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Publisher's Summary

In 1912, scientist Marie Curie spent two months on the British seaside at the home of Hertha Ayrton, an accomplished mathematician, inventor, and suffragette. At the time, Curie was in the throes of a scandal in France over her affair with Paul Langevin, which threatened to overshadow the accomplishment of her second Nobel Prize.

Performed by Kate Mulgrew and Francesca Faridany at the Minetta Lane Theatre, this play by Lauren Gunderson is an ode to two remarkable women who, despite tremendous personal and professional obstacles, continued to devote their lives to scientific innovation and social change.

Playwright Lauren Gunderson was awarded a commission through the Audible Emerging Playwrights Fund, an initiative dedicated to developing innovative original plays driven by language and voice. As an Audible commissioned playwright, she received funding and creative support to develop The Half Life of Marie Curie.

Directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch
Sound design by Darron L. West

©2019 Lauren Gunderson (P)2019 AO Media LLC

"I am as passionate about this title as Marie Curie and Herther Ayrton were about their science. Their discoveries and inventions are embedded one way or another in our daily lives. Kate Mulgrew [Marie] and Francesca Faridany [Herther] offer outstanding performances. It feels as if they are channeling the two women."

—Georgia A. N., Audible Listener

Go Behind the Scenes of The Half-Life of Marie Curie

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Our favorite moments from The Half-Life of Marie Curie

"We do things for people we love that make very little sense."
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"I might have finally stopped feeling, actually."
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"And yet here you are with more work to do, more to explore."
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  • The Half-Life of Marie Curie
  • "We do things for people we love that make very little sense."
  • The Half-Life of Marie Curie
  • "I might have finally stopped feeling, actually."
  • The Half-Life of Marie Curie
  • "And yet here you are with more work to do, more to explore."

About the Creator

Lauren has been one of the most produced playwrights in America since 2015. She is a two-time winner of the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award for I and You and The Book of Will, the winner of the Lanford Wilson Award and the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award, a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and John Gassner Award for Playwriting, and a recipient of the Mellon Foundation’s Residency with Marin Theatre Company. She studied Southern Literature and Drama at Emory University and Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School, where she was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. She co-authored the play Miss Bennet with Margot Melcon. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You; Exit, Pursued by a Bear; The Taming; and Toil And Trouble), Dramatists Play Service (The Revolutionists; The Book of Will; Silent Sky; Bauer; Natural Shocks; The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley; and Miss Bennet), and Samuel French (Emilie). Her picture book Dr. Wonderful: Blast Off to the Moon is available from Two Lions/Amazon.

About the Director

Gaye Taylor Upchurch has directed the world premieres and Off-Broadway productions of Anna Ziegler’s The Last Match (Roundabout and The Old Globe), Animal (with Rebecca Hall at Atlantic Theater; Studio Theatre; Helen Hayes nomination for best direction), and Bethany with America Ferrera (Women’s Project Theater and The Old Globe). Her other Off-Broadway credits include Simon Stephens’s Harper Regan and Bluebird with Simon Russell Beale (Atlantic Theater Company), Nancy Harris’s Our New Girl (Atlantic), and Lucy Thurber’s Stay (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater). Selected regional credits include Member of the Wedding (Williamstown), The Year of Magical Thinking with Kathleen Turner (Arena Stage), An Iliad (Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and West Point), and As You Like It (Hudson Valley and Folger Theater in Washington, DC; Falstaff Award for Best Production and nomination for Best Director).

About the Performer

Kate Mulgrew stars as Galina "Red" Reznikov, the tough Russian prison chef who is always keeping score, in the series Orange Is the New Black. She received a Critics Choice Television Award and a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her work. Mulgrew is internationally recognized as Captain Janeway, the first leading-role female captain in the Star Trek TV franchise in Star Trek: Voyager. Her career spans film, television, and the stage. Classically trained, she received a Golden Globe nomination at the age of 23 for her portrayal of Mrs. Columbo, the wife of the famous TV detective. Other notable television appearances include Kate Loves a Mystery, Cheers, Murphy Brown, St. Elsewhere, Ryan’s Hope, The Black Donnellys, Mercy, Warehouse 13, NTSF:SD:SUV::, and Mr. Mercedes. Film roles include Throw Momma from the Train, Star Trek: Nemesis, A Stranger Is Watching, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, and The Response. Mulgrew has toured throughout the United States as Katharine Hepburn in Tea at Five, for which she was nominated for Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel awards. Other theater credits include Equus, The American Dream, The Sandbox, Iphigenia 2.0 (for which she won an Obie), Our Leading Lady, Black Comedy, Titus Andronicus, and Somewhere Fun, all in New York. She performed in The Exonerated in London and regionally in The Royal Family, The Film Society, What the Butler Saw, Hedda Gabler, Measure for Measure, The Real Thing, Another Part of the Forest, Major Barbara, and Antony and Cleopatra. Her first book, Born with Teeth, a memoir about life lived to the fullest, made The New York Times best seller list. Her second book, How to Forget: A Daughter’s Memoir, was released in 2019. She resides in New York City.

About the Performer

Francesca Faridany is an accomplished stage and screen actress. Broadway: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; Macbeth; Man and Boy; The 39 Steps; and The Homecoming. Off-Broadway: This Day Forward; The NY Idea; Orlando; and The Stronger. Regional highlights: Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Carmel Bach Festival); 2013 Helen Hayes Best Actress Award for Strange Interlude (Shakespeare Theatre, DC); Julia in Albee’s A Delicate Balance (McCarter); title role in her own adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s Fräulein Else (Sundance Theater Lab, Berkeley Rep.; La Jolla; Long Wharf; McCarter Theaters); Narrator in the Sitwell/Walton Façade (Caramoor Music Festival); Cassandra in Agamemnon opposite Tyne Daly (Getty Villa); As You Like It (Shakespeare Theatre); and the many productions with director Stephen Wadsworth, including: As You Like It; The Oresteia; Don Juan; Design for Living; An Ideal Husband; Changes of Heart; and The Game of Love and Chance. Film: False Positive (2020); Black Panther; Love After Love; The Audition; Closing Night; and Conceiving Ada. Media: Lady Macbeth and Titania for the Wordplay Shakespeare series. Radio: Quartermaine’s Terms (BBC). TV: The Hunt; Bull; Manifest; FBI; Homeland; Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders; Falling Water; Law & Order: SVU; E.R.; and Deadline. Francesca trained in London at The Drama Centre.

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What listeners say about The Half-Life of Marie Curie

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    1 out of 5 stars
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A missed opportunity and a terrible depiction

While Hertha Ayrton's character came across as strong minded, empowered, intelligent, and intriguing, the portayal of Marie Curie as a whiny and overly emotional French floozy is downright irritating and a terrible depiction of an inspiring woman. This was an awesome (and missed) opportunity to tell the magnificent story of a heroine to science. What a dreadful and shameful representation of Marie Curie.

20 people found this helpful

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Not For Me

I was interested to learn more about Marie Curie after learning a bit about her in the Cosmos tv series. This wasn’t what I expected. There is a lot of language in this and the language itself doesn’t bother me. I can’t comment on how women of the 19th century spoke in private, but I have a hard time imagining it was like this. The bad language just feels like it’s very forced into this for no real purpose. The accents also came across as forced to me. There was very little about Marie’s accomplishments. It is primarily just drama surrounding her personal life, which was interesting to a degree, but I would have preferred hearing about all that in a documentary not a drama.

52 people found this helpful

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Powerful, Real & Moving

This emotionally-charged and thoughtful production piece not only opened my eyes to the social, societal, and scientific pressures,and political developments affecting the college-educated minority. To even begin to unravel how the few women, who entered into this elite class of working intellectuals, had to live and fight to carry out their chosen life work, careers and then again stay true to their families, loved ones clearly is an area of growing interest and importance. These pioneers set the stage for later female scientists and for the great revolutions in woman's work in the 20th century and today. This theatrical production hints at how much life has changed for women, but also how much so much is vague in terms of the power struggles still experienced by women --,especially in the physical sciences and t the upper/ top sectors. This theater gives the audience a thoughtful and arguably rather sweet and beautiful regard for the passions that keep one strong and vital even in the face of social inequality.

8 people found this helpful

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Came for the science left with the guilt

Ok, I want to start off by saying that it’s going to sound like I hated the story, and I didn’t, it’s just not what I had hoped for. Also, the performers were great, they transported me there, and had good conveyance of emotion. Here we have a great opportunity to peek inside the personal life one of the greatest scientific historical figures, and all we get is gossip and a second hand failed love story? There was a missed opportunity to show an EXAMPLE of a courageous woman showing how she demanded respect by being a truly amazing scientist., doing science stuff. But this story reduces her to gossip, complaining, bitterness, and misogyny. Why not throw a little science in there too? Why not touch on history, why just say “I’m so great, I’m so smart” when you could have shown us how? It’s ok to include this whole aspect of the story, but add to it, focus more on the ‘how’ and the ‘why’. I would have loved to hear more on the war aspect, in addition to the science aspect. I believe this story achieves the opposite effect of what they were going for when the reduced someone so amazing to a gossipy complainer, who ragged on how unfair those men are, disappointing.

112 people found this helpful

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Great show and audio book!

I saw the last showing of this in NY at Minetta Lane Theatre on Dec 22 and I loved it so when I returned home I downloaded it on Audible. Greatly enjoy being able to listen to it again anytime I want.

7 people found this helpful

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Definitely not a fan

I may be one of the few people who didn’t like this book. While I admit it was interesting historically (I certainly learned things about Marie Curie and Hertha Ayrton), it never engaged me. Neither character felt particularly believable - particularly Hertha’s character. It felt very much like a workshop piece, a play-in-development, that needed more time and effort to spring to life. It was actually hard for me to make it through 79 minutes.

39 people found this helpful

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French accent?

Do not understand Marie Curie's French accent considering that, while she lived as an adult in France, she was actually from Poland.

46 people found this helpful

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blah blah blah boring and pretentious

Take a good story and make it boring. Over acted and not interesting. Did not find this entertaining at all.

14 people found this helpful

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The accent...

So, first I think I’m just not a fan of audible dramas and maybe would have preferred a different genre for this (maybe something less casual)- thus, my four stars for story. However what got me most was the accent used for Marie Curie’s lines. It was a thick French accent even though she lived in Poland until her mid-twenties and was known to maintain a strong Polish identity even while in France. It’s unreasonable to expect her to have a strong French accent like that. Now maybe the point is she’s “speaking French” but doing it in English for us listeners, but it still took me out of the story too much. Might not bother many people- I just happen to be an academic in linguistics and can’t help listening to accents.

78 people found this helpful

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Feminist Foul Mouthed Fast-paced Fabulous

Fabulous Feminist Foul Mouthed Fast-paced show about Friendship. Will listen to again and again. Favorite line: I'm a mechanical engineer and mother of two. I can fix anything.

73 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for Shirley B.
  • Shirley B.
  • 12-05-19

The Half Life Of Marie Curie

Performances that take you to another place. Seeing as a play, watching the actors is one thing. This, as audio, is another journey, more powerful. Close your eyes and just listen. Become a part of their journey and 'live' it with them. Both actresses draw you in and spiritually you are there with them. Beautifully acted and written. You feel honoured to feel you are sharing their journey and their amazing friendship, their love for each other, these two amazing women. When I 'returned', face tear stained, my home was in darkness, because I had been truly 'away'. Thank you to all for my amazing journey with you, for allowing me the honour of sharing something which enriches me.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Funkgroover
  • 05-13-20

Brilliant! Engaging and informative.

Thoroughly enjoyable play. Really well performed. Highly recommend. Audible insists on more words blah blah blah.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • IM1
  • 04-28-20

Bellissimo

Simple stunning, surprisingly small yet supremely signidicant. will leave you in awe and wonder. Bellissimo!

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • H
  • 04-17-20

Still saving lives

This performance was brilliant, sounded like what a true long term friendship sounds like. The back and forth, giving up because your friend is overbearing but still going back into the fray. The story gives an insight to a woman who is still saving lives with her discovery and brilliant mind to this day, who knows how farther behind we would be medically if this wasn't discovered when it was and how to use it. I always enjoy a story that sparks an interest to find out more, about a person or a subject and this ticks the boxes.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Danny Ó Seachnasaigh
  • 05-29-20

Review

A brilliant listen with wonderful sound effects and production, Kate Mulgrew is terrific as always.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anna
  • 05-25-20

So beautiful story and performance. I recommend.

Very addictive story or two smart women told in the great way which makes you feel like you are part of the story of your life. I recommend to everyone.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 05-24-20

A good insight into her life

What a great story about a marvellous inspirational lady and her last years, when women scientists were looked down on by their male counterparts. Narrator was perfect for the roles. I really enjoyed listening to this piece of history

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Miss.E.B
  • 05-22-20

A Joy

I devoured this in one go. Simply wonderful. A story from the perspectives of two incredible women that had me laughing out loud one moment and feeling heartbreak the next. The performances were stellar. Kate is always a joy to listen to but Francesca really bought Marie to life. Highly recommended.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Beth
  • 05-21-20

Adored

Most beautiful, wonderful story I have ever heard, wonderfully told and tearfully received. I have no more words.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • SwissTony
  • 05-23-20

history through a distorted lens

Marie Curie was a genius and Hertha Ayrton was also brilliant but this play only sees them through 21st century feminist eyes and assigns them viewpoints they almost certainly didn't posses.

1 person found this helpful