Phoebe

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Welcoming Cari Keebaugh to the role of Mrs. Hawking

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In our previous four production cycles of the Mrs. Hawking plays, our eponymous lead has been played by Frances Kimpel, the talented actor and artist who was one of the founding members of the Chameleon’s Dish Theatre. Frances is an old and dear friend of mine who I have worked with on many projects since our days in the Hold Thy Peace Shakespearean theater group at Brandeis University. My admiration for her as an actor is so much that she was one of the original inspirations for how the character of Mrs. Hawking looked and moved.

Frances Kimpel as Mrs. Hawking

Frances Kimpel as Mrs. Hawking

This summer, however, Frances, along with our beloved stage manager Eboracum Richter-Dahl, has moved across the country to Washington state, meaning they can no longer perform their previous roles. But sad as I am to lose the chance to work with such great friends and collaborators, the show must go on. Which means I had to search for another person who could perform this unique and challenging central role. It’s not a choice I could make lightly, as the whole productions rest on the charisma, believability, and fascination of this character. I had to find somebody right.

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It’s been my very good fortune that I had the chance to meet the very talented Cari Keebaugh and find she was interested in auditioning. She was introduced to me in person by Circe Rowan, who plays the role of Mary, but I actually first encountered her in The Post Meridian Radio Players’ The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, adapted for performance by another Hawking collaborator Tegan Kehoe. Not only is that one of my all-time favorite stories, which helped inspire my love of Victorian literature and storytelling, but Cari performed the title dual roles. Her performance as a gender-flipped interpretation of the counterparts showcased her versatility and expression, as well as raised familiar issues of a woman being trapped by the conventions of her Victorian world.

As much as I’ll miss Frances, I’m really excited to work with Cari and see what she brings to the role. It’s going to be a transition for me in my vision of the character, but I think that’s a good thing. One of the brilliant features of theater is its potential for endless reinterpretations. If these stories are truly strong, they should welcome that variety. And if the character of Mrs. Hawking, possibly the proudest and most important creation of my life, can stand up to the interpretations of many actors, then I know I’ll have made something with true staying power.

So please join me in welcome Cari to Team Hawking! I can’t wait to see her bring our hero to life.

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Recording of Base Instruments staged reading

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Were you hoping to catch the Bare Bones staged reading of Mrs. Hawking part three, Base Instruments, but couldn’t make the performance date? Well, turns out you are in luck, because we were able to capture the reading for your listening pleasure!

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The following two files on the Mrs. Hawking YouTube channel have recording of the audio of the Base Instruments reading. Act one is in the first recording and act two is in the second. The quality is not perfect, as they were recorded on the fly during the reading, but they do a good job capturing the performances and the reactions of the audience.

What I particularly enjoy about these is they preserve the natural responses of the listeners in the moment. I really enjoy noting what lines got laughs– Eric Cheung as Justin Hawking had scenes where it was almost a one-to-one laugh-to-line ratio! And I really got a kick out of the charmed reaction they had to the scene between Mary and Arthur. It even draws my attention to where there WASN’T the response I was expecting, so I know where to examine more closely for editing. And of course it captures the awesome performances of the actors. I was really lucky to work with such a talented cast, many of whom were switching not just between characters, but also accents!

So if you missed the Bare Bones reading, please give these a listen. It’s a great way to take in the story of Base Instruments, performed by talented people with live audience feedback, just the way a show like that is intended.

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What I learned from the Bare Bones reading of Base Instruments

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Photos by Beckie Hunter

I was really pleased and proud of how well the staged reading of Base Instruments went this past Friday. The cast did an amazing job, and the audience was great, laughing at all the right parts and having some really interesting feedback in the discussion we held after.

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A major reason to have a staged reading is to hear the words of a play aloud, as they were intended to be heard, in front of a real audience. This enables you to experience the play in a way you can’t just looking at the page alone. It’s even better when you can talk a little with the audience and get a sense of how they actually experienced it.

One thing that was very satisfying was how funny the piece was. Generally, I’d classify these as adventure stories meant to have some genuinely affecting drama in them, but I don’t want them to become heavy or grim. Lightening them with humor is a great way to charm the audience, to keep things fun and to balance out darker moments. I actually discovered the power of this when Vivat Regina was read in an earlier Bare Bones, and saw how well received the increased humor in the second piece versus the first was. Introducing Nathaniel’s brother Justin Hawking worked particularly well for this, as his wit and attitude was a great way to work in jokes. In no small part thanks to Eric Cheung’s performance of him, there were a few scenes where he got a laugh with almost every line!

The reading also cautioned me for the need for clarity. When you’re trying to present a Fairy Play Whodunnit, it’s important that the necessary information to solve the mystery is delivered clearly enough for the audience to solve. There were some qualitative differences in information that were not made plain enough, and that’s good information for me to have.

Also, there are several Russian ballet dancers in the plot whose names and introductions may not have been made sufficiently plain, making them easy to confuse. On that score, some of it may have been because it was a reading, and the same actress Samantha LeVangie read for both of them, which is something that might be fixed in the staging. But it’s very good to know that confusing the characters might be at issue, to alert me to make sure they are each clearly introduced when they enter the story. This might be a matter of editing, but it’s also going to inform how we stage it when it gets fully performed.

Most of all, I am glad to have found that the story works. The plot flowed smoothly, and the character arcs, relationships, and strong emotional moments resonated with the audience. That’s always the most important part of storytelling, and you can never be sure if you’ve managed it until you get in front of living breathing people. I really do believe that each Hawking script has come out better than the last, and this only confirmed it. So thanks very much to everyone who came out to hear it and give their thoughts, and great thanks to Theatre@First for giving us the opportunity to have it read!

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Last rehearsal for Base Instruments reading

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Last night we had our final rehearsal for our staged reading of Base Instruments with Bare Bones at Theatre@First! For most of our rehearsal process, we practiced in pieces, doing scenes not in sequence but the ones that had the same actors. So last night was the first time I got to hear them do the entire piece in order.

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Elizabeth Hunter reading as Mrs. Hawking and Samantha LeVangie as Miss Zakharova in Base Instruments

You never really know how a play’s going to work until actors read it, and I’m really lucky to have this talented cast. All of them have some level of experience with their characters and familiarity with this world, and that allows them to make best use of their abilities. Some of them, like Samantha LeVangie and Eric Cheung, do multiple accents, often switching one scene after another!

And because it’s a murder mystery, we’re going to do something fun. Base Instruments is longer than previous installments, so we decided to have an intermission. And in that intermission, we’ve decided to give the audience a chance to vote on who they think the murderer is.

As I’ve mentioned, Base Instruments is a Fair Play Mystery, and most of the important clues are given in the first act, while the second is the leads pieces them together. So there’s enough information for the audience to at least take a good guess. After the audience votes, all the correct answers will be put into a hat and the one drawn will win a prize.

Finally, if you can stay a little late, there will be a talkback after the show with the cast and myself. Heaven knows I could go on about these stories all day, so if you have any questions about the story, the mystery, the world, or the direction of the series, I’d be happy to talk your ear off in answer!

The staged reading of Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will go up on June 10th at 8PM at with the Bare Bones reading series, brought to you by Theatre@First.

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Reading a mystery

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One of the fun things about the story of Base Instruments is that it’s a Fair Play Whodunnit. That means it’s a mystery where all the necessary clues are presented to the audience, so they have the chance to solve it along with the detectives.

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Andrew Prentice, Samantha LeVangie, and Elizabeth Hunter reading Base Instruments.

This is important for the June 10th staged reading of Base Instruments with Bare Bones. Many people like to let staged readings wash over them, but when the story is a mystery, it prompts the audience to see if they can figure it out for themselves. But the makes a new challenge for the actors who are reading it. A whodunnit with lots of twists and turns often involves a lot of detail, with the dialogue supplying most of the information. That can lead to a lot of exposition, which can easily all blur together and lose the important clues.

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Circe Rowan reading as Mary Stone.

That means the actors have to take extra care in the scenes where the characters are working through the information they’ve gathered to solve the crime. It has to be kept interesting enough so that no one zones out, but also clear enough so that all the clues come across. And finally, for the sake of verisimilitude, it has to sound natural, like the characters actually are detectives sharing information with each other trying to figure things out.

The combination of all this is the way to get the listeners engaged in unraveling the plot. I love when the audience is hanging on the details of the story, trying to pick apart what’s really going on! That’s the fun of going to all the trouble of putting together a Fair Play Whodunnit.

The staged reading of Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will go up on June 10th at 8PM at with the Bare Bones reading series, brought to you by Theatre@First.

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Video recording of Mrs. Hawking production!

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I am very proud to present the video recording of the fully produced Mrs. Hawking, the first installment of our series!

Mrs Hawking from sydweinstein on Vimeo.

This recording captures the Arisia 2016 performance on the main stage at the Westin Waterfront Boston. We were very lucky to have videographer Syd Weinstein and his crew run the cameras during our run, and he has edited together a dynamic, focused recording. What I love about it is that it captures many of the finer details of our story that might not be so clear onstage. I think it’s a great representation of all the hard work and craft coming together to tell this unique story.

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I’m also glad to have this because, since Mrs. Hawking has seen four runs over the last two years, it’s going to be retired from production for the time being. This will enable us to free up the time and resources to produce the subsequent installments. Having this recording will still allow people to experience it even though it’s no going to be performed in the near future.

That’s especially great for the upcoming June 10th staged reading of part three, Base Instruments. Watching the video will enable the audience to get up to speed with all the spectacle of the full production before experiencing the further story. So, for those of you who missed the performances at previous shows, or for those who’d like a closer look at all the nuances of the production, please check out this awesome video.

The staged reading of Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will go up on June 10th at 8PM at with the Bare Bones reading series, brought to you by Theatre@First.

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Exciting things about the reading of Base Instruments

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I’m really excited to be tackling Base Instruments for the upcoming staged reading. I’m pleased to say that I think that each Mrs. Hawking story so far is better and stronger than the last, partially from knowing the characters better, and partially as I develop as a writer. And this part three has so many new additions to the series that I can’t wait to get this story out there.

Here’s some fun things that are new and special to part three:

It’s a true mystery. A murder mystery, to be precise, a good-old fashioned whodunnit. Those are tough to put together so that they make sense and yet still provide suspense and challenge. Base Instruments is a fair play mystery, too, so the audience will see all the clues the characters see and have the chance to piece things together as the detectives do.

The size of the world has expanded. At this point, the world around our heroes has filled up with interesting recurring characters, including Officer Arthur Swann and Nathaniel’s family, wife Clara and brother Justin. This means that our cast can split up and come back together as they follow various story threads, so multiple plots can interweave and expand the scope of the tale.

Further development of our characters. Several ideas have been seeded in the previous shows that are finally coming to fruition. Mrs. Hawking’s fear of advancing age affecting her career. Mary’s figuring out what kind of protégé she want to be. How much Nathaniel will keep helping Mrs. Hawking from the important people in his life. Base Instruments shows the characters facing these challenges head-on, creating both a satisfying payoff and setting up the next step of their paths going forward.

If that sounds, exciting to you, then be sure to come to the staged reading in Somerville on June 10th!

The staged reading of Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will go up on June 10th at 8PM at with the Bare Bones reading series, brought to you by Theatre@First.

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Accomplished at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016!

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We have successfully put up Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016!

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I am so grateful to everyone who helped make these shows a reality, from our talented cast, to our hardworking crew, to our wonderful audiences who gave us such great feedback. A special shoutout goes to Bob Perry and the rest of the crew organizing the Steampunk Festival, who was so welcoming and secured the accomodations for our shows.

What is next for our stories will be coming soon. The next Hawking event is the June 10th staged reading of part three, Base Instruments, with the Bare Bones reading series produced by Somerville’s Theatre@First. Join us at 8pm to hear the first publication exhibition of our third installment’s script!

Also, we’ll be discussing our plans for future productions, as well as releasing some video recordings of previous ones, debuting for the first time on this website. More to come later this week!

The staged reading of Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will go up on June 10th at 8PM at with the Bare Bones reading series, brought to you by Theatre@First.

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Base Instruments to have staged reading with Bare Bones at Theatre@First!

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Part three of the Mrs. Hawking saga, Base Instruments, will have a staged reading with the Bare Bones series with Theatre@First!

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Bare Bones has hosted both previous installments of the story, which were instrumental in developing them for the productions, like we’re going to have this coming Saturday at the Watch City Steampunk Festival. Here’s our fabulous cast, a mix of veterans of both production and reading:

Mrs. Victoria Hawking – Elizabeth Hunter
Miss Mary Stone – Circe Rowan
Mr. Nathaniel Hawking – Andrew Prentice
Mrs. Clara Hawking / Miss Elena Zakharova / Miss Yulia Sherba – Samantha LeVangie
Mr. Justin Hawking / Mr. Kiril Chernovsky – Eric Cheung
Sergeant Arthur Swann / Lord Nicholas Cavil – Matthew Kamm

Produced by Jess Viator, with much thanks to Theatre@First!

So, once you check out our upcoming performances of Mrs. Hawking at 2PM and Vivat Regina at 6PM on May 7th at Government Center in Waltham, you’ll naturally be raring for a taste of the next chapter. Be sure to join us for the reading of Base Instruments on June 10th at 8PM at Unity Somerville for the exciting further adventures of the Hawking crew!

Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina will be performed on May 7th at 119 School Street, Waltham, MA at 2PM and 6PM as part of the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016 in Waltham, MA.

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On the schedule at the Watch City Steampunk Festival ’16!

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Our shows are on the schedule of events happening at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016!

2016 WCSF logo with Day

On the festival day of May 7th, our first show, Mrs. Hawking, will be performed at 2PM, and our second show, Vivat Regina, at 6PM, both in the auditorium at Waltham Government Center at 119 School Street in Waltham. Check out the exciting theatrical trailer for a glimpse of the excitement:

But we’re not the only great events happening that day. The festival will be full of entertainment, including live music, art displays, vendors, and food. Rumor has it the kraken that lives in the Charles River will rise up for a grudge match against a clockwork robot!

Be sure to check out the schedule not only for the information for Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina, but also for all the other great events happening that day at this totally free family event. Our shows are quick, free, and fun– only one hour each with no ticket price! –so be sure to make a day out of it. Come for the shows, stay for the rest of the festival!

Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina will be performed on May 7th at 119 School Street, Waltham, MA at 2PM and 6PM as part of the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016 in Waltham, MA.

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