I am constantly confronted with the fact that I can never truly know another person - never truly be in their head and see what the see, feel what they feel. And if I can't do that, neither can anyone else - meaning that no can see what I see and feel what I feel. There is a sadness in that , the unknowability of our world. But there is also great wonder and mystery and excitement in the pursuit of understanding. That is how I feel about Bloody Bathory, in so many ways. I watch audiences squirm in anguish to choose their path, wanting to finish out this story line and understand what is happening, while also being pulled towards the screams in the other room.
Director, Molly H. Donahue
We have felt this way about Elizabeth Bathory, herself, for a long time. We crave understanding, but she has been so romanticized and demonized over the centuries that getting to the truth of her is intense and confusing work. I have felt this way standing in the middle of rehearsal trying to understand where the timing went wrong and how we solve this massive, moving 3-D puzzle. I am forever running toward this play, and every time I think I am in the heart of understanding and knowing, the world spins, and I'm running again. Just as this story is exposed by the immersive form, this continuous pursuit of understanding and flexibility is essential to embracing Bloody Bathory.
Often, the question I get from audiences is What is the answer? How do you do this right? But they do it right every time - and that feeling of uncertainty and thirst for truth is exactly right. Every time audiences interact with this show, they change it. They affect this world and each other. They help to skew the biases of other audience members. They make choices to affect characters. They make judgements of actions and morality. They will always do it right! You are running to catch all of the pieces, and you start to feel that same harrowing fear that you will never understand, just like we do. And even if you never understand what happened, never understand who Elizabeth Bathory is, or what those sticks all over the castle are about, you still did it right because you ran into the dark.
Characters of the Play
Countess Elizabeth Bathory
Countess Elizabeth Bathory is in a unique spot. Her husband has died, the crown owes her money, and she has relatives in power all over Europe. She also has the bad luck to leave a trail of dead girls wherever she goes...
The name 'Bathory' means "brave". The clan received this name after Vitus, (a namesake of a member of the first generation of their clan) slayed a dragon near their castle at Ecsed.
Count George Thurzo
Palantine of Hungary, close advisor to Archduke Matthias until it is Matthias finds himself uncovering secrets about Thurzo that cause him to question his elegiance. Thurzo's internal conflict runs deeper than that, while his allegiance is pledge to the crown, he's also the executor of Countess Bathory's estates and perhaps something more...
Matthias' older and more popular brother Rudolph is Holy Roman Emperor. King of Hungary. But he's also slipping quickly into madness. Matthias would give anything to be King but he has to prove himself worthy of the position first (and oust his brother off the throne). Hence, Countess Bathory. She's destructive, Protestant, wealthy and too powerful (not to mention all the money the crown owes her) and from what he hears, a murderer. If he can take her down, he'll not only please the fickle nobles but show his power to all of Hungary.
Newly assigned pastor to the Cachtice Castle, Janos Ponikenusz hopes to gain the admiration and trust of his congregation and the Countess while also trying to outrun his shadowy past. However, not far into his time there, he encounters tragedy and mayhem and the one person he hoped he'd always outrun.
Cardinal Melchior Klesl
Melchior Klesl stands closely behind Archduke Matthias giving him guidance and protection. His social climbing ladder skills can compare to none. He is the power behind Matthias and certainly the brains but will passionate and impulsive Matthias listen to him?
Anna has no past or so she would have you believe. Within Countess Bathory's inner circle, Anna holds the reins. You couldn't breathe in Cachtice Castle without Anna hearing it. Everything she does is in service of her mistress, whom she serves with unrelenting obedience. Anna's passion for the Countess is only surpassed by her love of inflicting pain and fear in everyone around her, but the fear she inflicts will be doubly inflicted upon her when the weak rise up.
Ficzko is less of a man and more of boy caught between a heavily scarred childhood and a controlled and delicate present state. The Countess and Anna are his whole world and would do anything for them because he knows they'll always be there for him.
Countess Bathory's inner circle:
Katalin is the black sheep amongst Bathory's inner circle and she's well aware of it. Staying by Bathory's side means she's protected, but a strain of recklessness is growing in Katalin. She's fallen in love and now she'd like to be free of the Countess and her castle at any cost.
Deseo the Castellan
The position of Castellan is not unlike a British Butler. They were responsible for the servants and protection of the castle. Deseo is very good at his job. He demands respect and gives it. He trusts the Countess but as he grows closer to one of her servants all of his tightly held beliefs begin to unravel and his respect will waver.
Zita and Hanna
Zita's life has been rife with tragedy. Her mother died in childbirth, leaving Zita the eldest of four siblings, one just an infant. Her father is the local village drunk and they're living in poverty, on the brink of starvation. She has no choice but to bring her sister, Hanna, to work for the Countess. She has heard the rumors but the Countess also provides the most steady work and the best pay. Too late, Zita realizes her mistake and from the moment Hanna is taken in, Zita is trying to get her back out.
Benedek Toth and Ferenc Kalmar
Toth and Kalmar are merchants from the village of Cachtice. They are best friends and often get themselves into tight spots that turn into memorable adventures, however their night at Bathory’s castle will be a memory that will be seared into their minds for all time.
The Fa Demonok
Mira is a servant in Countess Bathory's castle. She befriends Hanna and tries to protect her, but there's something off about Mira. Her protection will come at a great cost and when her real identity is revealed many will fall.
Kovac watches Anna waiting for their moment. They both love and despise Anna and want them for their own. Kovac never forgives and never forgets.
The Fa Demonok or "Wood Demons". The Fa Demonok are harbingers of fear and chaos. They were the victims of gruesome deaths and haunt the living unable to rest.
Zsofia and Hedi
Zsofia and Hedi were servant girls who were died under mysterious circumstances in Cachtice Castle. Their bodies were found in the forest and now they rise as the Fa Demonok. When the wards break, they enter and they will create fear and destruction for everyone who stumbles across their path.
The Villagers, though many are religious, believe in the Fa Demonok and put up wards outside their home to keep their families safe. Breaking a ward lets them in.