Question and Answers:

We had the opportunity to sit down with writer and composer Shirley Barasch and ask her a couple of questions about her upcoming play, "Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein." (Our questions are in bold with Shirley's direct answers in plain text)


What is unique about Mary Shelley's life and why is her story so significant to us in this ever changing global economy?

Mary Shelley's life is unique in that she was raised by a father who believed in free love; influenced by her mother's book which espoused the rights of women; but then was criticized for actually practicing those dictates. She ran away with Percy Shelley at age 16 even though he was still married; survived hardship and the loss of children; wrote an imaginative and thought provoking ghost story and was indeed a single mother who raised her only living son, Percy, to manhood on her own efforts.

What moral and ethical parallels would you say are overwhelmingly true between Mary Shelley and her Frankenstein?

I am not sure you mean Frankenstein but the Creature? The creature was her moral and ethical voice. Frankenstein represented the opposites of what she felt was necessary-mostly the men who surrounded her as well as her own internal doubts about what caused the death of her loved ones.  She felt we needed to keep a strong ethical and moral perspective and to be accountable for the results of our experimentation and scientific explorations.

Mary Shelley's Modern Prometheus is the first science fiction novel about man creating man and the creation of artificial intelligence. Today it is no longer fiction with cloning and stem cell research at the forefront of modern science and research. What lessons from this fictional documentary do you believe our generation should employ with our ever growing technological advancements and our urge to create artificial intelligence?

We need to be aware of what could happen when we simply take for granted that all discoveries are for good and progress is  enough reason for allowing disaster to kill many in order to serve others. Is the end worth the means? Some care nothing for the secondary spill over. We have already been guilty of trying out drugs on unknowing people who become guinea pigs and die or are permanently damaged. We used mentally ill people to test removing the frontal lobe with great damage to many; we had no idea what the atom bomb would do even though scientists warned us; the Germans used female subjects for sterilization projects; etc., etc. Even the cloning of Dolly the sheep has had consequences for nature. It is not that creating artificial intelligence or miracle drugs are negative, but that we must be ready and able to understand and accept moral responsibility for good as well as bad results. We should not try to dump our errors the way we dump toxic waste which in itself is a negative responsibility.

Mary Shelley was a woman before her time, a young teenager, a feminist, sexual creature, struggling against religious beliefs, social restrictions and a male dominated society. Now in the 21st century still many young women around the world face these same difficulties as sexuality and violence have become the corner stone of entertainment. By highlighting these struggles, what implications for the future do you foresee? 

There have always been violent presentations and attacks on those weaker than others. We just see them in the forefront of our lives thanks or no thanks to the Progress of communication-a good example of not being morally or ethically aware of how inventions can wreak unknown havoc.  Human nature takes advantage of the weak; the concept of mob mentality and Svengali personalities are nothing new to our society world wide! Society needs to provide ongoing education in the treatment and respect of all creatures human and animal as well as an understanding of the preservation of our environment. We have allowed governments and corporations unbridled laissez faire with imagery and senseless use of our resources in the name of progress. I am not against freedom of speech or press but we need to know how to protect the very young and  those unable to protect themselves from  undue influences that are violent. Violence is a learned thing. We need to balance what children are exposed to when they cannot perceive the result of such actions on others. Although the protection of women and children has made progress, many people are still apathetic about human rights of minorities and those who are voiceless in our world. Guns and bombs and explosives strapped to young people's bodies never solves any problem. Praising heroic actions is one thing; promoting violence is another turn of the coin. We legislate against love often in its most innocent forms; and congratulate those who shoot down many! Something is wrong with this perspective!!

It is rumored that Mary Shelly at the time of her husband's death had his heart removed from his chest and that she carried it in her purse until her death. What is the significance of this as it relates to your musical and her search for love and romance?

IT WAS NOT A RUMOR. IT WAS A FACT. This was a custom of the day! Often, some part of the beloved dead was preserved and kept for many years or buried in some special location. "Trelawney", a character in the play, was an actual participant in the late life of the Shelley family. It was he who plunged his hand into the incinerating body of Percy Shelley and removed the heart. It is a true event. I, however, in the lyrics gave it a heightened symbolic importance for her undying love for her husband. She was a true romantic and it underlined this aspect of her devotion to him.

Do you have any writing tips for your fans and all the aspiring singers out there?

Writing is a frustrating and lonely business. You need to suffer rejection many times over and then pick up the pen again and continue writing. It is also an expensive undertaking with postage, submission costs, duplicating expenses, etc. But if you feel you have something worth saying to others, then do not give up. Out there, some one person will be interested. Look how long it has taken me.
As for singing! There is no substitute for a good voice teacher who is interested in you as an individual and providing you with technique that will undergird your own personal sound.  Make sure that you have a teacher of technique first and foremost and then a style coach after you know how to do the job. Do not hire an expensive accompanist in lieu of a real teacher. But above all, go out and sing and perform anywhere for anyone who will listen as much as you can. Experience is the next greatest factor in success. Whether you write songs, stories or poems, you need to believe in yourself and take the steps to help improve your deficits. . Inspiration is 95% perspiration. Take criticism intelligently and don't collapse at the first negative statement. Remember.being in the right place at the right time sometimes has a lot to do with your final success. BE READY! There are many people who sincerely want to help you along the way. Listen and Evaluate before you jump into anything unknown. On the other hand risk is attendant to all success.  PREPARE! WORK! REHEARSE! WORK! RE-WORK! DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN! RE-WRITE AND START ALL OVER FROM THE GET GO IF NECESSARY. BUT STUDY AND FIND A PERSON WHO WILL BE HONEST WITH YOU. HOPE FOR A BREAK AND DON'T WHINE IF SOMEONE ELSE GETS IT. YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOUR TURN WILL COME. And remember-work if you can in your field of choice even if the job is not the lead part or what you want to do. Sometimes, the back door can become the front door. In the mean time, do not give up your day job! The long suffering, starving artist is a romantic myth!

Any last thoughts for our readers?

I really appreciate that you are interested in my work and in my thoughts. That means a lot to me. Thank you.