Tag Archives: steampunk


Touches of steampunk

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Categories: performance, Tags: , , , ,


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.


We’re up on the schedule at the Watch City Steampunk Festival!

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Categories: performance, supplemental, Tags: ,

The Watch City Steampunk Festival has now posted its complete schedule of events!  

The Festival takes place from the evening of Friday, May 8th to the evening of Saturday, May 9th. The opening night kickoff on Friday will consist of two parties! The first one at Global Thrift on Moody Street in Waltham, from 7PM to 9PM, where you can purchase items to make yourself a proper steampunk costume. The second one is at the Center for Digital Arts, also on Moody Street, from 8PM to 10PM while light refreshments are served while you wander through a steampunk art exhibit. You may even have a chance to glimpse the set for Mrs. Hawking up close and in person, as it will already be in our CDA performance space. 

Saturday, May 9th is the full day of free steampunk events! The complete schedule of events is now available from viewing, jam-packed with interesting art, performance, music, and exhibition. There is also a list of vendors who will be selling their various steampunk-related crafts, wares, and art pieces on Waltham Common. And of course, Mrs. Hawking is proud to be featured among them! As you can see, there will be two chances to see us, one at 2PM and one at 6PM in the Center for Digital Arts. As our new trailer for the show demonstrates, you won’t want to miss it.

So as if our grand adventure weren’t enough to draw you to the Festival, the myriad of other excellent events for adults and families, steampunks and casual fans, will make for an excellent time. Come for the badass Victorian lady Batman, stay for the rest of the steampunk music, art, and performance!

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.


The ballroom scene by Pendragon Costumes

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


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!


Notes on Vivat Regina: character arcs

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Categories: character, development, themes, vivat regina, Tags: , , , , , , ,


Warning: spoilers contained herein for the new script “Vivat Regina.”

I’ve talked a fair bit in this space about my intentions for the character arcs in this piece– chiefly, that I wanted Mrs. Hawking to decide that she will make Mary her protege, and that Nathaniel is going to come into his own way of being of help to our heroes.

Originally I thought I would tackle much more of the protege storyline in this second piece. I thought we’d cover how Mrs. Hawking would make Mary her protege, her trying to mold Mary into another version of herself, and finally Mary’s pushback against the idea when she realized she wanted to follow Mrs. Hawking under her own terms. This storyline is to be the meat of the first arc-cycle in the story. In the very earliest experimental drafting done back during 31 Plays in 31 Days of August ’13, the declaration of her being designated protege was to happen in the very second scene. But Bernie rightly pointed out that would be moving far too quickly through a story that would be more properly explored over a longer period. So it was scaled back to watch Mary feel like she was struggling and an inadequate assistant to Mrs. Hawking because of her mistress’s harsh standards and constant criticism, but to have the turning point be when Mrs. Hawking reveals that not only is she doing well, but that she’s decided Mary is worthy to be successor of all her work.

Nathaniel’s arc I figured out almost immediately. I knew I wanted him, after he learned of Mrs. Hawking’s activities and got over the initial shock, to be incredibly fascinated by her work and want to help her with it. She of course would be resistant, since she despises how much he’s like the Colonel and how she’s come to see him as an impediment to what she wants to do rather than a support. But as I’ve mentioned, Nathaniel’s challenge is to grow past the ways he’s too much like the Colonel, and this story is the beginning of his realizing it.

You’ll also note the nature of the role Nathaniel takes on once he discovers what talent he has to contribute. With his ability to go places only men can access, his enormous personal charm, and his real capacity for thinking on his feet, he basically takes on the job of faceman. I like how this not only because it really suits his character, but also how it places him in what is often a feminine role. Contrast this to the traditionally male-filled positions of the mastermind and the bruiser, who in this case are Mrs. Hawking and Mary respectively. I plan to have him take on “traditionally female” story roles in a number of ways, as I very much enjoy casting traditionally masculine men that way in my writing.

Mrs. Hawking’s arc is the most subtle of three of them. That is for the most part intentional, as one of the issues I want to set up for her in the long term is that because of her long-held anger and baggage, personal growth is difficult and very slow. So hers occurs mostly in relation to the growth of the other leads. She relaxes her harsh criticism of Mary, she lets Nathaniel be judged on his own merits. The most important character note for her in this piece is I wanted to be certain that I firmly established her as a kind of revolutionary. We knew she was immensely critical of the social order, but I don’t know how much hard evidence we saw of it in the first story. I think her indictment of the English imperial system casts it in the right light. It is always tempting when writing in a steampunk setting to let one’s fascination with the picturesque time period to gloss over the horrific implications of the imperial system. I want Mrs. Hawking to acknowledge and stand in opposition to those things in a real way. She will not work on behalf of “queen and country” because that means supporting oppression and devastation, but she will stand up for one real woman who is suffering under it. She is of course prejudiced and limited in her own ways, but she will always be opposed to the Establishment, and I wanted her to demonstrate an awareness of what that really meant.