My Batman

Jul. 19th, 2017 07:41 pm
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Every few years or so, I rewatch Batman: The Animated Series. And every time it shocks me with its quality, its style, and the powerful effect it has on me.

I've adored it since I was a child. It so much to shape my aesthetic of storytelling and style. It did more to inspire me to create Mrs. Hawking than anything, and I actually have to work to distinguish my character from the prototype, rather than just recreating everything I found cool about the original.

I say I love Batman in general, and I do. I've read the comics since childhood and even enjoyed some of the films. But who I LOVE-- what I think of when I think of LOVING BATMAN-- is this Batman. This is MY Batman, the character that inspired me, that still shakes me with just how cool he is.

So many excellent choices. Kevin Conroy's performance-- he is still THE ONLY TRUE BATMAN TO ME --contrasting Bruce Wayne with his true self wearing the mask, which was HIS OWN INVENTION, by the way. The way he presents himself as Bruce Wayne as a nice guy but ultimately too vain and dumb for anybody to really take seriously-- I prefer that to the douchebag Bruce any day. Alfred's sweet relationship with him and his hilarious low-key snarking. Robin's conception as a college kid rather than a young boy. The character of Renee Montoya. The way they use the villains made me believe this is the best rogues' gallery of all comic book superheroes, giving human weight and motivation to what might otherwise just seem absurd. How COOL everything is-- Batman's costume, the Batcave, the Batmobile (in the style I affectionately call the Batillac), how the fight scenes look.

This most recent rewatch made me particularly appreciate the characterization of the hero-- his childhood trauma INFORMS his personality, and sometimes rears its head in his present life, but mostly he's COPING and not RULED BY IT. After all, being Batman? PRETTY FREAKING AWESOME COPING MECHANISM! It mitigates the melodrama and pitfalls the character tends to fall into when he's played too grimdark. The freaking films should have taken note.

I wanted to be this Batman so badly as a kid, such that to this day I can't wait the sequel series Batman Beyond without being suffused with naked envy for Terry McGuinness learning at the master's knee. Writing Mrs. Hawking is in a way getting to live that fantasy. Without this show, there would be no Mrs. Hawking-- one of the best things I've created in my life.
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"Completed outline for Mrs. Hawking part 4!"

I have hit my first milestone in my process of putting together the fourth Mrs. Hawking story!

For the month of June, Bernie and I worked on creating a complete outline with all the story events with the proper structure. Our goal was to have it done by the end of the month, and we completed it with one day to spare. That means I can successfully move on to drafting it, which is in some ways more fun than planning, but in other ways more challenging— because I have to move on from theory to actual execution.

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"Our important new character in Hawking part 4"

I am busily working away at my plan to have Mrs. Hawking part 4—tentatively titled Gilded Cages —ready to go into rehearsal by the end of the summer. That means all this month Bernie and I have been working on the outline for the story, as I like to get the structure and shape of it down before I actually start drafting.

As I’ve mentioned, one of the toughest parts of this piece is dealing with the presence of Victorian colonialism. It’s a major factor in this story, and I want exploring the issues that stem from it to have an important place in the story’s theme. Without revealing too much, I will say we’re including a character who is an indigenous resident of a colonized place in Asia. It is incumbent upon us to be as respectful as possible in that character’s portrayal. This is particularly challenging because we will be adding this character to an already established cast, where the protagonist is a white woman. Even under the best of circumstances, there is a very real danger of what I refer to as my theory of The Problem of the Protagonist— in short, where the centrality of your main character necessitates subordination of any other character’s story, which can result in those supporting roles’ marginalization or dehumanization.


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New photo gallery posted on!

"Act II of Vivat Regina at Watch City Steampunk Festival '17"

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, Matthew Kamm as Arthur, Jackie Freyman as Clara, Sara Dion as Frau Gerhard, Remony Perlman as Mrs. Braun, and Andrew Prentice as Herr Austerlitz.

See the photographs on!
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"The plan for scripting Mrs. Hawking part 4"

So now is the time that my collaborator Bernie and I are seriously buckling down on the script for the fourth and next installment of Mrs. Hawking. We’ve been at work on it for a while now, but the demands of production pushed it to the back burner. But now that it will be time to debut part 4 for the next Arisia in 2018, we have made a plan to get it completely scripted.

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"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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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.


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.


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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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.


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.


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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"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.

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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.

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.


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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"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:

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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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This past weekend I got a chance to see the production of Mrs. Packard by Emily Mann with the Bridge Repertory Theatre. I wanted to go because Eric Cheung was in it and I enjoy watching him act, but it was also a play that was relevant to my interests-- it took place in the 1850's and was about a woman who'd been unfairly committed to a mental institution because of her outspoken views that challenged those of her husband. Obviously I'm very interested in the feminist issues of that time period, so I was excited to see what it was about and how they would do it.

Overall I enjoyed the production very much. It took place in this gorgeous open-room theater at the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge, with elaborate crenellated architecture and a beautiful balcony ringing around the top of it. The set and costumes were lovely, in low-key grays and blues, and the space was shaped by large curtains that they pushed in and out to make frames. It was clearly a very professional production, with high acting quality, direction, and production value all around, though not all of the actors were exactly to my taste. The woman playing Mrs. Packard, while clearly talented, didn't appeal to me. She was very broad and without a lot of emotional levels-- she was kind of at eleven for the entire performance with little variation. I also noticed that Mr. Packard was played by the guy who read for Lord Brockton at the very first ever reading of Mrs. Hawking part one that happened at my grad school and was organized by my teachers. As for the script, overall I enjoyed the story, though I would say it was a bit heavy handed with its ideas, full of people talking alternately how absurd and how important it was for women to be able to speak their minds, depending on which side of the argument they represented.

It also spurred a lot of thoughts about how I wanted to incorporate mental health abuses as an issue in the Mrs. Hawking plays. The idea that a woman can be committed for behaving what the men in her life believe is "strange" or "inappropriate" is definitely a good source of threat for those stories. Honestly it's probably something Mrs. Hawking has specifically been concerned about that causes her to so carefully hide her activities. I actually already have an idea for utilizing it, though not until parts five and six. Those are a way off, but in watching Mrs. Packard it got me thinking about how I want to execute on those concepts. I am not going in the same direction as Mrs. Packard takes, but I hope it make it meaningful and really invoke the horror that a woman could be committed against her will, not because she's mad, but because she doesn't obey or conform.
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"How we built our prop victrola"

You may recall that when we were putting together Base Instruments for the first run at Arisia 2017, the challenge arose for us to somehow get the victrola prop that is a major presence in the story. While there are a number of record players on eBay and similar places that use the pressed vinyl disc, at this point in history the phonograph relied upon wax cylinders. It’s significantly harder to find even replicas of that older form of the technology. So we decided we would make one, and we'll be bringing it to our performances at the 2017 Watch City Steampunk Festival.

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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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New gallery on!

Photography by Annushka Munch
Costume design by Jennifer Giorno
Makeup design by Jessicalee Skary
Set design by Bernie Gabin
Production design by Phoebe Roberts

BI Performance-85

"Base Instruments" Act II
by Annushka Munch

from "Base Instruments" at Arisia 2017

Featuring Cari Keebaugh, Circe Rowan, Jeremiah O'Sullivan, Arielle Kaplan, Eric Cheung, Sara Smith, Matthew Kamm, and Ava Maag.

Click here to view the gallery of images from the show!

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New gallery on!

"Gallery – Base Instruments at Arisia ’17 - Act One"

Photography by Annushka Munch
Costume design by Jennifer Giorno
Makeup design by Jessicalee Skary
Set design by Bernie Gabin
Production design by Phoebe Roberts

BI Performance-121

Arisia 2017

Base Instruments - ACT I

Featuring Cari Keebaugh, Circe Rowan, Jeremiah O'Sullivan, Arielle Kaplan, Matthew Kamm, Eric Cheung, Sara Smith, Andrew Prentice, Isaiah Max Plovnick, Ava Maag, Sara Dion, and Travis Ellis. Photography by Anna Muench with costume design by Jenn Day.

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The highlight of my weekend was the running of Silver Lines, my mystery tabletop-game-turned-larp set in the future of the Mrs. Hawking storyline. As I mentioned, this was the first time I ever ran it as a true larp, with physical locations and physical props, and I was nervous about how it would turn out. But I am pleased to report that with the invaluable support of [ profile] in_water_writ as co-GM, it was a definite success!

I love mysteries, and if I may say so myself, I'm getting pretty good at writing them. Base Instruments is my most recent serious triumph in the genre, and this one turned out really strong as well. Good thing, because two of my players, specifically those who took on the roles of Mary and Arthur, signed up expressly because they wanted to solve a murder mystery. So it was important that it be good.

I really love this story, and I think the game itself works really well. It tells a moment of the greater Hawking story that is unlikely to ever make it into a play, but still is fitting and important. This run also drove home to me how flexible it is as a module. It only has five players, which is pretty easy to fill, but at least three out of five can be seamlessly any gender, and all but one can be turned into an NPC who the PCs can encounter and get necessary information from. It's as open to as much or as little character-based roleplaying as you like, or you can focus on making the mystery solving your primary drive.

The physicality of it, the props and the locations, worked well. Jenn and I divided the NPCs equally between us, which worked well because it enabled one of us to interact with players while the other prepared other aspects of the game. The players suggested that sound design could be used to further flesh out the locations, such as crowd noise or music to set the scenes.

The players went through it VERY efficiently. In previous forms, all of which were more tabletop-style, the game took about four hours, but this group reached the end in a little over two. That surprised me a little, but they seemed to have fun, so I didn't mind. And they didn't miss any of the planned parts of the game. I really enjoyed running it the whole time, and I'm really indebted to Jenn for helping me. She did an amazing job!

I'm looking forward to rerunning this larp version at Festival of the Larps 2017 April 28th-30th at Brandeis University. If you'd like to play, be sure to come out then!

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We are proud to announce the video recording is now available for our performance of Base Instruments at Arisia 2017!

Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts

Base Instruments from sydweinstein on Vimeo.

We are so happy to be able to present part 3 of the Mrs. Hawking series recorded for you to enjoy whenever you like. Thanks so much to Syd Weinstein and crew, who filmed this at Arisia 2017 and edited it together for us.

Please be sure to visit our Shows page for the video recordings of all three of the Mrs. Hawking so far, and see how all the hard work of all the great artists in our cast and crew come together to tell these amazing stories.


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