Tag Archives: production

by

Dressing the parts

No comments yet

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

image

Costuming adds a whole extra dimension to theatrical productions. So much can be communicated about a character by the way they dress; actors tend to feel so much for like the people they are portraying when in costume; and it can add visual fascination to any production. Not to mention when you’re telling a story about badass superheroes in a period caper, they definitely need to look cool. So we are working our hardest to ensure that all our characters have a distinctive, appealing, and period-appropriate look.

image

I have a background in costume design myself, and of course I’ve been thinking about how these characters might dress for ages, but our costumer for this production is Jennifer Giorno, who will also be playing Grace Monroe. Best known for her work in dressing people for live-action roleplay games, where she is known as the Costume Fairy, Jenn’s extensive knowledge of the clothes of the Victorian period make excellent use of everything we find charming about the look of this time and place. I’m really lucky to have her effort and expertise.

image

There’s a lot to take into consideration when choosing an effective costume. The culture of the period we’re trying to make come alive has a lot of influence. Mrs. Hawking is a widow, for example, in a time where mourning was strictly regimented. Because she does not want attention drawn to herself, everything she wears in public, then, must be appropriately modest, and of course black. Mary is a working-class maid in a wealthy middle-class house, so her look must speak to both her station and the respectability such a house would want her to reflect.

image

But there’s more than that, of course; there’s also their personalities to consider. A feature of Mrs. Hawking is that even people who aren’t aware of what she really does notice that she moves like a cat, a compact creature of uncanny grace and strength, so whatever we dress her in must allow the actress Frances Kimpel to project that in her movements. Mary is a tall, strong girl, perhaps a little unfashionably so by the standards of her time, but it gives her a bold physicality that makes you believe she could jump into superheroing. Again, her costume must allow Samantha LeVangie to demonstrate that level of energy and strength. On the other end of things, we know Nathaniel is a very successful, well-thought-of man who is comfortable in his place in life. Making him a sharp dresser who looks good in his clothes goes a long way toward informing of us how he fits into his world.

image

And of course they’ve just got to look cool. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of watching cool people do cool things and look damn cool doing it! So we’re putting extra effort into making certain our heroes are just plain fun to look at it.

image

We’re not revealing all of what they’re going to look like yet. We want to save the full looks for the show. But hopefully this will intrigue you enough until you get the full effect during the performance!

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

by

How you can support this production of Mrs. Hawking

No comments yet

Categories: performance, supplemental, Tags: ,

IMG_0851.JPG

As of today, our production of Mrs. Hawking at Arisia is one month away from performance. We’re coming along nicely, as rehearsals are going well, and our technical elements are slowly but surely being pulled together. Still, there is still a great deal left to do. Some lovely people have been wondering what they can do to help out with this project in some way. Well, bless you, lovely people! I am happy to suggest a number of ways you could possibly assist us in the production and promotion of this exciting new play.

Firstly, you can help us with advertising! Spreading the word about the show to those people who might be interested— theater enthusiasts, steampunk fans, Arisia congoers, general geeks, et cetera —could help increase the size of our audience. So tell your friends about it, share it on your Facebook wall. Also, if you have any ideas for what we can do or who we can talk to, don’t hesitate to make the suggestion.

You can volunteer for build! We will be doing the serious building of our set over the course of tech week and the days leading up to it, starting on the 2nd of January 2015. If you have any free time, daytime or evening, between then and our performance on the 16th, please let me know! We can definitely use extra sets of hands that can pitch in to help with construction and painting.

You can donate monetarily! We are on a tight budget to accomplish all the varied demands of producing a show, so any donation at all would be helpful. We have a Paypal account under the email mrshawkingweb@gmail.com if you are inclined this way, and know that it would be gratefully accepted.

You can support our web presence! Bookmark this website or follow it on your blog reader of choice and check back often. Liking our Facebook page gives a tangible record of your interest. Just one quick click would matter to us.

And finally, you can attend the performance at Arisia! It will be an official event of the con, and so is only open to those who purchase a membership. Day passes for Friday may be available at the door if registration does not max out, but buying a weekend pass will not only guaranteed entrance to Mrs. Hawking; it was also give you access to all the rest of the convention.

You see, we are not only hoping to put on a great show. We’re trying to get Mrs. Hawking out to the audiences who will enjoy and want to follow it. Anything you’d care to do to help us reach that goal would be forever appreciated.

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

by

Lord Brockton’s walking stick

No comments yet

Categories: character, performance, Tags: , ,

Check out this cool walking stick prop I put together for Cedric Brockton to use!

Cedric Brockton Lord Brockton is something of a dandy; it is part of his bulletproof persona that he is always impeccably dressed. A slick walking stick, purely a fashion accessory, seemed like a perfect fit. But as we’re on a tight budget, I didn’t just want to spend money on one. So I got a little creative!

IMG_0845.JPG

IMG_0846.JPG

I got a fancy curtain rod from a dollar store, with that big round crystal on each end. I took it apart and used the longer half. On the open end I glued a doorstop from the hardware store, the kind that you attach to the back of a door so it bounces off the wall. It’s a nice touch to add both style and a bit of length, plus the rubbery end gives it a little traction. On the crystal end, I taped off the orb as well as the rod beneath the little collar, and sprayed that collar with some metallic silver paint.

It’s a little crude up close, but I think from the stage it will read as understatedly elegant. That will make for a perfect prop.

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

by

The rehearsal process

No comments yet

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

We have just gotten through our first week of rehearsal!

IMG_0841.JPG
Frances Kimpel and Samantha LeVangie, rehearsing as Mrs. Hawking and Mary.

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

IMG_0843.JPG
Now with Francis Hauert, Matthew Kamm, and Jonathan Plesser.

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

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

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

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

by

Rehearsals begin for Mrs. Hawking at Arisia

No comments yet

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

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

by

Prop gas lamps for the Mrs. Hawking set

No comments yet

Categories: performance, Tags: ,

I made these neat gas lamp props to dress the set of Mrs. Hawking at Arisia!

image

They’re made of two kinds of candle holders, the brass wall-mounted kind and the glass tumbler kind. I joined them together with hot glue. I think I will try to get a hold of those little battery-operated electric tea lights to put inside them for a glow. They’re not exactly like any actual Victorian interior gas lamps I could find pictures of, but they are reasonable approximations given the features of the ones I did see.

I like them a lot! I think they will look neat on the set.

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

by

We have a portrait for the Colonel!

No comments yet

Categories: performance, Tags: , ,

Just a quick peek at the portrait for Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking! GAZE UPON THE LOOMING SYMBOL OF OUR HERO’S OPPRESSION.

IMG_0822.JPG

I had a poster printed up at Staples of the image I found depicting a Victorian-era soldier in colonel’s regalia. I found this frame at the dollar store with the right sort of baroque aesthetic. Truth be told, blowing up the image has left it a bit pixellated up close, but I don’t think it’s noticeable from a distance. That’s the beauty of the stage! If it can’t be seen from thirty feet away, it doesn’t exist! Honestly, the more I look at him, the more pleased I am that I went with this picture. Even if he doesn’t look quite like how I imagined the Colonel, he has a kind of sadness in his eyes that I think is exactly right.

I think I’ll hang it up at the read through, so the actors can get used to him watching them all the time. :-)

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

by

Physical storytelling

No comments yet

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

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

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

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

by

The Colonel’s portrait for the set

No comments yet

Categories: performance, Tags: , , ,

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

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

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

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

 

IMG_0787.JPG

IMG_0788.JPG

 

IMG_0789-0.JPG

 

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

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

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

by

Set-building cleverness

No comments yet

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0809.JPG

IMG_0807.JPG

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

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

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

1 2 3 4