Categotry Archives: mrs. hawking

Pertaining specifically to the first story in the series.


Rehearsals begin for Mrs. Hawking at Arisia

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Tonight is the first read through for Mrs. Hawking at Arisia 2015, which marks the start of our rehearsal period. This is going to be seriously intense. We don’t have long between now and our performance on January 16th, and there’s about week’s worth of lost time due to the winter holidays. That does NOT make for a nice leisurely process of getting a play blocked, memorized, and sufficiently rehearsed so we don’t all embarrass ourselves.

To that end, I am going to work hard to make sure we work as efficiently as possible. As I’ve mentioned, I like to have a pretty solid plan of what the scenes will look like, but I think that’s doubly important now. I still want to be flexible to discovery in the process and allow for the actors’ contributions and creativity, but having purpose will cut down on wasted time.


We’ve secured rehearsal space in Spingold Theater with the gracious permission of Brandeis University, of which most of our cast are alums. Our first two weeks will see us work through the whole show twice– that’s a lot to get through each night, but I think it’s necessary. When we get back from the holiday break, everyone will be hard off-book. We will have one more week of regular rehearsal, in which we’ll start doing larger chunks at a stretch, then it’s plunging into tech week. It’s a pretty demanding process, but I have faith in this cast to handle it.

To start things off well, I am doing what I always like to do when I begin a rehearsal process, cook everybody a big meal. Before tonight’s read through I will be serving a homemade dinner to my lovely cast to ensure their undying loyalty. Take it from me, having been on both sides of this, the quickest way to win over actors is to feed them.

I’m a little nervous, I won’t lie. I’m afraid we won’t have enough time to make this as good as I want it to be. But I’m going to do my damnedest to make it the best I possibly can. It means a lot to me to represent my work at its best.

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed at Arisia 2015 on Friday, January 16th at 6PM at the Westin Waterfront Boston.


Physical storytelling

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Most of the theater I have been involved with the production of has been classical in nature. In Shakespeare, there is very little in the way of stage directions beyond entrances, exits, and the occasional “pursued by bear.” The great part of that is how it allows for a huge range of interpretation of the text, with nuance created conveyed by whatever kind of action you chose to block. But doing so much of that kind of theater created something of a bias in me for scripts that do not try to hem in the production with specific stage directions. I mostly wrote Mrs. Hawking with that bias. That means that there is, in my opinion, a fair bit of meaning that’s not obvious.

Now that I’m starting in on planning the blocking for Mrs. Hawking at Arisia ’15, this is on my mind. I like the idea that people get to decide for themselves what subtleties are going on when they stage it, but when I’m the one doing the staging, that means I have to determine the most effective way to display my own vision of the action. I like to go on in a rehearsal process with blocking around seventy-five percent figured out ahead of time, to make it possible to jump right in and get things done, but with enough wiggle room to allow stuff to get discovered in the process and for the actors to contribute their own ideas. It has to incorporate Victorian cultural norms, to convey the setting and the social structures therein that would be unspoken parts of the fabric of the world. I’ve also come to appreciate drama that makes the characters and ideas clear with actions rather than words, so I’m hoping to add a whole additional layer of meaning with the acting and blocking. It will be a fun challenge, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the directing process.

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed at Arisia 2015 on Friday, January 16th at 6PM at the Westin Waterfront Boston.


Set-building cleverness

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There are many challenges involved in bringing a theatrical production into being. A lot of elements need to be handled before the story becomes a reality that require a high investment of time and effort. One of those elements is figuring out how to put together a set.

While I don’t feel it’s necessary for it to be a literal representation of the Victorian parlors and gentlemen’s clubs specified in the text, there are least has to be some sort of physical structure for our hero to climb on. Mrs. Hawking’s ninja-spy skills on display is a major part of the spectacle of the story, and I think you’d lose a lot if there was no way to show it.

That means that to put this on at Arisia, I’ll need to have a climbable structure for this set. Not only that, it has to be strong enough to support the weight of the actress, possible to be transported to the performance space, and of course within my budget. That’s a pretty tall order.

But desperation can motivate one to be very creative. I got an idea to secure some kind of found structure that could form the bones, at least, of the set. A little research onto Craigslist led me to find a wooden swing set jungle gym sort of thing that was being given away for free. It has the advantage of being lightweight, modular, and sufficiently well-built that I can trust an actor to it. I’m not sure it would be possible for me to so quickly and cheaply build something that structurally reliable.



So I rented a truck– a lesser expense than buying materials, tools, and shop space –and enlisted the help of some very capable and generous friends, John Brewer, Nat Budin, Michael Hyde, and Eboracum Richter-Dahl. It was so good of them to lend their time and effort to helping me collect this. I definitely could not have done it without them. We got the thing broken down, loaded up, and taken away in just a few hours. It’s even weather-proof, so I don’t need to worry about damaging it!

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of work left to do to get it in performance-ready shape. We will be dressing it up somehow, to give it the features necessary to properly represent the environments in the play. I still have to consult with my set designers on the best way to do that. But I am pleased that we managed to find a shortcut on building! It certainly cuts down the work, money, and expertise we’ll need to finish.

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed at Arisia 2015 on Friday, January 16th at 6PM at the Westin Waterfront Boston.


Cast and crew of Mrs. Hawking at Arisia ’15!

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Auditions have come and gone, and I am pleased to announce we have a cast for Mrs. Hawking!

The Chameleon’s Dish presents Mrs. Hawking, starring
Mrs. Victoria Hawking: Frances Kimpel
Miss Mary Stone: Samantha LeVangie
Mr. Nathaniel Hawking: Jonathan Plesser
Mrs. Celeste Fairmont: Arielle Kaplan
Lord Cedric Brockton: Francis Hauert
Sir Walter Grainger: Matthew Kamm
Mr. John Colchester: Robert Imperato
Miss Grace Monroe: Jennifer Giorno
Ensemble: Joye Thaller, Andrew Prentice

Many of these actors are past collaborators of mine. Some I know from theater at Brandeis University and specifically Hold Thy Peace, the college’s undergraduate Shakespeare troupe. Frances, Samantha, Jonathan, Arielle, Matthew, Jennifer, and Andrew all are alumni of that group. Robert was a past director of mine. Some have even experience with the world of Mrs. Hawking. In the staged reading of the sequel Vivat Regina with Bare Bones, Samantha read for Clara Hawking, Matthew Kamm read for Arthur Swann, and Joye Thaller for Mrs. Braun. Frances Kimpel is the model for Mrs. Hawking seen in the photographic representations of the character on this website, and I am fortunate to have her fully embodying my protagonist.

And of course there’s our talented crew.

Director: Phoebe Roberts
Technical Director: Bernie Gabin
Stage Manager: Eboracum Richter-Dahl
Set Designers: Joe Gabin and Carolyn Daitch
Costume Designer: Jennifer Giorno
Sound Designer: Neil Marsh

Many of these excellent people also have a history with Hold Thy Peace, including Bernie, Eboracum, and Carolyn. Others are good friends who are kind enough to lend their technical abilities in support of this project. I can’t say enough how fortunate I am that each and every one of them was willing to give their effort, their time, and their expertise to bringing Mrs. Hawking to life.

I am so delighted to have a cast set down. Soon we will be getting into rehearsal, which I will be documenting to talk about here. I can’t wait to dive right in!

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed at Arisia 2015 on Friday, January 16th at 6PM at the Westin Waterfront Boston.


Jumping in on Arisia ’15 production of Mrs. Hawking

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It’s been a little under a week since I got word that Mrs. Hawking gets to go up at Arisia ’15, and I have tried to waste no time getting preparations underway!

Organizing the team has been the first priority. I am pleased to report that finding production designers has been going well. My technical director is Bernie Gabin, my boyfriend and partner of my labors both creative and mundane. The set design will be a combined effort by two talented technical design professionals, Joe Gabin and Carolyn Daitch. Well-known larp circle costume fairy Jennifer Giorno will be helping with costuming, and experienced sound designer Neil Marsh will be covering music and audio effects. I am incredibly grateful to all those wonderful people for lending their talents to help with this show. I still need a stage manager and a prop person, but I have leads on who to ask to help with those. I could definitely use a producer, though, which is the one job I’m not sure who to look to for.

I also have auditions set up for Monday, November 10th from 7 to 9PM in the Raya Stern Trustees room at the Watertown Public Library. While I am relieved to see that there are people signed up, we could always use more options! If you are interested in auditioning, please don’t hesitate to email me at for an appointment. If you can’t make Monday, I would be happy to schedule an alternative time! It’s looking like rehearsals will be through the month of December into January, and there will be a nominal monetary honorarium for all selected actors.

Later on I will likely be soliciting more volunteers for jobs like building the set. I will also be needing runtime stage hands, although I believe that the Arisia convention has a supply of reliable people from which to draw. For now, I am focused on the things we can’t get started without– actors and designers to start making this dream a reality!

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed at Arisia 2015 on Friday, January 16th at 6PM at the Westin Waterfront Boston.



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Mrs. Hawking has just received some amazing and overwhelming news! For the first time ever, Mrs. Hawking will be seeing a full production!


Yes, the first installment of our story will be performed as part of Arisia 2015, a major science fiction and fantasy convention in Boston, MA! It will be performed at the Westin Waterfront Boston hotel as an event for con attendees on Friday, January 6th at 6pm.

This is very exciting, and also a big challenge! We have a lot of work to do in a very short period of time. I’m in the process of gathering a cast and staff as quickly as possible so things can get rolling.

If you are interested in auditioning, I am planning on holding a call on Monday, November 10th from 7-9PM in the Raya Stern Trustees Room of the Watertown Public Library. If you are interested in trying, please send me an email at for more information and to secure an audition slot.

If you are interested in being a volunteer for the production, I’d love to hear that too! Send an email to and let me know your interest and skill set. We’re going to need plenty of help!

I will keep you apprised of information as it develops, so watch this space! Now it’s time to get to work!


Auditions for Mrs. Hawking reading at McKinney Repertory Theater!

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The open auditions have just been announced for the staged reading of “Mrs. Hawking” at the McKinney Repertory Theater in McKinney, Texas!

They will be held on Friday, February 21st from 6:30 to 9:30 PM and Saturday, February 22nd from 1:00 to 4:00PM. The location is the McKinney Performing Arts Center at 111 North Tennessee in McKinney. The reading will be held on March 22nd at 2PM in the same place.

So if you’re in the McKinney, Texas area and would like to help bring these characters to life, go to the audition and give it a shot! Information can be found at the theater’s official site here.


Combining the Parlor Drama with the Caper

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Mrs. Hawking is the combination of two fairly distinct genres. The first is the Caper, with its action and detective-story elements, and the second is the Parlor Drama, with its manners comedy and its witty, structured conversation. The Parlor Drama is a staple of theater, so it was no trouble working in those bits. But certain things belonging to the Caper, particularly the action-adventure stuff, can be a little tough to stage, as I can’t exactly depict an infiltration into a building or something like a movie can. But I put a great deal of effort into the reconciling of those elements and the corresponding challenges. You’ll notice there is a detectives-planning-their-next move piece, and an undercover-mission-to-obtain-information scene, complete with an element of distract-the-bad-guy-so-the-operation-can-happen. These elements are highly recognizable of the Caper genre, and by including them I illustrate it to the audience without necessarily having to worry about the details that are more difficult to depict onstage.

You don’t know how I wracked my brain to come up with the structure of the action in this piece. 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, but it’s absolutely necessary to achieving the right effect– engaging, exciting action that feels like a genuine challenge to the cleverness of our heroes without feeling false.

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 did not want the sequence of events to make no sense, or to make those beats feel crammed in. I was afraid I might have had too many ideas for just one script, but I always believe in early drafts it’s better to have too much material than to have too little; I could always cut the excess later. Perhaps miraculously, pretty much everything I wanted to get in there made the final cut, and I was both pleased and surprised by how I was able to make it all flow together.


Mrs. Hawking, Act 1, Scene 1, Version 1

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Mrs. Hawking first came into existence on the page on July 20th, 2011, with the writing of a quick draft of the opening scene. Before I’d figured out where it was going or what the story was going to be about, I conceived of how it might begin, with the first meeting of Mary, Nathaniel, and the lady herself.

Below you’ll find the text of that original draft of the scene. See for yourself how it evolved into its current version! As compared to other parts of the story, this scene underwent shockingly little change. And the characters emerged very strongly for me right away, and from that grew the thrust of the whole story.

Mrs. Hawking – Act I, scene i

(NATHANIEL HAWKING, a well-dressed gentleman in his late twenties, is discovered onstage. He sits in a stylish Victorian parlor and appears to be waiting. A large portrait of a man hangs over the mantelpiece. Before long a bell rings, and he leaps up to answer the door. MARY STONE enters, a plainly dressed working-class young woman. She clasps a suitcase and is bundled against the rain.)

NATHANIEL: Ah, Miss Mary Stone, I presume?

MARY: Indeed I am, sir. And you are Mr. Hawking, then?

NATHANIEL: Call me Nathaniel, if you please. I am very pleased to meet you. I trust you have recovered from your voyage?

MARY: Well enough, though the London weather was quite the shock. I shall certainly miss the Indian climate.

NATHANIEL: I am sure. Oh, allow me.

(He places her suitcase aside, then takes her coat and hangs it for her.)

NATHANIEL: I am certainly glad to find you here. Your turning up in London may be the solution to our problem.

MARY: I understand you advertised on behalf of a relative?

NATHANIEL: My aunt Victoria. She was the wife of my dear uncle, the late Colonel Reginald Hawking of the Afghan campaign. Remarkable woman, I’m terribly fond of her, but… she has queer ideas at times. After my uncle’s passing she dismissed all the staff, but I’ve convinced her that she’s in need of someone around the house. It isn’t right for a lady to go on alone in the world. Almost more than the help, I think she could do with the company.

(Enter a lady in her late thirties to early forties, businesslike and stern, MRS. VICTORIA HAWKING. She regards them, then silently approaches until she is just behind NATHANIEL.)

NATHANIEL: But I must warn you, miss, she is not warm to the idea just yet. She’s stiff-necked, you see. Fiercely independent. You mustn’t take offense if she seems… brusque or standoffish to you, she only just hasn’t quite come round to the notion of needing help.

MARY: I quite understand. I know how difficult it can be to begin your life all over again.

MRS. HAWKING: Is that the girl?

(Startled at the sound of her voice, NATHANIEL spins around and, in an effort to keep from running into her, stumbles backwards onto the ground.)

NATHANIEL: Aunt Victoria!

MRS. HAWKING: How you must suffer for me, Nathaniel.

MARY: Oh, let me help, sir.

(MARY helps him to his feet with practiced ease.)

NATHANIEL: Thank you, miss. Auntie, I am only too glad to be of service. Miss Mary Stone, may I introduce you to my dear lady aunt, Mrs. Victoria Hawking?

MARY: A pleasure to make your acquaintance, madam.

MRS. HAWKING: I’m a fair ways off from my dotage yet, Nathaniel. Do you think me so frail that I require a nursemaid?

NATHANIEL: What are you talking about, Aunt Victoria?

MRS. HAWKING: I consented to hiring a house girl, and you’ve brought me a nurse.

NATHANIEL: Aunt, I’ve done nothing of the kind. Miss Stone isn’t a nurse. You always think you know my meaning before I say it, but truly sometimes you decide in haste!

MARY: I am, in fact, I suppose. In a manner of speaking. I nursed my parents through the last months of their illness.

NATHANIEL: Indeed? Ah, well, see, she is an even more capable lady I’d thought.

MARY: May I ask, ma’am, how did you know?

MRS. HAWKING: The practical way you just now lifted my nephew. You’ve done a great deal of helping bodies in and out of bed.

MARY: Oh, my. That’s it precisely.

NATHANIEL: My dear aunt has quite the keen sense of people, you see. Please, sit here and let us get to know one another, shall we?

MRS. HAWKING: At least this one can string two words together. Unlike that last girl. Wherever did you find her, the lobotomy ward at Colney Hatch?

NATHANIEL: Aunt Victoria, please!

MRS. HAWKING: But now you’ve brought me this girl. Your given plain meek unmarried young woman, new and friendless in London, I see. I would not have left India for this dreary place, but I suppose there are circumstances that can’t be helped.

MARY: That’s the truth of it, ma’am. I see you’ve been told something of my history.

MRS. HAWKING: Only by your dress. A lady who wears Indian linen beneath her greatcoat is one who has not long had need for warm clothes. Very well then, if I must have you then I shall see that I get some use out of you. I would hope a woman who’s lived abroad a time would not be a useless fainting flower. Tell me your accomplishments.

MARY: Accomplishments may perhaps be too strong a word, madam. But I have many years’ time keeping house for my family, hold to a budget, cook well and sew capably. I have attended some school so that I can read and write in English and French—

MRS. HAWKING: Enough of that. You are educated, that is well. Can you keep an appointment-book?

MARY: Very well, Mrs. Hawking.

MRS. HAWKING: And have you the good sense God gave you?

MARY: I very much hope so!

MRS. HAWKING: So too I. I can’t abide a woman who forgets her own head on her shoulders. Well, it gives you a leg up on the other dull-witted chits he’s dragged in front of me. Provided you can hold your tongue and keep your own business, I supposed that you shall do for me.

NATHANIEL: So you’ll have her on?

MRS. HAWKING: I suppose I can stand to.

MARY: Thank you very much, madam! I will not disappoint you.

MRS. HAWKING: I may hope.

MARY: When shall I move in my things?

MRS. HAWKING: I beg your pardon?

MARY: I shan’t need much space. And I can wait for your convenience.

MRS. HAWKING: Nathaniel, I said did not want anyone in the house.

MARY: Oh, dear. I was told that this would be a billeted situation.

NATHANIEL: Aunt Victoria, I explained to you that this would be the way of it. Such is Mary’s situation. And may I point out that you have chased all your other options off?

MRS. HAWKING: Ah, very well. Your claims shall be tested straightaway, it seems. I warn you that I am not a sociable creature, Miss Stone. Heed me well and things shall get on. Well, I suppose that settles that. Can you arrive at ten-thirty sharp tomorrow?

MARY: I will not be late.

MRS: HAWKING: Good. It is another thing I cannot abide. Now you may go. Thank you for your assistance, Nathaniel. I have done.

NATHANIEL: Of course, dear aunt. The Colonel would have wanted me to take care of you.

MRS. HAWKING: Bless him for that.

(Stand and exit MRS. HAWKING.)

NATHANIEL: I am very glad she’ll have you, Mary.

MARY: She seems very displeased with the whole matter.

NATHANIEL: Don’t you worry. Compared to what she thought of the others, she seems quite taken with you.

MARY: Oh, my.

NATHANIEL: She’ll come round in time. My aunt has always been of odd habits, but she’s become… withdrawn of late. I worry for her should she continue on this way. I think you may be precisely what she needs.


Runner up in a new play competition!

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Yesterday I received news from a new play competition in which I entered Mrs. Hawking. The McKinney Repertory Theater in Texas held a contest searching for the best new play, saying that they would perform the winning play and give a staged reading to the first runner up. That first runner up is Mrs. Hawking! I do wonder if the demands of the set disqualified it from winning because they did not want to undertake a build that big, but I'm very happy to hear it regardless. I love to think that somebody that's never even met me thought it was good enough to take a prize in a new play contest, and I especially like that exposure to the piece is spreading. I really do need to get cracking on that Mrs. Hawking website, and start stirring up as much attention as I can. This reading won't be happening for a while yet, not until March of 2014, so I have plenty of time to direct interest generated by it that way. But still, this is so encouraging, I should really use this to motivate myself.

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