The House of Besarab – the Legend of Dracula

The House of Besarab Continues the Legend of Dracula
Hollywood American Legion Post


In the inimitable tradition of the mega-hit environmental stage production Tamara, the world premiere of Terance Duddy and Theodore Ott’s The House of Besarab is sure to bring inventive theatrical life back into the Hollywood American Legion Post on Highland Avenue near the Hollywood Bowl, the imposing 33,000-sq.ft. Egyptian Revival-Moroccan Deco edifice where Tamara debuted in 1983 and broke all records by holding court there through 1994, selling out regularly and putting some 240 LA actors to work during its unprecedented run.

The historic 1929 facility might also be visual deja ju for rabid motion picture and television fans as the place where parts of such films as Kubrick’s The Shining and the new Star Trek were shot, as well as, most recently, scenes for the hit TV series Flash Forward. Marilyn Monroe and a host of famous starlets were introduced to Hollywood in the Auditorium.


The House of Besarab, which will be a much-needed benefit for the American Legion, will have its gala premiere on Thursday, Nov. 12 at this breathtaking example of Hollywood’s early 20th-century architectural grandiosity. Duddy and Ott have created a fascinating new site-specific environmental adaptation of the Dracula legend, with audience members beginning their memorable adventure eating and drinking in the venue’s legendary Deco Bar—favorite wateringhole of folks named Bogart, Chaplin and Gable—then will be led into the Legion Hall’s grand 55-foot Memorial Atrium by that notorious bug-eating escaped mental patient Renfield (played by David Himes) to be greeted in his comfy coffin by the restlessly slumbering Count Dracula himself (Michael Hegedus).

After that initial welcome from their blood-drinking host, audience members will choose to either follow Dracula into the facility’s massive Auditorium or wait in the Atrium for the arrival of the Count’s four nervous guests: scholarly vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing (played by longtime Entertainment Today correspondent and LA Drama Critics Circle Best Actor Award winner Travis Michael Holder); the conflicted proprietor of Renfield’s former institution Dr. Seward (Terra Shelman); and those traumatized young lovers Jonathan Harker (Dane Bowman) and his lovely fiancé, the somnambulant Mina (Chase McKenna).

Audience members will then journey along with the action from incredible room to incredible room in the massive American Legion Hall as Duddy and Ott’s take on the infamous Bram Stoker’s classic horror story unfolds anew, introducing them along the way to Slava (Jason Parsons), a chained captive villager Dracula is slowly turning into a wolfman hybrid; a helpful but spooky elderly gypsy woman (Miliza Milo); and the Count’s two buxom pregnant vixens Cruza and Riva (Megan Harwick and Sara Spink).

Now, it is said that the Hollywood American Legion Hall has also long been home to real wanderers from beyond and, as The House of Besarab prepares to breathe an air of spooky paranormal activity back into one of LA’s most significant cultural monuments when it debuts Nov. 12, four noted psychic/medium practitioners with a specialized penchant for raising the dead will join the other more earthly-bound audience members that night to shadow the actors in this unique live theatrical experience.


Aside from its profusion of Hollywood history, the Legion Hall is also the place where the TV series America’s Most Haunted searched for the facility’s active spirit inhabitant Marshall Wyatt and found that more things went bump in the night there than they had originally anticipated. Wyatt, longtime Bar Manager of the Post who lived for 33 years in the building, died from a fall on one of the complex network of staircases he traversed on a daily basis—and many regulars there swear he never left.

The House of Besarab’s special spiritually-inclined opening night guests include psychic actress Marcia deRousse, so memorable in her current run as the überscary Dr. Ludwig on the hit HBO TV series True Blood; married mediums Michael and Marti Parry; and clairvoyant Donna D’Amore of the Heart & Soul Healing Arts Center.

Marcia deRousse, the diminutive “f”-bomb spouting vampiric expert on True Blood, plied her more mystical wares as the star of the TV series pilot Small Medium at Large, among many roles on television series. She was the mother of Matthew McConoughey and Gary Oldman in the feature film Tiptoes and worked on Highway to Heaven with Michael Landon, someone she believes to now be one of her spirit guides. Recently onstage she was runner-up for Best Actress for The Sugar Bean Sisters at Sierra Madre Playhouse in Entertainment Today’s annual Ticketholder Awards and appeared opposite The house of Besarab’s Dr. Van Helsing, Travis Holder, in the west coast premiere of Charles Mee’s Summertime at Theatre @ Boston Court.

Miss deRousse explains, “I have been a psychic medium since I was a kid, and ‘talked’ to my spirit guides every night when I went to bed. Then when my grandma died, I was sure it was a mistake that everyone was crying beside her grave, because she was standing there winking at me saying, ‘I'm OK, honey… I’m right here.’” But religious constraints and dogma caused deRousse to repress her gift for many years until the death of her mother in 2000, when medium Brian Hurst told her on first sight, “You know you can do this, right?” Aside from her successful acting career, deRousse is now a noted psychic, medium, and animal communicator, also adept at helping people explore past lives.

Michael Parry, a British evidential medium, began his spiritual quest as a teenager and has studied metaphysics for over 30 years. He is able to bridge the gap between two planes of existence, that of the living and those who have passed, by providing evidential proof of life after death through detailed messages. His communication is very clear and specific, as he talks directly to loved ones, conveying their personal messages.  His wife Marti Parry was a successful professional artist for years, but the first time she tried drawing from the Other Side, it was recognized as a friend’s boss murdered one year before on the date it was drawn. Since then she has drawn thousands of portraits of recognized loved ones.


Marti and Michael work together joining their talents. Michael hears more clearly and therefore gives messages he receives from those who have passed. Marti, meanwhile, draws a portrait of someone who poses for her from the other side. As they work independently, it’s always added evidence when they channel the same person. The couple was recently featured on the Biography Channel’s Psychic Investigators’ episode “Halloween Homicide,” where their abilities helped police solve a double homicide, and they have also appeared on A&E’s Paranormal State and were proven legitimate on the SyFy Channels’ Proof Positive.

Donna D’Amore, clairvoyant, dream analyst, animal communicator, certified Reiki Master, and ordained non-denominational minister, is the proprietor of Heart & Soul Healing Arts Metaphysical Center in Pasadena. She utilizes her healing and psychic gifts to help people along their life journey by interpreting dreams and bringing forth messages from the spiritual realm. D’Amore is the author of the books Dreams – The Window into Your Soul and Angel Whispers – And Other Mystical Phenomena, writes a regular column in The Messenger, and is a monthly guest on internet radio program Conversations from Beyond.

Whether taking a trip to Count Dracula’s castle on Nov. 12 along with this quartet of extraordinary psychic travelers or experiencing the E-Ride Ticket to Transylvania on your own another night (complete with a full bar and hors d’oeuvres available in the Deco Bar to sooth those jangled nerves), a memorable visit to The House of Besarab is sure to get your blood boiling—just watch out who looks longingly at your neck when things start to heat up along the way.

Produced and directed by Terance Duddy under an Actors Equity Association Hollywood Area Theatre (H.A.T.) contract, The House of Besarab opens Nov. 12 and plays indefinitely at the Hollywood American Legion Post #43, 2035 N. Highland Av., Hollywood; for tickets, call 323.960.7612 or log on at

TRAVIS MICHAEL HOLDER teaches acting and theatre/film history at the New York Film Academy’s west coast campus at Universal Studios. He has been writing about LA theatre since 1987, including 12 years for BackStage, a 23-year tenure as Theatre Editor for Entertainment Today, and currently for As an actor, he received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Best Actor Award as Kenneth Halliwell in the west coast premiere of Nasty Little Secrets at Theatre/Theater and he has also been honored with a Drama-Logue Award as Lennie in Of Mice and Men at the Egyptian Arena, four Maddy Awards, a Award, both NAACP and GLAAD Award nominations, and six acting nominations from LA Weekly. Regionally, he won the Inland Theatre League Award as Ken Talley in Fifth of July; three awards for his direction and performance as Dr. Dysart in Equus; was up for Washington, DC’s Helen Hayes honors as Oscar Wilde in the world premiere of Oscar & Speranza; toured as Amos “Mr. Cellophane” Hart in Chicago; and he has traveled three times to New Orleans for the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, opening the fest in 2003 as Williams himself in Lament for the Moths and since returning to appear in An Ode to Tennessee and opposite Karen Kondazian as A Witch and a Bitch. Never one to suffer from typecasting, Travis’ most recent LA performance, as Rodney in The Katrina Comedy Fest, netted the cast a Best Ensemble Sage Award from ArtsInLA. He has also been seen as Wynchell in the world premiere of Moby Pomerance’s The Good Book of Pedantry and Wonder and Frank in Charles Mee’s Summertime at The Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Giuseppe “The Florist” Givola in Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui for Classical Theatre Lab, Ftatateeta in Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra at the Lillian, Cheswick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Rubicon in Ventura, Pete Dye in the world premiere of Stranger at the Bootleg (LA Weekly Award nomination), Shelly Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Egyptian Arena, the Witch of Capri in Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore at the Fountain, and Dr. Van Helsing in The House of Besarab at the Hollywood American Legion Theatre. As a writer, he has also been a frequent contributor to several national magazines and five of his plays have been produced in LA. His first, Surprise Surprise, for which he wrote the screenplay with director Jerry Turner, became a feature film with Travis playing opposite John Brotherton, Luke Eberl, Deborah Shelton and Mary Jo Catlett. His first novel, Waiting for Walk, was completed in 2005, put in a desk drawer, and the ever-slothful, ever-deluded, ever-entitled Travis can’t figure out why no one has magically found it yet and published the goddam thing.