The Wives of Hemingway: Interview with Director Zoe Pepper

Posted by Morgan Leek, April 26th, 2012

Perth Director Zoe Pepper is currently in creative lock down developing Side Pony Productions new work The Wives of Hemingway. Along with fellow raconteurs Tim Watts (Alvin Sputnik), Adriane Daff (The Pride) and Eden Falk (POST) the Side Pony team will be holding a public rehearsal of this exciting new work on Saturday 28 April at the Midland Arts Junction.

Performing Lines WA recently had a chat with Zoe to find out more.

Photoshoot Set-up Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

Words: Tom Cramond (TC) and Zoe Pepper (ZP)
Images: David Collins, Sarah Rowbottam and Adriene Daff

TC. We are very exciting to be working with you on the first stage development of The Wives of Hemingway. Can you give me a brief rundown of your thoughts behind this new work?

ZP. At the outset we wanted to make a play about some of Ernest Hemingway’s dramatic marriages that ended rather spectacularly.

TC. Ernest Hemingway is somewhat of a polarising character in popular literature, as to is his personal life. Have you always been attracted to his work? And what sort of research has gone into its creation so far?

ZP. Hemingway is pretty new for me. It was a little overwhelming the amount of reading that could be done in preparation for this project. I waded through a fair old chunk of it but things are getting pretty abstracted in the rehearsal room.

TC. I absolutely adore the promotional images taken by David Collins. What were the inspirations behind the images and how did they come about?

ZP. I wanted the promo images to capture the overt theatricality of the show, I think they do that pretty well.

Zoe Pepper and David Collins Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

Tim Watts Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

Adriane Daff Photo Sarah Rowbottam

TC. The whole concept of a ‘theatre development’ is something many readers may not be familiar with. Can you give a brief rundown of why you are undertaking this process and what exactly goes on during the workshop?

ZP. This development is really to figure out what the show is about. The way I work is a little risky, we started the development with what we know about Hemingway from research but knowing that we really didn’t want to attempt any kind of legitimate biography.

We do extended improvisations to generate characters and then try to figure out the narrative around the characters.

TC. Working with Sydney performer Eden Hill (POST) must be an exciting development, how did this collaboration begin? And what are you hoping his involvement will bring to the development?

ZP. It’s exciting to be working with someone new on this project, to have a fresh perspective in the rehearsal room. I’d seen Eden perform in Sydney and remembered him from WAAPA and asked him to get involved with the project.

Zoe Pepper Photo: Adriene Daff

Tim Watts Photo: Adriene Daff

Eden and Tim Photo: Adrienne Daff

TC. 2012 marks almost six years since Side Pony Productions first work Motor City Blues. Looking back on the company’s development, what are the key moments that have stood out for you in the maturation of your company?

ZP. I think this year is actually the eighth year for Side Pony and that’s a pretty tough question. The Manic Pony is a show that I’m still really proud of, it was great fun and really cemented a style that has carried through into all my shows. When PTC picked up The Pride for a second season, that was a significant moment for the company that validated what Side Pony had been working away at independently for so long.

TC. And lastly, what else do you have cooking in 2012?

ZP. Later this year Adriane and I are going to keep working on The Castle of Good Will, an interactive audio work which we started last year and also I’m off to study film directing for the second half of the year.

The Wives of Hemingway Development Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

Wigs Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

Tim Watts and Adriene Daff Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

The Wives of Hemingway
Open Rehearsals
12 – 2pm Saturday 28 April 2012
Midland Junction Arts Centre
276 Great Eastern Highway (corner Cale St)

No RSVP, invitation or ticket required!


In This: Interview with Claudia Alessi

Posted by Morgan Leek, April 2nd, 2012

On April 19, celebrated West Australian choreographer Claudia Alessi, Company Complesso and STRUT dance are presenting the first independent dance work to be staged in the Studio Underground at The State Theatre Centre of WA. Entitled In This, Alessi explores the online world of communications and its implications for six strangers living in close proximity to each other.

Earlier this week Performing Lines WA asked Claudia some questions about her upcoming work.

Words: Tom Cramond (TC) and Claudia Alessi (CA)
Images: Emma Fishwick, JUMP mentee

TC. What are your inspirations and influences that have lead you create this work?

CA. What triggered the initial thoughts and inspiration regarding the work and what really drives the work now is the notion or comment that ‘we live in such a technologically laden world.’  This is merely a comment and not a judgement, as I personally could not live with out it. I’m not for one moment trying to be didactic with this presentation either just matter of fact. What I have observed and what’s driven my research into the wee hours of the morning over the past few months is how the Internet is affecting us both positively and negatively. How our Social behaviours have changed and are continuing to shift and morph. How our children even over the past 5 years have seen an expediential shift in technology and its use in their education, at home and even in the family car. Some of the more in-depth research coming out of the US indicates that we are more isolated despite globalisation and whilst we are seemingly so connected we isolate ourselves with our obsessive interaction with the latest smart phone, ipad and choice of gadget we may have. I’m looking at how even tough we seem more connected via technology that’s the very thing that separates us and makes us more isolated from each other.


TC.  In This explores the dynamics between online and offline relationships, is the rise and rise of online communication something you have tackled in previous works before, or is this a completely new set of parameters for you?

CA. It’s completely new territory for me and for the Collective, and we’re all embracing the research and the physicalisation of it openly. I’ve become interested in the advantages and disadvantages of   online life as more is published and openly discussed.


TC. How does the intense physicality of your choreography work against online communication – a medium by definition devoid of physical contact?

CA. Contemporary Dance being an abstract form of performance lends itself to open interpretation for the audience. What we have tried to establish is physicality and contact that’s void of emotional content when necessary, then juxtaposing that with occasional connected contact. So far the work isolates between scenes that are movement driven and others that are theatre driven void of text.


TC. Your new show is the first is the contemporary dance work to be staged in The Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre, how did this opportunity arise for yourself and STRUT Dance?

CA. Getting the work into the STC has been a long and arduous planning exercise. When a portion of Australia Council funding fell through in 2011 I thought I was going to miss out on the opportunity. Fortunately along came STRUT willing to Co Produce as part of their yearly program the work and here we are. Being the ‘first dance production into the space’ isn’t the most important element to me. What is important is that we are presenting dance in a new venue on a new platform that carries with it the excitement of a new and interestingly designed space in Perth and the prestige of the State Theatre Centre as a new venue for Contemporary dance.


TC. Has working in the studio Underground presented any unique challenges to your choreography? Or have the technical abilities of the space allowed you to push the creative envelope further than other venues may allow?

CA. I initially wanted the work to be presented in the Studio Underground because of the set I had designed and the point of view I wanted the audience to have on the work. Upon viewing the first brochure the STC published I noted the ability to shift the seating configuration into the three sections I was hoping for.  After some careful negotiations we have arrived at my desired plan and one and all are happy. Any venue has it’s challenges and we aren’t in there until bump in on 13th April, by that first day we will discover any difficulties but until then it’s all smooth sailing. Don’t know what Mia Holton our Videographer or Jon Davey our lighting designer will say about that though…


TC. In This is the first show for your new production company, Company Complesso. What inspired you to create your new company? And where do you see your new company fitting into the Perth dance scene?

CA. The company is about establishing a collection and collective of like-minded people whom make-work in a whole and integrated manner. Complesso is an Italian word meaning complex and complicated yet whole. I don’t see the complex aspect to its meaning as negative but quite positive in so far as it allows more than dance to be presented under its banner.  I’m also interested in continuing my work regionally with in communities as well as presentation on professional platforms and hope it acts as a safe place for performing arts discovery and creation of interesting and diverse work. I feel that by being able to do this contemporary dance along side physical theatre will become more accessible and popular to our mainstream audience for Perth.


TC. After this work is complete, what’s next for you and your company?

CA. There is always another work in the pipeline, so more funding applications and more personal saving to do, but for the immediate future post show I will be choreographing on an indigenous dance group based in Carnarvon called Pundara. I will be including the Company work practise into the project and again later in the year in Broome where I’m preparing a  large scale community project for Shinji Matsuri Festival. Then my partner and I are renovating our space and I have a baby due early September…eek…

Claudia Alessi
Claudia’s diverse career spans across 25 years. She’s lectured, choreographed, directed and produced for WAAPA, Perth Festival and other festivals and events throughout WA, Melbourne Theatre Co and Theatre Kimberly. Claudia has toured nationally and internationally with companies, including Chrissie Parrott, Sydney Theatre Co, Plasticien Volants of France, Black Swan Theatre Co, Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Legs on the Wall, ADT.

In This

Wed 18 – Sat 21 April 2012
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA William St Northbirdge
All shows 7:30pm
Tickets $36 full, $28 concession/members or (08) 9484 1133

Presented by STRUT Dance and Company Complesso
Created by: Claudia Alessi
Performed by: Sete Tele, Kathryn Puie, Brooke Leeder, Laura Boynes, Russell Leonard, Tyrone Robinson
Lighting Design and Set Consultant: Jon Davey
Dramaturge: Jo Pollitt
Vigeographer: Mia Holton

Sound Designer: Geoff Baker

Filed under WA Featured Artist