Phoebe

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Gilded Cages now added to our TV Tropes page!

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As you may know, Mrs. Hawking has a fairly extensive page on TV Tropes, a website that breaks down the building blocks of narrative and identifies their use and effect across many types of media. Tropes from Gilded Cages have been added to the mentions of elements from our previous three installments!

The image at the head of our Tropes page.

Some examples of the new material added because it occurs in Gilded Cages:

All Girls Want Bad Boys: Subverted with Arthur. He’s just about the sweetest, most straightforward guy you could imagine, and he’s presented as a romantic and attractive figure.

The Cassandra: Elizabeth is always warning Victoria about the consequences of her reckless actions. She’s always right, but still everyone ignores her.

Flashback: About of Gilded Cages takes place in Singapore where Mrs. Hawking grew up, met the Colonel, and made her very first discovery of the injustice of the world.

The Mentor: Elizabeth is this to young Victoria in serving as her governess and companion, specifically in matters of deduction, analysis, and strategy.

As a person who finds it intensely valuable to analyze the tools stories use to reach their audiences, I really enjoy this website. And I’m really proud of Mrs. Hawking’s presence as an included work.

Is there anything you think we’re missing? Any tropes that jumped out at you as an audience member and fan? We’d love you to include them, so don’t hesitate to add them in to the page! And be sure to catch the Arisia 2018 performances to see how many new ones you catch!

Mrs. Hawking parts III: Base Instruments and IV: Gilded Cages by Phoebe Roberts are to be performed January 12th-14th as part of Arisia 2018 at the Westin Boston Waterfront.

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Extra scenes – a funny and touching recording of brothers Nathaniel and Justin

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We have another scene made into an audio recording! This time, it’s another moment from earlier in our story’s timeline, a follow up of sorts to “True Gentlemen,” the previous scene we recorded like this.

This scene, “Enough to Compare,” was written as the capper to my 2017 foray in 31 Plays in 31 Days, and features Justin finally finding out that Nathaniel and Clara have begun a relationship. It’s much more humorous in tone than our previous scene— as anything with Justin tends to be! —but it also aims to capture some of the more touching emotional quality that comes from drama between close family members. One of the reasons I particularly enjoy writing scenes between these two characters is because they are both in constant conflict, while simultaneously caring about each other a great deal. It gives a great opportunity for a combination of humor and pathos& dash; one of my favorite ways to tell stories.

 

As I mentioned with the last one, these scenes are a little rough and the recordings are very informal. But these scene particularly makes me smile, and Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Nathaniel and Christian Krenek as Justin are delightful. So check this out for a laugh and a warm fuzzy feeling, and to learn a little bit more about the greater Hawking story. And if you enjoy their performances, catch Jeremiah as Nathaniel and Christian as Justin in our shows at Arisia 2018!

 

Mrs. Hawking parts III: Base Instruments and IV: Gilded Cages by Phoebe Roberts are to be performed January 12th-14th as part of Arisia 2018 at the Westin Boston Waterfront.

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Extra scenes — quick recording of “True Gentleman” with Nathaniel and Clara

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BI Performance-8
 

By this point, I’ve been noodling around with stories set in the Mrs. Hawking continuity for several years now. It’s fun to explore these characters beyond just what makes it into the plays, plus it’s helpful for me to know where they’re going if I know where they came from. And I think it can be really interesting to learn the histories of the characters you’ve gotten to know over the course of the series!

A lot of these scenes and moments will never make it into plays. Either they’re from outside the times we’re dealing with, or just don’t fit into the important dramatic moments the full-length shows focus on. But there’s still drama and interest in a lot of these scenes, and I’d like to be able to feature them somehow!

To that end, I’m doing little informal recordings of them, with the actors who play these characters in the full-length shows. The scenes are a little unpolished, and not a lot of rehearsal will go into them. But I think they can be fun little treats for people who have gotten to know the characters of this series and would like to see a little more from them!

The first of these is a staged reading of “True Gentleman,” a scene I wrote from the courtship of Nathaniel and Clara. We know they’re married by the time the shows begin in 1880, and references to their history together have been made. But I thought it might be cute to do a small scene from the beginning of their romantic relationship.

So here’s “True Gentleman,” featuring Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Nathaniel and Sara Smith as Clara. Enjoy!

 

And if you liked that, be sure to come see Jeremiah and Sara on stage as these characters at Arisia 2018 in Base Instruments and Gilded Cages!

Mrs. Hawking parts III: Base Instruments and IV: Gilded Cages by Phoebe Roberts are to be performed January 12th-14th as part of Arisia 2018 at the Westin Boston Waterfront.

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Show times for Base Instruments and Gilded Cages at Arisia 2018!

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We are now on the schedule for performance times at Arisia 2018!

MRS. HAWKING parts 3 and 4
By Phoebe Roberts

at Arisia 2018 of Boston, MA

presented by The Chameleon’s Dish Theatre

Part III:
Base Instruments
by Phoebe Roberts
Friday, January 12th at 7:30PM

and

Part IV:
Gilded Cages
by Phoebe Roberts
Saturday, January 13th at 3:30PM
Sunday, January 14th at 12PM

Shows run 90 minutes without intermission

In Grand Ballroom B
At the Westin Boston Waterfront
425 Summer Street, Boston, MA

Be sure to come see our shows, including the world premiere of part 4: Gilded Cages, at Arisia 2018!

Mrs. Hawking parts III: Base Instruments and IV: Gilded Cages by Phoebe Roberts are to be performed January 12th-14th as part of Arisia 2018 at the Westin Boston Waterfront.

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Darker before the dawn, part 1

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Bernie and I have come to think about the Mrs. Hawking play series in terms of what we call arc-cycles, or a series of trilogies that each complete a full arc within the larger story, each one building upon the last but with an internal completeness of its own.

The first arc-cycle, consisting of I.i Mrs. Hawking, I.ii Vivat Regina, and I.iii Base Instruments, is about the formation of our main superhero team, of Mrs. Hawking, Mary, and Nathaniel. This is where their relationships are established, as well as their working dynamic, with a stable understanding being reached by the end of part 3.

But part of serialization is establishing a particular sort of dynamic equilibrium, where new conflicts constantly arise to provoke growth and change, but the spirit of the premise is consistently maintained so that the series retains its identity. So the next arc-cycle has to move what’s been established forward by challenging the newly formed status quo— which in our case is that stable team dynamic. The stuff we’ve built in arc-cycle 1, arc-cycle 2 is obligated to in some way disrupt.

The difficulty of that is that you don’t want to wreck all the great stuff you’ve established just for the sake of having new story to tell. The development has to be maintained in some way, and explored further from there, but new conflicts have to be introduced to induce new growth. So, as we went into part 4: Gilded Cages— or II.i by the arc-cycles —we went in with the understanding that the basis of this second trilogy was going to have to a shakeup of something the audience had been led to desire and become settled with.

After all, when your thesis is the formation of the team, the antithesis that is only natural to meet it is to put stress on that formation. We’ve established a sort of Mrs. Hawking mythos— she is a ferocious, complicated hero with some very particular strengths and weaknesses— now it’s time to deconstruct some of that persona, and in a way, put our money where our mouth is when it comes to making those strengths and weaknesses real.

That means, as often happens in part two of a trilogy, the story is going to get a little darker.

More to be elaborated on this in part II.

Mrs. Hawking part III: Base Instruments and part IV: Gilded Cages by Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin will be performed at 2PM and 6PM respectively on Saturday, May 12th at the New England School of Photography at 274 Moody Street in Waltham, MA as part of the Watch City Steampunk Festival ’18.

To donate to the Mrs. Hawking – Proof of Concept film project:




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Cast and crew for Base Instruments and Gilded Cages at Arisia 2018

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I’m pleased to announce we have complete casts and crew for our productions of Mrs. Hawking parts III and IV at Arisia 2018!

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Mrs. Hawking, part III:
Base Instruments
By Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin

Featuring

Mrs. Hawking – Cari Keebaugh
Mary Stone – Circe Rowan
Nathaniel Hawking – Jeremiah O’Sullivan
Clara Hawking – Sara Smith
Arthur Swann – Matthew Kamm
Justin Hawking – Christian Krenek
Elena Zakharova – Jackie Freyman
Lord Seacourse – Andrew Prentice
Kiril Chernovsky – Lucas Commons-Miller
Yulia Sherba – Jennifer Giorno
Ensemble – Sara Dion, Travis Ellis

and

Mrs. Hawking, part IV:
Gilded Cages
By Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin

1884

Mrs. Hawking – Cari Keebaugh
Mary Stone – Circe Rowan
Nathaniel Hawking – Jeremiah O’Sullivan
Arthur Swann – Matthew Kamm
Mrs. Chaudhary – Naomi Ibatsitas
Lord Brockton – Isaiah Max Plovnick
Mrs. Frost – Arielle Kaplan
Ensemble – Travis Ellis, Andrew Prentice

1859

Victoria Stanton – Cari Keebaugh
Malaika Shah – Naomi Ibatsitas
Elizabeth Danvers – Arielle Kaplan
Reginald Hawking – Jeremiah O’Sullivan
Lt. Governor Stanton – Sam Jones

Crew

Director – Phoebe Roberts
Technical director – Bernie Gabin
Stage manager – Jack Cockerill
Costume designers – Claire Brosius, Jennifer Giorno
Sound designer – Neil Marsh
Violence designer – Arielle Kaplan
Run crew – Michael McAfee

I am delighted that while we have some new talents joining Team Hawking for the first time, we are overwhelmingly rejoined by our wonderful old friends who have been with us for multiple productions. Some have played these characters through the entirety of their journeys, while others have taken on a different role in each show. I’ve been so fortunate to have the chance to grow these stories with such a talented group of people again and again.

Notably, the brand-new part IV: Gilded Cages will be the very first time we experiment with casting actors as multiple characters within the same production. This can be a risky move, as it can possibly cause confusion in the audience to have a familiar face taking on a different part upon a subsequent appearance. But we’re hoping to make points about the comparisons between the characters who are played by the same actor, that there is something meaningfully similar between the two— or, in some cases, meaningfully different, which you notice when you see somebody who appears to be the same think and behave in a fundamentally separate way.

I’m very excited to experiment with this. It will be a fascinating challenge for the actors, to meaningfully create the two contrasting personas. And I can’t wait to see the results of their work. So come see us at the Westin Boston Waterfront on January 12th-14th at Arisia 2018 to see how we do!

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Completed script for Mrs. Hawking part 4: Gilded Cages!

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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!

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NEXT PERFORMANCES – Base Instruments and Gilded Cages at Arisia 2018!

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Mrs. Hawking is returning to Arisia this January!

I am delighted to announce that Team Hawking is undertaking preparations to begin putting together our next round of production for Arisia 2018! We will be continuing our tradition of performing the two most recent installments, the part we debuted the previous year as a lead-in to a brand-new story, in order to make hook audiences into the flow of the series. So we are proud to present Mrs. Hawking 3: Base Instruments along with Mrs. Hawking 4: Gilded Cages, in its very first public peformance!

Soon we’ll announcing the cast, featuring an array of both familiar faces returning to their roles as well as new stars bringing their talent to the table. And we’ll make sure to keep you up to date on scheduling, development, and process as it unfolds. Until then, I hope to leave you all in anticipation of the next direction the Hawking story is about to explore!

And make sure to join us at Arisia 2018! this January the weekend of the 12th-15th at the Westin Boston Waterfront!

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The elephant in every room

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We joke during rehearsals a lot— for fun, about each other, about the process, and even about the script. Even though these stories are my babies, I don’t want to turn them into some sort of sacred cows that are above critique or mockery. So I try to have a sense of humor about them, to keep a good perspective and in the interest of making them accessible and fun. The Mrs. Hawking drinking game rose directly out of this kind of joking.

One of the things that comes up a lot is how often characters talk about Mrs. Hawking when she’s not there. It’s a common occurrence in the scripts, so not only do we mock the frequency a little, we also mock the very fact. Lest you forget who the main character is, here are a couple of other characters who are here to remind you of how much we all need to focus on her all the time!

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They’re talking about her right now.

I realized early on as I drafted part 4: Gilded Cages that honestly it was not going to be the point where that changes. This is her story, similar to the way the first is Mary’s superhero origin and the third had a lot of focus on Nathaniel. But this is something I need to be careful about. Doing anything too frequently in a serialized story leads to patterns and formulas that can get boring. I don’t want to do TOO much telling the audience what to think about the character, as I’d much rather they be forming opinions for themselves. Other characters need focus and development too, particularly when I’m trying to deepen the cast and the world.

But you know, I can’t help but feel there’s something important and defiant in giving so many in my cast this focus. Mrs. Hawking is our superhero— our Batman, our Sherlock Holmes, the driving force behind why everyone is here and what everyone is doing. And she’s a woman; all this action is centered around a female character. And an asexual one at that! I think there’s something not only significant, but even subversive about making everybody be so influenced by and focused on her.

Think about it. Does anybody question why everyone’s always taking about Batman all the time? Does anyone see a Batman story and wonder why he commands so much of everybody’s attention? Hell, no! Does it seem different because she’s a woman, and it’s not usual for a woman to take up so much space in the tale? Think about the Bechdel-Wallace Test, designed because of how much time characters in any given piece spend talking about a man. Why shouldn’t my particular way of blowing that all to hell be that in the Mrs. Hawking stories, you’re hard pressed to find any two characters who talk to each other about anything besides a woman— and one remarkable, important, complicated woman in particular?

I’ve still got to do it right, of course. There’s no excuse for falling down on the writing job. I’ve got to make it natural, sensible, and workable that she takes up so much of the other characters’ mental real estate. I don’t want to do too much telling the audience what conclusions to draw about her, rather than allowing them to do that for themselves. But I’m not going to stop making a woman the center of her own literary universe. All the male superheroes get to be that, after all.

Mrs. Hawking part III: Base Instruments and part IV: Gilded Cages by Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin will be performed at 2PM and 6PM respectively on Saturday, May 12th at the New England School of Photography at 274 Moody Street in Waltham, MA as part of the Watch City Steampunk Festival ’18.

To donate to the Mrs. Hawking – Proof of Concept film project:




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Completed outline for Mrs. Hawking part 4!

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I have hit my first milestone in my process of putting together the fourth Mrs. Hawking story!

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For the month of June, Bernie and I worked on creating a complete outline with all the story events with the proper structure. Our goal was to have it done by the end of the month, and we completed it with one day to spare. That means I can successfully move on to drafting it, which is in some ways more fun than planning, but in other ways more challenging— because I have to move on from theory to actual execution.


A scene in the outline.

My plan, as it was last year when writing the previous installment Base Instruments, is to first chunk out all the scenes into self-contained sections. As I mentioned, the “scene” demarcations in the script tend to be based on location and time shifts. I break the scene either when the next action does not happen contiguously in time with the previous action, or when the location shifts and the set needs to change. But within those scenes there are often several dramatic actions that happen in the same place one after the other in real time. So I like to give each of those “sub-designation”— scene 3a, scene 3b, and so on. Not only are these useful later when scheduling rehearsal, but it helps chunk the writing work into smaller pieces that makes each one easier to tackle.

Part 4 is shaping up to be a complex play, with many different threads and fairly complicated scene structure. Not to mention all the challenges inherent to this particular story. On one hand, it means more action takes place in the same location, which will hopefully mean fewer scenic transitions during runtime. But it also means there are a LOT of sub scenes— the current outline suggests thirty-seven in total. Most of them will be pretty short, but that’s a lot of complex action to string together. And I have to get more than one cranked out in a day in order to finish by the end of July like I’ve planned.

I have a handful of early drafts of some scenes that I was imagining that did I for last year’s 31 Plays in 31 Days. But as is always the case, as the planning process proceeds, the less accurate to the current vision old stuff like that becomes. So I can use most of it in bare bones form, but it will have to be heavily edited, and one or two I’ll have to cut entirely because they just don’t fit anymore.

Fortunately, I’m off to a pretty good start already! And I’m excited to actually be making the play, not just planning the ideas in it. Now I’ve just got to make sure I properly execute all the grandiose dreams I’ve got in hopes that it’ll come out great.

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