Theater is an interesting, possibly unique art form in that because you produce it live, every time you mount a new production you have the option to change things about it. You can use new actors, new costumes, new blocking, new interpretation of the characters, all of which can make the end product feel like a different story. I tend to encourage people, especially when they’re putting on classic plays that people have seen many times, to put a new and different spin on things to excite the audience. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing yet another Hamlet, Earnest, or Streetcar when we’ve seen it a hundred times?
It makes an interesting question while putting together this next production of Mrs. Hawking. This is a new play that I’m trying to get out in the public conscious, rather than a well-known classic. I’m still working to create an image of what the story and characters are in people’s minds. That means I’m inclined to portray it according to the vision of it I’m hoping to establish. I’m not sure it’s ready to dilute its identity while still in its infancy out in the world.
However, the circumstances of this production are a bit different than the original. We have about half the cast played by new actors, who will necessarily have different capabilities, weaknesses, and affects. In some cases it will be necessary to amend things for that, and it only makes sense to take advantage of different talents. For example, Circe Rowan, our Mary this time around, has a remarkable knowledge and facility for accents, and her ability makes it possible to give Mary a very distinct and accurate working-class lilt.
Of course, when something needs to change, because it’s my play, I have the right to change anything I need to about it in order to make it work. As written, Sir Walter Grainger has a Yorkshire brogue, specified by the words he uses that are particular to that dialect. However, this time around our Sir Walter is played by Jordan Greeley, and he may feel like he can do a better job with a different accent. In that case, maybe it makes sense to change the script to suit that. As long as the spirit of the piece is captured— that he has a particular country accent, and Mrs. Hawking can determine it by his linguistic quirks —it doesn’t really matter what the particulars are. Flexibility may serve the performance best, and it’s one of the advantages of doing living theater.
We’ll be feeling out what the best choices are as we go. Of course the biggest priority is making sure we make the best production we can. A second run is a chance to bring things to an even higher level of polish, and maybe even correct some mistakes along the way.
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.