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Winner of the Arisia membership raffle!

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All this week, we’ve been offering a chance to enter a raffle to win a full weekend membership to Arisia 2016. All you had to do was repost our show information page on social media with the hashtag #mrshawkingatarisia.

Today we’ve randomly drawn the winner! The recipient of our prize is:

@tinydragontori!

We’ll be in contact today, but feel free to reach out about how you’d like us to transfer the membership. Thank you to everyone who entered!

@tinydragontori, can’t wait to see you at our shows!

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 15th at 8PM and January 16th at 4PM and Vivat Regina by Phoebe Roberts January 17th at 1PM at the Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2016.

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The new portrait of the Colonel

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You may remember that for last year’s Mrs. Hawking productions we made this portrait to serve as the framed photograph of the Colonel that hangs above the mantlepiece in the Hawking parlor.

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I liked this portrait because it was a genuine Victorian image, with a sort of quiet sadness in the look in the gentleman’s eyes. But now we are not only performing Mrs. Hawking, but also Vivat Regina, which you may have noted contains explicit reference to what that portrait looks like. Specifically, it’s a significant moment when Mrs. Hawking expresses her discomfort with Nathaniel’s resemblance to her late husband. With that resemblance being pointed out in the dialogue, it doesn’t really serve to have just any old person’s image hanging there for all the audience to see.

To that end, we made a new picture to go inside the portrait frame. This meant we temporarily had to cast the character of Colonel Reginald Hawking— with Jeremiah O’Sullivan, our actor playing the role of Nathaniel.

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We dressed Jeremiah in a military-style jacket and a costume mustache with spirit gum— after all, Mrs. Hawking says the Colonel has “whiskers” in that picture. This not only ensures the resemblance, it’s a nice hinting at stories to come. The Colonel is set to appear in part four of Mrs. Hawking, back before he was the Colonel, in flashbacks juxtaposed with a present-day story. I thought it would be cool to double cast Nathaniel and the Colonel in that piece, to convey not just their similarities, but to drive home to the audience how hard it is for Mrs. Hawking to see anyone but the Colonel when she looks at her nephew.

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 15th at 8PM and January 16th at 4PM and Vivat Regina by Phoebe Roberts January 17th at 1PM at the Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2016.

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Arisia membership raffle

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Want to catch our shows at Arisia 2016, but the cost of membership is a little too high for you? Well, here’s your chance to win one for free in Mrs. Hawking’s Arisia membership raffle!

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We are raffling off one full weekend pass to the Arisia 2016 convention! This will give you complete access to all hours and events of the con in the Westin Waterfront Boston hotel January 15th through 18th.

To enter:

– Share the show information page on social media— Facebook, Twitter, G+
– Tag the post with the hashtag #mrshawkingatarisia
– Each share across the platforms counts as one entry
– Share across as many platforms as you like for additional entries

Entries will close on Monday, December 21st at 12AM. A winner will be drawn at random and announced at 12PM on the 21st. The selected person will provide us with their contact information so that we can transfer the Arisia membership into their name. We shall be pleased to have that person as our guest at our performances!

Happy sharing!

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 15th at 8PM and January 16th at 4PM and Vivat Regina by Phoebe Roberts January 17th at 1PM at the Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2016.

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Mrs. Hawking on the radio 12/12!

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This Saturday, December 12th, Mrs. Hawking can be heard on the radio!

We’re a little over one month away from our shows at Arisia, so it’s time to get the word really out! To that end, we’ll be appearing on Beyond the Horizon Radio to talk about our shows! Tune in at 12PM EST to hear a live broadcast featuring Frances Kimpel, our Mrs. Hawking, Circe Rowan, our Mary Stone, and yours truly, the writer and director.

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We’ll be discussing our upcoming productions of Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina at Arisia 2016, as well as things behind the scenes, our process, and the story at large. Finally, we’ll be performing a selection from Base Instruments, the newly-released third installment, featuring the voices of Frances Kimpel as Mrs. Hawking, Circe Rowan as Mary Stone, and a certain someone else you know doing her best attempt at a Russian accent for new character Elena Zakharova.

Check us out at the Beyond the Horizon Radio website to hear the live broadcast at 12PM EST on Saturday, December 12th!

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 15th at 8PM and January 16th at 4PM and Vivat Regina by Phoebe Roberts January 17th at 1PM at the Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2016.

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Performance times for Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina!

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We have been scheduled for times and locations for our upcoming performances at Arisia 2016!

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Mrs. Hawking
by Phoebe Roberts
8PM on Friday, January 15th
Grand Ballroom B

4PM on Saturday, January 16th
Grand Ballroom A

Vivat Regina
by Phoebe Roberts
1PM on Sunday, January 17th
Grand Ballroom B

At the Westin Waterfront Boston
425 Summer St, Boston, MA

Go here to sign up to attend Arisia 2016! Be sure to join us for the continuing story of the lady’s champion of London!

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 15th at 8PM and January 16th at 4PM and Vivat Regina by Phoebe Roberts January 17th at 1PM at the Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2016.

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Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina at Arisia 2016

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MRS. HAWKING
part 1 and 2

at Arisia 2016

presented by The Chameleon’s Dish

Mrs. Hawking
by Phoebe Roberts
8PM on Friday, January 15th
Grand Ballroom B

4PM on Saturday, January 16th
Grand Ballroom A

London, 1880— When Mary Stone accepts a job as housemaid to a fierce, brooding society widow, she is drawn into Mrs. Hawking’s heroic crusade as secret champion to society’s downtrodden ladies. Join us for this Victorian action caper, and explore what would happen if Sherlock Holmes were more like a lady Batman.

Cast
Mrs. Victoria Hawking – Frances Kimpel
Miss Mary Stone – Circe Rowan
Mr. Nathaniel Hawking – Jeremiah O’Sullivan
Mrs. Celeste Fairmont – Arielle Kaplan
Lord Cedric Brockton – Francis Hauert
Sir Walter Grainger – Jordan Greeley
Mr. John Colchester – Andrew Prentice
Miss Grace Monroe – Jennifer Giorno
Ensemble – Joye Thaller, Chris Denmead

Vivat Regina
by Phoebe Roberts
1PM on Sunday, January 17th
Grand Ballroom B

London, 1881— The continuing story of the lady’s champion of London! Mrs. Hawking is stern in training her new assistant, housemaid Mary Stone, in the art of society avenging. But when a mysterious lady under a false name brings them an impossible mission, our heroines must join all their varied strengths together to see justice done. The sequel to Mrs. Hawking, but requires no knowledge of the previous play.

Cast
Mrs. Victoria Hawking – Frances Kimpel
Miss Mary Stone – Circe Rowan
Mr. Nathaniel Hawking – Jeremiah O’Sullivan
Mrs. Johanna Braun – Joye Thaller
Mrs. Clara Hawking – Samantha LeVangie
Constable Arthur Swann – Matthew Kamm
Frau Kirsten Gerhard – Isabella Dollar
Ensemble – Chris Denmead, Sara Dion, Tegan Kehoe

Crew
Director – Phoebe Roberts
Technical Director – Bernie Gabin
Costume Designer – Jennifer Giorno
Sound Designer – Neil Marsh
Violence Designer – Arielle Kaplan
Run Crew – Eboracum Richter-Dahl
Makeup Artist – Jessicalee Skarry

At the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel
425 Summer St, Boston, MA

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Meet Circe Rowan, the actress playing Mary Stone

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For a show, the playwright isn’t the only one with a responsibility to bring the characters to life. The actors who portray them have a great deal of power to make you invest emotionally, to fall in love with the people you’re watching. A story like this lives and dies on the strength of the characters, so to a large degree, your ability to connect rests on the strength of our cast. We’ve worked hard to get the right people together to make you believe in the story we’re telling, such as Circe Rowan, the actor portraying Mary, one of our heroes and the beating human heart of the story.

Circe Rowan as Mary

Circe Rowan as Mary

To give you a glimpse inside the process of making these characters real, I asked Circe a series of questions about how she goes about playing Mary. Here’s what she had to say about taking on the role.

What’s your theater background?

Circe: “I got my start early. Back in the mid-80s, my mother taught at a dance studio. A lot of the other instructors had older kids who were involved in community theater, and one year they put on a production of Alice In Wonderland, for which they needed a Dormouse. I was four, I could follow instructions, and standing up in front of a bajillion people didn’t scare me, so they put me in a mouse-eared onesie and plunked me down on stage to snooze through the tea party. I think I had two or three lines, even. Naturally, I was also in dance classes— one of the perks of Mom working for the studio! —and around the time I got to junior high, I also discovered I could sing. I’ve done all kinds of performance, off and on, ever since.”

How do you see the role of Mary and how do you approach playing the character?

Circe: “How do I approach the character? With a great deal of glee! I’m not a very big person, so I’m almost never cast as the party tank. Usually I’m the femme fatale or the detective. This time, I get to beat up my very own goon! It’s exciting.

“With Mary, I’m in the unusual position of playing a character who has to learn guile. I get to do a lot of comedy in the “undercover” scenes, as Mary is thrown into the spy game head-first by Mrs. Hawking, and a lot of pathos in the parlor scenes, where Mary learns how to best handle her employer. As an actor, any role where you play someone who’s learning to stop fooling themselves and start fooling other people is fascinatingly multi-layered.

“Some of Mary’s subtleties are not spelled out, but are pointers that, as an actor, I can hang bits of backstory on. The script makes it clear that, due to her background, Mary’s had more education that one might expect from a mere servant girl— she handles Mrs. Hawking’s appointment book and mail at various points, so she’s literate, and she ran her family household, so she would have to have basic arithmetic and the like. The second play also makes it clear that she has at least a smattering of British history. Her life was also rather lonely before she came to London and was hired on by the Hawking household, so I’ve put it all together and decided she got a lot of her ideas about being a hero from innumerable penny dreadfuls and adventure serials, which would have come over to India by boat, and which she probably cadged from the housewives and soldiers she grew up with.”

Circe Rowan as Mary

Circe Rowan as Mary

What do you find most interesting about her?

Circe: “Mary is oblivious to her own best qualities. There are lots of unusual things about her that she doesn’t seem to realize will be interesting, even valuable, to other people. Some of the things are explicit in the script. Mary has a forthrightness unusual for the time and her position, for example. She’s stubborn and stalwart, but still innocent enough to throw herself into the fray without hesitation, believing she can win.

“The way Mary sees herself is often very different than how the other characters see her, and it throws her off-balance when people react to what they see in her, rather than what she’s aware of. How other people see her is also colored by their own preconceptions, which only makes things more complicated. All her life, Mary has based her self-image on others’ assessments of her character, and back in India, all of those people were conventional, and wanted her to be conventional, too. In London, from the moment Nathaniel takes her coat and offers her a seat in the parlour, treating her like a guest instead of like a servant girl, she’s bombarded with new and sometimes very strange reflections of herself in the eyes of other people.

“Out here in real life, my field is somewhere in the vicinity of sociology and cognitive science, so trying to bring things like Johari windows to the stage is always interesting to me.”

What do you hope the audience takes away from your performance?

Circe: “Enjoyment! Mary is in many ways the audience stand-in. She’s an ordinary person who gets mixed up with superheroes. It’s strange and confusing to her at first, but she grows into it, and becomes a useful part of the team. I hope there’s a little something in her character that makes everyone in the audience say, “Yeah! If she could become a hero, maybe I could, too.””

And that is the person behind our hero Mary! Check us out at our upcoming performances to see the final result.

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 15th at 8PM and January 16th at 4PM and Vivat Regina by Phoebe Roberts January 17th at 1PM at the Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2016.

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New Mrs. Hawking story posted: Base Instruments

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The third installment of the Mrs. Hawking story, Base Instruments, is now available here on the site for viewing! Click here to read it in the Scripts section.

The official synopsis:

London, England, 1883— Mary has been Mrs. Hawking’s protege for two years now, learning to the ropes of championing the downtrodden women of London with the intent of one day taking her mistress’s place. When Mrs. Hawking is injured in the line of duty, the press for Mary to master the trade becomes all the more urgent as a dancer in the St. Petersberg ballet approaches them to solve the murder of the prima ballerina. But as the team hunts down the truth, Nathaniel’s determination to be of use in his aunt’s work has consequences he doesn’t expect, and Mary begins to realize the heavy cost of taking on the life Mrs. Hawking leads. Join our team as they seek to reconcile the difficult path of the hero with the unraveling of the mystery and seeing that justice is done.

A few notes on it before you read:

The writing of Base Instruments was begun over the course of 31 Plays in 31 Days 2014, with the bulk of it structured and drafted over the course of summer and fall 2015. This version was finalized this past week.

Special thanks to Jane Becker, John Benfield, Charlotte Brewer, Matt Kamm, Tegan Kehoe, Samantha LeVangie, Shannon Moore, and Circe Rowan for their invaluable feedback in the editing process. Their time, perspective, and review made wonderful contributions to the shape of the final product. And of course, my eternal gratitude to Bernie Gabin, my partner in life and in art, who helped me figure out how the hell this idea was going to work, and without whom I’d never have been able to make it happen. Mrs. Hawking is my brainchild, but we’re very much raising her together.

It is written for ten speaking roles, five women and five men, plus a small nonspeaking ensemble. As written, Miss Zakharova and Miss Sherba are designed to be double cast. It is also possible to double cast Arthur and Lord Seacourse, or Arthur and Kiril Chernovsky.

It takes place about a year and a half after the events of Vivat Regina, the previous installment, in the autumn of 1883.

All related posts on the topic of Base Instruments can be found in this category.

With this, the first planned trilogy of our story is completed. The dream of Mrs. Hawking being a true series has become a reality. This is proof of concept that it can be done, and I can’t wait to see where we go form here. I hope you enjoy it. All comments, questions, and responses to the piece are very welcome.

Read the new script Base Instruments here.

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 15th at 8PM and January 16th at 4PM and Vivat Regina by Phoebe Roberts January 17th at 1PM at the Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2016.

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She walked in the door and brought trouble with her

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One of the things Mrs. Hawking borrows from Sherlock Holmes is that her work comes from clients— specific people in need who come to her seeking her help, skills, and advice. All the cases that provide the overall structure for each episode are from women who bring them in for Mrs. Hawking to work on. This is where Mrs. Hawking’s epithet comes from– unless she has no ladies to stand up for, she cannot be the Lady’s Champion of London.

Because we’ve got a model going, the challenge is to include lots of different variations on theme. Each client needs to be her own person, with her own attitude, her own characteristics, her own situation, her own unique problem.

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Our very first client was Celeste Fairmont. A refined society woman married to an important man, Mrs. Fairmont faces the challenges of the word armored in an air of intense respectability. She comes into the story when her one transgression in all her life is discovered by the villain, blackmailer Lord Cedric Brockton. While at first she tries to hide the truth even from Mrs. Hawking, the reveal of her scandalous secret ends up driving our hero to confront some old wounds of her own.

Sarah Jenkins as Mrs. Fairmont

Sarah Jenkins played Mrs. Fairmont in our most recent production of Mrs. Hawking at the 2015 Watch City Steampunk Festival, but for our upcoming, Arielle Kaplan, our original Mrs. Fairmont, will be returning to again perform at Arisia.

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The client in Vivat Regina comes cloaked in mystery and misdirection. Speaking in a slight German accent, this well-dressed lady introduces herself with, “You may address me as Mrs. Johanna Braun,” in reference to Sherlock Holmes classic “A Scandal in Bohemia.” It is clear that she is not exactly who she says she is. But as the play goes on, more and more hints are dropped as to her true identity, and perhaps the viewer will figure it out as Mrs. Hawking does. Her mission, as well as her secret self, casts a harsh light on the real social problems the Victorian age was rife with.

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Mrs. Braun will be portrayed in this first-ever stage performance of the character by actress Joye Thaller. Joye also read for the role of Mrs. Braun in the Vivat Regina staged reading, hosted by Theatre@First’s Bare Bones reading series in 2014.

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The third installment, Base Instruments, which will be released in full script form shortly, introduces Miss Elena Zakharova as the client, a rising star in the St. Petersberg ballet. With the murder of her fellow dancer, she brings the first true mystery we ever watch the team solve. But the story she brings into Mrs. Hawking’s parlor is not the whole story, and the real truth reveals a lurking darkness even beyond the grimness of murder.

Of course, with a series of characters who all serve a similar role in the story, some patterns do emerge. Given the restrictions on women in Victorian society, the same one that often make it so they have need of Mrs. Hawking, mean they are taking quite a risk in even seeking out her help. Does this mean they are frightened when they come in? Full of righteous anger at the state of affairs? Is it taking every ounce of courage they have in order to reach out, or has the direness of the situation given them passion? I try to give the actresses portraying these characters some room to bring their own interpretation. But everything starts with the script, so I want the text to inspire them to complete characterizations.

One thing is common— Mrs. Hawking may be their champion, but it seems that at one point or another in each story, she finds a need to shake down her own client! Whether she thinks they’re lying or taking advantage the system she fights, our hero sometimes loses sight of exactly what she’s fighting for. It reveals an aspect of our hero that may have real consequences on the storytelling in the future, so I need to take great care to explore all the possibilities brought on by the ladies walking into the parlor.

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 15th at 8PM and January 16th at 4PM and Vivat Regina by Phoebe Roberts January 17th at 1PM at the Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2016.

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The mistake in Vivat Regina

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When I was in graduate school studying playwriting and screenwriting, one of my mentors, the great Boston theater artist Kate Snodgrass, said that everything that in the text of a play is intentional. Whatever writing choices made it into the final draft have to be treated by us, readers and critics, as specifically included on purpose by that writer. It’s all part of the world of the story, and nothing can be chalked up to as accidental, or a mistake.

With all due respect to Kate, I don’t always agree with that. As a writer, I find that the process isn’t always one smooth delivery of brainchild onto the page. I do tend to be a very intentional writer. It’s just my style to do a lot of advance planning, and I always have a motivation for why I made the choice that I made. Doesn’t mean it’s a good choice, of course, but I did it on purpose for a reason!

But even I end up with stuff in my finished projects that weren’t part of my grand design. Sometimes I have a really good part A and a really good part C, so I end up hacking together a part B because it gets me from one to the other. Or sometimes I include something that struck me on a whim at the moment, when if I’d considered it a little more deeply, I might not find it consistent with the overall vision.

One such small moment exists in Vivat Regina. There’s a little recurring bit throughout the piece of how Mrs. Hawking doesn’t like keeping tea biscuits in the house. It’s mostly there as a joke, a way to make fun of her for her weirdness, to give the characters, particularly Mary and Clara, a way to relate to each other.

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“You haven’t even any decent tea biscuits!” Rehearsing with Circe Rowan as Mary and Samantha LeVangie as Clara.

Why is this a mistake? Because– why would Mrs. Hawking have a problem with tea biscuits? It’s not immediately obvious, so you as the audience might be wondering. When I as the writer think about it, it gives me pause as I realize— she actually doesn’t have a reason. At least, she didn’t when I wrote it. Because I didn’t include it because it grew out of some feature that I wanted to make part of Mrs. Hawking’s character. It’s there not because of something about her— it’s there because of something about me. Which is a massively amateurish thing for a writer.

I thought that was funny, without thinking about it too much, because I hate keeping crackers and little munchables around because I eat them all immediately. But that’s my issue, that’s not true of Mrs. Hawking. It’s just not who she is. And that’s a problem, because I included a feature of a character that didn’t derive from that character’s unique nature. It’s a sign of immature writing to make all of your characters reflections of you rather than independent, complex people. So in writing in that little bit, I made a rookie mistake.

Upon reflection, I decided to keep it. It’s funny, it adds something to the interactions. But that means it’s in there. It’s part of the fabric of the world. My challenge now is to find the truth in it. Even though it came from me rather than the character, now I need to find something about the character that makes it true.

Right now, I’m leaving it up to the interpretation of the actors. I’m trying to take in what they bring to the piece to find inspiration for the real meaning. But that just shows you, artists are fallible. Things can work in their despite your best intentions for a grand design. But luckily, in theater you are collaborating with so many other talented people that they can help bring order to the chaos, meaning where there was none.

I leave it up to you whether or not we made it work.

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 15th at 8PM and January 16th at 4PM and Vivat Regina by Phoebe Roberts January 17th at 1PM at the Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2016.

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