Categotry Archives: gilded cages

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New show video of Gilded Cages at Arisia 2018!

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Categories: gilded cages, performance, Tags: ,

We now have this wonderful video of our performance of Mrs. Hawking part IV: Gilded Cages from its debut at Arisia 2018!


Gilded Cages – Part 4 of the Mrs Hawking Serial Play from sydweinstein on Vimeo.

Thanks to Syd Weinstein and his excellent crew, the very first performance of Gilded Cages has been captured for us to view at our leisure. Rewatching the production now, it makes me even prouder of our most ambitious show yet.

So, if you missed us at this past Arisia or the Watch City Steampunk Festival, be sure to check out this fabulous show video.

And if you want to catch up on the entire Mrs. Hawking saga, head over to our Shows page to see all the great episode recordings that the Arisia video crew has made for us.

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




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Extra scenes – a late in life moment with Reginald and Ambrose

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Categories: gilded cages, scenes, Tags: , ,

Here’s another bit of Hawking bonus material— featuring the first-ever performance of Ambrose Hawking, Nathaniel and Justin’s dad and Reginald’s older brother.

I really enjoy making these audio recordings of outside scenes to flesh out the world and story line around the main narrative of the plays. The more you think through characters’ journeys, figuring out where they came from and how they got to the places they are, the better able you are to design a truly complete and consistent arc for them. Although it’s generally considered better craft if you develop the characters simultaneously with advancing the narrative, I really like them as relationship explorations, which more thoroughly explore the characters we’ve come to care about.

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Gilded Cages, scene 1.3

It’s so amazing hearing the cast read these moments. In this piece, we have Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Reginald Hawking, with Pieter Wallace, who’s come on for the Watch City ’18 performance as Lord Brockton, stepping into the role of Ambrose. It makes it feel a little more real, like something you can really believe happened in the history of these characters.

Today’s piece “No Knights” expands upon an idea that hangs over part IV: Gilded Cages— how the Colonel was, later in his life, offered a knighthood that he turned down. This is an issue that becomes very important to Nathaniel in that show, and this piece elaborates on how that small detail had big effects on the family. It also explores a bit of a relationship that we know exists but haven’t seen anything of— that between the brothers Reginald and Ambrose, Nathaniel’s oft-mentioned but thus far unseen father. Jeremiah and Peter invest real pathos in the moment, particularly in their effort to convey slightly older, more world-wearied men.

I’m really proud of what this amazing cast can do with this background scribbles. If you’d like to see them in action, be sure to check out our upcoming free May 12th performances at the Watch City Steampunk Festival.

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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When character moments are earned

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Categories: character, development, gilded cages, Tags: , ,

Scene 1.4 of Gilded Cages represents a striking landmark in my growth as a writer– specifically, the first half, where Mary and Nathaniel are cleaning out the Colonel’s study and he tells the story of how he and Clara met. I love it, and am proud of it, for a lot of reasons.

Photo by Steve Karpf

Firstly, it may be the most purely character-focused scene in any of the Hawking plays to that point. I am of the school of narrative design that holds that “Plots reveals character”— your figures are confronted by events and how they react to those events allows them to demonstrate who they are. I like this approach because it keeps the narrative structured and engaging while still fostering the development of character. You’ll notice that the majority of the Hawking stories are built according to this idea.

However, I’ve historically had a problem with being so focused on plot that very little character ever gets to happen outside of the unfolding. It has a tendency to give the stories a hurried feel, as if there’s just no time for anything that’s not forward movement. Years ago I wrote about this, my fear of just letting my characters be my characters without actively pursuing plot. It’s out of my concern for things becoming boring or self-indulgent, presenting moments that are shoehorned in and of no interest to anyone but me. But the character journeys ARE the point, not an afterthought; getting to know these people and see where they go is the heart of the story.

So this scene, the first half of 1.4, was me making an effort to insert something purely about character and have it feel like it meaningfully contributed to the story, rather than be a pointless indulgence. I actually feel like I accomplished it. It teaches you a lot about the characters, and it’s engaging! By part IV, if I haven’t made you care about these characters and interested in them for their own sake, then I think I haven’t done my job right. So I can count on having won the audience’s attention for just watching characters they like be themselves and tell us a little more about them. By part IV, that time and attention spent is earned.

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And I do think it tells us a lot of great stuff about them. It showcases Mary and Nathaniel’s friendship, how close and comfortable they’ve become with each other, that they share cute and funny personal anecdotes and talk about romantic relationships. It’s long been part of Circe Rowan’s process that Mary is a reader of fairy-stories, and is enthralled by tales of romance and adventure, and you see it in the way she reacts to Nathaniel’s story. And Nathaniel’s funny, self-deprecating retelling adds a lot of humanity and levity to the play. I am amused by the implication that Justin’s been getting the best of Nathaniel since they were children, but this one instance little brother beat out big, in a romantic exploit no less, and Nathaniel’s never quite gotten over a little smugness over it. And one of my regrets about all of part IV was that I wasn’t able to find a place for Clara in the cast. Nathaniel talking about falling in love with her is a cute way to make her presence felt.

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It’s helped a lot by the performances. Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Nathaniel is incredibly charismatic, and his warmth, humor, and gentle self-effacement give everything he does a certain charm. And Circe Rowan’s Mary has this wide-eyed, enthusiastic quality as she giggles over her friend’s funny and romantic story, that I think sets the tone for the reaction of the audience.
And you know what? I did manage to loop it back into the larger narrative, as Mary’s asking because she’s trying to figure out how to navigate her own budding relationship with Arthur. So not only does it really give a moment where the characters are simply being themselves, it ultimately leads to a moment that does further the plot. If that’s not the perfect way to balance the best of both worlds, I don’t know what is.

It’s a real triumph for me as a writer who’s constantly trying to develop and grow my skills. To see what I mean, join us for th 6pm performance of Gilded Cages on Saturday, May 12th at the Watch City Steampunk Festival and catch it in action from our amazing cast.

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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A story in the layers

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Categories: gilded cages, themes, Tags: ,

Historically the writing of subtext has been a challenge for me. Partially it was just struggling with the techniques of it— how you embed meaning without actually referring to it in words —and partially it came from the fear that even if I did manage to include it, the audience would miss it. I often failed in the direction of overwriting it for fear that it was too subtle, and not having any effect on the story at all.

In recent years, thanks to focusing on it with serious practice, I think I have improved. My tastes run much more lately to subtler storytelling, so I’ve tried to take that route with the things I write. I’m pleased to say I think my most recent major piece, Mrs. Hawking part IV: Gilded Cages, is the most layered narrative I’ve ever put together. It depends in large part on people who are on different wavelengths not realizing they’re talking at cross purposes, who don’t fully understand the implications of their actions, and who don’t have the words or concepts to express themselves with complete accuracy. The fact that I managed to pull that off wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t grown in my ability to suggest things are happening that no party onstage is actually explicitly referring to.

Photo by Steve Karpf

The downside, though, is that very thing subtext made me afraid of all along: the audience missing it. Mostly I believe people grasped the ideas I was trying to go for in the piece— that Reginald’s well-meaning overtures coexist with the fact that he doesn’t understand consent or that he’s behaving in a patriarchal manner. That young Victoria doesn’t realize that she’s acting out of white privilege, and Malaika doesn’t see the dangers that creates for her in their relationship. But every now and then I’ve heard from somebody who didn’t pick up on those things, and as a consequence they didn’t follow aspects of the narrative. I’ve had a surprising number of people ask me, “Why was Mrs. Hawking so miserable with her husband when he was so nice?” I mean, I think it’s partially that we have a problematic cultural tendency to pressure women into giving men a chance because they’re “nice”— but also I think because we kept a lot of the harmful aspects of Reginald’s behavior subtext as opposed to stating them explicitly, I think people missed it.

The story doesn’t quite work, honestly, without the subtextual aspects. It doesn’t make its point without them. But it’s still a richer, more sophisticated piece to have these ideas woven in subtly, even at the cost of some of the audience missing them. I guess, if they’re detectable by some and missed by others, that probably means I can finally be confident that I’ve done subtext right.

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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Script release: Mrs. Hawking part IV: Gilded Cages

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Team Hawking is pleased and proud to say that we have accomplished our performances at Arisia 2018— including part III: Base Instruments and the world premiere of part IV: Gilded Cages! We’ve been told it was our strongest program yet, which has been an incredible honor, and is so gratifying to all the hard work every member of the team put in.

Photo by Steve Karpf
Photo by Steve Karpf

Now that our new show has debuted, I’m releasing the script here on the website. I am deeply proud of this piece— it may indeed be the best in the series to date —and I think it not only plays well but is also interesting to read. The layers of meaning in many of the scenes are to this point unprecedented in this story, bring us to a new level of complexity. I think that even to those who have seen the show, reading at one’s own speed will allow some of the layers to be understood in greater depth.

Many of the scenes depicting important relationships— particularly Victoria and Malaika’s, and Victoria and Reginald’s — are meant to play one way on the surface level. But then, when one begins to pull apart the implications of the interactions, they take on a very different cast that adds new dimension. Also, there are a number of callbacks, parallels, comparisons, and contrasts between the present and the flashbacks of the story which are meant to make points about the characters. Arthur to Reginald, Nathaniel to Reginald, young Victoria to present-day Mrs. Hawking. These things may have gotten missed in seeing one performance of a fast-moving stage show, and I really think they add so much depth.

Photo by Steve Karpf
Photo by Steve Karpf

As always, I’m grateful to all the people whose advice helped us to make the script what it was. Those who helped develop the story to the most powerful level it could be. Those whose perspective on how to most effectively and sensitively depict the issues of the colonial culture. And those whose support and belief in the project enabled it to become a reality.

So be sure to check it out on our Scripts page, for the first piece of our second trilogy, Mrs. Hawking part IV: Gilded Cages!

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The queerest Hawking story yet

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Categories: character, gilded cages, Tags: ,

For the most part, the queerness of the Mrs. Hawking story has been fairly low key. All of the journey up to this point has been subtly informed by the fact that our hero is an asexual aromantic, but it’s never been explicitly referred to, nor has it been a huge factor in any plot. In our upcoming piece, part IV: Gilded Cages, however, what has mostly been a character note for Mrs. Hawking is finally brought forward in the text.

Because of this, Gilded Cages is our most explicitly queer story yet. Part III: Base Instruments has more queer characters— Miss Zakharova is a lesbian, while ladies’ man Justin is actually bisexual — but it’s part IV where the subtext becomes text.

In the flashbacks to Mrs. Hawking’s youth, we see how she met the man she would eventually marry, Reginald Prescott Hawking. We know from the previous present-day stories that this was not by choice and that the marriage was not a happy one, so the question is raised how it happened at all. However, you will see in Gilded Cages that it’s not as simple as being forced together with a bad man due to some unwelcome arrangement. Indeed, their interactions were significantly more complicated, and in fact they were not always in such opposition to each other. It’s part of the reason why his memory is quite so painful for her.

Something I very much want to convey to the audience is how Reginald and Victoria could have been on such different wavelengths regarding their relationship. A big part of it is they viewed it from such vastly different perspectives. Victoria, an asexual aromantic, did not approach their interactions with the same expectations or interpretations as did Reginald, an alloromantic heterosexual, which allowed a relationship to develop that neither immediately realized was incompatible. I like the complications of that, as two people who mean well cannot connect on the same level—
at least partially because they were never taught a concept of a person who was outside of expected behavioral norms —and end up hurting each other quite tragically.

I really enjoy this dramatic exploration of the impact of an aro ace woman trying to be herself in a society where no one understands it or makes space for it. I won’t give too much away, as it’s an important part of Gilded Cages‘ story. But as noted above, a lot of the result is tragic and painful— but it also demonstrates a lot of personal strength on the part of our protagonist. She is fighting the fight to be true to herself, and it makes her a more complex and interesting hero in the process.

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 II

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Categories: development, gilded cages, Tags: ,

Catch part I of this discussion in this blog post here.

As I mentioned, we’re conceiving of the Mrs. Hawking series as a set of trilogies, which we’re referring to as “arc-cycles,” or a series of character journeys that build upon each other. At the moment, as vague as the plan gets more than one or two shows out, we’re thinking of three arc-cycles, with three shows apiece. It is common in that pattern for the middle section to get a little darker. It fits nicely into three act structure, raising the stakes and making the situation seem even more dire before the resolution of the conflict in the climax. It also serves that purpose that we mentioned in part one, the need to challenge and upend the status quo in order to present new struggles to our heroes.

I want to be careful to set the right tone with the stories depicted in these stage shows. Overall, I want the series to have an adventurous, triumphant feel. A lot of our inspirations have a tendency to go grimdark— it common for Batman to be interpreted that way, for example —and that’s the last tone I want to strike for Mrs. Hawking. Instead I’m aiming to never shy away from true, hard-hitting drama, while still maintaining a hopeful and exciting air overall. So when I know I’m going to have to go a little heavier, that is something— the balance between weight and not going too dark —I want to take into account.

The way I’m taking it is by challenging the foundations that have been laid— specifically the relationships. They are the heart of the story, the most important and compelling drama we have to explore. A deep underlying philosophy of my writing is that the purpose of plot is to reveal character, so everything that happens explores our players a little more deeply. The form that these stories tend to take is that we get to know our characters better by seeing how they react to each challenge laid before them. Now that we’ve set down relationships, it’s time to test them, stress them, put them in new contexts to see how they grow and evolve to deal with them. But that does mean going to some darker places than we’ve dared to before.

Part four, Gilded Cages, is definitely going to be a little heavier in tone than the previous three installments have been. The entirety of the second arc-cycle is going to be. I think it’s the natural progression for this story in the intensifying of the challenge and the raising of the stakes. But I’m working very hard to maintain the series’s overall feel— exciting, hopeful, exultant —in the aggregate, even if moments get dark.

I’ve always liked how easy it is to emotionally engage with these plays, particularly when I see a child in the audience having a great time with the spectacle and the super heroics. I like that people cheer in triumph, and laugh at the geneuinely funny jokes. I don’t want to lose that, even as I expand the scope of our emotional range in the opposite direction as well. Gilded Cages is also going have cute moments that make you go “awwwww!” Sweet moments that bring a little tear to your eye. And funny moments to make you laugh out loud. All those things are as intrinsic as the dark stuff. It’s a tricky thing to balance, but I know this is where the story is taking me. I don’t want to shy away from the drama of the story’s true nature, so it’s up to me to handle both interests.

All the best stories, after all, are a little complicated. I think by this point, with three prior successful shows under our belt, we’re up to that challenge!

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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Gilded Cages now added to our TV Tropes page!

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Categories: gilded cages, supplemental, Tags:

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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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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Categories: development, gilded cages, Tags: ,

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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