With nearly 20 rich years of performance and entertainment at the Old Museum, physical theatre company, Zen Zen Zo will soon be moving to Brisbane Powerhouse.
“We're really excited for the change,” Merlynn Tong of the company's training centre says. “I guess we felt like it was time to grow, and move somewhere different with more artistic and creative minds around us. Brisbane Powerhouse is such a hub of creativity at the moment. The new artistic director Chris Stewart watched a show there and that started the discussion. I'm really excited to be near other artists and I've got an air-conditioned office I'm excited about too,” she laughs.
Any plans for major productions are set aside for the moment, as the company prepares to sift through years of history, and shift it 3km north-west. “We're all quite concentrated on the move, trying to get things together. I'm literally standing in front of 20 years’ worth of costumes and sets and all sorts of things in my office at the moment. There's been a lot of wearing things and playing with the props and it's been lots of fun.”
Now in its 16th year, Zen Zen Zo’s acclaimed training program, ‘Stomping Ground’ will open the new year. “This is the course that will kick-start the year and we're really excited because we've got international artists from New Zealand, America, Canada and Singapore all flying in to do it. It's such a big celebration to start the year with.”
Now the Training Centre manager, Merlynn originally had the program to thank for her involvement with the company. “It's actually my favourite course of the year and it's how I joined the company. All the training we do — the Suzuki Method, the Viewpoints, the Butoh — it's all meant to create an actor that's full of presence. You would leave the course feeling so focused and so sure of your goals for the year and I think that's just a fantastic way to start the year,” she says. “It's more than actor training — it's a personal transformation as well.”
Aside from 'Stomping Ground', Zen Zen Zo’s interns will share in the spotlight come 2014. “I'm the ‘intern mama’ of the interns. Every weekend they talk about their journey through the internship and I think watching these eight wonderful artists grow and spread their wings over a short time of five months, and knowing that I was part of that journey, was my favourite part of the year.”
Zen Zen Zo has come a long way since its inception with its first, self-titled performance. Now, 20 years will mark another huge milestone. So what keeps this ‘intern mama’ doing what she loves? “It’s power to transform. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally — there's a power of transformation that only live performance can provide and for me, not many other forms can provide that.”
'Stomping Ground' runs from Jan 6-17 at the Brisbane Powerhouse.