Theater & Dance

By: Kit Wilder, adapted from "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus," by Mary Shelley
Produced by: City Lights
Directed by: Kit Wilder
Featuring: Nick Mandracchia as The Creature, Max Tachis as Victor Frankenstein, Roneet Aliza Rahamim as Elizabeth, Jeremy Ryan as Henry Clerval, Steve Lambert as Alphonese, Ross Arden Harkness as Professor Waldman/OldMan, Nicholas Papp as William/A Boy, Caitlin Papp as Agatha, Alexander A. Draa as Felix/A Man, and Kassia Bonesteel as Mathilde/Citizen.
When: Previews March 23, 24; opens March 25; runs through April 23, 2017
Where: City Lights, 529 South Second Street, San Jose
Tickets: $19-$42 (discounts available for seniors, students/educators and groups of ten or more). Visit or call 408-295-4200

Kit Wilder
Courtesy of Kit Wilder
Kit Wilder directs a show at City Lights, circa 2015. His adaptation of "Frankenstein" opens March 25, 2017, and runs through April 23, 2017, at City Lights in San Jose.
'Frankenstein': Creating life
in hubris-ridden Silicon Valley
Kit Wilder writes a script based on classic tale
told by Mary Shelley two hundred years ago
March 24, 2017

There is a certain poetry involved in the idea of using Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus" for a new play in the heart of Silicon Valley.

"We wanted to do something about art and technology," said Kit Wilder, who wrote and directed the "Frankenstein" that opens on Saturday at City Lights in San Jose. "And it is the 200th anniversary of 'Frankenstein,' a novel of conflict and the overweening desire for human advancement."

Shelley, who started the novel when she was 18 and published it when she was 20, was involved in a challenge among friends to come up with the best horror story. The story is that she thought about it for days, then dreamt of a scientist who created life, then was horrified by what he had done.

What better place to warn of the arrogance of out-of-control engineers and scientists than that this hothouse of technology that has changed the world?

"We were also interested in the idea of empathy," said Wilder. "The plight of the aliens, the unwanted. We wanted to shine a light on empathy through storytelling."

The idea for adapting Shelley's novel mostly came from Lisa Mallette, City Lights executive artistic director, said Wilder.

But the writing of if was left to Wilder, who is associate artistic director at City Lights, and the co-author, with Jeffrey Bracco, of "Truce: A Christmas Wish from the Great War," which City Lights premiered in 2015.

"After reading the novel and thinking about it, it's taken a year to get to draft number 7," Wilder said during a recent phone interview from his San Mateo home. "I tend to to write quickly, once it percolates a while. You know the quote, write drunk and edit sober. The writing happened quickly, and then there is lots of tinkering and reshaping. With a play, you really don't know what you have till you get it on its feet and hear it out loud."

Wilder, who is all things theater — actor, director, playwright, grants writer and probably every other job that can be done in any building housing a stage — says this "Frankenstein" will use techniques that are new to City Lights.

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"We're using projection mapping, cutting-edge projections," Wilder said. "The story is being told through actors, plus the projections ... it tells the many things that happen to the creature."

Shelley's book, considered to be the first science-fiction novel, becomes a "cautionary tale," Wilder said, about overreaching technology, set at the advent of the industrial revolution, and the end of the romantic era.

"We tell some of it through the eyes of the creature, as someone created and abandoned," said Wilder, noting that society is now overwhelmed by people who need all the help society can give them.

"Take a drive. How many hold up signs, 'Will work for food,' 'Father of 3 needs help.' All these people who need help ... society is filled with people we don't want to look at — the disenfranchised. Anybody who is shunned, avoided . ... You don't have to look farther than a newspaper. We have this president who is closing doors to people from some countries, people from Syria who can't find a home. ...

"Metaphorically speaking — depending on religious beliefs — we've all been created and abandoned, born and left to do the best we can."

To Wilder, it is significant that Shelley never gave the creature a name.

"It's emblematic that he has no parentage. He's been abandoned to the world, ill-equipped. He has to find his way the best he can."

Wilder, who has acted on stages from London to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, said "Frankenstein" is "a story about ideas. The novel is not stage worthy — it takes a lot of doing to get it stage worthy. ... There are some sequences of physical movement and horror, but mainly it is a story of ideas and relationships."

He notes that for "Frankenstein" purists, who know the novel backward and forward, "We're not putting the novel on stage — we're putting a play on stage. But, we remain true to its ideas and my perceived intent of the novel."

Email John Orr at

Max Tachis
Taylor Sanders / City Lights
Max Tachis as Victor Frankenstein must decide the fate of many whom he holds dear in “Frankenstein," playing at City Lights in San Jose, March 23 through April 23, 2017. The show was written and directed by Kit Wilder.
Wilder, Louie, Chu
Mike Ko /
Kit Wilder as French diplomat René Gallimard recalls the travails of his life in China in "M. Butterfly" by David Henry Hwang. Behind him are N. Louie as opera singer Song Liling, left, and Christina Chu as Comrade Chin. The show, staged by City Lights in San Jose, runs March 19 through April 19, 2015.
Rider, Wilder, Crane
Scott DeVine / TheatreWorks
Swordfighting coach Jonathan Rider, left, demonstrates a killing movement for actor J. Anthony Crane, who plays the title role in the TheatreWorks production of "Cyrano." On the floor during the rehearsal is Kit Wilder, also a fighting coach, and also in the cast of "Cyrano."