Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein comes to us across the vast expanse of two centuries, a haunting tale that has inflamed the imagination of readers and audiences alike, inspiring countless adaptations to stage and screen, embedding itself in the cultural consciousness as an emblem of mad science run amok and an icon of monstrosity. Of course, the creature in our collective mind’s eye — a lumbering, green-skinned, flat-headed giant with bolts protruding from its neck — bears little resemblance to the original tortured soul that Shelley birthed in ink on paper when she was only 18 years old, in a stunningly original novel that intertwines the literary genres of horror, science fiction, and human moral treatise.
Still, each generation engages with this timeless story anew, witnessing with wide-eyed wonder the unanticipated forms emerging — alive! — from Frankenstein’s laboratory. We shine bright new light on the central themes of scientific and personal responsibility, hubris, and indeed, the very source and meaning of life. But every light casts shadows. Lurking in the darkness just off to the side of this story is a painfully astute exploration of the profound experience of “otherness.” Frankenstein’s creature discovers himself utterly alone in the world, rejected by his creator and shunned by all of society: all who see him are repulsed by his outward appearance and react with cruelty and prejudice. Ultimately, the creature’s only wish is to be loved: to be understood and accepted for who and what he is, to have a mate with whom to experience and share the world. In other words, he is utterly human in his most essential need.
Our production attempts to investigate the fundamental nature of otherness and the multiplicity of identity by conjuring the creature’s existence — body and mind, voice and movement — with the expressive theatricality of ensemble performance. Doctor Frankenstein builds his “monster” from the interconnected parts of many individual bodies, and thus so do we, embracing the notion that each of us is a complex, even contradictory amalgam of self and experience, always in relationship to others. Shelley’s story gains universality in its acknowledgement that each of us at some point confronts the inevitable pain of being cast as “the other” in society — either because of the color of our skin, our gender identity, our sexual orientation, or our political or religious beliefs — and thus are rejected, vilified, ignored, attacked, or suppressed. Ultimately, Frankenstein is an aching howl of despair: a desperate cry to be seen, to be acknowledged for who we are, to be understood. To be loved.
David R. Gammons, director of Frankenstein