Dark Shadows 2004 Weekend
August 13-15

Fans and Stars Gather to Celebrate Gothic Soap

by Craig Hamrick

This year's annual Dark Shadows fan gathering had a new name and a smaller crowd than in past years, but for the 1,000 fans and eight series stars in attendance, it seemed like old times, as we again celebrated our affection for the classic Gothic soap opera.

The three-day "Dark Shadows Weekend" (called Dark Shadows Festivals in the past) started, fittingly, on Friday the 13th of August, The convention took place at Tarrytown, New York's Westchester Marriott Hotel -- located near Lyndhurst, the mansion where the movies House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows were filmed in the early 1970s. Despite stormy weather (or maybe because of the atmosphere it created), many fans visited Lyndhurst on the 13th, to get a look at the big-screen version of Collinwood.

DS cast members appearing at the hotel were David Selby, Nancy Barrett, Marie Wallace, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Denise Nickerson, Lara Parker, John Karlen, and Diana Millay. David's son, writer/director/actor Jamison Selby, was also on hand, taking the stage to discuss his play Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood, which was presented at last year's Festival.

Throughout the weekend, DS stars took the stage for Q&A sessions and also signed autographs for fans.

On Saturday evening, Nancy Barrett held court with a one-woman cabaret show titled So Beyond. In the autobiographical show, Nancy recounted the story of how she came to be cast on DS, and to fans' delight, she sang several songs in character -- as Carolyn, Millicent, Charity, and Pansy Faye. The show's title came from one of the songs Nancy performed. The song "So Beyond" was originally part of a short-lived off-Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe. In it, a fan sings about the joy of meeting the movie star. With one changed line (from "Marilyn, you are so beyond" to "Barnabas, you are so beyond"), Nancy transformed it into a Dark Shadows fan song -- getting a good laugh from the audience. At another point in the show, Nancy got a standing ovation when she donned a sequin-covered beret and did a lively tap dance number during the song "Razzle Dazzle" (from Chicago). For more information about Nancy's show, check out my "welcome letter" this month: click here.

The highlight of Sunday's activities was a staged reading of a television script called The House, which was one of the original inspirations for Dark Shadows Several of the cast members, along with a few guest stars, took part in the reading; Marie Wallace headed the cast as Caroline, a mysterious, reclusive woman living in a spooky house perched on a hill above the sea, near a town called Collinsville. Her daughter, Elizabeth (Kathryn Leigh Scott) is trying to live a normal life with her boyfriend (David Selby), but life at the house gets complicated when a drifter (John Karlen) shows up and blackmails Caroline into letting him move into the big house -- because he knows that many years earlier, she shot her husband and buried him in the basement. Sound familiar? This basic storyline was recycled as the primary storyline of the early episodes of Dark Shadows. The matron and her daughter swapped names, and a few other details changed, but otherwise, it's very close to tale told in the "pre-Barnabas" episodes of DS.

The House was written by Art Wallace (who later used it as a framework for his "bible" for the development of Dark Shadows), and was originally produced as an episode of the anthology TV series Goodyear Playhouse, in 1957.

Other DS cast members who took part in the 2004 reading were Denise Nickerson and Lara Parker, as one of Caroline's piano students and the student's mother. Jamison Selby and DS Weekend emcee Richard Halpern played supporting roles, and DS Festival Chairman Jim Pierson even got in on the action, playing a bartender.

Other highlights of the weekend included DS memorabilia auctions (where the Josette's music box prop from the 1991 NBC revival of DS was sold), a costume party, and skits performed by the Collinsport Players. (It was the troup's 20th anniversary.) Another rare treat was the first chance for fans to get a peek at some scenes from the ill-fated pilot for an updated version of DS, which was produced this year for the WB network, but then rejected. With such changes as a young and hunky Barnabas, a blonde Victoria Winters, an Asian-American Dr. Hoffman, and several all-new characters, the show definitely had a tone that was very different from previous DS incarnations, but unfortunately, it "died on the vine" and is unlikely to rise again in the near future.

Lots of great DS merchandise was available in the dealer's room -- including DVDs, books, and much more. A CD recording of last year's featured event, the staged reading of Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood, was officially released there -- and was sold with a special commemorative paperback version of the script, featuring some of my behind-the-scenes photos, which were first seen right here on Dark Shadows Online. Click here to see these photos and more, and to read about Return to Collinwood. And click here to visit the MPI site to purchase the CD.



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