For the most part, the queerness of the Mrs. Hawking story has been fairly low key. All of the journey up to this point has been subtly informed by the fact that our hero is an asexual aromantic, but it’s never been explicitly referred to, nor has it been a huge factor in any plot. In our upcoming piece, part IV: Gilded Cages, however, what has mostly been a character note for Mrs. Hawking is finally brought forward in the text.
Because of this, Gilded Cages is our most explicitly queer story yet. Part III: Base Instruments has more queer characters— Miss Zakharova is a lesbian, while ladies’ man Justin is actually bisexual — but it’s part IV where the subtext becomes text.
In the flashbacks to Mrs. Hawking’s youth, we see how she met the man she would eventually marry, Reginald Prescott Hawking. We know from the previous present-day stories that this was not by choice and that the marriage was not a happy one, so the question is raised how it happened at all. However, you will see in Gilded Cages that it’s not as simple as being forced together with a bad man due to some unwelcome arrangement. Indeed, their interactions were significantly more complicated, and in fact they were not always in such opposition to each other. It’s part of the reason why his memory is quite so painful for her.
Something I very much want to convey to the audience is how Reginald and Victoria could have been on such different wavelengths regarding their relationship. A big part of it is they viewed it from such vastly different perspectives. Victoria, an asexual aromantic, did not approach their interactions with the same expectations or interpretations as did Reginald, an alloromantic heterosexual, which allowed a relationship to develop that neither immediately realized was incompatible. I like the complications of that, as two people who mean well cannot connect on the same level—
at least partially because they were never taught a concept of a person who was outside of expected behavioral norms —and end up hurting each other quite tragically.
I really enjoy this dramatic exploration of the impact of an aro ace woman trying to be herself in a society where no one understands it or makes space for it. I won’t give too much away, as it’s an important part of Gilded Cages‘ story. But as noted above, a lot of the result is tragic and painful— but it also demonstrates a lot of personal strength on the part of our protagonist. She is fighting the fight to be true to herself, and it makes her a more complex and interesting hero in the process.
Mrs. Hawking: Gilded Cages and Mrs. Hawking: Mrs. Frost by Phoebe Roberts are to be performed January 18th at 7:30PM and January 19th at 4PM respectively as part of Arisia 2019 in Grand Ballroom A at the Boston Park Plaza.