Dracula director juggles family, art, and career

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The Crowder College Theatre Department will present Dracula, October 19-21, 7:30pm nightly plus a 2pm matinee on Saturday in the Elsie Plaster Community Center on the Neosho campus.

The production is directed by Ben Davies. He is one of five directors for the 2017-18 season. Cast members for Dracula are as follows:

DRACULA: Sam Hyder (Overland, MO)

JONATHAN HARKER: Sage Moser (Mt. Vernon, MO)

LUCY SEWARD: Kate Marcoux  (Neosho, MO)

DR. SEWARD: Tyler Counts (Stella, MO)

VAN HELSING: Ty Loudon-Weise (Carthage, MO)

RENFIELD: Jonah Drake (Springfield, MO)

MISS WELLS (MAID): Lauren Adams (Joplin, MO)

ATTENDANT: Benjamin Barnett (Joplin, MO)

Lucy Seward, whose father is the doctor in charge of an English sanatorium, has been attacked by some mysterious illness. Dr. Van Helsing, a Disease Specialist, believes that the girl is the victim of a vampire, a sort of ghost that goes about at night sucking blood from its victims. The vampire is suspected to be a certain Count Dracula. Dramatic mayhem ensues. The play is appropriate for all age groups rated PG-13.

“A brilliant story told by a terrific cast – you’d be batty to miss it,” exclaimed Ben Davies, Director.

Tickets are available at the door: $8-General Admission; $5–Senior Citizens/Children; $4-Crowder Students/Staff.

For more information please contact the Crowder College Theatre Department at 417.455.5458.


By Lauren Adams



Ben Davies

Director of Dracula and previous technical director


Where are you from and how did you wind up here ?

Well, originally, I’m from England, specifically the north of England. I ended up working at a kids camp in Plymouth Massachusetts as a counselor in 1998. I was there for approximately ten years until I got into advertising in Boston. Then when I was working in Boston, I happened to meet a young lady who became the director of theater here at Crowder college many years later. By that point, we were a couple, and we moved it this way in search of new employment for me; she had a great job here. And actually I became the technical director; that was my first job here in the the metropolis of Neosho, Mo.


How did you and your wife, Natasha, meet exactly?

Well Tasha…was actually looking at Harvard and Lesley University to do her masters degree, and it was known that a bunch of people were going out for dinner one night. It turned out to be mostly couples and then she and I being the only lonely singles, so there was some trickery in mind putting us together. And everything worked out great.


What is your role, and how are you involved with Crowder?

As the technical director for the last few years, I pretty much design and build all of the sets as well as design the lights and the sound. It’s worked really well with Tasha, my wife, being director. Now we’ve had a child; we’ve had to step back from being the director a little bit, and it’s been just a scheduling challenge for us both to be up here. And we both needed to be here many times. We needed to find a babysitter and all the joys of having a child, so I’ve stepped back. Actually because she doesn’t have to be here as director I can direct this play. I think this is my only commitment here, forever really.


So your day job, how would you describe it to a five year old?

My day job is actually I’m a pharmaceutical rep for Lilly. I help train doctors on how to try to treat diabetes. To a five year old that is probably as basic as I can make it. But if you are asking about my job here, as if i was explaining it to a five year old, it’s along the lines of me reading a script, analyzing how things should look, determining what style and tone the play has, figuring out how to add certain props and effects, and choosing how to emphasis a certain point with maybe a sound effect or a lighting cue. But more importantly than any of that is allowing students to develop a learning of how theater works and getting them involved and kind of incorporating them into the family we have here in the theater department.


Have you done much acting in the past?

I actually have had very little acting on stage work. I was in The Importance of Being Earnest when I was about 17 years old. Then I didn’t grace the stage with my presence again until Boston; my wife asked me to be in a play with her and I said sure. As it turned out, it was a two person play, so we did Two Across, which was a romantic comedy, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It took me about three months to learn the lines; she did it in about two weeks. I think it went okay; people said it was really good, but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And then two years after that, my wife cast me as Sherlock Holmes in the Hound of Baskervilles. It’s just a lot of work being on stage and having a full time job and also having a kid, so I have done a lot more video. I’ve presented a lot of videos, travel channel stuff and some tv stuff as well.


What is the hardest thing about being a father?

The hardest thing about being a dad is dropping her off at daycare in the morning. She is okay with going, it’s not like there are a whole lot of tears, but having a kid gives you a whole new perspective on where your responsibilities truly lie. Up until you have a child, you give everything to work and succeeding and kind of building things around you, and then you have a kid and realize that none of it matters whatsoever.


On the other side of the spectrum, what is the best thing about being a father?

I really enjoy being woken up at 2 o’clock in the morning to get milk because she’s screaming for it. The best thing about being a dad is just making her laugh and just kind of when she grabs your hand and drags you on her adventures around the house, or her seeing things for the first time ever.


Bringing it back to your involvement with Crowder, why is Dracula your favorite novel?

…I thought it was going to be a great horror, and it turned out to be a love story. I was okay with that; I’d never really read anything like that before, but I was drawn into the story immediately. It wasn’t like I could specifically connect with any of the characters; I don’t think that’s why I liked it so much. But I would remember being upset when it finished, and I remember it being the novel that popped up into my mind more than anything else that I’d read. I’d always loved to read, but it actually helped me love to read more and more and more. I’ve always enjoyed Dracula’s story. I never even knew it was a play, I never really saw the movies, I never cared for it; but the book I always hold in the highest regard. It was always my favorite novel, and when Tasha was talking about the season, she asked if I had to direct a play, what would it be. I said if there was a Dracula one, I’d love to do that. Right off the bat, didn’t have to think about it. And here we are.


So you love to read; what other hobbies do you have?

I used to be a commercial scuba diver, so that was a big part of my life. My degree is in oceanography, so I’ve always loved the ocean. In addition to reading, I’ve actually played rugby for nearly 30 years now. I played in a tournament in New Hampshire in February or March. But it was awesome, a lot slower than it used to be, more painful, but highly entertaining. I love travelling too. I like to play poker as well.


Have you done much travelling throughout your life?

I have been really fortunate to travel quite a bit. I’ve been around a lot of Europe. My brother used to live in Spain for a long time so we used to visit him every year. I’ve been to Paris, oh, probably about 15 times because it’s just a drive from England. But I’ve also played rugby around South Africa. I’ve been all around America; I’ve been to Canada, and I’ve been to Mexico. It’s not just because I have a really lucrative, playboy lifestyle. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time or the deal was enough for me to be able to afford it. Tasha and I really just love to travel together and explore new places, so travelling is a big thing for us.


Are there any somewhat local attractions you would recommend to our international students trying to get a taste of American culture?

Well I work in northwest Arkansas, and there’s a lot of cool stuff down there such as Crystal Bridges, a free museum. Tasha and I have kayaks, and we love kayaking down the Elk River. Joplin is actually a beautiful city. There’s a restaurant there called Instant Karma where they do all kinds of crazy things and make all kinds of crazy recipes with hotdogs and burgers and sweet potato fries, which I’m a big fan of. There’s every third week of the month, during the summer months, they do Third Thursday up there, where they shut down the street and there’s all kinds of activities going on. Tasha sings up there; she performs in a band called Screendoor Serenade, who are awesome. So I get to watch them play quite a lot. But I’d say that out of all the places I’ve ever been to, this area is actually of my favorite on the planet. Just because it’s got everything, plus you only have to drive you know ten hours; and you can be in Colorado skiing and snowboarding, or you can be in the ocean swimming. So it’s a really great centralized location to service the rest of the U.S. Plus the people here seem more genuine and nice than a lot of places I’ve been to around the world.


Who is someone you would consider a hero in your life?

Can it be fictitious or real? Growing up my hero was absolutely absolutely Spiderman and James Bond. The hero in my life was probably my grandma because you know she survived a brutal upbringing in Newcastle, in the north of England. Her and her brothers and sisters, from her father. Her mum and all the siblings, seven of them, ran away from the dad in the middle of the night, got on a train to London not knowing anyone, and were walking through the streets of London trying to find someone who would take them in. They did, and they started living a life down there. Then the Germans started dropping bombs on London, and she had tons of tales of survival and lost ones and the bomb shelters around London. She lived to the grand old age of 93. I was blessed to be able to live with her for a short period when I was a teenager. She was definitely a hero of mine. If I could be anyone, I would have the same courage she had.I probably don’t even come close.


You mentioned spending time with her as a teen, what were you like in high school?

For want of a better phrase, people would just have described me as nice. I was the nice guy ya know, ‘oh Ben yeah he’s nice.’ I was moderately average at everything. I did okay in classes, but I like to think I was funny. I’m not sure everyone else would have agreed. But I was moderately athletic, probably weird; people might have described me as weird. But I think that nice is the one I’d like to be remembered as being.


What would you do if you won the lottery?

I don’t think I would stop working. I really enjoy working; I enjoy the journey of going from nothing to something. I think that I’d be the guy who gives all the money to charity but I think, obviously I probably would to a certain degree, but I also think that used wisely you could develop something or build something that can service a great many more people by being smart with it and not being greedy. Honestly, I’d love to have a house at the beach, maybe if I had a lot more money, and I would probably never buy that. But I would like to do something where I could help people. Probably kids, I love kids, I taught 6th grade for a while. I find that they need a lot of help at that age.


What is your dream job?

I used to always want to be a pilot, but I was scared of heights. I think really I’ve always wanted to be the guy who read the news. I really would enjoy being a newscaster. I think that growing up we had the same newscaster on the TV every evening because we only had five TV stations in England, and you kind of knew the person. It was almost like a member of the family, you see him from 6 o’clock to 6:30 every night, and I’d like to the person to kind of connect the news to people. I don’t think it will ever happen now, but it was always one dream I had on my shelf of many dreams.


What is your favorite thing about yourself?

*laughter* You said these would be easy. I tend to think outside of the box a little bit. I don’t take A to B or the most direct way sometimes. I might have to have some kind of interference with C,D,E, and F before I get to B. I try to put myself in other people’s shoes when I make decisions. Not always are they the best ones, but I think that I do think of things that a lot of people probably wouldn’t often think about. Again the thinking outside of the box. But I kind of beat myself up a little bit when I feel like I haven’t done something right or when I’ve missed an opportunity or not seen a gap that needs to be fixed or filled.


Do you have any advice for your past self?

When your buddy thinks about trying to see if a match will work when he strikes it against the zipper on his cardigan, tell him not to do it. Because when you set the carpet in your bedroom on fire, it is not really well received.


What is your favorite song?

I’ve had many favorite songs over the years, but the one song I always smile at and play repeatedly because my daughter starts to dance to it all the time; her name is Piper by the way. It is the main song off the new Coldplay album. I can’t remember the title right now – I’m very tired. I could sing it for you, but I won’t. The song is Adventure of a Lifetime.


Are you a dog or a cat person?

*without hesitation* Dog. I detest cats. They creep me out. I don’t like things really that are a lot smarter than me.


What is one sentence of advice you would give to current students?

My advice for current students: don’t ever worry about things you can’t change, only worry about things you can.