You’ll remember Michelle Lamarca from her very saucy portrayal of Anita in West Side Story at Noosa Arts Theatre. She also won the Sunshine Coast Theatre Festival’s Adjudicator’s Award last year.
Michelle REALLY wanted to do some “warrior training” with Brisbane Physical Theatre company, Zen Zen Zo. She travelled through peak hour traffic and FIRE to get to her first class…
I found out about Zen Zen Zo through email conversations with Margi Brown Ash, who had kindly given me the 2014 Adjudicator’s Award at the Sunshine Coast Theatre Festival! (Of course I’d hit her up for some advice on where to train in Brisbane).
As a performer I have always hit on the same problem and that is not feeling connected to my body on stage. Sometimes I feel uncoordinated, distant and most likely the one to make mistakes or get myself injured. I hadn’t heard of Zen Zen Zo but I had heard of the Japanese acting method of Suzuki through a performer friend and was interested to learn about this system too! Zen Zen Zo training is a combination of Suzuki Method, Viewpoints, Butoh and Composition.
I contacted the company ASAP and it turns out the “limited” beginners classes are on my day off too – win! and at a reasonable time, so I can get the car from my partner when she finishes work and then hit the road to Brissy from Noosa.
My instructions were to bring water and a pair of socks. I carefully programmed my GPS, packed my dinner and was ready for my adventure. Not being aware of Brisbane peak hour traffic I arrived late in the city and pretty much got myself lost in the one way streets. And I mean lost! I missed the class. I felt defeated, upset and extremely pissed off. I emailed Lynne Bradley that night (the company director) apologising that I won’t be able to get to Brisbane in time and unfortunately will not be doing the classes. It wasn’t meant to be and I put the experience down to just that.. an experience. And maybe I should consider moving closer to the city.
Lynne replied the next day with a lovely email. She was impressed with my dedication to drive all that way and invited me to attend the advanced classes, which didn’t start until 7:30. This would give me plenty of time to arrive on time even if I did get lost! Advanced classes!!! On one condition: I don’t miss any classes and come with an open mind and socks.
I thought to myself I will swim through floods to get to these classes!
The following Monday I was prepared! My partner printed me a map with pictures and was by the phone with Google Maps to guide me. All was going to plan when suddenly I hit a traffic jam near the airport. I’m sure the cars ahead heard my swearing. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me! There was a grassfire dangerously coming across the road that I had to drive across. I had never seen a fire so big and followed the other cars through some of the flames! I laughed to myself.
I had actually driven through flames to get to these classes!
And it was well worth it! Zen Zen Zo’s The Actor’s Dojo is held at the Judith Wright Centre. I arrived with plenty of time to find a park and enough time to introduce myself to the other classmates who were warming up ready for their session.
I love acting classes of any sort! I love the people, the conversations, the clothing…
Artists need to be around fellow artists to feel normal, inspired and to have a sense of belonging.
The advanced classmates were very friendly and supportive, reassuring me that I would be fine and to just enjoy it. Lynne introduced me to the class and explained my situation and I felt a warm welcome from everyone. Some students have been studying for 11 years and were kind enough to share some tips with me. Most of it went over my head!
We started the class by taking off our shoes and socks to warm up around the space, stretching and moving. It felt quite normal to me and I started to feel safer. We paired up in a line and started what seemed like a dance with stomping. I tried to keep up with the other classmates.
I consider myself to be not too bad with fitness but after about 90 seconds I was completely covered in sweat and knackered! With the music and intensity I started to lose myself in the movements. I felt like a warrior. The energy around me was electric and I felt very inspired! And aware! Aware of my body and the space around me! BINGO!
Anyone interested in physical theatre or improving themselves has to give this training a go!
Coming from a martial arts background I noticed similarities to how the core is used and how important breathing is, and the centre of gravity. Like karate, I felt healthier and empowered! I noticed too that different exercises had different energies too. next we moved onto “viewpoints” Lynne asked anyone who wanted to get up to find a space on the floor , I didn’t hesitate (I drove through flames! I may as well give it my all!). I ran to a corner and stayed still not really knowing what I was doing. Then suddenly we had to change/move! Fast! So I ran to the other corner, again…still. A student ran full speed up to me face to face, staring me in the eyes! It should have been intimating but I decided not to think. But to just be.
The class spoke about tempo, spacial awareness and response.
It was explained to me that if you can train to look inwards at yourself but from an audience point of view (I forget the cool Japanese word for this), you can utilise your space to be more appealing and create a great performance.
I can see why artists love to practice at Zen Zen Zo. There was talk about shapes, stillness, energy.
A lot of it went over my head and a lot I felt I resonated with. every student was involved and passionate it was infectious! yes my mind was totally blown there is so much to learn in Zen Zen Zo! In only one lesson I felt confident as a performer and felt I haven’t even scratched the surface with what the body can do. An hour and a half went quickly and we all finished the class sitting in a circle talking about what we had learnt. I thanked Lynne and my classmates and drove home looking forward to the next lesson.