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Ishmael first day of rehearsals

From script to stage – take a peek behind the scenes at Ishmael’s first day of rehearsals

3 min read

Have you ever wondered about what it takes to develop a theatre production from script to stage?

Ever wanted to experience a rehearsal first-hand?

We recently sat in on the first day of rehearsals for Dead Puppet Society’s much anticipated world premiere production, Ishmael.

A reimagining of the timeless novel, Moby Dick, Ishmael is set on a futuristic version of earth that has suffered a catastrophic environmental collapse.

This unique story, portraying the plight of a climate refugee and her voyage to the outer solar system, will make its long-awaited world premiere as part of the 2021 Brisbane Festival from 30 August to 11 September.

The excitement was palpable at this first rehearsal as we joined artists, creatives and other presenting partners at Brisbane’s Old Museum, for a day that had been long coming.

David Morton, Nicholas Paine, Louise Bezzina and John Kotzas.

Dead Puppet Society’s Directors David Morton and Nicholas Paine welcomed attendees to the first rehearsal and gave context to its significance.

“It is thrilling to have our first script read through today,” said David, Ishmael’s writer and director.

“We have been waiting for more than two years for this milestone.

“It is also notable that this is the first new work Dead Puppet Society has created since 2017.

“We are so thankful for the support of our partners, QPAC, Brisbane Festival and Screen Queensland in enabling us to bring this brand-new work to fruition,” he said.

Brisbane Festival Artistic Director Louise Bezzina echoed their excitement saying she was thrilled to welcome the creative and innovative Dead Puppet Society into Brisbane Festival.

“We are delighted to be working with QPAC to support the development of this important new Australian work. We can’t wait to open the festival and see the long-awaited debut of Ishmael in just a matter of weeks,” said Louise.

QPAC’s Chief Executive John Kotzas was equally pleased to be in the room.

“Supporting new productions by local arts companies is at the heart of what we do at QPAC. And when we work together, through partnerships, we can all achieve so much more.”

“It is wonderful to be part of bringing internationally acclaimed Dead Puppet Society’s creative vision to the stage. It is also exciting to be here for the first read of this original and topical story,” said John.

After the short speeches, the actors, directors, creatives and guests took their seats ready for the first reading of the rehearsal script.

David Morton set the scene and then the three actors, Ellen Balley (Ishmael), Barbara Lowing (Captain Ahab, Grubb, Coffin and Rachel) and Patrick Jhanur (Queegueg) commenced reading of the script with David describing the on-stage action.

The actors’ lines were interspersed with the captivating 80s-esque-synth original score composed especially for Ishmael by acclaimed indie pop musician Bec Sandridge.

The story of Ishmael is told both by live performers using miniatures, models and camera technology to create sweeping visuals that are both the background to the action and carry the storytelling weight in their own right.

At the first read for Ishmael

As with most Dead Puppet Society’s work, the source of the illusion is exposed, and with Ishmael this will be taken to the next level. In addition to watching the story, the audience will see how it’s made – live in front of their eyes.

The rehearsal script was read in front of the large-scale digital screen that the incredible visuals will be projected onto throughout the show.

Miniature models of spaceships and buildings were also visible around the rehearsal room giving an exciting behind the scenes peek into the technical aspects of this innovative new production.

Want to find out more about the development process for this awesome new work? Take a look at the first day of rehearsals for Dead Puppet Society’s Ishmael here.

You can also check out some more pics of the incredible miniature models being created in Dead Puppet Society’s studios in the gallery below.


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