Breaking Light Productions is currently streaming the original play, “Mrs. Hawking,” by Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin on YouTube.
Breaking Light is a Boston-based film and stage company that specializes in serial content. The productions are performed live and then prerecorded on the stage. They are best known for the “Mrs. Hawking” series of theatrical plays over the last seven years.
The YouTube video production of “Mrs. Hawking” is the first installment of the Victorian Gaslamp adventures which takes place in 1880s London. In partnership with The Manchester Community Theatre in New Hampshire, we meet Mrs. Hawking and Mary Stone, her assistant, in their first adventure. In Part 1, we see them deal with villains, rescue kidnapped children, and struggle with the prejudices towards women during the Victorian Era in England.
Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin are a couple who has been writing and producing scripts for stage and screen together for the past six years. They are an MFA playwright and screenwriter and a physics PhD who met producing Shakespeare plays at Brandeis University. In addition to the “Mrs. Hawking”series, they also produce a Hollywood comedy series, “Dream Machine.” During the day, Phoebe teaches literature and writing for Lesley University, while Bernie is an AI engineer for the Department of Defense.
Although Roberts lives now in the Boston Area and Gabin lives in Columbia, Maryland, the two have continued their theatrical relationship over the miles. Both have co-authored several plays and Roberts also directs. Gabin is often involved in the technical aspects of the play, for instance lighting and sets.
What is the genre of “Mrs. Hawking?”
We’d call it period mystery adventure—we follow a set of detectives in Victorian London, searching for clues and unraveling cases, but also coming up with clever plans to catch their quarry and battling through scenes of high action.
What made you decide to place the time in the 19th Century?
We’ve always loved the culture and aesthetic of the Victorian age, and there is a lot of fascinating history to draw upon. But it’s also a time of colonialism, inequality, and oppression that is often unexamined in the classic stories of the genre. We wanted to capture all the fun parts of that setting while still acknowledging and grappling with the impact of these societal ills. Many of our characters are people who traditionally would have suffered under these circumstances, such as our female detectives who have to step outside their proscribed roles in order to pursue their work.
Do you think of Mrs. Hawking more of a 18th century Batman, Robin Hood, Equalizer, or something entirely different?
Our primary influences for the character of Mrs. Hawking were Batman and Sherlock Holmes. Even though we didn’t want our characters to be super human, we loved the idea of a brilliant deductive mind like Sherlock who also struggles like Batman, with the burdens that drove her to challenge the injustices of society. It also inspired the generational dynamic of our detective team, where our gifted hero, Mrs. Hawking, mentors and challenges two younger up-and-coming heroes, Mary and Nathaniel. In turn, these two younger characters challenge her to confront her pre-conceived notions about how the world works and the possibilities for a better future.
How many more parts are you planning of “Mrs. Hawking?”
We have written five more parts so far, plus one spinoff. We’re shooting for nine total in the form of three trilogies. Each one building to a larger arc that spans around fifteen years of the characters’ lives. They focus on the building of the team, the challenges the team faces, and ultimately how it evolves into the next generation of heroes. The spinoff follows a side character into a more humorous story, and we had so much fun with the different tone that we are considering writing more in that vein.
Have you written other plays together and do you have a favorite?
We’ve written fifteen or so full-length pieces in our time working together! Some of our favorites include “Hood,” a modern thriller reinterpretation of Robin Hood; our ancient Roman gladiator epic “Adonis;” and “Gentlemen Never Tell,” the Mrs. Hawking spinoff in the form of a Jeeves and Wooster-style comedy of manners. We’ve also got our sitcom “Dream Machine,” satirizing the creative process of putting together shows, the pilot of which will be released on YouTube later this year.
You can find the review of “Mrs. Hawking” here.