Tag Archives: acknowledgements


Completed script for Mrs. Hawking part 4: Gilded Cages!

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Categories: development, gilded cages, Tags: ,

I am delighted to announce we have completed the performance version of the script for Mrs. Hawking part 4: Gilded Cages!

This script represents a huge step forward for the series. A major goal of each successive installment is to bring something new to the series, to raise the narrative stakes or attempt a new challenge that we’ve never taken on before. Last year’s piece, part 3: Base Instruments, was our very first true mystery, meticulously designed so that all the pieces hung together and that the audience had all the necessary information to solve the puzzle. This year, our innovations were to be both thematic and technical, and demanded enormous work on our part.

First, we’re making use of a flashback structure, juxtaposing the events of the series’s present day in 1884 with significant from Mrs. Hawking’s youth, twenty-five years ago in the Bengali colony in 1859. This not only lets us to tell a piece of her origin story, how she came to be the person that we knew today, it also allows us to meaningfully comment on the events of the modern-day story. The challenge for us is to make this read clearly, to be sure the audience can follow the transition between past and present, and the connection between the events of ’84 and the events of ’59.

As for the thematic challenge, we’ve known from the start that it would lie in tackling the issue of Victorian colonialism. We wanted to pay proper respect to the fact that the period in which we are set was built upon the conquest of other cultures and peoples, often to devastating effect. It seemed disingenuous to attempt any storytelling in this setting that didn’t present a critique of that colonialism, and to deconstruct White Savior story tropes that so often accompany it. We certainly didn’t want to further the damages of this mentality by turning the struggles of these cultures purely into lessons or challenged for our Western protagonists. Writing this story demanded that we do proper research, listen to the thoughts of people who understood the situation better than we did, and question our own assumptions and prejudices. This was absolutely necessary to portray this colonial situation with honesty and respect, as well as create a character that an actor of color would be proud to play. This involves some of the heaviest concepts we’ve ever tackled in Mrs. Hawking, and it was incredibly important we spare no effort in our attempt to do it right.

As always, we could not have done it without our wonderful early readers, both frequent collaborators and thoughtful friends, whose input helped us make the script better than we ever could on our own. To readers Charlotte Brewer, Eric Cheung, Jennifer Giorno, Naomi Ibatsitas, Matthew Kamm, Cari Keebaugh, Tegan Kehoe, Marybeth Larivee, Shannon Moore, Isaiah Plovnick, and Circe Rowan, we extend our profound thanks for the insight and ideas they gave to make this piece great.

And on top of that, there are those very kind souls who took on the stern task of evaluating our efforts to portray a situation in colonial Asia and depict the journey of our new character, a woman native those circumstance. We could not have done that without those people who were kind enough to lend their time and effort to considering our play and making suggestions and critiques to help us make our portrayal and our new character the best they could be. Bernie and I want to extend a special thanks to Eric Cheung, Naomi Ibatsitas, Kara Kaufman, Michael Lin, and Mara Elissa Palma for their critical eye, for taking the time to consider our work, and the patience with which they delivered their thoughts. If we have captured any truth here, or done any justice to telling this story, we owe it to these people who guided us.

Finally, I need to thank my closest collaborator and true partner, Bernie Gabin. In addition to serving as technical director for every production, he contributes so much to the development of the Mrs. Hawking stories that he is as much as writer as I am. None of these stories would be a fraction of what they are without his help, and I am so fortunate and grateful that I have someone like him to help me realize these stories— on the page as well as the stage.

I am not going to post the script here on the website until after our performance. So you will have to come see us at Arisia 2018 to find out not only where Mrs. Hawking’s journey will take her next, but how we the authors tackled the challenges we set for ourselves.

So, make sure to join us at Arisia this January the weekend of the 12th-15th at the Westin Boston Waterfront!


A test pilot for a Mrs. Hawking TV series

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Categories: looking ahead, mrs. hawking, Tags: ,

The more I developed the Mrs. Hawking stories, the clearer it’s become that they’re probably not absolutely best suited to be plays. They are action-heavy and spectacle-focused, and as they grow in cast size and scope, it seems more and more that they would be best suited to some kind of cinematic format. I’ve heard many responses from audiences confirming this. Right now, producing them on film is beyond my capability, so for the moment I’ve been getting them out as theatrical plays. But I know someday I’d like to work toward some kind of serialized televisual medium.

I’ve been starting to explore what options might be viable to someday take the work in that direction. Producing a web series in installments seems a possibility worth investigating, but also preparing for any opportunity to pitch it to real production companies. To that end, to be prepared to take advantage of any chance of that nature, I decided it was finally time to take a stab at adapting the tale, or at least the beginning of it, to the screen. At long last, now Mrs. Hawking’s first story is available to read in the screenplay format.


This piece is basically a reimagining of the plot of the first play Mrs. Hawking to fit the hour-long American television drama format. This was developed based on excellent feedback from John Benfield, Charlotte Brewer, Nat Budin, Viktoriya Fuzyalova, Matthew Kamm, Tegan Kehoe, and Shannon Moore. I’m so grateful for their input, as discerning eyes in the writing process helps me improve my work so much.

As a pilot, this is probably not a strictly ideal production example. In the context of a series, a pilot should set up the leads and their circumstances and prime the audience’s interest to see more. This version may give away a bit more of the drama that may belong in a pilot, rather than ration it out to set the pace for future episodes. But this is strictly a kind of audition piece, designed to be considered in isolation to demonstrate the potential of the series. Choices were made in this adaptation to not only whet a reader’s appetite for further stories, but also to pack enough narrative punch to make this one installment satisfying on its own. It would have to be adapted and reedited to work better in the context of a full season of episodes.

But consider this new pilot version not only an audition of the work but a test, to examine the potential of Mrs. Hawking in another medium. I think it brought a lot of excitement and color that couldn’t be represented with the limitations of the stage. Why don’t you check it out to see what you think?


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.


Finished draft of Base Instruments!

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Categories: base instruments, development, Tags: , , , ,

I am pleased to announce that Base Instruments, part three of the Mrs. Hawking series, has a complete draft!


I had some friends over to read it, as I love to do when evaluating a play, and the response was great. Now I have a direction for the edit! Thanks to Jane Becker, Charlotte Brewer, Matthew Kamm, Tegan Kehoe, and Samantha LeVangie for their great feedback! The stuff I need to fix isn’t huge, fortunately, but it will require some deft tweaking in order to improve, and that level of subtlety will be challenging. And hearing the whole piece together means I learned some interesting things about this new installment of the story.

Jeremiah O'Sullivan as Nathaniel

Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Nathaniel

Base Instruments turned out to be very much Nathaniel’s play. It wasn’t exactly intentional, but with so many of his close family members featuring, it was only natural that he would end up being the most central character. Even though I want the series to mostly belong to Mary and Mrs. Hawking, it became clear in the writing of the previous two plays that Nathaniel was going to serve as the third lead. And since those first two dealt with the two of them primarily, it was all right if Nathaniel came to the forefront by piece three. Not only does he have the most stage time, his arc plays out with more characters than anyone else’s. I like to think he’s getting really developed.

Justin, Nathaniel’s brother, proved to be very charismatic, as I hoped he would be! Similarly to Clara in Vivat Regina, he was the cool new character Base Instruments added to the cast. I’ve become very devoted to the idea that these pieces need comic relief to balance the drama, and both he and Clara brought some of the lightest moments of wit and humor. I don’t know how often he’ll be able to come back, given the direction the series will take from here, but it will be a real shame if I don’t figure out how to fit him in again.

In fact, the structure of the play changed in an interesting way because of the expansion of the world in this manner. While the two previous installments mostly just followed around Mrs. Hawking and Mary, mostly together, Base Instruments had enough threads going on that its scenes skip back and forth between them. It gives the story a breadth and texture, allowing a much more complex series of events to happen, with a more careful pacing as the threads break each other up. And frankly? It’s pretty damn cool that one of the most engaging scenes in the play happens between two secondary characters, one who’ve we’ve only just met in this piece. That can only be possible when the world and its dynamics are very rich.

My plan is to dig into the edit and get it done in the next few weeks. After that I’d like to have a second reading, to make sure the changes improved and tightened things. Then it will be posted here on the website, and I can truly say I’m completed the first trilogy in the Mrs. Hawking saga!


New Mrs. Hawking story posted: Vivat Regina

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Categories: vivat regina, Tags: ,

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

The official synopsis:

Mary Stone is doing her best learn the trade of her mistress’s work as a covert agent for women victimized by Victorian society. Mrs. Hawking’s nephew Nathaniel, too, struggles to find what contribution he can make to his aunt’s work, and neither one seems to be serving to their mentor’s satisfaction. But when a mysterious lady under a false name comes to them with a next-to-impossible mission, Mrs. Hawking and her assistants must bring together all their varied strengths in order to see that justice is done.

A few notes on it before you read:

The original draft of Vivat Regina was written over the course of 2013, with the bulk completed in December. The revisions and most of the Clara subplot were worked in over the course of January and February 2014.

Significant input on the plot was provided by Bernie Gabin to my gratitude. I also owe a great deal to Gabrielle Geller, Ben Federlin, Aaron Fischer, Ryan Kacani, Stephanie Karol, Frances Kimpel, Samantha LeVangie, Charlotte Oswald, Eboracum Richter-Dahl, and Lenny Somervell for their reading and feedback on this script. Their input was crucial to the editing process.

It is written for seven speaking roles, four women and three men, plus a small nonspeaking ensemble. As written, it is possible to double-cast Clara and Mrs. Braun. It is possible to swap the gender of Herr Gerhard, in which case it could be doubled with Mrs. Braun but not Clara.

It takes place about nine months or so after the events of Mrs. Hawking, in the summer of 1881.

All related posts on the topic of Vivat Regina can be found in this category.

I hope you enjoy it. All comments, questions, and responses to the piece are very welcome.

Read the new script Vivat Regina here.