Excerpt from: ‘Finding Frankenstein’ by Dawn Brodey

Best Days Frankenstein Photo

Mary Shelley enters, the embodiment of her 19th Century portrait. She puts down her book and addresses the audience as if they were exactly what they are: a group gathered to hear her speak.  Broad and proud.

I have been asked many questions throughout the course of my life. Questions ranging from ‘Do you believe in God?’, to ‘What is your favorite book?’ But the question that I am most frequently asked is ‘what happened that night in 1816, in Lord Byron’s castle?’ The dark and stormy night that I first conceived of Victor Frankenstein and his Creature. And I never mind when that question is asked because it is – perhaps – my favorite one to answer. 

To answer it properly, the story doesn’t begin with me at all, it begins with my half-sister Claire. She had suggested that she, I, and my darling Percy go on holiday to Geneva. We were invited, she said, by a lover of hers to escape the chill of England’s weather... and people. Percy and I had no idea that Claire was, in fact, referring to Lord Byron. And although he seemed surprised to see us all arrive on his doorstep, unannounced, he did allow us to stay with him because he and Percy became instant friends. 

We spent the pleasant hours on the lake, or wandering it’s shores, but it proved to be a wet and ungenial summer and incessant rain confined us for many days indoors. It was then that some volume of ghost stories fell into our hands.

One night, after reading to us of monsters and horrors from a book called The Fantasmagoria, Byron purposed a challenge: That we would, each of us, write a ghost story. 

The actress pauses, then starts as if she’ll go on, and then pauses again. It appears as if she has forgotten her line. Suddenly, she drops character – when she speaks again, her posture and accent are sharply different than what we’ve seen - purely contemporary.

I’m really sorry. I don’t think I can do this. I mean, I don’t really know what I’m doing up here. I know my lines, I got those down right away:

To prove it, she snaps quickly back into the presentational posture and voice – speaking grandly:

Dear Byron, as Percy is away on business, I take upon myself the pleasure of informing you that we have, of late, taken a home in Marlow – where we hope to remove in two months; and where we would love to have the pleasure of your society on your return to London. Love, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. 

The actress again drops character and looks to the audience expectantly.

Right? What does that even mean? It’s a letter she wrote to her buddy Lord Byron and I can’t even tell if it’s in English. I’m so embarrassed. Here you all came to see a show about Mary Shelley, and I don’t know how to do it. But you’ve got to understand where I’m coming from - this Mary Shelley is complex. When I took this gig, I had no idea how difficult a character she was going to be. 

  dawnbrodey@gmail.com  © Dawn Brodey 2012