BWW Interview: Director, Jack Hartman of FRANKENSTEIN at The Belmont Theatre
Jack Hartman has been a practicing trial and health law attorney in Central Pennsylvania for over forty years.Favorite acting roles include Petruchio in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, Lord Capulet from ROMEO AND JULIET, and Roy Cohen in ANGELS IN AMERICA. He was nominated for best supporting actor at the DC Film and Music Festival for his role as the ghost Dad in an independent film entitled LILLY'S THORN. Recently. he has appeared on stage at the Belmont Theatre as William Gillette in POSTMORTEM, Van Helsing in DRACULA, Duff in LANDSCAPE, and Atticus in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.
Directing credits include the award-winning ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, ELLIS ISLAND: DREAM OF AMERICA (recently performed with the York Symphony Orchestra), HARVEY, DUTCHMAN, and most recently, WHO'S AFRAID OF Virginia Woolf, at the Belmont.
BWW: You previously played Van Helsing in Dracula. You, now, directed Frankenstein. You have a pretty good appreciation of the two most iconic monsters of all time. In your opinion, who would win in a fight between Dracula and Frankenstein? Who would you be rooting for?
JH: Dracula, because of his special powers, would likely prevail. The Creature of Frankenstein is limited to human powers, albeit greater than normal strength. Also, Dracula's whole existence is dependent on violence against humans and his cunning ways. The Creature never intended to do harm to anyone until he was reviled and betrayed by his creator, Frankenstein, and then only intentionally harmed him and his fiancé as retribution, and in prelude to ending his own existence. I would root for the Creature, but am afraid that he would be outplayed in a battle with Dracula.
BWW: The characterization of Frankenstein's Monster has been open to dozens of popular interpretations over the years. Various stories have emphasized the horrific, the tragic, the comedic, or some combination of three. Where does your production's monster fit on this spectrum?
JH: As you might have guessed from the first response, I see this script version as portraying the Creature sympathetically. There is no comedy here, and if the audience can suspend reality long enough to accept the premise of a created being I hope to tell the story from the Creature's perspective. He was rejected, reviled, hurt and betrayed by everyone who had a role in his creation. The scenes with DeLacey, the blind hermit who befriends and teaches him, will establish what might have been. The result of DeLacey's death is tragic and horrific for those left in the path of the Creature's revenge.
BWW: Stephen King asserts the horror stories are often grounded in conservative themes. For example, in slasher movies, teens are often killed while engaging in "immoral behaviors" while the "good girl" gets to live to the end. Do you feel that there is credence to this notion in Frankenstein, regarding what it has to say about the responsibilities of parenthood?
JH: Mary Shelley's book was subtitled: The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus, in Greek mythology, created mankind and then stole fire from Mt. Olympus to give to the humans, and was punished for doing so. The script references this analogy several times, as Frankenstein has given life to a being, but assumes no responsibility for nurturing and caring for that life. DeLacey represents all that is good in that regard, but the outcome is driven by the Creature's need to seek revenge and retribution. Elizabeth, the intended bride of Frankenstein, is the most innocent victim. Her death is made all the more tragic and horrific because the Creature chooses to kill her, as Frankenstein killed (failed to follow through on his promise to create a mate) the Creature's intended bride, solely to get his final retribution against Frankenstein.
BWW: Prior to Frankenstein, Belmont's Black Box Theater has hosted some particularly creepy or potentially off-putting productions, including ones featuring vampires, circus freaks, and patients in a mental institution. How does such an intimate setting influence the audience's experience and comfort level?
JH: The author of this script actually wrote in his production notes: "It is unlikely that Frankenstein will ever be done as a 'black box' play...". We are taking on quite a task to try to do it with all the heavy production values and special effects, but if we pull it off as expected, the effect on the audience to be that close to the action will be spectacular. I love directing in the black box for that reason, and hope to rise to the challenge again with this production. The audience is sure to be startled, scared, repulsed and intrigued. How else they react emotionally will depend on which characters they align with in the story line. Even if you feel sorry for the Creature, however, we have some surprising ways for people to die that will be sure to draw some reaction to the violence to which he is driven.
Belmont Theatre's production of Frankenstein is full of Halloween tricks and treats from October 20-29th. Tickets and more information can be found here.
Patrons are urged to buy tickets early, since some recent black box show have sold out prior to opening night.