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Van Helsing slayed Dracula in court at the 2019 Weldon Literary Moot
The great Count Dracula sued the world-famous vampire hunter Van Helsing for wrongful death at this year’s Weldon Literary Moot, The Trial of Dracula—and he lost, when the jury found Van Helsing not guilty. The sold-out annual sketch-comedy moot, which took place on March 20 in Room 105 at the Schulich School of Law, was a huge hit and raised over $2,000 for Halifax Humanities 101.
The dynamic cast included actor Ben Stone, co-artistic director of Zuppa Theatre, as Dracula; Professor Jonathan Shapiro as Van Helsing; Professor Cynthia Chewter as Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and Professor Adelina Iftene and law student Kerri Malcolm as counsel for Dracula.
Also appearing were Halifax lawyer Tom Donovan (LLB ’78) and law student Jeremy Ryant as counsel for Van Helsing, law student Erik Coates as the intervener for Canadian Blood Services, law librarian David Michels as the sheriff (he also provided the costumes), and law student Stephen Deturbide as teenage vampire heartthrob Edward Cullen. Nova Scotia Provincial Court Judge Michael Sherar (LLB ’77) presided.
At one point, it looked like Dracula was going to prevail—until the judge got a nosebleed and Dracula tried to kill him in front of the jury. “Van Helsing staked the Count, with an assist from me, and the jury dismissed the case,” says Chewter. This was her second Literary Moot; last year she was counsel for Brutus in Julius Caesar.
Collaboration and comedy in court
The Literary Moot is run by a student executive committee; this year it consisted of 2Ls Coates, Maggie Day, and Clare Robinson. The proceeds from ticket sales, a raffle, and donations are going to Halifax Humanities 101, a non-profit organization that provides university-level humanities education to community members who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.
The law students started brainstorming the moot’s concept last September. Their first step was to choose the book, which is usually related in some way to the Halifax Humanities’ curriculum. In January and February, they reached out to professors and practitioners and started fundraising. After a couple of rehearsals to assign roles and sketch out the structure, the actors went away to write their parts. After a final meeting to make sure things were flowing, there was a dry run the night of the show.
The best part is coming together as a group and working out little bits and throwing ideas around. — 2L Erik Coates
Coates had acted in high school and loves theatre and film. “The best part of this moot is coming together as a group and working out little bits and throwing ideas around,” he says. “Then on the night of the show, seeing the jokes and scenes work, hearing people laugh, and watching the audience get involved. The entire room sang ‘You Are My Sunshine’ with Jon Shapiro. That’s what’s really fun."
Shapiro has taken part in six Literary Moots; previously, he has performed in trials based on Alice in Wonderland, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Hobbit. “It might be the most fun thing of the year,” he says. “It’s improv comedy. Sometimes the jokes land solid, sometimes they don’t. We sketch out the performance, and the jury, which consists of Halifax Humanities students, decides the verdict.” The ruling was announced at a reception in Weldon’s lobby after the moot was over.
This was Iftene’s first Literary Moot. “I had a fabulous time representing Dracula,” she says. “I was impressed with the students’ dedication, hard work, creativity, and organization. It was a fantastic experience for everyone, and the fact that it was for a great cause made it even more gratifying.”
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