Catch part I of this discussion in this blog post here.
As I mentioned, we’re conceiving of the Mrs. Hawking series as a set of trilogies, which we’re referring to as “arc-cycles,” or a series of character journeys that build upon each other. At the moment, as vague as the plan gets more than one or two shows out, we’re thinking of three arc-cycles, with three shows apiece. It is common in that pattern for the middle section to get a little darker. It fits nicely into three act structure, raising the stakes and making the situation seem even more dire before the resolution of the conflict in the climax. It also serves that purpose that we mentioned in part one, the need to challenge and upend the status quo in order to present new struggles to our heroes.
I want to be careful to set the right tone with the stories depicted in these stage shows. Overall, I want the series to have an adventurous, triumphant feel. A lot of our inspirations have a tendency to go grimdark— it common for Batman to be interpreted that way, for example —and that’s the last tone I want to strike for Mrs. Hawking. Instead I’m aiming to never shy away from true, hard-hitting drama, while still maintaining a hopeful and exciting air overall. So when I know I’m going to have to go a little heavier, that is something— the balance between weight and not going too dark —I want to take into account.
The way I’m taking it is by challenging the foundations that have been laid— specifically the relationships. They are the heart of the story, the most important and compelling drama we have to explore. A deep underlying philosophy of my writing is that the purpose of plot is to reveal character, so everything that happens explores our players a little more deeply. The form that these stories tend to take is that we get to know our characters better by seeing how they react to each challenge laid before them. Now that we’ve set down relationships, it’s time to test them, stress them, put them in new contexts to see how they grow and evolve to deal with them. But that does mean going to some darker places than we’ve dared to before.
Part four, Gilded Cages, is definitely going to be a little heavier in tone than the previous three installments have been. The entirety of the second arc-cycle is going to be. I think it’s the natural progression for this story in the intensifying of the challenge and the raising of the stakes. But I’m working very hard to maintain the series’s overall feel— exciting, hopeful, exultant —in the aggregate, even if moments get dark.
I’ve always liked how easy it is to emotionally engage with these plays, particularly when I see a child in the audience having a great time with the spectacle and the super heroics. I like that people cheer in triumph, and laugh at the geneuinely funny jokes. I don’t want to lose that, even as I expand the scope of our emotional range in the opposite direction as well. Gilded Cages is also going have cute moments that make you go “awwwww!” Sweet moments that bring a little tear to your eye. And funny moments to make you laugh out loud. All those things are as intrinsic as the dark stuff. It’s a tricky thing to balance, but I know this is where the story is taking me. I don’t want to shy away from the drama of the story’s true nature, so it’s up to me to handle both interests.
All the best stories, after all, are a little complicated. I think by this point, with three prior successful shows under our belt, we’re up to that challenge!
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.