Each year, thousands of people flock to venues across the city in pursuit of the pleasure that exploring the boundaries of art presents.
Among the talented performers set to grace stages for this year’s festival is Melbourne-based actor Donatella De Palma.
Premiering at The Butterfly Club from September 12 through 17, Ms De Palma’s latest work, Twigs That Never Took, is a stunning solo theatrical show about an older woman who is fighting to remain visible in a world where women her age are constantly overlooked by society.
Ms De Palma uses puppetry and storytelling to explore the personal loneliness, professional retrenchment and social apathy that women can be faced with, making for a delightfully thought-provoking one-act work of comedy, tragedy, truth and fantasy.
Many of these topics are not unfamiliar to Ms De Palma herself.
The gifted actor has worked extensively in theatre, education, touring comedy shows, film, television, voice overs and puppetry.
However, as the years go by, she has noticed that acting roles and opportunities have begun to dwindle.
“There aren’t many roles written where the leading person is middle-aged; it’s often focused on the youth,” she explained.
“This occurs not only in acting but in the wider society, and it’s something that women like Susan Sarandon and Hillary Clinton have spoken about.”
Ms De Palma’s passion for performing along with her refusal to be satisfied with fewer substantial roles inspired her to breathe life into her own solo show.
“They say that to get work you’ve got to write your own work sometimes, so I took the plunge and wrote my own piece,” she said.
“I’ve been commissioned to write things before but I’ve never done it just for myself, so it was exciting and scary.”
A second-generation Italian with parents hailing from Campania, Ms De Palma allows her heritage to shine through in her work, and Twigs That Never Took features Italian characters and many cultural aspects reflective of her upbringing.
“As time goes by, I’ve realised how that culture shaped me more than I ever thought in my youth,” she reflected.
“Growing up I just wanted to be Australian, but I’ve appreciated and embraced my culture much more as I’ve grown older.”
Ms De Palma was a founding member of a committee which was formed in 2008 to lobby for an Italian bilingual school in Victoria, resulting in Brunswick South Primary School becoming the first Italian bilingual school in the state earlier this year.
She also raised her daughter bilingual and, once a month, she ventures to her local library to take story time in Italian.
Last year, Ms De Palma also became a member of the Italian women’s choir in Melbourne, La Voce Della Luna, and she will showcase one of the group’s hits in Twigs That Never Took.
As Ms De Palma prepares to step onto the stage next month, she hopes to engage her audience and deliver an entertaining performance that people can connect with.
“I’m hoping people realise that there isn’t necessarily a right way to go about life and that you should keep on going regardless of the circumstances.”
Premiering at The Melbourne Fringe Festival 2017, Twigs That Never Took opens September 12 to 17 for 6 consecutive nights. Bookings are highly recommended.