GREENFIELD — Frankenstein. For most of us, our imaginations immediately conjure up the oversized, green-tinted man-monster with the electrical nodes protruding from his neck. A creature of fiction, but also a creature of science — which makes Mary Shelley’s horror novel the perfect bridge between literature and STEM (science, between science, technology, engineering, math, medicine).
Author Mary Shelley died in 1851, but actress Adrienne Provenzano brings her back to life (no pun intended) in a free and open to the public one-woman show at 7 p.m. Monday at the Hancock County Public Library, 900 W. McKenzie Road.
During the 45-minute presentation, Provenzano uses replicas of artifacts from Shelley’s life — a notebook, a ring that belonged to Shelley’s mother, a brooch and some of Mary’s favorite books — to tell her story.
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“I reveal who she is and how she came to write the book ‘Frankenstein’,” Provenzano said.
And just like Shelley, Provenzano keeps the relics in a wooden box — the original of which is in a museum now, Provenzano said.
Dressed in a black skirt and blouse covered by a shawl, Provenzano portrays Shelley in a conversational way. Her monologue isn’t memorized, but she does memorize quotes from Mary’s writing and from books Mary read. Following her presentation, she answers questions from the audience first as Mary Shelley and then as herself.
Provenzano’s most recent performance at Silver Creek High School in Sellersburg was well-received, she thought.
“I could tell because the students were really focused. They had very thoughtful questions,” Provenzano said. “I really felt we were on this time travel journey together.”
The most interesting question Provenzano has fielded is one that she asks herself: why does this story endure?
“It deals with universal themes,” Provenzano said. “Life and death. Also love and loss. You can’t really get more basic than that.”
Provenzano’s performance is made possible through a grant to the Hancock Library from Indiana Humanities Quantum Leap initiative bridging the humanities and STEM through One State/One Story: Frankenstein.
“A Visit with Mary Shelley” is just one of dozens of speaker opportunities, activities and community events sponsored by Indiana Humanities as part of its two-year Quantum Leap initiative. Quantum Leap, according to Megan Tellgiman, Frankenstein Program Manager, was developed to explore the intersection between STEM and the humanities.
Indiana Humanities, a non-profit statewide organization dedicated to promoting the public humanities made grant money available for One State/One Story: Frankenstein. Barbara Roark, assistant director at the Hancock County Public Library jumped at the chance to bring some of the Frankenstein programming to the library in Greenfield.
Roark looks forward to Provenzano’s performance in March. As one of 70 recipients of humanities funding, Roark hopes to bring more of the One State/One Book: Frankenstein events to the library.
In September, Wabash College professor Matthew Weedman will bring “It’s Alive! Electricity, Cinema and Metaphor in ‘Frankenstein’” to the library.
One State/One Book: Frankenstein not only provides a common literary experience throughout the state, it coincides — not by accident — with the 200th anniversary of the publication of “Frankenstein.” Published in 1818 by a 19-year-old Mary Shelley, the book has stood the test of time through film adaptations, sequels, countless recreations of his image and a musical spoof.
As the story goes, Shelley and her husband poet Percy Bysshe Shelley were staying with friend Lord George Gordon Byron in Geneva, Switzerland. The weather was unseasonably gloomy and stormy, and the trio grew bored. They decided to compete with each other as to who could write the best ghost story. Mary Shelley was the only one to finish — the result: “Frankenstein,” a book that is still being read 200 years later.
With more than 100 hours of research into “Frankenstein” and Shelley’s out literary output, Provenzano casts her vote.
“If there was a winner,” Provenzano said, “that was probably it.”
Register to attend the free program “A Visit with Mary Shelley” at 7 p.m. Monday at the Hancock County Public Library, 900 W. McKenzie Road at hcplibrary.org.