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!
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: