Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre
Zen Zen Zo is a Brisbane-based physical theatre company at the forefront of contemporary performance and training in Australia. Founded by Lynne Bradley and Simon Woods in 1992, the company creates theatrical experiences that are visually stunning and physically extreme, often involving audience interactivity.
The company's aesthetic was forged between the ancient Asian dance-theatre traditions, the European avant-garde theatre movement and contemporary pop culture - where sound, light, movement and spectacle communicate meaning and experience. This fusion of old and new gives Zen Zen Zo its unique appeal, and an audience base that spans several generations.
After debuting with the production Never the Elephant (a loose translation of Zen Zen Zo), the company went on to produce Galileo , The Zoo Story and The Way of Mud (presented as a part of the 1993 Brisbane Fringe Festival). Between 1993 and 1995 the company relocated to Kyoto, Japan, where we participated in a cross-cultural collaboration with local Japanese artists resulting in two large-scale bilingual productions, The Cult of Dionysus and Macbeth: As Told by the Weird Sisters . This period was critical in establishing the company's key aesthetic philosophies and training methodologies.
Based back in Brisbane in 1996, Zen Zen Zo remounted the landmark production of The Cult of Dionysus for the inaugural Brisbane Festival and went on to create the critically acclaimed dance-theatre production, Unleashed . 1997 saw the controversial production of The Marriage of Figaro , a collaboration between Zen Zen Zo and the Queensland Conservatorium of Music which was presented as part of the Stage X Festival. Since 1998 the Queensland Arts Council supported the development of four schools touring productions: Visions of Macbeth , The Man Who Sold the World , Romeo & Juliet , and The Odyssey (which have toured extensively through Queensland, South Australia, and Victoria over a decade). From 1998 to 2002, the company produced two remounted seasons of Macbeth: As Told By The Weird Sisters (Brisbane 1999, Singapore Youth Festival 2002, Townsville Civic Centre 2002, Optus Playhouse 2002), Steel Flesh (Brisbane Festival 1998), The Man Who Sold The World (Brisbane Festival 2000) and Unleashed (Adelaide Fringe Festival 2000).
Zen Zen Zo staged three co-productions in 2004: The Odyssey (QPAC), Wicked Bodies (La Boite) and Romeo & Juliet (schools touring production with Queensland Arts Council). The company also initiated the Queensland Performing Arts Centre's Artists-in-Residency program with The Odyssey , which went on to win 3 Matilda Awards.
In early 2005 Zen Zen Zo relocated to the Old Museum in Spring Hill with the assistance of a Brisbane City Council grant which acknowledged the company's ongoing contribution to the cultural life of Brisbane. That year Zen Zen Zo launched the annual IN THE RAW Studio Season program, designed to allow the company to get back to its raw and experimental roots. The first IN THE RAW Studio Season was the Butoh-inspired Those with Lucifer , performed at Sub-Station 4 (with Strut & Fret Production House). 2005 also saw Romeo & Juliet tour to Hong Kong.
2006 and 2007 brought the large-scale promenade performances of Sub Con Warrior 1 and the Matilda Award-nominated production Dracula , both playing to sold-out houses.
During this time the company also performed at the 8th World Shakespeare Congress, the Australian Business Arts Foundation State Awards, the Drama Australia Conference, the Coolum Kite Festival, iOrpheus at Southbank, The Golden Show with Dairakudakan in Japan, and in concert with the American band The Dresden Dolls in both Brisbane and London.
In 2008, after 16 years of operation and in acknowledgement of the company's contribution to the arts, Zen Zen Zo was awarded infrastructural funding from Arts Queensland. In 2008 the company also produced two new major works, Zeitgeist and Sub-Con Warrior 2.0 , both of which have been designed to tour. Later that year fifteen Zen Zen Zo members returned to Japan to further the collaboration with Japanese Butoh company Dairakudakan, performing in The Golden Show for the second year running. A 5-year partnership with the ESF Foundation also resulted in three Zen Zen Zo-directed shows in 2008 in Hong Kong - Fa Hoi Fu Kwai , The Tempest , and War of the Worlds .
In 2009, Zen Zen Zo presented three major works, and five youth productions. In early 2009 the oldest and largest Butoh company in the world, Dairakudakan, created a new work for Zen Zen Zo in Brisbane entitled GAIA . Mid-year The Tempest was remounted in Brisbane to critical acclaim and included guest artists Bryan Nason and Emma Dean. In August, Zeitgiest made its international debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, receiving more 5-star reviews than any other show at the festival and was short-listed for the prestigious Total Theatre Award. In November and December Amadeus and A Christmas Carol both opened in Hong Kong. Throughout the year The Odyssey and Unleash the Warrior: Body Bootcamp toured with QAC through primary and secondary schools throughout regional Queensland.
Zen Zen Zo has developed a reputation for delivering world-class training programs for artists and has specialized in teaching The Suzuki Actor Training Method, Butoh and Viewpoints, as well as hosting numerous guest artists and frequently travelling abroad. Over the progression of the company, Zen Zen Zo has developed a series of innovative intensive programs, as well as offering year-round actor training classes for adults and young people. Zen Zen Zo's In-Schools Program , which has been in operation since 1998, is now one of the largest providers of drama workshops and residencies in Queensland.
Zen Zen Zo offers a range of intensive adult training programs including: Stomping Ground (summer intensive training program est. 1999), Teachers' Training Course for secondary school educators (est. 2001), a very popular and highly competitive 6-month Company Internship for emerging and established artists (est. 2003), Winter Stomp Bootcamp (est. 2005), and a series of week-long intensives held around Australia and abroad - Sydney Stomp, Melbourne Stomp, Darwin Stomp, Adelaide Stomp, and Vancouver Stomp (est. 2006-2009).
The company's weekly actor-training classes, now held in both Brisbane and Melbourne all year round, include Physical Actor Training (the Suzuki Method + Viewpoints), Butoh Dance-Theatre , Meisner , and Youth Physical Theatre Training
(for 14-18 year olds).