Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Kids visit the set of DARK SHADOWS, meet the "Cool Ghoul"

Golden Magazine visits DARK SHADOWS 
The Golden Magazine, Feb. 1970

By Pat Fortunato

(Note: The Collinsport Historical Society presents the text from this story as it was originally published, complete with errors. Yes, we know "Barnabas" is not spelled with a "u.")

Here's a little test to see how much you know about a certain television show.

Question #1: True or false? Dark Shadows is spooky, mysterious, exciting and fun.

Question #2: True or false? Dark Shadows is not really dark, and not at all fun. It's full of lights, cameras - and plenty of hard work.

If you answered "True" to both questions, give yourself 100%. Because there really are two Dark Shadows: the one you see on your TV screen, and the one that goes on behind-the-scenes at the TV studio.

You probably know about the first one. It's a half-hour drama seen on ABC Monday to Friday. You might even be one of many fans who writes regularly to Jonathan Frid, a "cool ghoul" who receives more than 700 pieces of mail of week.

But how about the second Dark Shadows, the one that goes on behind-the-scenes that you never get to see. Lisa and Scott Gilliam did, and here's what they discovered.

A TV studio is like a three (or four of five!) ring circus, with lots of things going on at once. There are always several sets used for different scenes in the story. On this day, there was a mysterious cave entrance, the dark insides of the cave, an old-fashioned living room, a bedroom and a dining room. While actors performed on one set, cameramen and crew were preparing to use another, a conference was going on between the director and stage manager, and an actress was leaning against a coffin, learning her lines for the next day's performance.

Leaning on a coffin? That's right. Remember, Dark Shadows does have a vampire or two. And you know how vampires are - they like to sleep in coffins.

But no one sleeps on set - there's too much work to do. Each day an entire show is recorded on video tape, to be aired on television at a later time. The taping Lisa and Scott saw was going to be seen 3 weeks later.

Do you think you work hard at school? Would you rather be an actor or a cameraman instead of a student? Not so fast! Before you answer, you had better listen to the facts.

There are about 60 people who work on the Dark Shadows set every day - the producer and his assistant, the director and her assistant, the actors, makeup artists, wardrobe mistress, cameramen and crew. All 60 go through a daily schedule enough to tire out someone your age, not to mention a 175-year-old vampire! On the set each day at about 8 a.m., they leave at about 6 p.m. or later. And for the actors and director, there's more to be done after work and on weekends: they have to learn their parts for coming performances.

The day begins with a morning rehearsal. This takes place off the set in the studio rehearsal hall. Then the actors go to the set for the next step, blocking, in which they move into the different positions they have to take, without reading their lines. This is done do the camera positions can be set up. Then there is a run through - like a rehearsal, but performed in front of cameras. And finally a dress rehearsal, with all actors in full costume.

By the later afternoon, everything is set for the actual taping of the show. And this taping is what you'll see of Dark Shadows on your TV set. Was all the work worth it? Well, what do you think?

(Magazine clippings courtesy of the blog LOST AND FOUND VINTAGE TOYS. Go visit them!)

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