I am delighted to announce we have completed the performance version of the script for Mrs. Hawking part 4: Gilded Cages!
This script represents a huge step forward for the series. A major goal of each successive installment is to bring something new to the series, to raise the narrative stakes or attempt a new challenge that we’ve never taken on before. Last year’s piece, part 3: Base Instruments, was our very first true mystery, meticulously designed so that all the pieces hung together and that the audience had all the necessary information to solve the puzzle. This year, our innovations were to be both thematic and technical, and demanded enormous work on our part.
First, we’re making use of a flashback structure, juxtaposing the events of the series’s present day in 1884 with significant from Mrs. Hawking’s youth, twenty-five years ago in the Bengali colony in 1859. This not only lets us to tell a piece of her origin story, how she came to be the person that we knew today, it also allows us to meaningfully comment on the events of the modern-day story. The challenge for us is to make this read clearly, to be sure the audience can follow the transition between past and present, and the connection between the events of ’84 and the events of ’59.
As for the thematic challenge, we’ve known from the start that it would lie in tackling the issue of Victorian colonialism. We wanted to pay proper respect to the fact that the period in which we are set was built upon the conquest of other cultures and peoples, often to devastating effect. It seemed disingenuous to attempt any storytelling in this setting that didn’t present a critique of that colonialism, and to deconstruct White Savior story tropes that so often accompany it. We certainly didn’t want to further the damages of this mentality by turning the struggles of these cultures purely into lessons or challenged for our Western protagonists. Writing this story demanded that we do proper research, listen to the thoughts of people who understood the situation better than we did, and question our own assumptions and prejudices. This was absolutely necessary to portray this colonial situation with honesty and respect, as well as create a character that an actor of color would be proud to play. This involves some of the heaviest concepts we’ve ever tackled in Mrs. Hawking, and it was incredibly important we spare no effort in our attempt to do it right.
As always, we could not have done it without our wonderful early readers, both frequent collaborators and thoughtful friends, whose input helped us make the script better than we ever could on our own. To readers Charlotte Brewer, Eric Cheung, Jennifer Giorno, Naomi Ibatsitas, Matthew Kamm, Cari Keebaugh, Tegan Kehoe, Marybeth Larivee, Shannon Moore, Isaiah Plovnick, and Circe Rowan, we extend our profound thanks for the insight and ideas they gave to make this piece great.
And on top of that, there are those very kind souls who took on the stern task of evaluating our efforts to portray a situation in colonial Asia and depict the journey of our new character, a woman native those circumstance. We could not have done that without those people who were kind enough to lend their time and effort to considering our play and making suggestions and critiques to help us make our portrayal and our new character the best they could be. Bernie and I want to extend a special thanks to Eric Cheung, Naomi Ibatsitas, Kara Kaufman, Michael Lin, and Mara Elissa Palma for their critical eye, for taking the time to consider our work, and the patience with which they delivered their thoughts. If we have captured any truth here, or done any justice to telling this story, we owe it to these people who guided us.
Finally, I need to thank my closest collaborator and true partner, Bernie Gabin. In addition to serving as technical director for every production, he contributes so much to the development of the Mrs. Hawking stories that he is as much as writer as I am. None of these stories would be a fraction of what they are without his help, and I am so fortunate and grateful that I have someone like him to help me realize these stories— on the page as well as the stage.
I am not going to post the script here on the website until after our performance. So you will have to come see us at Arisia 2018 to find out not only where Mrs. Hawking’s journey will take her next, but how we the authors tackled the challenges we set for ourselves.
So, make sure to join us at Arisia this January the weekend of the 12th-15th at the Westin Boston Waterfront!