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Recording of Base Instruments staged reading

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Were you hoping to catch the Bare Bones staged reading of Mrs. Hawking part three, Base Instruments, but couldn’t make the performance date? Well, turns out you are in luck, because we were able to capture the reading for your listening pleasure!

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The following two files on the Mrs. Hawking YouTube channel have recording of the audio of the Base Instruments reading. Act one is in the first recording and act two is in the second. The quality is not perfect, as they were recorded on the fly during the reading, but they do a good job capturing the performances and the reactions of the audience.

What I particularly enjoy about these is they preserve the natural responses of the listeners in the moment. I really enjoy noting what lines got laughs– Eric Cheung as Justin Hawking had scenes where it was almost a one-to-one laugh-to-line ratio! And I really got a kick out of the charmed reaction they had to the scene between Mary and Arthur. It even draws my attention to where there WASN’T the response I was expecting, so I know where to examine more closely for editing. And of course it captures the awesome performances of the actors. I was really lucky to work with such a talented cast, many of whom were switching not just between characters, but also accents!

So if you missed the Bare Bones reading, please give these a listen. It’s a great way to take in the story of Base Instruments, performed by talented people with live audience feedback, just the way a show like that is intended.

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What I learned from the Bare Bones reading of Base Instruments

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Photos by Beckie Hunter

I was really pleased and proud of how well the staged reading of Base Instruments went this past Friday. The cast did an amazing job, and the audience was great, laughing at all the right parts and having some really interesting feedback in the discussion we held after.

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A major reason to have a staged reading is to hear the words of a play aloud, as they were intended to be heard, in front of a real audience. This enables you to experience the play in a way you can’t just looking at the page alone. It’s even better when you can talk a little with the audience and get a sense of how they actually experienced it.

One thing that was very satisfying was how funny the piece was. Generally, I’d classify these as adventure stories meant to have some genuinely affecting drama in them, but I don’t want them to become heavy or grim. Lightening them with humor is a great way to charm the audience, to keep things fun and to balance out darker moments. I actually discovered the power of this when Vivat Regina was read in an earlier Bare Bones, and saw how well received the increased humor in the second piece versus the first was. Introducing Nathaniel’s brother Justin Hawking worked particularly well for this, as his wit and attitude was a great way to work in jokes. In no small part thanks to Eric Cheung’s performance of him, there were a few scenes where he got a laugh with almost every line!

The reading also cautioned me for the need for clarity. When you’re trying to present a Fairy Play Whodunnit, it’s important that the necessary information to solve the mystery is delivered clearly enough for the audience to solve. There were some qualitative differences in information that were not made plain enough, and that’s good information for me to have.

Also, there are several Russian ballet dancers in the plot whose names and introductions may not have been made sufficiently plain, making them easy to confuse. On that score, some of it may have been because it was a reading, and the same actress Samantha LeVangie read for both of them, which is something that might be fixed in the staging. But it’s very good to know that confusing the characters might be at issue, to alert me to make sure they are each clearly introduced when they enter the story. This might be a matter of editing, but it’s also going to inform how we stage it when it gets fully performed.

Most of all, I am glad to have found that the story works. The plot flowed smoothly, and the character arcs, relationships, and strong emotional moments resonated with the audience. That’s always the most important part of storytelling, and you can never be sure if you’ve managed it until you get in front of living breathing people. I really do believe that each Hawking script has come out better than the last, and this only confirmed it. So thanks very much to everyone who came out to hear it and give their thoughts, and great thanks to Theatre@First for giving us the opportunity to have it read!

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Last rehearsal for Base Instruments reading

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Last night we had our final rehearsal for our staged reading of Base Instruments with Bare Bones at Theatre@First! For most of our rehearsal process, we practiced in pieces, doing scenes not in sequence but the ones that had the same actors. So last night was the first time I got to hear them do the entire piece in order.

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Elizabeth Hunter reading as Mrs. Hawking and Samantha LeVangie as Miss Zakharova in Base Instruments

You never really know how a play’s going to work until actors read it, and I’m really lucky to have this talented cast. All of them have some level of experience with their characters and familiarity with this world, and that allows them to make best use of their abilities. Some of them, like Samantha LeVangie and Eric Cheung, do multiple accents, often switching one scene after another!

And because it’s a murder mystery, we’re going to do something fun. Base Instruments is longer than previous installments, so we decided to have an intermission. And in that intermission, we’ve decided to give the audience a chance to vote on who they think the murderer is.

As I’ve mentioned, Base Instruments is a Fair Play Mystery, and most of the important clues are given in the first act, while the second is the leads pieces them together. So there’s enough information for the audience to at least take a good guess. After the audience votes, all the correct answers will be put into a hat and the one drawn will win a prize.

Finally, if you can stay a little late, there will be a talkback after the show with the cast and myself. Heaven knows I could go on about these stories all day, so if you have any questions about the story, the mystery, the world, or the direction of the series, I’d be happy to talk your ear off in answer!

The staged reading of Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will go up on June 10th at 8PM at with the Bare Bones reading series, brought to you by Theatre@First.

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Reading a mystery

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One of the fun things about the story of Base Instruments is that it’s a Fair Play Whodunnit. That means it’s a mystery where all the necessary clues are presented to the audience, so they have the chance to solve it along with the detectives.

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Andrew Prentice, Samantha LeVangie, and Elizabeth Hunter reading Base Instruments.

This is important for the June 10th staged reading of Base Instruments with Bare Bones. Many people like to let staged readings wash over them, but when the story is a mystery, it prompts the audience to see if they can figure it out for themselves. But the makes a new challenge for the actors who are reading it. A whodunnit with lots of twists and turns often involves a lot of detail, with the dialogue supplying most of the information. That can lead to a lot of exposition, which can easily all blur together and lose the important clues.

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Circe Rowan reading as Mary Stone.

That means the actors have to take extra care in the scenes where the characters are working through the information they’ve gathered to solve the crime. It has to be kept interesting enough so that no one zones out, but also clear enough so that all the clues come across. And finally, for the sake of verisimilitude, it has to sound natural, like the characters actually are detectives sharing information with each other trying to figure things out.

The combination of all this is the way to get the listeners engaged in unraveling the plot. I love when the audience is hanging on the details of the story, trying to pick apart what’s really going on! That’s the fun of going to all the trouble of putting together a Fair Play Whodunnit.

The staged reading of Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will go up on June 10th at 8PM at with the Bare Bones reading series, brought to you by Theatre@First.

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Exciting things about the reading of Base Instruments

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I’m really excited to be tackling Base Instruments for the upcoming staged reading. I’m pleased to say that I think that each Mrs. Hawking story so far is better and stronger than the last, partially from knowing the characters better, and partially as I develop as a writer. And this part three has so many new additions to the series that I can’t wait to get this story out there.

Here’s some fun things that are new and special to part three:

It’s a true mystery. A murder mystery, to be precise, a good-old fashioned whodunnit. Those are tough to put together so that they make sense and yet still provide suspense and challenge. Base Instruments is a fair play mystery, too, so the audience will see all the clues the characters see and have the chance to piece things together as the detectives do.

The size of the world has expanded. At this point, the world around our heroes has filled up with interesting recurring characters, including Officer Arthur Swann and Nathaniel’s family, wife Clara and brother Justin. This means that our cast can split up and come back together as they follow various story threads, so multiple plots can interweave and expand the scope of the tale.

Further development of our characters. Several ideas have been seeded in the previous shows that are finally coming to fruition. Mrs. Hawking’s fear of advancing age affecting her career. Mary’s figuring out what kind of protégé she want to be. How much Nathaniel will keep helping Mrs. Hawking from the important people in his life. Base Instruments shows the characters facing these challenges head-on, creating both a satisfying payoff and setting up the next step of their paths going forward.

If that sounds, exciting to you, then be sure to come to the staged reading in Somerville on June 10th!

The staged reading of Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will go up on June 10th at 8PM at with the Bare Bones reading series, brought to you by Theatre@First.

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Accomplished at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016!

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We have successfully put up Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016!

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I am so grateful to everyone who helped make these shows a reality, from our talented cast, to our hardworking crew, to our wonderful audiences who gave us such great feedback. A special shoutout goes to Bob Perry and the rest of the crew organizing the Steampunk Festival, who was so welcoming and secured the accomodations for our shows.

What is next for our stories will be coming soon. The next Hawking event is the June 10th staged reading of part three, Base Instruments, with the Bare Bones reading series produced by Somerville’s Theatre@First. Join us at 8pm to hear the first publication exhibition of our third installment’s script!

Also, we’ll be discussing our plans for future productions, as well as releasing some video recordings of previous ones, debuting for the first time on this website. More to come later this week!

The staged reading of Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will go up on June 10th at 8PM at with the Bare Bones reading series, brought to you by Theatre@First.

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Base Instruments to have staged reading with Bare Bones at Theatre@First!

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Part three of the Mrs. Hawking saga, Base Instruments, will have a staged reading with the Bare Bones series with Theatre@First!

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Bare Bones has hosted both previous installments of the story, which were instrumental in developing them for the productions, like we’re going to have this coming Saturday at the Watch City Steampunk Festival. Here’s our fabulous cast, a mix of veterans of both production and reading:

Mrs. Victoria Hawking – Elizabeth Hunter
Miss Mary Stone – Circe Rowan
Mr. Nathaniel Hawking – Andrew Prentice
Mrs. Clara Hawking / Miss Elena Zakharova / Miss Yulia Sherba – Samantha LeVangie
Mr. Justin Hawking / Mr. Kiril Chernovsky – Eric Cheung
Sergeant Arthur Swann / Lord Nicholas Cavil – Matthew Kamm

Produced by Jess Viator, with much thanks to Theatre@First!

So, once you check out our upcoming performances of Mrs. Hawking at 2PM and Vivat Regina at 6PM on May 7th at Government Center in Waltham, you’ll naturally be raring for a taste of the next chapter. Be sure to join us for the reading of Base Instruments on June 10th at 8PM at Unity Somerville for the exciting further adventures of the Hawking crew!

Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina will be performed on May 7th at 119 School Street, Waltham, MA at 2PM and 6PM as part of the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016 in Waltham, MA.

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TONIGHT Like a Loss staged reading with Bare Bones!

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Join us this evening for the staged reading of our ten-minute installment “Like a Loss” with Bare Bones!

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Last night we had our dress rehearsal, where Eboracum Richter-Dahl and Brad Smith practiced their performance where faithful batman Henry Chapman tried to reach out to his longtime employer Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking in a difficult time.

I really love this piece because it is the most subtle of the Mrs. Hawking stories, being an exploration of people who must find ways to connect and express themselves without doing it overtly. It was an excellent challenge for me to rise to as a writer. And I love allowing the audience to have a glimpse of the Colonel, who we’ve heard so much about from other characters, and that many people have been wondering.

So please join us at 8pm tonight at Unity Somerville at 8 William Street, Somerville, MA. We will be opening for a reading of The Wheel, written by Zinnie Harris and directed by Jess Viator.

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REMINDERS – Auditions for Mrs. Hawking; Like a Loss staged reading

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Two reminders, dear Hawks! 

 

Auditions for the encore performance of Mrs. Hawking at the Watch City Steampunk Festival are TONIGHT and TOMORROW NIGHT, March 23rd and 24th, at the Watertown Public Library from 7PM to 9PM. Signups are preferred, so e-mail us at mrshawkingweb@gmail.com to reserve a timeslot, but walk-ins are also welcome.

 



 

Also our staged reading of Like a Loss will be going up this Thursday night as part of Bare Bones 16: At War!

Like a Loss, the ten minute play featuring Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking, will be read as the opener for The Wheel, written by Zinnie Harris and directed by Jess Viator, at 8pm on March 26th at 6 William Street, Somerville, MA

“Faithful batman Henry Chapman does not often pry into the personal matters of his employer, the decorated Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking. But when some of his master’s burdens seem to grow too great, Chapman attempts to understand why Colonel Hawking has chosen to endure conditions as they are.

As those familiar with the Mrs. Hawking play series know, one of its most intriguing mysteries is the figure of the Colonel, the late husband of our hero about whom she still harbors so much resentment and complicated feeling. In this ten-minute play, set seventeen years before Mrs. Hawking and Mary ever meet, we at last get to meet this much-discussed man, and gain some insight into the nature of his strange, tragic marriage to our hero.”

Hope to see you are both or either of these!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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