Tag Archives: production


The colors of Mrs. Hawking

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Color choice in theater has always been very important to me. As a visual medium, it can add a great deal to the experience, and I think you can invest a lot of medium when color is carefully chosen.

1.1. "Is that the girl?"

1.1. “Is that the girl?”

Though not as a firm rule, we stuck to a very definite color palette in Mrs. Hawking. It was partially luck, as in many things, such as the costume design, we were limited by what we were able to acquire on our budget. But as anyone who is family with my own design tendencies would notice, I am often drawn to particular colors, in particular combinations when I’m working on the production design of shows.

Mrs. Hawking is mostly focused in a limited palette of six colors, specifically set up as dichotomies: red and blue, black and white, silver and gold. It’s not the first time I’ve sampled from that selection, as I find they’re highly evocative combinations. The trick is not to necessarily make the audience understand exactly what you intended with them, but to encourage them to draw connections and notice juxtapositions.

1.5. "Soldiers, miss?"

1.5. “Soldiers, miss?”

The red and blue dichotomy, roughly indicates the upper classes versus the lower classes. Mrs. Hawking’s parlor is painted red, to indicate its richness. You only see red in the costumes of the well-to-do, respectable characters, like Lord Brockton and Mrs. Fairmont. Nathaniel even has a red cravat with his day look in the opening scene.

1.3. "Please, for my husband's sake, and for my blameless child whose only  crime is the folly of his mother."

1.3. “Please, for my husband’s sake, and for my blameless child whose only crime is the folly of his mother.”

1.5. "They were all officers!"

1.5. “They were all officers!”

1.1 Nathaniel is the first character we lay eyes on in the world of Mrs. Hawking.

1.1 Nathaniel is the first character we lay eyes on in the world of Mrs. Hawking.

By contrast, the working class people wear blue. I’ve actually always considered blue to be Mary’s signature color, and she sets the tone for the rest of the play. She is the primary example in this mostly middle- and upper-class setting, but it carries over into Grace Monroe, the other explicitly working class character.

1.4. Mary figures out what she's going to say to

1.4. Mary figures out what she’s going to say to

1.5. "Good luck, madam." "To you as well."

1.5. “Good luck, madam.” “To you as well.”


Black and white were juxtaposed against silver and gold. Black and white was about blending in, conforming to expectations. Black tuxedoes, white aprons and shirts, Mrs. Hawking’s widow’s weeds and stealth suit. The character who must, or want to, fit in, or even hide, use it to recede from notice.

2.3. "Now I want you to leave."

2.3. “Now I want you to leave.”

2.2. "Oh, hecky-pecky!"

2.2. “Oh, hecky-pecky!”

1.2. "I shall be frank. I've no idea what to do with you."

1.2. “I shall be frank. I’ve no idea what to do with you.”

Silver and gold, however, are about standing out, commanding attention. They feature in characters who have the power or the presence so that others notice them, give them the time of day. You see them mostly in the characters who are used to having some control over things, even if in the show it’s taken away. Nathaniel’s eveningwear is in a sharp silver, as the skirt of Mrs. Hawking’s ballgown, which also subtly ties them together. The silvery gray of Colchester’s coat speaks to his pretensions. Gold features in Brockton’s frock coat costume, and is a prominent tone in Sir Walter’s waistcoast. These people are using their power to command attention to themselves.

1.5. "It seems, Miss Stone, that we have dressed you in entirely too becoming a gown."

1.5. “It seems, Miss Stone, that we have dressed you in entirely too becoming a gown.”

2.2. "Lord Brockton-- the undersecretary? He is here?"

2.2. “Lord Brockton– the undersecretary? He is here?”

2.5. "He's lightning quick, and I'd wager he's the same body we was tracking the other night."

2.5. “He’s lightning quick, and I’d wager he’s the same body we was tracking the other night.”

2.5 "Suddenly he threatened to ruin me unless I kept the boy for him."

2.5 “Suddenly he threatened to ruin me unless I kept the boy for him.”

2.5. Big finish-- the villain breaks in with a gun.

2.5. Big finish– the villain breaks in with a gun.

When choosing these things, it’s not so much that you are trying to get the audience to consciously pick up on all your reasoning for them. It just unifies the images before their eyes in a pleasing way, and gets them thinking about what is connected to, or contrasted with, by uses of color.


Touches of steampunk

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The art design of a production is an important means to establish a show’s feel and personality. Mrs. Hawking is a steampunk superhero play, so we want that slick, high-action, slightly stylized feel from all our artistic choices. Those range from big things, like what the set looks like and how the actors move and speak, to small things, what individual props we choose to use.

I wasn’t totally happy with the gun we used in our first production. It was your basic cowboy-style six-shooter toy that I gave a coat of paint to make it look a little more realistic. So for this one I did more research and purchased one that I thought would make a little more of an impact, and looked a lot more steampunk.


It has an unusually long barrel, in addition to the cool scrollwork design in the brass finish. It definitely doesn’t look like an ordinary gun in a strictly realistic Victorian story. In that way it’s similar to another weapon prop we use, the Bowie knife that serves as the utility blade Mrs. Hawking was left by the Colonel. In person, the knife seems almost absurdly huge. But interestingly, while on the stage, it seems exactly the right size.

In theater, the action exists at a remove from the audience, who is sitting many feet away from everything that happens. There’s no benefit of a camera lens that can pull in close and show you details if necessary. That means that things often have to be a little bit bigger, a little bit more broadly drawn, in order for them to read to the audience. Touches that are bigger, more ornate, more exaggerated have a better chance of getting the message across.

That, I find, is a great way for us to utilize the steampunk aesthetic. It isn’t only for adding character and texture to our play. Because hallmarks of steampunk include more ornateness and exaggeration, it also helps broadcast ideas and meanings to the audience across the distance.

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.


Reimagining a production the second time around

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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.


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.


Our performance space at the Watch City Steampunk Festival

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We now have a performance space settled for our production at the Watch City Steampunk Festival!


The Festival will be centered around Waltham Commons and the nearby blocks of Moody Street, which make up an important center of activity in town. Our shows will be going up at the Center for Digital Arts, the education institution at 274 Moody devoted to 3D animation, audio production, filmmaking, graphic design, photography, and web development. We will have use of the sizable back room, which is used for the development of all manner of visual art projects.


This space is very different than the one we performed in at Arisia 2015. Each one, due to its design, had its own advantages and disadvantages. Arisia takes place in the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel, which meant we were given a function hall with a raised stage meant to be disassembled when not in use. The elevation above the audience was good for the sight lines, but made entrances and exits more difficult because of the need for the step up. Also, we were inflexibly limited by the dimensions of that stage, which at twelve by sixteen feet were pretty damn tight. Our fairly sizable set took up a chunk of that, meaning the action had to stay very compact, making the moments like the fight scene a challenge.

The CDA, first of all, has the distinct advantage for me of being in Waltham. That will make it so much easier and cheaper to transport pieces to the space, as it’s a much shorter trip from where I live. There we will be on a lovely wood floor the ability to spread out the “stage space” if we need to. This makes the blocking considerably easier, and we’ll still have plenty of room for audience chairs. The room will hold fewer people than the functional hall in the hotel, but not by too much, and this time around we’ll have two shows. Likely we’ll be able to seat even more people in total! I would love to have an even bigger audience this time around.

At Arisia, they also provided large curtains to create wing space on either side, which proved surprisingly ample. This time around, however, I’m not sure if our space will be able to provide anything like that. If that’s the case, we’ll have to figure out a way to get them ourselves. That could get expensive, and though many expenses of the last production won’t need to be repeated this time around, I’m concerned it will be made up by new costs like having to get curtains.

The trick, as always, is to embrace the features and limitations of any space you’re in. We’ve done it once, and we’ll do it again. Particularly since this space is lovely in so many ways, and will make many aspects of productions so much easier. I’m excited to take advantage of them!

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.


Encore performance of Mrs. Hawking at the Watch City Steampunk Festival!

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It’s been in the works for quite a few weeks now, but I have received official confirmation! Mrs. Hawking will be seeing its next performance at the 2015 Watch City Steampunk Festival!


This Festival first happened in Waltham, Massachusetts in 2011, as a tribute to the city’s historical ties to the industrial revolution. This makes it the perfect venue to host a story like Mrs. Hawking’s, which embodies the steampunk sentiment in its action-adventure reinterpretation of the style and culture of the Victorian era. We’re so excited to present our show directly to fans of the genre, and we think it’s going to make an even bigger stir than it did at Arisia.

The Festival will be happening in and around Waltham Commons, spilling over onto Moody Street, and daytime admission will be free! It will be full of steampunk related events and exhibitions, including musical groups, dance shows, lectures, and craft demonstrations, in addition to our fabulous play. It’s also looking like we will have two performances over the course of the day, so you will have two free-of-charge opportunities to see us!

Most of our original cast will be returning, though sadly a few of our wonderful actors will not be joining us for this encore performance. We will be holding auditions for these roles, which include some major and some minor, on March 22nd and 23rd from 7PM to 9PM at the Watertown Public Library in the Raya Stern Trustees Room. If you are interested in auditioning, please send an email to mrshawkingweb@gmail.com to reserve your slot. Walk-ins are welcome, but we’d love to know you’re coming.

We’re hoping to top what we accomplished with our debut performance, in terms of audience reach and representation of our play. So if you’d love to help out in any way, your assistance is greatly appreciated. Here’s to the next step in the telling of the Mrs. Hawking story!

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.


Auditions for Mrs. Hawking at Watch City Steampunk Festival ’15

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Would you like to be able to bring the characters of Mrs. Hawking to life? Well, come out to audition for our encore performance at the 2015 Watch City Steampunk Festival!

Mrs. Hawking debuted to success this past January at Arisia 2015, and will have an encore performance as part of the Festival in Waltham, MA on May 9th. We had an amazing cast, many of whom I am delighted to say will be reprising their roles, but sadly others among them are unavailable. That means we have a number of parts, both lead and supporting, that will have to be recast.

Auditions will be held at the Watertown Public Library in the Raya Sterns Trustees from 7-9PM on Monday, March 23rd and Tuesday, March 24th, by appointment. Walk-ins are welcome, but to guarantee your slot please send an email to mrshawkingweb@gmail.com with your headshot and resume to reserve a time.

The roles we shall be needing to replace:

Mary Stone – Twenties, maid girl who becomes assistant to a lady’s society avenger. Goes from quiet, dutiful servant to bold, courageous crusader for justice for otherwise helpless ladies of London society. Working class British accent.

Nathaniel Hawking – Twenties/thirties, charismatic and successful gentleman nephew. Starts out as an unwitting patriarchal obstacle, becomes an able support to his aunt’s heroic labors. Educated British accent.

Celeste Fairmont – Thirties/forties, well-bred middle class society lady with a secret. Takes refuge in imperiousness to conceal how thrown she is by the threat to her impeccable reputation. Educated British accent.

Walter Grainger – Twenties and up, country squire with a temper. Used to being able to bull his way through problems, but is at a loss at how to manage being blackmailed. Yorkshire/coarse country British accent.

John Colchester – Twenties and up, lower-class London thug. The classic scary henchman to the traditional Victorian baddie. Cockney/coarse lower class British accent.

Auditions will consist of reading sides from the script. Please come prepared to use an English accent.

Rehearsals will begin in April until the performance date on May 9th. A small honorarium will be paid to actors upon completion of the production.

Come on out and show us your talent! Help us tell this exciting story!

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed on Saturday, May 9th at 2PM and 6PM at the Center for Digital Arts at 247 Moody Street, Waltham as part of the 2015 Watch City Steampunk Festival.


Tuxedos, fine ladies, and ruffians – more costuming for Mrs. Hawking

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Jennifer Giorno, our amazing costumer, put together such a gorgeous collection of looks for our production at Arisia 2015. Historical Victorian dress, particularly for men, was very strictly regimented, but we still wanted to balance that with creating a visually engaging stylization that spoke of our characters’ personalities as well as provide texture to the world they live in. In addition to our leads, Jenn assembled a beautiful collection of looks to round out our supporting cast. Many pieces came from our personal collections, while others were very generous loans from our friends Lise Fracalossi and Nicholas Magruder.


I particularly enjoyed the tuxedoed looks, mostly borrowed from our obliging friends. It’s a style of dress I’m a big fan of, but nowadays there’s so little occasion to ever see anyone wearing it. But we had a number of evening scenes full of high-class gentlemen, so that meant we had to get them right.


As you can see with these looks on Matthew Kamm, Francis Hauert, and Jonathan Plesser, we took a little bit of liberty in throwing in touches of color. This is where the vests generously lent to us by Lise Fracalossi came in. The red and black scheme was a nice visual cue as to Lord Brockton’s villainous nature, and the earth tones on Sir Walter spoke to his roots as a country squire. Nathaniel’s shades of gray and silver made him look sophisticated and stylish, which was how I always saw the character. The cravats were made by me, out of fabric specifically chosen to coordinate with the colors of the vests.


Nathaniel’s day look as worn by Jonathan Plesser was also nice. We wanted it to look noticeably different from the eveningwear, so we decided to cast it in gray, with a morning coat over a pinstripe vest. The silhouette is nicely differentiated from the cutaway tailcoats in the tuxedo ensembles. The burgundy cravat was an afterthought, but I liked how it tied Nathaniel into the dark red color scheme of Mrs. Hawking’s parlor. It at once says he’s of this place, which is both a cage and a safe place for our hero.


The other two male day looks were worn by Francis Hauert and Bobby Imperato as Lord Brockton and John Colchester respectively. They wore handmade frock coats, more borrowed pieces from the generous costume maker Lise Fracalossi, in various shades of gray. Lord Brockton also wore another vest, this time in black and gold, along with a gold silk necktie. And you can’t deny the iconic thug look of a Victorian baddie in a bowler.


Lastly, we have the ladies. On one hand, we have the high-class lady, Arielle Kaplan as Mrs. Celeste Fairmont, in a brightly colored blouse decorated with lace and a full satin skirt. On the other hand, we have the lower-class example, Jenn Giorno as Miss Grace Monroe, in a plain blouse, a navy twill skirt, and the only vest in the piece to be worn by a woman! I really love how these costumes contrast in color and in texture, drawing a strong visual distinction between the middle class lady and the working class girl. These pieces are from Jenn’s personal collection, informed by her vast knowledge of Victorian costuming conventions.

We were really lucky to have someone as hardworking and passionate as Jenn designing for our show. It increased the visual punch of every moment our actors were onstage.



The ballroom scene by Pendragon Costumes

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Photos by Jennifer Giorno and John Benfield

When I was first writing Mrs. Hawking, I knew a big part of the appeal of the story would be the trappings and the spectacle. The look of the steampunk setting would add a great deal of gloss to the tale I was trying to tell, and I wanted to take advantage of everything that setting would afford me. And you can’t tell a grand caper set in Victorian London without a few gorgeous period costumes.

The ballroom scene of Mrs. Hawking is a fan favorite. It’s Mary’s first real mission, when she and Mary go undercover as grand society ladies to the villain Lord Brockton’s ball, and she is thrown straight into the deep end. Mrs. Hawking has her distract their opponent by pretending she is the niece of the viceroy of India, and must put on a character that matches the grand ballgown she is wearing as her disguise. It also includes what is probably the best joke in this first play:

MARY: Oh, well, you know how things are… uncle dear thought it was best for me to go away for a while… he feared I was becoming too popular with some of his, well…

LORD BROCKTON: Soldiers, miss?

(She affects a carriage of indignation.)

MARY: My lord! What kind of lady do you take me for? Fraternizing with enlisted men?

(She pauses dramatically.)

MARY: They were all officers!

I do some costume design professionally, and I remember one of the young actresses in a production I worked for a high school asking if when I wrote my own plays, I made sure to write in costuming requirements that were workable. I had to laugh at that, because as often as I bemoan playwrights who design things without any regard to the practicality for production— in fact, I wrote the craft portion of my master’s thesis on it —because Mrs. Hawking is a perfect example of my falling down on that particular job. Characters have TONS of changes in this play, sometimes every other scene, and in and out of complicated Victorian looks. That’s a hell of a task for a cast and a costumer!

Though I pitched in with a few looks for the Arisa 2015 production, mostly ones I’d already put together for the Mrs. Hawking photoshoots, our primary costume designer was Jennifer Giorno, also the actress playing Grace Monroe. So the challenge of putting together Victorian ballroom looks that could be changed in and out of in very short order fell on her. Not an easy task on our budget! But she got a great idea to see if we could a costume company to agree to sponsor our production by lending us some pieces. That is where Pendragon came in, a maker of fine costuming with a fabulous selection of steampunk and Victorian looks in their Mad Girl Clothing line.


In return for credit in our program, they very generously agreed to lend us three pieces of handmade eveningwear for our leads. It was an incredible thing to happen to us, as it gave us the opportunity to have some of the most important costumes in the play be particularly beautiful, as well as practical for the demands of the quick change.

A full Pendragon outfit can be seen here on Samantha LeVangie in her role as Mary. It was particularly important that Mary come out looking exquisite– transformatively so –as an indication of Mary’s potential to become a powerful, brilliant, dyanmic person. Jenn asked the company if it would be possible to get Mary’s garments in blue, as I’ve long imagined it to be Mary’s signature color.

They provided us with two gorgeous pieces from the Corset Gown Outfit— the underskirt with its “front panel of chenille fabric sewn to a cotton skirt” and the matching chenille shrug with its “high, snap down collar.” Samantha also wears their Corset with Bustle, loaned to us by a friend who purchased it from Pendragon a number of years ago.



When Jenn told Pendragon that the bustle corset was in the color of Welkin Blue, they chose the blue and brown pattern for the coordinating skirt and shrug. It makes for a lovely and complementary combination, particularly given Sam’s coloring and the character of Mary. Sam is an extraordinarily beautiful woman, and she wears this so well.


The other piece Pendragon so graciously lent us was for Mrs. Hawking, modeled here by Frances Kimpel. This was also a Corset with Bustle, a particularly useful piece not only because it looked so cool, but because its toggle-hooks running down the front assisted in making the quick change a little easier. Because Mrs. Hawking is a widow, of course it had to be in black.


To keep the looks consistent, Frances also wore a velvet bolero with the labels pinned back so the details of the corset would be visible. The skirts are from Jenn’s collection, also part of her ordinary day look. I also made Frances wear those gloves through the entirety of the play, poor thing. It made sense for all her looks– those where she is supposed to seem like a respectable middle-class widow, and when she is an operating agent in stealth garb.


One thing that was particularly enjoyable was that the same bustle corset had such different effects when worn by these very different characters and their actresses. The same style of corset top makes Mary look like a princess…


…has the aspect of armor when worn on Mrs. Hawking.


If you’re interested in owning some of Pendragon’s gorgeous costuming, don’t hesitate to check out their website. Their work is both truly beautiful and extremely high-quality.

In fact, there is a chance that the pieces they lent to us are still available for purchase, as they went on sale as soon as our show finished! You could end up owning an artifact from the very first production of Mrs. Hawking!


What the Arisia production taught me about the Mrs. Hawking script

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One of my excellent writing mentors, science fiction and fantasy author Mark Edwards, said that in the scramble to get the play put together, I would forget that I actually wrote the script that I was trying to put up— that is, until the Wednesday before the opening, when it would hit me like a ton of bricks and I’d have to fight the urge to change everything at the last minute. Even when you’re at the point of the script development process where you’re actually staging it, as the writer you’ve still got to see what the new circumstances can teach you about the script so that everything that worked in theory still works when you get it to the point where it’s actually a living, breathing entity.


Theater is meant to be an experience, so a script has to hold up under the pressure of physical realities, timing, and audience. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the written words are, what really matters is how they play with actors, properties, and effects. This can be a two-edged sword; on one hand, sometimes production can elevate a script, but even a beautiful script that doesn’t work in practice or is unengaging to watch isn’t good theater. So now that Mrs. Hawking has finally been produced, I have information about it is a play that I didn’t have before.


Samantha LeVangie and Frances Kimpel rehearsing an exit by window. “Hawking out!”

First of all, I am pleased to say that the piece played very well. I tweaked it a bit before going into rehearsals– mostly wording choices, and details like making sure Mary only calls Nathaniel “Mr. Hawking” for the first part of the play –but made no major changes. In performance the dialogue sounded natural and in-character, the story moved at a nice clip, and the world seemed to draw the audience into it. Though Mrs. Hawking is not as funny as its sequel Vivat Regina, and a few of the jokes early on didn’t get laughs due to what I believe was the audience not having relaxed into it yet, by fifteen or so minutes in they were definitely audibly reacting. One of the biggest moments for them was after the combat scene in the climax, first when Mary goes up against a mook with her poker, then Mrs. Hawking takes out a second one with a head bash and a choke hold. That got a real round of applause! All credit for that goes to Arielle Kaplan, the fight choreographer, and of course actors Frances Kimpel, Samantha LeVangie, Bobby Imperato, and Andrew Prentice.


Arielle Kaplan instructing Frances Kimpel on the proper way to strangle Bobby Imperato.

It ran, interestingly, a fair bit shorter than I expected it to, at an hour and fifteen minutes when I’d originally guessed an hour an a half. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the page count of the production script. After some thought, I actually don’t think this is a bad thing. The play moved along at a brisk pace, and as they say, it’s always better to leave them wanting more. Also that helped us get into and out of the performance space well within our time allotment, as the production ended before we’d originally expected it to.


Jonathan Plesser expresses frustration to Samantha LeVangie at the notion at the idea that Mrs. Hawking may have fired Mary.

Of course feasibility of production was a huge concern. When I originally wrote it in graduate school in 2012, I made the decision to just worry about trying to tell a good story. That meant I ended up going with some fairly challenging elements for the sake of punching it up– the quick change into fancy gowns for the ballroom scene, and the infamous moment in the club scene where Mrs. Hawking had to climb the set into the air. I felt they added enough to the story– plus I’m pretty attached to them at this point –that I wanted to try to make them work. You have no idea how relieved I was when we pulled it off.


Of all the plays I’ve ever directed, Mrs. Hawking was the most piece-intensive, particularly when it came to props and costumes. Transitions between scenes required a great deal of work and precision so that they happened not only correctly but quickly. My biggest fear with the runtime was that excessively draggy transitions would kill the momentum of the story. But my cast and crew really stepped up, and nailed all of their marks when it came to carrying furniture on and off, moving props, and changing clothes. I even heard from an audience member that the pauses between the scenes provided nice “breaths” when taking it all in, allowing them a moment to process and even to whisper to each other over what they’d just seen. That was a nice unexpected reaction! So while it takes some work to manage them right, the required transitions were doable. Great to know!

So I have come to a place where I’m extremely pleased with the state of the script. I think this is serious proof of concept, that this script has what it takes– it plays well, it draws audiences, it engages them once they’re there, it’s doable on a tight schedule, in a tight timeslot, on a small budget. What more could I hope for than that?


The set for Mrs. Hawking at Arisia 2015

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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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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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