Tag Archives: victoria hawking

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Mrs. Hawking has no code name

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Categories: character, influences, Tags: , , , ,

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At its most basic, Mrs. Hawking is a superhero story— an extraordinary individual who uses their abilities to make the world a more just place. The clear influence that the character of Batman has had on the conception of our hero helped solidify that. So I’ve taken a lot of cues from the superhero genre to figure out how to tell these stories. But because of this square grounding in such an established form, one way in which we deviate from it stands out as particularly strange. Like many superheroes, Mrs. Hawking has a secret identity, that of reclusive society widow. She does not, however, have a name for her hero identity, a code name by which her heroic actions are known, of the likes of Batman for Bruce Wayne and Captain America for Steve Rogers. 

I supposed it might be regarded as an oversight on my part. Admittedly, in the very, very earliest imaginings she was a little more of a straight detective than a superhero, so even though that quickly changed, that may have been the reason why it never occurred to me to give her a code name. But by the time I noticed the problem, I’d already written two stories, and by that point, I really didn’t feel like it could be retrofitted. Making it tougher for me is that, while in-universe she really doesn’t feel like the name Victoria Hawking represents her, out-of-universe I chose it super-carefully specifically BECAUSE I felt like it suits her so well. What could I choose that would fit her better?

So, I have come to the conclusion that she doesn’t really have one. But it IS a strange omission for a story of this genre, so does that have any difficult consequences on the unfolding? Does that mean that the only people who are aware of her are the ones that know her real name? She does operate a great deal on the fact that she seems too outlandish to most people to actually exist, but we know from moments like her conversation with Sir Walter in the first story that occasionally she deals with people from behind the anonymity afforded by her stealth suit. So how would people who realize there is such a masked figure in existence, but didn’t know her personally, refer to her? 

I tend to subscribe to the theory that you can’t name yourself in this way. It usually feels more organic— and let’s face it, less absurd —when the hero’s code name is chosen by popular habit. So there’s probably something they call her just for the convenience of having some way to talk about her. This actually becomes necessary to have an answer for as I work on installment three, Base Instruments it occurred to me that Nathaniel’s wife Clara is very socially connected and well-informed when it comes to the goings on of London’s ladies, and may very well have heard of this secret agent that helps women who have nowhere else to turn. I haven’t precisely settled, but I tend to think that they don’t have a name that could be considered a “Batman” equivalent, nothing so formal and declarative. But there may be some sort of title along the lines of “the Dark Knight” for her, perhaps even something like “the lady’s champion of London,” a phrase which has yet to be mentioned in-universe, but one I made up as a way to explain just what it is Mrs. Hawking does. 

There is one superhero name that does immediately jump out at me. While Mrs. Hawking’s dissocation with her married name makes it unlikely– not to mention too obvious –that she would use something about it to represent herself, it does become the clear progenitor for the name of the Hawks, the team that Mary eventually puts together to carry on her work. When she assembles a team of talented operatives to expand the reach of their work for justice, it will be Mary’s own interpretation of Mrs. Hawking’s missions. So, though I don’t think they will be completely insensible of the irony, they will consider themselves to be named in her honor. And I think that’s a fun twist on the convention of the superhero name.

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed on Saturday, May 9th at 2PM and 6PM at the Center for Digital Arts at 274 Moody Street, Waltham as part of the 2015 Watch City Steampunk Festival.

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Meet Frances Kimpel, the physical embodiment of Mrs. Hawking

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Categories: character, supplemental, Tags: ,

IMG_0957.JPGPhoto by Josh Spiro

I have had the privilege to know Frances Kimpel since our time at Brandeis University, where we met in a production of The Tempest put on by our old college theater troupe, Hold Thy Peace. Since then I’m glad to say we have become good friends, and over the years and the many plays we’ve worked on together I’ve had a front-row seat to the fabulous performances she’s delivered in that time. All this led me to the great privilege of having her be the one to embody my hero.

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Photo by Charlotte Oswald

Frances Kimpel is from Tacoma, Washington, with a degree from Brandeis University in History and French, as well as a masters in Medieval History from Durham University in Durham, UK. I have directed Frances many times, starting with our time in Hold Thy Peace, Brandeis’s resident Shakespeare troupe, including a turn as Hamlet. Once she even directed me, when she cast me as Cordelia and the Fool in her moody, contemplative, sepia-toned production of King Lear.

She’s always been a great source of inspiration to me. An incredibly talented actor, dancer, and all-around artist, her versatility on the stage is remarkable. With her blonde hair, green eyes, and trim figure, she can easily step into the personas of innocents and beauties, but just as easily does her physicality lend itself to startling androgyny, making all manner of roles, from intellectual men, to energetic children, to inhuman monsters, all within her grasp.

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Years ago, when I was first conceiving of the character of Victoria Hawking, I knew I wanted her to be a striking, dangerous figure, able to do amazing things, which to me naturally suggested someone who looked looked like Frances— a small, lean figure yet still with intense physical presence. As a friend of ours, once said, “She looks like the blade of a knife.” That combined with her incredible acting ability always made her the person I wanted to take on the character.

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Frances’s favorite roles tend one of two ways, the otherwordly, and the tragically philosophical. For her the first category includes the likes of Puck, Ariel, Caliban, and one of Macbeth’s witches. Of these roles Frances says, “I love portraying non-human characters, both because doing so often incorporates a lot of fun movement and also because I am perpetually fascinated by the border between the familiar and the unknown— between what is human and what is other.” Her talent for changing her physicality shines especially in these roles. On the other hand, some of her most memorable and moving performances were as Hamlet and Brutus, two of the most weighty and challenging roles in Shakespeare. She has always enjoyed “playing characters with complex inner lives— highly imaginative, philosophical, or idealistic characters, characters with great dreams or great delusions —and exploring how those imaginings are reconciled (or not) with a dissonant reality.”

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Frances as Brutus with Cassius as played by Eboracum Richter-Dahl
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Frances as Hamlet with Dave Hinterman as Horatio

So when approaching Mrs. Hawking, Frances brought a great deal of experience building complicated psychologies to inform her acting. I asked Frances how she saw her character and how she went about building her performance in the role. “I usually get to know characters by doing imaginative background work. I try to imagine what sorts of things they habitually think about, how the would react to various hypothetical situations, and moving through various spaces feels like for them. I then try to let these things inform my development of a unique voice, bearing, and set of mannerisms.” In this case she used not only Mrs. Hawking’s life with the Colonel, but who she was before then. “In order to actually portray this character it was important for me to root my understanding of her in something further back still: what was she like before her marriage? Why and how did the marriage— the great tragedy of her life —happen?”

Frances gave a lot of thought to how that informed the person she was stepping into. “As we see her now, her specialty is stealth: everything she does is painstakingly planned and concealed. Though she risks her life on a regular basis, she does so in a manner that— when it comes to the possibility of discovery —is cautious in the extreme, and whenever she slips up in this regard, she is profoundly disappointed in herself. But she was not always this way. Her younger self was much more reckless— much less painfully aware of the limitations within which she must operate —and also much less bitter. Developing an understanding of the metamorphosis that must have transpired is what really made the character ‘click’ for me, and forms the crux of what I brought to her mentally and emotionally. It also helped me to link the character to my own state of being— to provide some through-way for channeling my own natural energy (much more akin to her younger self, I would say) into the mature Mrs. Hawking of this play.”

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Frances’s particular abilities lend themselves especially well to creating our hero’s defining stage presence. “I would describe Mrs. Hawking’s physicality as like mine, but less fidgety and chaotic— more confined, deliberate, and— surprisingly —more delicate… she walks a delicate line— she carries a delicate operation —and that level of masterful precision and forethought shows in how she moves.

“Developing her voice, of course, was the most difficult thing for me, because I had to build the character voice on top of a foreign accent. I think I settled on a lower register than my natural one, with a kind of perpetual edge (whether of irritation or calculation or vigilance or threat— there’s usually something beneath whatever she’s saying) and a tendency to default into irony. This last, I think is because she sees the bulk of social interaction as a ridiculous but obligatory farce.”

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Finally, I asked Frances what she enjoyed about her character. “I love her ferocity, and the tension between the explosiveness of that ferocity and the level of control that has been imposed upon it. I very much enjoyed the process of perfecting her physicality. While I am accustomed to portraying danger in a more chaotic form, I have never played a character with quite her level of deadly precision… Her rage is meticulously contained and channeled into deliberate actions. It was also of course great to get to play a canonically asexual character— as opposed to playing a canonically sexual character with a secret head canon of asexuality, as I am sometimes wont to do. And I loved climbing the set.”

If you’re interested in seeing more of Frances, she’s got a number of other projects in the works. “I am currently preparing to direct The Chameleon’s Dish‘s upcoming performance of my original play, Annabel Lost, an experimental piece combining visual art and performance poetry with a montage of dramatic scenes.” The play will be performed at the Democracy Center in Cambridge, MA, on the evenings of March 22nd, March 29th, April 3rd, and April 5th. She’s also been published in the winter issue of Window Cat Press and in the upcoming publication Polychrome Ink. She will also be performing some of her poetry at Mass Poetry’s U35 Reading Series on May 26. In conjunction with Eboracum Richter-Dahl, Frances additionally craft a line of art objects and jewelry which can be found for sale at Revolutionary Concord at 34 Main Street in Concord, MA, or online on at her Etsy store.

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The drama of stiff upper lips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Your Vessel Has Not Betrayed You” — scribbling on the ballerina client

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

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This early piece for Base Instruments is pretty much pure idea and very, very little refinement. It grew out of the fact that I want to have a ballerina for the client in this one, who can bring up ballet as a metaphor for exploring some of Mrs. Hawking's issues. Ballet dancers, particularly broken down ones, are a favorite subject of mine to write about. I really like using this conceit in the story, and I think I'm really on to something in this scene. I hope it's as subtle as I'm working for it to be.

The trouble is it was written without context, so definitely needs editing once I figure out what the mystery and plot is. For this I just threw in a few details as placeholders; I don't even know who "Alexei" is supposed to be, for example. But I can sort that out later. For now I just wanted to take a stab at the idea, and even in this rough form I think it's going to be a good one.

Your Vessel Has Not Betrayed You
by Phoebe Roberts

VICTORIA HAWKING, secret society avenger, early forties
ELENA ZAKHAROVA, prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet, late twenties

London, England, 1883
~~~

(ELENA ZAKHAROVA makes her way down the hall. Suddenly MRS. HAWKING springs out in her stealth suit. MISS ZAKHAROVA starts and sucks in a breath to scream, but MRS. HAWKING whips back her hood to show her face.)

MRS. HAWKING: Hush! It's me!

(With effort MISS ZAKHAROVA calms herself.)

MISS ZAKHAROVA: God in Heaven! How– however do you do that?

MRS. HAWKING: A trick of the trade. I had to find you, and I did not wish to be seen.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: What is it?

(She notices MRS. HAWKING's intense scrutiny.)

MISS ZAKHAROVA: Why do you look at me?

MRS. HAWKING: How long have they been like that?

MISS ZAKHAROVA: What?

MRS. HAWKING: Your ankles.

(MISS ZAKHAROVA stiffens.)

MRS. HAWKING: The laudanum concealed the extent of it when you visited me before. But I know those ginger steps to protect against the pain.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: I am only– sore from rehearsal!

MRS. HAWKING: It is more than that. A prima ballerina lives on her ankles, and yours are crumbling beneath you. They will only grow worse with time.

(Pause.)

MRS. HAWKING: You're on your on your way out, Miss Zakharova.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: Please. You mustn't tell anyone.

MRS. HAWKING: This changes things.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: It changes nothing of this!

MRS. HAWKING: If your position is no longer secure, then you have reason to act against the hierarchy of the company.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: I would never! The company is my life!

MRS. HAWKING: And that life is about to end.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: I have done nothing but the dance since I was a girl of six! I have sacrificed so much. All I had to my name was my career and Alexei, and now Alexei is dead. Can you not understand?

(Pause.)

MISS ZAKHAROVA: How could you? Your vessel has never betrayed you.

MRS. HAWKING: Miss Zakharova–

MISS ZAKHAROVA: Look at you! To be able to climb as you do like a cat in a tree! Might I be so impertinent as to ask madam's age?

(Pause.)

MRS. HAWKING: Forty-three.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: Forty-three. I shall have fortune to walk so long. I would do murder for the clean lines of your legs.

MRS. HAWKING: Nonsense.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: Any dancer would.

(Pause.)

MISS ZAKHAROVA: The ballet is my one calling. And in perfecting it, I have ruined myself for it.

MRS. HAWKING: You concealed it.

MISS ZAKHAROVA: So that I might have it just a few moments longer! They will replace me in a breath. In my place, what would you have done?

MRS. HAWKING: That's the trouble. I might have done anything.

8/12/14

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The problem of Hawking family resemblance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mrs. Hawking’s strengths and weaknesses as a covert operative

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When devising challenges for my heroes to face, I like to choose those that will interact interestingly with the characters’ strengths and weaknesses. I want to display the things they’re good at to make for cool, clever moments, and challenge the things they’re bad at so as to maximize the drama. Mrs. Hawking in particular is an interesting combination of remarkable talents and glaring flaws that I want to affect the way she maneuvers in the stories.

As I see it, Mrs. Hawking’s strengths tend to fall into these general categories.

Combat. She is a truly dangerous warrior when it comes down to it. She is trained in a number of martial arts styles, mostly Asian ones, learned during her time living in the colonies. Her preferred weapon is the knife, both as a melee and a thrown weapon. She is extremely strong for her size, about five-foot-two in height and a hundred and fifteen pounds of pure lean, ropy muscle. Her pain tolerance is high, but because she is small she relies very much on speed and agility and her ability to dodge blows.

Infiltration. She is an experienced cat burglar and second story woman. She has been a skilled climber with excellent balance since she was a child. She is flexible in the extreme and can fit through very tiny spaces. She can pick locks and even pockets. She know how to remain completely silent and out of sight. This is perhaps her most honed and elevated skill set; there are more dangerous fighters or more astute detectives, but her stealth abilities are second to none.

Detection. Her keen senses and extreme intelligence have lent themselves well to developing an eye toward evaluating evidence and determining implications. While not on the level of a Sherlock Holmes, she is skilled at noticing small relevant details that may provide clues. When her attention is focused, she at times can absorb memories eidetically.

Tactics. Mrs. Hawking is skilled at masterminding plots to tackle problems. Her keenly analytical mind excels at evaluating challenges and devising creative, unexpected solutions to solve them. She makes a point of always attempting to think several moves ahead. She knows how to evaluate risk, utilize the circumstances and setting around her, and see her plans through to execution.

So she is a warrior, a spy, a detective, and a tactician. But she is not omnicompetent, and those gaps in her expertise are important, as they provide her with challenges and necessitate the help of the members of her team.

And so, her weaknesses.

Deception. Mrs. Hawking is not an actor. While capable of telling lies coolly and concealing truths, she cannot put on any façade more complicated than simply blanking her true feelings. She has no ability to chatter with or charm anyone. As Bare Bones actor Brad Smith once said, “She has no Bruce Wayne.” She can hold her tongue and project neutrality, but she cannot pretend that she is any person other than who she is.

Reading others. She often has difficulty evaluating people’s feelings and motives because she does not always relate to them. Her personal standards and judgmental harshness often make her less empathetic. It also leads to incorrect assessments of situations, which in turn can lead her to making the wrong move in response.

Leadership. She has become so accustomed to working alone that she is not good at acting as a leader and manager of other people. She has little idea how to teach or inspire those who look to her for guidance. This also means she doesn’t always know how to utilize the talents of her team members to maximum effect. Her issues trusting others also mean that she has difficulty relying on anyone other than herself.

Pride. Her personal preferences and baggage affect her work more than she thinks. She often chooses the path that she finds most comfortable to her preferences or vanity rather than truly the most efficient or sensible one. She would rather take an elaborate covert action if it means she can avoid talking to people, she makes choices to validate her worldview, and she dislikes admitting that someone else might know how to handle something better than she does.

I think those things make for an interesting combination. Those are the major things she uses or deals with in her work, but there’s a handful of smaller details as well. Among the miscellany:

In the manner of many highly dynamic and productive people, she rarely requires more than five hours of sleep a night.

She speaks a smattering of a number of different languages, but isn’t fluent in any of them.

She studied ballet seriously in her youth. She is partially self-taught, only intermittently tutored by anyone knowledgeable, and her style displayed some talent and a wild enthusiasm but a slight lack of precision. She has not attempted any ballet in many years.

She is very experienced in needlepoint and embroidery. Though she takes no enjoyment from it, she was obliged to spend a great deal of time on it in her youth, and practices it when working out a knotty thought problem because it helps her think.

Next I’ll have to break down Mary and Nathaniel in the same way. :-)

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Meet Elizabeth Hunter, voice of Victoria Hawking in Bare Bones!

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Categories: character, performance, vivat regina, Tags: , , ,

Meet Elizabeth Hunter, the voice of Victoria Hawking in our upcoming staged reading of Vivat Regina with Bare Bones!

Hear Elizabeth’s perspective on portraying the complicated, maddening, and hopefully fascinating lead of our story.

Vivat Regina will be read at 8PM on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 at Unity Somerville on 6 William Street, Somerville, MA, courtesy of Theatre@First.

And be sure to like us on Facebook!

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“The Cuff” – scribblings on the end of Mrs. Hawking’s mourning period

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So I’ve been working to figure out the Mrs. Hawking timeline to nail down when each story needs to happen. The main things to work around are that the first story takes place in 1880, to happen in proper proximity to the Indian Rebellion and the Battle of Kandahar, and I want the sixth story to have Mrs. Hawking taking on Jack the Ripper, which would happen in 1888. Six pieces need to be spread across that span, with an amount of time between them that is believable. I’ve decided that it makes more sense to place Base Instruments in 1883 rather than 1882, which is what I had originally been using for all other pieces of it written for this 31P31D, so that the second trilogy can be in 1885, 1886, and 1888, making no gap longer than two years.

If it’s happening in 1883, then, it occurred to me that means that Mrs. Hawking will be almost out of mourning for her late husband the Colonel. Mourning for widows was very regimented in Victorian England, so even if it didn’t match her own feelings or preferences, she would have to observe the etiquette so as not to attract unwanted attention and criticism. I don’t know if this is an especially useful scene to include in Base Instruments, but it’s an interesting thing to address.

The Cuff
by Phoebe Roberts

VICTORIA HAWKING, lady’s society avenger
MARY STONE, her housemaid and assistant

London, England, 1883
~~~

(MRS. HAWKING dresses to go out in public. She regards herself in the mirror. MARY neatens the vanity table.)

MRS. HAWKING: Two months now.

MARY: Two months of what?

MRS. HAWKING: Two months until I’m out of mourning.

MARY: Oh, my. I’d quite forgotten.

(She goes to the wardrobe and begins looking through the dresses.)

MARY: I haven’t looked at your old things since I came. I think it should all still fit.

MRS. HAWKING: I don’t much care.

MARY: Well, I should think it would be easier than having to shop.

MRS. HAWKING: I’ve no wish to return to colors. It isn’t as if I can dress how I like anyhow.

MARY: Well. If you kept to blacks, no one would think anything of it.

MRS. HAWKING: Mm.

(She holds up her right hand to look at her wedding ring.)

MRS. HAWKING: I wouldn’t mind dispensing with this, though.

MARY: Oh. I’m… not sure that’s done.

MRS. HAWKING: No. It is not. If you’re shackled to a man, you’re at least rid of him when he dies. But you remain in the cuff until you replace it with some living fellow’s.

(Pause.)

MRS. HAWKING: I had thought to bury the Colonel with his. But Nathaniel saved it, and gave it to me. He thought at the time I might like to have it.

MARY: Did you keep it?

MRS. HAWKING: It’s in a snuffbox in his dressing room. What else could I do? Like this, certain parties would object to anything less.

MARY: It’s a small thing, at least.

MRS. HAWKING: It keeps me beneath notice.

(MARY comes close to look at MRS. HAWKING’s ring.)

MARY: It’s beautiful.

MRS. HAWKING: India ruby. He was so proud.

8/21/14

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Dinner
by Phoebe Roberts

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

London, England, 1883
~~~

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

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

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

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

(Pause.)

NATHANIEL: Are you pleased?

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

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

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

MRS. HAWKING: What do you want?

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

MRS. HAWKING: Out with it.

(NATHANIEL takes a deep breath.)

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

(She turns to walk away.)

NATHANIEL Oh, come on, Aunt Victoria!

MRS. HAWKING: Go chase yourself.

NATHANIEL: It’s only just an evening!

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

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

MRS. HAWKING: To what end?

NATHANIEL: My occasional peace of mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NATHANIEL: Clara wants you to be there.

MRS. HAWKING: No, she doesn’t.

NATHANIEL: The children never see you!

MRS. HAWKING: By design, Nathaniel.

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

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

NATHANIEL: Because I want them to know you.

MRS. HAWKING: Whatever for?

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

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

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

MRS. HAWKING: Ha!

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

(Pause.)

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

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

(NATHANIEL laughs.)

NATHANIEL: I’ve been learning from the best.

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

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

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

NATHANIEL: Imagine what might come of that.

8/16/14

by

The two Victorias

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Categories: character, influences, vivat regina, Tags: , ,

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In choosing to name my hero Victoria in this setting, I cannot help but invite comparison to the most famous Victoria in history, the queen who gave her name to the period. Indeed, I briefly considered titling the second story “Victoria Regina” instead of the more generic “Vivat Regina,” to hammer the parallel home. The first explicit reference I make to this comparison is the conversation in act 1 scene 5 of Vivat Regina. Mary makes the assumption I imagine that many people would make, that Mrs. Hawking would approve of a willful, prominent female leader who wielded so much personal authority. But the queen, despite her own place, was not a supporter of women in public positions, and in fact found the growing feminist movement to be godless and unseemly. She promulgated a social order and a standard of morality that reinforced many of the structures Mrs. Hawking is struggling to tear down, which gives our hero a particular resentment for having been her namesake.

My thinking on her is very influenced by an excellent documentary called Queen Victoria’s Children, which also gave me the idea for who might bring the problem in Vivat Regina. The documentary characterizes the queen as a strong, imperious personality, but also thrown by whims and rages and compelled to regard everything around her as a prop to her own existence. I plan to use this image of her if I ever actually depict her onstage in the story. At the moment I have no plans, but I have established that she and Mrs. Hawking have encountered one another in the past. I’m sure they owe each other favors, in fact, or at least have each other in some sort of Mexican standoff. I’ve not exactly decided what their history is, but I am certain it resulted in an uneasy coexistence where they do not work together, but occasionally find they must work around each other. I’ll have to figure out exactly how that works if I ever write them actually sharing a scene together.

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