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The woman behind the monster

By Michael Harrington • Jun 30, 2017 at 9:00 AM

MILAN — Frankenstein lives — and so does his author! At least, they did for Milan’s Chautauqua performance Thursday night.

The third night of the Ohio Humanities’ week-long event featured Susan Marie Frontczak’s portrayal of Frankenstein’s author, Mary Shelley, in the town square as part of a live re-enactment. So far the group has also re-enacted the lives and lessons learned from Marie Curie and Chief Cornstalk.

“Frankenstein helps us have conversations about Bio-ethics,” Ohio Humanities executive director Pat Williamsen said.

“Mary Shelley is more about messing with the natural world. What might the consequences be?” Frontczak said of how Shelley fit into the tour’s theme of the natural world.

Mary Shelley was born Mary Godwin, the daughter of influential feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Frontczak’s portrayal of the author highlighted her creation of the novel.

Mary and her future husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, were visiting Switzerland with the poet Lord Byron. Bryon proposed that they each write a ghost story to alleviate their boredom.

On a dark stormy night, Mary Shelley envisioned Victor Frankenstein and his monstrous creation. Shelley anonymously published “Frankenstein” in 1816.

“Frankenstein” explores the dangers of messing with forces outside of humankind’s understanding. The ethics of messing with life was once science fiction, but now that genetic engineering, human cloning and artificial intelligence are all possibilities Shelley’s novel can be read in new light as a cautionary tale of when science goes too far.

The performance ended with Frontczak answering audience questions as Mary Shelley.

“Quite an impressive performance both for those familiar with Shelley’s work and those who are not,” said viewer Chris Ceccoli of Norwalk.

“I enjoyed hearing about the competition proposed by Lord Byron,” Joan Crock, of Huron, added.

Ohio Chautauqua continues Friday night with Dianne Moran’s portrayal of primatologist and mountain gorilla conservationist Dian Fossey.

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