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Farmington Hills Resident Plays Lunatic in Farmington Players' 'Dracula'

Gary Weinstein's experience with personal tragedy helps him to relate to his character.

Farmington Hills resident Gary Weinstein plays "Renfield", an asylum patient, in Farmington Players' production of "Dracula". Photo credit: Kurt Mathiak
Farmington Hills resident Gary Weinstein plays "Renfield", an asylum patient, in Farmington Players' production of "Dracula". Photo credit: Kurt Mathiak
Sometimes it’s a fine line between sanity and insanity. For an actor, it is a dangerous tightrope to walk.

For example, it’s been suggested that Heath Ledger’s preparation for the Joker role in Batman took him to – and perhaps over – the edge. He told reporters he "slept an average of two hours a night" while playing "a psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy .... I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going."

Gary Weinstein of Farmington Hills can definitely relate. In the Farmington Players’ production of Dracula, which opens Oct. 11 at the Farmington Players Barn, Weinstein plays Renfield, a patient at Dr. Seward's asylum. While Renfield claims, "I am no lunatic, but a sane man fighting for his soul," his actions (i.e. eating bugs and rats and bouncing around in mad fits) speak otherwise.

While Weinstein enjoys the challenge of playing someone with dramatic and instantaneous mood swings, he says, “what surprised me most in portraying this character is that I thought it would be easy to act ‘crazy.’ What I discovered is that not only is it difficult, but at the same time it is liberating as there are no real boundaries.”

A Personal Tragedy

Weinstein can personally relate to the “small shift between being sane and insane that Renfield deals with on a daily basis.” He feels everyone has the potential to teeter on the brink of insanity and can be pushed over the edge by real life events. He points to his own personal tragedy as an example.

In May 2005, Weinstein lost his wife and two children when a drunk driver crashed into their car in Farmington Hills.

“It’s a subtle shift,” says Weinstein. “With what I’ve gone through, people wouldn’t think twice if I were to go insane.”

Fortunately, Weinstein has been able to redirect his grief into a positive by collaborating on the creation of two documentaries entitled Project: Forgive and Transforming Loss.

He says, “Although I will always wrestle with the grief of losing my family, I and live a blessed life. My mission is to inspire people to create a powerful future built on a foundation of forgiveness.”

Connecting To Dracula’s Themes

Weinstein expanded on how he connects to the three main themes in Dracula: “(1) We are all invented – I have always believed individuals can invent and reinvent themselves; (2) Unfulfilled acceptance of love – the loss of my wife and children; and (3) Self-preservation – We all have this primal need, however, certain events in one’s life pushes ‘self preservation’ to front and center as opposed to lingering in the background.”

While everyone knows the world’s most famous vampire, the audience will be surprised with this rendition of Dracula. Weinstein says, “It is a unique version of the familiar, romanticized Dracula. This interpretation is full of blood, terror, and hints of titillation.”

Praise For Colleagues

Weinstein has nothing but praise for his fellow actors and directors: “The leading ladies: Meredith Deighton (Mina), and Jennifer Beitzel (Lucy) are both beautiful and exciting to watch in their roles,” he says. He adds the other male leads: David Galido (Dr. Seward), Guy Copland (Dr. Van Helsing), Keith Firstenberg (Harker), and Rick Mickley (Count Dracula) are “all strong actors in their own right.”

Armand Banooni (attendant), Jayne Firstenberg (vixen/maid), and Julie Spina-Kilar (vixen/attendant) are “all creative and talented actors as well,” says Weinstein. He also points out, “director John Boufford and the team and cast he has assembled along with his vision for Dracula, is what will make this show worth seeing.”

Zany Character Actor

Weinstein is known as a zany character actor at the Barn, having appeared in Legally Blonde (2013), Little Shop of Horrors (2012), The Producers (2011), Miracle on 34th Street (2009), and Fiddler on the Roof (2004). He is a third-generation jeweler by profession and is the owner of Weinstein Jewelers in Novi, the sponsor of the Barn’s production of Dracula. He is a native Michigander, born and raised in the Detroit area and the youngest of six children. He is also a passionate golfer, having played golf in all 50 states (twice) and in 30 countries.

Celebrity Judge For Costume Contest Halloween Night

The Farmington Players Production of “Dracula” runs October 11 through November 2. Tickets are on sale at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the box office at 248-553-2955 The Halloween performance October 31, will feature a Costume Contest for ticket holders at 7pm, judged by local celebrity “Sara” from the Stoney and Bill Show on 97.1 FM. You must have a ticket for that night’s performance for a chance to win a special prize in the contest. 

-- submitted by Tony Targan, Farmington Players

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