Bite: Dining with the Undead (Interview)

Vampires – the aristocracy of the horror kingdom. Any mangy werewolf or rotting zombie can provoke a scream in a haunted house, but it takes sophisticated blood-drinkers to deliver a more mesmerizing version of horror, one that can sustain intimate interaction over the course of an evening’s soirée. This Halloween, mortals foolish enough to accept the invitation can dine with the undead inhabiting the Count’s Den, the self-proclaimed “premier sanctuary for vampires.” Guests will socialize with an immortal clan while trying to ferret out the secret behind the mysterious absence of their unseen host, The Count, while enjoying their meal “as if it may be their last.” Human safety is “guaranteed,” but some restrictions may apply.

The occasion is Bite, a 21-and-over theatrical experience featuring creepy cocktails, appetizing hors d'oeuvres, and blood-tinged horror orchestrated by Rachel Adams and Elif Savas. Bite is the latest effort from HELA Productions, which stages an ongoing series detailing the inhabitants of The Count’s Den, a “vampire-themed immersive theatre lounge” in downtown Los Angeles.

Hollywood Gothique interviewed Rachel Adams on the fine points of undead dining, vampire interactivity, and immersive theatricality. A longtime genre fan, Adams' goal was to create something in the tradition of The Addams Family, which mixes traditional horror elements with lighthearted comedic fun."

Interview with the Vampire Master
The Count's Den Rachel Adams Interview
Inside The Count's Den

Hollywood Gothique: Is this a fully scripted play or an immersive dining experience with actors in character?

Rachel Adams: This is primarily a work of story-telling, with a formal dinner party serving as its setting. Drinks will be served throughout the evening, and a formal dinner party with the Den’s residents forms the core of the experience, around which the story transpires: histories learned, secrets told and old friends unearthed.

Hollywood Gothique: How much narrative is there?

Rachel Adams: The narrative is delivered through individual experiences with each of the Den’s clan — all with their own distinct personalities, histories and motives — and actively engaging and interacting with the characters will reveal even more to those willing to seek it.

Hollywood Gothique: What is the level of interactivity and improvisation?

Rachel Adams: The entire evening is fully interactive and theatrical. From the moment you step beyond the curtain and meet the family, you become an active participant in the story. The story is told through a combination of scripted events and improvised interactions, the latter of which guarantees a naturalistic experience unique to each guest. Guests are encouraged to interact as much as possible with the clan throughout the evening.

Hollywood Gothique: How much influence does the audience have on events?

Rachel Adams: While the skeleton of the evening remains unchanged, guests can craft their own experience to some extent via their interaction with the characters.

Hollywood Gothique: For some sensitive customers, could the dinner aspect conflict with the theatre aspect – in the sense that not every one finds horror themes appetizing?

Rachel Adams: While this is an experience with horror themes throughout, we believe it is tastefully-presented and unlikely to spoil any appetites — even for the more squeamish of guests!

The Count's Den Bite Meggy
Meggy is eager to meet the inhabitants of the Count's Den. Will she end up on their menu?

Hollywood Gothique: What would you say to someone who has seen other events and is wondering what yours has to offer that they don’t?

Rachel Adams: While Los Angeles is notoriously spoiled for choice with regards to immersive theatre, The Count’s Den offers something unique in presentation and structure.  It is a standing venue which serves as a home to multiple ongoing storylines told through diversely-presented events — from standard immersive theatre to themed galas to, in the case of Bite, “murder mystery” style dinner theatre. We also pride ourselves on offering a level of personalized interaction in our productions that makes for altogether more intimate experiences. We want our guests to feel as though they, too, are characters within the world of the Den.

Hollywood Gothique: Will familiarity with past productions help visitors understand Bite, or is it more of a stand-alone for people who seek this kind of entertainment only during Halloween?

Rachel Adams: Bite is an entirely new experience which requires no prior knowledge of The Count’s Den’s characters or mythos. While it is premiering during the Halloween season, The Count’s Den is a permanent installation with events year round.

Hollywood Gothique: How would you estimate the scare factor (if any) of Bite compared to other Halloween attractions, including haunted houses and immersive theatre?

Rachel Adams: Bite is a dramatic theatrical experience, drawing on old murder mystery and vampire fiction more than outright horror.  While the horror elements are certainly present, it is not designed to have a “scare factor” like a traditional haunt.

Hollywood Gothique: Halloween and immersive experiences seem to go together these days, but the first immersive play I can think of in Los Angeles was “Tamara” back in 1986, which had nothing to do with Halloween or horror. What happened since then? Is there something about the Halloween season that is suitable to immersive/interactive theatre?

Rachel Adams: I suppose it seems like a natural progression from haunted houses — which I do consider to be a form of “immersive theatre” in essence — to take the “live horror experience” and combine it with more traditionally “dramatic” presentation. The two art forms seem to co-exist and, in some ways, feed off each other: immersive horror theatre certainly takes a lot of its cues from haunted houses, and likewise many haunted houses are beginning to incorporate some more theatrical elements themselves. There seems to be a greater emphasis on narrative within haunted houses now, without sacrificing their emphasis on scaring people out of their wits.

Hollywood Gothique: Conversely, is there something about immersive/interactive theatre that lends itself to Halloween?

Rachel Adams: As for immersive theatre being well-suited to Halloween, or horror in general, I think it really comes down to being physically present in a story or scenario. Even something as simple as walking alone into a dark room, not knowing what lies in wait for you there, can be scarier than almost anything else. It taps into very primal fears, I think — your fight-or-flight responses are exercised and tested in ways film or literature rarely manage. For however long you’re in the experience, it becomes absolutely “real”, for lack of a better word. While “horror” and “immersive” can certainly exist without each other, it does make for a very effective combination.

Edmond, the tongueless servant, is in charge of dinner.
More Information about Bite

Bite features Libby Rose, Patrick Beckstead, Kelly McMinn, Anes Hasi, Ian Heath, and Michaela Slezak. Bite’s menu will be provided by local eatery, GaiGan Thai. All offerings are gluten, dairy and peanut free, with select vegan fare.

Tickets to Bite are limited due to audience size. The $75 admission and includes a catered dinner, open bar featuring beer, wine, and cocktails, live performances, and a 90-minute experience with the vampire clan of the Count’s Den. Get more information here: thecountsden.com.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.