“AND LIGHTNING STRUCK: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Creation” had its first performance February 9, 2017, produced by Lit Live at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center in Simi Valley, California.
A Note from the Playwright
Not unlike Frankenstein itself, And Lightning Struck was born of a serendipitous convergence of time, place, and people. When Steven Hayes and Brenda Miller of Lit Live approached me about writing a play about Mary Shelley, they had no idea that I have long been fascinated by Mary’s story. Having started Lit Live with the mission of producing plays tied to the classic literature that is taught in our schools, they simply were looking for a playwright to write a piece in some way related to Frankenstein. They came to me because they knew I was a writer with some experience producing theatre. I think both were surprised when I spent that first meeting enthusiastically sharing what I already knew about Mary Godwin Shelley, her bohemian circle, and the circumstances that led to the creation of Frankenstein when this genius writer was not quite nineteen years old.
I knew that the story I wanted to tell needed to be about Mary herself, not a stage adaptation of Frankenstein (the world didn’t need another of those, for there have been many, most notably the brilliant one produced by Britain’s National Theatre that turns up now and again in movie theatres and which I strongly urge you to see). I knew the bones of Mary’s story, but as I researched it further, I discovered even more about this remarkable woman. The daughter of two renowned intellectuals with very progressive political and social ideas, she grew up surrounded by the finest minds in England. She flouted convention by running off with a married man—the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley—eventually marrying him. Her life, however, would be marked by tragedy as most everyone she loved, including all but one of her children, was taken from her.
The big question persisted: Where did Mary Shelley’s genius come from and how did a teenager write the brilliant, challenging, and eternal Frankenstein? In And Lightning Struck, I allow Mary to puzzle over those questions herself. As she reluctantly revisits the past, she locates the novel’s source in many of the events, influences, and elements that came together in an almost magical way to produce “a simple gothic tale” that still resonates with readers two hundred years after that stormy night in Geneva when it was told for the first time. (And which is not, I cannot stress strongly enough, a cheesy, histrionic horror story, despite Hollywood’s repeated efforts to refashion it as one.)
And Lightning Struck is also a play about the creative process and many talented people have contributed to what you will witness on the stage. No playwright could ask for more gifted actors than these to bring his words to life. Every member of the production team has been peerless in his or her devotion to translating my vision from page to stage. And, not least of all, Austin Robert Miller has proven the perfect director, an astute collaborator who, from the first reading, had an intrinsic understanding of the material and what I hoped to convey. Each and every one of them is “a star among the stars of mortal night.”
Reviews and Features
Thousand Oaks Acorn: Lit Live Explores the Crackling Creativity of Mary Shelley
VCReviewerDotCom: There’s Something About Mary