Tag Archives: nathaniel hawking

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“I Saw Three Ships” – a Mrs. Hawking holiday scene

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I don’t know where this came from. It’s a little seasonally-appropriate Hawking scene popped into my head tonight, and I scribbled it down in a few minutes just for amusement’s sake. It’s probably never going to fit into any of the plays, but it was an opportunity for some cute character moments, and one really fun line. It’s nice to see them just in a low-stakes character moment that’s purely fun and sweet, rather than all mired in drama.

It made me smile; I hope it does you too. 😁

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“Three Ships”
From the Mrs. Hawking series
By Phoebe Roberts

MARY STONE, housemaid and apprentice society avenger
VICTORIA HAWKING, society avenger and her mentor
NATHANIEL HAWKING, her nephew and assistant

London, England – December, 1884
~~~

(MARY dusts in the parlor, humming the Christmas carol “I Saw Three Ships.” MRS. HAWKING enters to choose a book from the shelf, then exits. MARY begins softly singing.)

MARY: (singing) I saw three ships come sailing in, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day. I saw three ships come sailing in, on Christmas Day in the morning.

(She glances after MRS. HAWKING to make sure she’s gone. Then she goes and gets a flour sack containing a garland of evergreen with holly berries. She holds it up and dances around with it a little, singing louder now.)

MARY: (singing) Wither sailed those ships all three, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day? Wither sailed those ships all three, on Christmas Day in the morning?

(She begins to string up the garland over the mantlepiece and along the parlor wall.)

MARY: (singing) And they sailed into Bethlehem, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day. And they sailed into Bethlehem,, on Christmas Day in the morning.

(She dances around the room.)

MARY: (singing) And all the bells on earth shall ring, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day. And all the bells on earth shall ring, on Christmas Day in the morning.

(She dips and twirls, singing at the top of her voice. Without her noticing, NATHANIEL enters, and he hangs back watching her with a smile on his face.)

MARY: (singing) Then let us all rejoice again, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day! Then let us all rejoice again on Christmas Day in the morning!

(As she belts out the last note, she spins around to see MRS. HAWKING reenter frowning. She crosses back to the bookshelf, glaring at MARY’s decorating as she goes. She snatches a book off the shelf.)

MRS. HAWKING: Bethlehem is landlocked.

(She exits. MARY turns sheepishly and sees NATHANIEL standing behind her, grinning. After a moment, he takes up the last verse and she joins him.)

BOTH: I saw three ships come sailing in, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day! I saw three ships come sailing in, on Christmas Day in the morning!

(They break off together, doubled over into laughter.)

Vivat Regina and Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 13th-15th at the Boston Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2017.

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“True Gentleman” – a scene of Nathaniel and Clara in back story

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I have a pretty good idea of the shape of the Hawking stories to come, most of which will be about exploring how our heroes grow and develop into the future of their team. Every now and then, though, I find myself imaging how things went in their back stories, moments that probably won’t feature in the plays but helped shaped the characters that we know them as today.

This scene written during my completion of 31 Plays in 31 Days 2016 deals with an idea I’m surprised I’ve never noodled with before. One little character bit in the Hawking stories that I enjoy is the fact that Clara and Nathaniel met through Nathaniel’s older brother Justin, because Clara dated Justin before she and Nathaniel got together. Their mild romantic history is alluded to in Base Instruments; it was Bernie’s idea and he pushed to include it. Basically, as they are the same age (three years older than Nathaniel) they came out in the same year, and so met while attending the same parties. They courted for a little while, until Clara got fed up with his interest in other girls and broke it off. She and Nathaniel got together gradually after that.

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This little scene is from five or so years before the first Mrs. Hawking play, and depicts how their relationship began to change into something that would lead to falling in love, getting married, and having a couple of babies.

“True Gentleman”
By Phoebe Roberts

NATHANIEL HAWKING, a young gentleman, early twenties
CLARA PARTRIDGE, a lady his brother courted, mid twenties

London, England, 1875
~~~
(A twenty-three-year-old CLARA PARTRIDGE dashes in and paces, fuming with the beginnings of tears in her eyes. After her comes a twenty-year-old NATHANIEL HAWKING. Both are in evening wear.)

NATHANIEL: I say, Clara! Are you— are you all right?

CLARA: Why, Nathaniel! What are you doing here?

NATHANIEL: Pardon me, but I saw you dash out of the ballroom, and worried something might wrong. When Justin didn’t go after you, I thought someone ought to.

CLARA: Well! That’s very kind of you. Justin shan’t be following after me, not if he knows what’s good for him.

NATHANIEL: Whatever do you mean?

CLARA: I mean I don’t think I shall be seeing so very much of Justin anymore.

NATHANIEL: You mean— oh!

CLARA: Yes, well.

NATHANIEL: I— I’m quite sorry. He hasn’t— done anything ungentlemanly, has he?

CLARA: He’s Justin, isn’t he?

NATHANIEL: That prat. What’s he done?

CLARA: Oh, never you mind.

NATHANIEL: If he’s hurt you, miss—

CLARA: Oh, you know him! It’s only that he has a wandering eye. One grows weary of feeling like the plainest girl in the room.

NATHANIEL: Goodness, Clara, you could never be that!

CLARA: Oh, my.

NATHANIEL: I mean— forgive me, but— as you said, that’s his way. It’s no fault of yours that he’s an absolute rake.

CLARA: Perhaps not. But I’ve no patience for it any more.

NATHANIEL: Nor should you.

CLARA: I only hope I haven’t made a perfect fool of myself. Losing my calm with him and dashing out of the ballroom for everyone to see. Certainly I’ve ruined the last dance.

NATHANIEL: Not at all. I’m sure no one paid it any mind.

CLARA: You did. You had to run out here after to me.

NATHANIEL: Well— I hated the thought that you might be alone in your distress.

CLARA: Thank you for that. It’s quite kind.

NATHANIEL: Think nothing of it, miss. And, please… never think that my blasted brother’s conduct means you’re not beautiful. If I may say so… I don’t know how any man courting you could look away from you.

CLARA: Why, Nathaniel…

NATHANIEL: Oh, that was dreadfully impertinent. Now you think I’m just as much a rake as he is.

CLARA: Not at all. Quite the contrary… you are a true gentleman, Nathaniel Hawking.

NATHANIEL: It means a great deal that you’d think so. Is there anything else I can do?

CLARA: You’ve been a great comfort to me tonight. Indeed, I think I shall be presentable to return. You ought to go out and enjoy the rest of the ball. You’re shipping out soon for your tour of service, aren’t you?

NATHANIEL: If you can call it that. They’re sending me to Newcastle, of all places.

CLARA: Sounds as though you’re in for an adventure.

NATHANIEL: Indeed, fighting off boredom as I keep the logbooks.

CLARA: They’ll make a soldier of you yet. Well, if you’ll excuse me, I had best find a place to freshen up. I’d like to make my return more dignified than my exit.

NATHANIEL: Certainly, miss.

(He bows and turns to go. Just before he exits, he turns back around.)

NATHANIEL: Miss, since it will be so dreadfully dull away in the armory, it would be very cheering to hear a word from home now and again. When I have a moment, might I write you? Some letters might be just the way to pass the time.

CLARA: I would like that, Nathaniel.

(He smiles, then bows again and exits. She watches him go with a new interest.)

Vivat Regina and Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 13th-15th at the Boston Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2017.

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Finished draft of Base Instruments!

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

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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!

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“What If I Don’t Want To?” — early drafting of Mary’s arc for Base Instruments

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I find that the overall plot of Base Instruments, which is a mystery, is proving to be hard to nail down. I’m very close now, though it certainly could still change as I test how everything works. The other day I worked out an important aspect of it through drawing a diagram and moving coins around on it that represented where the characters were at various points in the story. Proud of myself for figuring that out!

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I wrote this snippet for Base Instruments as part of 31 Plays in 31 Days 2014. I got the major themes and journeys hammered out pretty quickly, so here's something, getting at the idea that as much as Mary wants to be Mrs. Hawking's protege, she may not be ready for everything Mrs. Hawking's going to expect. This will be Mary’s major struggle for the piece.

What If I Don’t Want To?
By Phoebe Roberts

MARY STONE, Mrs. Hawking’s maid and protégé
NATHANIEL HAWKING, Mrs. Hawking’s gentleman nephew

London, England, 1883
~~~

MARY: Did you know that Mrs. Hawking studied ballet when she was young?

NATHANIEL: Is that so? I'd no idea, how interesting.

MARY: Apparently she once considered making a career of it.

NATHANIEL: Oh, really? Was she any good, then?

MARY: I don't know. But doesn't that surprise you?

NATHANIEL: I quite honestly don’t believe there’s anything she couldn’t do if she cared to. Why, does it you?

MARY: It’s, well… Mrs. Hawking doesn't often like things for their own sake, now, does she?

NATHANIEL: She doesn't like much of anything.

MARY: That's not what I mean. Everything's to a point with her. She practices skills to hone her craft. She studies facts in case it might serve her to know them. For goodness sake, she only reads for the points of reference. To think of her dancing for only the love of it… why, it's entirely new.

NATHANIEL: Goodness. I think I see what you mean.

MARY: Do you think… she’s always been that way?

NATHANIEL: I’m hard pressed to imagine her before she was so bitter.

MARY: It could have been that. Or… do you think she’s found it necessary? For her work, I mean. To care for nothing but that which serves her purpose because that’s the only way she’s capable of accomplishing the enormous things she accomplishes?

NATHANIEL: Goodness, I hope not. I mean to be of help to her, but I couldn’t bear to live as she does. Devoting herself to nothing but her work.

MARY: What if that’s what it takes?

NATHANIEL: Well, then I haven’t got it. I’ve a family, for heaven’s sake, and a hobby or two I’d care to pursue.

(He laughs, but MARY sits very quietly, eyes wide.)

NATHANIEL: Are you quite all right?

MARY: What if I haven’t got it either?

NATHANIEL: Oh, Mary. I’m sure you too can do anything you want to. If you put your mind to it, I’m sure you could become as honed and dedicated as she is.

MARY: No, Nathaniel… what if I don’t want to?

8/3/14

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Costume interviews with Jenn Giorno – the menswear

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Did you admire the lovely Victorian costuming in our production of Mrs. Hawking? It was the work of Jennifer Giorno, our primary designer and the actress who portrayed Grace Monroe, and my very dear friend. She, like me, believes very strongly in the power of costuming to help tell the story and define the characters.

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I had the chance to sit down with Jenn and ask her how she approached the fairly challenging task of emulating historical fashions on a tight budget that had to stand up to the rigors and quick changing of theater. She had some fascinating things to say about the process, on a wide variety of costuming issues! So I’ll be breaking it into parts, and today’s section will be on one of my favorites, the menswear!

The menswear of Mrs. Hawking was designed after the very regimented styles worn in Victorian England. There was a separate uniform for respectable gentlemen’s daywear, the morning and frock suits, and eveningwear, the white and black tie tuxedos. It’s a very visually recognizable style, so it would be clear if we did it wrong. Given that we were working mostly with found, borrowed, and thrifted items, it’s amazing just how dapper our gentlemen turned out!

2.2. "Why, yes, sounds a capital idea."

Phoebe: “What do you like about Victorian menswear?”

Jenn: “I love frock coats, I love mourning coats. If men still wore morning coats as as everyday thing, I’d just be so distracted, always! Because I love the cut, even more then regular tails.”

P: “We got that in there, with Nathaniel!”

Jeremiah O'Sullivan as Nathaniel

Jeremiah O’Sullivan as Nathaniel

J: “Yep! It’s so sleek, it’s so good-looking. For me, one of the important things was distinguishing the high-class characters from the low-class ones, or the ones who were pretending to it. So Colchester is a trumped up thug with delusions of grandeur. He wears a bowler hat, which isn’t quite the thing, but it’s close enough to being the thing, so that’s what he goes to. And his coat, it’s a little bit shapeless, but it’s still a nice coat.”

Brian Dorfman as Colchester

Brian Dorfman as Colchester

P: “We joked that Brian made it look too good!”

J: “Yeah! But it definitely looked less crisp than all the other men. And in this performance we had him half-untucked. And in he’s not wearing a vest or tie at all, which really speaks to his low-class.

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Jordan Greeley as Sir Walter Grainger

“And with Grainger, it was subtler. He’s technically nobility, but he’s country, so he wears a lovely waistcoat, but his evening suit and shirt aren’t quite as nice and don’t fit quite as well. We even have him in a scene where he’s a little unbuttoned. So with the men, it was trying to be accurate, but getting color choices that spoke to the characters, and making the subtle class distinctions.

“Nathaniel’s looks, his daywear is gray, his eveningwear is black and silver. It speaks to him as a proper, clean-cut character. It says he wants to make a good impression and for people to like him.”

2.3. "Am I to take it that you've been going out on these... ventures... for some time now?"

P: “And to our modern eyes, I think it gives off signals that we can interpret as that he’s a good dresser. I’ve always thought Nathaniel cared about fashion, he’s interested in it and keeps up with it.”

2.5. Badass disarm.

J: “Yes, it’s important that Nathaniel, and Brockton as well, come off as a good dresser.”

Francis Hauert as Lord Brockton

Francis Hauert as Lord Brockton

“Brockton’s also showier about it. It’s part of his persona as the blackmailer. He likes to flaunt his power, and his dress is one of the ways he does it. The daywear in gold and black, and the nightwear in red and black. High class, but also a little sinister.”

Andrew Prentice as Ensemble

Andrew Prentice as Ensemble

“We didn’t go with proper white tie, even though that would have been appropriate. It would have had them basically all looking like penguins! That just would have been too generic. We wanted those flashes of color in there from their vests and cravats. It adds texture and speaks to their personalities.”

I’m with Jenn; I love men in sharp suits and eveningwear. It added so much to the visual impact of our male characters to have them dressed so sharply.

2.2. "What ho, gentlemen! I was hoping I might interest everyone in a game of cards."

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Our heroes’ chosen family

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It takes a few stories to get there, but I want to make it clear that the relationship that is building between our three leads is one of chosen family. This is a concept that a lot of our audience finds very resonant, as the ability to choose to surround oneself with those people one loves gives many people a lot of strength. That’s the feeling I want to capture between Mary, Mrs. Hawking, and Nathaniel as their relationships form and grow.

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Frances Kimpel and Circe Rowan rehearse. “I shall be frank. I’ve no idea what to do with you.”

Family in the traditional sense is a contentious concept for these characters. Mary’s mother and father were too wrapped up in their own problems to pay much attention to her beyond expecting her to make herself useful. She tries not to hold it against them, but she they never made her feel like she mattered. For Mrs. Hawking, family is the chain that keeps her tied to her husband’s people, between whom there is a mutual disapproval and dislike. And her father, the only blood relation she ever knew, is probably the person she hated most in the world. Nathaniel is the only one among them with a positive relationship to his family, but because of it, it is important to him that he can extend the definition of that world to include all the people he cares for most.

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Jeremiah O’Sullivan reheasing Nathaniel. “Am I to understand you’ve been going out on these… ventures… for some time now?”

The idea that deep bonds could form between these sorts of people are not expected in this culture. A mistress and her servant, an aunt and her nephew by marriage, a wealthy gentleman and the house girl? Not people who are expected to grow close and come to love each other. But each of them finds themselves drawn to one another as their particular emotional needs and the extraordinary experiences they share make them the only possible people who could fill those roles to each other. They are, after all, becoming partners in a dangerous and secret enterprise. They can’t tell other people what they do. They can’t talk about it with anyone else. They’re in this alone together, and that can’t help but make ties. So we find ourselves observing a very unconventional sort of brother and sister doing their best to win the approval of a very complicated mother figure.

Make no mistake, I am not trying to cast Mrs. Hawking in a “maternal” light. It is pretty firmly established that is not part of who she is, and that a great part of her struggle in society is seeking the freedom to be able to cast that notion off. But she and Mary come to fill each other’s respective voids in that sense. Mary never had a strong female role model who cared for her and wanted to teach her to come into her own, while Mrs. Hawking never had a person for whom she wanted to protect or held shape into the next generation.

As for Nathaniel, he may have an okay relationship with his real dad, but the father figure who he connected to much more strongly was his uncle the Colonel. Their bond led him to want a connection with Mrs. Hawking as well, the person his uncle loved most in the world. And it’s important enough that he’s willing to work for it. The way he and Mary so desperately seek her esteem makes it clear the light that they see her in.

The last relationship is Mary and Nathaniel, perhaps the most unexpected of all for their time and place. As shared struggle creates connections, the work it takes to adapt to the new challenges of heroic life make a friendship grow, as well as the fact that they don’t have many people in their lives they can be frank about their feeling with. It almost makes me sad to think of when people will inevitably slash the characters as fandom is wont to do, because romance is importantly not part of this. Their connection comes from a mutual reliance and respect that does not require attraction or demand to be maintained, nor can it be broken even in times of strife. Your family is always your family, and they become the brother and sister that neither of them ever had.

Each leg of the triangle forms for its own reasons, but the connections make them a family. The people who love you the most, and are capable of hurting you most, with all the support and conflict that any family has.

Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina by Phoebe Roberts will be performed on Saturday, May 7th as part of the 2016 Watch City Steampunk Festival.

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Nathaniel’s atypical role in defining the three-man team

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A major goal of the plot in “Mrs. Hawking” is the establishment of the three-man superhero team of Mrs. Hawking, Mary, and Nathaniel. It takes a little working out to nail down everyone’s role, carrying over into the interpersonal conflict in the next story “Vivat Regina,” but by the end of this first play, we see a clear example of how they might fit together. But forming the team is not just for the sake of their superheroing work. It’s also for building a compelling social dynamic that we can explore over the course of their adventures.

I’m hoping to find ways to distinguish this team from other examples in the genre. Just fact that the women take the foremost roles, and actually outnumber the male members, is a good start— and way rarer than it should be. But more than that, I’m recasting the traditional roles characters like that fit into. Mrs. Hawking is the mastermind who runs point on all their operations. Mary is the man on the ground, ready to create a distraction or throw a punch. Still, occasionally you do see women in physical or leadership roles nowadays. So perhaps most unusual at all is Nathaniel, whose role on the team is probably what most people would consider to be the most traditionally feminine.

We learn quickly in “Mrs. Hawking” that Nathaniel is a talker and a people person, able to gain information and advantage through interaction with others and improvising conversation on the spot. He is good-looking, well-connected, and has obvious charisma, which makes him an easy candidate for their faceman. The team charmer, however, is a role usually played by a team’s female member. Additionally, from an interpersonal perspective, Nathaniel is their peacemaker. It is important to him that those close to him are getting along, and he is the one who takes steps to defuse tension and see that relationships are repaired. This is even more striking than the faceman position, as the job of tending to the emotional health of relationships is even more rarely placed on male characters.

I like this because it makes Nathaniel fairly unique in this respect. Also it makes for an interesting juxtaposition with his process of unlearning the standards of patriarchal society that is a big part of his character journey. That’s something I enjoy doing, casting conventionally masculine characters in lights considered to be traditionally feminine, because it upends expectations and widens the variety of portrayals we see in literature. Undermining the rigid definition of gender roles is a worthy goal, but more than that, it serves to define Nathaniel as an individual, giving more dimension to a character I hope to make interesting, unusual, and worth following.

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 drama of stiff upper lips

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One of the things we find so fascinating about Victorians is the behavioral code. Stemming from a morality promulgated by the royal family, people’ conduct was to be mild and polite, conservative and chaste, with a high level of emotional restraint. The fact that the characters involved are not accustomed to talking about their feelings means that there is drama in how they finds ways to relate to each other. There must be great meaning in the wordless actions, the silences, and the things they do manage to say. The blocking must speak volumes, and when they do speak frankly, it’s given that much more weight for how unusual it is.

As for our hero, “She’s so English,” as Elizabeth Hunter commented during the rehearsal process for the staged reading of Vivat Regina. Which is rather ironic, given how much contempt she has for English culture, but she has not been able to completely shrug off its influence. She functions very much by bottling up her feelings. It’s become a survival tactic for her to conceal the extent of her enormous rage. Also, excessive displays of emotion make her uncomfortable; she finds them somewhat unseemly, a sign of a lack of control. But though she believes this is part of what makes her strong, it also makes it difficult for her to trust and connect with the members of her team. There’s a reason she prefers to stay alone. This shows what a struggle it is for her to make a bond with Mary, and Mary’s efforts to break through this reservation make up the most important journey in the play.

Nathaniel is modeled after one breed of Englishman in particular, the cheerful, never-say-die type who believes a sunny disposition is the key to keeping calm and carrying on. This can be seen in the way he deals with Mrs. Hawking when she’s been especially difficult. This is an important note for Jonathan’s acting when he portrays Nathaniel in our production. It shows how hard he’s trying to pretend like everything is normal with his aunt to convince Mary to sign on. And it’s important to establish this behavior for him early, so that when he can no longer maintain the positive front, it makes a very clear point at just how thrown and at a loss he is.

Like most abusers, our antagonist Cedric Brockton co-opts existing cultural structures to serve his own ends. He makes use of the fact that his victims are conditioned to behave politely, place a lot of stock in public opinion, and despise themselves for the ways they do not meet proscribed social standards. It makes them susceptible to meeting his demands as a blackmailer. It is, of course, not a uniquely English thing to care about reputation, but the narrow standards of Victorian behavior gives him a lot of material to make use of. This affects the acting of portrayer Francis Hauert in how he must insinuate the crossing of boundaries, but so subtly that victims of it fall back on their polite habits in the absence of any other idea of how to react.

The major exception to this is Mary. She begins the play as an example typical of her sort; a maidservant in the presence of her betters is supposed to make herself as quiet and unobtrusive as possible. But Mary’s great strengths are her passionate moral compass and her drive to form meaningful connections with others. Once she is on her path, she knows their purpose is far bigger than the petty restrictions of arbitrary social rules. When she has to speak, to affirm her beliefs or reach out and connect, there is no stopping her. The intensity of her feelings comes bursting out of her in this play, overwhelming her old conditioning. Her great journey will be to push past the hangups of others and see that they form the team they have to be in order to do their best work.

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 problem of Hawking family resemblance

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

When you’re writing something to be performed by people, you can’t get too married to what characters look like. Yes, I have pretty strong mental images of Mrs. Hawking and Mary, inspired by my lovely friends and models Frances Kimpel and Charlotte Oswald, but when you need to cast people you have to be open to the person who can give the best performance in the role, not necessarily the one who most closely resembles your image of it. Still, I can’t help but picture what these characters look in my head.

Drama is a visual medium; what the audience sees can do as much to tell the story as the words the characters speak. So it’s very possible that what the characters look like could influence that storytelling. I imagine Nathaniel, for example, to be a tall, boyishly handsome man in his late twenties with a swimmer’s build and Irish-setter-red hair. And it just so happens that Nathaniel’s appearance, if not those imagined details specifically, has had an explicit effect on the plot. In Vivat Regina, Mrs. Hawking tells him that it’s hard for her to learn to let down her guard with someone who looks so much like the Colonel, the man from whom she spent years hiding everything that was important to her.

Mostly the discomfort of that would have to be informed. You might have some ability to actually depict it by what you chose to have as the portrait of the Colonel over the mantelpiece, but you’d mostly have to take Mrs. Hawking’s word for it that the resemblance existed. That means the impact, the unsettlement, she feels from it is difficult to translate to the audience’s perception. This kind of bothered me, as it’s always better to make the audience feel the emotions rather then just tell them about them. But then it occurred to me that there’s a theatrical way to make the audience see what Mrs. Hawking sees– eventually, at any rate.

In the the fourth piece I have planned, I want to tell Mrs. Hawking’s origin story, how she came to be the person she is today, and part of that is telling how she came to meet and marry the Colonel. This would require depicting Reginald Hawking as a young man. I plan on having flashbacks to that time juxtaposed to a case our heroes were working on in the present day, which of course would involve Nathaniel. My brainwave was that in that play, you could actually double-cast the two characters to be played by the same actor.

Not only would that signal the physical resemblance, I feel like there would be something truly uncomfortable for the audience to see the man they’re accustomed to seeing as her nephew pursuing her in the romantic manner that her eventual husband does. The weirdness for the audience would be caused by Reginald’s resemblance to Nathaniel, rather than how it is vice versa for Mrs. Hawking, probably because of how weird it would be to see a man who looks like that falling in love with her like Reginald does. But I think it would manage to convey the same feeling Victoria experiences, even if the reason for it is different. I think causing that discomfort would be extremely effective in conveying how difficult that relationship was for her, which would utilize the tools of theater to deliver a more visceral audience experience.

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“Family Dinner” — Hawking drama I’m not sure about

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Categories: base instruments, character, development, scenes, Tags: , , ,

I started this scene for inclusion in Base Instruments, but the more I wrote it the less sure I was about it. While it’s roughly in character– Nathaniel wants Mrs. Hawking to show up to a family dinner while his brother Justin is in town, Mrs. Hawking doesn’t want to go –I don’t feel like the motivations are necessarily strong enough.

Yeah, Nathaniel wants his aunt to act like she’s part of the family, but he knows that she and Justin don’t like each other and it’s not likely to be a pleasant evening for anyone involved. I feel like he would be wiser than to force everybody into a situation that’s likely to make the whole family miserable; he would instead pick his battles to work on developing relationships with her that both mattered to him more and had more of a chance of success, such as his and hers, or even hers and Clara’s. Also, I think if Mrs. Hawking didn’t want to go to an event, she just wouldn’t; she’s starting to value Nathaniel and his feelings more, but the concept of “but we’re your faaaaaamily” just doesn’t matter to her. She wouldn’t make herself miserable to do any service to that. I don’t like making characters do thing for the sake of drama or the plot that I don’t feel are really in character.

I tried to make it work. I tried to give Nathaniel an outside reason for why he would insist on this– tying it into his issues with Justin rather than just letting it rely on his desire to make his aunt connect with family. And I tried to make it so she was only trying to minimize her own misery by agreeing to the dinner on his terms, because the alternative would be worse. But I’m not sure I buy it. Also I don’t know if I actually want to include that dinner happening in the story; I’m not sure what dramatic purpose it would serve. Although it might be funny just to see all these people fighting with each other under the guise of polite conversation, with Nathaniel frantically trying to make everybody just be nice to each other for one evening for God’s sake.

Ah, well. Even if I don’t use it, it’s practice. And I won’t have to try to recreate it if I decide that I want to.

Family Dinner
by Phoebe Roberts

VICTORIA HAWKING, lady’s society avenger
NATHANIEL HAWKING, her nephew and assistant

London, England, 1883
~~~

NATHANIEL: Here’s the research you asked for! Interviews with the company members, and diagrams of the crime scene. And not a soul will know you’ve had them.

(He hands over a folder and she inspects it.)

MRS. HAWKING: Hmm. That was neatly done. Thank you, Nathaniel.

NATHANIEL: Glad to do it, Auntie. And I’ll have the floor plans for the theater on Monday.

(Pause.)

NATHANIEL: Are you pleased?

MRS. HAWKING: I am. I must concede, you’ve been a great help and very little trouble in the recent past.

NATHANIEL: I’m glad to hear it! And I promise not to trouble you by dropping by while you’re ruminating for the rest of the week.

(She freezes suddenly and stares at NATHANIEL in suspicion.)

MRS. HAWKING: What do you want?

NATHANIEL: Now, don’t get cross, Auntie…

MRS. HAWKING: Out with it.

(NATHANIEL takes a deep breath.)

NATHANIEL: Justin is coming to London for a visit, and I’d like you to come to family dinner.

(She turns to walk away.)

NATHANIEL Oh, come on, Aunt Victoria!

MRS. HAWKING: Go chase yourself.

NATHANIEL: It’s only just an evening!

MRS. HAWKING: Which you seem intent to ruin for everyone.

NATHANIEL: Justin’s in town so rarely. Can’t we spend one night at least pretending we can get on like a normal family?

MRS. HAWKING: To what end?

NATHANIEL: My occasional peace of mind.

MRS. HAWKING: Best not to rely on delusions for comfort, nephew.

NATHANIEL: He won’t be here long. He’ll be on to the country in a few days to see Father.

MRS. HAWKING: Then let your father bear him. Your brother is an entitled rake who never stops talking.

NATHANIEL: I thought that was what you thought of me.

MRS. HAWKING: You’re not a rake, I grant you.

NATHANIEL: Indeed? Oh, goodness, Auntie, I never knew you cared.

MRS. HAWKING: Justin, however, I can’t stand across even a dinner table.

NATHANIEL: Oh, come now. It’s rare to have so much of the family together.

MRS. HAWKING: Perhaps think on why that is for a moment.

NATHANIEL: Clara wants you to be there.

MRS. HAWKING: No, she doesn’t.

NATHANIEL: The children never see you!

MRS. HAWKING: By design, Nathaniel.

NATHANIEL: Careful there, Auntie, that’s my flesh and blood you’re talking about.

MRS. HAWKING: I don’t care for children, why should you subject yours to me?

NATHANIEL: Because I want them to know you.

MRS. HAWKING: Whatever for?

NATHANIEL: Because you’re important to me! My God, woman, is that so hard for you to grasp? Would I keep coming back for more of your trouble if you weren’t?

(She raises an eyebrow at him. He sighs.)

NATHANIEL: If you must know, Justin has opined to me, loudly and often, that he doesn’t understand why I’ve gone to so much trouble to keep you in my life. If you can manage to bear up through one family dinner without being particularly horrible, it might give the appearance that my efforts haven’t come to nothing, and perhaps it will shut him up. For a moment. Could you possibly see your way to helping me with that? I don’t ask much of you, Auntie.

MRS. HAWKING: Ha!

NATHANIEL: All right, then. In that case, I promise you, if you don’t come, Clara will commandeer this house and have a party laid in ambush for you in your own dining room. And there won’t be any getting rid of us then.

(Pause.)

NATHANIEL: And don’t think Mary won’t help me. Because you know she will! So, what shall it be, then?

MRS. HAWKING: You are becoming quite the ruthless strategist, aren’t you, boy?

(NATHANIEL laughs.)

NATHANIEL: I’ve been learning from the best.

(He goes to retrieve his coat from the rack.)

NATHANIEL: Do cheer up, Auntie. Perhaps little Beatrice might do with your influence.

(MRS. HAWKING looks at him, considering. He smiles.)

NATHANIEL: Imagine what might come of that.

8/16/14

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