Five things we learned about 'Frankenstein'

From left: Kevin Copenhaver (costumes), Topher Blair (projections), Jason Sherwood (scenic design), Brian Tovar (lighting), Sam Buntrock (director), Curtis Craig (sound), and actors Max Woertendyke, Molly Carden and Thaddeus Fitzpatrick. Photo by McKenzie Kielman for the DCPA NewsCenter.

“Perspectives” is a series of free conversations with DCPA Theatre Company cast and crew on the evening of each show’s first preview performance (except A Christmas Carol). On Sept. 30, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore was joined by nine members of the Frankenstein team. Here’s some of what we learned:

1 PerspectivesThis is a stage play, but it might as well be an action film. Playwright Nick Dear’s script consists of 30 scenes, but they take less than two hours to play out. “The first 20 scenes are over in the first half an hour,” Director Sam Buntrock said. And why the eventual change in tempo? “At the beginning of the story, the Creature has almost no language skills, so the first five scenes have almost no dialogue. But as the Creature experiences more of the world, and as he learns to communicate better, the play elongates and becomes more conventional.” 

2 PerspectivesCostumer Kevin Copenhaver said the creative team was not interested in furthering the popular cultural depiction of Frankenstein as the neck-bolted, square-headed monster we know from the 1931 Boris Karloff film. Nor the more recent National Theatre approach in London, which turned the monster into something of a mod zipperhead. “When reading Mary Shelley’s book, I was really struck by when she said the Creature had yellow eyes,” Copenhaver said. So the two actors who play the Creature in Denver will be wearing yellow color contacts, and their teeth will be fitted with iron. “But otherwise the monster will appear to be disturbingly normal,” Copenhaver said, in part to force audiences to confront their own feelings about difference and “otherness.” The less freakish this Creature looks, the more disturbing it should be that this society rejects him anyway. (Photo: Sullivan Jones and Charlie Korman by AdamsVisCom.)

3 PerspectivesJason Sherwood admitted that his vibrant scenic deign, which features one massive (and surprise) overhanging set piece, created a nightmare for Lighting Designer Brian Tovar and others on the creative team. Everywhere a lighting designer might normally expect to place lights, Sherwood has invaded his space with hanging set pieces, as well as accommodation for rain, snow and fire. “The whole team had to get creative all around because of me, and I apologize for that,” Sherwood said with a laugh.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

4 Perspectives Frankenstein PerspectivesActors Sullivan Jones and Mark Junek, the actors who will alternate playing the roles of Dr. Frankenstein and his Creature, have been encouraged to go their own ways – and that freedom affects everyone else on and around the stage. Said ensemble actor Molly Carden: “One thing Sam kept repeating to us was, ‘If you are going to have two people play the same role on different nights, you don’t want it to be the same performance. That would be antithetical to the whole premise.’ ” Or, as Buntrock puts it: “I can’t cram one person’s performance into another person’s. Sometimes I have to keep reminding myself that this show is not the same for both people. It can’t be.” That freedom not only means two actors interpreting the text differently, but also having the liberty to move about differently on the stage. That requires flexibility from the acting ensemble, the audience and even the technical crew – specifically, the person operating the lights. “That’s because Mark and Sullivan aren’t always in the same place on the stage each night, even though they are saying the same words,” actor Thaddeus Fitzpatrick said. (Photo: Sam Buntrock by By McKenzie Kielman for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

5 PerspectivesDenver Center newcomer Max Woertendyke plays a gentleman named Felix de Lacey, a man who is devoted to his family and mistress. In fact, Felix is kind, educated, and gentle to all — save for the poor monster. Just a few months ago, Woertendyke was part of the Broadway ensemble of A View From the Bridge, which won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. “Just to clarify – I don’t think I was the one who got it for us,” joked Woertendyke, who understudied the roles of Louis and Marco.

6 PerspectivesBonus: Mary Shelley’s source novel turns 200 years old this year. And yet surely some audience members will be experiencing the story for the first time. “I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone – but it’s about a monster,” Buntrock said with a laugh.

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

The next Perspectives will cover The Book of Will at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, in the Jones Theatre. It’s free.

Photo gallery: The making of Frankenstein in Denver:

'Frankenstein' in Denver

To see more photos, click the arrow on the image above. All photos by John Moore and McKenzie Kielman for the DCPA NewsCenter.

Frankenstein: Ticket information
Frankenstein• Through Oct. 30
• Stage Theatre
• ASL interpreted, Audio-described and Open Captioned performance: Oct. 23
• Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
• Groups: Call 303-446-4829 

Previous NewsCenter coverage:

Photos, video: Your first look at the making of Frankenstein
: On the making of a two-headed monster
Frankenstein and race: It IS a matter of black and white
Breathing life into the Frankenstein set: ‘It’s alive!
A Frankenstein ‘that will make The Bible look subtle
How Danny Boyle infused new life into Frankenstein
Casting set for Frankenstein and The Glass Menagerie
Introducing DCPA Theatre Company’s 2016-17 season artwork
Kent Thompson on The Bard, The Creature and the soul of his audience
2016-17 season announcement

Follow the DCPA on social media @DenverCenter and through the DCPA News Center

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