For the upcoming week, Mary Shelley dramaturge Malvika Jolly will be guest posting here with all manner of dramaturgical research and documentation that goes into bringing our play to life! Here you will find short essays, photos & video from the rehearsal process, and other tasty tidbits that help us flesh out the social, political, and performative landscapes of “Mary Shelley Sees the Future”. This is part one in the series. You can find parts two, three, and four here.
Time-traveling Mary Shelley (Lindsey Tindall) and her father William Godwin (Rebecca Fletcher) pose for a family portrait in front of a storefront in Wicker Park, Chicago. Photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis
Mary Shelley (Tindall) gazes up at her younger half-sister Claire Jane Clairmont (Alexia Jasmene Meneely), who, at the tender age of sixteen, followed along with her sister and the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley as they eloped to France. What followed was eight years of poetry, scandal, song, travel, free love, and lore. Photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis
In the Runaways’ newest production, we delve into the interior worlds of one of the 19th century’s most radical— and scandalous— families. Visionaries and early drafters of many of the political and literary ideas we hold so dear— Feminism! Anarchism! Raising daughters as humans! The modern thriller! The gothic! The dystopian science fiction novel!
At the same time, the Godwin/Wollstonecraft family was subject to all the notoriety, accusations, and bad-reputation that, it would seem, comes folded into the alternative lifestyle.
By consequence, the characters that populate playwright Olivia Lilley’s play arrive already deeply interconnected by the threads of scandal: teenaged sisters conspiring their escape, suicide, poverty, elopements, serial marriages, dalliances, and numerous love affairs (past, present, and to come) all within the same incestuous circle, illegitimate children, abandoned lovers, group sex, and the ghosts of children lost and miscarried.
In her time-traveling epic, playwright Olivia Lilley chooses to hone in on the two sisters Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont and their (delightfully cross-cast) parental figure William Godwin. Together, the two Wollstonecraft sisters navigate a world of harsh propriety and rigid social conduct as women who have returned to mainstream society and find themselves painted scarlet.
But wait! We can’t forget Mary Wollstonecraft, mother to Mary Shelley. Nor should we forget the eldest Wollstonecraft sister, Fanny Imlay (whose story is diffused into Claire’s in our play). Both are characters who— though technically absent from the world of our play— still hold a palpable presence.
Here is an introduction— a family portrait— of the Wollstonecraft sisters and their progenitors.
(John Keenan, 1787)
~ M A R Y W O L L S T O N E C R A F T ~
“A brilliant star in her firmament”, describes Moyra Davey in her film/essay on Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughters The Wet and the Dry. Continue reading