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New show video of Gilded Cages at Arisia 2018!

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Categories: gilded cages, performance, Tags: ,

We now have this wonderful video of our performance of Mrs. Hawking part IV: Gilded Cages from its debut at Arisia 2018!


Gilded Cages – Part 4 of the Mrs Hawking Serial Play from sydweinstein on Vimeo.

Thanks to Syd Weinstein and his excellent crew, the very first performance of Gilded Cages has been captured for us to view at our leisure. Rewatching the production now, it makes me even prouder of our most ambitious show yet.

So, if you missed us at this past Arisia or the Watch City Steampunk Festival, be sure to check out this fabulous show video.

And if you want to catch up on the entire Mrs. Hawking saga, head over to our Shows page to see all the great episode recordings that the Arisia video crew has made for us.

To donate to the Mrs. Hawking – Proof of Concept film project:




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On to filming after Watch City Fest 2018!

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Categories: performance, Tags: ,

Mrs. Hawking is accomplished at the 2018 Watch City Steampunk Festival!

Thank you so much to our lovely audiences who came out to see us. It meant so much that you enjoyed our performances, and that we had the chance to share our stories with you. And we are incredibly grateful to those generous folks who donated, which is so helpful to bringing future Hawking stories to life.

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So what’s next for Mrs. Hawking?

​”Mrs. Hawking – the Proof of Concept” – our first cinematic project!

As we mentioned at our shows, we are undertaking our first film project this summer! We are making a short piece called a proof of concept to demonstrate the potential of the storytelling of Mrs. Hawking, in hopes of someday getting picked up for a full-scale television production.

To accomplish this, we are looking for volunteers!

General crew assistance!

First we are looking for general crew assistance! We are filming during the day on the dates of June 7th, 14th, 19th, 26th, and 28th. We could use hands at our filming location in Wrentham, MA. No experience necessary, but we do need the ability to do minor lifting and carrying as well as the willingness to take on odd jobs on set. Lunch and dinner provided, as well as your name in the credits of our film.

Ballroom guest extras!

Secondly, we are looking for ensemble members for a ballroom scene! On the shooting date of June 19th, we would love to have members of the steampunk community come dressed in their finest Victorian eveningwear to mingle in the background of one of our scenes. If you’re interested, please email us at mrshawkingweb@gmail.com for the specific details— and a shot of your intended costume would be great! if you’d like to participate as an extra but don’t have you own costuming, please let us know– we have a limited wardrobe that we may be able to dress you from, and we will arrange time for you to be fitted. Again lunch and dinner will be provided, as well as your name in our credits.

Base Instruments 2018-50


If either or both of these seem like fun to you, email us at mrshawkingweb@gmail.com for more information, or to formally register your interest! We’ll let you know everything it entails.

Thanks for your support! We can’t tell you how grateful you are for following the Mrs. Hawking story. We’ll be sure to keep you updated here on the website, and if you’re interested in donating, you can find a link to our Paypal below. We can’t wait to bring you more of this exciting new series!

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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Categories: scenes, Tags: , , ,

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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When character moments are earned

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Categories: character, development, gilded cages, Tags: , ,

Scene 1.4 of Gilded Cages represents a striking landmark in my growth as a writer– specifically, the first half, where Mary and Nathaniel are cleaning out the Colonel’s study and he tells the story of how he and Clara met. I love it, and am proud of it, for a lot of reasons.

Photo by Steve Karpf

Firstly, it may be the most purely character-focused scene in any of the Hawking plays to that point. I am of the school of narrative design that holds that “Plots reveals character”— your figures are confronted by events and how they react to those events allows them to demonstrate who they are. I like this approach because it keeps the narrative structured and engaging while still fostering the development of character. You’ll notice that the majority of the Hawking stories are built according to this idea.

However, I’ve historically had a problem with being so focused on plot that very little character ever gets to happen outside of the unfolding. It has a tendency to give the stories a hurried feel, as if there’s just no time for anything that’s not forward movement. Years ago I wrote about this, my fear of just letting my characters be my characters without actively pursuing plot. It’s out of my concern for things becoming boring or self-indulgent, presenting moments that are shoehorned in and of no interest to anyone but me. But the character journeys ARE the point, not an afterthought; getting to know these people and see where they go is the heart of the story.

So this scene, the first half of 1.4, was me making an effort to insert something purely about character and have it feel like it meaningfully contributed to the story, rather than be a pointless indulgence. I actually feel like I accomplished it. It teaches you a lot about the characters, and it’s engaging! By part IV, if I haven’t made you care about these characters and interested in them for their own sake, then I think I haven’t done my job right. So I can count on having won the audience’s attention for just watching characters they like be themselves and tell us a little more about them. By part IV, that time and attention spent is earned.

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And I do think it tells us a lot of great stuff about them. It showcases Mary and Nathaniel’s friendship, how close and comfortable they’ve become with each other, that they share cute and funny personal anecdotes and talk about romantic relationships. It’s long been part of Circe Rowan’s process that Mary is a reader of fairy-stories, and is enthralled by tales of romance and adventure, and you see it in the way she reacts to Nathaniel’s story. And Nathaniel’s funny, self-deprecating retelling adds a lot of humanity and levity to the play. I am amused by the implication that Justin’s been getting the best of Nathaniel since they were children, but this one instance little brother beat out big, in a romantic exploit no less, and Nathaniel’s never quite gotten over a little smugness over it. And one of my regrets about all of part IV was that I wasn’t able to find a place for Clara in the cast. Nathaniel talking about falling in love with her is a cute way to make her presence felt.

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It’s helped a lot by the performances. Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Nathaniel is incredibly charismatic, and his warmth, humor, and gentle self-effacement give everything he does a certain charm. And Circe Rowan’s Mary has this wide-eyed, enthusiastic quality as she giggles over her friend’s funny and romantic story, that I think sets the tone for the reaction of the audience.
And you know what? I did manage to loop it back into the larger narrative, as Mary’s asking because she’s trying to figure out how to navigate her own budding relationship with Arthur. So not only does it really give a moment where the characters are simply being themselves, it ultimately leads to a moment that does further the plot. If that’s not the perfect way to balance the best of both worlds, I don’t know what is.

It’s a real triumph for me as a writer who’s constantly trying to develop and grow my skills. To see what I mean, join us for th 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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A story in the layers

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Categories: gilded cages, themes, Tags: ,

Historically the writing of subtext has been a challenge for me. Partially it was just struggling with the techniques of it— how you embed meaning without actually referring to it in words —and partially it came from the fear that even if I did manage to include it, the audience would miss it. I often failed in the direction of overwriting it for fear that it was too subtle, and not having any effect on the story at all.

In recent years, thanks to focusing on it with serious practice, I think I have improved. My tastes run much more lately to subtler storytelling, so I’ve tried to take that route with the things I write. I’m pleased to say I think my most recent major piece, Mrs. Hawking part IV: Gilded Cages, is the most layered narrative I’ve ever put together. It depends in large part on people who are on different wavelengths not realizing they’re talking at cross purposes, who don’t fully understand the implications of their actions, and who don’t have the words or concepts to express themselves with complete accuracy. The fact that I managed to pull that off wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t grown in my ability to suggest things are happening that no party onstage is actually explicitly referring to.

Photo by Steve Karpf

The downside, though, is that very thing subtext made me afraid of all along: the audience missing it. Mostly I believe people grasped the ideas I was trying to go for in the piece— that Reginald’s well-meaning overtures coexist with the fact that he doesn’t understand consent or that he’s behaving in a patriarchal manner. That young Victoria doesn’t realize that she’s acting out of white privilege, and Malaika doesn’t see the dangers that creates for her in their relationship. But every now and then I’ve heard from somebody who didn’t pick up on those things, and as a consequence they didn’t follow aspects of the narrative. I’ve had a surprising number of people ask me, “Why was Mrs. Hawking so miserable with her husband when he was so nice?” I mean, I think it’s partially that we have a problematic cultural tendency to pressure women into giving men a chance because they’re “nice”— but also I think because we kept a lot of the harmful aspects of Reginald’s behavior subtext as opposed to stating them explicitly, I think people missed it.

The story doesn’t quite work, honestly, without the subtextual aspects. It doesn’t make its point without them. But it’s still a richer, more sophisticated piece to have these ideas woven in subtly, even at the cost of some of the audience missing them. I guess, if they’re detectable by some and missed by others, that probably means I can finally be confident that I’ve done subtext right.

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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Odd little name issue

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Categories: development, mrs. frost, Tags:

Gilded Cages 2018-89

In my copious, copious free time, I am picking away at the plot outline for Mrs. Frost, part five of the Mrs. Hawking saga. Among the myriad issues I’m running into— God, writing these plays is hard! —one small one arises that may be representative of the nature of many of the others. Malaika is returning in this story, after being introduced in the previous one, and I’m finding myself at the loss at how to slug her in the script.

“Slugging” refers to the name you use for a character when you indicate that a line is theirs. For example, Victoria Cornelia Stanton Hawking’s lines are slugged with “MRS. HAWKING,” and Mary Frances Stone is “MARY.” Like so:

MRS. HAWKING: One can hide anything from anyone if one so chooses.

MARY: You couldn’t hide it from me.

There are a number of conventions attached to how you decide on a slug, though most people just sort of decide on their own. For example, many people assert that there should be only one, consistently used slug for a character even if what they are referred to as changes, though I chose not to observe that— like I slug the same character alternatively “MRS. HAWKING” in the present day part of Gilded Cages, and “VICTORIA” in the flashback because it felt more accurate to me. Similarly, in those same flashbacks, Malaika is just “MALAIKA,” as she is a young woman and that is what she is commonly referred to as.

Gilded Cages 2018-18

In our current conception of Malaika, she is an ethnically Malay Singaporean, which means her name follows the culture’s traditional rules. Malaysian people do not have family surnames but rather patronymics. Her full name is Malaika binti Shah, or Malaika daughter of Shah. While these names are occasionally elided, giving us “Malaika Shah” for example, one is never solely addressed by one’s father’s name. Therefore, while young Victoria would be addressed as “Miss Stanton” by the customs of her culture, Malaika’s would call her “Miss Malaika,” or “Cik Malaika” in her own language. We see an example in the play when Malaika refers to her mother as “Puan Amina,” which is a respectful title for a married woman, basically “Mrs. Amina” or “Madam Amina.”

My concern is with deciding on how to refer to Malaika as a mature adult woman in a way that is on a level with Mrs. Hawking. The characters can in dialogue call each whatever is appropriate to their relationship, but the slugs should indicate their positions in their world. Even though Malaika is not from a culture that would call her by a different part of her name in order to be respectful, I’m worried it will sound disrespectful to our modern American ears to see her referred to by her first name when her peer Mrs. Hawking is called by the formal title.

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What I am currently leaning towards is making a point of having her known as “Madam Malaika.” It would take into account the customs of her culture, while utilizing a title that my American audience would recognize as one of respect. The naming convention might still make hers seem like the odd one out, but it takes care not to even implicitly suggest she’s not on a level with story’s other women in her age group, even if only because the audience doesn’t know the custom. Perhaps I could even make it text, such as have someone mistakenly refer to her as “Mrs. Shah” and she corrects them to make the distinction clear.

It’s a small detail. But I want to be very, very careful about how I frame this character. I know how easy it is to create disrespectful portrayals of minority characters, and I want to always put in the work to make mine the fullest, most human figures I can. This is one of the many ways I can show that thoughtfulness and care.

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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Upcoming Hawking productions – next performances, and a new film project!

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Categories: performance, Tags: , , ,

The next slate of Mrs. Hawking performances and projects is now ready to be announced!

We are again having a reprise of our Arisia performances at this year’s Watch City Steampunk Festival in Waltham! If you missed seeing part III: Base Instruments and the debut of this year’s brand new show, part IV: Gilded Cages, you will now have the chance this May in Waltham! And for the Steampunk Festival, attendance is TOTALLY FREE!

MRS. HAWKING parts 3 and 4

at the Watch City Steampunk Festival in Waltham, MA

presented by The Chameleon’s Dish Theatre

Base Instruments
by Phoebe Roberts
Saturday, May 12th at 2PM

and

Gilded Cages
by Phoebe Roberts
Saturday, May 12th at 6PM

At the New England School of Photography
At 274 Moody Street in Waltham, MA

ALSO!!!

We are now beginning a BRAND NEW MRS. HAWKING PROJECT. Team Hawking is delighted to announce that this year we are going to be making our first foray into film!

As we’ve progressed with the Mrs. Hawking series, it’s become clearer and clearer that while we can bring a great deal to performance onstage, this is really a story that belongs on film. I think a lot of people can agree that this narrative would be properly told as a television show.

So, with the help of Boston local artists Sean Sederholm and Francis Charles Sheehan, we are putting together a short piece to demonstrate all the potential for drama, spectacle, and emotional punch the story has to offer. This twelve-to-fifteen-minute piece will take a form somewhere between a trailer and a short film, capturing the essence of the project and suggesting the full breadth of the narrative. Our hope is by filming a sufficiently fascinating tease, it will entice production companies working at a higher level to invest in and support the project. With luck, we could someday get the resources to produce the full Mrs. Hawking series pilot.

We are making plans to begin filming this summer, right after the Watch City Festival production is done, and with our longtime leads of Cari Keebaugh, Circe Rowan, and Jeremiah O’Sullivan. We’ll have more information about the process here on this website soon. But if you’d like to support bringing this project to a reality, we are accepting donations to put towards the costs of productions. Turns out movies take capital, and we’d be incredibly grateful for anything you’d care to give.





For the “Mrs. Hawking – Proof of Concept” film

Thank you, as always, for any help you give, and for your interest in the Mrs. Hawking project. None of this would be coming to life without our wonderful audience members. So, please join us for our FREE performances of Base Instruments and Gilded Cages in Waltham on Saturday, May 12th, and keep an eye out for more updates on Mrs. Hawking – the Proof of Concept film!

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.

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Script release: Mrs. Hawking part IV: Gilded Cages

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Categories: gilded cages, Tags: ,

Team Hawking is pleased and proud to say that we have accomplished our performances at Arisia 2018— including part III: Base Instruments and the world premiere of part IV: Gilded Cages! We’ve been told it was our strongest program yet, which has been an incredible honor, and is so gratifying to all the hard work every member of the team put in.

Photo by Steve Karpf
Photo by Steve Karpf

Now that our new show has debuted, I’m releasing the script here on the website. I am deeply proud of this piece— it may indeed be the best in the series to date —and I think it not only plays well but is also interesting to read. The layers of meaning in many of the scenes are to this point unprecedented in this story, bring us to a new level of complexity. I think that even to those who have seen the show, reading at one’s own speed will allow some of the layers to be understood in greater depth.

Many of the scenes depicting important relationships— particularly Victoria and Malaika’s, and Victoria and Reginald’s — are meant to play one way on the surface level. But then, when one begins to pull apart the implications of the interactions, they take on a very different cast that adds new dimension. Also, there are a number of callbacks, parallels, comparisons, and contrasts between the present and the flashbacks of the story which are meant to make points about the characters. Arthur to Reginald, Nathaniel to Reginald, young Victoria to present-day Mrs. Hawking. These things may have gotten missed in seeing one performance of a fast-moving stage show, and I really think they add so much depth.

Photo by Steve Karpf
Photo by Steve Karpf

As always, I’m grateful to all the people whose advice helped us to make the script what it was. Those who helped develop the story to the most powerful level it could be. Those whose perspective on how to most effectively and sensitively depict the issues of the colonial culture. And those whose support and belief in the project enabled it to become a reality.

So be sure to check it out on our Scripts page, for the first piece of our second trilogy, Mrs. Hawking part IV: Gilded Cages!

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The queerest Hawking story yet

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Categories: character, gilded cages, Tags: ,

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 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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