The Joan Residency

Donna Hewitt teamed up with Paul Smith and his Blush Opera Company to undertake a residency at the Joan Sutherland Centre. The proposal was selected following an open callout for artists and groups of artists passionate about Western Sydney’s creative culture. Q Theatre selected five artists-in-residence for the Q Lab ’19 Residency program. The recipients were provided with financial assistance and space as well as technical and dramaturgical support for creative development.

The proposal put forth by Hewitt and Smith was to develop an electronic operatic performance work for two performers with a working title, “The Digital Marionette”. This piece will explore the dominant themes of puppetry and specifically the notion of control and interactions with the body and projection of the voice. The world of puppetry involves a complex hierarchy for the performers and also challenges audiences to consider who is causing what actions to happen as in a traditional puppet show.

The relationship between the puppet and the puppeteer is always a kind of weird dance. One puppeteer who has been working with his puppet for 35 years says his work has been an experiment with the relationship between him and his puppet. ‘It all has to do with power,’ he says, ‘and who is the boss.’ Sometimes it’s him, sometimes it’s the puppet.

The aim of the artists is to draw together the media of electronic music, and opera performance practice to consider how the musical and performative overlap can be structured in relation to the concept of puppetry. The artists will explore the use of wearable gestural controllers opening up a modern paradigm for the concept of the puppet, where the data from the movement of the bodies can be used in many ways to control the elements in the performance. The performers can control each other, their voice and the production of the sound and other media elements.

The team were joined by dancer and theatre maker Cloé Fournier who became the puppet/ digital marionette during the project development.

Paolo & Donna
Dr Paul Smith and Dr Donna Hewitt working on The Digital Marionette at the Joan Sutherland Centre, February 2019. The Qlab Residency.
soldering for QLab
Donna Hewitt soldering wearable technology for the Digital Marionette Project. Joan Sutherland Centre, Feb 2019. Qlab Residency.
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Cloé Fournier and Jermaine Chau
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‘Permafrost’ premiere

Donna’s new composition Permafrost is premiered at the Tilde~ New Music Festival in Melbourne. Written for and performed by Alana Blackburn.

The work is for recorders and fixed electronics. It is inspired by Alana’s comprehensive musical vocabulary with the recorder family and highlights her extensive performance experience with the instruments.

The work utilises both natural and synthesised sounds, including some recordings of Antarctic wildlife. The work aims to entwine the textures, timbres and spatial characters of the live and pre-recorded sounds. The work is inspired by the concept of ‘Permafrost’, the ‘permanently’ frozen earth found in colder climates. The predicted thawing of the permafrost is accompanied by some ominous scientific predictions for the future of our climate, ecosystems and health and was at the forefront of Hewitt’s mind as she composed this work.

Permafrost Performed by Alana Blackburn
Alana Blackburn performing ‘Permafrost’ at the Tilde~ New Music Festival Melbourne January 2019