February 8, 2010

Frankenstein's monster comes to life on Theater Emory stage

“It’s alive!  It’s alive!”  The iconic words from the original 1931 film thunder through the Schwartz Center Theater Lab. Adapted and directed by Jon Ludwig of the world-renowned Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, “Frankenstein” at Theater Emory is an adult puppet play based on the classic story by Mary Shelley.

“I envision presenting the story as a ceremony/danse/ritual in the ‘Church of Frankenstein,’” explains Ludwig. “Even the audience is expected to participate in the ceremony; they will scrub and be put into operating gowns before they are allowed in the space — which will be like an 1800s operating theater/temple/graveyard.”

Originally commissioned and produced for the 1996 Olympic Arts Festival, “Frankenstein” was heralded as a highlight and received national and international acclaim. Ludwig wanted to create Victor Frankenstein’s world, melding the style of the romantic Gothic novel with the dynamics of religion.

Using masks, puppets and object manipulation, the actor and puppeteer chorus will create the characters. But the production is not presented solely as voodoo for the stage — Ludwig instead created his own ritual using “the cautionary, pseudo-scientific story of Frankenstein as the sermon.”  Music will play a key role in this production, with piano incorporated with the drum as an element of the romantic Gothic period.

In Theater Emory’s 25-plus year history this is only the second puppet production that has been staged.  Artistic Director John Ammerman invited Ludwig and other professional puppeteers and musicians to Theater Emory to stage “Frankenstein” to provide the student cast members with the unique opportunity to work with master puppeteers and to learn the puppetry arts skills required to bring this story — and monster — to life.

Of this production, Ludwig muses, “I do not seek to illustrate Shelley’s text but to present the story in a dreamlike, phantasmagorical, visual-based world that astonishes, transforms and challenges the participants.”

The performances are Feb. 18-27 at 7 p.m. in the Schwartz Center’s Theater Lab.

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