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Author Topic: Developing a new steampunk play "Base Instruments," pt 3 of Mrs. Hawking series  (Read 770 times)
breakinglight11
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« on: April 11, 2015, 03:45:59 pm »

Right now I'm currently developing the third installment of the Mrs. Hawking play series the continuing story of a steampunk superhero who is a lady version of Batman and Sherlock Holmes. I have begun the challenging process of plotting it out, and it's clear that this will significantly harder than what I've done before.

First of all, this third piece will be a true mystery, as opposed to a caper like the first two stories. In Mrs. Hawking and Vivat Regina, our heroes are presented with a problem rather than a question. "Foil a blackmailer and return a kidnapped child." "Bring a monster to justice who is hiding behind diplomatic immunity." Mrs. Hawking and Mary knew what they were going after, and their challenge was to figure out how to accomplish it. In a mystery, however, they have to investigate to find out the answer to what's gone on. That's a very different story design process, as it requires the slow unfolding of the truth based on the gathering of clues, which is really tough to do in a theatrical medium. Think about it; most mystery stories require lots of people to interview and places to investigate, while in theater you have to minimize both locations and characters in order to make staging feasible. The few theatrical mysteries tend to be of the "locked room" variety, to keep both suspect pool and number of settings down.

I'm trying to use that "locked room" model after a fashion for that very reason. Still, this play is going to have a LOT of speaking characters, there's just no way around it. We've got our three leads, of course, and we're starting to build up a cast of supporting characters we want to recur and develop-- in this case, Nathaniel's wife Clara and Arthur, the policeman Mary befriended. I also want to include Nathaniel's brother Justin Hawking, and of course there's going to have to be all the characters specifically involved in the mystery.

But we're trying to concern ourselves more with telling the best possible story than with "production stuff" yet. Writing a compelling mystery will be tough enough on its own. I've been watching a ton of mysteries lately for research, and we're going to be working out a lot of kinks. Wish us luck! I want the next installment of this story to continue the upward trajectory of the last two.

I struggle a great deal with titles; though I’m pretty happy with "Mrs. Hawking" and "Vivat Regina,” I rarely think I’ve come up with good ones. But I have an idea, at least, of what I’d like to call this third story. I’m leaning towards either “Base Instruments,” regarding to the imperfections of those people who struggle to deliver grand results. The first two have a quality of irony about them, which I would like to maintain in this third title if possible.
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breakinglight11
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« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2015, 02:34:41 pm »

I have a fair bit of preliminary work done on determing the themes the third installment in the Mrs. Hawking story. It will deal primarily with the three following ideas:

   -   Mary’s establishment of what kind of protégé she truly wants to be to Mrs. Hawking's superheroing

   -   A hinting at Mrs. Hawking’s fear of her eventual decline into old age.

   -   The reaction of Nathaniel’s family to find out he's involved in such crazy stuff.

This will mark the first time Nathaniel’s involvement in Mrs. Hawking’s work (and his growing feminism, in sharp contrast to the common values of the day) is scrutinized by the by and large conventional members of his family. I’d like to have his brother Justin show up, to demonstrate a clashing ideology, and have his wife Clara actually be informed of what’s really going on and have to respond to it. I want to explore how Nathaniel will handle experiencing the threat of disapproval for basically the first time in his life, and realizing just how much at odds his new worldview is with the rest of society.

The case they shall be working in the course of this episode will be brought to them by a ballet dancer, in order to introduce the ballet motif that will expose Mrs. Hawking’s inner struggle. I haven’t figured out exactly what the problem will be, but it will involve a true mystery. I’d like to show her actually having to figure out what happened based on the gathering of clues and applying deductive reasoning. I enjoy mysteries a great deal, as the need to seek out more information is a compelling way to pace things, and I love the way it allows stories to unfold.
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breakinglight11
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« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2015, 02:36:20 am »

In figuring out what's going to happen in Base Instruments, I find myself wanting to incorporate ballet theme into the story.

I’ve always been fascinated by the art of ballet. First of all, I just find it beautiful, a pure pleasure to watch. But from an intellectual standpoint I’m enthralled by the contradictions. It is viewed as a very delicate, refined art, coded feminine in most modern people’s eyes. But those who practice it at the highest levels is run like an army with just as much discipline. The dancers look frail and delicate, but they have to be unimaginably fit and strong, not to mention able to endure an enormous amount of pain. The dance is so demanding that careers tends to be very short, as many ballet dancers end up physically destroyed by the effort. The image of the broken down ballerina— whose tragedy is that she can no longer practice what she has sacrificed everything to be able to do —is one I return to again and again in my writing.

I find this could make for a perfect parallel to Mrs. Hawking. I want Base Instruments to include a ballerina who is facing inevitable breakdown in order to use her as a metaphor for everything Mrs. Hawking fears. Her work, which involves so much physical punishment, will eventually wear her body down, and age will at some point make it so she can no longer continue. The ballerina character will speak to this part of her, and cause her to ponder how she will eventually address this.

This could tie nicely into the protégé conflict, where she will be trying to mold Mary into a new version of herself. Her fear of her not being able to do her work anymore will motivate her to make Mary into someone she feels like she can trust to properly carry things on— literally, another her. We will see that things won’t exactly go her way on that score, but Mary will in time prove capable of taking up the mantle, if not exactly in the manner Mrs. Hawking initially hopes.
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breakinglight11
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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2015, 03:25:54 pm »


This early piece for Base Instruments is pretty much pure idea and very, very little refinement. It grew out of the fact that I want to have a ballerina for the client in this one, who can bring up ballet as a metaphor for exploring some of Mrs. Hawking's issues. Ballet dancers, particularly broken down ones, are a favorite subject of mine to write about. I really like using this conceit in the story, and I think I'm really on to something in this scene. I hope it's as subtle as I'm working for it to be.

The trouble is it was written without context, so definitely needs editing once I figure out what the mystery and plot is. For this I just threw in a few details as placeholders; I don't even know who "Alexei" is supposed to be, for example. But I can sort that out later. For now I just wanted to take a stab at the idea, and even in this rough form I think it's going to be a good one.

Your Vessel Has Not Betrayed You
by Phoebe Roberts

VICTORIA HAWKING, secret society avenger, early forties
ELENA ZAKHAROVA, prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet, late twenties

London, England, 1883
~~~

Click here to read the scene.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2015, 01:26:26 pm by breakinglight11 » Logged
breakinglight11
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« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2015, 06:23:23 pm »


So I've been working to figure out the Mrs. Hawking timeline to nail down when each story needs to happen. The main things to work around are that the first story takes place in 1880, to happen in proper proximity to the Indian Rebellion and the Battle of Kandahar, and I want the sixth story to have Mrs. Hawking taking on Jack the Ripper, which would happen in 1888. Six pieces need to be spread across that span, with an amount of time between them that is believable. I've decided that it makes more sense to place Base Instruments in 1883 rather than 1882, which is what I had originally been using for all other pieces of it written for this 31P31D, so that the second trilogy can be in 1885, 1886, and 1888, making no gap longer than two years.

If it's happening in 1883, then, it occurred to me that means that Mrs. Hawking will be almost out of mourning for her late husband the Colonel. Mourning for widows was very regimented in Victorian England, so even if it didn't match her own feelings or preferences, she would have to observe the etiquette so as not to attract unwanted attention and criticism. I don't know if this is an especially useful scene to include in Base Instruments, but it's an interesting thing to address.

The Cuff
by Phoebe Roberts

VICTORIA HAWKING, lady’s society avenger
MARY STONE, her housemaid and assistant

London, England, 1883
~~~

Click here to read the rest of the scene.
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breakinglight11
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« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2015, 06:10:47 pm »

Base Instruments is likely to have a very large cast. That's not ideal for produceability, but more and more I suspect I just need to adapt these Mrs. Hawking stories into a miniseries or something, so I'm not worrying about that stuff when I'm just trying to figure out what happens in each installment.

Arthur Swann, a young policeman, was introduced in Vivat Regina, and though nothing happened beyond getting to know him a little, it was pretty clear he was positively impressed by Mary. Because Base Instruments will be a murder mystery, I think it will be necessary to have Arthur reappear in this story, especially since I'm planning on him becoming more and more of an important character. That means the relationship between him and Mary will have to progress. One of his traits is that he's supposed to be charming in a way that respects and admires Mary's capability and independence, which I want to demonstrate in his pursuit of her. However, I have to be careful to not push things too hard, as I want the attentions of Nathaniel's brother Justin to be a legitimate distraction for Mary in this story. Justin will seem less special and remarkable if lots of dudes are throwing themselves at her. I may be able to rely on the fact that he's very good-looking and a gentleman, the sort of man Mary never would have expected to give her a second look, while Arthur is a bit more ordinary-seeming. But I can balance that out later. Here's a shot at looking what Arthur reappearing in Mary's life would begin with.

I really love him calling her "rare bird," given the significance of the bird motif in these stories. :-)

Glad to Be Your Man
by Phoebe Roberts

MARY STONE, house maid and assistant society avenger
ARTHUR SWANN, a policeman

London, England, 1883
~~~

Click here to read the scene.
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breakinglight11
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« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2015, 05:52:49 pm »

"Structuring "Mrs. Hawking part three", Base Instruments"


Been doing some serious work on the third Mrs. Hawking story, Base Instruments, as this summer I have real time to buckle down and write. As I've mentioned, this is a tougher project than usual because of the demands of writing a mystery to be performed onstage. But that difficulty is compounded by all the other things that need to be in it.

The Mrs. Hawking story is intended to be a serial, with all the advantages and disadvantages that involves. I love the the fact that our characters can develop overtime, building up rich journeys and the surrounding setting through what stories came before. With two adventures already under our belt, the world of Mrs. Hawking has started to take shape, including a larger cast of characters that we want to see more of.

Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!
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breakinglight11
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« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2015, 06:18:00 pm »

I find that the overall plot of Base Instruments, which is a mystery, is proving to be hard to nail down. I'm very close now, though it certainly could still change as I test how everything works. The other day I worked out an important aspect of it through drawing a diagram and moving coins around on it that represented where the characters were at various points in the story. Proud of myself for figuring that out!


I wrote this snippet for Base Instruments as part of 31 Plays in 31 Days 2014. I got the major themes and journeys hammered out pretty quickly, so here's something, getting at the idea that as much as Mary wants to be Mrs. Hawking's protege, she may not be ready for everything Mrs. Hawking's going to expect. This will be Mary's major struggle for the piece.

Read the scene on Mrshawking.com!
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breakinglight11
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« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2015, 02:29:42 pm »


"Process of drafting Base Instruments"

At last, all that outlining for Base Instruments is paying off. I worked my ass off, with Bernie’s help, to figure out what would happen in each scene, and while that tactic can be grueling, I find it so much easier to actually draft the piece with that effort put in on the front end. Here is my current process strategy.


A glimpse of my outline

Read the rest of the entry on Mrshawking.com!
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