Temperatures drop. Snow falls. Time to hole up inside, light a fire, and catch up on the latest books and movies. Or … if you’re a 21st-century scop … it might be a good time to take the Lord Byron stormy-night challenge and get to work on that novel or script you’ve been thinking about. After all, it worked for Mary Shelley.
And if you’d like to read an account of how a house-bound night at Villa Diodati fired a young writer’s muse, I’m pleased to announce that my adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has been picked up by Scripts for Stage, a UK publisher of stage plays who will be handling licensing for future productions.
Below right: Mary Godwin (Stacia Paglieri) and Claire Clairmont (Maddie Kochur) listen as Lord Byron (Michael McBurney) reads from a book of ghostly tales.
Retitled Creating Frankenstein, the story opens on a stormy night in 1816, when the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia brought about the weird-weather event known as the year without a summer. Stormbound in a rented mansion with poet Percy Shelley, playwright John Polidori, and the as-yet-published Mary Godwin—Lord Byron proposes a kind of 24-hour NaNoWriMo by proclaiming (as Mary would later recall in her introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein), “We will each write a ghost story.”
From there, the play proceeds with a dramatization of what might have happened as Mary began contemplating her story. Encouraged by stepsister Claire Clairmont, she populates her tale with characters based on Shelley, Byron, Polidori, and even herself as she contemplates a narrative that is as much about the writing process as it is about the creation of artificial life. Thus, Frankenstein’s Creature becomes a kind of metaphor for the novel she would later call “my hideous progeny,” bidding it to “go forth and prosper” in the literary world, in contrast to the Creature of the story who haplessly ventures into tragedy.
A more detailed exploration of the creation allegory can be found in a Frankenstein resource guide by Ponny Conomos Jahn, Prime Stage Theatre’s Education Coordinator. In Ponny’s words:
“Frankenstein is as much the story of a writer who met with unexpected success as it is about a scientist who experiences tragic failure. What sets the two apart is that Mary Shelley stood by her creation while Victor disowned his. The upshot: It’s good to dream big, but we must be willing to own the results of those dreams once they take on lives of their own.”
Above left: Mary Godwin and Claire Clairmont contemplate the downfall of Victor Frankenstein (Isaac Miller).
First produced by Prime Stage Theatre (who also commissioned the work), the play had its world premiere at The New Hazlett Theatre on Saturday, November 5, where it garnered terrific reviews during its two-week run, including one on CBSnews.com where Sean Collier called it “a great adaptation of the classic novel.”
Directed by Liam Macik and featuring a powerful performance by Evertt Lowe as the Creature, the production took the novel back to its roots by presenting the story as Mary Godwin (soon to be Mary Shelley) first envisioned it, as well as some of the work’s early stage adaptations.
The Creature (Everett Lowe) towers over his creator Victor Frankenstein in a scene that pays homage to the novel’s first stage adaptation Presumption, or the Fate of Frankenstein (1823) >>>
Originally commissioned in 2019, the play would have opened in November 2020 had not the covid monster caused many theatres to go dark that year. As a result, many companies (including Prime Stage) soldiered on with virtual production—a practice that continued at Prime Stage when live productions resumed in 2021. Thus, all of Prime Stage’s 2021-22 offerings were available via video on demand as well as live.
Below: The Creature and Victor Frankenstein contemplate the horror that will become the Creature’s mate, provided Victor follows through with his promise.
I had hoped that Prime Stage might continue that hybrid approach this year so that people in other cities could have a chance to see Frankenstein. That proved not to be the case. Nevertheless, now that the script is available for licensing through Script for Stage, there’s a possibility that a production may be staged in your town. If that happens, be sure to let me know by reaching out via the social media buttons atop this page.
And while you’re at the Scripts for Stage website, be sure to visit their Script Search page, where all of their scripts are available to read online or to purchase and read at your leisure. As Scripts for Stage says: “Choose a script from our library, pull up a chair, grab a cup of tea, and lose yourself in the Drama!”
Sounds like a great way to spend a snowy evening.