Marri Tree Girl - Sky River | Showcase WA | CircuitWestMarri Tree Girl - Sky River | Showcase WA | CircuitWest

Marri Tree Girl – Sky River

Marri Tree Girl – Sky River

September 30, 2021

Company / Producer Name Folk of the Puppetree/Sky River
Contact Person Sky River
Contact Email
Company Website:

I am keen to talk about Marri Tree Girl, a creative puppet-based theatre initiative that offers professional development opportunities for regional artists to collaborate on a new piece of Western Australian theatre. Weaving the world of science and storytelling, the magical puppet-based work will experiment with how a variety of art-forms including digital media, film, paper-cut and contemporary performance techniques, can explore regionally relevant themes. The work responds to a growing body of research that uses art and science to communicate and explore ideas, with specific reference to ecological interconnectivity and the Marri Canker; an airborne disease affecting local South West Marri trees. The project provides three branches of activity that take place over 2021-2023 in Margaret River, including a series of workshops, a creative development period and rehearsal/performance. The performance outcome will be launched for the local Margaret River community in 2023 at the Margaret River HEART, prior to touring. Marri Tree Girl aims to build a connected and vibrant, experimental arts scene in Margaret River and share regionally inspired work.

As a regional based theatre maker I am eager to attract support for the experimental performance scene in Margaret River to both thrive and attract opportunities for our works to be seen by larger audiences. I would love to talk about how a regional theatre maker could access teams of trained performers to partake in creative development practices, how to lure skilled trainers into the regions to upskill regional artists in a theatrical context and to make connections between regional shows and metropolitan venues. I am also eager to discuss mentor potential with skilled professionals to bounce some creative development ideas around as it can become isolating in a regional setting where there are no professional theatre companies to work with (yet!!).

The Marri Tree Girl proposes a creative theatre development process that strengthens artistic collaboration and opportunity in regional Western Australia and moves toward a viable tour-able outcome. A small team of Margaret River artists will respond to scientific research on the Marri Canker; a fungal disease effecting the South West Marri tree and research into tree oriented folk-lore and mythologies from around the world. Weaving symbolic imagery, puppetry, film and a futuristic story, this project aims to heighten awareness of the impacts and outcomes for the Marri, while reinforcing the interconnectivity of all life. The project stems from living in a unique biodiversity hotspot facing exceptional habitat losses and responds to an evolving environmental movement, to facilitate imaginative engagement with the landscape and influence a shift in perception. For thousands of years’ stories have been a way for humans to make sense of their place in the world, while passing on wisdom about how to create healthy reciprocity with the land. A growing body of research supports the effective nature of puppetry as a communicative tool. Puppetry brings something inanimate to life and is an art form capable of building a bridge between the material world and the imagination to explore new ideas. Practical consideration drives initial creative development stages to develop a show that leans heavily on digital media in a shadow puppet/animation style set. Besides Covid-19 restrictions, a large cast and set is challenging and expensive to take on tour which limits options for a regional theatre maker. The aim is to create a live theatre show that utilizes the versatility of digital media, and relies on less people to perform. The goal is to make a tour friendly production that can extend beyond the reach of regional Western Australia, yet brings the stories that evolve from artists living in close contact with the land.

Working regionally can be an isolating and limiting experience for artists in specialized fields. This development process actively creates an opportunity to upskill a team of regional artists in Margaret River, the region they live, with the intention of creating a touring work. An opportunity like this enables artist, Sky River, the opportunity to enhance her skills in creating new theatre works and raise the profile of regional artists. The Marri Girl project will engage a team of regional artists from diverse backgrounds and art forms. The project will include a period of Indigenous consultation. Wadandi custodian and cultural teacher Josh Whiteland has already supplied some music for use in this project. Undalup Association will also be engaged for consultation with regard to Marri stories and use of Noongar language. The project enables a partnership to build between artists and arts organisations in Margaret River, such as The Margaret River HEART, a high quality performance venue with lights, sound, projection ect, Arts Margaret River, the BREC and the local Shire. It would be fabulous to extend our collaborative reach beyond the South West regional and enable new networks, professional developments and audience opportunities.

I am currently seeking funding for the stages of creative development needed to make this production. The project is broken down into a few different stages and avenues for potential funding. I am applying for funding through DCLSC to work with dramaturg/playwright Anthony Coxeter and choreographer Adalina Larsson as part of the script development process. I am currently making some of the cast of puppets with my National Regional Arts Fellowship in experimental puppetry. In partnership with Arts Margaret River and Margaret River HEART I am seeking funding to initiate an artist in residency series to invite professional shadow puppetry experts to work with us in Margaret River, including Clare Testoni and Sandy McKendrick. I hope to create a professional development opportunity for our set design artist Kathi Meister to work with a professional set designer. Kathi is an exceptional collage and paper-cut artist who could benefit from a mentor to bring her work into the theatre context. I need funding for project development activities, including puppet design/construction, set and prop design/construction, filming in various locations including onstage, animation, music composition, live trained performers for experimentation processes including physical theatre, lighting design, special effects and editing time. An experimental process will guide the outcomes, with key steps moving from script development and artist brainstorming sessions into a practical stage of artists making necessary items before filming, editing and embarking on the HEART stage to experiment with lights, special effects and production quality. Potentially securing a short term communal workshop space to work and create set items/puppets. I hope to form networks between Perth and Margaret River to enable touring and accessing venues to widen our audience reach.

Sky River- writer, puppet/theatre maker, producer- award winning, published writer, 2021 National Regional Arts Fellowship recipient. Develops relevant theatre in magical ways. Drama teacher and Arts co-ordinator for adults with disabilities, Theatre Studies (Griffith University) BA Honors in Visual Arts & English (ECU).
Sara Walker- lighting, special effects, performer- BA Theatre Arts USQ and acting course NIDA, Won Charles Chavel and Panasonic Film Maker Awards. Worked for major theatre companies, Channel 9, 10 and Fox Studios, backstage includes Sydney Olympics, The Matrix, The Lion King, Sydney Dance, Australian Opera Company Perth.
Katherina Meister- paper-cut, sculptor, set design- Staatliche Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe Master Degree in Fine Arts. A multiple award winner, included in art collections such as Federal Government Department for Environmental Concern Berlin, Germany. Several solo exhibitions at galleries in Germany and Europe currently exhibiting in BRAG, Bunbury.
David Skeats- leather master, shoes, masks, costumes, puppets – over 50 years design and making experience, a skilled artisan who has generously mentored and supported numerous artists, through the South West.
Adalina Larsson- choreopraphy, award winning Swedish/Mexican choreographer, performer- Stockholm University of the Arts, extensive experience, Bighart, Regional Artist Fellowship and current lecturer at WAAPA
Anton Blume – photographer, filmmaker-Multi award winning artist Advisor to Board of Directors, Gascoyne In May Inc – WA, Board of Directors, Art On The Move – WA, Member, Artsource – WA
Danny Jenning- film, animation- Phd Curtin University, Margaret River HEART technician, Director of Blackjar Studio, award winning filmmaker, worked on Digby and the Dragon Saul Harvey Cresswell – Music composition for short films and live performances, including award-winning short film My Nan and the Yandi, featured on ABC; 4 soundtracks for Folk of the Puppetree.