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.
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.