Next on our
stage: RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN LIZZIE STAY TUNED FOR OUR MAY 18-JUNE 18 JULY 13-AUGUST 20 2016-2017 SEASON! HIGHLIGHTS
Victor Frankenstein (Max Tachis, left) and Henry Clerval (Jeremy Ryan) create life from lifelessness in Frankenstein. Photo by Taylor Sanders. A companion guide to “Frankenstein” adapted by Kit Wilder from the novel by Mary Shelley March 23-April 23, 2017
This issue of Highlights was researched and written by Kit Wilder. Read past issues, and a digital version of this issue, at cltc.org/highlights. WHY “FRANKENSTEIN”
“You are young, and eager, but let me caution you! You want to make your mark, surely, but you cannot yet see the dangers that lie ahead. Know thyself, young man – know the world in which you live – lest you unleash the unimaginable!”
-Prof. Waldman in Frankenstein
For 200 years, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus – Mary Shelley’s tale of horror and hubris, of the follies and ﬂaws of humanity — has gripped the imagination of readers around the world. Now, City Lights revisits Frankenstein with a fresh perspective and the use of modern multimedia technology, including projection mapping. This commissioned work, the second in City Lights history, is written and directed by Kit Wilder, who was director and co-writer of the company’s ﬁrst original commissioned piece, Truce: A Christmas Wish From the Great War, in 2014.
Wilder explores the hubris that brings the young scientist Victor Frankenstein to play God and create a sapient creature. When he rejects his work, Frankenstein throws his entire world into a downward spiral of violence and recriminations as the cautionary tale explores the very nature of the human existence.
Victor Frankenstein (Max Tachis, left) and Henry Clerval (Jeremy Ryan) CHARACTERS are challenged by more than their ethics. Photo by Taylor Sanders. Victor Frankenstein (Max Tachis): A brilliant young university student, obsessed with death. In love with Elizabeth, his adopted cousin, he sacriﬁces everything in his obsessive quest to achieving the “unimaginable” – restoring the dead to life.
The Creature (Nick Mandracchia): Victor Frankenstein’s “creation,” a man brought back to life and abandoned to wander alone. His experiences allow him to “remember” elements of his own former life, and he learns to be human once more.
Henry Clerval (Jeremy Ryan): Victor’s lifelong friend, loyal, capable, and caring, Henry will do anything for Victor. He attends the University of Ingolstadt with Victor, and remains by his side even through the worst of times.
Elizabeth (Roneet Aliza Rahamim): Orphaned and taken in at four by Victor’s parents, she is Victor’s adopted “cousin” – and he the love of her life. They have, according to Victor’s father, been friends, playmates, conﬁdantes. It was Victor’s mother’s dying wish that Victor and Elizabeth be married.
Alphonse (Steve Lambert): Victor’s father, a solid, capable, sympathetic ﬁgure, he is, according to his son, a “brave man and a good father.” He loves his family and his home, and is sentimental and fun-loving. He harbors a deep concern for his son, who gives him no end of worry. William (Nicholas Papp): Victor’s 10-year-old younger brother, he is precocious, imaginative, creative, rambunctious, and fearless.
Professor Waldman (Ross Arden Harkness): A physician and surgeon, he is one of Victor’s teachers at the University of Ingolstadt.
Old Man (Ross Arden Harkness): A kindly, blind cottage-dweller, and father of Felix and Agatha. The Creature remembers much about his former life and about what it is to be human from secretly watching him and his family.
Felix (Alexander Draa): The Old Man’s son.
Agatha (Caitlin Papp): The Old Man’s daughter.
Mathilde (Kassia Bonesteel): A young girl whom the Creature encounters in a ﬁeld of buttercups not far from Ingolstadt.
A Man (Alexander Draa): Mathilde’s father.
PRODUCTION NOTES BY PLAYWRIGHT AND DIRECTOR KIT WILDER
City Lights Theater Company is pleased to bring you this world-premiere production of our new stage adaptation of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, in anticipation of the bicentennial of the ﬁrst, anonymous publication of Mary Shelley’s novel in 1818.
From the beginning, we conceived Frankenstein as a marriage of art and technology, bringing together Shelley’s 18th-century tale and 21st- century production techniques to illuminate for modern audiences the cautionary heart of the original: that the Alphonse Frankenstein (Steve Lambert) fears more than his own conscience in more knowledge mankind Frankenstein. Photo by Taylor Sanders. acquires, the more prudent he must be in the application of that knowledge; that he dismisses the supreme role of nature in his quest for achievement only at his mortal peril; and that today, when his creative and destructive capacities have attained almost Godlike proportions, his stewardship of the earth – and of himself – has never been more important. For what central issue today is not, in some way, a product of mankind’s assumptive domination over the world in which he lives, or the result of something that began with “best intentions”? Climate change, environmental decay, overpopulation, disenfranchisement, food and famine, religious zealotry, violence, warfare – yes, the threat of terrorism even: all of these and more can be traced to mankind’s overweening social, cultural, scientiﬁc, and technological abandon. And in the midst of unprecedented technological and scientiﬁc development of a kind that threatens, as Frankenstein’s creature does, to turn upon its own maker in ways both obvious and insidious, perhaps the answer lies in the recognition and understanding of our own common bonds. As a modern story of man’s “footprint” on earth, Mary Shelley’s 200-year- old Frankenstein is perhaps more relevant today than at any time in its history.
City Lights has long been eager to marry art and technology in the creation of theater that speaks to modern, tech-savvy audiences. With Frankenstein, this demands, in large part, that we part from tradition and avoid cliché. There is something safe, even quaint and comical about watching a 19th- century scientist dabble with ﬁctional, “old-fashioned” scientiﬁc tools in a gothic laboratory (consider the electrical apparatus that reanimated Boris Karloﬀ’s iconic monster in the 1931 ﬁlm – and that was so eﬀectively “reborn” for Mel Brooks’ comic masterpiece some 43 years later). While it is entertaining to be sure, there is nothing genuinely frightening or edifying about presenting Frankenstein in this way – not anymore, not to modern audiences who live and work, day after day, with technology in all its very real glory. Technology is the language of modern life – especially here in the Silicon Valley; to “fake” technology upon the stage is to invite disbelief and, worse, irrelevance. As a modern story of man’s The answer, of course, is to make use of technology – real technology, known and understood by today’s modern “footprint” on earth, Mary Shelley’s audiences – to tell the story. In this way, Frankenstein can 200-year-old Frankenstein is be relevant once more, and can speak to modern perhaps more relevant today than at audiences in an immediate and visceral way. To that end, we have conceived a production that incorporates cutting- any time in its history. edge theatrical technology not to simulate what cannot be done – reanimate dead ﬂesh, create a human being, remake a man – but rather to do what can and must be done: tell the story itself. We hope that you ﬁnd Frankenstein relevant once more, as we have, and that it engages you on a level that promotes a very real understanding of Mary Shelley’s story and its current implications.
ABOUT THE CREATURE
In crafting this adaptation, and this production, I have in no way attempted to recreate or pay homage to any past ﬁlm or stage incarnation of Frankenstein’s “monster” as we have come to know him. And signiﬁcantly, there is no depiction of his “reanimation” in Mary Shelley’s original work; in fact, she goes out of her way to avoid any such description and leaves it entirely to the imagination – and so have I.
In this way, I have liberated myself from any preconceived notion of how the creature is created, what he “should” look like – and, indeed, what he really is. For what it’s worth, the Creature is, to me, a person literally “reborn”: a full-grown infant. Past ﬁlm and stage adaptations of Frankenstein have almost all presented a creature made up of many diﬀerent bodies, sewn together as a kind of “patchwork” of humanity, with scars and sutures still seeping, and anatomical parts imperfectly fused. As eﬀective as this has been in the past, it occurred to me as I prepared to write that Victor Frankenstein’s creation need not have been fabricated from many diﬀerent bodies, just one – and that body need not have a single scar, or perhaps only a very few. I imagined, then, a creature utterly hairless, with lustrous, pale skin – a baby’s skin, in fact. (I was pleased to discover upon rereading the novel that this is, in fact, closer to Shelley’s own description of the Creature than any stage or screen depiction I had seen up to that time.)
Further, and more signiﬁcantly, it occurred to me that such a creature, reborn, would not so much learn from new experiences as remember his past life experiences – and through remembering, regain the physical, emotional, and cognitive abilities of the “full-fraught man.” It is my hope that such a creature is at once grotesque enough to inspire loathing, and fascinating and familiar enough, conversely, to inspire empathy.
And this is the heart of the matter, truly: empathy is an essential component of theater, and it is essential to Mary Shelley’s original work. The Creature, abandoned by his creator to walk the world alone, alienated and victimized, learning to alienate and victimize in his turn, is desperate to learn, to connect, and to belong. By walking with him on his journey, and with Victor on his, we gain valuable insight into the plight of the “alien,” the “other,” – the unwanted, feared, shunned, and desperately alone. If it is about nothing else, Elizabeth (Roneet Aliza Rahamim, left) hopes that the then, Frankenstein is a tale about empathy, and what happens when future is as she sees it in her mind's eye, as Alphonse we, as human beings, deprive ourselves and others of our uniquely Frankenstein (Steve Lambert) guesses her secret in human capacity for it. Frankenstein. Photo by Taylor Sanders.
WHAT ARE “PROJECTION BURSTS”?
Immediately after the Creature’s reanimation in scene four, we are introduced to the idea of the “projection burst.” These are essential to the depiction of the Creature’s emotional and cognitive development throughout the ﬁrst half of the play.
I had in mind a kind of rapid-ﬁre montage of video and sound that depict the Creature’s brain working overtime to absorb and assimilate stimuli – in other words, to demonstrate that the creature is not so much learning as remembering human behavior, human interaction, human emotion, human language and speech, etc. It is the conceit of this adaptation that the Creature, reanimated from one intact corpse, becomes a fully functioning human being by remembering his past life through present experience.
Those sudden memory ﬂashes, triggered by what the Creature hears or sees or feels, are depicted as “projection bursts” that the audience experiences as well. They are, in short, a high-tech window into the Creature’s brain.
FRANKENSTEIN ON STAGE AND SCREEN Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, has spawned countless stage and ﬁlm adaptations over the two centuries since its original 1818 publication, as well as ballets, TV shows, and other derivative works that feature Shelley’s themes and characters. In fact, since the ﬁrst theatrical presentation of Richard Brinsley Peake’s adaptation Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein, took the stage of the English Opera House in 1823 (seen and praised by Mary Shelley herself, no less) there have been – wait for it! – over 90 stage adaptations of Frankenstein worldwide!
Turning the mind to ﬁlm, one immediately conjures images of Boris Karloﬀ’s iconic turn as the ﬂat-headed, broad-shouldered Frankenstein’s Monster of James Whale’s 1931 horror classic, and his 1935 sequel Bride of Frankenstein.
But the ﬁrst ﬁlm version of Frankenstein appeared in 1910, and there have been countless since, including numerous Hammer Films versions, comedies, spoofs, serious “reanimations” (such as Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 ﬁlm starring Branagh himself as Victor Frankenstein and Robert DeNiro as the Creature), and many curiosities, such as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein (1973), Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein (1999), Blackenstein (1973), Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), Frankenstein vs. The Mummy (2015), the animated Frankenweenie (2012), I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957), and of course Mel Brooks’ unforgettable Young Frankenstein, for which the director Boris Karloff as the Monster (1931) resurrected and repurposed all of the original reanimation machinery from James Whale’s “original” 1931 ﬁlm, and which spawned a Broadway musical.
It’s a safe bet that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein isn’t going anywhere anytime soon!
OUR NONPROFIT PARTNER: THE LOS GATOS ROWING CLUB
We at City Lights make it a high priority to support our fellow Bay Area nonproﬁts. During each mainstage show, we partner with a diﬀerent organization, donating part of the box-oﬃce proceeds to the group and helping promote each others’ activities. During Frankenstein, our partner is the Los Gatos Rowing Club.
The Los Gatos Rowing Club's outreach programs serve a variety of communities, including war veterans, cancer survivors, students, and the visually impaired. LGRC helps people to ﬁnd new strengths they did not know they had through camaraderie, teamwork, and friendship.
CJA is at 10000 Alma Bridge Road, Los Gatos, CA 95033. For more information, go to lgrc.org or call 77-ROW-LGRC. OUR DIRECTOR: KIT WILDER An actor, singer, director, choreographer, designer, playwright, and ﬁght director, Kit is a graduate of Santa Clara University, with training in London from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and with members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has appeared in countless Bay Area and Regional Theater productions as well as commercials, industrials, and feature ﬁlms. He has also taught master classes in acting, stage combat, Shakespeare, and Musical Theatre at high schools, universities, theatre companies, and festivals throughout the Western United States.
Kit’s acting and directing experience ranges from Shakespeare and the classics to musical theater and contemporary drama. He Kit Wilder. has penned adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers (produced at City Lights in 2009) and Twenty Years After, Gabriel Sabatini’s Scaramouche, and several original works and short plays – including Truce: A Christmas Wish from the Great War, written with Jeﬀrey Bracco and commissioned and produced by City Lights in 2014.
Kit is also an acclaimed Fight Director, having staged ﬁghts and other mayhem for countless classical and contemporary productions. He has served as Associate Artistic Director of City Lights for the past eleven years, during which time he has directed the company’s acclaimed productions of Assassins, Wise Women, String of Pearls, Angels in America Part 1: Millennium Approaches and Part 2: Perestroika, The Goat or Who Is Sylvia?, A Few Good Men, ShakesPod, The Who’s Tommy, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Frank Langella’s Cyrano, Equus, Hamlet, 44 Plays for 44 Presidents, Coney Island Christmas, Truce: A Christmas Wish from the Great War, and the TBA Award-winning Handle with Care.
Victor Frankenstein (Max Tachis, left) discusses options for facing the weight of his creation, with childhood friend Elizabeth (Roneet Aliza Rahamim) in Frankenstein. Photo by Taylor Sanders Frankenstein adapted by Kit Wilder from the novel by Mary Shelley
City Lights Theater Company presents Frankenstein from March 23-April 23, 2017. Shows are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. (no show on March 26 or April 16).
PRODUCTION STAFF CAST
Director: Kit Wilder Victor Frankenstein: Max Tachis
Scenic Design/Production Manager/Technical Director: Ron Gasparinetti The Creature: Nick Mandracchia
Lighting/Video Design: Nick Kumamoto Henry Clerval: Jeremy Ryan Costume Design: Pat Tyler Elizabeth: Roneet Aliza Rahamim Composer/Sound Design: George Psarras Alphonse: Steve Lambert Properties Designer: Miranda Whipple Stage Manager: Joseph Hidde William: Nicholas Papp
Assistant Stage Manager: Christina Sturken Professor Waldman: Ross Arden Harkness Master Electrician: Joseph Hidde Old Man: Ross Arden Harkness Video Technician: Devin Davis Felix: Alexander Draa Special thanks: RuthE Stein Agatha: Caitlin Papp
Mathilde: Kassia Bonesteel
A Man: Alexander Draa