Mark Swetz had been asking himself for some time: “How do you open performance to those with low, no and full vision?” The question of “blind spectatorship” became a topic for research, and eventually a thesis. Part of Swetz’ research, though not formally a part of that thesis, was a musical he commissioned from composer Paul Shapera, first performed in 2012. The Dolls of New Albion: A Steampunk Opera runs just under an hour and a half, and of necessity it’s on the wordy side, so that it’s not necessary to have access to the visuals to comprehend the story.
Brief overview, so to speak:
The 1st Act is concerned with a scientist, Annabel McAlistair, and her attempt to bring back her dead love, placing him within the body of a mechanical mannequin. The 2nd Act follows her son Edgar, the 3rd Act his son Byron and the 4th Act Priscilla McAlistair. Each generation’s meddling with these Dolls contributes to the gradual fall of New Albion itself.
Jasper, Annabel’s object of fixation, only once actually noticed her; it turns out that he was already committed to another in an arranged marriage. That marriage did not go well, and when Jasper died, Annabel put her scientific (and beyond, perhaps) knowledge to bring him back, bring him to her.
This gets seriously complicated over the four generations of McAlistairs, as Annabel’s work, the work she’d tried to suppress, was eventually discovered by Edgar, who decided to go into business as the local re-animator. It made him a fortune; unfortunately, his wealth went to his head. Meanwhile, more and more Dolls were being created from the souls of New Albion’s deceased.
(With thanks to Roger Green.)