The Genesis of "Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein."

As the *Composer/Lyricist/Writer of the Book of Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein, you might wonder about the genesis of this music drama. In the beginning, as Director of Music and Fine Arts and Chair of the Conservatory of Performing Arts at Point Park University, I intended it to be a piece of theatre with music suitable for a younger audience. In preparation for writing, I went back to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's original 2 editions of Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. Then, it occurred to me to check out Mary Shelley's life and her own genesis of this first real science fiction novel. That was it! Drawn into her life, her relationships with the men in the world in which she lived and her struggles as a woman in that time period, there was no going back. The more I read, the more I needed to find out! It became impossible for me to re-tell the Frankenstein story. It was the story of Mary Shelley and her Frankenstein that needed telling. One biography became a stack of books from every possible resource.

After more than three years of research and writing; the seeds of the music drama came to life on the printed page. Along the way, I discovered the parallels between Mary Shelley's story and our current world fascinating and eerily valid. Her strong philosophical and ethical points of view that come through this novel, mirror not only Mary's life but our own time as well. Mary Shelley was a woman far beyond her time, struggling to assert her right to be a woman- ruling from her heart yet needing to control her own destiny. It sounds almost like our own single mothers and women making their mark today. The play shows us Mary in the process of writing her famous novel, Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus, and how she came to write this first 'real science fiction' novel. We see scenes from her famous Frankenstein novel that present her with a difficult ethical problem: how to justify Frankenstein's quest to create an artificial man. We learn how her struggles as a woman influenced her writing. Mary Shelley pleads for a humanistic approach in science fully 80 years before the first successful prosthetic limb, 136 years before the first successful organ transplant-and the first robot. She believes that neglecting the human quality in a story or in life comes at a high price; Mary Shelley and Frankenstein share a tragic finale.

Her thoughts still jump off the page at me. Through the character of Frankenstein and the Creature, she warns that we must never use the science of creating life without carefully thinking through what motives are in our minds and hearts. Today, our explorations in the use of body parts, cloning, stem cell research are our own parallel Prometheus and Frankenstein projects. She urges caution in our use of new discoveries. 'Do not neglect the humanistic perspectives of anything we do' is her mantra.

Eight years and 7 re-writes later, a preliminary public reading and CD helped Tuesday Musical Club decide to take on this two hour production that is a juicy drama full of passion, anguish and science run amok set to music. The music plays a dramatic role in making this piece neither Opera-nor Singspiel-nor Musical Theater, but a different kind of music drama. We will see Mary as a woman far beyond her time, struggling to assert her right to be an independent feminist who controls her own destiny. The opportunity to finally bring "Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein" to full fruition as a work of musical and dramatic art will provide a meaningful and professionally finished production. **Tuesday Musical Club believes wholeheartedly in the value and artistic excellence that this project will represent as do all the renowned directing and technical people on board for the production. Music, words and story are seamlessly integrated into an innovative and artistic whole. With further sessions of a Dramaturg, terrific Stage and Music Directors, and a talented, musically well prepared Cast, it will be performance ready for Opening Night, November 12th, 2008.

*Shirley R. Barasch, Ph.D (Composer-Lyricist-Book)-teacher of singing, poet, composer-served as Chair, Conservatory of Performing Arts; Director of Music & Fine Arts and Artistic Director of 'The Pittsburgh Playhouse'-Point Park University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania -where she created the successful, "Starmakers Gala and the PAPA Award" raising money for the Conservatory and University. Original works include the musicals Alice in Wonderland; The Emperor's Nightingale; Rapunzel; Wind in the Willows; Robin Hood; Jubilee Journey; the plays: Little Red Riding Good; For Professional Purposes (3 one-acts); a Biblical Cantata: Out of This Heritage; ID, Five Songs for Baritone; Pages of a Diary, A Song Cycle for Soprano; a String Quartet in D (2005); Suite for Cello with Flute and Clarinet (2006-7);two short stories: The Chocolate Bar and The Library Card; and the music drama, Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein, premiering, 2008. Her art songs are frequently performed. Dr. Barasch has received a Warner Cable Television award; eleven ASCAP awards and many poetry prizes. As Professor Emerita of Point Park University, she continues teaching voice in her home studio as well as writing and composing. Her students perform all over the world and often show up for a vocal check-up between planes.

**Tuesday Musical Club (Producer), founded in 1889, is a small non-profit arts organization that provides free, daytime public concerts of classical music, scholarships for music students and opportunities for members gifted in performance and composition as well as those to whom music is a vital component of life. TMC has divisions in Strings, Piano, Vocal, Choral, Composition, and Opera. We serve musicians and music lovers and the community of Southwestern Pennsylvania. "Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein" will be presented during American Music Month.


Information submitted by:
Shirley R. Barasch, PH.D, Professor Emerita, Point Park University