The Use of Fog in Theater
Count Dracula has been a notable piece of theater since it was first seen by audiences more than 100 years ago. The story resonates and terrifies audiences showing exactly how much influence this work exerts on the theatre by setting the standard for this genre. Not only is it a yearly performance around the world, it has expanded beyond the bounds of literature, theater, and movies, it has become popularized as a Halloween costume. One of the common elements in recent productions has been a liberal use of the fog machine which gives a mystical effect. Although it is not really necessary to the story, it adds to the spectacle of the production.
Dracula was first performed May 18, 1897 in London at the Lyceum Theatre at 10:15 am,six days before the publishing of his book. It was performed as a dramatic reading to protect the integrity of the book. The cast had 15 members and the audience. Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula and an Irish theatre critic, is said to have wanted Sir Henry Irving to play the character of Dracula because the character was based on him. However Irving refused. At the time, it was common for posters to be placed outside of a play just half an hour before the performance, thus the audience consisted of 2 paying customers and a few of the theaters actors and staff. It was said that the reading took four hours, with 5 acts containing 47 scenes. A second reading 100 years later claimed it took six hours to perform.
Ever since Stoker’s book was published, it been adopted as part of the American and European culture. It is estimated that over 1000 films have been inspired by the Dracula story. Its yearly performances continue to this day and it has even been transformed into a ballet. Although it originated at the Lake Cities Ballet Theatre in Lewisville, it was moved to Lake Dallas for five years because they wouldn’t permit the use of the fog machine, one of the most important machinery needed for the play. When this ballet was originally performed, there was no money and no play for it to be performed, so it was done in an abandoned church. Since then, it has become a major hit and a beloved dance performed yearly partially because of the mystery created by the fog.
The fog machine is adds to the magic that happens in this play. It was so important that the Ballet refused to perform at the Lake Cities Theatre without the use of the fog machine. Though fog machines are incredibly easy to use, they can be an essential part of the production. The easiest ways to produce a fog effect is either by using a fog machine, dry ice, or have a lot of people smoking cigarettes. However, the latter isn’t the preferred method. Dry ice is composed of water vapor and carbon dioxide. This substance has an extremely low boiling point, allow it to jump from solid to a gas at room temperature giving a fog effect. The fog machine is composed mostly of water and glycol. This fluid is placed in the machine and once turned on, is combined and heated up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, causing the liquid to become a gas and is released. Since it is much warmer in the machine than outside of it, it becomes the fog. Fog machines are simple and inexpensive, therefore they can be found at houses around Halloween.
Fog machines are an important part of theater, creating a sense of mystery and wonder. Whether they are simulating the foggy street of London, a misty river bottom, or a smoky house, the fog machine add to the production. The machines are not hard to make and cheap to buy, but can make a huge difference for a performance. Without the fog machine, Dracula would not be as amazing nor would the trip through the sewers in Phantom of the Opera be as realistic. The fog machine might not be the most exciting piece of equipment, but every theater should have one.
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