Categotry Archives: scenes

Actual scenes from various pieces or points in the story.

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A story between the lines — subtext in the Hawking series

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Categories: gilded cages, scenes, Tags:

Subtext has always been an incredibly important technique for telling these stories properly. The art of conveying information with just-below-the-surface cues rather than explicit reference is a challenging one, but is always a component of the drama I find most compelling. I used to struggle with it enormously, so that I’ve dedicated myself to its continual practice. When you’re telling a Victorian story, characters are not always going to feel free to say exactly what they mean, so it’s an absolutely necessary skill to depicting the characters in a genuine, compelling way.

Gilded Cages 2.1

Because I’m continually testing myself on this, I challenge myself to retrace my own process, as it were, to vet it for the level of meaning and effectiveness. Subtext is hard in that because it’s not frankly conveyed, it’s easy to miss, so there must be a lot of effort in choosing the words to suggest the ideas without giving them away. I find drama so moving when it works, so I am always trying to improve my skills at incorporating it!

Here’s a “deleted scene” from the flashback sections of Gilded Cages, one that was recorded as a quick audio drama by actors Cari Keebaugh and Jeremiah O’Sullivan. Here I’ve annotated the scene, entitled “Now Where You’re Standing”, to illustrate why the characters say the things they said, what their intention was behind their lack of free communication and understanding of each other’s position. The relationship between the characters of Victoria Stanton and Reginald Hawking was one that was never on the same page, and I have to sell how they related to each other, how such a profound misunderstanding could come about. And that relies intensely on them plausibly failing to connect with each other, even when they think they are.

So, did I do a good job getting my point across even though it wasn’t explicit? Did I pick the right words? Was I too subtle, or not subtle enough? You be the judge! And be sure to listen to our stellar actors’ recording of it, as they convey a lot of what’s below the surface that the plain script never can!

Now Where You’re Standing
From “Gilded Cages”
By Phoebe Roberts  

VICTORIA STANTON, daughter of the lieutenant territorial governor 
CAPTAIN REGINALD HAWKING, hero of the Indian Rebellion 

Singapore, 1859 

~~~ 

REGINALD: Excuse me, but— might I cut in? Miss Stanton here has promised me a dance, you see. (whispered) I hope you don’t mind. 

VICTORIA: No. Thank you for that. 

REGINALD: I thought you looked as though you could use the rescue. 

His impulse is always to rescue her. He doesn’t see her as a person who can handle herself. She doesn’t yet realize, so she doesn’t yet mind. 

VICTORIA: I hate these stupid parties.  

She’s already identified him as someone she can put her emotions plainly out on the table for. She does this quickly because she has so few others like that in her life.

 REGINALD: That’s clear. Unfortunately, now you’ll have to suffer a dance with me. And I’m afraid I’ve no idea what I’m doing. 

He is trying to make the evening easier for her by pulling her out of an uncomfortable social situation. But I don’t think until he’s actually got her in his arms that he realized how badly he wanted it— the opportunity to be that close to her. The intensity of it is what ends up frightening him off.  

VICTORIA: It’s just dancing. 

This indicates just how little it matters to her to be in this position that’s having such an effect on him. Already, their impressions and positions are not matching up.

REGINALD: We don’t all know ballet. 

He remembers the little details about her because he’s so impressed by how unusual she is. 

VICTORIA: The way you ride and fence, and you can’t do a box step? How ridiculous! 

She genuinely does admire his competence and skills. He is not totally mistaking that there is some connection between him, though he massively overestimates it.

REGINALD: Well— thank you— I think. 

He is flattered by her compliments, even though he acknowledges that they’re couched in her typical judgmental manner.  

VICTORIA: Did you learn in the cavalry? 

She finds him interesting and admirable enough that she actually wants to know things about him.  

REGINALD: It made a man of me, but I’ve been in the saddle all my life. Perhaps a trade is in order— your stars and your dancing, for my horses and navigation tricks. 

I like the idea that Reginald was a great horseman, to the point where it’s something Victoria respected him for even late into life. Also, by encouraging them to exchange skills, he’s encouraging their enmeshment. It’s more time to spend together, more opportunity to bond.  

VICTORIA: And sabers. Make it even. 

He gets a glimpse of her martial impulses, though I think he never understands the extent of it. He would have been intensely surprised if he’d ever learned she became a fighter.  

REGINALD: Hm. If you like. Though I daresay we may get it from your father if I do. 

He doesn’t mind teaching her, but he thinks it’s just a lark. While he mostly gets how much and why she hates her father, he does feel he ought to warn her off of getting herself in trouble with him. Again— his impulse is to protect her from everything. 

VICTORIA: Blast my father. I hate him. I hate all of them. 

She trusts him enough to be honest with him. This isn’t something she tells many people. She isn’t a good liar, especially now, but she mostly just avoids people entirely.  

REGINALD: That’s hard. 

The vitriol of her feelings is slightly off putting to him. He is sympathetic, but it hints at how he’s going to encourage her to bottle up her ugly feelings later in their lives, at least in a public context. Reginald is much more accustomed to putting up to get along— he thinks that’s how life works. It is one of the early wedges in their relationship that she will eventually hate him for.

VICTORIA: Is it, now? Well, Captain, why don’t you spend nineteen years stuck here with them, and we’ll compare notes. 

She has no qualms about being sharp with him. This mild level of it is intensely attractive to him. Eventually it grows to the point where he cannot avoid confronting the painful notion that she hates him, but when they mostly got along and she drew him up every now and again it really pushed his buttons.  

REGINALD: Thank you, but the last few months have been enough. 

He backs down gracefully, and accepts the rebuke without complaint. He actually likes that she’s a little sharp with him.

VICTORIA: Getting to you, is it? 

She is pleased and smug that he’s conceding that the place does kind of suck.  

REGINALD: It’s not here, precisely. It’s— what I have to do. 

Reginald is referring to how he’s being treated as the “rebellion-quelling expert” but sees the signs of unrest brewing, and how they’re reluctant to make the changes he’s recommending to head it off. He’s not telling her much of what is actually bothering him about being there– bad feelings are to be bottled up, again –but he in turn trusts her enough to be honest that he’s not been feeling good about it. 

VICTORIA: You mean be paraded about like a show pony? 

She recognizes this part of the problem because it’s the only one she’s seen— plus he mentioned it specifically in the cellar in scene 1.5. 

REGINALD: That’s certainly part of it. It’s not what I signed on for, that’s for sure. 

He acknowledges what’s correct about her observation without going into specifics about what she’s missing. Ugly feelings are to be bottled for the comfort of others!

VICTORIA: What did you sign on for? 

REGINALD: To tell the truth? To do something that mattered. Something that was hard, but I work at it. Something with a purpose, to the good of the world. 

He’s quoting her own words back to her to show her that he meant it when he said he related to them. 

He also uses a phrase, “to the good of the world,” that we hear Nathaniel use in Base Instruments to describe how he sees his work helping Mrs. Hawking. More and more I find myself giving them the same words; I like the implication that he shares a lexicon with the Colonel; perhaps that’s who he learned much of it from. 

VICTORIA: I see. 

Victoria recognizes her words coming from him and is a little pleased to hear them. At this point she appreciates the implication that they are the same. Also, she likes when people seem to be telling her she’s right.  

REGINALD: But it’s been some time since I thought I was doing any good. 

Again, he is vague on details— he is not an emotionally open man. But this dissatisfaction’s existence is not something he’s confided in anyone else, speaking of the closeness he feels with her. 

VICTORIA: Well. You’ve done me a favor just now. Nobody else would have pulled me out of that rat trap. 

Victoria, sympathetic to his obvious distress, attempts to buck him up. But her reasoning is noticeably immature, citing the fairly small thing he did to cater to her childish impatience, in a manner that centers her whims. She doesn’t realize his worries are on a completely different scale. It underscores their age difference— he’s a grown man of thirty-one, while she’s still a child at nineteen.  

REGINALD: Surely there must be some obliging friend. 

He downplays his action, quite reasonably seeing it as a small gesture. 

VICTORIA: And who would that be? One of the officers’ idiot daughters? Some blockhead soldier? 

She has few peers in this military posting in Singapore, and she doesn’t get along with many people. It’s also a preview of the attitude that dominates her later in life, that, as Mary puts it in Mrs. Hawking, “the women are fools and the men are beasts.” 

REGINALD: I’m one of those blockheads, you know. 

He is not offended or defensive here; in fact, he is being self-deprecating in a manner he often is with her. He means more, “Are you sure you don’t mind hanging out with a blockhead?”  

VICTORIA: (dismissive) You’re different. 

This is not an important statement to her. She fails to see how important it might be to him.  

REGINALD: Do you think so? 

Reginald is quite touched to think that she sees him as special— particularly because he very strongly sees her that way. Her stating this is part of what makes him able to believe that she might be falling for him the way he’s falling for her.  

VICTORIA: You don’t think you know everything. 

Most of the people who talk to Victoria like to lecture her, or tell her about how something she’s doing is wrong. Reginald does not do this— at least not at this stage. Eventually a thing that will deteriorate their relationship is his insistence that people have to put away their feelings to get along in the world.   

REGINALD: That’s certain. But… aren’t you lonely? 

Right now, Reginald doesn’t feel certain of anything, since his career is not turning out the way he thought it would. And he’s not quite sure what emotions he’s developing for her right now, so he’s generally feeling off-balance. 

VICTORIA: I like to be on my own. Besides, I’ve got Malaika now. And Elizabeth too, I suppose. 

Victoria, though suffering for her isolation, does not feel loneliness in the manner that most people do. A good analogy might be that it’s like she is starving, but does not realize because she does not feel hunger. She is unable to see how much her lack of connection to others harms her.  

I also love the way she takes Elizabeth completely for granted— who has, up to this point, completely supported and been there for her. Victoria truly loves Elizabeth, but sees her more as a nagging older sister than a friend she chose for herself. Malaika is the only person she realizes how much she cares about.  

REGINALD: Just your governess and your maid? 

Reginald feels a sudden wave of pity for her thinking that her only friends are people who are paid to be around her.  

VICTORIA: Who else is there?  

Victoria does not see the problem; she doesn’t recognize that her situation is kind of pathetic.

(Pause.)  

REGINALD: You know, miss… it won’t always be like this. 

He is acting from the impulse to rescue her again— in this case, specifically from the loneliness and dissatisfaction of her situation. 

VICTORIA: How do you mean? 

REGINALD: You have your whole life ahead of you. You won’t be here under your father’s thumb forever. 

He’s actually attempting to be frank here, at least as frank as his ethos allows him to be. He wants to give her some hope, specifically the same hope he feels— that the two of them loving each other could be the thing that saves them from the disappointment of their current situations. But he is not a person who can speak plainly of those feelings, so he is attempting to say it without saying it.  

VICTORIA: (scoffing) Ugh! 

Victoria is not really hearing the message. She thinks it’s a sort of generic “chin up, it’ll all turn out in the end” admonition.

REGINALD: It might be hard to see now, but… before long you’ll be past all this. And someday, we’ll be looking back on it all and laughing that we ever thought it mattered.    

By use of “we” he’s unitizing them, suggesting that by the time she’s at that point he will still be in her life in a way that they’ll be able to look back on things together. In a way, it’s him floating the idea of them as a “we” to see how she reacts.  

VICTORIA: And you’re certain of that?  

But she is misses the full significance of the “we”— but at the moment the notion does not offend her. And she has come to like and trust him enough that she is open to the possibility that what he’s saying on the surface— that eventually she’ll be past this —is true. 

REGINALD: I have to be.  

He is holding to hope that the future will be better because of how great his current disappointment is. If he doesn’t believe it will all be to future good, he’ll be really depressed.  

VICTORIA: How? 

REGINALD: Somehow, now where you’re standing… I find it seems very close. 

This is a slip. He’s actually being almost TOO literal here. And it frightens him how honest he is in that moment. 

(Pause.) 

REGINALD: Victoria… I— I— beg your pardon, miss.  

 He is embarrassed and a little frightened by the intensity of his feelings. He was just trying to sound her out a little; he was not ready to “confess” in any way. His apology is for being so ungentlemanly forward.

VICTORIA: What? 

 Fortunately for him, though, she genuinely doesn’t get it.

REGINALD: Thank you for the dance, Miss Stanton. I hope the rest of your evening goes on better than it began.   

 He is retreating back into formality.

VICTORIA: Are you going? Why?

REGINALD: Please understand me, miss, when I say… it’s almost closer than I can bear. 

 He cannot help but be a little more honest here in the face of her confusion. But because he cannot just say these things, which is what allows them to grow, even fester, in a way that traps them both.

(REGINALD exits.) 

 

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BONUS SCENE “Hard Truth,” and building a universe

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Categories: development, mrs. frost, scenes, Tags: ,

 

Gilded Cages, scene 1.5

It’s been really exciting seeing the new part V: Mrs. Frost script stand up in rehearsals. Due to the schedule on which this one was written, there was not a lot of breathing room between finishing it and beginning to rehearse. We made a movie this summer, so perhaps we can be forgiven, but it meant I didn’t have that chance to sit with it for a while, shed the stress of the push to finish, and enjoy what I’d accomplished with fresh eyes.

But something I’ve worked very hard to do in this story is to make it feel like a living, breathing, fully-fleshed-out world, beyond just what is needed for any one individual story. When you do multiple installments of a piece, it has to feel like the characters are rounded individuals who have more to them than just what’s relevant in one given moment. So I spend a lot of time developing them and their backstories, in order to feel like they have arrived organically at their current places based on a genuine human history. That means figuring out things that happened to them outside even what makes its way into the plays, and using how those experiences informed their needs and actions now.

By this token, I thought a lot of what Mrs. Frost brings into this story. She has a lot of complicated and not always positive history with the other characters, and she is famous for using what she knows about people’s secret selves against them. This is relevant for how she deals with Nathaniel, who she attempts to break down psychologically by manipulating his insecurities and fears. And a powerful tool she has for this is her experience with his hero the Colonel, over whom he is obsessed with the fact that he didn’t know as much as he thought.

Gilded Cages, scene 1.5

To that end, I had to hammer out some important things about the interactions of Frost and the Colonel. Some of that made it into this extra scene, which takes place just after the Colonel started traveling abroad more as a way to get out of the house, and of Mrs. Hawking’s way. I had my amazing cast members do a rough recording of it, with Arielle Kaplan as Mrs. Frost (then Mrs. Cameron), and Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Reginald Hawking, in a scene I’m calling “Hard Truth.”

Warning: possible spoilers for part IV: Gilded Cages.

It’s always amazing to hear the actual actors perform these on the fly. It really helps solidify the moment in my mind and make it come to life, like it was something that really did happen in the history of the characters. I feel like we bring more texture to the full performances when the characters are so grounded in such rich development. And when you come to see Mrs. Frost, see if you can spot the moment the title character makes reference to an important moment from this scene.

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New audio recording – “Last Night Before”

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Presenting another short scene from elsewhere in the Mrs. Hawking timeline, recorded for your listening pleasure by our amazing cast!

Base Instruments 2018-121

I really enjoy depicting the relationships between the characters, particularly when it’s a character I don’t get to work with often in the main stories. I absolutely love the character of Justin Hawking, but I don’t know if he’ll ever get to show back up in the stage series. In the meantime, I like playing around with the backstory that involves him, as it’s always guaranteed to have that blend of humor and pathos that I love. Even though these recordings are made very informally, I’m always impressed with the actors ability to adapt their performances to whatever stage of development their characters are in any given piece. You can definitely hear that these are a significantly younger Nathaniel and Justin, which helps ground this moment in the course of their journeys.

This is “Last Night Before,” by Phoebe Roberts, taking place just before Nathaniel and Clara’s wedding, when the two brothers are out celebrating. It features Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Nathaniel Hawking and Christian Krenek as Justin Hawking.

Base Instruments 2018-24

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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Extra scenes – a “deleted scene” from Mrs. Hawking part 4

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Because I enjoy playing around in the Hawking universe, getting to know other aspects of the characters’ stories, I enjoy writing extra scenes. Usually these will never appear in the action of one of the main plays, but I find it both interesting and instructive to establish where the characters came from to understand where they are now.

This is a sort of “deleted scene” of part IV: Gilded Cages. It’s something that would have happened during the period the flashback covers, and makes sense as part of the progress of the narrative. And yet, it still doesn’t really belong in the actual play. Dramatic works must be tight, and particularly in a play this full, you have to be ruthlessly efficient with what you include. When part of it is supposed to be about how one character came to fall in love with another, you have to make things MOVE— you basically have three scenes, in order to have the characters meet, have one of them fall, and be in love in a credible way. So, while this moment almost certainly happened in the progress of young Victoria and Reginald’s relationship, and definitely bridges the scenes we do see of them in the play, there isn’t really room for it in the final piece. It simply develops; it does not show us anything new.

I had the talented actors who play these characters, Cari Keebaugh as Victoria and Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Reginald, record the scene as an informal audio performance. These scenes are never rigorously edited, nor recorded in a particularly painstaking fashion. But I think they’re fun to listen to as a little bonus, to get a little bit more of what we love of these actors in their characters.

So this piece is called “Now Where You’re Standing,” a sort of “deleted scene” from the continuity of Mrs. Hawking part IV: Gilded Cages.

To catch the story in its entirety, join us for the 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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Extra scenes – a funny and touching recording of brothers Nathaniel and Justin

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Categories: scenes, Tags: , ,

We have another scene made into an audio recording! This time, it’s another moment from earlier in our story’s timeline, a follow up of sorts to “True Gentlemen,” the previous scene we recorded like this.

This scene, “Enough to Compare,” was written as the capper to my 2017 foray in 31 Plays in 31 Days, and features Justin finally finding out that Nathaniel and Clara have begun a relationship. It’s much more humorous in tone than our previous scene— as anything with Justin tends to be! —but it also aims to capture some of the more touching emotional quality that comes from drama between close family members. One of the reasons I particularly enjoy writing scenes between these two characters is because they are both in constant conflict, while simultaneously caring about each other a great deal. It gives a great opportunity for a combination of humor and pathos& dash; one of my favorite ways to tell stories.

 

As I mentioned with the last one, these scenes are a little rough and the recordings are very informal. But these scene particularly makes me smile, and Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Nathaniel and Christian Krenek as Justin are delightful. So check this out for a laugh and a warm fuzzy feeling, and to learn a little bit more about the greater Hawking story. And if you enjoy their performances, catch Jeremiah as Nathaniel and Christian as Justin in our shows 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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Extra scenes — quick recording of “True Gentleman” with Nathaniel and Clara

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Categories: scenes, Tags: , , ,

BI Performance-8
 

By this point, I’ve been noodling around with stories set in the Mrs. Hawking continuity for several years now. It’s fun to explore these characters beyond just what makes it into the plays, plus it’s helpful for me to know where they’re going if I know where they came from. And I think it can be really interesting to learn the histories of the characters you’ve gotten to know over the course of the series!

A lot of these scenes and moments will never make it into plays. Either they’re from outside the times we’re dealing with, or just don’t fit into the important dramatic moments the full-length shows focus on. But there’s still drama and interest in a lot of these scenes, and I’d like to be able to feature them somehow!

To that end, I’m doing little informal recordings of them, with the actors who play these characters in the full-length shows. The scenes are a little unpolished, and not a lot of rehearsal will go into them. But I think they can be fun little treats for people who have gotten to know the characters of this series and would like to see a little more from them!

The first of these is a staged reading of “True Gentleman,” a scene I wrote from the courtship of Nathaniel and Clara. We know they’re married by the time the shows begin in 1880, and references to their history together have been made. But I thought it might be cute to do a small scene from the beginning of their romantic relationship.

So here’s “True Gentleman,” featuring Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Nathaniel and Sara Smith as Clara. Enjoy!

 

And if you liked that, be sure to come see Jeremiah and Sara on stage as these characters at Arisia 2018 in Base Instruments and Gilded Cages!

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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“I Saw Three Ships” – a Mrs. Hawking holiday scene

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Categories: character, scenes, Tags: , , ,

I don’t know where this came from. It’s a little seasonally-appropriate Hawking scene popped into my head tonight, and I scribbled it down in a few minutes just for amusement’s sake. It’s probably never going to fit into any of the plays, but it was an opportunity for some cute character moments, and one really fun line. It’s nice to see them just in a low-stakes character moment that’s purely fun and sweet, rather than all mired in drama.

It made me smile; I hope it does you too. 😁

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“Three Ships”
From the Mrs. Hawking series
By Phoebe Roberts

MARY STONE, housemaid and apprentice society avenger
VICTORIA HAWKING, society avenger and her mentor
NATHANIEL HAWKING, her nephew and assistant

London, England – December, 1884
~~~

(MARY dusts in the parlor, humming the Christmas carol “I Saw Three Ships.” MRS. HAWKING enters to choose a book from the shelf, then exits. MARY begins softly singing.)

MARY: (singing) I saw three ships come sailing in, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day. I saw three ships come sailing in, on Christmas Day in the morning.

(She glances after MRS. HAWKING to make sure she’s gone. Then she goes and gets a flour sack containing a garland of evergreen with holly berries. She holds it up and dances around with it a little, singing louder now.)

MARY: (singing) Wither sailed those ships all three, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day? Wither sailed those ships all three, on Christmas Day in the morning?

(She begins to string up the garland over the mantlepiece and along the parlor wall.)

MARY: (singing) And they sailed into Bethlehem, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day. And they sailed into Bethlehem,, on Christmas Day in the morning.

(She dances around the room.)

MARY: (singing) And all the bells on earth shall ring, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day. And all the bells on earth shall ring, on Christmas Day in the morning.

(She dips and twirls, singing at the top of her voice. Without her noticing, NATHANIEL enters, and he hangs back watching her with a smile on his face.)

MARY: (singing) Then let us all rejoice again, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day! Then let us all rejoice again on Christmas Day in the morning!

(As she belts out the last note, she spins around to see MRS. HAWKING reenter frowning. She crosses back to the bookshelf, glaring at MARY’s decorating as she goes. She snatches a book off the shelf.)

MRS. HAWKING: Bethlehem is landlocked.

(She exits. MARY turns sheepishly and sees NATHANIEL standing behind her, grinning. After a moment, he takes up the last verse and she joins him.)

BOTH: I saw three ships come sailing in, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day! I saw three ships come sailing in, on Christmas Day in the morning!

(They break off together, doubled over into laughter.)

Vivat Regina and Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 13th-15th at the Boston Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2017.

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“True Gentleman” – a scene of Nathaniel and Clara in back story

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Categories: scenes, Tags: , ,

I have a pretty good idea of the shape of the Hawking stories to come, most of which will be about exploring how our heroes grow and develop into the future of their team. Every now and then, though, I find myself imaging how things went in their back stories, moments that probably won’t feature in the plays but helped shaped the characters that we know them as today.

This scene written during my completion of 31 Plays in 31 Days 2016 deals with an idea I’m surprised I’ve never noodled with before. One little character bit in the Hawking stories that I enjoy is the fact that Clara and Nathaniel met through Nathaniel’s older brother Justin, because Clara dated Justin before she and Nathaniel got together. Their mild romantic history is alluded to in Base Instruments; it was Bernie’s idea and he pushed to include it. Basically, as they are the same age (three years older than Nathaniel) they came out in the same year, and so met while attending the same parties. They courted for a little while, until Clara got fed up with his interest in other girls and broke it off. She and Nathaniel got together gradually after that.

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This little scene is from five or so years before the first Mrs. Hawking play, and depicts how their relationship began to change into something that would lead to falling in love, getting married, and having a couple of babies.

“True Gentleman”
By Phoebe Roberts

NATHANIEL HAWKING, a young gentleman, early twenties
CLARA PARTRIDGE, a lady his brother courted, mid twenties

London, England, 1875
~~~
(A twenty-three-year-old CLARA PARTRIDGE dashes in and paces, fuming with the beginnings of tears in her eyes. After her comes a twenty-year-old NATHANIEL HAWKING. Both are in evening wear.)

NATHANIEL: I say, Clara! Are you— are you all right?

CLARA: Why, Nathaniel! What are you doing here?

NATHANIEL: Pardon me, but I saw you dash out of the ballroom, and worried something might wrong. When Justin didn’t go after you, I thought someone ought to.

CLARA: Well! That’s very kind of you. Justin shan’t be following after me, not if he knows what’s good for him.

NATHANIEL: Whatever do you mean?

CLARA: I mean I don’t think I shall be seeing so very much of Justin anymore.

NATHANIEL: You mean— oh!

CLARA: Yes, well.

NATHANIEL: I— I’m quite sorry. He hasn’t— done anything ungentlemanly, has he?

CLARA: He’s Justin, isn’t he?

NATHANIEL: That prat. What’s he done?

CLARA: Oh, never you mind.

NATHANIEL: If he’s hurt you, miss—

CLARA: Oh, you know him! It’s only that he has a wandering eye. One grows weary of feeling like the plainest girl in the room.

NATHANIEL: Goodness, Clara, you could never be that!

CLARA: Oh, my.

NATHANIEL: I mean— forgive me, but— as you said, that’s his way. It’s no fault of yours that he’s an absolute rake.

CLARA: Perhaps not. But I’ve no patience for it any more.

NATHANIEL: Nor should you.

CLARA: I only hope I haven’t made a perfect fool of myself. Losing my calm with him and dashing out of the ballroom for everyone to see. Certainly I’ve ruined the last dance.

NATHANIEL: Not at all. I’m sure no one paid it any mind.

CLARA: You did. You had to run out here after to me.

NATHANIEL: Well— I hated the thought that you might be alone in your distress.

CLARA: Thank you for that. It’s quite kind.

NATHANIEL: Think nothing of it, miss. And, please… never think that my blasted brother’s conduct means you’re not beautiful. If I may say so… I don’t know how any man courting you could look away from you.

CLARA: Why, Nathaniel…

NATHANIEL: Oh, that was dreadfully impertinent. Now you think I’m just as much a rake as he is.

CLARA: Not at all. Quite the contrary… you are a true gentleman, Nathaniel Hawking.

NATHANIEL: It means a great deal that you’d think so. Is there anything else I can do?

CLARA: You’ve been a great comfort to me tonight. Indeed, I think I shall be presentable to return. You ought to go out and enjoy the rest of the ball. You’re shipping out soon for your tour of service, aren’t you?

NATHANIEL: If you can call it that. They’re sending me to Newcastle, of all places.

CLARA: Sounds as though you’re in for an adventure.

NATHANIEL: Indeed, fighting off boredom as I keep the logbooks.

CLARA: They’ll make a soldier of you yet. Well, if you’ll excuse me, I had best find a place to freshen up. I’d like to make my return more dignified than my exit.

NATHANIEL: Certainly, miss.

(He bows and turns to go. Just before he exits, he turns back around.)

NATHANIEL: Miss, since it will be so dreadfully dull away in the armory, it would be very cheering to hear a word from home now and again. When I have a moment, might I write you? Some letters might be just the way to pass the time.

CLARA: I would like that, Nathaniel.

(He smiles, then bows again and exits. She watches him go with a new interest.)

Vivat Regina and Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 13th-15th at the Boston Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2017.

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“What If I Don’t Want To?” — early drafting of Mary’s arc for Base Instruments

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Categories: base instruments, development, scenes, themes, Tags: , , ,

I find that the overall plot of Base Instruments, which is a mystery, is proving to be hard to nail down. I’m very close now, though it certainly could still change as I test how everything works. The other day I worked out an important aspect of it through drawing a diagram and moving coins around on it that represented where the characters were at various points in the story. Proud of myself for figuring that out!

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I wrote this snippet for Base Instruments as part of 31 Plays in 31 Days 2014. I got the major themes and journeys hammered out pretty quickly, so here's something, getting at the idea that as much as Mary wants to be Mrs. Hawking's protege, she may not be ready for everything Mrs. Hawking's going to expect. This will be Mary’s major struggle for the piece.

What If I Don’t Want To?
By Phoebe Roberts

MARY STONE, Mrs. Hawking’s maid and protégé
NATHANIEL HAWKING, Mrs. Hawking’s gentleman nephew

London, England, 1883
~~~

MARY: Did you know that Mrs. Hawking studied ballet when she was young?

NATHANIEL: Is that so? I'd no idea, how interesting.

MARY: Apparently she once considered making a career of it.

NATHANIEL: Oh, really? Was she any good, then?

MARY: I don't know. But doesn't that surprise you?

NATHANIEL: I quite honestly don’t believe there’s anything she couldn’t do if she cared to. Why, does it you?

MARY: It’s, well… Mrs. Hawking doesn't often like things for their own sake, now, does she?

NATHANIEL: She doesn't like much of anything.

MARY: That's not what I mean. Everything's to a point with her. She practices skills to hone her craft. She studies facts in case it might serve her to know them. For goodness sake, she only reads for the points of reference. To think of her dancing for only the love of it… why, it's entirely new.

NATHANIEL: Goodness. I think I see what you mean.

MARY: Do you think… she’s always been that way?

NATHANIEL: I’m hard pressed to imagine her before she was so bitter.

MARY: It could have been that. Or… do you think she’s found it necessary? For her work, I mean. To care for nothing but that which serves her purpose because that’s the only way she’s capable of accomplishing the enormous things she accomplishes?

NATHANIEL: Goodness, I hope not. I mean to be of help to her, but I couldn’t bear to live as she does. Devoting herself to nothing but her work.

MARY: What if that’s what it takes?

NATHANIEL: Well, then I haven’t got it. I’ve a family, for heaven’s sake, and a hobby or two I’d care to pursue.

(He laughs, but MARY sits very quietly, eyes wide.)

NATHANIEL: Are you quite all right?

MARY: What if I haven’t got it either?

NATHANIEL: Oh, Mary. I’m sure you too can do anything you want to. If you put your mind to it, I’m sure you could become as honed and dedicated as she is.

MARY: No, Nathaniel… what if I don’t want to?

8/3/14

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