Shadows Off-Broadway

When Dark Shadows was syndicated in New York in the 1980s, one fan became inspired to create his own off-Broadway stage version of the show.

Director Brian Jucha told TheaterWeek magazine that he had been forbidden to watch Dark Shadows while it was on the air (his grandmother, who did watch it, thought the show was too intense for the then-6-year-old), but when it was syndicated in New York years later, Brain asked his brother to videotape it for him.

As a Christmas gift, his brother presented him with 18 hours of the show, which provided him with an idea for a stage show. “I spent from Christmas to New Years watching these episodes,” he said, “and I said, ‘this is it.’ It had everything I was looking for.”

Jucha was drawn to the tale of Barnabas’ obsessive love for Josette, and he boiled down the characters’ pivotal 1795 storyline, because “it had a beginning, middle and end, and seemed to lend itself to being adapted.”

After writing a script and assembling a cast, Jucha took his group of unknown actors to the 1988 Dark Shadows Festival so they could get a feel for the show and the fans. “Once we started doing this,” Jucha said, “everyone got concerned as to what kind of people were going to come to our show. Was it going to be a mini-Rocky Horror Picture Show? Most of the people who showed up for the Festival…were normal people who have a liking for the series.”

With minimal sets and period costumes, Jucha created an atmosphere reminiscent of the TV show. He also captured the mood: “We’re working on the tragedy level with suspense, but not forgetting the camp and the humor, strategically placing it at the right moment.”

Jucha felt his adaptation made some political statements. “One of the subplots is Naomi Collins and how she goes from being an almost alcoholic woman to someone who’s really asserting herself, so there’s something about that for me about women’s rights and minority rights. But for me it’s coming more out of the way people deal with grief, especially at this time, because so many characters in the piece die suddenly and in unexplainable ways, and it seems very appropriate to me in 1988.”

Dark Shadows was presented in New York City by the Via Theater, known for experimental and avant-garde productions, from September 23 to October 3, 1988.

Though he may not quite have intended it, Jucha’s play was received as a spoof and met with laughter. The New York Post said the cast “whirls demonically from one end of the stage to the other, capes fluttering behind them, as they hilariously recreate the TV version’s hokey dialogue and B-movie tableaux.” The Post critic admired Penny Boyer’s “wonderfully comic performance as Victoria.”
However, the humor was lost on New York Times critic Mel Gussow, who called the play “an exceedingly somber experience.”

The Village Voice praised Jucha’s direction, but found the set “cheesy” and noted that dramatic pauses seemed a little too much like they’d been enacted on the TV show: “…the actors freeze when horror erupts, as if waiting for a commercial break.”

British-born Julian Stone was an unknown when he played Barnabas, but he went on to do some television and movie work, including 1998-99 stint on General Hospital, as Jerry Jacks.

Dark Shadows Off-Broadway Play Cast
Barnabas Collins…Julian Stone
Victoria Winters…Penny Boyer
Naomi Collins…Tina Shepard
Rev. Trask…Barney O’Hanlon
Also in the cast: John Hagan, Branden Harris, Yolanda Hawkins, Lisa Marcus, Larry Maxwell, Coco McPherson, Valerie Vasilevski, and Rachel Wineberg

Above: Julian Stone in a General Hosptial promotional still with costar Jackie Zeman.

Julian Stone's credits

Julian Stone Fan Club site

Director Brian Jucha's page about Dark Shadows (Includes photos from the play.)


For more stories about Dark Shadows and its cast, read Barnabas & Company, available on

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