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BONUS SCENE “Hard Truth,” and building a universe

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Categories: development, mrs. frost, scenes, Tags: ,

 

Gilded Cages, scene 1.5

It’s been really exciting seeing the new part V: Mrs. Frost script stand up in rehearsals. Due to the schedule on which this one was written, there was not a lot of breathing room between finishing it and beginning to rehearse. We made a movie this summer, so perhaps we can be forgiven, but it meant I didn’t have that chance to sit with it for a while, shed the stress of the push to finish, and enjoy what I’d accomplished with fresh eyes.

But something I’ve worked very hard to do in this story is to make it feel like a living, breathing, fully-fleshed-out world, beyond just what is needed for any one individual story. When you do multiple installments of a piece, it has to feel like the characters are rounded individuals who have more to them than just what’s relevant in one given moment. So I spend a lot of time developing them and their backstories, in order to feel like they have arrived organically at their current places based on a genuine human history. That means figuring out things that happened to them outside even what makes its way into the plays, and using how those experiences informed their needs and actions now.

By this token, I thought a lot of what Mrs. Frost brings into this story. She has a lot of complicated and not always positive history with the other characters, and she is famous for using what she knows about people’s secret selves against them. This is relevant for how she deals with Nathaniel, who she attempts to break down psychologically by manipulating his insecurities and fears. And a powerful tool she has for this is her experience with his hero the Colonel, over whom he is obsessed with the fact that he didn’t know as much as he thought.

Gilded Cages, scene 1.5

To that end, I had to hammer out some important things about the interactions of Frost and the Colonel. Some of that made it into this extra scene, which takes place just after the Colonel started traveling abroad more as a way to get out of the house, and of Mrs. Hawking’s way. I had my amazing cast members do a rough recording of it, with Arielle Kaplan as Mrs. Frost (then Mrs. Cameron), and Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Reginald Hawking, in a scene I’m calling “Hard Truth.”

Warning: possible spoilers for part IV: Gilded Cages.

It’s always amazing to hear the actual actors perform these on the fly. It really helps solidify the moment in my mind and make it come to life, like it was something that really did happen in the history of the characters. I feel like we bring more texture to the full performances when the characters are so grounded in such rich development. And when you come to see Mrs. Frost, see if you can spot the moment the title character makes reference to an important moment from this scene.

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Mrs. Hawking part V: Mrs. Frost drafted!

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Categories: development, mrs. frost, Tags: ,

I am pleased to announce that I have a complete draft of the next installment of the Mrs. Hawking series, part V: Mrs. Frost. I finished it just before the beginning of September, and with the very first reading scheduled for the 2nd, I spent the week leading up to it cleaning up the first version into something I wouldn’t be embarrassed to show people. I very much rely on the “garbage drafting” method, where you give yourself permission to write whatever you need to, no matter how awkward or bad, in order to just make sure you have a complete beginning, middle, and end. I go on to edit from there, and because I find it most effective to fix something imperfect that exists than try to do it the way I want it on the first try.

The reading, as always, was incalculably helpful. I really need the outside perspectives of intelligent, discerning fellow writers and actors to tell me what would bring the piece up to standards. I even had a number of new attendees this time around who had never attended one of my reading dinners before, which meant fresh viewpoints. I’m incredibly grateful to Jennifer Benfield for offering her house to host, and in addition to her, for the thoughts of Nuance Bryant, Shari Caplan, Jack Cockerill, Naomi Ibatsitas, Matt Kamm, Cari Keebaugh, Isaiah Plovnick, Circe Rowan, and Pieter Wallace. I was very pleased to hear that the script has good bones, but I need to up the sense of stakes in order to make it feel more significant, and handle the arc of one of the characters differently. They even gave me solid, actionable suggestions for how to accomplish those things.

I took several days’ break from it, but today I beginning to dig into the editing process. I recorded all the feedback discussion so I can reference it. I find editing way more challenging than drafting, so it’s not easy for me to get going. But we’ll be going into rehearsal for it within the next months, so I need to have a solid draft of the script plenty in time to get started. Wish me luck!

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New audio recording – “Last Night Before”

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Categories: scenes, Tags: , ,

Presenting another short scene from elsewhere in the Mrs. Hawking timeline, recorded for your listening pleasure by our amazing cast!

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I really enjoy depicting the relationships between the characters, particularly when it’s a character I don’t get to work with often in the main stories. I absolutely love the character of Justin Hawking, but I don’t know if he’ll ever get to show back up in the stage series. In the meantime, I like playing around with the backstory that involves him, as it’s always guaranteed to have that blend of humor and pathos that I love. Even though these recordings are made very informally, I’m always impressed with the actors ability to adapt their performances to whatever stage of development their characters are in any given piece. You can definitely hear that these are a significantly younger Nathaniel and Justin, which helps ground this moment in the course of their journeys.

This is “Last Night Before,” by Phoebe Roberts, taking place just before Nathaniel and Clara’s wedding, when the two brothers are out celebrating. It features Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Nathaniel Hawking and Christian Krenek as Justin Hawking.

Base Instruments 2018-24

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




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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.

Gilded Cages 2018-37

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.

Gilded Cages 2018-35

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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