Tag Archives: bernie gabin

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Theatrical trailer for Mrs. Hawking!

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Categories: mrs. hawking, performance, Tags: ,

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Curious for a sneak peek of our upcoming production of Mrs. Hawking at the Watch City Steampunk Festival? Well, check out our offical theatrical trailer to get a glimpse of the play!

Many thanks to Bernie Gabin and Joe Gabin for putting this together! We hope to capture the high action, high intensity ride of our steampunk superhero story, so as to intrigue both fans of the genre and casual viewers alike. So if that looks exciting to you, please be sure to join us for our two performances this coming May!

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed on Saturday, May 9th at 2PM and 6PM at the Center for Digital Arts at 274 Moody Street, Waltham as part of the 2015 Watch City Steampunk Festival.

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The challenge of writing Base Instruments

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

The third installment of Mrs. Hawking is now underway. With Bernie’s help, I have begun the challenging process of plotting it out, and it’s clear that this will significantly harder than what I’ve done before.

First of all, Base Instruments will be a true mystery, as opposed to a caper like the first two stories. In Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina, our heroes are presented with a problem rather than a question. “Foil a blackmailer and return a kidnapped child.” “Bring a monster to justice who is hiding behind diplomatic immunity.” They knew what they were going after, and their challenge was to figure out how to accomplish it. In a mystery, however, they have to investigate to find out the answer to what’s gone on. That’s a very different story design process, as it requires the slow unfolding of the truth based on the gathering of clues, which is really tough to do in a theatrical medium. Think about it; most mystery stories require lots of people to interview and places to investigate, while in theater you have to minimize both locations and characters in order to make staging feasible. The few theatrical mysteries tend to be of the “locked room” variety, to keep both suspect pool and number of settings down.

Bernie and I are trying to use that “locked room” model after a fashion for that very reason. Still, this play is going to have a LOT of speaking characters, there’s just no way around it. We’ve got our three leads, of course, and we’re starting to build up a cast of supporting characters we want to recur and develop– in this case, Nathaniel’s wife Clara and Arthur, the policeman Mary befriended. I also want to include Nathaniel’s brother Justin Hawking, and of course there’s going to have to be all the characters specifically involved in the mystery.

But we’re trying to concern ourselves more with telling the best possible story than with “production stuff” yet. Writing a compelling mystery will be tough enough on its own. I’ve been watching a ton of mysteries lately for research, and we’re going to be working out a lot of kinks. Wish us luck! I want the next installment of this story to continue the upward trajectory of the last two.

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The set for Mrs. Hawking at Arisia 2015

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Categories: performance, Tags: , , , ,

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Building the set for this show may have been the most difficult aspect of producing it. I wanted a real set for it, not only to elevate the production values, but because the plot demanded that Mrs. Hawking physically scale it. I got a lot of heat for that when I was writing it in grad school, but it was very necessary for the spectacle of the piece— we should see what a gymnast Mrs. Hawking is –so I stuck to my guns on it. Unfortunately, that meant a pretty demanding standard for the building of the set. But because of our limited budget, getting shop space was unfortunately not possible. That meant we were forced to build the set in my backyard. If it had been May, that might not have been such a big deal, but we had a week in a Boston January.

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Because of our time and resource limitations, I tried to design the set to require as little build as possible to stand up and be weight-bearing. That was where my idea to adapt a wooden children’s jungle gym into a structural set. We used the tower section to create a climbable freestanding piece that we attached the flat with the fireplace, and then the monkey bar section to create a window with the wall flat. I was incredibly pleased to see that this idea not only worked but also reduced our workload. It might not have been possible otherwise.

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The mantlepiece is particularly special, made by set consultant Carolyn Daitch. She made this gorgeous piece for us out of wood with a special styrofoam panel in the shelf of it, so that Mrs. Hawking can stab it with her knives. The worked BEAUTIFULLY, and allowed for the awesome image of her plunging the Colonel’s Bowie knife into it, leaving it stuck there in mute testament to her rage in that moment. The black and gold color scheme on it was thanks to Samantha LeVangie, who was scenic charge in addition to playing the role of Mary.

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We painted everything as the snow was actively falling down. I was terrified that the paint was freezing rather than drying, and would slough off in a torrent when we got it into a warmer space, but thankfully it managed to hold up. It also made it possible to visually incorporate the playground structures into the Victorian parlor look. Add a couple of gas lamps, curtains, and the portrait of the Colonel, and we were there. We chose red and gold for the colors to give it the warm period appearance.

We actually impressed some people with the quality and extensiveness of the set. It came in looking beautiful, and we put it up quickly and efficiently, thanks to our excellent team. Arisia is apparently not used to full sets, and it was gratifying to hear we turned a few heads. Not to mention that we got Mrs. Hawking in the air, just like we set out to!

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The set’s existence is primarily thanks to the work of Bernie Gabin, our technical director, my frequent collaborator, and my boyfriend. His experience in all aspects of technical theater, not to mention his fierce determination through adversity, made it possible to have any actual build occur. I am also incredibly grateful for the hard work of Eboracum Richter-Dahl, our stage manager, Frances Kimpel, our Mrs. Hawking, Matthew Kamm, our Sir Walter, and Samantha LeVangie, our Mary and our scenic charge. Their toiling out in the snow and freezing temperatures with this was very much above and beyond the call of duty.

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Here is the final product. You’d never think to look at it that it was built in the snow in five days, would you? Next time someone suggests I cannot do something, I will remember this build. It was incredibly grueling at times, but it came out so beautifully that I believe it was worth it.

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The arc-cycles that make up the story

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Categories: development, looking ahead, themes, Tags: , , ,

My boyfriend and frequent artistic collaborator Bernie Gabin has been instrumental in the development of much of the plotting of these stories. While not a particularly dedicated writer himself, he is incredibly talented when it comes to forming the mechanics of a logical, internally consistent plot that unfolds at the correct pace, and I often consult him on related matters. It was he that first proposed I regard, and move forward shaping, the Hawking stories as a series of what I’ll call “arc-cycles,” stories grouped off in sets of three that each develop a certain central idea.

The first arc-cycle we refer to as the Origin Cycle. Mrs. Hawking, Vivat Regina, and the upcoming third one that does not yet have a title. The point of these is to establish the team, so to speak. We learn who Mrs. Hawking, Mary, and Nathaniel are, what obstacles they’re going to face, and how they’re going to build themselves into this little unit that works together and supports one another.

The second arc-cycle is less well-formed yet, but I know for certain that it will, as any serialized storytelling form must, involve upping the stakes. We will have established with the first trilogy that our three main characters make a formidable force for justice when they are banded together. But in this arc-cycle we will challenge that—we will up the challenge level of the things they face. I want to tell the story of Mrs. Hawking’s early life, in flashback in relation to a current case, that demonstrates why she’s become what she is today. I want to introduce Mrs. Hawking’s Moriarty, who will present her with her greatest challenge yet. And I want to send her up against that quintessential Victorian baddie, Jack the Ripper, whose violence against the most downtrodden and helpless women in society make him a perfect villain for our hero’s purpose. And all this will even culminate in the smashing of the new establishment in a way that changes the characters forever.

The third arc-cycle, then, will have to be about what’s built in its place. This is where the notion of the Hawk Family will come, as Mary proposes they become an organization rather than just a few stalwarts holding back the storm. I have even less of a firm notion of these, as they’re so far down the line yet, but I know that in all drama things that do not change die, and in serial storytelling in particular things must continue to grow into new forms. Changing the nature of the game is an appropriate direction for it to go, especially since Mary’s ascendance from Mrs. Hawking’s protégé to her successor will be a major theme of this arc-cycle. And if a different person is in charge, you can bet things are going to have to work a little differently.

Beyond that, I’ve no idea. I think at least for the moment that’s more than enough stories to tell. But who knows how far we can go once we get there?

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“Why won’t you trust me?” — early draft of a confrontation from Vivat Regina

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Categories: character, development, scenes, themes, vivat regina, Tags: , , , ,

This is one of the earliest scenes I wrote for Vivat Regina, and it turned out to be a very crucial one. Bernie pointed out that, while Mary’s decision in this one is that yes, she would like to become a “new Mrs. Hawking” of sorts, Nathaniel’s is at least starting to reject his old desire to become like the Colonel. He idolized the Colonel his whole life, and it’s been a difficult thing for him to swallow how much pain his hero caused Mrs. Hawking. Him backing away from that, at least the parts of the Colonel that caused that pain, is a big step on his development toward becoming a true feminist. It’s a crucial part of being a good male ally. You can’t fix a problem before you admit you have it, and Nathaniel’s doing so demonstrates his very real desire to learn, and do better than before.

~~~

NATHANIEL:
Aunt Victoria— why won’t you trust me?

MRS. HAWKING:
Oh, do spare me, Nathaniel.

NATHANIEL:
No. No, you mustn’t put me off. I know I haven’t been the quickest study when it comes to this business of yours, but I’ve been giving it a serious go. I surely do mean to be of help to you, and by God, on occasion I even have. Isn’t that so?

MRS. HAWKING:
Yes. You have.

NATHANIEL:
Then… why won’t you let me on? Really let me on? Is it— is it because I’m a man?

MRS. HAWKING:
Nathaniel.

NATHANIEL:
Is it because I’m not clever enough? Do you think that once in a tough spot, I’ll lose my head and disappoint—

MRS. HAWKING:
You look so much like him!

(Pause.)

MRS. HAWKING:
Too damn much.

MARY:
Like whom? Do you mean— the Colonel?

NATHANIEL:
You never told me that. Others have, but not you.

(MARY looks to the portrait on the mantle.)

MARY:
I never noticed it.

MRS. HAWKING:
The years and the whiskers throw it off, but all the men in the family have that look. Your father, your uncle, and you. Your boy will have it too before long. Strong jaw, devil-may-care grin, handsome as the day is long. The sort of face to win anything a man could want in the world. But that was face I first looked into twenty years ago when a promising young soldier was first transferred to New Guinea and trammeled up my life forever. The same eyes from which I had to hide everything of any meaning to me so I might be permitted to have it.

NATHANIEL:
I don’t want you to feel that way about me. Not anymore.

MRS. HAWKING:
I know that, and not for nothing. But the years I lost and the pains I took…

NATHANIEL:
I know.

MRS. HAWKING:
Yes. Now you know. So it galls me, boy. I tell you, it galls me to look into those eyes and that face and give all the game away to them.

NATHANIEL:
I can’t help who I look like.

MRS. HAWKING:
No. But all the same, he’s in everything in you. His blood and his name and every effort in the world to be just like him.

NATHANIEL:
But… I’m not like him.

MRS. HAWKING:
To your eternal sorrow.

NATHANIEL:
Still. I’m not him. I can learn better.

(Pause.)

NATHANIEL:
And I mean to. But I’ll need you to teach me. I can’t do it without you.

(NATHANIEL draws himself up with a quiet, cold dignity.)

NATHANIEL:
Rather… none of us could. The Colonel neither. Because the God’s honest truth is you don’t know if he couldn’t have learned. You never gave him the chance.

(NATHANIEL turns and strides quickly from the room.)

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“Serving” — scene from Vivat Regina

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Categories: character, scenes, vivat regina, Tags: , , ,

My boyfriend Bernie was the one who came up with the idea that Nathaniel would have served before. Because he so idolized the Colonel, he would make an effort to emulate him in any way he could. But while he gave it his best shot, army life turned out to not be the best use of his talents. This is to set up the fact that while his traditionally male outlook might lead him to think he needs to be a warrior in order to be of use to Mrs. Hawking, his actual abilities will make him useful in a totally different way.

~~~

MARY:
I say, Nathaniel— is that a bruise?

NATHANIEL:
Oh, this? It’s nothing, I assure you.

MARY:
Nothing? You look as if you’ve taken quite a bash!

MRS. HAWKING:
Wherever did you get that?

NATHANIEL:
Just— from sport.

MRS. HAWKING:
Sport? Taken up boxing, have you?

NATHANIEL:
As a matter of fact.

MRS. HAWKING:
Surely you’re joking.

NATHANIEL:
Not at all, Auntie.

MARY:
Why on earth have you done that?

NATHANIEL:
Well— if you must know— it’s to make myself more useful to you. So I can handle myself and lend another arm if things come to it!

MRS. HAWKING:
Nathaniel. Going a few rounds of gentleman’s boxing is hardly going to ready you for the sort of roughs we encounter.

NATHANIEL:
It isn’t right to just hang back and leave it to you ladies. What kind of man would that make me?

MRS. HAWKING:
Ha!

NATHANIEL:
Go ahead and laugh. But how do you think I feel, knowing the two of you are putting yourselves in danger and I’m not fit to help you?

MRS. HAWKING:
I don’t think you quite understand. There are no Marquess of Queensbury rules when you’re fighting for your life.

NATHANIEL:
Even Mary’s had to handle herself. And she just a girl!

MARY:
Sir!

NATHANIEL:
No offense intended, Mary. But if you can swing that poker surely I’m worth a crack or two.

(MARY looks to MRS. HAWKING, who sighs.)

MRS. HAWKING:
Very well, then, Nathaniel. If you mean to have a go, have a go at me.

NATHANIEL:
I beg your pardon?

MRS. HAWKING:
If you think you’re fit to take on a real threat.

NATHANIEL:
I say, Auntie, how could I?

MRS. HAWKING:
You ought to know what you’re up against. Show me what you’re made of.

NATHANIEL:
I don’t know—

MRS. HAWKING:
Take his coat, Mary.

(He and MARY look at each other a moment. Then he shakes his head and throws up his hands. She steps forward and he shrugs out of his jacket. She places it aside as he begins turning up his shirt cuffs.)

MRS. HAWKING:
Now come on!

(Uncertainly, NATHANIEL puts up his fists and advances on her. He takes a few half-hearted swings, which she dodges easily, even walking backward.)

MRS. HAWKING:
Is that all? You must do better than that!

(NATHANIEL starts punching in earnest, but still she evades him easily. At last he throws himself at her, and she moves like lightning, landing a sound blow almost too fast to see that knocks him to the ground.)

MRS. HAWKING:
And if you can’t, you’d best keep out of the way.

(She exits. MARY rushes over to NATHANIEL as he pulls himself up off the ground.)

NATHANIEL:
Well, I’ve made a fool of myself.

MARY:
Oh, not at all.

NATHANIEL:
Go on.

MARY:
She’s been in training for years.

NATHANIEL:
And made short work of me.

MARY:
For my part, I think it’s quite noble of you. That you’re not content to hang back out of harm’s way.

NATHANIEL:
Still, perhaps she’s right. Perhaps I’m not cut out for this.

MARY:
There’s more to this work than knives and brawling. It’s not the end of everything to not be a martial man.

NATHANIEL:
Here now! I’ve a martial side. Why, I’ll have you know I served my bit a few years back!

MARY:
You did?

NATHANIEL:
Don’t sound so surprised!

MARY:
Forgive me, it’s only… well, you’re a gentleman.

NATHANIEL:
And I’ve lived a soft life accordingly, is that it?

MARY:
It isn’t necessarily to be expected of a gentleman.

NATHANIEL:
Miss Stone, I idolized my uncle from the time I was a boy. I’ve spent my whole life wanting to be like him. You can bet that when I was old enough I stepped up to serve my queen and country just as he did.

MARY:
My, sir! Well, I am sorry I expected any less. I am duly impressed.

NATHANIEL:
Oh, you ought not to be.

MARY:
It’s very admirable! You must tell me sometime of your adventures and your exploits as a dashing servant of the empire.

NATHANIEL:
It was hardly that. Yes, I enlisted when I was twenty or so. But do you know where they stationed me?

MARY:
India? Singapore?

NATHANIEL:
Newcastle. At the naval headquarters in the north country. When they learned I was a finance man they assigned me to keep the books for the armory.

MARY:
I see.

NATHANIEL:
Hardly the adventure I imagined it. And not much in the Colonel’s style.

MARY:
They saw you had a talent and they put it to use, though. I can’t help but think we ought to do the same.

NATHANIEL:
I did so want to be of use to her somehow.

MARY:
And so you will. Who knows, Nathaniel? We may run up against something that only you can do.

(Pause. Then NATHANIEL laughs.)

NATHANIEL:
That was quite a belt she gave me. I wonder how long she’s wanted to do that.

8/31/13

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