, I’m always open to it. How else can I write about it?

Q: Have you found schisms in the vampire communities?

A: Yes, there’s a lot of in-fighting.

Q: (Why?

A: Because nobody wants to share their slice of the pie, I guess. It’s pretty stupid.
There’s enough separating us without all the extra added garbage of `my blood’s
thicker than yours.’

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Q: Have you ever been threatened?

A: By vampires? Not really, I mean I get the usual `If I tell anybody anything
about the interviews, But I have been threatened by vampire hunters. The worst
was from a vampire hunter, I got called and he was talking shit, My first reaction
was to turn real Brooklyn on the guy, I told him I’d meet him and `explain’ things
to him in a non-verbal way. He didn’t show up. Vampire hunters can deal with the
whole holy water and crucifix thing, but confront them with real physical reality
and they usually crumble. Except in New Mexico. I’m compiling a list of hunters.
They’re really scary. They will hurt people if given half a chance.

Q: Give me an example of some of the vampire interview experience?

A: I met a woman vampire at `The Holiday’ Bar down on St. Mark’s Place and we
talked for a while. Her checking me out as much as I was checking her out. When
she decided I was alright she suggested we go someplace else and she went out and
hailed a cab. No, actually, I hailed the cab. I told her I didn’t have the money
for a cab ride and she pulled out a wad of bills that was larger than my instep
and proceeded to do the interview in the cab. I asked her if she was nervous
talking about vampire things within listening distance of the cabbie and she
said, `Don’t worry. He can only hear what I want him to hear.’ We drove around
and talked for about a half hour and when we got to the restaurant we got out
and I didn’t see her even offer to pay. This may not seem strange to some
people, but he was a NEW YORK Cabbie.

Another vampire I talked to cut the interview short when she realized
she was getting hungry, blood hungry, I told her not to worry about it,
that I was not in the mood to give blood and she said that she was able
to `convince me.’ To make a long story short (too late) she literally
ran away from me yelling, `Stay back or I’ll feed’ and went running up
69th Street.

collage

The following article will appear in an upcoming edition of ROCKOUT CENSORSHIP,
a national publication that fights for our rights to express ourselves.

Q: Would you become a vampire?

A: I haven’t decided yet. As I said, I’ve had offers.

Q: What would you do as a vampire?

A: I think I’d drink the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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Q:

A: Yes, but I think your ethics codes forbid you from publishing it here.

Q: Do vampires kill?

A: Most of the vampires I’ve talked to don’t kill. When they do talk about something
like that I usually tell them that I don’t have client/confessor privileges under
the law. I pride myself on my reputation of discretion and I’ll dissuade anyone
from giving me information that might get them in trouble.

Q: How do vampires get their blood?

A: It varies depending on the individual. Most have `donors.’ But I’ve talked to
people who attack, one guy who worked in a hospital. I know of a `Train’ that was
set up to provide blood to nervous fledglings. There’s the Segani tribe of gypsies
who provide it. I’m waiting for Food Emporium to carry it.

Q: Are there any laws against blood drinking?

A: No law that I can think of. Not among consenting adults.

Q: What do vampires eat?

A: A Chicklet, a fig newton, filet mignon in red sauce. I don’t know. That’s up to
individual tastes.
Q: Do you believe vampires are immortal?

A: I don’t think anyone is immortal. As a matter of fact no one claims to be
immortal. They claim to have longer life-spans, but the planet itself isn’t
immortal. And as far as killing them by staking them through the heart, that’s
no big mystery, most people I know would die if you staked them through the heart.

Q: Do vampires have pets?

A: I’m sure lots of vampires have pets. I’m sure lots of people would like to be
their pets. Again, I’ve had offers, but the pay sucks.

Q: Does AIDS figure in the writing of Vampyr Theater?

A: It figures very strongly. The AIDS issue was actually one of the main driving
forces being doing Vampyr Theatre. The first three scripts I wrote were AIDS-related.
Even though the first major AIDS script that we put up was the last one, `Dark Night
of the Soul.’ The idea that `the blood is the life’ becomes tenuous when the blood
becomes increasingly tainted. It’s very frightening. It was also a challenge in a
dramatic sense. Starting with the assumption that vampires are `immortal’ creatures,
already dead, how can you make a terminal disease, that NO ONE is safe from, let’s
face it, and don’t let anybody tell you any different, a threat? I basically just
took my own personal vision of hell: death and decay with consciousness, and jammed
on that. The body would decay and not die. The consciousness would never leave,
you’d be a witness to your own destruction. Living worm food. And when it comes
from sustenance itself, the blood, sangue. Which is the crux of it. That’s why
I call the theater La Commedia del Sangue, and the production unit Sangue
Ettola, the blood is the life. It’s also the death.

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Q: What are your plans for the future?

As far as the Vampyr Theatre- Well we just had to cancel a run. The first time we ever canceled. It’s just getting up enough money to put it up again. I’d like to find someone else to produce the theater. I’m a writer. I don’t like the production part. I’m a lousy businessman. So, please someone take it. I’m begging, produce this thing so I can concentrate on the writing. Otherwise we’ll probably just do one or two a year, Last year we did only three, you have to realize for the first three years we did it constantly, I was writing new ones and we were just doing it all the time. No breaks, no life.

I’m sort of on vacation. But I’m busier now than when the theater’s up.
I’ve been asked to act in a couple things but that’s not my gig. Been doing
a lot I mean A LOT of music.
Q: What are you writing now?

Well, right now I’m writing for a bunch of underground mags. Wicked Mystic, Nighttimer,
the Other Side, Delicate Terror, Vampire Archives, Corporal, probably Delirium, whoever
asks me. I’m a writing whore. No better make that slut, since nobody pays, Not in money
anyway. Andre’ll get me drunk and put me up for the night in Queens. The future is to
keep writing, I mean I write for my day job, I write for my night job and in my spare
time I write music. But the future is finding out what’s out there. It’s never as wild
as my imagination. But I’m hopeful.

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Q: What’s you favorite vampire books or movies?

25. Favorite vampire book? There are so many. Poppy Z Brite’s first was great. Stoker’s, Le Fanu’s, Ann Rice’s first two. Some of the old legends blow most of the fiction away. I love the original `Dracula’ but I prefer `Abbott and
Costello Meet Frankenstein’ God there’s so many of them. I haven’t seen them
all. I want to. Send them to me. I’ll send them back, I promise.

Q: Are there any vampires you would be too scared to interview?

A: No. There is no vampire I would never interview. I’ll take all comers.

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Tony Sokol’s Vampyr Theatre
by Katherine Ramsland

When one links theater with vampires, one things Anne Rice and her creation of that dark performance troupe in eighteenth-century Paris, but Tony Sokol says this was not the original inspiration for his own Vampyr Theater, or La Commedia del Sangue. Instead it was the idea of the Grand Guignol theater, an old movie called Vampire Circus, and the work of a poet named Maria A. Vega. And also — at least for one production — a Beatles cartoon.

Tony Sokol is a man of high energy, multi-faceted background, and numerous skills and interests. He’s a playwright, musician, researcher, and journalist. He seems to be ever in motion, darting form one place to another as he oversees his vampire production while simultaneously greeting members of the audience. He talks fast and calls himself a “man of many words but few coherent thoughts.”

His grandfather was a grave-digger in Brooklyn, and he once lived in a haunted house with a ghost that his sister called George. His grandmother owned a copy of the 1903 edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and his mother was so impressed by it that Sokol bought a paperback copy of the book before he could even read. His mother read it to him and then he added Poe to the mix, and Yellow Submarine, which he watched over and over. He was entranced with the images and concepts, and his 1997 production for Vampyr Theater was based in part on the Blue Meanies, who only took no for an answer.

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The first production, The Auction” occurred in 1992, at Le Bar Bat in Manhattan. The following year, Sokol was invited onto Joan Rivers’ talk show with several guests who were there to discuss otherworldly subjects: horror expert David Skal, vampire musician Vlad, and the lead singer of One of Us. Sokol gave out his phone number on the air, and after, people of all sorts — vampires, alien abductees, conspiracy victims — contacted him to tell him their own experiences with the strange and bizarre.

“Most of them were victims of something,” he says. He was eager to listen, though he admits there were times when an interview gave him the creeps. “You know the feeling when someone is describing a medical procedure and you get this itching all over your groin and stomach. I would have that feeling, but I couldn’t show it on my face when I was talking to them, so I learned to dissociate.

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He took some chances by seeking out the “fetish squatters” in a park on the Lower East Side who reputedly were into bondage and S&M– and some of them into vampirism. He gained their trust and listened to their stories, finding within their sense of reality the same kind of rage against society and culture that he felt. He had seen some police efforts to rid the park of squatters, and felt that the homeless themselves were less frightening than the law enforcement personnel.

The more he listened to these vampires, the more material he gained for creating his plays. “They had wanted to talk to me, so I met them at twilight in places where there was a very clear exit. I’ve only had one person come at me, and one person ran away from me because apparently her hunger overcame her while she was talking to me. She ran down the street screaming, `You’re not safe!’ these people have never seen the plays so I don’t know what they think. but I’ve based characters on more than just vampires. I’ve also interviewed SRA survivors, people with multiple personality syndrome, the AUM Shinrikyo cult, the Order of the Solar Temple, UFO abductees and many others.”

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The past year, Vampyr Theatre was based at 45 West 21st Street in Lower Manhattan. The show ran on Friday and Saturday nights, beginning, appropriately, at midnight, during September and October (The show was extended past November – editor).

The production was called Just Us Served, directed by Troy Acee and starring Troy Acree, Sara Moon, and Jennifer Salmons. It began, much like the Theater of the Vampires in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, with fog blowing across a dark stage and a young girl being questioned sarcastically by a group of vampires — one male and two females. A few of the audience members (in an audience number around thirty of forty [It was an eighty seater – editor]) were part of the play, and by the time they were all accounted for as they rose to play the parts, they were almost as many as the real audience.

The real audience sat in chairs in rows that rise up from the stage, and most of the savvy crowd had dressed in black — although there was one couple in their sixties who were dressed as if they had just come from an expensive restaurant on the posh side of town. The show was sold out.

Most of the dialogue took place among the vampires, but the plot centered around an FBI agent who was on the trail of a lead male vampire to prove that he had killed some people and to bring him to justice. The vampires threw together a haphazard court in which an ancient vampire served as magistrate.

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How Does that Grab You?
Savoir Scare, Sartorial Splendor & Sanguine Satire

by Iona Miller, CHT, Oct. 2010

SAVOIR SCARE

Desperately seeking that ever-elusive interview with a “true” vampyr, today the NYC personals are filled with ads from would-be reporters on the cultural phenomenon. NYC musician Tony Sokol beat the bloody stampede and might consider it “oh so Last Century.” He’s “been there and done that.”

But how do you get “proof of life” from the Undead? What kind of a life is it to make acute awareness of death a priority? Shamans and healers share such obsessions with outlaw mystics. But it is a life in the borderlands of experience.

Castaneda suggested living life with death on your shoulder. If we are ever in doubt about what to do, we look to our right shoulder to our higher self. If we remain in doubt about whether or not to take some action, we look to our left shoulder and see death sitting there waiting to take us. That is a stark reminder that we are human beings and we must act immediately lest death take us. But the undead have a radically different point of view on the whole matter. Death is the Hunter.

Tony Sokol can arguably be characterized by Don Juan’s description of a warrior: “A detached man, who knows he has no possibility of fending off his death, has only one thing to back himself with: the power of his decisions. He has to be, so to speak, the master of his choices. He must fully understand that his choice is his responsibility and once he makes it there is no longer time for regrets or recriminations. He decisions are final, simply because death does not permit him time to cling to anything. . . . The knowledge of his death guides him and makes him detached and silently lusty; the power of his final decisions makes him able to choose without regrets and what he chooses is always strategically the best; and so he performs everything he has to with gusto and lusty efficiency.” Whatever befell him was his own choice.

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MACABRE MYSTERY

Iona: I grew up on matinee horror flicks and the fantastic monster mags that glorified their producers and the illusions they spin. I did the Monster Mash with Bobby Boris Picket at my LA high school basketball game. So, it isn’t surprising I’ve been fascinated with the Vampyre Theatre for as long as I’ve known its creator Tony Sokol. It just sounded so damned fun, at the bleeding edge.

He wanted to discuss the nuances of hypnosis and its bipolar effects for good and ill. He realized the hypnotist and the vampyr have much in common; both are tricksters who can see into the dark recesses of the human condition and tweak what is found. Drama is co-existent with our primal being. Cave, womb, and tomb are symbolically synonymous. If the author is a shaman, the script is a teacher. Usually the theatre is concrete and immediate though real consequences are non-existent. Or, are they?

ART IS RITUAL & RITUAL IS ART

Tony and I have explored a bit of moral relativism, shadowy sentiments, Jungian thought, inductions, symbolic semantics, psychic abilities and therapeutic techniques from clinical hypnotherapy over the years. We’ve argued the pros and cons of suggestion, hypnotics, deprogramming and mind control. We’ve discussed clinical aspects of DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), metaphor therapy, erotic hypnosis and extraordinary human potential. Undeniably, there is real evil in the world. America is a vampiric corporate culture, sucking the life blood out of the Third World. But the lifestyle phenomenon is best described, undoubtedly, by those immersed in its doleful drama. No Hell or Satanism required.

Sokol has interviewed over 300 self-styled vampyres, including a handful who’s seeming paranormal qualities or youthful appearance he could not account for. They stimulate a fount of ideas for scripts. Most vampyres, claims Sokol, are fans indulging in subculture and what we euphemistically call “lifestyle,” but it is closer to a “deathstyle” — or life in the stylistic trappings of death. But his work also surfaced victims of abuse who sought his help and support.

Growing up in a Sicilian family, Tony knows an evil eye when he sees one. He understands some self-styled Vamps are more pathological than others. He also knows there are many toxic people out there that wouldn’t call themselves vampires but behave according to that script. Even though he means them no harm, it is a sine qua non that vampire hunters remain fearless. Hence, his own is a dark-adapted third eye. To survive you have to trust your visceral felt-sense. What else is new in NYC?

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FACING THE SHADOW

High Weirdness is on the rise like a Harvest Moon. One needs mad skills to get by in the Big City. It’s “eat or be eaten.
In some of our correspondence Tonyspoke about rescuing survivors and sex-slaves.

Tony: I have no trauma in my background, until I met the people with DID when I was doing Vampyr Theatre. I was brought into their inner landscapes. That was trauma. I wouldn’t be as empathic as I am with the abused if it weren’t for that.

I had a similar experience doing sexual abuse hypnotherapy for years. I heard stories I could never have imagined.

I’ve been following the arc of “survivors” in the news. I find it interesting how their stories are filtering through to mainstream media. With specials on Biography and the History channels. When I was first approached by survivors, I had no idea such things existed. Oh, I had the book CIA: Operation Mind Control (by Walter Bowart also of the East Village Other) – but it didn’t get into the people who were talking to me. I sometimes wonder if my putting them so heavily in Vampyr Theatre somehow further enabled this to become more known. And all of it started for me with a pamphlet slid under my door at 3 in the morning. I’d made Illuminati references way back when. Then the only people I knew who wrote about it were Robert Anton Wilson and Bill Cooper – who I spoke to only once.

“You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” a play I wrote after Vampyr Theatre, was much more specific. Named corporations. It was published in its entirety in a defense law journal. I’d been given papers by people who were institutionalized and passed them on to other people.

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MIND CONTROL COUNTERMEASURES

It’s been so long since I was contacted by such trauma-based survivors – and yet I am still triggered by their language and become very protective of them. Why does this fascinate me so much and why am I so willing and eager to explore these dark things, even in myself? I think we spoke on this (CIA mind control experiments) – and I also spoke with Mark Philips (Cathy O’Brien) about it. I’d heard from many different sources that people involved in MK Ultra and related projects were allowed, even encouraged, to take many different drugs, like LSD, cocaine and heroine – but were not allowed to take marijuana – does marijuana affect mind control?

When I first read Trance Formation of America – before I got in touch with Cathy and Mark – I didn’t believe that everyone who was named could be involved. For those who don’t know, Cathy O’Brien is the only vocal and recovered survivor of the CIA’s MK-Ultra Project Monarch operation. Cathy was rescued and deprogrammed from being a mind control slave by Mark. The book traces her path from child pornography and recruitment into the program to serving as a top-level intelligence agent and White House sex slave, TRANCE FORMATION of America is a definitive eye-witness account of government corruption that implicates some of the most prominent figures in U.S. politics.

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I have since talked to quite a few people who underwent training that involved trips to Disneyworld – now, this doesn’t mean that everyone who watches a Disney film is a victim – but I will say that I thought more than twice about showing my kids Disney films – I wasn’t afraid to show them the Wizard of Oz – it’s an SRA (Satanic Ritual Abuse) trigger, not general trigger – and of course they love it – but it will always be in the back of my head.

Even “The Simpsons” noted that there were only two people born with the “evil gene:” Adolph Hitler and Walt Disney.
My family said that long before I was aware of the existence of SRAs – but we really thought we were joking.

IRRATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Io: I have another friend who is a broadcaster now but was an adopted DID mind control vic. After years of maladaption, he made trips to South America to heal with ayahuasca, which was the only treatment he found that worked. The same is true for another dissociative I know who was forced to be a Headhunter of Viet Cong generals when he was in Spec Ops. Naturally the hometeam tried to snuff him once the tour of duty was over. He found kinship on the Native American Red Road, since they had experience dealing with the spiritual healing of warriors. Vision quests and Sundance have helped. Only peer therapy works.

Conventional therapy can be worse than useless, especially if the traumas were initiated by so-called mental health professionals or authority figures. The trauma keeps happenING in the inner world of these vics and that is the source of the dissociation beyond programming for it. Charles Tart used self-reports of internal experiences in developing a systems approach to discrete states of consciousness (d-SoCs), “even though these reports are undoubtedly affected by a variety of biases, limitations, and inadequacies.” They are nevertheless the most relevant data for studying states of consciousness. According to Tart it cannot be known to what extent, “the Observer’s apparent objectivity is a reality and to what extent a fiction.” If Tart alleged we could know, we would have to suspect his investigator’s bias! When experiential data are used to understand states of consciousness, the observation process cannot be taken for granted. But neither does it need to be interpreted.

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Dissociation, even into multiple personalities is the only escape. Each defensive move is a trance state, a discrete state of consciousness (d-SoC) into which psyche retreats. It’s an alternative self-simulation, which has some group analogies with similar idiosyncratic behavior in subcultures. Such altered states are virtual realities. DID is individual; subcultures are consensual. Only the participants can say whether it has value beyond shared escape.

In your own work you must have seen plenty of heavy gravitational weirdos, cult headtrips and brainwashing effects such as Stockholm Syndrome — or shall we say, “Stalk-home”? I’ve had a fascination with TI’s – Targeted Individuals who claim they are gang-stalked and suffer electronic and other harassment. It is very difficult to separate their self-reports from those of the mentally ill. Yet most, like abductees, appear normal except for their TI ideation. We’ve speculated about doing mutual hypnosis over Skype and other apps — sort of Skypnosis. What other kinds of inductions do you like, Tony, besides the naturalistic utilization you pulled on the psychic?

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I know you work with NLP hypnotist Elena Beloff and play music together sometimes. Do you use trancing drums and tones in your music with that intentionality? Is it more Ericksonian, subtle stuff, pacing and leading? Direct gaze? Have you ever done street hypnosis for guerrilla theater or otherwise? Do you have any issues about monkeying with someone’s falsely so-called True Will? Did you consider planting cultural memes with your theater? Are you working on any scripts now besides the “Joe Gallo” story?

Tony: The hypnosis in Vampyr Theatre was more like what’s called Gypsy hypnosis. It’s in the Russian papers now on the internet, but then, I knew the Gypsies that tried that. I want to write one about a Gypsy who’s predictions come true. To even her own surprise. She becomes a guru at the end of the world. The more she says the more happens, you just want her to shut up.

I was walking around the city and went to a storefront psychic – was there for – literally – over two hours. She was telling me about a curse I had to remove – at a cost of just $696. Numerologically, a good number. She said that in a past life I was a very powerful healer and magician – yada yada. But, not wanting to spend this numerologically charged $696, I pressed her on why I had this curse – and she said I had gifts of my own – and that I used them in a past life to get a woman to sleep with me – and her husband put the curse on me. I pushed it further and asked which gifts – and she said mind control – so – I used that. I hypnotized her using just her superstition. After two hours I walked out of there without paying a penny – not even for the original $10 reading. She believed I could, so I could.

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The Confusion Technique is very useful. You can scramble a person’s eggs before they realize it’s happening. It works better on the highly intelligent than many techniques. Charismatic personalities and recruiters seem to intuitively employ such methods to create a fascination or [false] ‘glamour.’ Gypsy hypnosis is implicated in street crime. A handshake becomes a shakedown. A pattern interruption in a familiar act makes the mind go blank and suggestible. Naturally, predatory hypnosis is opportunistic and naturalistic. Opportunism and exploitative rapport techniques are hermetic as symbolized by the tarot trump “The Magician.” Hermes was an archetypal thief. Actually, there is a whole technology that can hack human software programming, including mirroring, pacing and leading and pattern interrupt.

I never thought about inductions as a kind. I make up everything as I go along. Isn’t hypnosis a con we play on ourselves? I had a lot of misconceptions until I did research for a series of interviews I did with my friend Elena, who’s a hypnotherapist and a filmmaker, now making a documentary on hypnosis. I like psychic manipulation. Good enough for Bela, Christopher Lee, Conrad Veidt and Lara Parker. I wrote stage hypnosis for Vampyr Theatre, but ultimately it’s the hypnotic power of the sociopathological psyche. I like the hypnosis of the deer in the headlights. The hypnosis of the rubbernecker looking at a car wreck. Especially if it causes another crash. You need the payoff. We keep driving and we get sapped out of the payoff. Well, sometimes, but then it’s usually you. I find hypnosis to be vaguely arousing, but I don’t go for the whole hypnofetish thing – not at all into pain, humiliation or the S&M overtones. Even though Vampyr Theatre started in S&M clubs – well, except the fashion – love leather. Vampyr Theare played more into the fantasies of a trance addict – but I include recreational drugs, shamanism and so many other things in that. Hypnosis is just a small part of it.

I’m working with Elena again on her new documentary on hypnosis and helping out with the showings of Zaritsas, her documentary on how Russian immigrant women are seen as golddiggers, which I did some music for. I’m working with DJ Beatz on some music and I’m playing around with the second of what will be my gangster trilogy. And trying to sell Jukebox King, the documentary on “Crazy” Joe, “Kid Blast” and Larry Gallo. If you know anyone in the market…

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LET’S DO THE MINDWARP AGAIN

The “Clark Kent” of Corpus Delecti, up-front Tony seems like a mild-mannered musician who has a healthy interest in family life and bettering his corner of the world, but he also has a wry edge and keen sense of cultural commentary that is the mark of a true artist. He’s written and produced many plays and events other than Vampyre Theatre, but none have gotten as much ink as this perennial topic, which like its protagonist, just won’t die. He understands the murky interface between Mystery and the Macabre. There will be gore.

Sokol knows how to set the stage and let the participants’ imaginations take it from there. He understands the power of suggestion. He has taken the throbbing pulse of the public and driven it higher. He did it by turning the tables on dinner theatre, making the customer into the entree for walking dread by beating down the fourth wall with bat wings. He must have a wicked sense of humor to pen such black comedy. The irony is he is truly a “gentle-man.”

Tony, you’re a composer, a bass player, vocalist. I associate you mostly with your music, some of which amplifies vampiric themes – Bloodletting, Vampire Dreams, etc. How did you weave your music into the shows without getting into the kitsch of “the musical”?

I was mainly a musician when I started writing Vampyr Theatre, but it wasn’t at all a musical. Not like”AssassiNation: We Killed JFK,” which was a rock opera. But I wrote the music to Vampyr Theatre first, the incidental music, and then wrote the lyrics, the actual plays, after based on the rising and falling of the music I wrote, which, more often than not, the directors didn’t use. Dinner theater would have been interesting. I’d have loved to see people trying to eat while we did our thing all over them, especially in the splatter section. We were too impolite. We ate instead. But we would have shared.

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SULTRY PSYCHODRAMA

Q. New York City has a long tradition of performance art that blurs the line between actors and audience. I wonder what the relatively new and controversial discipline of Performance Theory would say about your productions? Does the audience want ideology or an IV? After multiple performances, what is your perception of the audience desires? Why is the vampire the Spirit of our times? Life & Death is the Primal Drama, but what mysteries lie in between? Are vampires the emotional equivalent of psychological Dark Matter & Energy? Are we just part of their dream?

Vampires don’t dream, so that would be pretty limiting for us. We were pretty undisciplined. I was anyway. Most of the actors were actors and were schooled in whatever acting technique they were schooled in. I tried to slip some vampires into the cast. Occasionally it worked.

I watched the audience change. Some people were regulars and over the year I’d see them change their style of dress and makeup. I watched the audience go Goth. Then I watched them go vampire. I loved the people who walked out because they were offended. The ones who yelled at me about Jesus. The exit counselors and cops I could have done without, but that never got out of hand and I protected the performers from it. Mostly. One exit counselor hijacked one of my actors.

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How does the counterpoint of comedy balance the dark forces with a broken-down ritual plot? After all, tragedy for the human may be comedic to the predator. What part did improvisation play in your productions? Music? Athletics? Weren’t you in some sense ‘playing with’ or orchestrating your audience with your dynamic images? What do you think is the perennial attraction of these dark characters? What is the meaning of the fatal attraction, demonic psychic possession, that utterly saps vitality? Numerous Jungian analogies have been drawn between vampires and addiction. Even some alien reports have vampiric features. Our society is addictive, greedy. Is that noticeably reflected in our literature and films?

I don’t know how much of a balance it provided. The humor was as dark and nasty as what we passed for horror. In a bad review we got at the time, someone said we were just a bunch of one-liners. Sadly, the directors only tolerated improv from themselves and me. And me only because they had no choice. Sometimes the actors had no choice because they had to respond to the audience, who were invited there to participate. I don’t think films show us as greedy as we really are. Selfish, but not greedy. There’s no mirror big enough to reflect that reality. Especially when most films are paid for by rich corporate conglomerates. We’re attracted to them because they’re free to do what they wanted without fear of morality or consequence or even death.

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ENERGY SUCKS

It is easy to see why each man kills the things he loves. To know a living thing is to kill it…
To try to know a living being is to try to suck the life out of that being.
The temptation of the vampire fiend, is this knowledge.
The desirous consciousness, the spirit, is a vampire. –D.H. Laurence

The vampire myth describes, above all, an aberrant transfer of energy of vitality. How is it that lovers, artists, parents, the insane, trade energy? How do our supposed friends suck energy from us in a short visit? The vampire archetype is a powerful way to describe these unexplained psychic phenomena. We may resist using the word, but “possessed” is a word that seems most accurate to describe them, particularly malignant narcissists or sociopaths. Not only are they self-absorbed, they want to absorb you, too.

Wow, that question really tires me out. My daughter Gabriella, who’s 11, wants to do the Ouija board, not because of any predictive energy she’ll tap, but because she wants to be possessed. I want to try the dip sin, the Chinese Ouija board; you have to use blood.

Everyone taps or fuels energy. Like the Dave Chappelle routine about how he won’t get high with black people anymore because they get depressing while white people, when they’re high, talk about the last time they got high.

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VICTIM / VICTIMIZER

The symbiosis lies in the common identity – both victim and perpetrator are cursed. Becoming a vampire is the opposite of redemption. The vampire is the anti-matter of spiritual transformation. Holism is expressed in Eastern cultures by gods and goddesses that actually drink blood. Blood is a central theme in sacrifice and religion.

But, these divinities have become our addictions to money, power, sex, food, fame and possessions. Compulsions can sap us. So can falling in love with a toxic partner. Love can be the most powerful addiction. The relationship becomes vampiric. Vampiric parents also attack those they love. An addiction is any process over which we are powerless, out of control, lacking free will or choice. Love in vein.

Theatre, dance, music and games all share certain rhythms and rules that allow us to experience the non-ordinary. They produce altered states, suspend time. Symbolic time is eternal yet somehow infinitely hungry to the point of consuming the universe, even manically expanding into an unimaginable beyond.

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DARK CHARISMA

What taboos prevent us in ordinary life from idealizing the dark side? Does the vampire embody both our fears and ambivalence about death — the pain and the pleasure? Is the vampire our pathological Superego, eager to consume the ego at its puny expense? We plunge into the abyssal seams between reality and the invisible worlds. Those seams are torn asunder in a rending of the mystic veil, revealing that which was there all along but formerly hidden by horror, denial and naivete. Today’s aliens share much in common with the traits of the traditional vampire.

We are weakened, broken, disfigured. Another illusion adds to our confusion. Nothing is real. What is it about this dramatic catharsis we seek again and again like a wicked roller coaster ride? It is a narrative of a subcurrent of evil that pervades and invades ordinary being. It is an amorphous threat, penetration of our souls which it then proceeds to devour. The seduction overwhelms and conceals the nihilistic telos. It is a soporific narcotic. We are transfixed.

You make death sound depressing. I vacation in the abyssal seams between reality and the invisible worlds. I have a time share.There are a lot of people who idealize the dark side. Even in popular culture. And what is the dark side? The Simpsons said there were two people in the 20th Century who were born with the evil gene, Adolph Hitler and Walt Disney. The Care Bears used to scare the shit out of me as a teenager. So what is dark? Lucifer is the bringer of light, illumination and the god of the Old Testament sounds like a god of war to me. That’s pretty dark. Jail prevents us. We don’t like jail. Who does? I mean there are a couple. They know who they are.

Some of them came to Vampyr Theatre. One of them corrected me on some Aztec blood ritual goddess pronunciation in “Let Us Prey.” He came back a lot. Even got hypnotized onstage. Licked a lady vampire’s boot and he wasn’t into that kind of thing. He talked to me after and was convinced that she was a real vampire. She was just an actress, but who was I to shatter the illusion? That’s the power of suggestion. Nothing really stops us. If we thought we wouldn’t get caught, we’d do anything. A lot of people do things to get caught. Some people want to get caught by aliens.

Take away repercussions and you’re free. It’s less a spiritual void that they’re suffering, than a criminal enterprise in a criminal underground where they kill and eat people and cops or priests who try to interfere. They don’t care. It’s all now. There may or may not be any tomorrows, but who the fuck cares? That was our refrain, by the way. After this, there’s nothing. No damnation, salvation, paradise or garage in Buffalo. There’s worms. Vampires get that.

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CORSET RIPPERS & CARDIAC ARREST

Q. How do you feel about the new cultish crop of Vampotainment — from Twilight and Vampire Diaries to True Blood? Clearly there isn’t one audience — but different demographics from pre-teen turmoil to full immersion fusion. Is it a case of get them early while their minds are malleable? Vamp Light for hormonal hostages? Geek Tragedy? A skewed Feast of Dionysus? Carnal catharsis? Primal rituals? Phallic Danse Macabre? Post-POMO porn?

I haven’t really gotten to “Twilight.” The idea of sexless, nonviolent vampires who come out in the day just doesn’t grab me. Give me The Satanic Rites of Dracula. True Blood I watch, sometimes twice a week. But I watch more shows on HBO than any other channel. I get a little glazed eyed when they stray from vampires. Young people naturally gravitate to vampires because of the forbidden and we’re all there for the sex, but it’s power and they sometimes feel powerless. Or they should. What can they really do? Shoot up a school? You think people will listen over all that noise? Let them be vampires. Still nobody will listen, but they can bite them on the ass later. The eternal youth aspect. Lost Boys. My vampires played hookie, smoked cigars and broke windows. Like the lost boys in Pinocchio. Actually, I didn’t let my actors smoke in character. It always distracts me when vampires smoke on TV or in movies, they don’t breathe. How can they smoke? Bugs my daughters too. But also, most theaters wouldn’t let us smoke on stage, so it was a necessary limitation. I tried getting the actors not to breathe and was banned from rehearsals.

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Is the vampire a variant of Dionysus himself and the Maenads? This theme appeared in Season 2 of True Blood. Jung implied that the gods have become diseases. Does that imply cultural devolution? What ritual now promises the rebirth of the dead world? Greek theater arose from the dynamic braiding of ritual and entertainment with conflict, mutilation and death.

I’m a wino, so Dionysus was always a big favorite of mine. Deep reds and peasant wines, if you’re getting me a gift bag. For Vampyr Theatre, I combined four rituals, from four regions and left out one element so it wouldn’t actually work, because I’m a pussy who read Lovecraft. I’m sure Troy Acree, our director, figured that out and is still pissed I left things out. You can do so much with blood. It goes with everything. And it tastes like chicken. Ours tasted like very, very, syruppy sweet soap.

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How did your performance space affect the execution of your show? Did you allow the audience any “breaks,” or maintain the dramatic arc throughout the show? Was there a deliberate attempt to relieve their tensions in your scripting? License and control. Does control of the audience add to their tensions? What happens when the audience becomes the collective architect of the action? Who then is evoking, guiding and selecting patterns? Does that wedge drive a stake between theater and performance? Does it create a dissociation that mirrors the vampyric process?

Control of the audience? We took them hostage. We frisked them. We threw them up against the wall and checked for weapons. Sometimes we found them. I loved my audience. They amused me endlessly. The spaces we used sometimes hindered what I’d written. But it was written to be sparse. It was written to be done in the old abandoned subway station on 26th St. The D train used to pass it way back. The last script, the last play we did was the most diluted by space. It was written to be done in a club, it was done in a theater. One of the last weekends we were booked the theater build a stage-within-a-stage for another show they were doing. We did ours after hours, midnight shows. My actors broke the stage. Made me proud.

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HOOKED ON VAMPS

How did you amplify any sense of self-transcendence inherent in the vampire theme? Vampire as initiator into a vastly expanded realm of experience is one variation on the theme. The Trickster element is always present; things are not what they seem.

What rules did you give yourself to frame your dramatic action? looser, tighter, inner, outer? Does the frame include the vampire’s hyperdimensional perspective? The inner frame of predator/prey is pretty tight but plays out loosely in millions of variations, each time a death ensues — even with rebirth into the realm of the undead. But to “in” it is to be compulsively driven with empty desire. The demonic colonizes the psyche and revitalizes itself by sucking the life force – propagation by cannibalization.

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Have you thought about moving Vampyr Theatre into an immersive environment such as Second Life? Zombies are an old staple of video games. What levels of “Role Playing” have you observed in the conventional culture and Vampire sub-cultures? What is it in this genre that just grabs people and won’t let them go? What is the secret language of the undead body? Narcissistic delusions of grandeur or ? Is an empty husk all we are left with when death loses its sting?

We discussed different timings to bring forced perspective in performance. But the drugs wore off. I used languages. Different vampires speaking different languages who understood each other to represent telepathy. I don’t know anything about Second Life. There’s a lot of roleplaying in the vampire subculture. People used to leave garlic and crosses on their seats, We had exit counselors see the show and try to find people who needed directions back to god. The vampires of Vampyr Theatre devolved. I tried to pervert all expectations. Subversive art. Vampires were great for that. I built a language of blasphemy. Because the religious symbols were impotent. When we took the blood and drank it, it was still warm. It wasn’t bread we ate. Our host was still breathing. Vampires aren’t vegetarians. My vampires were humanitarian.

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ENTRANCING EVIL & NASTY NECROPHILIA

Q: How did Vampyre Theater start?

A: I wanted to do some kind of Grand Guignol Horror Theater thing. You know, like a live gore-fest with special effects. I wanted to put on stage what they’ve been doing in the movies for years- a la Alice Cooper. But I couldn’t get a handle on it, I wrote some scripts, but there was no thread. And then I auditioned as a guitarist for some singer who said she was a vampire, and I said `Ah haaa!’ I lost track of her, though, I’d like to find her and thank her. But I saw the book “Interview With a Vampire’ and I figured that that would set me apart. I did the interviews myself and created the characters based on their rhythms.

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Q: Why didn’t you perform with existing theatrical troupes?

A: Because they didn’t have what I wanted to see. So I did it myself.

Q: How did the performances begin?

A: I wrote a couple scripts, I think I did a reading of some of the monologues somewhere, and then this director I knew, Rosalie Triana, read them, thought they were sexy and brought in a bunch of actors she worked with. They learned the lines, and we threw it up. Really fast.

Q: Do you pay your actors?

A: No. Most of the actors do it just for the credit. And Rick Crane, the special effects guy, well I think he made some money. More than I did.

Q: Why have you sustained such an ongoing audience?

A: We’re cheaper. … I write more and we don’t cater to that whole romantic thing. We’re nasty. People like nasty.

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Q: How many actors are in each play?

A: I think a baker’s dozen, same as in any coven. It really depends on the script. However many characters populate my head when I’m writing it down. Troy Acree’s been in it since the beginning, same as Rick. Shaunte has been at it for a long time, we can’t get rid of her. No amount of garlic. I know, they’ve tried.

Q: Where do you find your actors?

A: An actor would just send a resume/head shot to our P.O. Box out in Jersey and we’ll consider. At open calls we usually just want a one-minute monologue, if you can’t trust your stuff in a minute, we’ll cut you off. At call-backs we’ll give them excerpts from whatever script we’re doing.

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Q: Where have you performed?

A: We started at Le Bar Bat, but we’ve done Paddles, Creative Place Theater, Don’t Tell Mama, 55 Grove, Planet Rock Pub in Newark, N.J., Chapter 3 Theater, The Bat Cave, Theater 22. and some other place I can’t think of.

We do clubs because I’m actually a musician in playwright’s clothing and clubs is what I know.

Q: Are there real vampires in your cast? Are you a vampire?

A: Well, I’m not a vampire myself. I’ve had offers but I have one who sort of looks out for me. I’ve been claimed, whatever that means. We have had vampires pass through the cast. I have to hide them from most of the directors, but they’ve been in there. I can’t say who, as I’m sure you understand. You wouldn’t want to be `outed’ either.

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Q: How do you write your plays?

10. They come to me. I’ve dumped more scripts than we’ve put on. I have over 20 scripts we haven’t done. But whatever is in my head, whoever I talk to, what I see on the news. I have to COMPLETELY re-write the script we were supposed to have started this month because of the Oklahoma City bombing, because I was too close. But that’s happened a lot, I’m not psychic, but I’ve dumped five scripts so far that too closely resembled things that happened after I wrote them. I’m afraid of people thinking I’m pandering.

Q: Are you married?

A: Yes, I’m married and she’s not a vampire. She’s used to me hanging with vampires. She does get scared, but she’s the beneficiary in my life insurance policy so it all balances out.

Q: Are you a satanist or in any cult?

A: No. I don’t even believe in Satan. I don’t believe in much. I want something to bang me on the head, some sort of spiritual awakening, something to prove that there are things beyond. I’ve seen a lot of things, but nothing that’s really shattered my disbelief. Keep trying though, I’m really looking forward to being disproved. I’ve studied groups, last year I talked to some doomsday cults, I’ve witnessed gatherings and rituals, I’m always open to it. How else can I write about it?

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Q: Have you found schisms in the vampire communities?

A: Yes, there’s a lot of in-fighting.

Q: Why?

A: Because nobody wants to share their slice of the pie, I guess. It’s pretty stupid. There’s enough separating us without all the extra added garbage of ‘my blood’s thicker than yours.’

Q: Have you ever been threatened?

A: By vampires? Not really, I mean I get the usual `If I tell anybody anything about the interviews,’ but I have been threatened by vampire hunters. The worst was from a vampire hunter, I got called and he was talking shit. My first reaction was to turn real Brooklyn on the guy. I told him I’d meet him and `explain’ things to him in a non-verbal way. He didn’t show up. Vampire hunters can deal with the whole holy water and crucifix thing, but confront them with real physical reality and they usually crumble. Except in New Mexico. I’m compiling a list of hunters. They’re really scary. They will hurt people if given half a chance.

Q: Give me an example of some of the vampire interview experience?

A: I met a woman vampire at `The Holiday’ Bar down on St. Mark’s Place and we talked for a while. Her checking me out as much as I was checking her out. When she decided I was alright she suggested we go someplace else and she went out and hailed a cab. No, actually, I hailed the cab. I told her I didn’t have the money for a cab ride and she pulled out a wad of bills that was larger than my instep and proceeded to do the interview in the cab.

I asked her if she was nervous talking about vampire things within listening distance of the cabbie and she said, `Don’t worry. He can only hear what I want him to hear.’ We drove around and talked for about a half hour and when we got to the restaurant we got out and I didn’t see her even offer to pay. This may not seem strange to some people, but he was a NEW YORK cabbie.

Another vampire I talked to cut the interview short when she realized she was getting hungry, blood hungry. I told her not to worry about it, that I was not in the mood to give blood and she said that she was able to `convince me.’ To make a long story short (too late) she literally ran away from me yelling, ‘Stay back or I’ll feed’ and went running up 69th Street.

Q: Would you become a vampire?

A: I haven’t decided yet. As I said, I’ve had offers.

Q: What would you do as a vampire?

A: I think I’d drink the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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Q:

A: Yes, but I think your ethics codes forbid you from publishing it here.

Q: Do vampires kill?

A: Most of the vampires I’ve talked to don’t kill. When they do talk about something like that I usually tell them that I don’t have client/confessor privileges under the law. I pride myself on my reputation of discretion and I’ll dissuade anyone
from giving me information that might get them in trouble.

Q: How do vampires get their blood?

A: It varies depending on the individual. Most have `donors.’ But I’ve talked to people who attack, one guy who worked in a hospital. I know of a `Train’ that was set up to provide blood to nervous fledglings. There’s the Segani tribe of gypsies who provide it. I’m waiting for Food Emporium to carry it.

Q: Are there any laws against blood drinking?

A: No law that I can think of. Not among consenting adults.

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Q: What do vampires eat?

A: A Chicklet, a fig newton, filet mignon in red sauce. I don’t know. That’s up to individual tastes.

Q: Do you believe vampires are immortal?

A: I don’t think anyone is immortal. As a matter of fact no one claims to be immortal. They claim to have longer life-spans, but the planet itself isn’t immortal. And as far as killing them by staking them through the heart, that’s
no big mystery, most people I know would die if you staked them through the heart.

Q: Do vampires have pets?

A: I’m sure lots of vampires have pets. I’m sure lots of people would like to be their pets. Again, I’ve had offers, but the pay sucks.

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Q: Does AIDS figure in the writing of Vampyre Theater?

A: It figures very strongly. The AIDS issue was actually one of the main driving forces behind doing Vampyr Theatre. The first three scripts I wrote were AIDS-related. Even though the first major AIDS script that we put up was the last one, `Dark Night of the Soul.’ The idea that `the blood is the life’ becomes tenuous when the blood becomes increasingly tainted. It’s very frightening. It was also a challenge in a dramatic sense. Starting with the assumption that vampires are `immortal’ creatures, already dead, how can you make a terminal disease, that NO ONE is safe from, let’s face it, and don’t let anybody tell you any different, a threat? I basically just took my own personal vision of hell: death and decay with consciousness, and jammed on that. The body would decay and not die. The consciousness would never leave,
you’d be a witness to your own destruction. Living worm food. And when it comes from sustenance itself, the blood, sangue. Which is the crux of it. That’s why I call the theater La Commedia del Sangue, and the production unit Sangue
Ettola, the blood is the life. It’s also the death.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

As far as the Vampyr Theatre – Well we just had to cancel a run. The first time we ever canceled. It’s just getting up enough money to put it up again. I’d like to find someone else to produce the theater. I’m a writer. I don’t like the production part. I’m a lousy businessman. So, please someone take it. I’m begging, produce this thing so I can concentrate on the writing. Otherwise we’ll probably just do one or two a year. Last year we did only three, you have to realize for the first three years we did it constantly, I was writing new ones and we were just doing it all the time. No breaks, no life.

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I’m sort of on vacation. But I’m busier now than when the theater’s up. I’ve been asked to act in a couple things but that’s not my gig. Been doing a lot I mean A LOT of music.

Q: What are you writing now?

Well, right now I’m writing for a bunch of underground mags. Wicked Mystic, Nighttimer,the Other Side, Delicate Terror, Vampire Archives, Corporal, probably Delirium, whoever asks me. I’m a writing whore. No better make that slut, since nobody pays, Not in money anyway. Andre will get me drunk and put me up for the night in Queens. The future is to keep writing, I mean I write for my day job, I write for my night job and in my spare time I write music. But the future is finding out what’s out there. It’s never as wild as my imagination. But I’m hopeful.

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Q: What’s you favorite vampire books or movies?

25. Favorite vampire book? There are so many. Poppy Z Brite’s first was great. Stoker’s, Le Fanu’s, Ann Rice’s first two. Some of the old legends blow most of the fiction away. I love the original `Dracula’ but I prefer `Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein’ God there’s so many of them. I haven’t seen them all. I want to. Send them to me. I’ll send them back, I promise.

Q: Are there any vampires you would be too scared to interview?

A: No. There is no vampire I would never interview. I’ll take all comers.

More Picks for This Weekend
Roman Polanski Weekend

Word is, Roman Polanski’s struck a deal with LA prosecutors and could be headed back to the States. Here are a few suggestions for a welcome-back weekend. Where better to start than the Upper East Side schoolgirls’ favorite ice cream parlor, Serendipity 3? It’s been years since you’ve indulged your sweet tooth for American goodies.

Cab downtown and catch up with old friends over dinner and a flick at the Screening Room Restaurant and Cinema. Reserve in advance to secure
one of the private screening rooms and BYOV (bring your own video). Make it a Polanski classic like Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby (set in New York’s own Dakota apartment building) or the hilariously campy The Fearless Vampire Killers.
12:00am
Did the movie awaken your taste for the Gothic? The Vampyr Theatre is offering Just Us Served, a show billed as “by and for vampires.”
Maybe you’ll find a little playmate among the daughters of darkness.

2 AM
Soul mate in tow, scurry off to Click and Drag for Vampire Hunter, a special celebration of the gothic Japanimation video this Saturday.
Androgyne chanteuse Glampire performs, and an anime-fetish performance is also promised. The debauchery in New York is so much more satisfying than the tepid Parisienne nightlife — you’re back with kindred souls.

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LA COMMEDIA DEL SANGUE: THE VAMPYR THEATRE

Performances

• May 1992 through July 1992 La Commedia del Sangue debuts. `The Auction,’ Written and created: Tony Sokol; Directed: Rosalie Triana; FX and Makeup: Chris Davis, Rick Crane; Music: Tony Sokol; at Le Bar Bat, NYC.

• Aug. 1992 `To Avenge, Divine,’ Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Kurt Anthony, FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Music: Tony Sokol; Le Bar Bat and London Dungeon, NYC.

• Aug. 1992 `One of Us,’ Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Kurt Anthony, FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Music: Tony Sokol; at London Dungeon, NYC,

• Aug. 1992 `Welcome Home,’ Written and Directed: Tony Sokol; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Music: Tony Sokol; Cafe Arielle and Le Bar Bat, NYC.

• Dec. 1992 `La Commedia del Sangue: The Vampyr Theatre,’ Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Mario Giacalone; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Incidental Music: Bob Sushko, Tony Sokol; Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, Extended through March 1993.

• March 1993 `Blood Is Thicker Than Water,’ Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Mario Giacalone; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Incidental Music: Bob Sushko, Tony Sokol; Opens at Don’t Tell Mama, NYC, Extended through July, Moved to 55 Grove St., NYC, Closed June 1993; Played Planet Rock Pub, Newark, N.J.

• June 1993 Revamped version of `The Auction,’ Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Troy Acree; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Incidental Music: Bob Sushko and Tony Sokol; Creative Place Theater, NYC, Extended through August 1993.

• August 1993 `More Than You Can Chew,’ Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Troy Acree; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Incidental Music: Bob Sushko and Tony Sokol; Creative Place Theater, NYC, Extended through October 1993.

• November 1993 `Let Us Prey,’ Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Troy Acree; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane; Incidental Music: Bob Sushko and Tony Sokol; Creative Place Theater, NYC, Moved to Theater 22, NYC, Extended through March 1994.

• October 8, 1994 `Bite Me’ Written: Tony Sokol, Directed: Troy Acree, FX: Tony Sokol, at The Bat Cave at Downtime, NYC.

• October 1994 `Dark Night of the Soul,’ Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Troy Acree; FX and Makeup: Rick Crane, Incidental Music: Ted Dailey and Tony Sokol, at Chapter 3 Theater, NYC.

• September 1995 `Dances From a Shallow Grave’ Written: Tony Sokol; Directed: Troy Acree; Magical and Special Effects: Tony Scarpa; Incidental Music: Ted Dailey and Tony Sokol; NADA, NYC, extended through Nov. 18.

• Sept. 1995 `Let Us Prey’ published by Fuck That Weak Shit Press.

• Oct. 1996 `Twenty Bucks and a Bottle of Wine’ Conceptual piece: Written, Directed Tony Sokol, Shaunte Shayde; at The Bat Cave at Downtime, NYC.

• Sept. 1997, “Just Us Served” written by Tony Sokol, Directed by Troy Acree, Special Effects by Tony Scarpa, Theme Music by Ted Dailey, Incidental Music by Tony Sokol, performed at The Interlude Theatre, East 21st Street, NYC, through November, 1997

* 1987 `I Was Thirsty’ Vampire Mass, Anarchy, NYC.

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Non-Vampyr Theatre plays by Tony Sokol

Hung Up, Everybody ODs, How to Skip Alimony Through Voluntary Manslaughter, Dinner With Socrates, Produced by La Commedia del Sangue/Cuisine di Saigon, NYC, 1997

Everybody ODs, How to Skip Alimony Through Voluntary Manslaughter, Dinner With Socrates, Produced by Theater Studio Inc., NYC, 1998

Frankenstein Walks the Wolfman, How You Slice It, Death Takes a Valium, You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby, Cosmic Inertia, The Wack, Factually Incorrect, Weight Loss by Vivisection: Produced by Creative Artists Laboratory, NYC, 1998, 1999

You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby, The Intervention, How to Skip Alimony Through Voluntary Manslaughter: Produced by The Irish Arts Center/Company of Impossible Dreams, NYC, 1999.

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Films

Don’t Forget, Hire the Vet, 1988, written, directed, music by Tony Sokol

970-SPIT: 1988, written, directed, music by Tony Sokol

Hide Me: Written and directed by Jenice Malecki, music by Tony Sokol

Just Behind the Door: Written and directed by John Tranchina, music by Ted Dailey and Tony Sokol

Woman, Man Gun: Written and directed by Jenice Malecki, music by Tony Sokol

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TV and Radio Performances

• August and September 1992: WOR AM `Hispanic New York,’ Two-part interview with Tony Sokol.

• January 1994 Joe Franklin Show, WOR-AM, Troy Acree, Director and Lead Actor, interviewed.

• March 1994 Metropolitan Hodder Group, Video interview with vampire researchers, others, includes Tony Sokol, to be released.

• Sept. 1993 Japanese Television films Vampyr Theatre. We have no idea if it was ever aired.

• October 1993 WNEW-FM Morning Show, Sokol interviewed.

• October 1993 Joan Rivers Show, Sokol interviewed.

• Sept. 1996, Vampires, TV Show. Troy Acree and Sokol interviewed.

• The Girlie Show (British Television); German Television;

• Rikki Lake Show: Vampyr Theatre cast member, name withheld, slipped into show, Sokol stopped at door with FX, prank aborted.

• Nov. 1997, Drama With Miss Kity, TV, Troy Acree and Sokol interviewed

• Sept. 1997, Vampires, TV Show, Shaunte Shayde and Sokol interviewed

• BBC Television: Interview with Sokol, Sept. 1997

• Strange Universe: Interview with Sokol, footage of Just Us Served cast, Sept. 1997

• WOR-TV: Interview with Sokol, footage of Just Us Served, Sept. 1997

• BBC Radio: Interview with Sokol, Feb. 1994 and Oct. 1997

• Earthbird TV Show, Sokol interviewed, footage of `Weight Loss by Vivisection,” “How You Slice It”

• Vampire TV Show, Sokol interviewed, footage of “Death Takes a Valium,” “The Wack” and “How You Slice It” August 1999

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Books with Vampyr Theatre info

Piercing The Darkness, Katherine Ramsland

V Is for Vampire, David Skal

Encyclopedia of the Undead, G. Gordon Melton

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WILL THE CLEANING OF AMERICA SWEEP HORROR UNDER THE CARPET?
by Tony Sokol

Horror has always been regarded as a second class art form, but a growing number of Horror ‘zines are being relegated to the pornographic, fetish sections of your local book and magazine sellers. It is true that horror tends to make the frightening sensual, the violent erotic and evil palatable, but how better to scare us and entice us to turn page after page after we’ve already been seduced by our fears?.

Wicked Mystic, a magazine that in six years has grown from a small chapbook to a polished work available in larger retail chains like Barnes and Noble and Tower Records, named Best Magazine 1994 and 1995 by England’s International Small Press Review and Nominated Best Magazine of 1993 by Small Press Writers and Artists. Organization, has been deemed “offensive to ownership” by Braceland Printers, effectively holding up its new issue. Don Breitkreutz, marketing director of Braceland points to the artwork, which includes nudity and violent images. Asked if he thinks this is a growing trend in values of the printers of such material Breitkreutz says he wouldn’t have “printed this five years ago or thirty years ago.” But this is in Pennsylvania, where old ladies are sued for praying too loudly.

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Mika Diana, artist/writer of the Boiled Angel comic, was given three years’ probation, one year on each count of publishing, distributing and advertising obscene material. The terms of his probation require him to 1) pay $1,000 on each count, 2) undergo psychological evaluation, 3) have no contact with children under, 4) maintain full-time employment and 5) NO DRAWING WHILE ON PROBATION. But this is in Florida where kids can have sex with their friends’ murdered mothers because there is no law against necrophilia.

In the Barnes and Noble bookstore chain, Wicked Mystic is displayed (if you want to call it that) in the porn/fetish section, hidden in the folds of flesh next to Tattooed Cycle Sluts, (not that there’s anything wrong with Tattooed Cycle Sluts). Andre Scheluchin, publisher of WM, feels this is a small price to pay to have a foothold in such a large chain.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed into law by President Clinton on Feb. 8, bans sexually explicit material from being distributed on the Internet. Ostensibly, this is to protect children from such material. The ACLU says the law is written in such an obscure way that it would preclude works like “Catcher in the Rye,” and important medical research materials. There may be good intentions here, but legislators should brush up on their writing skills before they write such sweeping reform.

This is our entertainment, people, this is what we like to read. We shouldn’t have to look in the fetish bins for horror. We shouldn’t have to jump over whatever whims a changing moral climate throws under our feet to uphold a tradition of art that has endured more Victorian times than these.

[This article will also be in the next issue of Night Timer, a publication put out by the Vampire Access Line. (212) 330-9275]

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