Natalie Osborne discusses her new play MAKING FRANKENSTEIN. This is the third in a series of four posts featuring the playwrights of the Bennington 365 Women a Year Festival.
Q: How did you hear about 365 Women a Year?
A: I found it on Facebook while I was searching the interwebs one day and signed up immediately! I think this project shows what a great tool social media can be for connecting artists (or anyone really) and allowing them to reach a common goal.
Q: Why did you choose Mary Shelley as your historic woman? What drew you to her?
A: I’ve actually wanted to write a piece about Mary Shelley for a long time, but I was worried about doing her justice. This chick was still a teenager, and she managed to not only finish a novel, but write a masterpiece, and create an entirely new genre of literature! She had already co-written and published several books with Percy Shelley before writing Frankenstein, which is something I don’t think most people know about. When I first started seriously writing fiction as a teenager, knowing that she had been able to do so much at such a young age became a huge inspiration/motivation for me (it still is)! Writing a play about her, however, was still intimidating.
I had it in my head that there were all these books I had to read and research I had to do before I could start. Then one summer I signed up for 31 Plays in 31 Days, which is similar to NaNoWriMo for playwrights (you have to write one new play every day of the month). By the end of the month, I was running out of ideas, and decided, “sure, why not write that play about Mary Shelley.” That ended up being the first draft of Making Frankenstein.
Q: Can you walk me through the process of adapting a persons life for the stage? What were some of the challenges? What parts really clicked together?
A: The biggest challenge for me was getting started. I had to let go of the idea that I needed to know absolutely everything about Mary Shelley before I could write. After that, I was able to let myself explore, and the rest of the play came pretty quickly. With this play, I knew I wanted to focus on the night when she wrote the first draft of Frankenstein. I wanted to explore what could have possibly been going through this women’s head when she came up with this idea! I directed most of my research towards the “moment before,” so I could know what place the characters were in the night Frankenstein was born. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that Mary and Percy’s relationship was not an easy one, the couple faced more than their fair share of tragedy. Although Mary was still a teenager when she wrote the novel, she had already experience more of life than a person twice her age.
Q: What are you most excited about for the reading on the 27th? What are you most nervous about?
A: I can’t wait to see the play read aloud by actors! I’m really lucky to have four very talented performers in the piece, and I’ve enjoyed working with them. I don’t think I could have asked for a better cast.
That being said, I always feel nervous before a play reading. There’s the question of, did I do enough? Did did I do enough rewrites? Will people understand this? Is it funny enough? And my personal favorite, but what if no one shows up….but what if they DO show up?! It’s nerve-wracking to have worked on a piece and then having to throw it out into the world and see how people react to it.
Q: Are there any playwrights that inspired you while you were working on this piece, or who inspire you in general?
A: Five Lesbian Brothers, Sarah Ruhl, Carol Churchill, and Lisa D’amore are writers who’s plays I’m currently obsessed with
Q: What has been your favorite aspect of working with 365 Women a Year?
A: I just love being part of this awesome group of ladies (and gents) and seeing the amazing work that’s come out of this collaboration. We have 200 plus plays written and dozens of productions happening around the world! That’s pretty incredible.
Q: Do you have any advice for the playwrights joining 365 Women a Year in 2015?
A: WRITE! YOU MUST WRITE! (Ok, so that might have been a little overdramatic, can you tell I do theater?) In all seriousness, you need to take that first step into writing, don’t let the fear of not knowing enough hold you back. I learned a great quote this winter from a fellow playwright, “researching is a great way to procrastinate from writing without feeling like you’re procrastinating.” In other words, don’t do what I did, because it took me years to finally bring myself to put the words on the page. Once I did, I realized I had the story there all along, I just needed to do the work.
Natalie Osborne is a Senior at Bennington College studying Theatre and Anthropology. She likes to tell weird, fun, feminist, queer friendly, and fantastical stories (sometimes all at once). She’s had two readings at Classic Theatre of Harlem in their Playwright’s Playground Program, and has worked with La Mama Theatre in New York City, The Kattaikkuttu Sangam in Punjarasantankal India, and The Athena Project in Denver, Colorado. She’s now super excited about being involved in this project with all these other fabulous playwright ladies! You can see her play MAKING FRANKENSTEIN at the Bennington College Student Center on March 27th, at 7:40pm. Or watch the online stream on HowlRound TV
To see the other post in this series, click on one of the links below: