Phoebe

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Lesley staged reading accomplished!

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Categories: mrs. hawking, performance, Tags:

This past Tuesday saw my reading of Mrs. Hawking sponsored by my grad program at Lesley. I am happy to report that it went quite well. I was a little nervous going in– not only was there no rehearsal, many of the actors had not read the play beforehand. But it turned out that they were so good that even in a completely cold read they did a fabulous job. I was mightily impressed. They even did the British accents I was hoping for. In fact, those that were double-cast even did different ones to differentiate their several characters! That was very cool. Here’s a picture mid-reading, thoughtfully snapped by my super-cool former sci fi and fantasy adviser Mark:

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It worked similarly to a radio play, if you’ve ever seen one. The actors come up to the stands when they are present in the scene, and return to the chairs behind them when they are “offstage.” The only downside was that the actor playing Nathaniel made the choice to make him, in my opinion, excessively absurd. I don’t mind if he’s funny and even a little silly early on, but this actor decided to maintain that throughout the entirety of the piece. If you’re still not able to take him seriously by the final scene, it pretty much kills his arc. But other than that I was happy, and it turned out to be extremely instructive. It suggested a number of edits I can make, which I will work on forthwith. But I got a lot of complements from my teachers and fellow students, which felt great. And I was fortunate to have a nice crowd of my own lovely friends there to support me, who I believe also enjoyed it. Thank you so much for being there. I think I had a bigger crowd than they see at these student staged readings! So I feel pretty good about the whole thing, and I’m eager to get working on the edits. I want this piece to be the best it possibly can be.

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Chatting with the director of the Lesley staged reading

Categories: development, mrs. hawking, performance, Tags: , , , ,

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Tonight I had a phone conversation with Brett Marks, the gentleman who is the director for my reading of Mrs. Hawking at Lesley. It was a very interesting conversation, but I had no idea what to expect going in. This is a weird process, I must say. I believe that the actors were arranged by Kate Snodgrass, an awesome professor in my program and a major figure in Boston theater. But as I doubt she read my play, the actors could not have been cast based on fitting the roles. What I suspect happened is my adviser Jami Brandli, who I liked very much, passed on the play’s requirements in the most general terms– a middle-aged woman, a young woman, two middle-aged men, et cetera. Okay, I guess I should have expected as much, but there are things I kind of hoped for in order to really hear how the play sounded. For example, I want to hear if I really emulated the Victorian voice, so ideally I’d get to hear it read in an English accent. The director implied that it might in fact be possible with this group, but I’m sure such a thing wasn’t taken into account in the casting. Also, there’s no rehearsal time. It’s just a cold read. Again, that’s fine if that’s how it works, but I do wonder what the director has to do if there’s no time to work on these things beforehand.

Of course, he may just be solely for my benefit, getting the perspective of somebody who reviews scripts for production professionally. And I was glad of what he had to say. He had a lot of good responses, and though he was trying not to criticize, he gave me his early reactions to a lot of things that pointed me in the direction of what I should possibly work further on. For example, he got me thinking that a lot of things I assume the viewer understands about how Victorian culture works– such as how it would be very odd for a wealthy society matron like Mrs. Hawking to not have a housemaid –might not necessarily be clear to somebody who wasn’t as educated on the subject as I am. He also had questions about the figure of Colonel Reginald Hawking. I want him to come across as mostly a good, decent man, but one who completely invalidated the person his wife truly was because it didn’t fit into his patriarchal schema. But the director suggested that if that doesn’t come across, Mrs. Hawking’s anger with him may not be sympathetic. I want it to seem harsh, but at the same time understandable.

Also, and this was a bit vindicating, he found act one scene two where Mrs. Hawking and Mary are getting to know one another to be excessively abrupt. I thought that myself, and in fact it was longer in the original draft, but after receiving critical feedback that it was too slow, I cut it. It pleased me to hear a professional director agree that there needed to be more of the two of them getting know one another. Also, he was familiar with the writing styles of those like Coward and Wilde that I was working to emulate. As great as the instruction I’ve been receiving has been, one perspective I haven’t had much of is whether or not I achieved that emulation. It was cool to have somebody be able to tell me I did that.

I’m excited to see how it goes. I wish I had time to incorporate some of his suggestions, but I’ve already printed all the scripts. So we’ll see what happens, if you join me this Tuesday. Remember, it’s this Tuesday January 8th from 6 to 8PM in the Marran Theater in the Student Center, Doble Campus, Lesley University at 29 Everett Street, Cambridge, MA.

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Complete first draft of Mrs. Hawking!

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Categories: development, mrs. hawking, Tags: , ,

Today I finished it, the first complete draft of my first full-length play Mrs. Hawking. I am pretty exhausted, but proud of myself.

You don’t know how I wracked my brain to come up with the structure of the action. As I’ve mentioned, it’s extremely important to the tone I want to set that I combine the genres of action mystery story with parlor drama. And that meant coming up with interesting, complicated, tense ACTION that hopefully didn’t descend into absurdity or contrivance. That was extremely hard, and I’m not sure how well I succeeded. There’s also many, many emotional points I wanted to hit. I like the beats individually, but there are a lot of them, and it was difficult to find the right places to put them. I hope the sequence of events makes sense. There may just be too many ideas for just one script, but I reasoned it was better to have too much material than to have too little; I could always cut the excess later.

It will definitely need revision, but I think the bones are very strong, and with some rigorous editing I could have a really powerful piece. I need to step away from it for a while, and though I’m exhausted, I have to move on to my other assignments due this month. But I think I’m onto something. I really hope so, this project means a lot to me.

The rest of today I am going to relax. Back to the grind tomorrow, but today is to feel good about finishing, and give my brain a break.

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Mrs. Hawking, scenes 1.5 and 1.6, version 1, which become 1.4 and 1.5

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Categories: development, mrs. hawking, scenes, Tags: , ,

Of course I'm always afraid of making the thing too talky. You be the judge, I guess.

Scene 5

(Back in MRS. HAWKING’s parlor. MRS. HAWKING stands at a table regarding a spread of papers. MARY enters with a tea tray. She stops short for a moment when she sees MRS. HAWKING, then approaches cautiously. MRS. HAWKING doesn’t look up.)

MARY: Afternoon tea, madam.

MRS. HAWKING: Thank you.

(MARY looks for a place to lay the tea tray down and finds no room among the papers. She dithers for a moment before MRS. HAWKING notices her dilemma. She moves some of the papers to make a place for MARY to set it down. The two women look at each other warily. Finally MRS. HAWKING sighs.)

MRS. HAWKING: Let’s have no more of this dancing around one another. I’d have your intentions, if you please.

MARY: Forgive me, my intentions?

MRS. HAWKING: You know my business now. And you know it’s something I could land in a great deal of trouble should that knowledge come into the wrong hands. You’ve nearly as much to hold over my head as Brockton does over Mrs. Fairmont. And you must be aware this is not something I’ll allow to come out.

MARY: Mrs. Hawking…

MRS. HAWKING: So enough of this dithering. What do you want from me, Mary?

MARY: Madam… I want to help.

MRS. HAWKING: I beg your pardon?

MARY: I want to help you in your work. If I understand, what you do… what you’re doing for Mrs. Fairmont… it’s heroic. It’s the best thing I ever heard anyone do.

MRS. HAWKING: You’ve a great deal of empathy for the tribulations of a woman privileged beyond anything you’re ever like to know.

MARY: But it’s not only the society women you’ve helped, is it? I heard what Mrs. Fairmont said. The washerwomen and the scullery maids and the house girls too. Women precisely like me, who have nowhere else to turn. No one needs a hero more.

MRS. HAWKING: You’ve no idea how dangerous it can be.

MARY: I don’t care. I can be brave if the circumstance calls for it.

MRS. HAWKING: So I’ve seen. But it isn’t only risk to life and limb, Miss Stone. What I do… is unacceptable in the eyes of the public. If such effort should fail, or so much as be discovered… I assure you, we shall come to envy the painted birds in parlor cages. And any hope of decent reputation shall be dashed forever.

MARY: I understand that! Madam… I have lived a respectable life where I have done what was expected of me. For my first twenty years, I did nothing with myself except keep house for an absent father and an unwell mother. All because they were too preoccupied to find some suitable man to whom they could marry me off before they passed away. And when they passed, and I had nothing more left… I realized how little that was. How little that was to make a life. Can you… can you imagine what that’s like?

MRS. HAWKING: I can. As a matter of fact.

MARY: What you are doing for Mrs. Fairmont, and have done for so many others… that means something to so many lives. And… there’s no amount of money or status in the world that can change how it must feel to have your child taken away from you. That is something that no mother should bear. If there is any way I can act in the service of preventing it… more than anything, that means something. And that is what I would like to do.

MRS. HAWKING: I am accustomed to working alone.

MARY: I know. You’ve had no other choice. But… as I said before. Everyone has need of help sometime. I can be your help. I told you once, I can be brave, and I have a strong back and the good sense God gave me. Please… let me help you.

(MRS. HAWKING regards her for a long time.)

MRS. HAWKING: Good heavens. I must be losing my mind.

MARY: So… we shall give it a go, then?

MRS. HAWKING: God help us. All right, brave girl. All right.

MARY: Oh, thank you. Thank you, madam! I swear, I will not disappoint you.

MRS. HAWKING: Very well. I grant you have not yet. Come here, see what I have been pondering.

(MARY goes to look at the papers on the table.)

MARY: Are you at work on the case at present?

MRS. HAWKING: Indeed. Contemplating how best to overcome the myriad challenges presented by Mrs. Fairmont’s predicament.

(She throws open a small box. MARY is slightly surprised to see several slim silver knives. MRS. HAWKING takes one of the box and shows it to her.)

MRS. HAWKING: Challenge the first—

MARY: The safety of the child.

MRS. HAWKING: True. To rescue the boy from the villain’s clutches.

(She sticks the knife into the mantle piece. Then she takes out another knife.)

MRS. HAWKING: Challenge the second—

MARY: The security of her reputation.

MRS. HAWKING: —To prevent the knowledge of the child’s existence from reaching the public.

(She sticks the second knife in beside the first. Out comes a third.)

MRS. HAWKING: And finally, challenge the third…

(MARY furrows her brow in thought, then shakes her head.)

MARY: I’m sorry, I don’t know the third.

MRS. HAWKING: That would be the opponent himself. Lord Cedric Brockton is no petty threat.

(She stabs the third knife into the mantle.)

MARY: You seem to know a great deal about this man. How did you come to encounter him?

MRS. HAWKING: Mrs. Fairmont is not the first client of mine to run afoul of him, and I may claim the rare standing of having thwarted him a time or two. But he’s seen no justice for it yet; the man conceals the traces of his enterprise as well as any man I’ve tangled with, such that the police shall never touch him.

MARY: So there is the third challenge. To put paid to his machinations once and for all.

MRS. HAWKING: Precisely, Miss Stone.

(She toys with the third stuck knife.)

MARY: So what is your plan of action? How can I assist?

MRS. HAWKING: There is the trouble, then. I am… uncertain how to proceed here.

MARY: Have you never encountered this sort of case in the past?

MRS. HAWKING: Oh, I’ve returned a missing child or two in my time, but in this instance my usual methods have not served. My thought had been to trace his lackeys back to where they were keeping the boy, but I have been trailing them for days and seen no sign.

MARY: What does that mean?

MRS. HAWKING: I can only conclude that the child has not been placed into the keeping of his hired toughs. Beyond that, I have no data.

MARY: Therefore… we find must find a way to gather some. Do we not?

MRS. HAWKING: We can make no forward progress otherwise.

(They sit in silence for a moment, thinking. Finally MARY is struck with an idea.)

MARY: Madam… if I may suggest…

MRS. HAWKING: Yes?

MARY: What was it that Mrs. Fairmont said, about… about Lord Brockton hosting a ball?

MRS. HAWKING: Yes, some society nonsense in celebration of yet another victory for the Empire. My husband devoted his whole damn life to winning it, and yet they keep on.

MARY: Will his lordship be hosting it at his home?

MRS. HAWKING: I believe so.

MARY: Perhaps that’s the way to gather intelligence.

MRS. HAWKING: By attending that ball?

MARY: It’s a way into his house. There— there might be something useful to discover there!

MRS. HAWKING: Surely he is not keeping the boy in his own house.

MARY: No, not if he’s as circumspect as you say. But there may be something, some bit sliver of a secret that the lion is hiding in his den.

(MRS. HAWKING regards her critically.)

MARY: If we’ve no other lead, then at least it’s a place to begin.

(MRS. HAWKING thinks for a moment, then nods.)

MRS. HAWKING: Yes. There is logic to it. Surely there must be something he would desire to keep close, and under his own oversight. Very well, miss, it is indeed a place to begin.

MARY: So you shall go to Lord Brockton’s ball?

MRS. HAWKING: I shall. Now, we must prepare, we haven’t much time and there are things to be done. My instruments must be packed, and I must secure the proper invitation. I have been out of the roar of things for some time now, but I daresay the Hawking name still holds sufficient sway. And of course we shall have to see about acquiring you a suitable gown on scant notice.

MARY: A gown? For me?

MRS. HAWKING: We shall be quite conspicuous if we do not don the costume of the venue.

MARY: I… I may come along with you?

MRS. HAWKING: It was your notion, Miss Stone. And you insist you wish to help.

MARY: But shan’t it be an affair for high society?

MRS. HAWKING: You shall quickly learn, child, if you are to ply this trade for long you must master the art of disguising yourself as something you are not. For you, it shall be as high society. For me, it shall be as a creature that can bear to spend the evening in whalebone stays. Besides, when it comes to facades one must put on, society is a common one. I imagine you shall manage it no worse than most.

(MRS. HAWKING pulls the final knife from the wall and twists it in her hands as she exits. MARY touches the remaining knives, an expression of mixed apprehension and excitement on her face.)

Scene 6

(Several elegantly dressed ball guests enter and walk around the stage, mingling and talking. After a moment, enter MRS. HAWKING and MARY from opposite sides of the stage. They wear fancy gowns and both are quite transformed. They scan the room for a moment, and then when they see each other they hurry over to one another. As they speak, a crowd of party guests gather around them.)

MRS. HAWKING: There you are. I’ve observed the lay of the house and I believe I’ve found the place to look. There is a locked study on the second floor from which the valet keeps chasing away the guests. If Brockton keeps sensitive material in this house, that will be the place, though I’ve not yet had a chance to search it. Not until I know where Brockton is lurking.

(MARY tosses uncomfortable looks over her shoulder behind her.)

MRS. HAWKING: Are you quite all right?

MARY: That gentleman over there is staring at me.

MRS. HAWKING: Yes, I’m sure he is.

MARY: Why does he do that? Can he tell I don’t belong?

MRS. HAWKING: I imagine, Miss Stone, it is because we have dressed you in entirely too becoming a gown.

MARY: Oh! Well, I have never worn anything so grand.

MRS. HAWKING: It suits you, I’m afraid, which has naturally rendered you public property. Fortunately, I have been able to turn this distasteful consequence to our advantage.

MARY: How so?

MRS. HAWKING: When I observed how many were murmuring about the mysterious and lovely young woman no one seemed to recognize, I spread a few choice whispers about her circumstances and station.

MARY: About me? What sort of whispers?

MRS. HAWKING: I may have given them the impression you were a niece of the viceroy of India, sent home to escape a scandal with a prominent soldier.

MARY: Me? But I am no— why?

MRS. HAWKING: To catch a beast, we must set out some bait.

MARY: I am your bait? To what end?

MRS. HAWKING: He is a blackmailer, Mary. He is always interested in persons with secrets. My aim is for him to seek out the young woman everyone is murmuring about and attempt to discern whether he can make a target of her. And while you are occupying him, I shall take advantage of his absence.

MARY: I don’t know how to behave like the niece of the viceroy! He’ll see right through me!

MRS. HAWKING: See that he doesn’t. You were raised in India, make use of your experience. Now, listen to me closely. Before long Brockton will approach you and sound you out for his wicked purpose. Meanwhile I shall infiltrate the upstairs study. I must entreat you to keep him engaged for as long as you possibly can to prevent him from discovering me. I can elude the servants with ease but the master will be more wary than any.

MARY: But madam—

MRS. HAWKING: You expressed a desire to be of service, Miss Stone.

MARY: Ah— yes. Yes, very well. I shall do my best.

MRS. HAWKING: Good girl. One last detail— did you manage to secret away the valise?

MARY: Yes, in the cloakroom beneath the grand staircase.

MRS. HAWKING: Excellent. I shall need my tools before confronting the study. Now I must make myself scarce. It is imperative that Brockton not observe us to be speaking together.

MARY: Good— good luck, madam.

MRS. HAWKING: To you as well.

(Looking around unobtrusively to see if the coast is clear, MRS. HAWKING walks off and exits. MARY, now left alone, shifts nervously at first. She then awkwardly attempts to affect the carriage of what she imagines is the mysterious, high-class niece of a viceroy. She starts to commit to it, smiling and even voguing a little for those who look her over.)

(As she does this, enter LORD CEDRIC BROCKTON, middle-aged, handsome, impeccably dressed. He spots MARY almost immediately. He makes his way over to her through his crowd of guests, shaking hands and touching shoulders in a charming manner. Before long he comes up directly behind her with an ingratiating smile.)

LORD BROCKTON: I don’t believe we’ve met.

(MARY jumps a little, startled, but collects herself quickly back into her new persona.)

MARY: Oh? Ought we to?

LORD BROCKTON: Allow me to introduce myself. I am Lord Cedric Brockton, and I would like to personally welcome you to my party.

MARY: Why, this is your house? Oh, it’s a— dear little place.

LORD BROCKTON: I am glad you like it. You must know, miss, that everyone is buzzing about you and no one seems to know your name.

MARY: Ah… my uncle calls me Tigerlily.

LORD BROCKTON: How very charming. Have you been long in London?

MARY: Oh, no. No time at all. Only long enough to learn that London is so dreadfully dreary and dull. I haven’t the faintest idea how you tolerate all this fog.

(She takes a quick look around the room for MRS. HAWKING but she is not there.)

LORD BROCKTON: It is dreary, indeed. Certainly not as… temperate and exciting as life on the subcontinent.

MARY: Good heavens, you’ve no idea! Why, back home, if I so chose, I could ride to finishing school on the back of an elephant!

LORD BROCKTON: Well, we’ve certainly nothing like that here. So, tell me, miss, whatever could you draw you away from all that?

(MARY waves her hands dramatically, trying to think.)

MARY: Oh, well, you know how things are… uncle dear thought it was best for me to go away for a while… he feared I was becoming too popular with some of his, well…

LORD BROCKTON: Soldiers, miss?

(She affects a carriage of indignation.)

MARY: My lord! What kind of lady do you take me for? Fraternizing with enlisted men?

(She pauses dramatically, then grins.)

MARY: They were all officers!

(They burst out laughing together, BROCKTON with the opportunity and MARY with a manic shock that she is pulling it off. Over his shoulder, she spies MRS. HAWKING reenter.)

MARY: Oh, but I’ve said too much! Uncle John would be furious with me. You must excuse me, Lord Cedric, we shall talk again soon. Lovely party you’ve thrown!

LORD BROCKTON: I shall look forward to it!

(She turns and leaves, trying not to dash off. BROCKTON watches her go for a moment. Then he turns around, a smug smile on his face, and spots MRS. HAWKING. He laughs.)

LORD BROCKTON: Why, fancy that. You’re in attendance this evening.

(He approaches her. She tenses almost imperceptibly a moment, then turns to face him with an expression of polite friendliness.)

MRS. HAWKING: You know me, sir?

LORD BROCKTON: Oh, my yes. We’ve never had occasion to meet, but I am certainly aware of Mrs. Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking. Oh, but forgive me my manners— allow me to formally introduce myself.

(He bows elegantly, the extends a hand to her. With only the barest hint of her distaste, MRS. HAWKING smiles thinly and places her hand in his. He kisses it gallantly.)

MRS. HAWKING: Of course, Lord Cedric, clerk to the undersecretary and our gracious host.

LORD BROCKTON: It’s been some time since you’ve made an appearance in society.

MRS. HAWKING: Haven’t you heard? My husband died, I’ve been in mourning.

LORD BROCKTON: Of course. His passing was a great loss to the empire. And you’ve chosen this time to reemerge. Remarkable.

MRS. HAWKING: Some would say it was time.

LORD BROCKTON: To be sure. You’ve grown something of a reputation for reclusion. It is then also remarkable that the notoriously withdrawn wife of the late colonel should develop associations with no fewer than three ladies with whom I have had business in the last several years.

(MRS. HAWKING stares at him hard.)

LORD BROCKTON: I make a point of observing such things, Mrs. Hawking. Particularly when there is a discernible pattern of the enterprises in question going awry. When such a thing occurs, I take pains to learn why.

MRS. HAWKING: Perhaps you have made a wrong move.

LORD BROCKTON: Perhaps you have, madam. For your own wellbeing, I advise you to make no more.

(He bows to her politely.)

LORD BROCKTON: I am glad to have finally made your acquaintance, Mrs. Hawking. Do enjoy the rest of the party.

(He strolls off through the crowd again, engaging magnanimously with his guests. MRS. HAWKING stands very still, her face stern. After a moment MARY reenters and, seeing MRS. HAWKING is alone, approaches her with caution.)

MARY: Madam? Did you find anything?

MRS. HAWKING: Not now. We must not be seen speaking.

(MRS. HAWKING presses a sovereign into her hand.)

MRS. HAWKING: Hire a handsome and meet me at home, we shall talk then. Things have become more complicated.

(She hurries away. MARY looks at the coin in her hand, then glances after MRS. HAWKING. Then she exits herself.)

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Mrs. Hawking scenes 3v3 (substantially rewritten) and 4v2 (significantly expanded)

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Categories: development, mrs. hawking, scenes, Tags: , , , , , ,

The other day I came home to the lovely surprise of Frances and Charlotte performing a scene from Mrs. Hawking in my kitchen. It was the sweetest thing of them to do, and a real joy because they are my fantasy casts for Mrs. Hawking and Mary. It also gave me a real boost in attacking my next homework assignment, which was writing the first half of the play.

I have now just finished writing, and sending in to my teacher, that first half or so. I had a really hard time figuring out how to tell the story I wanted to tell. It’s tough to construct a sensical mystery plot, where both protagonist and antagonist act to the best of their abilities, where neither of them ever “act stupid” for the sake of the story. I really hate that. But it’s tough to build it well enough to avoid that, especially since I tend to be the sort of writer who decides what needs to be accomplished by the story and then designs it to achieve that.

Here are scene three, which I have substantially rewritten from even the second version I posted here, and scene four, which incorporates and significantly expands the small bit I wrote for 31 Plays in 31 Days. I’ve posted them together because they are closely connected, they flow more or less continuously one into the next. I will post scenes five and six separately, as the location and focus strongly shift.

Scene 3

(A well-dressed upper middle class woman, MRS. CELESTE FAIRMONT, sits in her fancy parlor, fretting. The bell rings and MRS. FAIRMONT leaps up to answer it. It is MARY in a walking hat. MRS. FAIRMONT starts exaggeratedly.)

MRS. FAIRMONT: Oh, my goodness!

(MARY removes her hat.)

MARY: Forgive me for this intrusion at this hour, but I must speak to Mrs. Celeste Fairmont.

MRS. FAIRMONT: I am she. Who are you?

MARY: I am Mary Stone, I’ve recently come into the employ of Mrs. Victoria Hawking.

MRS. FAIRMONT: Mrs. Hawking sent you?

MARY: Ah— not as such. But madam didn’t come home last night, and according to her appointment book she was engaged to see you that evening. Begging your pardon, but I didn’t know what else to do but come and ask if you knew her whereabouts.

MRS. FAIRMONT: She was indeed here last night… but she hasn’t returned. Not yet.

MARY: Did you expect her? Do you know where she went?

MRS. FAIRMONT: I, ah, I cannot precisely say—

(There is a crashing sound outside. The ladies’ heads whip around.)

MRS. FAIRMONT: What was that?

(A commotion of running feet and raised voices from a gang of people outside. MARY runs to the window beside the door and looks out.)

MARY: There’s a whole gang of ruffians!

MRS. FAIRMONT: Oh, God!

(The second window starts to scrape and grind open. A figure dressed in black begins to climb in. Again MRS. FAIRMONT panics and makes small sounds of terror, cowering behind a chair. MARY seizes the poker from the fireplace and places herself between the figure and MRS. FAIRMONT. The figure drops catlike to the floor, then stands, cradling one arm in pain. The masked face turns to look at the women.)

MARY: Stop! Stop right there!

(Suddenly MARY stops short, gaping in shock. She drops the poker.)

MARY: Mrs. Hawking!?

(The figure pulls off the mask to reveal MRS. HAWKING.)

MRS. HAWKING: Mary?

(Briefly MRS. HAWKING examines her injured arm. MARY lets the poker clatter to the ground.)

MRS. FAIRMONT: Is that blood?

MARY: Are you hurt?

(MRS. HAWKING runs to the door and peers through the peephole.)

MARY: What— what’s happened to you?

MRS. HAWKING: No matter now. Celeste, where are they?

MRS. FAIRMONT: I don’t know, I don’t know!

MARY: They’re nearby but they haven’t come here yet.

MRS. HAWKING: Thank God.

(She goes about securing the windows.)

MRS. FAIRMONT: Why are they here?

MRS. HAWKING: Because I was sloppy. Very sloppy.

MRS. FAIRMONT: What are we to—?

(There is a hard thumping at the door. MRS. FAIRMONT freezes. She and MARY both look to MRS. HAWKING.)

MRS. HAWKING: They cannot find me here.

(She ducks into a closet. There is another THUMP THUMP THUMP. MARY and MRS. FAIRMONT look at each other. MARY slowly goes to answer the door. MRS. FAIRMONT collapses stiffly into a chair. MARY opens the door to JOHN COLCHESTER, a large man dressed in rough clothes.)

MARY: Fairmont residence. May I help you?

COLCHESTER: There’s been some commotion in the neighborhood.

MARY: Yes, we heard.

(He pushes past MARY into the room and takes a few steps around, looking.)

COLCHESTER: There’s a dangerous person about. We was after them just now but it seems they’ve disappeared. You haven’t seen nothing?

MARY: I’m sure we’ve no idea what you’re speaking of.

COLCHESTER: What are you all doing up and about at this hour?

MARY: We were disturbed by the noise! And by banging at the door in the wee hours of the morning!

(He moves very close to the closet where MRS. HAWKING is hiding.)

COLCHESTER: And you don’t have any notion of where this fellow went off to?

MARY: Of course we don’t! Now I must insist that you leave! You have frightened Mrs. Fairmont quite enough.

(MARY goes back to the door and holds it open for him. COLCHESTER looks around once more, then nods once and moves toward it.)

COLCHESTER: Right, then. Good evening to you ladies.

MARY: Good evening, sir.

(COLCHESTER goes out the door. She closes it behind him and exhales heavily. MRS. FAIRMONT buries her face in her hands and gives a sob of relief. MRS. HAWKING emerges from the closet.)

MRS. HAWKING: That was quite splendid of you, Mary.

MARY: Mrs. Hawking, this is— this is highly irregular!

(MRS. HAWKING goes to peer out the window.)

MRS. HAWKING: Good, they’re clearing out now.

MRS. FAIRMONT: Thank God! Oh, how awful that was!

MRS. HAWKING: Entirely my fault, Mrs. Fairmont. I was spotted due to an error in my calculations. I very much apologize for drawing them on to you.

MRS. FAIRMONT: Have they discovered us, then?

MRS. HAWKING: They never saw my face… but if they know your name, it may not bode well that they came knocking on your door. But for the moment I believe the enterprise is still secure.

MARY: Mrs. Hawking!

MRS. HAWKING: Well, perhaps not entirely. Mary, whatever are you doing here?

MARY: Looking for you! When you didn’t return last night— Mrs. Hawking— I beg your pardon, but I must insist—

MRS. HAWKING: Mary, please—

MRS. FAIRMONT: Never mind that! Did you find the culprits? Who are they?

MRS. HAWKING: I tracked them all up and down the row. They were shockingly circumspect for an alley gang. It led me to suspect they answered to a higher authority. And when at last the crows returned to roost, they confirmed my suspicion. There was such a man.

MRS. FAIRMONT: And who was that?

MRS. HAWKING: Brockton.

MRS. FAIRMONT: Heaven help me.

MARY: Brockton— Lord Cedric Brockton? The— the undersecretary’s clerk?

MRS. FAIRMONT: But he’s a well-born, prominent man! My God, he’s hosting the queen’s ball in celebration of the new Afghan victory! What is the meaning of this?

MRS. HAWKING: I believe you should soon expect a pageboy with a rather serious letter for you, madam.

MRS. FAIRMONT: What? Why?

MRS. HAWKING: Because he would not have taken an interest in anything of yours unless he could make use of it to blackmail you.

MRS. FAIRMONT: Oh, no. No! Oh, God, no…

(MRS. FAIRMONT buries her face in her hands.)

MARY: Blackmail!?

MRS. HAWKING: We must discuss, Mrs. Fairmont, just what it is that you’ve done.

MRS. FAIRMONT: You promised me you would not pry!

MRS. HAWKING: Circumstances have changed.

MRS. FAIRMONT: It is a private matter!

MRS. HAWKING: I know this man, Celeste, I know how he operates. If I am to help you against him, I must understand what it is at stake.

(MRS. FAIRMONT protests, growing more and more hysterical. MRS. HAWKING speaks sternly over her, increasingly irate. Finally MARY springs forward.)

MARY: Please, stop!

(They turn in shock to look at her.)

MARY: Please. This is all… very unsettling… I must… I must ask that you tell me what all this is about. Right away.

MRS. HAWKING: My word, Mary.

MARY: Mrs. Hawking! I must insist.

(MRS. HAWKING considers. Finally she nods.)

MRS. HAWKING: Very well. You’ve done a great deal this evening without being asked… you’ve the right to ask something of me.

(She looks to MRS. FAIRMONT.)

MRS. HAWKING: Celeste… perhaps we should begin at the beginning.

(MRS. FAIRMONT looks distressed for a moment, then relents with a nod.)

    Scene 4

(Still in the Fairmont parlor, MRS. FAIRMONT sits in a chair having collected herself somewhat. MRS. HAWKING stands at the window, gazing sternly ahead at nothing. MARY pours a cup of tea for MRS. FAIRMONT, then politely takes her own seat.)

MRS. FAIRMONT: You must see… we are very respectable people. My husband’s family, the Fairmonts, and of course my own. I would never do anything to compromise our good names, you must understand that.

MRS. HAWKING: And yet, things do not always go as we plan them to.

MRS. FAIRMONT: No. No, indeed they do not. You see… it seemed to me of late that there’s been someone… following me.

MARY: Following you? When you’re out and about?

MRS. FAIRMONT: Not all the time. Only when… you see, we keep… that is to say, I keep… some rooms in Cheapside. I visit this place upon occasion. And it seemed that there was someone on my heels whenever I made my way over there. I thought I might be imagining it, until… until I arrived one day to find that someone had broken into the rooms. The place had been… raided, torn apart.

MARY: Were the police of no assistance?

MRS. FAIRMONT: I could not go to the police! My husband… does not know I keep these rooms. No one does. But I had heard… something that women whispered of, society ladies, their washerwomen, women of all standings… that when a lady finds herself in a predicament that she cannot resolve alone… there is someone… someone outside the usual workings of society, who can take extraordinary action to help. I took steps to learn who this person was, to seek this service for myself.

MRS. HAWKING: And that is where I came in.

MARY: You?

MRS. HAWKING: There is so much that presses on a woman in this world of ours. It offers them so little recourse when those presses become too great. Someone must step outside all of that to do what’s necessary. That someone is me.

MARY: My God.

MRS. HAWKING: Mrs. Fairmont engaged me to discover who had broken into her rooms. And now that I am certain that your assailants acted on the orders of Lord Cedric Brockton, I must tell you immediately that your situation is quite serious.

MRS. FAIRMONT: You’ve had dealings with this man before?

MRS. HAWKING: Not directly, but I am familiar with his operations. He appears publically to be a man of minor nobility holding a post as a minor public official. But he is one of the most dangerous blackmailers in Europe. His network of spies and operatives gather for him the secrets of the most powerful personages in the country, those secrets that would destroy them were they ever made known, and exacting a heavy price to keep them concealed. He is slowly building an empire of these skeletons, concealed from connection to him, of victims powerless to strike back lest their secrets be revealed. He would not have set his sights on you unless there was something he could use against you.

(MRS. FAIRMONT covers her face with her hands.)

MRS. HAWKING: Brockton’s men that broke in, it was clear that they must have been looking for something. Something you’ve been hiding.

MRS. FAIRMONT: Good heavens.

MRS. HAWKING: I had occasion to investigate this place in my tracing of those men. You had done your best to purge it of all your connection to it, but there was no mistaking the cherub trim along the baseboard, nor the profession of the nursemaid you employed. Even hiding the cradle could not hide it for a nursery. Tell me who it was, Mrs. Fairmont, that they were looking for.

(MRS. FAIRMONT wrestles with it, then relents.)

MRS. FAIRMONT: Not looking for. They found him. They found my son.

MARY: Your son?

MRS. FAIRMONT: My boy, my Gabriel. They’ve taken him. They’ve stolen away my boy.

MARY: Why in God’s name would they take your child?

MRS. HAWKING: For the same reason, I would imagine, that you should keep him in rented rooms and may visit him only on occasion. I take it he is not the son of Mr. Fairmont as well?

MRS. FAIRMONT: I was young. I made a mistake.

MRS. HAWKING: Before or after your marriage?

MRS. FAIRMONT: Before. I was but a girl. We lived in the country, there was a young man, only a groom that worked in the stables, but he had red hair, and he was very charming. But I was to marry Jacob. My father was beside himself. He sent my young man away, but… the damage was done. And when Gabriel was born, he sent my child away as well.

MARY: Oh, madam. How terrible.

MRS. FAIRMONT: Jacob and I were wed, and we came here to London. But… I could not leave my boy. It took me years but I found him again. My father had given him to a workhouse, to be raised as an unwanted orphan. My poor boy… so I stole him away from that wretched place to those secret rooms in Cheapside, and engaged a nurse to care for him by days.

MRS. HAWKING: You have been running quite a risk these last few years to keep the boy.

MRS. FAIRMONT: He is my son! I could not bear leaving him in that dreadful place!

MRS. HAWKING: And now he has fallen into the clutches of Cedric Brockton.

MRS. FAIRMONT: Jacob does not know, you see. It would… it would destroy him to know I had dishonored us this way. Not to mention the ruin of his career if anyone knew…

MRS. HAWKING: Naturally. Quite the bargaining chip he’s found himself, then. And quite the challenge for us, to save a good name and the boy as well.

MRS. FAIRMONT: Surely— surely there’s something you can do. They say you have saved dozens of women. For my blameless husband’s sake, and for my poor child whose only crime is the folly of his mother.

MRS. HAWKING: I shall be frank, madam. This will not be a simple operation. But I will do everything that is in my power to see you through.

(MRS. FAIRMONT clings to her in desperate gratitude. MRS. HAWKING winces and tenses her left side.)

MARY: Mrs. Hawking, your arm.

MRS HAWKING: I’d quite forgotten.

MRS. FAIRMONT: Oh, my goodness, you’re still hurt! We should— we should send for someone.

MRS. HAWKING: No doctors, Celeste.

MRS. FAIRMONT: But, Victoria—

MRS. HAWKING: Certainly not!

MARY: Please— allow me.

(She moves close to MRS. HAWKING, who instinctively withdraws.)

MARY: I have some knowledge of this, madam.

(MRS. HAWKING regards her a moment, and then undresses to her shift. MARY pushes it down off her shoulders and she pulls out her bare arm to reveal a bleeding bruise.)

MARY: Oh, my. This requires some attention. Madam, if you’ll bring me the dipper.

(MRS. FAIRMONT brings over the basin of water. MARY draws a white cloth from her apron pocket.)

MARY: Mrs. Fairmont, have you any clean linen about? This will want wrapping.

MRS. FAIRMONT: Oh, yes, of course.

MARY: And some alcohol to bathe it.

MRS. FAIRMONT: I’ll go and fetch it.

(MRS. FAIRMONT exits. MARY wets her cloth and begins dabbing at MRS. HAWKING’s wound.)

MARY: This is serious.

MRS. HAWKING: I have seen worse.

(MARY examines up her arm.)

MARY: You have… so many scars.

MRS. HAWKING: As I said.

MARY: Does this happen… often? In this work that you do?

MRS. HAWKING: On occasion. You may count how often.

(MARY works in silence a moment.)

MARY: And… what do you do?

MRS. HAWKING: I beg your pardon?

MARY: When this happens. If you will not see a doctor.

MRS. HAWKING: I manage well enough on my own.

MARY: I see. If I may ask… what if it were more serious than this? Something that you could not manage on your own?

MRS. HAWKING: Seeking medical attention is out of the question, Miss Stone. Any outside attention risks exposure of my… enterprise.

MARY: I understand. But… you’ve no other assistance? Is there no one trustworthy?

MRS. HAWKING: I cannot chance it. Discovery by the wrong person could mean the end of everything.

MARY: I think you make a great mistake in that.

MRS. HAWKING: I did not ask your opinion, Miss Stone.

MARY: Everyone has need of help sometime.

MRS. HAWKING: You are out of turn, Miss Stone.

MARY: Forgive me, madam… but if there is never anyone to help when you need it, it could mean the end of everything.

MRS. HAWKING: It is an easy thing to say when you need not live in fear of your well-meaning fool of a husband putting a stop to you for what he thinks is your own good.

MARY: He never knew?

MRS. HAWKING: I could not permit it.

MARY: In twenty years of marriage?

MRS. HAWKING: One can hide anything from anyone if one so chooses.

MARY: You couldn’t hide it from me.

(MRS. HAWKING’s eyes widen in surprise, and she turns her head to regard MARY very seriously. MRS. FAIRMONT returns with the linen and alcohol. She hands it over to MARY.)

MARY: Thank you.

(She soaks the linen in the alcohol.)

MARY: There will be pain, madam.

MRS. HAWKING: I have no fear of that.

(Her face is stern as MARY wraps her wounds in it.)

by

“One Can Hide Anything” — for use in Mrs. Hawking Act 1, Scene 3

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Categories: development, mrs. hawking, scenes, Tags: , , ,

This was written in the course of completing the 31 Plays in 31 Days challenge I undertook in 2012– to complete a play of at least one page in length for every day of the month of August. While not an independent play, it was written in fulfillment of the challenge although it was intended to be used within Mrs. Hawking. I counted scenes for larger plays as complete pieces for 31P31D as long as they have an arc. This scene is where Mary first begins convincing Mrs. Hawking can’t always go it alone– and that perhaps she can be that help.

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Day #12 – “One Can Hide Anything” – from Mrs. Hawking

(MRS. HAWKING winces and tenses her left side.)

MARY: Mrs. Hawking, your arm.

MRS HAWKING: I’d quite forgotten.

MRS. FAIRMONT: Oh, my goodness, you’re still hurt! We should send for someone.

MRS. HAWKING: No doctors, Celeste.

MRS. FAIRMONT: But Victoria—

MRS. HAWKING: Certainly not!

MARY: Please— allow me.

(She moves close to MRS. HAWKING, who instinctively withdraws.)

MARY: I have some knowledge of this, madam.

(MRS. HAWKING regards her a moment, and then undresses to her shift. MARY pushes it down off her shoulders and she pulls out her bare arm to reveal a bleeding rawness.)

MARY: Oh, my. This requires some attention. Madam, if you’ll bring me the dipper.

(MRS. FAIRMONT brings over the basin of water. MARY draws a white cloth from her apron pocket.)

MARY: Mrs. Fairmont, have you any clean linen about? This will want wrapping.

MRS. FAIRMONT: Oh, yes, of course.

MARY: And some alcohol to clean it.

MRS. FAIRMONT: I’ll go and fetch it.

(MRS. FAIRMONT exits. MARY wets her cloth and begins dabbing at MRS. HAWKING’s wound.)

MARY: This is serious.

MRS. HAWKING: I have seen worse.

(MARY examines up her arm.)

MARY: You have… so many scars.

MRS. HAWKING: As I said.

MARY: Does this happen… often? In this work that you do?

MRS. HAWKING: On occasion. You may count how often.

(MARY works in silence a moment.)

MARY: And… what do you do?

MRS. HAWKING: Beg your pardon?

MARY: When this happens. If you will not see a doctor.

MRS. HAWKING: I manage well enough on my own.

MARY: I see. If I may ask… what if it were more serious than this? Something that you could not manage on your own?

MRS. HAWKING: Seeking medical attention is out of the question, Miss Stone. Any outside attention risks exposure of my… enterprise.

MARY: I understand. But… you’ve no other assistance? Is there no one trustworthy?

MRS. HAWKING: I cannot chance it. Discovery by the wrong person could mean the end of everything.

MARY: I think you make a great mistake in that.

MRS. HAWKING: I did not ask your opinion, Miss Stone.

MARY: Everyone has need of help sometime.

MRS. HAWKING: You are out of turn, Miss Stone.

MARY: Forgive me, madam… but if there is never anyone to help when you need it, it could mean the end of everything.

MRS. HAWKING: It is an easy thing to say when you need not live in fear of your well-meaning fool of a husband putting a stop to you for what he thinks is your own good.

MARY: He never knew?

MRS. HAWKING: I could not permit it.

MARY: In twenty years of marriage?

MRS. HAWKING: One can hide anything from anyone if one so chooses.

MARY: You couldn’t hide it from me.

(MRS. HAWKING’s eyes widen in surprise, and she turns her head to regard MARY very seriously. MRS. FAIRMONT returns with the linen and alcohol. She hands it over to MARY.)

MARY: Thank you.

(She soaks the linen in the alcohol.)

MARY: There will be pain, madam.

MRS. HAWKING: I have no fear of that.

(Her face is stern as MARY wraps her wounds in it.)

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