Camp highlights six degrees of separation

Published 10:03 pm Friday, December 20, 2019

Camp Community College adjunct English instructor Bill Camp made a fitting presentation during the month of October at the Isle of Wight County Museum. Titled “Six Degrees of Separation: Smithfield and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” the information Camp provided highlighted connections between the town and the famed author’s “Modern Prometheus.”

Six degrees of separation refers to the concept that any person is connected to another by no more than six links or acquaintances. Camp, a Suffolk resident, presented to the audience that the show boat, James Adams Floating Theatre, made a dozen stops in Smithfield on its cruises up and down the mid-Atlantic Coast during the early 20th century.

He told them how novelist Edna Ferber actually cruised on the James Adams to conduct research for her book, “Show Boat,” which was published in 1926.

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According to Camp, there were several adaptations of “Show Boat” to film. The 1936 version was directed by James Whale, who also directed the “Frankenstein” adaptation in 1931. “This was the strongest link between Mary Shelley’s novel and Smithfield,” said Camp. “Whale also directed the Frankenstein sequel, ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ in 1935, as well as the musical, ‘Show Boat,’ which was an adaptation of the Ferber novel.”

The Blackwater Regional Library also participated in the event, showcasing their related collection of books and encouraging more reading and research, according to Director of the Isle of Wight County Museum Jennifer England. The library also led activities for attendees.

“Bill’s presentation was wonderful,” England said. “It was a great discussion of the history of Frankenstein, the literary history of Mary Shelley’s writing and the golden era of film.”

She noted that the museum has some displays and information about the floating theater and Ferber’s “Show Boat.”

“We are going to incorporate his ‘Six Degrees’ into the reworking of our exhibit,” she said. “We are also looking forward to other presentations with Bill in the coming year.”

Camp received a scholarship last year from the Horror Writers Association to support his work on a non-fiction book that will examine how the story was interpreted and presented at different times in our history and across cultural lines.

For more information, contact Bill Camp at For more information about the Isle of Wight County Museum, visit