Running from Thursday, March 26th to Monday, March 30th the Performing Arts at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) presents Frankenstein. This is a new adaptation by CCBC students and Professor Julie Lewis, inspired by the novel by Mary Shelley. Directed by Brad Norris, the world premiere of this fresh and fierce adaptation takes Mary Shelley’s chilling tale of loss and creation into 21st century Baltimore. Faithful to the horror of the original but occurring in a contemporary setting, this production is not intended for children. Baltimore OUTloud recently chatted with Norris regarding the upcoming performance.
Frankie Kujawa: What can audiences expect from this upcoming performance?
Brad Norris: I think audiences can expect a very theatrical and fresh look at Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. At its heart it is still a horror story, but it’s also a myth about loss, ambition, and belonging. There was a lot to dig into with the student-led cast and writing team on this project, and they have brought their own diversity of experiences and ideas to this story. It is set in modern Baltimore, with a female lead, and it was cast without regard for race or gender. I think that has led to some new and exciting opportunities to portray traditionally unsympathetic characters in a new light. And our diverse cast and creative team are bringing new meaning and impact to the story as a whole.
Could you describe, for our readers, what makes this adaptation different?
In short, our students and their creativity are what make this adaptation unique. Their diversity of experiences and identities have played a huge roll in what is happening on stage, and how we hope audiences will relate to this unique story they are telling. We had the opportunity to create a brand new piece with the theatre students at CCBC, and so instead of going with a preexisting adaption, Julie Lewis led her fall 2019 writing for stage class in a semester-long project to begin this adaptive process. They read and researched the novel, and crafted many of the ideas and scenes that formed the basis for the show as it is now. As we explored what themes of the original story resonated with them, they had a hand in bringing those same themes to the page as they crafted the adaptation. Once the show was cast in early January, the writing team and cast continued to create and refine the piece through improvisational exercises and devising work. The result is a story that, though still Frankenstein, is very much owned and crafted by our students, and the experiences and ideas they brought to it.
How did you come to the decision to set this story in 21st century Baltimore?
A lot of debate and discussion. During the development of the piece, the class explored all kinds of settings and times. Everything from a traditional European setting to Baltimore at the turn of the 20th century, and I’m sure someone even suggested outer space at one point. Ultimately, we landed on modern day Baltimore because there are some very authentic and personal moments in the show that we wanted to set in our present. There are encounters with the homeless, LGBTQ relationships, and some pretty serious mental illness moments that we wanted to include in our story. The easiest way to do that was to simply keep the piece in this time and place, where those things exist already, and then we could just be as authentic as possible about them when they come up.
Both you and Professor Julie Lewis played a different role in bringing this performance to stage. Could you describe what that process has been like for our readers?
Julie and I put our heads together on how this process would happen back in the spring 2019, and it was ambitious even then. Julie really had a hand on this piece from its earliest stages during her writing for the stage class, where she guided her students through the process of creating an adaption. My hat is all the way off to her for teaching a class about theatrical writing, while also knowing that there was a finished product coming at the end which would go up on stage. It was no easy task, and the work that she and her class put into the show in the fall was invaluable to getting us ready for the rehearsal process to start up in January. I took over things as the director with the casting of the ensemble, though I had popped into Julie’s class a couple of times to see where things were headed. Once we had a writing team of a few students who were sticking with the show through production, and a cast, we began to refine scenes through rehearsal work, and take things that had been written from many different voices and distill them down to one cohesive piece. That process has already been two months in coming, and we still have three weeks to go before we open. We are still working and finding new things every day in rehearsals, but the process has been a joy, and I can’t say enough about the dedication and energy of the CCBC theatre students on this project. Some of them have been thinking and working towards this show since September of 2019, and once the show finally opens on March 26th, they are going to have something on stage that will truly be a special creation of their own.
Anything else that might entice audiences?
It’s a horror story with heart. Literally, we will rip out some hearts live on stage. Be ready for blood, mayhem, and to fall in love with Frankenstein, both the Doctor and the Monster, all over again.
For more info, visit Ccbcmd.edu/calendar/event/Frankenstein.
- Since 2011, arts writer Frankie Kujawa has covered a wide scope of entertainment stories and celebrity interviews. From the late Carrie Fisher and LGBTQ icon George Takei to comedians Lily Tomlin and Kathy Griffin to performer Idina Menzel, Kujawa’s candid interview ability brings readers past the byline and into the heart of the story. His unbiased previews of Baltimore-Washington’s theatre scene have allowed readers an inside glimpse of today’s most popular local and national performances. A Baltimore-native, Kujawa is proud to call Charm City his home.
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