LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Every fall "Count Dracula" flies into Louisville, thrilling audiences at Actors Theatre with blood, pyrotechnics and real rats. WDRB got a behind the scenes look at what it takes to make the gory glory, year after year. 

"It's become a tradition for some people. It's not just your regular theatre goers who go to see every show we do," said "Dracula" stage manager Stephen Horton.

Based on Bram Stoker's story of "Count Dracula," the frightening adaptation is a Halloween treat dripping with suspense and blood.

"Like a combination of a theatrical experience and a haunted house. So you're expecting those pop up scares, those jumps," said education manager Betsy Anne Higgins.

Mystifying audiences takes a lot of back stage magic. The fast-paced favorite would feel lifeless if it weren't for all the blood.

"You can't really stake somebody and not expect any blood flow, so it's pretty important," said Heather Lindert who serves as associate prop master for the production.

Every show takes about a gallon and a half of the fake stuff to keep the blood-thirsty audiences satisfied. Lindert explained how it's done with a mixture of corn syrup, water, chocolate syrup, and blue and red food coloring. "It takes a lot of finessing. We're never not finessing our blood," she said.

In addition to the edible blood, a batch of washable is also prepared, just in case.

"There's only one splash seat in the whole theatre, so telling that kid they're in the splash zone, there's a chance to get blood on them always elicits a reaction from that side of the room," said Higgins.

There's never a dull moment in the intimate theatre where audience members get up close and personal with the actors, both human and four legged.

"At first people think he's just holding a stuffed animal, but once you can see her tail move people get really squirmy," said Katherine Thesing, who is a production assistant and handles Jane the rat.

A cast veteran, Jane has been starring in "Dracula" for the past three years.

"When she finishes this run, she'll reach 203 performances of "Dracula," so she's a pro," said Thesing.

Jane's understudy, Olivia, keeps her company backstage. Like her human counterparts, Jane attends rehearsals to make sure she's acclimated to the loud sounds, special effects and the engaging audiences. But even an old pro like her can have a misstep on stage.

"She's occasionally gotten out of her box, so we now have a latch so it's trickier because she's smart," said Thesing.

It takes a lot of work to keep the frightening, fang-filled favorite going, but the payoff is worth it. "Kids are screaming and laughing and cheering and running out from their seats or jumping into the row behind them when they get scared," said Horton.

"Every time I see a performance of "Dracula," I like to look at the audiences and I get emotional every time," said Horton.

"Dracula" continues through Nov. 2 and tickets are still available. 

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