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Accomplishment chart, 5/26 – 6/1

Writing

- plotting for Gilded Cages with Bernie
- submitted 1 written pitch for Hood pilot
- outlining for Gilded Cages
- 1 journal entry

Theater
- helped with 3 days of tech for Balticon 51
- had 1 rehearsal for Murders at the Rue Morgue with PMRP
- had 1 foley development session for Murders at the Rue Morgue with PMRP

Website
- made gallery of photos from Act I of Vivat Regina at WCSF ’17 by John Benfield

Physical
- 2 one-mile runs
- 2 fighter abs routine
- 1 two-mile runs
- walked 10,000+ steps 5 days

Activism
- contacted my reps 4 days

Media
- listened to episode 111 of Tom and Lorenzo’s Pop Style Opinionfest

Cooking
- made green salad with peppers and cucumber
- made baked breaded cod with green salad with peppers and cucumber
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I got good feedback from my entry of my TV pilot Hood into this year's BlueCat Screenwriting Competition! It was the best kind, because the good stuff was very complimentary, and the critiques were both minor and actually insightful and useful, worth incorporating into an edit of the piece.

My report from my reader:

"What did you like about this script?

This was an extremely original take on the familiar Robin Hood tale. Updating it and setting it up as a corporate thriller made it different and exciting. There was almost non-stop action, though not only of the explosive kind. I particularly liked the elevator scene.

We saw a lot of backstory and character development in just this one episode. Plus, a lot of things were set in motion. Who is attacking Locksley Materials? Why don’t John and his mother want authorities snooping around? How will Robin get his reputation back and avoid the authorities? The pilot has a lot of momentum.

I also loved the characters and thought it was wise to update them as well… like turning Will Scarlet into female hacker Scarlet or making “Maid” Marian Latina. They were very believable and consistent.

You also did a good job of revealing things in a timely manner, letting the mystery unfold organically. Your dialogue was generally great and you wove your exposition into the story well, like when Marian expresses doubts about Robin by telling a story from their college days together on page 35.

I would love to see more of this show, since there are many tantalizing plot threads left up in the air.

What do you think needs work?

There were a few minor things that could be clarified to make this script even better. For example, I know Robin was desperate but he really thought that going off a bridge would be preferable to getting arrested? Maybe he’s not in the best state of mind, but I was surprised he chose to do that. Now, if someone drove him off the road, I could believe it a bit more.

Also, while Scarlet and Marian were wonderful characters, it might help to emphasize why they want to help Robin find the truth. It’s mentioned a few times that Robin helped Scarlet get to where she is, but it’s still a huge leap for her to risk her livelihood for him. Their banter does show that they’re friends, but are they so close she’d take a chance getting fired or arrested? Likewise, Marian seems to have doubts about Robin but is also suspicious that something else is going on. Her thirst for the truth needs to be so powerful that it overcomes her doubts about Robin and her worries for her job. I know her mom seemed to be affected so maybe playing that up a little would further show the audience why she’s willing to risk the career she worked so hard for."

It would really make me happy if I placed in this. Adonis made it into the top ten percent of BlueCat back in 2015, and it's a reputable contest. It's a nice thing to be able to attach to a project when you're pitching it, so it would be great if Hood could progress.
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New gallery of show images on Mrshawking.com!

"Vivat Regina at WCSF '17 - Act I"

Photography by John Benfield
Costume design by Jennifer Giorno
Set design by Bernie Gabin
Production design by Phoebe Roberts
 


Featuring Cari Keebaugh as Mrs. Hawking, Circe Rowan as Mary, Christian Krenek as Nathaniel, Remony Perlman as Mrs. Braun, and Jackie Freyman as Clara.

Check out the images from Vivat Regina, Act I here!
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Accomplishment chart, 5/19 – 5/25

Writing

- submitted 1 written pitch for Hood pilot
- plotting for Mrs. Hawking 4
- cutting down for Murders in the Rue Morgue with PMRP
- 5 journal entries

Theater
- made rehearsal schedule for Murders at the Rue Morgue with PMRP
- had read through for Murders at the Rue Morgue with PMRP

Costuming
- practiced gender-swapped Crow makeup, version 2

Physical
- 2 one-mile runs
- 1 fighter abs routine
- 2 two-mile runs
- walked 10,000+ steps 2 days

Media
- watched season 3 of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
- listened to episode 110 of Tom and Lorenzo’s Pop Style Opinionfest

Cooking
- made baked chicken breast with sautéed peppers and onions
- made broiled chicken with mashed sweet potatoes and avocado
- made pad Thai with broiled steak
- made roast cauliflower with freekah salad and tahini sauce
- made tomato mozzarella paninis with arugula zucchini salad
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Here continues my musing on some tropes that frequently recur in my writing! Specifically, analyzing my tendency to use what I refer to as "Soft Masc" protagonists-- "a male character with a presentation that is fairly normatively masculine, but with a preponderance of personal qualities that were traditionally coded as feminine" --and how that manifests.

Continues from part 1 and part 2.

Romantic relationships:

Nathaniel is married to Clara, to whom he is utterly devoted. They are functional friends, lovers, and partners, with perhaps a more equitable relationship than other couples of his time. He actually is inclined to let her run the show, as the more strident personality, though her power is unofficial and based off of his feelings for her. Notably, she is three years older than him.

Aidan loves Diana, despite their meeting under the problematic mistress-slave dynamic. She is very much the dominant partner with all the power in the relationship, an issue they have to navigate. In fact, their relationship is specifically a flipping of the expected gender roles of the hetero dynamic, where he takes on the traditionally feminine role and she the masculine one. She is ten years older than him.

Tom falls for Alice, a girl he meets in the course of unraveling a mystery they’re both connected to. He is off a lower social class than she is, which makes forming a relationship difficult, and he feels he has no right to presume to her affections. He is a few years older than her.

Robin I plan to eventually get together with Marian, the canonical love interest for the legendary character. In his past, he dates and sleeps around a great deal, often choosing so-called “high value” partners such as models and famous people, as an outward symbol of status. He’s hooked up with other men, though probably never dated one more than extremely casually. Before finally connecting him with Marian, I would have him get together with other characters in his typical way before settling the two of them together. The idea of him committing to, and growing in order to deserve, a serious romantic relationship would be part of his character journey.

Justin is a ladies’ man in a similar vein to Robin. A confirmed bachelor, he is committed to having fun above all else and will likely never settle down. He presents himself honestly and is happy to make casual connections but is not out to deceive, hurt, or use anyone. He also has a handful of experiences with men in his past, mostly from his days at Harrow and a few after.

Nathaniel is the most normatively masculine, followed by Tom. Aidan is certainly the least.

Relationship with female superiors:

Being able to defer to women is a major feature I include in portrayals of this kind of man.

Both Tom and Nathaniel have female mentor figures. Tom learned his craft from his mother, and her part in the mystery he stumbles upon drives him to investigate it. Nathaniel started out modeling himself on the Colonel, a very traditionally masculine man, but as the Hawking stories go on, he comes to focus more on learning from, and winning the approval of, his aunt instead. He listens to her expertise, follows her orders, and respects her authority.

Though not a mentor per se, Aidan follows and defers on most matters to his sister Morna. He acknowledges she is the superior intellect and is inclined to trust her judgment above his own. He treats her as if she had some sort of seniority, even though he is in fact four years older than her. Also in living as a slave in a matriarchy, he is accustomed to most women having some real power over him.

Robin has no “senior” woman in his life whom he is emulating or deferring to. He is again the most normatively masculine of my male protagonists.

The only way this is relevant for Justin is that he will confess to being intimidated by Mrs. Hawking. If nothing else, he respects her enough to fear her.

Relationships with female peers:

Strongly valuing female friendship and connection and respecting the strength and expertise of women is another intrinsic quality of this kind of male character.

Nathaniel’s friendship with Mary is one of the most important connections of his life. He does due to socialization sometimes slip back into patriarchal assumptions, but he is working to unlearn this. He does seriously respect her abilities and is interested in her as a person.

Similarly, Aidan’s closest relationship, perhaps even more so than the one with Diana, is with his sister Morna. Their shared experience of conquest and slavery has unbreakably bonded them, and he believes in her brilliance and capability above all else.

Tom has spent his life working in a female-dominated industry and it taught him enormous respect for women. One of his special skills is his ability to listen to and understand the world of women in a way other men of his time and place do not, making him trustworthy to them.

Robin, for all the effort he puts into chasing them down as sexual partners, also has real female friendships. His best friend is Scarlet, whom he respects enormously as an intellect, enough that he has given her enormous professional opportunities. He does, however, impose on her to keep his grandiose promises and get him out of trouble, but I tend to this is more about his own self-centeredness than because she is a woman.
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Here continues my musing on some tropes that frequently recur in my writing! Specifically, analyzing my tendency to use what I refer to as "Soft Masc" protagonists-- "a male character with a presentation that is fairly normatively masculine, but with a preponderance of personal qualities that were traditionally coded as feminine" --and how that manifests.

Continues from part 1.

Skills and Abilities:

The key factor of how I couch the skills of these characters is that they possess a certain charisma— the ability to make people like, respond to, and sympathize with them is extremely important to how they pursue their goals. Of course this is not necessarily a gendered thing, but because it lends them to having the managing of relationships at their forefront, they often take the feminine caretaker, peacemaker, or emotional support roles.

Nathaniel’s skills are primarily interpersonal— talking, convincing, wheedling, distracting, ingratiating, lying, peacemaking. He serves as both the face and the glue of his superhero team, a role which is usually filled by a female character. He is specifically not very good at martial stuff, in defiance of masculine expectation. His charisma is from sparkling wit, friendly bearing, and a puppy-like effort to please.

Aidan’s skills are presented dichotomously. On one hand, he is honed into a seriously dangerous warrior and becomes quite good at it, which is very masculine coded. On the other hand, he serves as the inspirational figurehead of the rebellion due to his ability to court people projecting their dreams onto him, which is more feminine. His charisma lies in his unique dichotomies of strength and fragileness, power and softness, that make people fall in love with him.

Tom Barrows is also a strongly interpersonal operator, using his ability to read others and connect with them in order to make his way. Again there is some personal charisma at play, but it is lower key than Nathaniel’s Life of the Party type or Aidan’s Wounded Beauty. Not to mention the fact that he is an extremely skilled dressmaker.

Robin somewhat relies on interpersonal skills to maneuver, but more because HE IS A CHARISMA MACHINE LIKE A ROCK STAR. He is presented as fit and dexterous, with martial hobbies, and an aptitude for physicality. He is almost as physical a character as Aidan is, though not as great a warrior. Simultaneously, his privilege has insulated him from having to learn many hard skills, and attention is drawn to just how useless he is in many ways.

Justin is somewhere between Nathaniel and Robin. He has his brother’s Life of the Party presence with Robin’s showier, more arrogant edge. His skill set is similar to Nathaniel’s—and though he is not quite as empathetic, he still has something of his brother’s ability to pick up on the state of those around him.

Values:

Nathaniel’s value shift is a major part of his journey as a character. He begins with very expected masculine values for a Victorian man— being the head of a family, martial strength, responsibility for the lives of others, admiring soldiers and the empire, the established social order. But while he maintains some of those, much of his story is about coming to deconstruct the problems of patriarchy and shift his values so that he stops being complicit.

Aidan is quiet and wounded, with a longing for a peace he’s never known. He is in something of a Maslow’s crisis for most of the story, where the needs to survive, heal, and protect others consume him to the point where there is no time for him to really discover who he is in the absence of struggle and trauma. He dislikes the attention and spotlight his position as figurehead of a rebellion has brought him, not to mention the necessity to make himself into a warrior and inflict violence. But likely he would prefer some quiet, creative pursuit, like baking or poetry, far out of the public eye, had the circumstances of his life been kinder.

The chief fascination and calling of Tom’s life is the making of beautiful clothes, dresses in particular. His experience with and connection to feminine circles where there are not often a lot of other men have given him a particular appreciation for the wisdom of women. Otherwise his values are fairly normatively masculine, particularly courage, hard work, and cleverness.

Robin is afflicted with some level of toxic masculinity. He cares about showing off, asserting his dominance and superiority over other guys, getting laid, and indulging in his entitlements. Getting over it is his major character journey.

Justin’s a bit of a wildcard. I actually conceive of him as having a slightly more enlightened attitude toward Victorian social mores than some men of his time. For all that he’s a ladies’ man, he never deceives, manipulates, coerces, or uses, nor does he really look down on any women who are interested in a fling. But he does have a pretty hefty dose of Victorian patriarchy, and assumes he knows better than most other people, partially because of his status in the world.

Sexuality:

Nathaniel, Aidan, and Tom are all straight. Robin and Justin aren’t quite.

Aidan’s sexuality is complicated by years of rape and abuse by women. He experiences the trepidation around sex and intimacy which we most often see in women who are survivors. He is sexually drawn to women, but has to first disentangle the trauma from his sense of his own sexuality. Because of the matriarchal culture of his world, his socially expected role is that of the receptive rather than the aggressive partner, which in the real world is often assigned to women.

Nathaniel’s romantic and sexual history is fairly standard for a man of his time, place, and station. He is straight, fell in love with a woman he was attracted to, has been happily married to her for several years, and has two children with her. He might very well have been a virgin when he got married due to his particular value set, and he is to this day a little bit of a prude for similar reasons. Other than having perhaps an unusually equal partnership for their setting, his romantic life and history are totally normal and socially sanctioned for a man like him.

Tom Barrows is also pretty standard and straightforward. He is not terribly romantically experienced but it is attributed to his workaholic tendencies leaving no time for relationships. The way he falls for Alice is a bit naïve and boyish due to this inexperience.

Robin I picture as a Kinsey 1 or 2— mostly attracted to women, but drawn to the occasional man as well, with sexual experience of both in his background. Again this is something he shares with my conception of Justin Hawking. These are the two of my characters for whom “playboy” is the most intrinsic part of their identities, so I find it interesting that I found myself disinclined to make either of them as straight as might be expected. I think of hypersexuality as a highly masculine-coded trait, so this mitigates it a bit. And I think it adds an unexpected kind of sexiness on top of the other qualities that make them attractive. This may simply be my own taste.

For once, Robin is the least normatively masculine. I would say Nathaniel here is probably the most.

I notice that I tend to use sexuality as almost a “balancing” factor. If my hero has many non-traditionally masculine qualities, I use straightness as a way to bring some presence of traditional masculinity in the character. If the character is more normatively masculine overall, I often push them towards the other end of the Kinsey scale in order to keep them from being too traditional.

Also, if I’m honest, “hot butch guy who’s like 85% straight” is a type of mine.

To be concluded in part 3!
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Had a second crack at my Crow makeup! I think I made a real stride forward.

IMG_3628


This time I remembered to prime my skin first, the way I did for my Death makeup, and it made a big difference. I used Nivea Men's Post-Shave Balm, which is a great cheap primer for full-face makeup. I also made more of an effort to "pat" the greasepaint over my skin with the sponge rather than drag it. These combined to make a much more even white expanse, unlike the streaky, uneven version from last time.

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It had the effect of being kind of aging, emphasizing my eye bags, rather than the smooth, less patchy result I got this time. I also took the picture in better natural lighting this time, which likely helped.

That was the biggest difference. But I also used better products this time. I bought black and white eyeshadow, as well as an actual black lipstick. They're just Nyx brand, not super high quality, but okay. I attempted to highlight with the white, but it didn't make much difference, so I then switched to trying to use it as powder to set the greasepaint. I also contoured with a much lighter hand, and even though it doesn't blend with the greasepaint very well, I think I achieved more of a carving effect, rather than just making dark places on my white mask.

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The last thing I did was take a little more care about my eyeshadow. I filled in the entire expanse from my lid to my brow bone-- which is not much, since I have Cara Delevigne-style heavy, low-set eyebrows --but with a careful angle from corner of my eye to end of my brow. I also didn't go too close to the insides of my eye, or too far below it, which I think makes things look neater and brighter.

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It's certainly not perfect. My eye and mouth spikes are still a little sloppy and not as opaque as I'd like. I should probably just use liquid eyeliner for that rather than pencil. I also notice there's a spot in my hairline that's still noticeably pink. And I'm just so damn sloppy when it comes to applying lip color. But overall, I'm really happy with this improvement. Not only do I think it looks closer to the Brandon Lee original, I think I look prettier in it. Never going to get mad at that!

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Here begins my musing on some tropes that frequently recur in my writing!

The trope that has become increasingly important to my work in recent times is what I’ll call the Soft Masc— a male character with a presentation that is fairly normatively masculine, but with a preponderance of personal qualities that were traditionally coded as feminine. Most of the important men I write these days are some variation on this, as I find myself particularly interested in that particular personality type.

The two foremost examples I’ve got are my two most prominent male leads, Nathaniel from Mrs. Hawking and Aidan from Adonis. Nathaniel is from a Victorian superhero story, while Aidan is from an alternate history matriarchal Ancient Roman epic. Tom, the lead of my 1930s mystery The Tailor at Loring’s End, also fits that to some extent. In contrast, another prominent male character I’ve made recently is Robin from my modern-day techno-thriller interpretation of Robin Hood. I’ve also written Justin Hawking recently, Nathaniel’s brother, though he’s not a protagonist.

Here is an analysis of how these characters either fit or subvert this model of Soft Masc character.

Personality:

A key component of when I write this sort of character is that they are almost always sensitive and in touch with their feelings.

Nathaniel is considered to be highly emotional for a man of his time and place. Though not free of socialization to stay controlled and to not discuss uncomfortable things, he has strong feelings that he talks about more often than is typical. He is deeply sensitive to the moods of the people around him, even if he can’t fathom the cause. He suffers greatly when the people he cares about are in conflict, particularly when they’re angry at him, and feels strong compulsion to manage their feelings. Above all else, he seeks approval, particularly from those he worries he hasn’t gotten it from. He is known to cry under great emotional duress. His interpersonal abilities are paramount, and he places a lot of stock in his relationships.

One of Aidan’s key traits is his emotional vulnerability. He is in a great deal of emotional pain due to years of assault, and is written to be cast not just in the manner of a traditionally feminine emotional landscape, but as a long term sexual assault survivor who is trying to work through his trauma. He also is full of feelings and sensitive, but often lacks the language, or opportunity, to talk about what he’s going through. He is used to repressing reactions of out necessity for safety and coping, but has no personal reservations about showing his vulnerability.

Tom’s sensitivity is treated as his superpower. His ability to read people and detect what is going on with them below the surface is his chief skill in navigating interpersonal relationships, making friendships, allies, and trust bonds, and in gathering the information he needs to solve the mystery in front of him. Like Nathaniel, he has strong interpersonal skills.

By contrast, Robin is Tony Stark, basically. Talented, exceptional, self-absorbed, arrogant, provocative, attention-seeking, addiction-prone. Only difference is he lacked any of Tony’s inner self-loathing until life gave him a good smack down. He is not good at noticing or paying attention to the feelings of others and has to challenge himself to develop in that way.

Justin is along a similar vein to Robin, except lower key and less toxic about it, without the addictive personality.

Appearance:

Nathaniel is considered attractive and good-looking, in a normatively masculine way. He is somewhat personally vain and has a strong interest in fashion, a feminine-coded quality, but to the effect of a very attractive and normatively masculine presentation.

Aidan is in fact a PARAGON of masculine beauty. (I like my pretty boys, and that’s the kind of pretty I like.) He is treated as an object of value in the manner exceptionally beautiful women are in the real world. But for all that Aidan’s beauty is extreme and in high focus, as is more typical of feminine beauty, it is not something that’s important to him personally, and he does nothing to cause or maintain it, as is often typical of men.

Tom Barrows from The Tailor at Loring’s End is nice-looking if nothing particularly out of the ordinary, but knows how to dress to absolute best advantage— indeed, his profession and the great interest of his life is the making of beautiful clothes, for men and for women.

Robin Locksley from Hood is hot, fashionable, and extremely vain— but again, his appearance is fairly normatively masculine. Justin Hawking is the same.

They all have traditionally masculine gender presentations, as that is my personal aesthetic preference, though body types vary. In my imagination, Nathaniel is tall and lean. Aidan looks just like Captain America. Tom is fit and cute but unimposing. Robin is a hot douchebag who works on his body. Justin is a stockier version of Nathaniel.

To be continued!
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As I posted, I have accomplished the most recent performances of Mrs. Hawking. The quality of the productions, plus the high attendance and overwhelming positive response, pleased me enormously. In an additional herculean effort, I've also finished my grading and submitted grades for the end of the semester. That means that I finally have a significantly lighter period ahead of me, and I mean to keep it that way. I need some downtime after all that intensity and stress.

Predictably, in this the first week since finishing, I have gotten sick. The cold Bernie brought with him when he came down for the show, and the migraine I gave myself with an excess of caffeine. Both of those I don't tend to get more than once a year, and I've noticed I tend to be ill in my off-time, rather than when I've got stuff to work on. I commented to Bernie that maybe it's the adrenaline and force of will keeping it off until I can afford to lie flat on my back and get some rest again. He countered that maybe it only happens after I've thoroughly run myself ragged. Equally possible, I suppose.

But as I said, at least I've got some downtime for now. I can use that to rest and repair-- eat right, sleep enough, and destress. I've got some projects this summer, but much less work, less tight scheduling, and less pressure to be on all the time. I think I'll feel better soon, and for now I'll just be grateful that I didn't get sick until after I finished.
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Accomplishment chart, 5/12 – 5/18

Writing

- finalized performance version of Murders in the Rue Morgue with PMRP
- 1 blog entry for Mrshawking.com
- plotting for Mrs. Hawking 4

Theater
- had performances for Vivat Regina and Base Instruments at WCSF 2017
- tore down and loaded out for Vivat Regina and Base Instruments at WCSF 2017
- held 2 nights of auditions for Murders at the Rue Morgue with PMRP
- cast Murders at the Rue Morgue with PMRP

Costuming
- struck and put away the costumes for Vivat Regina and Base Instruments at WCSF 2017

Teaching
- graded 11 final packets for Intro to Creative Writing class
- graded 25 research papers for Writing and the Literary Arts
- submitted grades for Intro to Creative Writing and Writing and the Literary Arts classes

Physical
- 2 4-hour load out sessions
- 1 2.5-mile run
- walked 10,000+ steps 2 days
- walked 15,000+ steps 1 days

Media
- listened to episode 109 of Tom and Lorenzo’s Pop Style Opinionfest
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New post on Mrshawking.com!

"Watch City Steampunk Festival '17 performances accomplished!"

This past weekend, we successfully completed our performances of Vivat Regina and Base Instruments at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2017!



I am so proud of Team Hawking’s work to bring these shows to life for this event. We played to two full houses that were so packed we were down to standing room only. I can't tell you how lovely and flattering it was to see people willing to stand in the back for the entirety of the shows just to get the chance to see them. And these were very good performances; the cast knocked both pieces out of the park, with high energy and extreme precision, bringing the excitement and fascination to the onlookers.



Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!
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Accomplishment chart, 5/5 – 5/11

Writing

- 1 blog entry for Mrshawking.com
- plotting for Mrs. Hawking 4

Theater
- had 5 tech week rehearsals for Vivat Regina and Base Instruments at WCSF 2017
- set up lighting, sound system, and wings with Bernie for Vivat Regina and Base Instruments at WCSF 2017
- made programs for Vivat Regina and Base Instruments at WCSF 2017

Costuming
- organized the costumes with inwaterwrit for Vivat Regina and Base Instruments at WCSF 2017

Teaching
- graded 3 #6 creative assignments for Intro to Creative Writing class
- made lectures with notes for week 8 of online Intro to Creative Writing class
- finalized week 8 class module for online Intro to Creative Writing class
- wrote and administered final exam for Writing and the Literary Arts class
- graded 10 #7 creative assignments for Intro to Creative Writing class
- graded 25 final exams for Writing and the Literary Arts

Activism
- contacted my reps 3 days

Physical
- carried set pieces for 5 rehearsals
- walked 10,000+ steps 3 days
- walked 15,000+ steps 2 days

Media
- watched The Craft film
- listened to episode 108 of Tom and Lorenzo’s Pop Style Opinionfest
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Our tech week begins today, meaning we are in our final days before Vivat Regina and Base Instruments are performed at the Watch City Steampunk Festival!



The MRS. HAWKING series, featuring the continuing adventures of a lady Sherlock Holmes who's a lot more like Batman.

VIVAT REGINA
By Phoebe Roberts

Saturday, May 13th
2pm at 274 Moody Street in Waltham, MA


London, 1881— The continuing story of the lady’s champion of London! Mrs. Hawking is stern in training her new assistant, housemaid Mary Stone, in the art of society avenging. But when a mysterious lady under a false name brings them an impossible mission, our heroines must join all their varied strengths together to see justice done.

and

BASE INSTRUMENTS
By Phoebe Roberts

Saturday, May 13th
6pm at 274 Moody Street in Waltham, MA


London, 1883— Mrs. Hawking returns in a new adventure! When Mrs. Hawking is injured in the line of duty, the press for Mary to master the society avenging becomes all the more urgent as a Mariinsky dancer approaches them to solve the murder of the prima ballerina. Join our team as they seek to reconcile the difficult path of the hero with the unraveling of the mystery and championing for justice.

Admission is FREE


Be sure to come out and join us for our FREE performances in Waltham this Saturday!
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Accomplishment chart, 4/28 – 5/4

Writing

- 1 blog entry for Mrshawking.com
- plotting for Mrs. Hawking 4
- 1 journal entry

Theater
- had 2 full run rehearsals for Vivat Regina and Base Instruments at WCSF 2017

Costuming
- assembled costumes for The Day We Came Home, Primary Spirits, and Once Upon a Time in the West at Festival of the Larps 2017
- arranged costumes for Mrs. Braun and Clara with inwaterwrit for Vivat Regina and Base Instruments at WCSF 2017
- organized the costumes with inwaterwrit for Vivat Regina and Base Instruments at WCSF 2017

Larp/Gaming
- played The Day We Came Home, Primary Spirits, and Once Upon a Time in the West at Festival of the Larps 2017
- ran Silver Lines larp at Festival of the Larps 2017

Teaching
- graded 9 #2 annotations for Intro to Creative Writing class
- graded 8 #6 creative assignments for Intro to Creative Writing class
- made lectures with notes for week 8 of online Intro to Creative Writing class
- finalized week 8 class module for online Intro to Creative Writing class

Activism
- contacted my reps 5 days

Physical
- 1 two-mile runs
- 1 fighter abs routines
- 1 one-mile run
- walked 10,000+ steps 3 days
- walked 15,000+ steps 3 days

Media
- listened to episode 107 of Tom and Lorenzo’s Pop Style Opinionfest
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Festival of the Larps 2017 happened this past weekend, and I wanted to note down a few things.

I very much enjoyed my time there, like I always do. I've never had a bad time at Festival. It's a very special weekend for me, as it's Brandeis's home larp con and I've not only been attending it for over ten years now, I've been involved in its organization for a lot of that time. I really love larping at this event.

But this time around I was so tired that I didn't get quite as much out of it as I usually do. I had periods where I would mentally check out of my games where I was a player just because I was so exhausted. I liked everything I played, but wasn't quite as sharp and on the ball as I usually am. Still, it was all good, and I don't think I ruined anything for not being at my best.

Friday night I played Alleged Entertainment's The Day We Came Home. I generated a handful of character sheets for this game, but I knew little enough (remembered less) that I could play without being spoiled. It's basically examining issues around immigration in a sci fi setting with the format of a political game. Not my usual style of larp, but it's a good example of its genre, and I'm glad I gave it a try. Also Tegan, one of the writers and GMs, totally blew my mind with her advice for how to address missing PCs due to drops: "If you need something from someone who isn't here... get it from someone else." A revolutionary and practical shift in mindset when cast issues arise!

Saturday afternoon I played Primal Spirits, where everyone is the innocent avatars of animal creatures in the early days of the world. I was Rabbit, which pleased me, as I applied a lot of my theory of rabbithood from my favorite novel, Watership Down. All the world was my enemy, and when they caught me, they would kill me-- but first they must catch me. I had a rather primitive sense of justice and had to come to terms with my children's status as ultimate prey animal. Again, my tiredness curtailed my play a little, but in collaboration with Peter Litwack I came up with a pretty clever trick to make myself come out on top in a race with Horse-- the winner would be the fastest to reach an apple, which I buried in the ground at the other end of the track. Because I was the faster digger, I won! Frith, a rabbit trick!

That night I ran the larp version of Silver Lines. I love, love, love that game. It's a very solid mystery, and physicalizing the various in-game locations with props translates it nicely from the tabletop form to the live-action one. I missed having Jenn as my co-GM, like I had at Intercon, but it's manageable with only one person; you just have to play all the NPCs. It really makes me want to write more games in this style, set at other points in the Hawking story timeline.

I did have one problem post-game that I didn't handle well. I had one player who had a stronger than usual emotional reaction to her journey in the game. I should have just shut my dumb mouth and listened, but she kept relating it back to how the game was written. Even though I knew better, I kept trying to interrogate her to see if she had legitimate criticism I needed to incorporate into an edit, but I think it just made her feel judged. I should have just listened and let her express herself. As it was, I felt kind of like a bully.

The last thing I played was supposed to be a cowboy game called Once Upon a Time in the Wild West, a prepackaged game from a professional larprunning company called Questoria. Sadly they had a lot of players not show up, so they had to sub in a short, smaller parlor game in its place. That was actually fine by me, because being so tired, I didn't mind a quicker larp. The new one turned out to be a murder mystery set at a seance, which I enjoyed enormously-- not least because I was the only one who solved it correctly! I love mysteries; I've been studying them and writing them a lot lately, so I'm actually glad the game turned out the way it did.

So yeah, overall, good weekend, though I was sorry my overall dragginess, particularly mentally, made me less sharp than I usually am. Thank you to everyone, particularly con chair Adina Shreiber, for all the hard work to make it happen!
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Accomplishment chart, 4/21 – 4/27

Writing

- 1 blog entry for Mrshawking.com
- edited “No battle plan survives conflict with the enemy: The tension between narrative structure and player autonomy in larp” essay, version 2 for Game Wrap Magazine
- 3 journal entries

Theater
- 1 planning meeting for WCSF 2017
- cast replacement actress for Clara
- had 1 catchup rehearsal for Clara
- organized props for Vivat Regina at WCSF 2017
- chose audition sides for Murders in the Rue Morgue with PMRP
- had 1 full run rehearsal for Vivat Regina at WCSF 2017
- saw Peter Pan audio show with PMRP

Costuming
- gathered long black skirts for Hawking costuming
- practiced gender-swapped Crow makeup, version 1

Larp/Gaming
- prepared Silver Lines to run at Festival of the Larps 2017

Website
- added better Related Post function to blog on Mrshawking.com

Teaching
- graded 12 #4 creative assignments for Intro to Creative Writing class
- graded 15 #1 annotations for Intro to Creative Writing class
- made lectures with notes for week 6 of online Intro to Creative Writing class
- finalized week 6 class module for online Intro to Creative Writing class
- planned lessons for 4/24 and 4/26 for Writing and the Literary Arts class
- graded 9 #5 creative assignments for Intro to Creative Writing class
- graded 2 papers for essay #3 of Writing and the Literary Arts class

Activism
- contacted my reps 5 days
- attended March for Science protest in Cambridge

Physical
- 2 two-mile runs
- 2 fighter abs routines
- 2 one-mile run
- walked 10,000+ steps 5 days

Media
- listened to episode 105 of Tom and Lorenzo’s Pop Style Opinionfest
- watched episode 8 of Feud: Bette and Joan

Cooking
- made sliders with avocado and steamed carrots
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I remember back when, as a child, I had strong impulses to write but not as much practical knowledge or exercise of the craft, I first noted that some people seemed to often come back to the same ideas or even tropes in their stories again and again, particularly as their bodies of work got larger. At the time I was somewhat judgmental of it; why would you repeat yourself like that? Didn't those writers have any new ideas? I felt like I had literally dozens and dozens of story ideas that all felt meaningfully different, so it seemed uncreative to return to concepts you'd explored before in a new piece.

As I became more knowledgeable and experienced, I think I've found the truth, as it often is, to be somewhere in the middle. Yes, often very prolific writers do end up reproducing work they've basically done before and quit creating new characters, new scenarios, or new takes on the ideas they're dealing with, and that can represent a kind of creative death. But that isn't necessarily happening just because you find yourself dealing with the same concepts or themes in more than one piece. You can explore those ideas from different viewpoints, examine them in different ways. By placing similar notions in different contexts, you can see how the different circumstances change things. If done thoughtfully, and if truly taken from different angles, it can make lead to greater depth and complexity in the ideas' expression in your work.

When I came to realize this, and as I started writing more and more, I found myself examining how I dealt with this in my own work. I often invoke this under the conception of the Creator Thumbprint, the TV Tropes notion marking how writers tend to work with the concepts that interest them over and over again in a way that is unique to them. Partially because I'm amused by it, partially because I believe I improve my work by being self-aware and analytical concerning my own habits, and partially because I want to avoid the trap of actually repeating myself. I want to keep track of this so that I ensure actually do have different perspective on the things I examine repeatedly, so each new take actually adds new dimension.

In the days to come I'm going to write entries examining my preferred tropes, the ones that emerge most frequently in my work and the ones I'm currently feeling most interested in. I want to think about how I use them, and what various approaches I've used in order to explore them. And yes, there's more of them than just the Complicated Feelings About Babies One.
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I watched the new Ryan Murphy series, Feud: Bette and Joan, even though I have extremely mixed feelings about his work. I think he's often a capable writer and certainly very creative, but I tend to think he sets things up well and lacks follow-through on the good idea. Also I occasionally find him not to write female characters so much as drag performances, caricatures of women rather than human beings. But Tom and Lorenzo recommended it and they have excellent taste, so I wanted to give it a try.

It's well-made production, focusing on the late-life rivalry between actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, with mostly a solid script and excellent acting performances all around. It's still an odd blend, at TLo pointed out, of camp and pop feminism, as well as kind of padded and stylized to shape the relationship between Bette and Joan in such a way to serve the story. But what I found most fascinating were the ideas behind it. The most interesting foundational notions are two-fold. The first is that it's about the struggles of female aging, how even successful women are in danger of being cast aside when they start to get old. And the second is the framing of the rivalry between the women: that they aggravated each other's insecurities because Joan was cast as a beautiful woman who was never talented enough, and Bette was a talented woman who was never beautiful enough.

If you know even a little bit about me, you can guess that I find that fascinating. Firstly aging is probably my greatest fear for specifically that reason, that the world no longer takes an older woman seriously and views them with varying levels of pity, horror, and contempt. And I also love the examination of the dichotomy of pretty versus talented, particularly how they are constantly pitted against each other for the thing that they each have that the other one lacks. Bette can be the best artist at her craft in the world, but she still has a big gaping lack in the fact that she's not pretty and never has been. And Joan is automatically run down by the stigma that she only got by on her looks, and now that they've faded, she's got nothing. And I really loved the scene where they asked each other what it was like, to be "the [prettiest]/[most talented] girl in the world" and they each said it was the best thing ever, and it was never enough.

That I personally have felt the tension between the two very keenly, that I have to do everything I can to demonstrate the most of both. I often feel plagued that by the notion that even if I do a great job of one, it will get discounted because I haven't done enough to show the other. And then when I split my focus too much, I worry I'm coming off as mediocre in both respects. I know that to a large extent it's just a sick perception, and a target too utterly unrealistic to hit-- I want to be the PRETTIEST, MOST TALENTED GIRL IN THE WORLD apparently! --but that moment where they expressed it was the best thing ever AND STILL you never feel like it's enough was very resonant for me. I don't know if it's a truly accurate representation of Crawford and Davis, but as a conceit for drama, it really impacted me.
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27BBBAFF-B58C-4AE9-A837-B426FD68A21A


For a while now I've had a bee in my bonnet about putting together a costume, maybe even something that would could as a cosplay, for a gender-swapped version of the Crow. Being a good little goth deep in my soul, I've always been a fan of the Brandon Lee movie; I know it's not quite as sacred as others of my stripe and generation often see it, but I think it's good, and I've always liked the look. Though I don't goth it up very often anymore, I still have a fondness for it, and I thought maybe I could do a photoshoot or something with whatever I put together.

While I've got plenty of goth clothes still lying around-- and they still fit, because I'm in EVEN BETTER SHAPE NOW than I was in college, thank you very much --the biggest challenge was what to do about the makeup. So I decided to finally experiment with doing my own translation of the look from the film. Brandon Lee's version looks like this:

IMG_3571


I don't think I want to replicate it exactly. Though back when I was doing my goth makeup, I basically did the plain white face, but I have soft features and now I think the plain white makes me look a little soft and moony. I wanted to contour a little bit, just to keep my cheekbones. I think the angular look suits the character and the style anyway. The trouble, as I discovered when I tried to do it when I dressed as Neil Gaiman's Death, is that it risks falling into corpsepaint territory pretty quick, and I'm not exactly going for the skull look. And I'm not exactly an expert when it comes to contouring even when trying to do it on my actual skin.

First I applied a layer of white greasepaint. Then I took black eyeshadow and tried to carve out my cheekbones, narrow my jawline, take down my forehead, and slim down my nose. I wanted to eliminate any softenness or broadness, as lean and narrow better suits my aesthetic of goth. I'd like to highlight, but I didn't currently have much in the way of product that could look lighter than the white greasepaint. I tried to use pale eyeshadow, but ended up just adding extra swipes of greasepaint between my eyebrows, down my nose, and on top of my cheekbones. Then I blacked out my eyes with shadow, liner, and mascara. I even mascaraed my eyebrows to make them darker. I don't currently have black lipstick, so I just used an eyeliner crayon. The signature lines on his mouth and eyes I struggled with. First I tried the crayon, but it wasn't very precise, so I went over it with a felt-tip eyeliner pen.

Then I parted my hair down the middle and took some pictures. Here are the results:

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It's not bad; it's definitely in the ballpark. It's tough to contour on white face, as every little bit of black out of place shows up. I kept trying to take it down with more greasepaint and then build it back up. Blending was tough, so I'm not totally pleased with it. I also think I suffer from not having the best products. I am most unhappy with the eye and mouth lines. My eyeliner did not make a deeply pigmented black line, so it's smeary rather than sharp like his.

05D69049-9FF7-4EE3-856F-3FF15B851876


I will have to iterate more. First thing I'll do next time is apply more than one layer of greasepaint. I think I can get it more opaque and plain white that way. Also I'll apply the contour more slowly, building up the darkness a little bit at a time. I might be able to make it seem more like shadow rather than just dark swipes across my face. I struggle with that in regular makeup contouring as well.

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I am definitely getting better products as well. I think that will help with the opacity of the lines. I NEED A GODDAMN BLACK LIPSTICK SINCE I DON'T SEEM TO HAVE ONE ANYMORE. And I could use some nice white eyeshadow, maybe to use as highlight. I may want to try at least once to do it without contour and see how it looks. Still afraid of looking like a big bland featureless moon that way, but I used to do it that way when I went goth and liked how it looked then. I don't know if the evolution of makeup has changed my tastes too much, though. We'll have to see.

And now, I'll give you the classic Crow stare:

E3EFF49E-D8F0-4F99-A3B3-EF2F5F3A6302
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New post on Mrshawking.com!

"The Mrs. Hawking Drinking Game"


Oh, look, it's time for the ballroom scene!


When writing a serialized adventure story, you tend to develop some signature features, both of the associated genres and for this particular continuity itself. It helps build the series’s unique identity and gives it a recognizable character. But as we rehearse the shows and continue to develop more, there’s always the challenge of maintaining that signature identity and not falling into formula.

As such, we like to joke about how “now it’s time for the ballroom scene!” or how “now Mrs. Hawking is mean to the client!” It helps us not take ourselves too seriously and have fun in rehearsal. But it’s always a useful reminder to not fall too much into patterns. As I work on part 4, I need to remember to vary from the expectations to keep things original and fresh.

So, in the spirit of fun and keeping all this in mind, I present to you the Mrs. Hawking Drinking Game! For your enjoyment as you get to know the stories better:

Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!

Vivat Regina and Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will be performed at 2PM and 6PM respectively at 274 Moody Street in Waltham, MA as part of the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2017.

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