“How did Mrs. Hawking come to be?”
The genesis of Mrs. Hawking is the combination of many loves and many ideas. Originally conceived of in the summer of 2011, it began as no more than a vague blending of concepts I found interesting and exciting– the Victorian milieu, the clash of women against the restrictions of a repressive society, the transcendence of sexism and classism, and the fascination of the genres of mystery and adventure. It all coalesced into and centered around the figure of a woman, brilliant, flawed, angry, and determined to do something about it.
A single introductory scene, the first version of what would become the opening, was first published on my blog in July 2011. I turned it over in my mind, fleshing out who this character was, who the characters around her were, what sort of life she might lead, until my third semester of graduate school in the Play and Screenwriting MFA program at Lesley University. Over the course of the fall and winter of 2012, I finally put the piece together in full under the supervision of fantastic LA-based playwright Jami Brandli. Since then, it has undergone several editing processes, helped along by expert review and multiple staged readings until it has been brought along to its current form.
“What is Mrs. Hawking about?”
This story is meant to combine some of my favorite literary flourishes and genres in ways you do not traditionally see. Firstly it is a tearing open of the workings of the Victorian period of British history, a fascinating era lasting from 1837-1901. It was a time of national grandiosity propelled by industrial progress and the making of history, set off with the charm of precise manners, elaborate costuming, and picturesque romantic scenes. In her decades on the throne, Queen Victoria headed the nation as it expanded into the greatest empire Britain would ever know, her enormous power and presence existing in contrast to her conservative moral values. But the dazzling glamor of the period, supposedly one of growing enlightenment and gentility, glosses over its darker truths– the rampant imperialism, racism, sexism, and classism. The intersection of these their glories and their shortcomings make for a perfect opportunity to tell compelling dramatic narrative. As some of our most beloved mysteries, romances, and capers have been set against this backdrop, it now serves as inspiration for this story as well.
Secondly it is an exploration of a kind of hero we do not get to see often enough. Of course we have always loved our cunning, martial, courageous leads, who put their wits to unraveling the threads of a mystery and pit their mettle righting the injustices of society. Many of our favorite literary protagonists have come from this genre and period; we think of Sexton Blake, Phileas Fogg, Jonathan Harker, and of course Sherlock Holmes. But again, often those with the most stake in righting those wrongs were the ones who suffered most for them. With a prominent victim of those societal structures being women, it’s high time to have a woman be the one to step up and strike back. Even in modern literature, the female protagonist is still distressingly rare, and too often even when they do exist they are passive figures carried along by the circumstances of the plot. Our heroines here go on in direct defiance of that, whether they be a society lady breaking all the rules to a low-stationed girl making her own bold choices to take control of her life.
“Who is Mrs. Hawking about?”
Not only did I want strong female protagonists, I wanted their friendship to be a major part of the power of their story. On one hand, we have Mrs. Hawking, my Sherlock Holmes and my Batman, a unique Victorian genius, a fearsome and brooding, interpreted through the lens of what might a similarly exceptional individual become when forced to throw off a societal role that does not fit. But she is dogged by her demons, seething with a resentment that fuels her passion but also threatens to destroy her. Her fury and bitterness cannot triumph over injustice alone, and so, in balance, we have our other heroine Mary Stone.
As every superhero needs their loyal sidekick, Mary cannot help but be drawn when her small, class-and-gendered-enforced life is blown wide open by the fiery influence of Mrs. Hawking. She brings the balance of humanity as a decent and capable Dr. Watson-type, as well as equal parts Robin and Alfred to Mrs. Hawking’s restless Batman– there in the thick of things by her mentor’s side, fireplace poker clutched in her hands, as well as her strongest connection to the rest of humanity. Mary is the guide to the viewer’ entry into this world, the guts and the heart to her mistress’s brains and brawn.
“Where can I read Mrs. Hawking?”
By visiting the Scripts page. The stage play is available here in full for your perusal! Feel free to give it a look, and direct any comments or questions you may have to me.