Categotry Archives: performance

Descriptions and information about all the performances the piece sees, and processes of making them happen.

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Prop gas lamps for the Mrs. Hawking set

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Categories: performance, Tags: ,

I made these neat gas lamp props to dress the set of Mrs. Hawking at Arisia!

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They’re made of two kinds of candle holders, the brass wall-mounted kind and the glass tumbler kind. I joined them together with hot glue. I think I will try to get a hold of those little battery-operated electric tea lights to put inside them for a glow. They’re not exactly like any actual Victorian interior gas lamps I could find pictures of, but they are reasonable approximations given the features of the ones I did see.

I like them a lot! I think they will look neat on the set.

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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We have a portrait for the Colonel!

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Just a quick peek at the portrait for Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking! GAZE UPON THE LOOMING SYMBOL OF OUR HERO’S OPPRESSION.

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I had a poster printed up at Staples of the image I found depicting a Victorian-era soldier in colonel’s regalia. I found this frame at the dollar store with the right sort of baroque aesthetic. Truth be told, blowing up the image has left it a bit pixellated up close, but I don’t think it’s noticeable from a distance. That’s the beauty of the stage! If it can’t be seen from thirty feet away, it doesn’t exist! Honestly, the more I look at him, the more pleased I am that I went with this picture. Even if he doesn’t look quite like how I imagined the Colonel, he has a kind of sadness in his eyes that I think is exactly right.

I think I’ll hang it up at the read through, so the actors can get used to him watching them all the time. :-)

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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Physical storytelling

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Categories: mrs. hawking, performance, Tags: , ,

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.

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The Colonel’s portrait for the set

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A prominent feature of the Mrs. Hawking set is the portrait of the Colonel that hangs over the mantlepiece in the parlor. I always liked the idea of this detail, as it gives a physical representation to how the Colonel’s presence hangs over the play, and the entirety of Mrs. Hawking’s life.

There isn’t much in the way of detail about it in the text, neither about what it looks like or how it got there. I originally thought of it as a painting, but that would imply that the Colonel sat for it, and I don’t really see that. So now I’m inclined to think of it as a cabinet portrait, a daguerrotype, taken with the elaborate frame cameras of the day.

I also don’t see the Colonel as a man vain enough to live every day with a huge picture of himself in his living room, and of course Mrs. Hawking herself would never want to put it there. So I think it was a gift, and it was kept somewhere out of the way until he passed. After his death, somebody, quite possibly Nathaniel, brought it out to hang over the mantle. Mrs. Hawking felt like she couldn’t protest, so there it has remained in the year and one month since when the first play begins.

To represent it in the Arisia ’15 production, I decided to find an appropriate image. I did a Google search under various related terms, finding it difficult to find something that was exactly what I wanted. I needed something that looked like a daguerrotype of a gentleman in a Victorian’s colonel’s dress regalia, and I knew I wanted it to be of a handsome man. There were not a lot that fit those criteria, but I narrowed it down to these three options.

 

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The first one is of a good-looking man with whiskers, but he seems a touch young for when I think the picture would have been taken, and he is also in civilian dress. The third has the necessary regalia, and I like his beard and the way the colorized image would lend a pop of brightness to the set, but the look of the man isn’t quite right. So I think I’m planning on using the middle one, as I believe it has the best balance of costume, facial hair, age, and handsomeness. None of them really look like quite what I imagine Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking to look like, but I think that one will serve.

I plan on having a large version printed, and put into a frame. That will then be hung on the set of Mrs. Hawking’s parlor, to distinguish the location and flesh out the world.

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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Set-building cleverness

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Categories: mrs. hawking, performance, Tags: , ,

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.

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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.

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

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Categories: mrs. hawking, performance, Tags: , , ,

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.

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Jumping in on Arisia ’15 production of Mrs. Hawking

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Categories: mrs. hawking, performance, Tags: , , ,

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 mrshawkingweb@gmail.com 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 to be PERFORMED at ARISIA 2015!!!

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Categories: mrs. hawking, performance, Tags: , ,

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

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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 mrshawkingweb@gmail.com 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 mrshawkingweb@gmail.com 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!

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The problem of Hawking family resemblance

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Categories: gilded cages, performance, Tags: , , ,

When you’re writing something to be performed by people, you can’t get too married to what characters look like. Yes, I have pretty strong mental images of Mrs. Hawking and Mary, inspired by my lovely friends and models Frances Kimpel and Charlotte Oswald, but when you need to cast people you have to be open to the person who can give the best performance in the role, not necessarily the one who most closely resembles your image of it. Still, I can’t help but picture what these characters look in my head.

Drama is a visual medium; what the audience sees can do as much to tell the story as the words the characters speak. So it’s very possible that what the characters look like could influence that storytelling. I imagine Nathaniel, for example, to be a tall, boyishly handsome man in his late twenties with a swimmer’s build and Irish-setter-red hair. And it just so happens that Nathaniel’s appearance, if not those imagined details specifically, has had an explicit effect on the plot. In Vivat Regina, Mrs. Hawking tells him that it’s hard for her to learn to let down her guard with someone who looks so much like the Colonel, the man from whom she spent years hiding everything that was important to her.

Mostly the discomfort of that would have to be informed. You might have some ability to actually depict it by what you chose to have as the portrait of the Colonel over the mantelpiece, but you’d mostly have to take Mrs. Hawking’s word for it that the resemblance existed. That means the impact, the unsettlement, she feels from it is difficult to translate to the audience’s perception. This kind of bothered me, as it’s always better to make the audience feel the emotions rather then just tell them about them. But then it occurred to me that there’s a theatrical way to make the audience see what Mrs. Hawking sees– eventually, at any rate.

In the the fourth piece I have planned, I want to tell Mrs. Hawking’s origin story, how she came to be the person she is today, and part of that is telling how she came to meet and marry the Colonel. This would require depicting Reginald Hawking as a young man. I plan on having flashbacks to that time juxtaposed to a case our heroes were working on in the present day, which of course would involve Nathaniel. My brainwave was that in that play, you could actually double-cast the two characters to be played by the same actor.

Not only would that signal the physical resemblance, I feel like there would be something truly uncomfortable for the audience to see the man they’re accustomed to seeing as her nephew pursuing her in the romantic manner that her eventual husband does. The weirdness for the audience would be caused by Reginald’s resemblance to Nathaniel, rather than how it is vice versa for Mrs. Hawking, probably because of how weird it would be to see a man who looks like that falling in love with her like Reginald does. But I think it would manage to convey the same feeling Victoria experiences, even if the reason for it is different. I think causing that discomfort would be extremely effective in conveying how difficult that relationship was for her, which would utilize the tools of theater to deliver a more visceral audience experience.

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What I learned from the Vivat Regina reading

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Categories: looking ahead, performance, vivat regina, Tags: , , , , ,

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Photo by Beckie Hunter.

I was extremely pleased with how the staged reading of Vivat Regina went this past Thursday. My actors did such a wonderful job bringing the story to life, I couldn’t have been happier with the representation of my work. I had a very nice audience who reacted appreciatively to it, making me believe the piece is in fact in a solid state. I’m so grateful to everyone who helped make this possible.

Readings should not only exhibit a piece, they should also teach you something about it as its writer. What jumped out at me in this more than anything else was that people responded to the humor of it. I expected them to like the plot and character arcs, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that pretty much all the jokes got laughs. And I was told afterward that the funny parts were some of the most enjoyable of the entire play.

I would not say I am a particularly skilled comedy writer. But I do understand the value of lightening up a serious narrative with humor. A story like Mrs. Hawking’s, that of a frankly unhappy person acting on their rage and resentment, can easily go too far into the territory of “grimdark,” like Batman at his worst. That can get overbearing and excessively heavy very quickly. So I am extremely happy to hear that not only were my humorous moments in Vivat Regina genuinely funny, but they helped balance the serious parts rather than take away from them.

A lot of the humor is based in knowledge of the Victorian period, like when Nathaniel say that Newcastle was his grand military station abroad, so I was concerned it wouldn’t read. But maybe my audience was just smart, because most of it seemed to come across! Also the humor in Mary and Arthur’s banter in the scene with their first meeting seemed to do a lot to make people enjoy it. I very much wanted Arthur to come off as charming, and I think him being an effortlessly funny and sharp-witted guy helped. That scene was very cute, and did a lot to warm people to the relationship to come.

One thing I did not rely on was making any of the characters inherently absurd. I want this to be a story about people rather than caricatures, and I don’t want anyone reduced to a punchline. Take Clara, for example. Clara is a major source of comic relief in this piece, with her biting wit and mocking critiques of our hero. But I very much wanted her to be a substantial person whose humor came from the clever things she said, rather than from her being an absurd person. To annoy Mrs. Hawking, she intentionally behaves like a parody of the gossipy, self-absorbed society woman her aunt believes her to be, but it is put on, not her true nature. I was extremely glad to see that read.

What I take away from all this is that I should make a real effort in the future to include humor in the Mrs. Hawking stories. That’s a bit of a daunting prospect, as I know comedy is not my forte, but I’m glad to have gathered that information. I want these pieces to be as enjoyable and multi-layered as possible, and the lighter moments really seem to add a lot.

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