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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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New blog entry on Mrshawking.com!

"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.

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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New post on Mrshawking.com!

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"Building a prop Victorian gramophone"

People who have experience in the field of properties for the stage may be familiar with a dilemma I’ve run into in producing the Mrs. Hawking plays. Sometimes, your script will call for a specific prop that expensive or difficult to acquire that is needed for only a scene or two, but is integral enough to the plot that it can’t be changed or cut. That means you’re stuck investing in getting or making the damn thing, even though it’s going to be a lot of effort for not a ton of use.

For Base Instruments, we’ve talked about the challenges of one specific setting. But the showpiece prop in that one will be the gramophone.

Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!
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New blog post on Mrshawking.com!

"The Team Hawking promise"

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As anyone who does theater knows, the process is a serious undertaking, with a significant investment of time and resources asked of anyone who chooses to be involved. With all the things that can go wrong and the wildcard personalities it can involve, it can be tough to find a production that you can trust to work responsibly AND be fun to take part in.

But know that if you’re considering being part of a Mrs. Hawking play, we’re dedicated to making sure we conduct ourselves in a manner we can be proud of. So if you’re on the team, you can expect a level of competence and respect for your abilities and contributions in order to thank you for lending them.

Here is the Team Hawking promise.

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

"The new portrait of the Colonel"

You may remember that for last year’s Mrs. Hawking productions we made this portrait to serve as the framed photograph of the Colonel that hangs above the mantlepiece in the Hawking parlor. I liked this portrait because it was a genuine Victorian image, with a sort of quiet sadness in the look in the gentleman’s eyes. But now we are not only performing Mrs. Hawking, but also Vivat Regina, which you may have noted contains explicit reference to what that portrait looks like. Specifically, it’s a significant moment when Mrs. Hawking expresses her discomfort with Nathaniel’s resemblance to her late husband. With that resemblance being pointed out in the dialogue, it doesn’t really serve to have just any old person’s image hanging there for all the audience to see.

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Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!

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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"Touches of steampunk"

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The art design of a production is an important means to establish a show's feel and personality. Mrs. Hawking is a steampunk superhero play, so we want that slick, high-action, slightly stylized feel from all our artistic choices. Those range from big things, like what the set looks like and how the actors move and speak, to small things, what individual props we choose to use.

Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!

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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New post on Mrshawking.com!

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Theater is an interesting, possibly unique art form in that because you produce it live, every time you mount a new production you have the option to change things about it. You can use new actors, new costumes, new blocking, new interpretation of the characters, all of which can make the end product feel like a different story. It makes an interesting question while putting together this next production of Mrs. Hawking.

Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com.

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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Two reminders, dear Hawks! 

 

Auditions for the encore performance of Mrs. Hawking at the Watch City Steampunk Festival are TONIGHT and TOMORROW NIGHT, March 23rd and 24th, at the Watertown Public Library from 7PM to 9PM. Signups are preferred, so e-mail us at mrshawkingweb@gmail.com to reserve a timeslot, but walk-ins are also welcome. We're recasting Mary, Nathaniel, Mrs. Fairmont, Sir Walter, and Colchester.



 





 

Also our staged reading of Like a Loss will be going up this Thursday night as part of Bare Bones 16: At War!

Like a Loss, the ten minute play featuring Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking, will be read as the opener for The Wheel, written by Zinnie Harris and directed by Jess Viator, at 8pm on March 26th at 6 William Street, Somerville, MA

"Faithful batman Henry Chapman does not often pry into the personal matters of his employer, the decorated Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking. But when some of his master's burdens seem to grow too great, Chapman attempts to understand why Colonel Hawking has chosen to endure conditions as they are.

As those familiar with the Mrs. Hawking play series know, one of its most intriguing mysteries is the figure of the Colonel, the late husband of our hero about whom she still harbors so much resentment and complicated feeling. In this ten-minute play, set seventeen years before Mrs. Hawking and Mary ever meet, we at last get to meet this much-discussed man, and gain some insight into the nature of his strange, tragic marriage to our hero."

Hope to see you are both or either of these!

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"Our performance space at the Watch City Steampunk Festival"

We now have a performance space settled for our production at the Watch City Steampunk Festival!

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The Festival will be centered around Waltham Commons and the nearby blocks of Moody Street, which make up an important center of activity in town. Our shows will be going up at the Center for Digital Arts, the education institution at 247 Moody devoted to 3D animation, audio production, filmmaking, graphic design, photography, and web development. We will have use of the sizable back room, which is used for the development of all manner of visual art projects.

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Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!

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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So I’ve had a bit of exciting news. It turns out that the Watch City Steampunk Festival will be happening again in Waltham this coming May on Saturday the 8th. I’ve spoken to the lead organizers, and they are interested in providing a venue for Mrs. Hawking as part of the Festival! Yay!

It's not a hundred percent set in stone yet, but I got on the Festival planning committee to help make sure it happens, and the response has been very positive, so I'm diving in. This was something I'd hoped to do last year, but that festival never got off the ground and I was disappointed. This year, the event is under new management, and I am offering my own labor as a support, so it's going to actually happen.

This is good because, as I said last year, there will never been better synergy between audience and the subject matter of this show. It will be even a better, more specific fit than Arisia in that way. Hopefully I can get a better timeslot, and more than one show.

And it will be even easier to mount this time. I've just gone about asking my cast if they'd be interested in reprising their roles. I probably won't be able to get everybody back, but the more I get, the more we'll be able to get away with refreshers rather than a full rehearsal process. The set won't need to be built, as it all was saved from the last production. I still own most of the props and costumes, and the rest will be cheaper to replace than it was to buy everything the first time around. And, on top of it all, I will have three months to put it together! Yay!

So this is a really positive development! More detail to come once things get really going.

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New post on Mrshawking.com!

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"The set for Mrs. Hawking at Arisia 2015"

Building the set for this show may have been the most difficult aspect of producing it. I wanted a real set for it, not only to elevate the production values, but because the plot demanded that Mrs. Hawking physically scale it. I got a lot of heat for that when I was writing it in grad school, but it was very necessary for the spectacle of the piece— we should see what a gymnast Mrs. Hawking is –so I stuck to my guns on it. Unfortunately, that meant a pretty demanding standard for the building of the set. But because of our limited budget, getting shop space was unfortunately not possible. That meant we were forced to build the set in my backyard. If it had been May, that might not have been such a big deal, but we had a week in a Boston January.

Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!
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Tomorrow I will be going home to spend Christmas with my dad and my brother and returning on the 30th. It's always a nice change of pace being at home, as it's a chance to not be super-busy all the time, but I'm going to have to make sure I'm still getting things done for Mrs. Hawking while I'm at home. There's a bunch of things I probably can't do from out of town, but there's still some plans I should be putting into motion-- maybe acquiring paint for the set, or the last couple of props, or hardware and tools for build. My dad may be able to assist me, which would be nice; he's also coming to see the show, and I'm definitely drafting him into coming to the space early with me to help with setup. :-D But otherwise I plan on eating a lot and hanging with my family in a lowkey way. Hopefully I can strike a balance between the two.
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"How you can support this production of Mrs. Hawking"



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As of today, our production of Mrs. Hawking at Arisia is one month away from performance. We’re coming along nicely, as rehearsals are going well, and our technical elements are slowly but surely being pulled together. Still, there is still a great deal left to do. Some lovely people have been wondering what they can do to help out with this project in some way. Well, bless you, lovely people! I am happy to suggest a number of ways you could possibly assist us in the production and promotion of this exciting new play.

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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My life is preparing Mrs. Hawking. It's a good life, one that I'm enjoying-- this has really been good for my outlook --but it takes a ton of time. But I hate neglecting my blog for any reason.

I like this play. I am proud of it, and I think other people will like it too. When I first went into the project, I was overwhelmed by the idea of having to do so much in such a short amount of time. As I was editing the play for production I didn't feel very good about it. It was partially the negativity of my mindset, but also partially because I'd just come off of the Vivat Regina Bare Bones reading and that script is better than the first. It makes sense, in a way; it was written a year later, after I'd had more practice and become a better writer. It's also significantly funnier, which I've decided needs to remain a part of Mrs. Hawking stories going forward.

It's certainly not a bad thing if Mrs. Hawking get better with every installment. But that doesn't mean the original isn't good. It IS good, and even if I couldn't tell by reading it, watching the rehearsals convinces me. How a piece of theater actually plays is the true measure of its worth, and seeing this story come to life, with the visual dimension adding in so much more meaning and layers, makes me believe in it. It's a good play I wrote, and it's going to be a great production to watch.
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Another prop required for the Arisia production of Mrs. Hawking is a walking stick carried by Lord Cedric Brockton. The character is an impeccably stylish, well-turned-out noble gentleman who would be fashionably dressed, so I thought a nice contribution to that would be a fancy walking stick.

Unfortunately, we are on a rather tight budget (as in, I'm paying for the show out of my own very wee pocket) so I didn't really want to spend a lot of money on this, but I still wanted it to look cool. To that end, I got a bit creative. I went to a dollar store and bought myself a curtain rod with a fancy decorative end.

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It looks pretty neat, and I think from far away its curtainly origins will not be discernible. Fancy and a little bit ostentatious for a man concerned with fashion. But I wonder if there's any way to dress it up a bit more. Maybe put a neat end on it, to both make it a little taller (the actor playing Brockton is taller than me) and give it a bit of traction. I'd like to find a relatively cheap and easy way to do that, so if anyone has an idea, I'd love to hear it.

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed as part of Arisia 2015, at 6PM on Friday, January 16th at the Westin Boston Waterfront.
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"Rehearsals begin for Mrs. Hawking at Arisia"

Tonight is the first read through for Mrs. Hawking at Arisia 2015, which marks the start of our rehearsal period. This is going to be seriously intense. We don't have long between now and our performance on January 16th, and there's about week's worth of lost time due to the winter holidays. That does NOT make for a nice leisurely process of getting a play blocked, memorized, and sufficiently rehearsed so we don't all embarrass ourselves.

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Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed as part of Arisia 2015, at 6PM on Friday, January 16th at the Westin Boston Waterfront.
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I made these neat gas lamp props to dress the set of Mrs. Hawking at Arisia!

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They're made of two kinds of candle holders, the brass wall-mounted kind and the glass tumbler kind. I joined them together with hot glue. I think I will try to get a hold of those little battery-operated electric tea lights to put inside them for a glow. They're not exactly like any actual Victorian interior gas lamps I could find pictures of, but they are reasonable approximations given the features of the ones I did see.

I like them a lot! I think they will look neat on the set.

Mrs. Hawking, by Phoebe Roberts, will be performed as part of Arisia 2015, at 6PM on Friday, January 16th at the Westin Boston Waterfront.
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"The Colonel's portrait for the set"

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A prominent feature of the Mrs. Hawking set is the portrait of the Colonel that hangs over the mantlepiece in the parlor. I always liked the idea of this detail, as it gives a physical representation to how the Colonel’s presence hangs over the play, and the entirety of Mrs. Hawking’s life. To represent it in the Arisia ’15 production, I decided to find an appropriate image.

Read the rest of the entry at Mrshawking.com!
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Today, with a huge amount of help from Bernie and Sam, I managed to nail down some rehearsal space on Brandeis campus. That's lucky that so many of us in the show are alums, as it enabled us to get access for a very good rate. That meant I could schedule the first chunk of rehearsals, which I have been very nervous to do. I wanted to nail at least the first few weeks down so that my actors could plan on being there.

I'm nervous. We can't really get started until December, and then with the week including Christmas and New Years, we have a chunk in the middle there where we can't rehearse. It leaves us precious little time before the show, less than I'd like. Ah, well. There's nothing I can do about it. Either we'll make it work or we won't. It's enough to make me anxious, but I guess there's no point in freaking out over something I can't change. I just have to use what time we have as well as I possibly can.
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"Set building cleverness"

There are many challenges involved in bringing a theatrical production into being. A lot of elements need to be handled before the story becomes a reality that require a high investment of time and effort. One of those elements is figuring out how to put together a set.

While I don’t feel it’s necessary for it to be a literal representation of the Victorian parlors and gentlemen’s clubs specified in the text, there are least has to be some sort of physical structure for our hero to climb on. But desperation can motivate one to be very creative. I got an idea to secure some kind of found structure that could form the bones, at least, of the set.

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Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!

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