Frankenstein: That Isn’t The Creature’s Name


photo courtesy of Alex Weiss

Olivia Near rehearses a scene.

Frankenstein—everyone knows who that is. Or, they think they do! That isn’t the creature’s name: he is referred to as “the Creature,” one of many things Inkwell learned after interviewing the play’s main leads, Olivia Near (USG ‘24) and Seth Dugan (USB ‘23), and Scott Campbell, director and Kemper Center theatre manager.

The play “Frankenstein,” based on the novel by Mary Shelley, is about a doctor who successfully brings a creature to life and the tragedy that follows. “Actually, this was brought to me by Annie Green,” Campbell said about the choice of “Frankenstein” as this semester’s production. “She had a familiarity with the theatre that originally produced it, which was Book-It Theatre in Seattle.” 

Near, who plays the role of Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist, described the plot, saying, “It’s about a doctor who got too swept up in his science to understand the Creature he’s creating and the consequences of his bad parenting of the creature he creates in an area that he tries to play god.”  

“He’s definitely a very emotional role, which isn’t necessarily me as a person, and he has very different views than mine. But it’s really interesting to try and figure out how to portray that really well and be a person I really am not,” Near said, describing her view on the doctor. “We have an amazing director and assistant director and I think the special effects are going to be amazing.” 

She stated her favorite parts about the production: “I think that the set is going to be gorgeous, the actors that we have are just so phenomenal. Everyone is so great to act with and everyone takes it so seriously and it’s a really special production—I love acting.” Near added why she was interested in joining the production: “I also really like the story of ‘Frankenstein’ and darker plays because I think they have more room for trauma and really deep emotions.” Olivia Near commented: “I also want you to come out of the show really understanding what the protagonist did wrong and really understanding why that was an issue, and I think the play helped express it in a more visual way that the book doesn’t.” 

Seth Dugan, who plays the role of the Creature, describes the plot from the Creature’s perspective. Dugan says, “‘Frankenstein’ is a play about a dude named Victor Frankenstein who creates the Creature and basically abandons it. [The play] details the story about how that affects his life and how the Creature deals with that, and how that one event spiraled into this huge catastrophe.” When asked about his connection to the character he plays, he stated, “He’s a very tortured character. He was born and abandoned and he’s supernatural, ‘cause he’s a monster of course. His ability is pretty [super]natural; he can do things humans can only dream of. He learns a language in a few days, it seems. So to have that but also be a baby with no parenting makes him a very conflicted, very philosophical character, but also very immature character. He seems like a very relatable character in a way. The pain of him not being wanted, the pain of not being accepted anywhere, resonates with a lot of people so I can really try and tap into that.”  Dugan also discussed his favorite part of the play as, “the philosophical ideas about the creature…the very interesting questions about life, parenting, hubris.” 

Both Dugan and Near praised Campbell for his work as director. Dugan said of Campbell’s blocking, “the way Mr. Campbell worked around the oddities [of] how the play was written actually elevates the writing.” Near said,I really like Annie Wright’s plays. I think that Scott Campbell, our director, is so amazing and he just makes me really want to act because he’s such an amazing director and he’s so committed to our theater productions. It makes me want to have the same level of commitment, so I just think it’s a really interesting dynamic that he creates within the cast.”

Campbell also explained the precautions taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic: “We’re doing it in a round, only seating 15 people per show, to reduce risks. We’re all wearing masks all the time, in rehearsal and in performance.” According to Campbell, “There’s lots of special effects [and] makeup for the show, because it’s the nature of the show. So we’re gonna be incorporating masks into those special effects.” He also noted the obstacles COVID-19 has caused: “It’s hard to project your voice with the mask on, so that’s gonna be a challenge for the audience, but the actors will get it.” Mr. Campbell then revealed his plans for future productions, saying, “One play that I definitely want to do is ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde. [I’m also]looking at a tiny boutique musical called ‘The Fantastics,’ maybe we’ll do that too.” 

Lastly, Campbell voiced his message to those who are thinking of joining future productions: “Give it a whirl, you are qualified. Just by being a human being, you’re qualified to do theatre.”