Life of physicist and chemist, Marie Curie comes to the McKinney

Susan M. Frontczak, pictured at the far right, shows younger students the chemist desk of Marie Curie last Friday at the McKinney Theatre after the performance of “MANYA: The Living History of Marie Curie.” (Photograph/Hannah Tavares)

Click here for Marie Curie Audio interview

A two-act play, entitled “MANYA: The Living History of Marie Curie”, was performed and written by Susan Marie Frontczak at the McKinney Theatre Friday, Sept. 5 at Saddleback College.

“I heard from my daughter this was going to be a great show,” said Marie Thwah, a retired university professor of nursing from Western Pennsylvania.

Susan M. Frontczak, writer and performer of MANYA: The Living History of Marie Curie, answers questions after her performance last Friday at the McKinley Theatre. (Photograph/Hannah Tavares)

Susan M. Frontczak, writer and performer of “MANYA: The Living History of Marie Curie,” answers questions after her performance last Friday at the McKinney Theatre. (Photograph/Hannah Tavares)

During the opening act, the main character, Manya, was introduced.  As a child, Manya was given the Polish name, Marie Curie,  Her love for science grew, as she explored the natural surroundings of the countryside in Warsaw, Poland.  This, in turn lent itself to her future work.

Several focal points of the play included Curie’s scientific research, her school studies, her life in France and her well known Nobel Prize discovery of the periodic table element, Radium.

Her research focused mainly on radio activity. She was able to study freely at Sorbonne University in France, where she obtained a post-graduate degree in Physics and the Mathematical Sciences, known as Licenciateships.

“Marie Curie felt strongly about Poland being its own country and while in France, she loved the [presence of] freedom,” said Frontczak, director and writer of the play.

Fame was a distraction to Curie’s life-work. She was bombarded with letters that she felt compelled to read and acknowledge and was further distracted by numerous invitations to parties and events.

“I have lost the hope of becoming anybody a long time ago,” Curie once quoted.

Her love for science was more important than world recognition.

The play attracted Saddleback science instructor, Jim Repka, who knew much about the element Curie was working with.

“The play was accurate. Radium has to be extracted from using a weak acid in a process called fractional distillation and when the acid evaporates, the remaining residue becomes radium or pitch blend,” Repka said. “This element has been used in the past for ceramic paints as well as on watch handles because it lights up. However, with today’s research, ceramics like Fiesta Wear have been pulled from shelves. No one should ingest this component, but it’s still used today for X-ray technology.”

Repka also mentioned that, “During the mid 19th century the periodical element table was being put together and that’s why there are empty squares at the bottom of the chart.”

“In France, Curie’s notes can be visited, but to do so, one has to wear radio active protection gear,” Repka said.

Frontczak wrote the play with science and theatre in mind as both interests had been interwoven during her life.

“I started doing plays when I was age 5 and I started doing math puzzles with my father at age 5,” Frontczak said.

She wrote her first play at the age of 17 and went off to college to get a degree in engineering.  Her written work has attracted individuals in the field of science to come see the show.


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