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Motherhood in Fallen Women

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Categories: fallen women, themes, Tags: , ,

Motherhood is all over the new play FALLEN WOMEN, as a motif and as a theme, manifesting in diverse and far-reaching ways. The positive and the negative of it, the responsibility and burden. The significance of the role in people’s lives, and the lives of their children, or child figures.

I didn’t want to be prescriptive about it— present the theme as if there’s only one way for a person to be a mother, or feel about their parenthood. Particularly since our main character’s alienation from it has been a consistent part of her character. This play actually contains the most references to Gabriel, Mrs. and Colonel Hawking’s stillborn son, of any show, though few of them are direct. But more important than that is the nature of the relationship between our main characters.

Mrs. Hawking’s relationship with Mary and Nathaniel is very parental in a lot of ways. She teaches them, she protects them, she loves them in a way she never would have thought possible. And when they individuate from her, wanting things and pushing for things she doesn’t, it’s painful for her in the way it is for any parent whose child is abjecting from them.

But at the same time, a lot of her filling this role is reluctant. Mrs. Hawking chafes under the responsibility she owes Mary and Nathaniel. They have emotional needs of her that she finds difficult to fulfill. Even more than that, she is afraid of what this connection means to them. Intimacy has always been a double-edged sword for her, and she fears needing them in turn too much. And she is afraid of what loving her, needing her, will do to them. In the last several years, it has been driven home for her that everyone she was ever close to was either destroyed by it, or forced to leave her for their own wellbeing.

As for the rest of the story, the presence of motherhood manifesting in the lives of others is all around them. Many of the ways are spoilers, so I don’t want to be too specific. But this case is going to be rife with women who intersect with motherhood in varied ways. Even Mrs. Frost knows more about this topic than we may have previously suspected, and her perspective will have a profound influence on Mrs. Hawking.

Creating a layered narrative is always really important for Hawking shows. And the Jack the Ripper case is a well-worn one in storytelling, so of course we’ve got to do what we can to bring our own interpretation, our own meaning to it. This is one of the ways we’re attempting to do this.

Catch Mrs. Hawking in MRS. FROST and the all-new FALLEN WOMEN this January at Arisia 2020 in Boston, MA!

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A clash of titans— Hawking versus Frost in FALLEN WOMEN

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Categories: character, fallen women, Tags: ,

A major feature of the new Mrs. Hawking play Fallen Women will be the chance to see our hero verbally spar with Mrs. Frost, her greatest foe and childhood friend. In a way this has been a long time in coming. We saw the two of them interact in their youth in Singapore in the flashback sections of Gilded Cages, and the course of the subsequent story Mrs. Frost was all about their adult clashing. But through all that conflict, they remained at a distance, scheming and striking at one another, but without much actual personal interaction.

But since the core of their narrative is that they are enemies who used to be friends, I feel like there is a need to see them interact as adults. There are years of history, whole narratives worth of conflict and betrayal, of which we want to see the fallout. Not to mention the fact that they’ve been established as two brilliant, powerful women, each with their own damage, who are some of the only true rivals and equals they will ever have. So their scenes must be crackling, a clashing of towering intellects and ferocious egos, who are as drawn to each other as much as they are at odds.

A clear frame of reference for the interaction between them is Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham, which is useful for quickly getting the audience up to speed. But the nuance for us is the longstanding relationship between them, going all the way back to the childhood. Young Victoria loved her as a sister and respected her intelligence, but always discounted her until she saw, all those years later, just what she was capable of. Frost went from being Hawking’s governess to clawing her way up the social ladder, but the tension of their different class origins has never totally gone away. And of course, there is the lingering resentment of betrayal, of the pain of having the fight to destroy someone you once considered family. This is a recurring theme of the second Hawking trilogy— that you can only be betrayed by a friend.

Our brilliant actresses, Cari Keebaugh as Mrs. Hawking and Arielle Kaplan as Mrs. Frost, bring so much complexity and humanity to these roles, and it is up to them to make you believe in this complicated, dangerous relationship. If we do this right, I think their scenes together, where these two titans finally clash in person, will be like the last creamy sip of the milkshake of this new show.

You’ll have to see it to get a taste.

Catch Mrs. Hawking in MRS. FROST and the all-new FALLEN WOMEN this January at Arisia 2020 in Boston, MA

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FALLEN WOMEN is chickens coming home to roost

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Categories: development, fallen women, themes, Tags: ,

In the writing process for the new Mrs. Hawking show Fallen Women, I joke as we were struggling to settle on a title that it’s The One Where the Chickens Come Home to Roost.

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Mrs. Hawking’s is a story we’ve been telling for a number of years now, and in that time our heroes have been dealing with all kinds of struggles, both plot- and character-driven, both internal and external. Like real people, they have worked to find ways to get along with one another even throughout some fairly serious conflicts. But unresolved tensions can build up over the course of years, and we’ve put these folks through the ringer in the last few. With Fallen Women, I wanted to show real consequences to those experiences, to the story, the characters, and their relationships. Because these experiences mattered, it means our heroes cannot go on unchanged.

Consequences, I would argue, are the essence of drama. When the characters’ choices and actions have profound impacts, that gives them a weight and significance to the storytelling. It can be scary, committing to a major shifting of your narrative’s status quo. A challenge built into serialized storytelling is to establish something of a dynamic equilibrium, where you maintain the premise that draws people to the story in the first place while still allowing the characters real growth and change over time. I think there can be a fear of changing anything too much, for fear of losing the good things about your story. But without it, the narrative stagnates and the events lose significance instead.

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So Fallen Women is all about these long-in-coming consequences. The lingering effects of trauma. The strain put on relationships. The explosion of problems left unresolved for way too long. They weren’t always easy to write about. We’ve come to love these characters over the years, and it can be hard to put them through things this difficult. But we believe the meaning of their stories will be greater if the consequences they go through have serious, lasting impact on their lives— even when those impacts are sad ones.

Catch Mrs. Hawking in MRS. FROST and the all-new FALLEN WOMEN this January at Arisia 2020 in Boston, MA

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Depicting the victims of Jack the Ripper

Categories: character, fallen women, Tags: , , ,

There were a myriad of challenges involved in incorporating the historical case of the serial killer Jack the Ripper into the Mrs. Hawking saga. One of the big ones was how to depict the women who were killed by him. Very often, they are reduced to indicators of the horror, meat for the grinder of the lurid narrative. We wanted to challenge ourselves to do better, to make them more present in their own story, which is usually overshadowed by the specter of the Ripper.

One of the reasons the case seemed so perfect for our story is the nature of the victims. The killer targeted the poorest and most disenfranchised women in London, not only suffering under conditions of poverty and disease, but often despised even by those of more acceptable places in society. This fits in perfectly with Mrs. Hawking’s mission— and with addressing one of the big problems with typical Jack the Ripper narratives.

We are using the common modern consensus that there were five known victims that can be credibly attributed to this murderer— Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. To popular imagination, they were all prostitutes, as they were referred to in the news reports of the times. This lifestyle and likelihood to go off alone with strange men served as a source of blame for their vulnerability to the killer. But deeper digging into the statements made by people who actually knew them suggests that some of them weren’t, instead put in danger by ill health, addiction, and unstable housing. And of even those were sex workers, the lack of social support for those suffering extreme poverty exposed them in a way more fortunate people were not. This interpretation was greatly inspired by the research of Hallie Rubenhold in her recent book “The Five.”

A goal of this story is to bring back the human face to these women, who have been somewhat anonymized time and the looming reputation of their killer. I bet there are not many in the Western world who haven’t heard the name Jack the Ripper, but I doubt a fraction of them could give any of the victims’ names. So instead, we are focusing on embodying the victims and women like them. We want to demonstrate something of the reality of their lives, and how much social rejection and stigma did to make them vulnerable to a predator. Even our heroes— explicitly dedicated to helping the women who have nowhere else to turn —have to get over their classism and prejudices borne out of the standards of Victorian morality.

This narrative bears the burden of so many others that subject sex workers and impoverished women to violence. Our hands are bound by history if we are to tell this story. But if we are to borrow from these real people’s tragedies to create drama, we wanted to show them some respect in the process by not leaving them as mere props in a murder mystery. We are working to embody and acknowledge their humanity. I even hope that we are able to inject a little agency, something that is often erased in people are victimized. Perhaps that can do a little honor to their memory.

Polly Nichols. Annie Chapman. Elizabeth Stride. Catherine Eddowes. Mary Jane Kelly. As one of our characters will urge during the course of the show— “Don’t forget.”

Catch Mrs. Hawking in MRS. FROST and the all-new FALLEN WOMEN this January at Arisia 2020 in Boston, MA

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Debuting our Jack the Ripper story in Mrs. Hawking part VI!

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Categories: development, fallen women, Tags: ,

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Rehearsals have begun for the next round of Mrs. Hawking production! And that means we’ve begun work on the debut of our brand-new show, Mrs. Hawking VI: Fallen Women! In the lead up to that, I’d thought I’d share cool things about our intense next story.

At long last, we’re tackling a subject I’d be dreaming of for years now— our heroes taking on the case of Jack the Ripper. Not only one of the most famous pieces of Victorian history there is, he’s to this day one of the most notorious serial killers ever, made all the more so because his identity was never discovered to any degree of certainty.

The case is ideally suited to a Mrs. Hawking story. Shrouded in mystery, it gives us good opportunity to fit our characters into the points upon which history is less clear. And since the victims were some of the poorest, most societally disenfranchised women in London, they are exactly the sort of people that the system would fail to protect, making Mrs. Hawking their only hope. As one of our new characters, London nurse Violet Strallan says, “What’s that they say of you? You help folks who ain’t got nobody else. Well, let me tell you— there’s nobody more friendless than us.”

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Designing a show around a historical murder case was no easy feat. Fellow writer Bernie Gabin and I decided that where there was good sound research on the facts, we would honor and incorporate the historical record as it existed. Only where the answers were unknown, or at least where there was reasonable debate among experts, we allowed ourselves to make up the information as was most useful and dramatic for the story. That meant we had a lot less flexibility to design plot elements than we usually do, which often made for a real challenge. But we thought that turning the case into a complete fantasy would rob it of emotional weight, so were diligent about our research, and scrupulous when it came to using it.

But we believe we’ve come up with a cool interpretation of the story— one that perhaps places the emphasis on ideas you don’t usually see in Jack the Ripper stories. We hope you find our vision of it compelling. If you want to know just how we’ve interpreted this monster and his murders, you’ll have to come see us debut at Arisia 2020 this January!

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Cast for Part VI: FALLEN WOMEN debut!

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Categories: fallen women, mrs. frost, performance, Tags:

It’s that time again! We have a cast for our next round of Mrs. Hawking shows this winter, including our most recent show Part V: MRS. FROST, and the debut performance of our all new installment, Part VI: FALLEN WOMEN!

I am excited to welcome our actors, both our longtime collaborators and our new members of the team!

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Mrs. Hawking V:
MRS. FROST
By Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin
~~~

Mrs. Victoria Hawking – Cari Keebaugh
Miss Mary Stone – Circe Rowan
Mr. Nathaniel Hawking – Christian Krenek
Madam Malaika Shah – Naomi Ibatsitas
Mrs. Clara Hawking – Sara Smith
Sergeant Arthur Swann – Matthew Kamm
Mrs. Elizabeth Frost – Arielle Kaplan
Mr. Roland Davies – Andrew Prentice
Dr. Terrence Enfield – Jason Tilton
Ensemble – Pieter Wallace

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And introducing

Mrs. Hawking VI:
FALLEN WOMEN
By Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin

Mrs. Victoria Hawking – Cari Keebaugh
Miss Mary Stone – Circe Rowan
Mr. Nathaniel Hawking – Christian Krenek
Mrs. Clara Hawking – Sara Smith
Sergeant Arthur Swann – Matthew Kamm
Mrs. Elizabeth Frost – Arielle Kaplan
Miss Mary Jane Kelly – Sara Dion
Miss Violet Strallan – Elizabeth Ross
Mr. Roland Davies – Andrew Prentice
A Distinguished Matron in Widow’s Weeds – Jenn Benfield
The Ripper – Pieter Wallace
and Miss Malaika Shah – Naomi Ibatsitas
Ensemble – Jason Tilton, Kate Potter

~~~

We are so excited to get to work with this awesome cast! It’s always both invigorating and challenging to mount a new show. But we have taken it seriously to try and top our production every single year and every single installment, so we can’t wait to show you what happens to our heroes next!

 

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MRS. FROST video available for viewing!

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Categories: mrs. frost, performance, Tags: ,

Mrs. Hawking is accomplished at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2019!

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Photos by Daniel Fox.

Our productions of Part IV: Gilded Cages and our newest piece, Part V: Mrs. Frost, went up to great response this May in Waltham. We’re so grateful to our audiences, as well as our amazing cast and crew, for making it such a great show!

If you missed catching our newest play, you can check out this video of the Arisia 2019 performance made by the great Syd Weinstein and his technical crew this January.

Mrs. Frost – Part V of Mrs. Hawking at Arisia 2019
from sydweinstein on Vimeo

We’re incredibly proud of how hard we work to top our presentations every year. If you weren’t able to join us live, make sure you take a moment to catch these recordings, so you can share in the most intense chapter of our story yet!

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PERFORMANCE ANNOUNCEMENT! Gilded Cages and Mrs. Frost at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2019

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Categories: miscellany

We have a date for our next round of performances of Mrs. Hawking shows!

Our newest shows, Gilded Cages and Mrs. Frost, will be going up at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2019 in Waltham, Massachusetts!

The latest installments of the Hawking series are returning with a stellar cast and crew to Waltham’s free spring steampunk festival with two free shows!

GILDED CAGES
By Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin

2PM on Saturday, May 11th
At the First Parish Church
50 Church Street, Waltham, MA

London, 1884—For 25 years, Mrs. Hawking has battled injustice as the Lady’s Champion of London. But it has been a difficult path that led her to her life’s work as a superhero, and finally the truth behind Mrs. H’s discovery of her calling will be revealed. As she takes on a case against an enemy beyond any she’s ever faced, the struggles and mistakes of her past have come back to haunt her. CN: parental abuse, mention of stillbirth.

Starring

1884

Mrs. Hawking – Cari Keebaugh
Mary Stone – Circe Rowan
Nathaniel Hawking – Christian Krenek
Arthur Swann – Matthew Kamm
Mrs. Chaudhary – Naomi Ibatsitas
Lord Brockton – Pieter Wallace
Ensemble – Andrew Prentice, Pieter Wallace

1859

Victoria Stanton – Cari Keebaugh
Malaika Shah – Naomi Ibatsitas
Elizabeth Danvers – Arielle Kaplan
Reginald Hawking – Christian Krenek
Lt. Governor Stanton – Sam Jones

MRS. FROST
By Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin

6PM on Saturday, May 11th
At the First Parish Church
50 Church Street, Waltham, MA

London, 1886— The reveal of Mrs. Hawking’s greatest enemy yet has left our hero brooding over past failures, so consumed in destroying the criminal mastermind that even apprentices Mary and Nathaniel feel frozen out of her life. But when Nathaniel is taken captive, and an important figure from her past returns, Mrs. Hawking must work with some remarkable women to defeat her nemesis once and for all. CN: mention of sexual assault, Victorian mental health practices.

Starring

Mrs. Hawking – Cari Keebaugh
Mary Stone – Circe Rowan
Nathaniel Hawking – Christian Krenek
Madam Malaika Shah – Naomi Ibatsitas
Arthur Swann – Matthew Kamm
Clara Hawking – Sara Smith
Mrs. Frost – Arielle Kaplan
Roland Davies – Andrew Prentice
Dr. Enfield – Jason Tilton
Ensemble – Jason Tilton, Pieter Wallace

Our shows run ninety minutes without intermission, and admission is free. If you missed us at Arisia 2019, be certain to mark your calendars to join us for this open festival performance, produced by Breaking Light Productions and brought to you by the Waltham Watch City Steampunk Festival!

“Gilded Cages” and “Mrs. Frost” by Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin will be performed on Saturday, May 11th at 2pm and 6pm respectively at the First Parish Church at 50 Church Street, Waltham, MA as part of the Watch City Steampunk Festival.

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Trailer for debut of MRS. FROST at Arisia 2019!

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Categories: mrs. frost, Tags: ,

Check out our awesome trailer for the debut performance of our new installment, MRS. FROST, at Arisia 2019!

Introducing MRS. FROST
By Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin

“London, 1886— The reveal of Mrs. Hawking’s greatest enemy yet has left our hero brooding over past failures, and so consumed by her quest to destroy the criminal mastermind that even her apprentices Mary and Nathaniel feel frozen out of her life. But when Nathaniel is taken captive by her nemesis, and an important figure from her past returns, Mrs. Hawking must work with a team of remarkable women to confront their demons and tear down this criminal empire once and for all. Content note: mention of sexual assault, Victorian mental health practices.”

As part of Arisia 2019

Saturday, Janaury 19th
4PM

In the Grand Ballroom
at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel

STARRING
Cari Keebaugh as Mrs. Hawking
Circe Rowan as Mary Stone
Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Nathaniel Hawking
Naomi Ibatsitas as Madam Malaika
Matthew Kamm as Arthur Swann
Sara Smith as Clara Hawking
Andrew Prentice as Roland Davies
Pieter Wallace as Dr. Enfield
and
Arielle Kaplan as Mrs. Frost

Trailer credits:
Director: Phoebe Roberts and Sean Sederholm
Cinematography: Paul Stamper and Caitlin Brown
Sound: Noel Ramos
Lighting: John Mosetich
Boom: Pieter Wallace
Production Design: Sarah Sherman
Script Supervisor: Geena Forristall
Producer: Francis Sheehan
with Cari Keebaugh as Mrs. Hawking and Circe Rowan as Mary

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.

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Gilded Cages and Mrs. Frost scheduled at Arisia 2019!

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Categories: gilded cages, mrs. frost, performance, Tags:

Our two newest shows, Gilded Cages and Mrs. Frost, are now scheduled in performance slots at Arisia 2019!

MRS. HAWKING parts 4 and 5

at Arisia 2019 in Boston, MA

presented by Breaking Light Productions

Gilded Cages
by Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin

“London, 1884— “What if Sherlock Holmes were a lady Batman?” For twenty-five years, our hero Mrs. Hawking has battled injustice as the Lady’s Champion of London. But it has been a difficult path to her life’s work as a superhero, and now the truth behind Mrs. Hawking’s discovery of her calling is finally revealed. As she takes on a case against an enemy beyond any she’s ever faced, she will find the struggles and mistakes of her past have come back to haunt her. Content note: parental abuse, mention of stillbirth.”

Friday, January 18th at 7:30PM
In Grand Ballroom A

and introducing

Mrs. Frost
by Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin

“London, 1886— The reveal of Mrs. Hawking’s greatest enemy yet has left our hero brooding over past failures, and so consumed by her quest to destroy the criminal mastermind that even her apprentices Mary and Nathaniel feel frozen out of her life. But when Nathaniel is taken captive by her nemesis, and an important figure from her past returns, Mrs. Hawking must work with a team of remarkable women to confront their demons and tear down this criminal empire once and for all. CN: mention of sexual assault, Victorian mental health practices.”

Saturday, January 19th at 3:30PM
In Grand Ballroom A

at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel
50 Park Plaza, Boston, MA‎

Come join us at the convention for our most ambitious and intense program yet!

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