SUNY Oswego theatre major Nova Grayson Casillo chose an ambitious senior honors thesis, a project with some serious bite: producing and designing the Steven Dietz adaptation of "Dracula."

Opening at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15, and running at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, all performances are in Tyler Hall's lab theatre, where Casillo says he plans to deliver an immersive experience for fans of the seductive thriller.

Why take on months of work many moving parts -- even for a thesis for the college's Honors Program -- to produce ticketed performances of a full-length play?

"I said, 'Why not?' I have the resources while I'm here at Oswego, so I thought why not see if I can do it?" said Casillo, whose focus is design and technical theatre.

Casillo formed his own company, Cravat Productions, and set to work. He hired a friend who freelances in the theatre business, Chicago-based Rebekah Reimer -- they had met while working at the Sterling Renaissance Festival -- as his stage and technical director, and recruited a cast of professional and student actors.

The company opened rehearsals Nov. 12 for its first production, Dietz' 1996 stage adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel, "Dracula," presented in conjunction Dramatists Play Service and with the mentorship of SUNY Oswego theatre staff members, Cole Sostak and Sean Culligan. The two-act play closely follows the ever-popular Victorian tale, which has been called "rich with humor and horror" and "painting a wickedly theatrical picture of Stoker's famous vampire."

Magical elements

The biggest challenge for the student producer, as with most theatrical productions, has been raising money, Casillo said. A contribution from the college's Blackfriars student theatre organization, an Indiegogo campaign, sales of a Cravat Productions tote bag and a few scholarships he obtained have been helpful, he said. The fundraising effort goes on, right through ticket sales, as omnipresent budget issues present themselves.

SUNY Oswego student Pablo Mendoza plays the infamous Count Dracula. Other students in the cast are Khari Constantine (Dr. Seward), Ryan Pacheco (Harker), Noelle Gotimer (Mina) and Lillian DePerno and Michaela Buckley in the ensemble.

Casillo also recruited professional actors Chuck Teska as Renfield, Michael Gilbert (Van Helsing), Stephanie Ward (Lucy) and Stephanie Johnson as lead ensemble. 

Casillo's effort "certainly is ambitious," said Culligan, technical director and production manager at Waterman Theatre. "He's brought in an outside director and actors and technical people. He's shown a foresight that has been critical to this production."

The student producer said he has positioned "Dracula" in an epoch he loves. "We are setting it in the Victorian era and adding elements of magic to that 'world,'" Casillo said. 

The Niagara Falls resident said his passion in theatre is props. "Dracula," naturally, presents some bloody good opportunities for a props master dealing with special effects.

"Of course," he said, "the blood has to be edible."

The remainder of the crew, all SUNY Oswego students, includes Nicole Caroselli as stage manager/sound board operator; Nick Baiamonte, assistant stage manager; Mary Reid, light board operator; Alesha Frasier, costume supervisor; Sydney Lattenhauer and Leah Iannone (hair, makeup and costume crew); and Ryan Benson Smith, house manager.

Tickets are $15 ($8 for students) and are available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at or by calling 315-312-2141.

Parking is included in the price of a ticket, and is available in the employee and commuter lots in front of Culkin Hall and behind Hart and Funnelle residence halls. People with disabilities needing assistance should call 315-312-2141 in advance of the performances.

For more information on the staging of "Dracula," visit Cravat Productions' website at Visit for information on degree programs, facilities and other opportunities.