It’s alive! Essex High School (EHS) theater students will perform their rendition of “Frankenstein” Thursday and Friday this week before taking the show on the road as part of the regional One Act Festival hosted by St. Johnsbury.
The play is an abridged version of Mary Shelley’s classic tale written for stage by Matt Lee. EHS Theater’s performance places particular emphasis on the relationship between man and creation, according to Ryan Poulin, who plays Victor Frankenstein.
“It’s a commentary on reality, what we experience as a society consistently,” Poulin said. “You learn there are not that many differences between man and monster.”
Poulin and Hunter Tether star in the show as creator and created, respectively. Together, along with the 22-member cast, they explore themes of reflection, pride and neglect among other elements of the human experience.
Unlike the mute nuts-and-bolts-sporting green monster many associate with the work, this play offers its monster a voice. Having the creation speak helps viewers gain a fuller understanding of the pain he endures born to a creator who does not care for him and thrust into life. At times, he is more eloquently spoken than his creator, according to Poulin.
“[The monster’s] ability to speak allows the audience to feel that emotion,” Poulin said. “[He has] been robbed of that ability to live a normal life and [has] not asked to be in this life. [His] experience is purely off the hubris of some male who had the belief that he had capability above all others.”
The play explores mature themes and depicts violence but does not focus on gore, according to director Aly Perry. Nonetheless, it preys on viewers’ emotional and physical experience, making them feel threatened, she said.
“When we put the music in the first time, in their first scene, my heart actually stopped,” Perry said. “We create the sense of terror. It’s very primal.”
According to Poulin, part of the beauty of the one-act rendition comes from its simple sets. The story is told using several shiny lab tables turned at various times to function as walls. These props depict the theme of reflection that runs through the play, Poulin said. They help convey the idea of Victor looking within to understand himself, as well as how his creation is a reflection of that self.
On Saturday the EHS theater company will depart in the early morning hours for St. Johnsbury Academy. There, they’ll attend workshops with theater professionals and watch their competitors perform one act plays before they take the stage in the last performance of the day.
“It’s very much about that celebration of theater, that community that lives inside of theater,” Tether said of the event.
The festival allows EHS students to see how other schools approach the craft, Poulin added.
The competition will occur this Saturday at St. Johnsbury Academy from 8 a.m. until after the 8:30 p.m. award ceremony. EHS will compete against St. Johnsbury Academy, Leland and Gray High School, United Christian Academy and Williamstown High School.
Both Poulin and Tether said they were grateful for their director and castmates. They noted how Perry talks with students about the work and encourages them to converse with each other before tackling how they’ll bring the show to life on the stage.
“The way that she [Perry] gives us the liberty to explore … really lets us own the show,” Tether said.
EHS will host the state One Act Festival on April 5 and 6. Two troupes will be chosen from each regional competition to compete at that competition. EHS students are hopeful they’ll be among the competitors but happy to host and attend the event on their home turf either way, Poulin said.
“The one-acts are really special,” Poulin said. “It is a celebration of theater.”
The play will be held on March 14 and 15 at 7 p.m. in the EHS Theater. Tickets will be available at the door and will cost $5 for students and seniors, $10 for adults. The show is open to people of all ages though EHS theater advises viewers be at least 13 years old.