What makes a man and what makes a monster? On Oct. 13, the Wallace Theatre premiered its first production of the academic year, “Frankenstein.” Based on Nick Dear’s 2011 stage adaption of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, “Frankenstein” features ominous music, dazzling lights and show-stopping performances.
Zachary Bortot, associate professor of theater and director of “Frankenstein,” shared about the production.
“Nick Dear’s script tells the classic story of Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant but troubled young scientist who, through horrifying means, creates a sentient human being referred to as ‘the Creature,’” Bortot said. “Initially innocent and longing for love and acceptance, the Creature attempts to pursue his creator, encountering rejection from society in the process.”
Unlike the novel by Mary Shelley, this production tells the story from the perspective of the Creature rather than its creator, Victor Frankenstein.
Kaleb Bravo, sophomore film major, plays the role of the Creature.
“I absolutely love the role,” Bravo said. “My favorite part is how much emotion is in every aspect of the character, making him such a challenge to play, which makes it overall better for me.”
According to Bravo, one unique aspect of the show is that it is “acting-driven.” The production design took a minimalistic approach, instead focused on telling the story through imagination that was brought to life by the actors’ performances.
“As an educator, I love it when I can direct a piece of theater that is not only character-driven but really challenges the actors in terms of what they are able to do with their instrument,” Bortot said. “This may include anything from unique physicality to navigating a dramatic range of emotions.”
Bravo described the effort it took to personify his character.
“The prep for this role was hefty but extremely fun,” Bravo said. “I studied the development of a person from birth into adulthood. I also drew from snakes, spiders, crabs and abused or homeless dogs for some animalistic interpretations. I also studied much of ‘Paradise Lost’ and how to integrate biblical aspects. I needed to expand my knowledge on Shakespeare and study every one of my lines to give meaning and learn how to give honest emotions.”
Alec Abrahams, senior theater major, also had to prepare himself to portray Victor Frankenstein, the scientist.
“I am a pretty goofy, fun-loving guy, and Victor is the exact opposite. He is serious and solitary,” Abrahams said. “In order to prepare for this role, I first created a complete caricature of what I thought a man like Victor would behave like. Then, with the assistance of my awesome director, Zachary Bortot, I reeled Victor back in to discover the truth in the character, playing more of myself in the role.
“It’s a really fun challenge for me to play such a complex and serious character. Victor is a very layered character with a lot going on in his head, and I love the challenge of portraying his internal thoughts outward for the audience.”
From a storytelling perspective, “Frankenstein” explores themes of morality, pride, sin and suffering. One key theme is that uncontrolled ambition and arrogance can cause chaos and destruction.
“I start every production by finding the controlling idea that I base all of my choices around,” Bortot said. “For this play, I identified the following: Cyclical alienation and suffering dominate personal experience when pursuing advancement without restraint.
“Victor Frankenstein interferes with the natural order of life, taking the power to create life from God but he doesn’t even try to help others. Rather, he keeps the power for himself. We then see the destruction that transpires as a result of that,” Bortot said.
From a Christian perspective, “Frankenstein” is a dire warning about sin.
Audiences grapple with the idea that people’s choices ultimately determine if they are a human or a monster.
“We believe this is a story that Christian universities should be willing to undertake because of our trust in the goodness of God and our knowledge that what Victor does is truly horrific,” Bortot said. “In many ways, the play acts as a morality tale, warning us against the dangers of pride, unchecked ambition and social isolation. I pray our team has been able to draw out the idea that we are capable of monstrous things when we choose to distort God’s creation.”