Tag Archives: arisia 2015

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The rehearsal process

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Categories: mrs. hawking, performance, Tags: , , , ,

We have just gotten through our first week of rehearsal!

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Frances Kimpel and Samantha LeVangie, rehearsing as Mrs. Hawking and Mary.

My style as director, as I’ve mentioned, is to have things fairly specifically planned out before I go into rehearsal. A personal artistic value of mine is a dynamic stage, with lots of interesting action happening at the right times. I really dislike when actors just stand there and talk at each other for long periods; it gets boring and makes it easy for the audience to check out. The action must be engaging, this is an action story, but it must always seem purposeful and never gratuitous. But incorporating the right amount of activity is a careful balance.

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Now with Francis Hauert, Matthew Kamm, and Jonathan Plesser.

Conveying more information about the characters and what’s really going on is also a big responsibility of the action. One thing that’s interesting about telling stories about Victorian characters is that they have certain standards of behavior, as well as social conditioning that they’ve been raised with. Nathaniel is a well-bred, wealthy middle class man, for instance, whereas Mary is a working class domestic servant. The difference in status brought on by their unequal social relationship, their genders, and their personal values has a lot of implications on how they act. For Mary to sit in the presence of her employers, for example, would be a very big deal and might be a serious breach of social etiquette. If I choose to have her sit in a scene, it better be for a meaningful reason, and the message it sends should be clear. They are also famously not a frank-speaking culture, which means there are many things– particularly about their emotions –that they cannot say. That means it’s up to the action to convey what’s going on beneath the genteel facades.

It’s a big challenge, but it’s really exciting to see just how much more of the story I’m able to tell with the visual dimension. And I’m very pleased with my team of actors, who are shouldering the burden of making that real.

IMG_0842.JPGNow with my Coke, also essential to my directing process.

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed at Arisia 2015 on Friday, January 16th at 6PM at the Westin Waterfront Boston.

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Rehearsals begin for Mrs. Hawking at Arisia

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Tonight is the first read through for Mrs. Hawking at Arisia 2015, which marks the start of our rehearsal period. This is going to be seriously intense. We don’t have long between now and our performance on January 16th, and there’s about week’s worth of lost time due to the winter holidays. That does NOT make for a nice leisurely process of getting a play blocked, memorized, and sufficiently rehearsed so we don’t all embarrass ourselves.

To that end, I am going to work hard to make sure we work as efficiently as possible. As I’ve mentioned, I like to have a pretty solid plan of what the scenes will look like, but I think that’s doubly important now. I still want to be flexible to discovery in the process and allow for the actors’ contributions and creativity, but having purpose will cut down on wasted time.

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We’ve secured rehearsal space in Spingold Theater with the gracious permission of Brandeis University, of which most of our cast are alums. Our first two weeks will see us work through the whole show twice– that’s a lot to get through each night, but I think it’s necessary. When we get back from the holiday break, everyone will be hard off-book. We will have one more week of regular rehearsal, in which we’ll start doing larger chunks at a stretch, then it’s plunging into tech week. It’s a pretty demanding process, but I have faith in this cast to handle it.

To start things off well, I am doing what I always like to do when I begin a rehearsal process, cook everybody a big meal. Before tonight’s read through I will be serving a homemade dinner to my lovely cast to ensure their undying loyalty. Take it from me, having been on both sides of this, the quickest way to win over actors is to feed them.

I’m a little nervous, I won’t lie. I’m afraid we won’t have enough time to make this as good as I want it to be. But I’m going to do my damnedest to make it the best I possibly can. It means a lot to me to represent my work at its best.

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed at Arisia 2015 on Friday, January 16th at 6PM at the Westin Waterfront Boston.

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Physical storytelling

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Categories: mrs. hawking, performance, Tags: , ,

Most of the theater I have been involved with the production of has been classical in nature. In Shakespeare, there is very little in the way of stage directions beyond entrances, exits, and the occasional “pursued by bear.” The great part of that is how it allows for a huge range of interpretation of the text, with nuance created conveyed by whatever kind of action you chose to block. But doing so much of that kind of theater created something of a bias in me for scripts that do not try to hem in the production with specific stage directions. I mostly wrote Mrs. Hawking with that bias. That means that there is, in my opinion, a fair bit of meaning that’s not obvious.

Now that I’m starting in on planning the blocking for Mrs. Hawking at Arisia ’15, this is on my mind. I like the idea that people get to decide for themselves what subtleties are going on when they stage it, but when I’m the one doing the staging, that means I have to determine the most effective way to display my own vision of the action. I like to go on in a rehearsal process with blocking around seventy-five percent figured out ahead of time, to make it possible to jump right in and get things done, but with enough wiggle room to allow stuff to get discovered in the process and for the actors to contribute their own ideas. It has to incorporate Victorian cultural norms, to convey the setting and the social structures therein that would be unspoken parts of the fabric of the world. I’ve also come to appreciate drama that makes the characters and ideas clear with actions rather than words, so I’m hoping to add a whole additional layer of meaning with the acting and blocking. It will be a fun challenge, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the directing process.

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed at Arisia 2015 on Friday, January 16th at 6PM at the Westin Waterfront Boston.

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The Colonel’s portrait for the set

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A prominent feature of the Mrs. Hawking set is the portrait of the Colonel that hangs over the mantlepiece in the parlor. I always liked the idea of this detail, as it gives a physical representation to how the Colonel’s presence hangs over the play, and the entirety of Mrs. Hawking’s life.

There isn’t much in the way of detail about it in the text, neither about what it looks like or how it got there. I originally thought of it as a painting, but that would imply that the Colonel sat for it, and I don’t really see that. So now I’m inclined to think of it as a cabinet portrait, a daguerrotype, taken with the elaborate frame cameras of the day.

I also don’t see the Colonel as a man vain enough to live every day with a huge picture of himself in his living room, and of course Mrs. Hawking herself would never want to put it there. So I think it was a gift, and it was kept somewhere out of the way until he passed. After his death, somebody, quite possibly Nathaniel, brought it out to hang over the mantle. Mrs. Hawking felt like she couldn’t protest, so there it has remained in the year and one month since when the first play begins.

To represent it in the Arisia ’15 production, I decided to find an appropriate image. I did a Google search under various related terms, finding it difficult to find something that was exactly what I wanted. I needed something that looked like a daguerrotype of a gentleman in a Victorian’s colonel’s dress regalia, and I knew I wanted it to be of a handsome man. There were not a lot that fit those criteria, but I narrowed it down to these three options.

 

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The first one is of a good-looking man with whiskers, but he seems a touch young for when I think the picture would have been taken, and he is also in civilian dress. The third has the necessary regalia, and I like his beard and the way the colorized image would lend a pop of brightness to the set, but the look of the man isn’t quite right. So I think I’m planning on using the middle one, as I believe it has the best balance of costume, facial hair, age, and handsomeness. None of them really look like quite what I imagine Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking to look like, but I think that one will serve.

I plan on having a large version printed, and put into a frame. That will then be hung on the set of Mrs. Hawking’s parlor, to distinguish the location and flesh out the world.

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed at Arisia 2015 on Friday, January 16th at 6PM at the Westin Waterfront Boston.

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Set-building cleverness

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Categories: mrs. hawking, performance, Tags: , ,

There are many challenges involved in bringing a theatrical production into being. A lot of elements need to be handled before the story becomes a reality that require a high investment of time and effort. One of those elements is figuring out how to put together a set.

While I don’t feel it’s necessary for it to be a literal representation of the Victorian parlors and gentlemen’s clubs specified in the text, there are least has to be some sort of physical structure for our hero to climb on. Mrs. Hawking’s ninja-spy skills on display is a major part of the spectacle of the story, and I think you’d lose a lot if there was no way to show it.

That means that to put this on at Arisia, I’ll need to have a climbable structure for this set. Not only that, it has to be strong enough to support the weight of the actress, possible to be transported to the performance space, and of course within my budget. That’s a pretty tall order.

But desperation can motivate one to be very creative. I got an idea to secure some kind of found structure that could form the bones, at least, of the set. A little research onto Craigslist led me to find a wooden swing set jungle gym sort of thing that was being given away for free. It has the advantage of being lightweight, modular, and sufficiently well-built that I can trust an actor to it. I’m not sure it would be possible for me to so quickly and cheaply build something that structurally reliable.

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So I rented a truck– a lesser expense than buying materials, tools, and shop space –and enlisted the help of some very capable and generous friends, John Brewer, Nat Budin, Michael Hyde, and Eboracum Richter-Dahl. It was so good of them to lend their time and effort to helping me collect this. I definitely could not have done it without them. We got the thing broken down, loaded up, and taken away in just a few hours. It’s even weather-proof, so I don’t need to worry about damaging it!

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of work left to do to get it in performance-ready shape. We will be dressing it up somehow, to give it the features necessary to properly represent the environments in the play. I still have to consult with my set designers on the best way to do that. But I am pleased that we managed to find a shortcut on building! It certainly cuts down the work, money, and expertise we’ll need to finish.

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed at Arisia 2015 on Friday, January 16th at 6PM at the Westin Waterfront Boston.

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Cast and crew of Mrs. Hawking at Arisia ’15!

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Categories: mrs. hawking, performance, Tags: , , ,

Auditions have come and gone, and I am pleased to announce we have a cast for Mrs. Hawking!

The Chameleon’s Dish presents Mrs. Hawking, starring
Mrs. Victoria Hawking: Frances Kimpel
Miss Mary Stone: Samantha LeVangie
Mr. Nathaniel Hawking: Jonathan Plesser
Mrs. Celeste Fairmont: Arielle Kaplan
Lord Cedric Brockton: Francis Hauert
Sir Walter Grainger: Matthew Kamm
Mr. John Colchester: Robert Imperato
Miss Grace Monroe: Jennifer Giorno
Ensemble: Joye Thaller, Andrew Prentice

Many of these actors are past collaborators of mine. Some I know from theater at Brandeis University and specifically Hold Thy Peace, the college’s undergraduate Shakespeare troupe. Frances, Samantha, Jonathan, Arielle, Matthew, Jennifer, and Andrew all are alumni of that group. Robert was a past director of mine. Some have even experience with the world of Mrs. Hawking. In the staged reading of the sequel Vivat Regina with Bare Bones, Samantha read for Clara Hawking, Matthew Kamm read for Arthur Swann, and Joye Thaller for Mrs. Braun. Frances Kimpel is the model for Mrs. Hawking seen in the photographic representations of the character on this website, and I am fortunate to have her fully embodying my protagonist.

And of course there’s our talented crew.

Director: Phoebe Roberts
Technical Director: Bernie Gabin
Stage Manager: Eboracum Richter-Dahl
Set Designers: Joe Gabin and Carolyn Daitch
Costume Designer: Jennifer Giorno
Sound Designer: Neil Marsh

Many of these excellent people also have a history with Hold Thy Peace, including Bernie, Eboracum, and Carolyn. Others are good friends who are kind enough to lend their technical abilities in support of this project. I can’t say enough how fortunate I am that each and every one of them was willing to give their effort, their time, and their expertise to bringing Mrs. Hawking to life.

I am so delighted to have a cast set down. Soon we will be getting into rehearsal, which I will be documenting to talk about here. I can’t wait to dive right in!

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed at Arisia 2015 on Friday, January 16th at 6PM at the Westin Waterfront Boston.

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Jumping in on Arisia ’15 production of Mrs. Hawking

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Categories: mrs. hawking, performance, Tags: , , ,

It’s been a little under a week since I got word that Mrs. Hawking gets to go up at Arisia ’15, and I have tried to waste no time getting preparations underway!

Organizing the team has been the first priority. I am pleased to report that finding production designers has been going well. My technical director is Bernie Gabin, my boyfriend and partner of my labors both creative and mundane. The set design will be a combined effort by two talented technical design professionals, Joe Gabin and Carolyn Daitch. Well-known larp circle costume fairy Jennifer Giorno will be helping with costuming, and experienced sound designer Neil Marsh will be covering music and audio effects. I am incredibly grateful to all those wonderful people for lending their talents to help with this show. I still need a stage manager and a prop person, but I have leads on who to ask to help with those. I could definitely use a producer, though, which is the one job I’m not sure who to look to for.

I also have auditions set up for Monday, November 10th from 7 to 9PM in the Raya Stern Trustees room at the Watertown Public Library. While I am relieved to see that there are people signed up, we could always use more options! If you are interested in auditioning, please don’t hesitate to email me at mrshawkingweb@gmail.com for an appointment. If you can’t make Monday, I would be happy to schedule an alternative time! It’s looking like rehearsals will be through the month of December into January, and there will be a nominal monetary honorarium for all selected actors.

Later on I will likely be soliciting more volunteers for jobs like building the set. I will also be needing runtime stage hands, although I believe that the Arisia convention has a supply of reliable people from which to draw. For now, I am focused on the things we can’t get started without– actors and designers to start making this dream a reality!

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed at Arisia 2015 on Friday, January 16th at 6PM at the Westin Waterfront Boston.

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MRS. HAWKING to be PERFORMED at ARISIA 2015!!!

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Categories: mrs. hawking, performance, Tags: , ,

Mrs. Hawking has just received some amazing and overwhelming news! For the first time ever, Mrs. Hawking will be seeing a full production!

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Yes, the first installment of our story will be performed as part of Arisia 2015, a major science fiction and fantasy convention in Boston, MA! It will be performed at the Westin Waterfront Boston hotel as an event for con attendees on Friday, January 6th at 6pm.

This is very exciting, and also a big challenge! We have a lot of work to do in a very short period of time. I’m in the process of gathering a cast and staff as quickly as possible so things can get rolling.

If you are interested in auditioning, I am planning on holding a call on Monday, November 10th from 7-9PM in the Raya Stern Trustees Room of the Watertown Public Library. If you are interested in trying, please send me an email at mrshawkingweb@gmail.com for more information and to secure an audition slot.

If you are interested in being a volunteer for the production, I’d love to hear that too! Send an email to mrshawkingweb@gmail.com and let me know your interest and skill set. We’re going to need plenty of help!

I will keep you apprised of information as it develops, so watch this space! Now it’s time to get to work!

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