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Greater scope of character development across two shows

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Categories: character, mrs. hawking, performance, vivat regina, Tags: , , ,

The most exciting thing about doing serial theater at Arisia 2016 is the ability to show the characters grow and change over the course of multiple stories. This development is one of the most engaging things to present for an audience. When we develop an interest in and an affection for characters, we love to track the progress of their personal journeys. Narrative demands growth and change, which of course we’re familiar with seeing over the course of a single play, but with our attempt at serial theater, we’ve got the chance to give the audience a greater scope of character growth then they’ve ever seen onstage before.

This presents an interesting, and in many cases unique, challenge for our actors. With the lion’s share of their experience being in theater, they have not had the chance to play the same character in more than one story. When they reprise Mrs. Hawking, the first play, they recreate the characters’ original journeys that they are already familiar with. However, at the same time, they must start Vivat Regina’s rehearsal process from the place their character ended in Mrs. Hawking.

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Early rehearsal for Vivat Regina at Arisia 2016, with Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Nathaniel and Isabel Dollar as Frau Gerhard.

So, for example, Jeremiah O’Sullivan, our returning actor playing Nathaniel, must recall where the character begins at the start of Mrs. Hawking, and show him develop into the man he is changed into by the events of that play— with a growing awareness of the ways the world fails people less privileged than he, and a determination to do better. Then, going into Vivat Regina, Jeremiah must incorporate those changes as his starting point for Nathaniel for the next play— and then grow further from there!

It’s imperative that the audience is able to see the characters progress every time we see them. This is how we will engage people for the long haul. We’re hoping to not only tell two Mrs. Hawking stories, but three and four and more– an entire series! It is investment in the characters that will keep people along for the ride— that desire to see where they’re going.

And I love the artistic opportunity it presents for us. Serial theater is something that is rarely attempted, so it’s an experience that few theater actors ever get to take on. I can’t wait to see how our fabulous cast is going to tackle it.

Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina will be performed on May 7th as part of the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016 in Waltham, MA.

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Cast and crew for Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina at Arisia 2016

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

For our double-header performance at Arisia 2016, we needed a serious cast and crew! I’m happy to say we’ve found them. For the two plays, we are very lucky to have many actors returning from previous performances and iterations of the Mrs. Hawking stories.

1.1. "I would not have left England for this dreary place, but I suppose there are some circumstances that can't be helped."

For Mrs. Hawking, our first installment, the majority of the cast is a veteran from a previous full production, whether our original at Arisia 2015 or the encore at the Watch City Steampunk Festival later that year. This gives us a great advantage in producing this time around, as most of the cast already know their roles well and won’t require a ton of work to whip the show into shape.

Mrs. Hawking
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

As for Vivat Regina, we have of course our three leads played by the same actors as they will be in Mrs. Hawking– Frances Kimpel, Circe Rowan, and Jeremiah O’Sullivan. But much of the additional cast are veterans of the Vivat Regina staged reading, with Joye Thaller, Samantha LeVangie, and Matthew Kamm all reprising the roles they read. While this will be an entirely new rehearsal process, it’s a great blessing to work with actors who know their characters so well.

Vivat Regina
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, Tegan Kehoe, Sara Dion

And of course there’d be no show without the crew. The talented technical artists who helped bring Mrs. Hawking to life previously will be returning to bring the same magic to Vivat Regina.

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

We are becoming quite the little troupe! Any theater project, not to mention any one so large and experimental as serialized live shows, requires a lot of great people to bring together. I am so honored to have so many talented people signing onto the project. Watch this space to see everything they bring to the process!

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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Gallery of character portraits from Mrs. Hawking at WCSF ’15!

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

Thanks to Damian Hickey, the CDA photographer at the Watch City Steampunk Festival, we now have a beautiful gallery of in-character portraits from our most recent performance of Mrs. Hawking!

Francis Hauert as Lord Brockton

Francis Hauert as Lord Brockton

Brian Dorfman as Colchester

Brian Dorfman as Colchester

Circe Rowan as Mary

Circe Rowan as Mary

These shots are really gorgeous, and I’m very proud of the cast for their ability to evoke their characters in their modeling. Not to mention Jennifer Giorno’s lovely costume design! This is the first section of our new Gallery page, which will be soon followed by shots from the performance itself. But for now, enjoy these gorgeous portraits by Damian Hickey, and see how a combination of good photography, talented actors, and beautiful costuming can capture the spirit of these characters.

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Reimagining a production the second time around

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

Theater is an interesting, possibly unique art form in that because you produce it live, every time you mount a new production you have the option to change things about it. You can use new actors, new costumes, new blocking, new interpretation of the characters, all of which can make the end product feel like a different story. I tend to encourage people, especially when they’re putting on classic plays that people have seen many times, to put a new and different spin on things to excite the audience. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing yet another Hamlet, Earnest, or Streetcar when we’ve seen it a hundred times?

It makes an interesting question while putting together this next production of Mrs. Hawking. This is a new play that I’m trying to get out in the public conscious, rather than a well-known classic. I’m still working to create an image of what the story and characters are in people’s minds. That means I’m inclined to portray it according to the vision of it I’m hoping to establish. I’m not sure it’s ready to dilute its identity while still in its infancy out in the world.

However, the circumstances of this production are a bit different than the original. We have about half the cast played by new actors, who will necessarily have different capabilities, weaknesses, and affects. In some cases it will be necessary to amend things for that, and it only makes sense to take advantage of different talents. For example, Circe Rowan, our Mary this time around, has a remarkable knowledge and facility for accents, and her ability makes it possible to give Mary a very distinct and accurate working-class lilt.

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Of course, when something needs to change, because it’s my play, I have the right to change anything I need to about it in order to make it work. As written, Sir Walter Grainger has a Yorkshire brogue, specified by the words he uses that are particular to that dialect. However, this time around our Sir Walter is played by Jordan Greeley, and he may feel like he can do a better job with a different accent. In that case, maybe it makes sense to change the script to suit that. As long as the spirit of the piece is captured— that he has a particular country accent, and Mrs. Hawking can determine it by his linguistic quirks —it doesn’t really matter what the particulars are. Flexibility may serve the performance best, and it’s one of the advantages of doing living theater.

We’ll be feeling out what the best choices are as we go. Of course the biggest priority is making sure we make the best production we can. A second run is a chance to bring things to an even higher level of polish, and maybe even correct some mistakes along the way.

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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Cast list for Mrs. Hawking at the Watch City Steampunk Festival ’15!

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

We have assembled our cast list for the encore production of Mrs. Hawking at the Watch City Steampunk Festival in Waltham this May!

Cast

Mrs. Victoria Hawking – Frances Kimpel
Miss Mary Stone – Circe Rowan
Mr. Nathaniel Hawking – Jeremiah O’Sullivan
Mrs. Celeste Fairmont – Sarah Jenkins
Lord Cedric Brockton – Francis Hauert
Sir Walter Grainger – Jordan Greeley
Mr. John Colchester – Brian Dorfman
Miss Grace Monroe – Jennifer Giorno
Ensemble – Andrew Prentice, Morgan Ong

Crew

Director – Phoebe Roberts
Stage Manager – Eboracum Richter-Dahl
Technical Director – Bernie Gabin
Costume Designer – Jennifer Giorno
Sound Designer – Neil Marsh
Makeup Artist – Indigo Darling
Violence Designer – Arielle Kaplan

As you can see, it’s a mix of old and new hands from our previous production. While we are sorry to see so many of our talented original cast depart, I’m extremely excited to work with the fabulous new people we’ve found. I look forward to seeing what new and different dimensions they will bring out of the play, and the freshness that their personal intepretations will bring.

So be sure to join at the Watch City Steampunk Festival this May to see how things shape up!

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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Rehearsing “Like a Loss” for staged reading with Bare Bones

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Categories: character, gilded cages, performance, Tags: , , , ,

This Sunday we had rehearsal for the staged reading of the ten-minute play Like a Loss at Bare Bones 16: At War. As I’ve mentioned, Like a Loss is unique in that it’s the only time up to this point in the story that the Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking ever actually appears onstage. I like the opportunity this gives for the audience to fill in certain blanks, to compare what they observe of the man themselves to the disparate viewpoints taken of him by other characters.

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This piece stars the Colonel as well his longtime personal valet Henry Chapman, who in having served him for so many years through so many adventures has become his good friend. What makes the piece interesting is that it depicts a rare moment of emotional exploration between two gentlemen who do not often discuss such things under any context. They are Victorian gentlemen, of a culture that keeps these things to themselves. They are master and servant, and while closer than many, there is a level of formality and distance that makes such things off-limits. And finally, the Colonel is in the very delicate position of having pretty much every single person he’s close to in a total state of confusion as to why he married such a difficult, disagreeable woman. His family hates her, and Chapman thinks she’s unforgivably cruel to him; none of them see in her what the Colonel sees. Even among all the other factors, that in particular makes it so the Colonel has no one safe to talk to about what he’s currently struggling with. But Chapman cares about his master a great deal, and is taking this opportunity to try and address the pain that the Colonel is so clearly in.

This was a great opportunity for me as a writer, as it demanded effective use of subtext, which is always hard for me. It also presents a particular challenge to our actors, Brad Smith as the Colonel and Eboracum Richter-Dahl as Henry Chapman, his faithful batman and valet. They must convey to the audience just the depth and significance of the emotional moments while maintaining that superficial even keel. It was fascinating to watch them manage those moments, to bring levels that required a huge amount of nuance to read through their guarded, civil attitudes. Like Nathaniel, I always pictured the Colonel to maintain that particular variety of never-say-die British cheer, which is strongly at odds with the difficulty he’s going through in this piece– and Chapman is seeing right through it while politely pretending he isn’t. Brad and Eboracum did a beautiful job illustrating what is actually an extremely tragic story, that of a man who loved of a woman who utterly lacked the capacity to love him back, and of how completely without meaning to they ended up ruining each other’s lives.

The moment depicted in this particular piece alludes to lots of story we’ve yet to see. One thing we do know for sure is that the marriage of Colonel and Mrs. Hawking was extremely fraught. But there’s a great deal of lead-up before it reaches the state it was in when the Colonel died, one year before “Mrs. Hawking” opens. This piece hits at some of those stages it passed through, how they may not always have been as completely at odds as they ended up, how their conflict evolved from friendly opposition to directionless anger and ultimately to the chilly distance that was the final straw in breaking Reginald’s heart.

Someday we’ll tell that whole story. In fact, I’d like to detail the journey of how Victoria and Reginald met and married in what I’m planning to be the fourth full-length installment, after the upcoming Base Instruments. But for now, we only get a glimpse at another point in that timeline, here right after a major downward turn, in the the tragedy of the man who had the terrible misfortune to fall in love with our distant, damaged hero.

Come join us for our one-night only performance as the opener of Bare Bones 16: At War for piece, The Wheel, written by Zinnie Harris and directed by Jess Viator, on Thursday, March 26th, 2015 at 8pm at Unity Somerville, at 6 William Street, Somerville, MA.

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Cast for “Like a Loss” staged reading at Bare Bones

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Categories: performance, Tags: , ,

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We have a cast for the reading of “Like a Loss,” the ten-minute play in the Hawking timeline!

“Like a Loss”
by Phoebe Roberts
~~~

Starring
Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking, hero of the Indian Rebellion: Brad Smith
Mr. Henry Chapman, his valet and batman: Eboracum Richter-Dahl

Both these talented people have been part of the telling of Mrs. Hawking’s story before. Brad you may remember from the Bare Bones reading of Mrs. Hawking, in which he played the villain Lord Cedric Brockton. He is an experienced actor onstage and in voice only, including in the Second Shift podcast and in the 2012 tour of the new musical 2010: Our Hideous Future. Eboracum served as the stage manager for the Arisia 2015 production of Mrs. Hawking, and is a founding member of The Chameleon’s Dish Theater as well as a longtime veteran of Brandeis’s Shakespeare troupe, Hold Thy Peace.

I’m super excited to work with them, and tell this bit of Mrs. Hawking history! Come join us for our one-night only performance as the opener of Bare Bones 16: At War for piece, The Wheel, written by Zinnie Harris and directed by Jess Viator, on Thursday, March 26th, 2015 at 8pm at Unity Somerville, at 6 William Street, Somerville, MA.

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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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Meet Elizabeth Hunter, voice of Victoria Hawking in Bare Bones!

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Categories: character, performance, vivat regina, Tags: , , ,

Meet Elizabeth Hunter, the voice of Victoria Hawking in our upcoming staged reading of Vivat Regina with Bare Bones!

Hear Elizabeth’s perspective on portraying the complicated, maddening, and hopefully fascinating lead of our story.

Vivat Regina will be read at 8PM on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 at Unity Somerville on 6 William Street, Somerville, MA, courtesy of Theatre@First.

And be sure to like us on Facebook!

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Meet Gabrielle Geller, voice of Mary Stone in Bare Bones!

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Categories: character, performance, vivat regina, Tags: , , ,

Meet Gabrielle Geller, the voice of Mary Stone in our upcoming staged reading of Vivat Regina with Bare Bones!

I interviewed Gabrielle about her character, whom she has portrayed before in both the original Bare Bones reading of Mrs. Hawking, as well as during the development process of this second story.

Vivat Regina will be read at 8PM on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 at Unity Somerville on 6 William Street, Somerville, MA, courtesy of Theatre@First.

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