Greenhouse Theatre Project Takes On the Author of Frankenstein

May 5, 2017

Credit Courtesy Elizabeth Braaten

The Greenhouse Theatre Project’s latest piece focuses on a well-known author, but a little known story. Dark Creations: The Mary Shelley Project is about Mary Shelley when she was writing Frankenstein. The play stars Anna Sundberg as Mary Shelley and Wilf Williams as Percy Shelley. Braaten Palmieri plays Claire Clairmont.

“I like to describe it as a dark coming of age tale because Mary was significantly younger than people realize when she was writing Frankenstein,” she said.

Braaten Palmieri said she was inspired to write this piece after reading a New York Times article about Mary and Percy Shelley and Claire Clairmont during this point in their lives.

While she was writing Frankenstein, Mary Shelley was dealing with the grief of a stillborn child, as well as a miscarriage, Braaten Palmieri said.

“It’s about protecting one’s creation whether that be a child or book,” Braaten Palmieri.

Braaten Palmieri and Emily Adams, cofounder of Greenhouse Theatre Project, co-wrote the piece. Braaten Palmieri and Adams founded Greenhouse Theatre Project in 2011. The research for the piece for about a year and a half, and the writing process took three months, Braaten Palmieri said.

“I was just inspired by more so what was going on in Mary’s head, Mary’s heart, that would propel her to work on such a dark piece,” Braaten Palmieri said.

The piece has several surreal elements, Braaten Palmieri said. In fact, it’s one of her favorite parts of the show, she said. The show includes projections as well as original music, and Braaten Palmieri said the layers of projection, music, and acting.

Co-director Carrie Winship said she likes those surreal dream sequences, too. She said some of her favorite moments in the show are those when it moves outside of reality.

Braaten Palmieri said she was pregnant during some of the writing process, which helped to inspire some of the dreamlike sequences throughout the show.

Greenhouse was founded with the intent to create fresh stories, Braaten Palmieri said.

“We knew we wanted to work with classic material, but we wanted to revamp it and revitalize it,” she said.

“That’s why I enjoy working with Greenhouse. They embrace the weird."

Braaten Palmieri said Greenhouse is has an emphasis on collaboration with different people including artists, musicians and even the actors.

The piece will be performed at Muse, a clothing store in downtown Columbia. Braaten Palmieri said she has always been interested in the store architecture, specifically the ceilings and an open staircase with a mezzanine balcony.

“It’s been definitely in the back of mind for a while but it was just about having the right project for the space, and this is definitely the right project,” she said.

Dark Creations is running from Wednesday, May 3, through Sunday, May 7, at Muse Clothing Store in downtown Columbia.