Categotry Archives: scenes

Actual scenes from various pieces or points in the story.

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“Your Vessel Has Not Betrayed You” — scribbling on the ballerina client

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This early piece for Base Instruments is pretty much pure idea and very, very little refinement. It grew out of the fact that I want to have a ballerina for the client in this one, who can bring up ballet as a metaphor for exploring some of Mrs. Hawking's issues. Ballet dancers, particularly broken down ones, are a favorite subject of mine to write about. I really like using this conceit in the story, and I think I'm really on to something in this scene. I hope it's as subtle as I'm working for it to be.

The trouble is it was written without context, so definitely needs editing once I figure out what the mystery and plot is. For this I just threw in a few details as placeholders; I don't even know who "Alexei" is supposed to be, for example. But I can sort that out later. For now I just wanted to take a stab at the idea, and even in this rough form I think it's going to be a good one.

Your Vessel Has Not Betrayed You
by Phoebe Roberts

VICTORIA HAWKING, secret society avenger, early forties
ELENA ZAKHAROVA, prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet, late twenties

London, England, 1883
~~~

(ELENA ZAKHAROVA makes her way down the hall. Suddenly MRS. HAWKING springs out in her stealth suit. MISS ZAKHAROVA starts and sucks in a breath to scream, but MRS. HAWKING whips back her hood to show her face.)

MRS. HAWKING: Hush! It's me!

(With effort MISS ZAKHAROVA calms herself.)

MISS ZAKHAROVA: God in Heaven! How– however do you do that?

MRS. HAWKING: A trick of the trade. I had to find you, and I did not wish to be seen.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: What is it?

(She notices MRS. HAWKING's intense scrutiny.)

MISS ZAKHAROVA: Why do you look at me?

MRS. HAWKING: How long have they been like that?

MISS ZAKHAROVA: What?

MRS. HAWKING: Your ankles.

(MISS ZAKHAROVA stiffens.)

MRS. HAWKING: The laudanum concealed the extent of it when you visited me before. But I know those ginger steps to protect against the pain.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: I am only– sore from rehearsal!

MRS. HAWKING: It is more than that. A prima ballerina lives on her ankles, and yours are crumbling beneath you. They will only grow worse with time.

(Pause.)

MRS. HAWKING: You're on your on your way out, Miss Zakharova.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: Please. You mustn't tell anyone.

MRS. HAWKING: This changes things.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: It changes nothing of this!

MRS. HAWKING: If your position is no longer secure, then you have reason to act against the hierarchy of the company.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: I would never! The company is my life!

MRS. HAWKING: And that life is about to end.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: I have done nothing but the dance since I was a girl of six! I have sacrificed so much. All I had to my name was my career and Alexei, and now Alexei is dead. Can you not understand?

(Pause.)

MISS ZAKHAROVA: How could you? Your vessel has never betrayed you.

MRS. HAWKING: Miss Zakharova–

MISS ZAKHAROVA: Look at you! To be able to climb as you do like a cat in a tree! Might I be so impertinent as to ask madam's age?

(Pause.)

MRS. HAWKING: Forty-three.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: Forty-three. I shall have fortune to walk so long. I would do murder for the clean lines of your legs.

MRS. HAWKING: Nonsense.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: Any dancer would.

(Pause.)

MISS ZAKHAROVA: The ballet is my one calling. And in perfecting it, I have ruined myself for it.

MRS. HAWKING: You concealed it.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: So that I might have it just a few moments longer! They will replace me in a breath. In my place, what would you have done?

MRS. HAWKING: That's the trouble. I might have done anything.

8/12/14

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“The Cuff” – scribblings on the end of Mrs. Hawking’s mourning period

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So I’ve been working to figure out the Mrs. Hawking timeline to nail down when each story needs to happen. The main things to work around are that the first story takes place in 1880, to happen in proper proximity to the Indian Rebellion and the Battle of Kandahar, and I want the sixth story to have Mrs. Hawking taking on Jack the Ripper, which would happen in 1888. Six pieces need to be spread across that span, with an amount of time between them that is believable. I’ve decided that it makes more sense to place Base Instruments in 1883 rather than 1882, which is what I had originally been using for all other pieces of it written for this 31P31D, so that the second trilogy can be in 1885, 1886, and 1888, making no gap longer than two years.

If it’s happening in 1883, then, it occurred to me that means that Mrs. Hawking will be almost out of mourning for her late husband the Colonel. Mourning for widows was very regimented in Victorian England, so even if it didn’t match her own feelings or preferences, she would have to observe the etiquette so as not to attract unwanted attention and criticism. I don’t know if this is an especially useful scene to include in Base Instruments, but it’s an interesting thing to address.

The Cuff
by Phoebe Roberts

VICTORIA HAWKING, lady’s society avenger
MARY STONE, her housemaid and assistant

London, England, 1883
~~~

(MRS. HAWKING dresses to go out in public. She regards herself in the mirror. MARY neatens the vanity table.)

MRS. HAWKING: Two months now.

MARY: Two months of what?

MRS. HAWKING: Two months until I’m out of mourning.

MARY: Oh, my. I’d quite forgotten.

(She goes to the wardrobe and begins looking through the dresses.)

MARY: I haven’t looked at your old things since I came. I think it should all still fit.

MRS. HAWKING: I don’t much care.

MARY: Well, I should think it would be easier than having to shop.

MRS. HAWKING: I’ve no wish to return to colors. It isn’t as if I can dress how I like anyhow.

MARY: Well. If you kept to blacks, no one would think anything of it.

MRS. HAWKING: Mm.

(She holds up her right hand to look at her wedding ring.)

MRS. HAWKING: I wouldn’t mind dispensing with this, though.

MARY: Oh. I’m… not sure that’s done.

MRS. HAWKING: No. It is not. If you’re shackled to a man, you’re at least rid of him when he dies. But you remain in the cuff until you replace it with some living fellow’s.

(Pause.)

MRS. HAWKING: I had thought to bury the Colonel with his. But Nathaniel saved it, and gave it to me. He thought at the time I might like to have it.

MARY: Did you keep it?

MRS. HAWKING: It’s in a snuffbox in his dressing room. What else could I do? Like this, certain parties would object to anything less.

MARY: It’s a small thing, at least.

MRS. HAWKING: It keeps me beneath notice.

(MARY comes close to look at MRS. HAWKING’s ring.)

MARY: It’s beautiful.

MRS. HAWKING: India ruby. He was so proud.

8/21/14

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“Glad to Be Your Man” — scribbling on the reappearance of Arthur Swann

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Categories: base instruments, development, looking ahead, scenes, Tags: , , ,

Base Instruments is likely to have a very large cast. That's not ideal for produceability, but more and more I suspect I just need to adapt these Mrs. Hawking stories into a miniseries or something, so I'm not worrying about that stuff when I'm just trying to figure out what happens in each installment.

Arthur Swann, a young policeman, was introduced in Vivat Regina, and though nothing happened beyond getting to know him a little, it was pretty clear he was positively impressed by Mary. Because I think Base Instruments will end up being a murder mystery, I think it will be necessary to have Arthur reappear in this story, especially since I'm planning on him becoming more and more of an important character. That means the relationship between him and Mary will have to progress. One of his traits is that he's supposed to be charming in a way that respects and admires Mary's capability and independence, which I want to demonstrate in his pursuit of her. However, I have to be careful to not push things too hard, as I want the attentions of Nathaniel's brother Justin to be a legitimate distraction for Mary in this story. Justin'll seem less special and remarkable if lots of dudes are throwing themselves at her. I may be able to rely on the fact that he's very good-looking and a gentleman, the sort of man Mary never would have expected to give her a second look, while Arthur is a bit more ordinary-seeming. But I can balance that out later. Here's a shot at looking what Arthur reappearing in Mary's life would begin with.

I really love him calling her "rare bird," given the significance of the bird motif in these stories. :-)

Glad to Be Your Man
by Phoebe Roberts

MARY STONE, house maid and assistant society avenger
ARTHUR SWANN, a policeman

London, England, 1883
~~~

(Officer ARTHUR SWANN leans against a lamp post. He notices MARY as she walks by.)

ARTHUR: As I live and breathe. Evening, rare bird.

(MARY turns.)

MARY: I beg your pardon?

ARTHUR: Don't you remember me? Because I couldn't forget you.

MARY: You're that policeman. Who needed some help with a ruffian.

ARTHUR: And you're the girl what gave it to me. Mary Stone.

MARY: Goodness. It's been more than a year, hasn't it?

ARTHUR: I'm like to recall a maid who can swing a poker like that. You know, ever since that night I've been keeping a weather eye out for you, hoping you might come back again this way. But you never have.

MARY: I'm sorry, I've had no cause.

ARTHUR: Shame on you, then. Who knows what trouble I might have gotten into without you around to watch my back? Could you bear to carry that on your conscience?

(MARY laughs.)

ARTHUR: So, then. Can you stay a spell to visit?

MARY: Forgive me, I've things to do.

ARTHUR: More important business, eh? Like German spies slipping away in the night from embassies?

(MARY fights to keep her expression neutral.)

MARY: I… I don't know what you mean.

ARTHUR: Well, it isn't as if us walking bobs often receive tips about when to bust up foreign spy activity. And when it comes after I've only just met a remarkable young lady clearly staking out the embassy…

(MARY laughs breezily.)

MARY: Staking out? Oh, heavens.

ARTHUR: I may look like just a pretty face, but there's a tick or two working behind my baby blues. Thank you kindly for that, by the by. My captain was fair chuffed with me.

MARY: Sir. I really don't know what you're talking about.

ARTHUR: No worries, miss. I'm not about to say anything, have no fear of that.

MARY: Perhaps I'd best be on my way.

ARTHUR: I won't keep you. Only I hope if you've a moment sometime, you might spare it to have a chat with me. And you know… if you ever need another copper to show up at the right time… I'd be glad to be your man.

MARY: Well… that's kind of you, I suppose.

ARTHUR: If I might see you again, I'll do a lot more than that.

(He tips his cap.)

ARTHUR: And remember, the name's Arthur Swann. In case you ever need it again.

8/20/14

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“Family Dinner” — Hawking drama I’m not sure about

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

I started this scene for inclusion in Base Instruments, but the more I wrote it the less sure I was about it. While it’s roughly in character– Nathaniel wants Mrs. Hawking to show up to a family dinner while his brother Justin is in town, Mrs. Hawking doesn’t want to go –I don’t feel like the motivations are necessarily strong enough.

Yeah, Nathaniel wants his aunt to act like she’s part of the family, but he knows that she and Justin don’t like each other and it’s not likely to be a pleasant evening for anyone involved. I feel like he would be wiser than to force everybody into a situation that’s likely to make the whole family miserable; he would instead pick his battles to work on developing relationships with her that both mattered to him more and had more of a chance of success, such as his and hers, or even hers and Clara’s. Also, I think if Mrs. Hawking didn’t want to go to an event, she just wouldn’t; she’s starting to value Nathaniel and his feelings more, but the concept of “but we’re your faaaaaamily” just doesn’t matter to her. She wouldn’t make herself miserable to do any service to that. I don’t like making characters do thing for the sake of drama or the plot that I don’t feel are really in character.

I tried to make it work. I tried to give Nathaniel an outside reason for why he would insist on this– tying it into his issues with Justin rather than just letting it rely on his desire to make his aunt connect with family. And I tried to make it so she was only trying to minimize her own misery by agreeing to the dinner on his terms, because the alternative would be worse. But I’m not sure I buy it. Also I don’t know if I actually want to include that dinner happening in the story; I’m not sure what dramatic purpose it would serve. Although it might be funny just to see all these people fighting with each other under the guise of polite conversation, with Nathaniel frantically trying to make everybody just be nice to each other for one evening for God’s sake.

Ah, well. Even if I don’t use it, it’s practice. And I won’t have to try to recreate it if I decide that I want to.

Family Dinner
by Phoebe Roberts

VICTORIA HAWKING, lady’s society avenger
NATHANIEL HAWKING, her nephew and assistant

London, England, 1883
~~~

NATHANIEL: Here’s the research you asked for! Interviews with the company members, and diagrams of the crime scene. And not a soul will know you’ve had them.

(He hands over a folder and she inspects it.)

MRS. HAWKING: Hmm. That was neatly done. Thank you, Nathaniel.

NATHANIEL: Glad to do it, Auntie. And I’ll have the floor plans for the theater on Monday.

(Pause.)

NATHANIEL: Are you pleased?

MRS. HAWKING: I am. I must concede, you’ve been a great help and very little trouble in the recent past.

NATHANIEL: I’m glad to hear it! And I promise not to trouble you by dropping by while you’re ruminating for the rest of the week.

(She freezes suddenly and stares at NATHANIEL in suspicion.)

MRS. HAWKING: What do you want?

NATHANIEL: Now, don’t get cross, Auntie…

MRS. HAWKING: Out with it.

(NATHANIEL takes a deep breath.)

NATHANIEL: Justin is coming to London for a visit, and I’d like you to come to family dinner.

(She turns to walk away.)

NATHANIEL Oh, come on, Aunt Victoria!

MRS. HAWKING: Go chase yourself.

NATHANIEL: It’s only just an evening!

MRS. HAWKING: Which you seem intent to ruin for everyone.

NATHANIEL: Justin’s in town so rarely. Can’t we spend one night at least pretending we can get on like a normal family?

MRS. HAWKING: To what end?

NATHANIEL: My occasional peace of mind.

MRS. HAWKING: Best not to rely on delusions for comfort, nephew.

NATHANIEL: He won’t be here long. He’ll be on to the country in a few days to see Father.

MRS. HAWKING: Then let your father bear him. Your brother is an entitled rake who never stops talking.

NATHANIEL: I thought that was what you thought of me.

MRS. HAWKING: You’re not a rake, I grant you.

NATHANIEL: Indeed? Oh, goodness, Auntie, I never knew you cared.

MRS. HAWKING: Justin, however, I can’t stand across even a dinner table.

NATHANIEL: Oh, come now. It’s rare to have so much of the family together.

MRS. HAWKING: Perhaps think on why that is for a moment.

NATHANIEL: Clara wants you to be there.

MRS. HAWKING: No, she doesn’t.

NATHANIEL: The children never see you!

MRS. HAWKING: By design, Nathaniel.

NATHANIEL: Careful there, Auntie, that’s my flesh and blood you’re talking about.

MRS. HAWKING: I don’t care for children, why should you subject yours to me?

NATHANIEL: Because I want them to know you.

MRS. HAWKING: Whatever for?

NATHANIEL: Because you’re important to me! My God, woman, is that so hard for you to grasp? Would I keep coming back for more of your trouble if you weren’t?

(She raises an eyebrow at him. He sighs.)

NATHANIEL: If you must know, Justin has opined to me, loudly and often, that he doesn’t understand why I’ve gone to so much trouble to keep you in my life. If you can manage to bear up through one family dinner without being particularly horrible, it might give the appearance that my efforts haven’t come to nothing, and perhaps it will shut him up. For a moment. Could you possibly see your way to helping me with that? I don’t ask much of you, Auntie.

MRS. HAWKING: Ha!

NATHANIEL: All right, then. In that case, I promise you, if you don’t come, Clara will commandeer this house and have a party laid in ambush for you in your own dining room. And there won’t be any getting rid of us then.

(Pause.)

NATHANIEL: And don’t think Mary won’t help me. Because you know she will! So, what shall it be, then?

MRS. HAWKING: You are becoming quite the ruthless strategist, aren’t you, boy?

(NATHANIEL laughs.)

NATHANIEL: I’ve been learning from the best.

(He goes to retrieve his coat from the rack.)

NATHANIEL: Do cheer up, Auntie. Perhaps little Beatrice might do with your influence.

(MRS. HAWKING looks at him, considering. He smiles.)

NATHANIEL: Imagine what might come of that.

8/16/14

by

Mr. Ambrose Hawking

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Categories: character, scenes, themes, Tags: , , , , , ,

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Though I’ve written very little in his voice, I’ve thought a great deal about the patriarch of the respectable, successful middle-class Hawking family, and the father of Justin and Nathaniel. While his younger brother Colonel Reginald Hawking served in the military, Ambrose built the family business from the ground up, turning a series of small investments into a thriving venture capital firm with interests all across the empire. He was close to and very proud of his brave younger brother, with Reginald’s choice to marry the fiery, inscrutable Victoria Stanton being the only difference to ever come between them. This conflict is referenced in Like a Loss, a ten-minute play featuring the Colonel and his valet.

Ambrose is a bastion of traditional Victorian masculinity, accustomed to authority and privilege and very skeptical of the notion of women having agency. The world and its accompanying systems have done well for him, and so he is loath to see them change. His younger son Nathaniel, however, is beginning to question and even reject the assumptions to which his father raised him. It will come as quite a shock when he is confronted by Nathaniel’s new perspective on things, especially when it comes to affect the way Nathaniel decides to raise his own son.

I don’t know if or when Ambrose will ever actually appear in the plays. Even in the upcoming third one, in which I plan for other members of Nathaniel’s family to appear and drive the conflict, I don’t know if there will be room for him. Still, I think the influence of a traditionally Victorian patriarchal father is important for Nathaniel’s sorting out of how he’s going to engage with feminism. If nothing else, I’m sure he will be mentioned, as he is in Like a Loss, or perhaps show up in another in-universe short piece.

Here is a small chunk I felt compelled to write, just as a way of exploring the slightly more human side of him. One thing is clear, he cared very deeply about his brother the Colonel, and what pained Reginald was also pain to him. I also think it serves to make his strong antipathy towards Victoria a lot more understandable. So, in service of that, here is a conversation I could picture them having about the Colonel.

~~~

NATHANIEL: Did you think he ever knew just how… strongly she felt?

AMBROSE: Are you joking? Of course he did. He wasn’t a fool.

NATHANIEL: How do you know?

AMBROSE: Everyone knew. You could read it in her every glance, she never tried to hide it. And it cut him.

NATHANIEL: Did he tell you?

AMBROSE: He didn’t have to. I was his brother, I could see it in his eyes.

NATHANIEL: You never told me.

AMBROSE: By Jove, Nathaniel, do you fancy I hate her just because she’s unpleasant at dinner parties? The woman my brother loved despised him above all else. And he had to live with that. You may have found a way to forgive her, boy, but I never shall.

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“Prowl After the Help” — scribbling on a future inclusion of Justin

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This scene, set sometime in the future of the Mrs. Hawking continuity, is between Nathaniel and his elder brother Justin, who’s a world traveler and a bit of a rake. I wanted to write a conversation between the two of them, and I settled on a theoretical moment where Justin is in London and has been starting to hit on Mary, which Nathaniel, knowing his brother, doesn’t approve of.

I wanted to show the brothers’ relationship as well as possible raise large plot-relevant issues, which I think I succeeded with. The one thing I struggled to accomplish was I want it to subtly reveal some of the classism in Nathaniel that he hasn’t confronted yet– that he may think of himself as high-minded, but that he considers attraction to a lower-class person to be vulgar for a gentleman –and I’m not sure I executed with sufficient clarity and understatement. It was too easy to gloss over “I’m not attracted to people beneath my class” with “I don’t sexually harass people at work” and “I’m married and so not paying much attention to any outside people romantically.”

But I think I did a good job characterizing Justin. He tweaks Nathaniel, who’s way more of a goody-goody, which is fun. And I love writing the relationship between them as brothers. “Frasier” is one of my all-time favorite shows, and the way they depict the brothers and their relationship really is the best part.

~~~

NATHANIEL: Just what do you think you’re doing?

JUSTIN: Why, making friends.

NATHANIEL: Bollocks.

JUSTIN: Such language!

NATHANIEL: Don’t play the innocent with me. I see how you’re prowling around Mary.

JUSTIN: You said she’s a lovely girl, I wanted to make her acquaintance for myself.

NATHANIEL: I know what you want with lovely girls.

JUSTIN: Well, can you blame me?

NATHANIEL: Stay away from her.

JUSTIN: Why ever should I?

NATHANIEL: She’s a sweet and decent girl. She doesn’t deserve to be led on by the likes of you.

JUSTIN: Led on!

NATHANIEL: I’ll not have you telling her pretty lies just so you can…

JUSTIN: So I can what, brother?

NATHANIEL: Get your own way. Whatever that is.

JUSTIN: Ha! Who’s playing the innocent now?

NATHANIEL: Don’t be vulgar.

JUSTIN: Ha! I should think you’d know me by now, old boy.

NATHANIEL: And you call yourself a gentleman. I mean, really, Auntie’s maid?

JUSTIN: What’s the harm? It’s not like she has some grand society reputation to protect. Unless you think Aunt Victoria would be cross?

NATHANIEL: No! Well, perhaps, but–

JUSTIN: Well, I’m quite used to weathering Auntie’s wrath. What, do you think she’d dismiss the girl over it?

NATHANIEL: I don’t think so– but that’s not the point.

JUSTIN: Aunt Victoria doesn’t have to know.

NATHANIEL: It’s nothing to do with Aunt Victoria, for heaven’s sake!

JUSTIN: Then what’s it to you? Unless you fancy her.

NATHANIEL: Justin!

JUSTIN: Shame on you, you’re a married man.

NATHANIEL: It isn’t that! How dare you?

JUSTIN: It’s just as well. Wouldn’t have thought you had it in you.

NATHANIEL: Of course not.

JUSTIN: She is lovely girl, though, isn’t she?

NATHANIEL: She is.

JUSTIN: And you were the one that brought her here. Are you telling me you’ve never noticed her?

NATHANIEL: I don’t prowl after the help.

JUSTIN: I’d forgotten, you’re far too lofty to spare a glance to a creature of lower classes. I confess, though, I’d rather begun to wonder.

NATHANIEL: About what!?

JUSTIN: About why you spend so much time around Auntie’s maid. The fine old boy hasn’t descended to the level of the rest of us, has he? Started to envy all the fun I have while you’re bound up in the monotony of married life?

NATHANIEL: Yes, that’s it exactly, Justin, I’ve installed my working class mistress in my aunt’s own house because I wanted to be just like my dear big brother. Mary and I, we’ve… rather made friends, is all.

JUSTIN: Friends.

NATHANIEL: Yes! Is that so unheard of?

JUSTIN: I’d say so.

NATHANIEL: There’s no harm in it.

JUSTIN: Still, it’s very odd. Just out of curiosity, what does Clara think?

NATHANIEL: Of what?

JUSTIN: Of your most harmless friendship.

NATHANIEL: Well… I don’t suppose she knows much of it.

JUSTIN: You mean you’ve kept it from her? I thought she led you so around by the nose you had no secrets!

NATHANIEL: I don’t! Not really! It’s only that I haven’t… brought it up as yet.

JUSTIN: Hmmm. And why is that, do you think?

NATHANIEL: Oh, wipe that look off your face!

JUSTIN: You must know what that sounds like.

NATHANIEL: It’s nothing untoward!

JUSTIN: Then why, my virtuous brother, must you hide it?

NATHANIEL: I don’t mean to. I only… I only don’t know how to do it. Tell her, I mean.

JUSTIN: Afraid she’ll cast the same aspersion upon your character as I have just now?

NATHANIEL: I’m afraid she might… misunderstand.

JUSTIN: Oh, why worry for it? You need never tell her if it will only make trouble.

NATHANIEL: I hate keeping things from her.

JUSTIN: Why prod the bear if you don’t have to?

NATHANIEL: She’s my wife, Justin, not some terrible monster from the woods.

JUSTIN: Wives, terrors, it’s all the same to me. But it isn’t even as if you’re deceiving her. If you’ve done nothing, then you’ve nothing to tell her.

NATHANIEL: It isn’t only that.

JUSTIN: What, then? Do you she think she wouldn’t believe you?

NATHANIEL: Not so much that…

JUSTIN: Or wouldn’t approve?

NATHANIEL: Perhaps. Of my reasons for spending time with Miss Stone.

JUSTIN: And what might they be? Beyond her more obvious charms.

NATHANIEL: Oh, you wouldn’t understand.

JUSTIN: My. Must be byzantine indeed if it’s beyond both Clara and myself. Well, brother, I hope you can find a way to make things clear one way or another.

NATHANIEL: I thought you advocated avoiding the issue entirely.

JUSTIN: So I do. But I know you well enough to see it won’t sit well with you. And if you’re keeping it from your wife, it must be something remarkable indeed.

12/11/13

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“Practicing” — scribbling about honing the craft

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Categories: development, influences, scenes, Tags: , , , ,

I’ve mentioned that a major influence on the character of Mrs. Hawking is Batman. Mostly this manifests in her internal workings– the way she runs on anger, taking an eternal vengeance for the way the world crushes women. But it also inspires how I imagine she works.

I’ve always thought that the diegetic reason for why Batman is so good at everything he does is that in the time normal people screw around on the Internet and read books and have human relationships, he is studying and training and honing himself into the ultimate weapon against crime. I decided Mrs. Hawking works much the same way, as her work is the most important thing in her life, and she doesn’t see the value so much in doing things for pleasure or having connections to other people.

I think it would add a lot of texture and interest to the stories to demonstrate how almost all her free time is spent in studying and training. The following scribble is short and very rough, but it shows a little of the sort of thing I’m imagining for this. I also like the idea of keeping it a little playful, as I’m always on the lookout for places to add humor and humanity to lighten up the narrative.

Also it was somewhat inspired by the fabulous Zoe Keating song “Escape Artist,” whose cello sounds like how I would represent Mrs. Hawking musically.

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~~~

“Practicing”
by Phoebe Roberts

MRS. HAWKING, lady’s society avenger
NATHANIEL HAWKING, her gentleman nephew
~~~

(MRS. HAWKING is tied to a chair, her legs roped to its legs and hands in cuffs bound to the back. She is dressed only in her underclothes, corset, shift, and drawers, and her hair is in a braid.)

(She jerks her head to flip her braid over her shoulder. With her teeth she takes hold of a pin tucked into the braid and pulls it out. She considers a moment, then drops the pin on the seat of the chair beside her. She maneuvers herself to move her bound hands to grab it, then busily works it in the lock of her manacles. In a moment she has them undone.)

(She slips out of the cuffs and shakes them off. As she bends down to untie the ropes on her legs, enter a figure in shadow, running in towards her. She immediately rolls forward, the chair still attached to her ankles. She slams the chair down between her and the man approaching, stopping him dead in his tracks. As he cries out, we see the man is NATHANIEL.)

NATHANIEL: Good God!

MRS. HAWKING: Here already? I must be getting slow.

NATHANIEL: What are you– wait a tick, where are your clothes!?

(He turns away awkwardly.)

MRS. HAWKING: I’m practicing. Captors don’t always make it easy for you. Must keep in training, you know.

NATHANIEL: But madam–!

MRS. HAWKING: This is rather a children’s game, at any rate. Even though I chose to pretend I’d not been left my corset.

NATHANIEL: Thank Heaven you only chose to pretend!

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“Protege” — first draft of scene 1.2 of Vivat Regina

Categories: development, scenes, vivat regina, Tags: , ,

This is the first draft of scene 1.2 of Vivat Regina, originally written on August 12th of 2013. I’ve mentioned that I was originally planning on having the central struggle for Mary being her deciding that she could only take on the future of Mrs. Hawking’s work under her own terms. Because of this, having it declared early that Mrs. Hawking meant to groom her in this way made sense.

But my boyfriend Bernie pointed out that this story required a slower exploration in order to do it justice, and I ended up scrapping this to deal instead with Mary’s fear that she was not up to the challenge. This meant that Mrs. Hawking’s reveal of her intention to pass the torch had to be a revelation to come later.

Some of these scene still exists in the final version of 1.2. Other pieces were included in 2.3, the scene to which the protege reveal occurs. This is a great example of scene work where it doesn’t work in its original conception, but can be repurposed later to better serve the story.

~~~

Day #12 – “Protege”

(MRS. HAWKING is in the parlor in his stealth suit, removing it piece by piece. MARY rushes back in through the front with her wrap and hat over her dress, exhilarated.)

MARY: Oh, that was extraordinary!

MRS. HAWKING: A task adequately managed, indeed.

MARY: I did it, I worked it all out, you saw it yourself!

MRS. HAWKING: Eventually. With some guidance.

MARY: Still, I did manage!

MRS. HAWKING: You did at that.

MARY: And yes, with your guidance. Everything you’ve wanted to teach me, I’ve worked very hard to learn.

MRS. HAWKING: Yes. Yes, you have.

MARY: You have seen it, madam, haven’t you?

MRS. HAWKING: You’ve been a diligent student. In fact… you’ve been an excellent one. Better than I dared hope.

(MARY beams at her. Then she begins taking off her wrap, her hat, and her gloves. MRS. HAWKING becomes contemplative, and after a moment MARY notices.)

MARY: Are you all right?

MRS. HAWKING: It’s only… it makes me think. I’ve been at this work for half my life now, and before you, I’d always done it alone. I thought that when it came time that I could not keep on with it any longer… that would be the end of it. All my efforts would die with me. But since you’ve come along, you’ve learned. You’ve risen to every challenge that’s come your way. I would never have guessed what help you would be to me.

MARY: Oh, madam. Do you mean that?

MRS. HAWKING: I do.

MARY: I’m sure I’m not the assistant you would have imagined.

MRS. HAWKING: Perhaps not. And yet I see now that I have in you a protégé, on your way to becoming a true partner. And one day, you’ll carry it all on in my stead.

MARY: Mrs. Hawking… I don’t know what to say.

MRS. HAWKING: Is that a path that you could see for yourself?

MARY: After everything you’ve shown me… it’s the only path I can see. Thank you.

MRS. HAWKING: No need. I can rest easy in the future of my life’s work.

(She turns away, pleased, and begins to gather up her things. MARY watches her, charmed.)

MARY: Why, Mrs. Hawking?

MRS. HAWKING: Yes?

MARY: I do believe you’re smiling.

(MRS. HAWKING frowns hard.)

MRS. HAWKING: I beg your pardon?

MARY: You never smile.

MRS. HAWKING: Certainly not. I don’t know what you’re on about, Miss Stone.

(She gathers her things in an armful and strides from the room. MARY watches her, and glows.)

8/12/13

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“The Difference Between Us” — scribbling on Misses Stanton and Danvers

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Categories: character, gilded cages, looking ahead, scenes, Tags: , , ,

The piece I wrote the day before this one was about a future supervillain of Mrs. Hawking’s, a woman who was her friend growing up in the Asian colonies, who is as smart as she is but choose to manipulate the system rather than fight against it. The piece I wrote for August 27th during 31 Plays in 31 Days 2013 shows them back when they were young Victoria Stanton and Elizabeth Danvers, before they were married and became Mrs. Hawking and Mrs. Frost. I think I will reproduce an awesome comment here by a friend named Kat Davis, because she perfectly summed up exactly what I was going for:

“…Mrs. Hawking up against someone who can meet her on even footing. Seeing her actually sort of lose her cool and lose that sort of detached mentor-ish tone she always has with Mary (and, to a slightly lesser extent, the nephew), is refreshing. I like that Frost gets her worked up, gets inside her guard and gets to her in a way we really never have seen anything else do. I especially like that Frost sort of clucks her tongue and shakes her head and looks down on Hawking, who is always so aloof and above it all. There’s condescension and even, or at least how it reads to me (and how I would read it), a touch of pity. And not because of how she was forced into a life she rejected. Not for what was done to her. But rather for what and who she is.”

You’ll note I am naming the major female figures in the Mrs. Hawking universe after the queens of England. We have Victoria and Mary already. Mrs. Hawking’s nemesis and opposite, then, is Elizabeth– one of the most powerful and brilliant of them all.

~~~

Day #27 – “The Difference Between Us”

VICTORIA: What is that soldier up to, do you think? Hanging about like that?

ELIZABETH: There must be something he wants.

VICTORIA: Such as?

ELIZABETH: Could be any number of things. He could be on some assignment. He could want something from the territorial governor. Or…

VICTORIA: Or what?

ELIZABETH: Or a wife.

VICTORIA: Surely you’re not serious.

ELIZABETH: History has shown men are known to acquire wives from time to time. It happens to all of us before long.

VICTORIA: I am not about to be acquired by anyone, I promise you that.

ELIZABETH: Is that so?

VICTORIA: You know me, Elizabeth. Do you think I could bear to be any man’s nursemaid?

ELIZABETH: I doubt you’ll have much of a choice, when your father decides it’s time.

VICTORIA: Ha! That would require the leftenant to lift his notice to me long enough to recall that I exist.

ELIZABETH: Unmarried daughters lying around are often just inconvenient enough to attract attention.

VICTORIA: Even if that does happen, you can be certain I shan’t go quietly.

ELIZABETH: Oh? And what are you doing to do?

VICTORIA: Whatever it takes!

ELIZABETH: That’s not the way the world works, Victoria.

VICTORIA: Then blast the world.

ELIZABETH: I don’t think it should be so simple.

VICTORIA: What choice do we have? Else to buckle under?

ELIZABETH: I don’t mean to buckle.

VICTORIA: What, then?

ELIZABETH: I mean to make my best advantage.

VICTORIA: I don’t understand.

ELIZABETH: Why fight against the current when you’ve no hope to change its course? Instead, why not ride it where you wish to go?

VICTORIA: Because there’s no such place that it could take me. Is that what you want? Is that enough for you?

ELIZABETH: There is the difference between us, dear. I will not drown myself to spite the water.

8/27/13

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“Why won’t you trust me?” — early draft of a confrontation from Vivat Regina

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Categories: character, development, scenes, themes, vivat regina, Tags: , , , ,

This is one of the earliest scenes I wrote for Vivat Regina, and it turned out to be a very crucial one. Bernie pointed out that, while Mary’s decision in this one is that yes, she would like to become a “new Mrs. Hawking” of sorts, Nathaniel’s is at least starting to reject his old desire to become like the Colonel. He idolized the Colonel his whole life, and it’s been a difficult thing for him to swallow how much pain his hero caused Mrs. Hawking. Him backing away from that, at least the parts of the Colonel that caused that pain, is a big step on his development toward becoming a true feminist. It’s a crucial part of being a good male ally. You can’t fix a problem before you admit you have it, and Nathaniel’s doing so demonstrates his very real desire to learn, and do better than before.

~~~

NATHANIEL:
Aunt Victoria— why won’t you trust me?

MRS. HAWKING:
Oh, do spare me, Nathaniel.

NATHANIEL:
No. No, you mustn’t put me off. I know I haven’t been the quickest study when it comes to this business of yours, but I’ve been giving it a serious go. I surely do mean to be of help to you, and by God, on occasion I even have. Isn’t that so?

MRS. HAWKING:
Yes. You have.

NATHANIEL:
Then… why won’t you let me on? Really let me on? Is it— is it because I’m a man?

MRS. HAWKING:
Nathaniel.

NATHANIEL:
Is it because I’m not clever enough? Do you think that once in a tough spot, I’ll lose my head and disappoint—

MRS. HAWKING:
You look so much like him!

(Pause.)

MRS. HAWKING:
Too damn much.

MARY:
Like whom? Do you mean— the Colonel?

NATHANIEL:
You never told me that. Others have, but not you.

(MARY looks to the portrait on the mantle.)

MARY:
I never noticed it.

MRS. HAWKING:
The years and the whiskers throw it off, but all the men in the family have that look. Your father, your uncle, and you. Your boy will have it too before long. Strong jaw, devil-may-care grin, handsome as the day is long. The sort of face to win anything a man could want in the world. But that was face I first looked into twenty years ago when a promising young soldier was first transferred to New Guinea and trammeled up my life forever. The same eyes from which I had to hide everything of any meaning to me so I might be permitted to have it.

NATHANIEL:
I don’t want you to feel that way about me. Not anymore.

MRS. HAWKING:
I know that, and not for nothing. But the years I lost and the pains I took…

NATHANIEL:
I know.

MRS. HAWKING:
Yes. Now you know. So it galls me, boy. I tell you, it galls me to look into those eyes and that face and give all the game away to them.

NATHANIEL:
I can’t help who I look like.

MRS. HAWKING:
No. But all the same, he’s in everything in you. His blood and his name and every effort in the world to be just like him.

NATHANIEL:
But… I’m not like him.

MRS. HAWKING:
To your eternal sorrow.

NATHANIEL:
Still. I’m not him. I can learn better.

(Pause.)

NATHANIEL:
And I mean to. But I’ll need you to teach me. I can’t do it without you.

(NATHANIEL draws himself up with a quiet, cold dignity.)

NATHANIEL:
Rather… none of us could. The Colonel neither. Because the God’s honest truth is you don’t know if he couldn’t have learned. You never gave him the chance.

(NATHANIEL turns and strides quickly from the room.)

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