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This Saturday, December 12th, Mrs. Hawking can be heard on the radio!

We're a little over one month away from our shows at Arisia, so it's time to get the word really out! To that end, we’ll be appearing on Beyond the Horizon Radio to talk about our shows! Tune in at 12PM EST to hear a live broadcast featuring Frances Kimpel, our Mrs. Hawking, Circe Rowan, our Mary Stone, and yours truly, the writer and director.

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We’ll be discussing our upcoming productions of Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina at Arisia 2016, as well as things behind the scenes, our process, and the story at large. Finally, we’ll be performing a selection from Base Instruments, the newly-released third installment, featuring the voices of Frances Kimpel as Mrs. Hawking, Circe Rowan as Mary Stone, and a certain someone else you know doing her best attempt at a Russian accent for new character Elena Zakharova.

Check us out at the Beyond the Horizon Radio website to hear the live broadcast at 12PM EST on Saturday, December 12th!

Mrs. Hawking by Phoebe Roberts will be performed January 15th at 8PM and January 16th at 4PM and Vivat Regina by Phoebe Roberts January 17th at 1PM at the Westin Waterfront Hotel as part of Arisia 2016.
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So last Sunday I saw Annabel Lost, the poetry-drama piece by Frances Kimpel that has been Chameleon's Dish Theater's most recent production. It's a fascinating piece, exploring themes of self-worth, connection, and mortality and immortality, all strung together by astonishing pieces of poetry. It's incredibly unique-- I've literally never seen a piece of theater like it --and provokes a lot of thought. Frances's work is challenging, beautiful, and not quite like anyone else's. I'm still picking apart what I got from it, so I'd like to see it again and keep thinking about it.

The next performance is this Friday night at 8PM at the Democracy Center in Cambridge. Would anyone like to come with me? I'd love to meet up with someone or many someones for dinner nearby, then meander our way over there to see the show. Please message me if you're interested in making a plan. It'd be nice to have a little friendly company before an evening of theater.
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We have assembled our cast list for the encore production of Mrs. Hawking at the Watch City Steampunk Festival in Waltham this May!



Cast

Mrs. Victoria Hawking – Frances Kimpel
Miss Mary Stone – Circe Rowan
Mr. Nathaniel Hawking – Jeremiah O’Sullivan
Mrs. Celeste Fairmont – Sarah Jenkins
Lord Cedric Brockton – Francis Hauert
Sir Walter Grainger – Jordan Greeley
Mr. John Colchester – Brian Dorfman
Miss Grace Monroe – Jennifer Giorno
Ensemble – Andrew Prentice

Crew

Director - Phoebe Roberts
Stage Manager - Eboracum Richter-Dahl
Technical Director - Bernie Gabin
Costume Designer - Jennifer Giorno
Sound Designer - Neil Marsh
Violence Designer - Arielle Kaplan

As you can see, it's a mix of old and new hands from our previous production. While we are sorry to see so many of our talented original cast depart, I'm extremely excited to work with the fabulous new people we've found. I look forward to seeing what new and different dimensions they will bring out of the play, and the freshness that their personal intepretations will bring.

So be sure to join at the Watch City Steampunk Festival this May to see how things shape up!

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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As you may know, Frances Kimpel is putting up a production of her unique original show, Annabel Lost, this spring with our local theater troupe The Chameleon's Dish. The play is a special mix of dramatic narrative, dance, music, and poetry, centering around two orphaned refugees in a magic world of Frances's own creation.

They've set up a Kickstarter for the project this month, with a fairly modest goal of $900. They are very close to hitting this goal, and could use a few more backers to put them over the edge. If you haven't already, it wouldn't take much for you to kick in a few bucks to help them out. It would be in support of a very unique piece of theater that gives representation and exploration to themes of colonialism, identity, and gender-variance.

Frances is an artist I've always respected and loved to work with, so it would be really cool of you to help bring this project from her unique perspective to life. :-) You can find the Kickstarter here.
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New post on Mrshawking.com!

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Photos by Jennifer Giorno and John Benfield


"The ballroom scene by Pendragon Costumes"

When I was first writing Mrs. Hawking, I knew a big part of the appeal of the story would be the trappings and the spectacle. The look of the steampunk setting would add a great deal of gloss to the tale I was trying to tell, and I wanted to take advantage of everything that setting would afford me. And you can't tell a grand caper set in Victorian London without a few gorgeous period costumes.



Though I pitched in with a few looks for the Arisa 2015 production, mostly ones I’d already put together for the Mrs. Hawking photoshoots, our primary costume designer was Jennifer Giorno, also the actress playing Grace Monroe. So the challenge of putting together Victorian ballroom looks that could be changed in and out of in very short order fell on her. Not an easy task on our budget! But she got a great idea to see if we could a costume company to agree to sponsor our production by lending us some pieces. That is where Pendragon came in, a maker of fine costuming with a fabulous selection of steampunk and Victorian looks in their Mad Girl Clothing line.



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In return for credit in our program, they very generously agreed to lend us three pieces of handmade eveningwear for our leads. It was an incredible thing to happen to us, as it gave us the opportunity to have some of the most important costumes in the play be particularly beautiful, as well as practical for the demands of the quick change.

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A full Pendragon outfit can be seen here on Samantha LeVangie in her role as Mary. It was particularly important that Mary come out looking exquisite-- transformatively so --as an indication of Mary's potential to become a powerful, brilliant, dyanmic person. Jenn asked the company if it would be possible to get Mary’s garments in blue, as I’ve long imagined it to be Mary’s signature color.

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The other piece Pendragon so graciously lent us was for Mrs. Hawking, modeled here by Frances Kimpel. This was also a Corset with Bustle, a particularly useful piece not only because it looked so cool, but because its toggle-hooks running down the front assisted in making the quick change a little easier. Because Mrs. Hawking is a widow, of course it had to be in black.

Read the rest of the entry and see the rest of the pictures on Mrshawking.com!
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New post on Mrshawking.com!

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Photo by Josh Spiro


"Meet Frances Kimpel, the physical embodiment of Mrs. Hawking"

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.

I interviewed Frances on her approach to the character, and on her future projects.

Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!
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We have just gotten through our first week of rehearsal!



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Frances Kimpel and Samantha LeVangie, rehearsing as as Mrs. Hawking and Mary.


My style as director, as I've mentioned, is to have things fairly specifically planned out before I go into rehearsal. A personal artistic value of mine is a dynamic stage, with lots of interesting action happening at the right times. But incorporating the right amount of activity is a careful balance.

Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!

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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I give you the cast of Mrs. Hawking at Arisia '15!

Mrs. Victoria Hawking: Frances Kimpel
Miss Mary Stone: Samantha LeVangie
Mr. Nathaniel Hawking: Jonathan Plesser
Mrs. Celeste Fairmont: Arielle Kaplan
Lord Cedric Brockton: Francis Hauert
Sir Walter Grainger: Matthew Kamm
Mr. John Colchester: Robert Imperato
Miss Grace Monroe: Jennifer Giorno
Ensemble: Joye Thaller, Andrew Prentice

I am really excited to work with each and every one of these people!

Read more on Mrshawking.com!
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Artists have a long tradition of drawing inspiration for their art from various muses, and the more I think about it, the more I realize I do as well. The traditional artist-muse relationships tends to be a man being inspired by a woman, but I have always been prone to drawing creative energy from people, particularly men, that stirred something in me because of their awesomeness of some variety.

Those who know me well, or have known me for a long time, may be aware of how deeply my imagination was captured by Draco, the dragon character from the movie Dragonheart, my all-time favorite film. My love beyond reason and sense for this character strongly shaped my vision of heroism and goodness, which in turn has very deeply influenced how I write heroic fiction and drama. When I fell for Bernie, his particular brand of honesty, decency, and fortitude found itself creeping into my work in the same way. And it isn't even always men for me. [livejournal.com profile] crearespero's awesomeness, for example— the way she looks, her acting talent, her dreaminess, her athleticism —has made her a frequent muse of mine, from her playing Hamlet in my production to the visual model she provided for how I see Mrs. Hawking. Hell, I even cast her to PLAY a muse, when she was Andromeda in To Think of Nothing. A recent example for me was the case of Adonis, it was inspired by Chris Evans in the most classic way possible-- his extreme beauty motivated me to make a piece of art. I feel like this is not something that people think that women do, or at least nobody pays attention to when they do, but it’s definitely part of how I practice my art.

People in general have a tendency to ascribe meaning to those things they find beautiful, be it a flower, a mountain, a piece of architecture, or a person. It's often something as simple as the very well-documented phenomenon of how we tend to expect a good-looking person to be nicer and smarter than their more ordinary-looking counterparts. I know that I’m prone to it, both in the more mundane and the more poetical ways.

How the power of muses appears in Adonis on the textual, subtextual, and meta-level. )

Someday, if all my dreams come true, I can imagine myself on the set of the film with my muse about to play the character I wrote for him. And I will probably weird him out as badly as Stephenie Meyer weirded out Robert Pattinson when she met him on the set of Twilight. But I'm okay with that, because then I'll know I've made it. ;-)

In part 2, I’ll talk about how things have inspired and influenced me so deeply I never even realized they were working on me. :-)
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ghostshow poster

This is your official invitation to GHOSTSHOW, the third production brought to you by the Watch City Players. We've been working on this for a while now, but we were held up when we struggled to find performance space. But now we are settled on the most lovely and accommodating Democracy Center in Cambridge! And we are assembling a lovely collection of short pieces around the theme of ghosts. Some are very funny, some are dramatic, and some are just plain interesting! So, I present to you,

GHOSTSHOW

an evening of short plays concerning ghosts.

Featuring Gabrielle Geller, Frances Kimpel, Charlotte Oswald, Eboracum Richter-Dahl, Phoebe Roberts, and Lenny Somervell

The pieces, comedic:

- Unimportant Conversations with Ghosts, Part I, by Lenny Somervell

Starring Frances as Alexander Hamilton and Eboracum as Aaron Burr, after their famous fateful duel to the death

- The Late Mrs. Chadwick, by Phoebe Roberts

Starring Lenny as Arthur Chadwick, Frances as Edwin Shrewsbury, and Charlotte as Matilda Chadwick, when a vengeful spirit descends upon a stuffy, very proper British household

- Behind the Sky, by Eboracum Richter Dahl

A movement piece performed by Charlotte, Lenny, Frances, and Phoebe as fairy beings in the land of the dead

The pieces, tragic:

- Hamlet, scene I.I, by William Shakespeare

Starring Eboracum as Horatio and Gabrielle and Phoebe as soldiers, when the king's ghost first walks the night

- The Ghost of Wittenberg, by Frances Kimpel

Starring Eboracum as Horatio, and Gabrielle and Phoebe as young students who may remind you of two other famous friends

- Richard iii, selection, by William Shakespeare

Starring the whole cast, haunting the usurper in dreams

And
- Caesar's Ghost, by Lenny Somervell and Phoebe Roberts

To be held March 8th at 8PM at the Democracy Center at 45 Mt Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA

Admission is free, donations gladly accepted

I hope you will come and join us! We have a Facebook event set up here, if you'd be so kind as to RSVP. It will be short, fun, and hopefully a nice night. :-)
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This past Monday was Veteran's Day, and since I had the day off, I took the opportunity to organize a photo shoot to have more images for the Mrs. Hawking website. I thought it would be good to have more images specifically depicting events that happen in the play. My beautiful models [livejournal.com profile] crearespero and [livejournal.com profile] nennivan were kind to oblige me, and they are both lovely, perfect for the look of the characters, and wonderful to work with. I haven't had time to process all the photos yet, but I hope to be able to have them ready to post shortly.

I photographed them in a number of costumes, but one that turned out especially well was Mrs. Hawking's widow's gown. Mrs. Hawking finds it necessary to outwardly appear to conform to normal standards when dealing with other people-- her nephew Nathaniel in particular, because the more he worries about her, the more he well-meaningly meddles in her life. So, since her husband has only been dead a year, when in company she concedes to the standards of widow's dress. That meant I needed to make a very traditional looking black gown for her.

I do most of my costuming by adapting pieces I find in thrift stores to my purposes. Global Thrift in Waltham has been incredibly useful to me over the years, and it was there that I found the basis for this dress. Honestly, I kind of hated it on sight. On the hanger it looked like a garbage bag, black and shiny and chintzy. I have kind of a love-hate relationship with dresses made of moire-- an iridescent fabric that looks like it has water ripples or wood knots in it --because I always find it pretty when I first glance at it, but the longer I look at it, it looks cheap. But it had a lot of the details I'm looking for in the basis of a Victorian gown, a ruffled collar, puffy sleeves, a cloth belt at the waist.

I bought it without high hopes for it. It just looked so damn tacky in the store. The checkout girl used it to wrap a glass decanter I bought in the same trip, and I never even bothered to unpack it. When this photo shoot rolled around, I hadn't even tried it in combination with the other elements of the costume, so for all I knew it wasn't going to work at all. But when I tried it on Frances, with black long gloves and over two layers of full tiered skirts kindly lent to me by [livejournal.com profile] inwaterwrit... it transformed. Charlotte pinned the collar closed with a black and silver brooch, and cut a slit up the back of the dress so that it spread out over the skirts, and they even puffed out through the slit in the back to make a sort of bustle-y detail. The moire looked appropriate for the sort of tapestry appearance of fancy Victorian fabric. All together, it made for a shockingly beautiful, and shockingly accurate-looking, costume. I'm really pleased at how well it turned out, but also that I think this is evidence that my eye as costumer is developing, as I'm getting better and better at spotting pieces that will work in combination even if I never actually see them together until they're fulling assembled.

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Hold Thy Peace's fall 2013 production was Hamlet, directed by the lovely and talented Sam LeVangie, went up this past weekend, and I was very proud of them. They did a great job with very challenging material, and I couldn't believe how many talented people came together in that cast. It's so amazing to see how far Hold Thy Peace has come-- when I was in undergrad, it was very much the bastard stepchild of the Brandeis theater group, but now it seems to have completely moved past the old conflicts. Even the school respects it more, as is demonstrated by the three thousand dollar budget it got to put on the show. It makes me really proud and happy, as Hold Thy Peace was such an important part of my life.

The set was really gorgeous; designed by Ryan Kacani, they made a castle backdrop with beautiful faux stained glass windows, and the lighting effects for the ghosts were subtle and beautiful. [livejournal.com profile] niobien's recent intensive technical experience really showed as she stepped into Bernie's shoes as the new technical director. I loved Sam's vision for the show. Simply put, she has Horatio be a ghost that only Hamlet could see, and as other characters died, they joined the ranks of ghosts haunting the prince, chipping at his sanity, and silently foretelling his doom. Played by Aaron Fischer, he became a solemn Cassandra figure, understated in comparison to the intensity around him. Ryan played Claudius as a charismatic politician with an air of the ends justifying the means, his confidence designed to smooth over a crumbling inner state. His scene with Claudius's confessional monologue was one of the strongest scenes in the show. And of course there was Alex Davis as Hamlet, one of the most talented undergrads I've ever seen at Brandeis, whose tremendous ability to command a stage with his presence makes him absolutely mesmerizing. It was overall a wonderful cast, and I'm amazed to see multiple strong leading men in HTP for the first time.

I took this picture of Alex and Frances, the two Hamlets of HTP. Very different portrayals in all possible ways, and both amazing for different reasons. I like this little bit of history. :-)


The show also brought up a lot of memories. As you may recall, I directed the first production of Hamlet HTP ever put up, back in November of 2007. I was very proud of that show, and I think we did a very good job overall, despite struggling to find good people to be involved and so few resources for production. Honestly I was happy enough with my idea behind that show that I'd love to recreate it now that I'm more developed as a director. But at the same time it's become something that's a bit difficult to think about. It was a project that Jared was very deeply involved with, and I can't think about that play without having to think about him.

Cut for bitching and whining. )

I'll just have to figure out some way to separate the two. For well or for ill, one thing I've always been good at is distancing myself from memories. They don't necessarily stick to me-- I tend to reframe them as narratives and hold onto them that way, rather than maintain mental snapshots or videos of the moments --and that's made me good at keeping what I want to keep and moving past what I don't. Hopefully I will be able to keep this from tainting the memory of something I should really be proud of.

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This piece is dedicated to [livejournal.com profile] crearespero because it draws on an idea she came up with. It features Ariel, the fairy from Shakespeare's The Tempest, and takes place after the events of that play. This is very rough and definitely needs more work, but I think I could turn it into something decent if I took the time to work it out. It's in very lazy iambic pentameter, and the arc could use expanding, but I just wanted to get it on the page for now. I like Frances's idea, because it suggests that Ariel is something wild and dangerous, not simply a pretty and amusing spritely servant.

Day #7 - "I Killed Sycorax" )
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An important part of how Mrs. Hawking goes about her work is her stealth. She is a skilled cat burglar to infiltrate the strongholds of her enemies, a spy well-versed in the ways of avoiding detection while gathering information.

I remember how when, at the Bare Bones reading, I said I imagined Mary as being quite tall and Mrs. Hawking as being very small, the audience laughed in surprise. I think it was mostly due to how [livejournal.com profile] lillibet playing her is much taller than [livejournal.com profile] polaris_xx, who was playing Mary, but I think it's also that she's such a formidable presence that people tend to picture her as physically imposing. But part of her struggle with her place is that nature made her a small woman, someone that is not immediately recognizable as physically dangerous. So she has to work around it. She uses her small size to be sneaky, to slip into small places where larger people can't go, to be quick and agile. She can't count on being able to overpower her enemies, so she uses what she does have to evade, to outmaneuver, and to strike before being spotted then vanish without a trace.

When she's out on such missions, she wears a special stealth suit, designed for maneuverability, camouflage, and anonymity. Black with a mask concealing her face. I decided I wanted to make an outfit for this look to, and to have [livejournal.com profile] crearespero, my fierce and mighty physical inspiration for the character, to model it for me. I didn't have a good plan for this shoot, and it would be better done in lower light, but I wanted to get an idea of how the costume looked, and mess around with the composition.

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Here is a reference for the outfit. To make it, I bought two loose-fitting dark gray tops from the thrift store and overdyed them twice with black dye. One top is worn like a shirt, and the other one, the turtleneck, is the mask. I had Frances put on her head with her face showing through the neck, then tied the arms in the back. I struggled with what pants to use. I thought at first maybe black trousers with some stretch to them, in hopes of at least vaguely looking like something a Victorian would have access to. But then, when I was digging through my pants drawer, I found a pair of black riding britches. (I haven't ridden much recently, but I've ridden dressage and hunt seat for years.) They're made of a space age material but they are highly flexible, and I like the idea that a sort of "activewear" they actually would have had in the time period would be adapted to Mrs. Hawking's purposes. The belt and gloves (not pictured here, but visible in all other shots) are leather and belong to me. The little leather box hanging off the belt is also thrifted; it's a jewelry box meant for traveling, but I thought it would serve as the box that holds her instruments while she works.

I hadn't seen the whole ensemble together until today. I think she looks absolutely badass.
More pictures of the ninja beneath... )

We used the public library in Waltham for our backdrop mostly. I think I will have to redo this shoot in better light-- ninjas do most of their work in the dark, right? --but I am pleased with the proof of concept for the look. :-)
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I'm pleased to report that Watch City Players' Shakespeare in the park piece, A Midsummer Night's Tempest, went off well. We performed it yesterday just before the concert series that Waltham sponsored on the commons, and despite the myriad annoyances inherent in performing in an outside space with few formal audience rules, we sallied forth bravely with our performance. I was so proud of everyone involved. [livejournal.com profile] crearespero and [livejournal.com profile] dendron_ges cut together a very clever edit of Shakespeare's two fairy plays, The Tempest and Midsummer, and Frances shouldered the administrative and creative burdens of directing. What I liked best about our piece was that it had both a humor to it and a "cool" factor, complete with broad, illustrative action so that the story could be carried even if you didn't get the words. We were told to aim our piece at kids, so that was a real success, especially when some little cuties in the audience came up to us and eagerly asked us questions. That was really gratifying. And of course, I love this cast, which also included the lovely and lovely to work with actors [livejournal.com profile] katiescarlett29, [livejournal.com profile] iagotolycus, Charlotte, and Nick. I think we impressed the Waltham Arts Council, and brought a little Shakespeare to people who might not have been otherwise familiar.

I would someday like to do full versions of the two plays that incorporate some of elements we developed here. I loved Frances's interpretation of Ariel as a spirit of chaos and even of frolic, but with a lurking danger beneath-- that it may have had something to do with the death of Sycorax, and its rapport with Prospero came from some combination of a true respectful connection and enough raw power to keep it under control. Frances and [livejournal.com profile] nennivian sang much of the poetry to original music that Frances composed herself, and the dance and movement that they did to accompany it captured that way dance has of giving an extra layer of meaning to the poetry of the speech. I aspire to choreography like that. And finally, I really dug the version of Puck I did here. We called him "Bro Puck," as he was all heart and guts and loins with no brain, a distinctly masculine presence, a kind of chaos that rolled around like a happy dumb wrecking ball without a drop of malice behind it. It made for some really funny stage business for me to do, and I would love to play this version of the character in the full play sometime. 
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And here is the second half of the Mrs. Hawking photo shoot. These images are the ones meant to suggest the scenes in the play where Mrs. Hawking and Mary go to Cedric Brockton's ball. And that meant dressing them up fancy!

Mrs. Hawking, version 1
Photography by Stephanie Karol
Hair and makeup by Gabrielle Geller
Directed and costumed designed by Phoebe Roberts

with Frances Kimpel as Mrs. Hawking
and Charlotte Oswald as Mary Stone

mrshtest9

Mary in awe of all the fancy people and the splendid surroundings. She is unaccustomed to doing anything so grand.

More pictures beneath the cut... )
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I have to finish the second draft of my seminar paper for the class I have to teach as part of my graduating requirements. It's slow, but it's coming. I should finish (need to finish, really) by the end of the night. But I realized it's been weeks and I never put up the pictures from the Mrs. Hawking themed photo shoot I did with some lovely compatriots. I am hereby posting some of my favorites, with a few notes on my thinking behind them.

Mrs. Hawking, version 1
Photography by Stephanie Karol
Hair and makeup by Gabrielle Geller
Directed and costumed designed by Phoebe Roberts

with Frances Kimpel as Mrs. Hawking
and Charlotte Oswald as Mary Stone


mrshtest3

This image is in replication of those "family portraits" that were often the standard of photography back in the Victorian period. The mistress of the house, and her beloved maidservant.

Frances, while much younger than Mrs. Hawking is supposed to be, was my visual inspiration for the character. A small person, deceptively pretty with her wavy golden hair and capable of being disguised as something non-threatening, delicate, and socially expected. But, like Frances, she is fierce, agile, and much more physically powerful than you might immediately guess. The dress does a pretty good job of hiding just how ripped she, and the character, are.

Charlotte not only has the right look, she is around the right age. She is tall and strong, and I liked the idea of Mary having her statuesque Amazonian figure, her pretty face, her long dark hair, her freckles. I thought a girl of the lower classes who had to make her own way in the world should be physically capable, and I like the contrast between her kind of presence and Mrs. Hawking's. Also, a tall girl gets noticed, can't be ignored, for well or for ill. She has both the power, and the responsibility, to answer for herself.

More pictures beneath the cut. )

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mrshtest

London, England, circa 1880, by S. Karol.
Society widow Mrs. Victoria Hawking and her beloved maidservant, Mary Stone.


Just a taste for now, but more to come... ;-)

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