March 1, 2017


When Lynne Bradley was breaking into the world of performing arts, physical theatre didn’t exist. Constantly finding herself torn between the worlds of musical theatre and dance, she embarked on an international journey to find her own creative niche, one that sparked Australia’s physical theatre movement.

Having just hit the ‘submit’ button on her PHD, Lynne Bradley scoots in with a coffee to discuss her newest venture, her role as program coordinator of the University of the Sunshine Coast’s brand new Masters of Professional Practice (Performing Arts).

“It’s very exciting!,” she says with a beaming smile, “I have been teaching part time here for the last couple years and really, from the second I walked into this campus, I just fell in love with it.”

It’s a role she’s set to embark on with ease, her decades of experience in the performing arts industry and training in art forms that stem back hundreds of years, makes Lynne the ideal expert to guide the program’s 18 students through the 2017 masters course.

“I’m really excited to see what happens when these 18 astonishing artists from different artistic fields come together. For me, education has moved from that very old fashioned idea of the master standing in front of the students, imparting wisdom, to a collaborative learning experience. We’ll be teaching each other, but I guess I’ll be acting as their ‘coach’ per say,” she says.

Photo by Simon Woods

As a struggling artist in her early 20s, Lynne’s journey of self discovery led her from the musical theatre halls of the United States to the performance training galleries of Japan. While she loved musical theatre in her earlier years, she couldn’t help but feel as though something was missing. It wasn’t until she began working with a Japanese NOH theatre master that she began the journey that lead her to physical theatre.

“I went to Japan to study the oldest form of theatre in the world, NOH theatre, which is 600 years old. I spent almost a year teaching English and waiting to be introduced to a Japanese master before I could study it – you can’t study traditional Japanese art forms without a master.”

Two-and-a-half years later, Lynne returned to Australia, met the love of her life, film-maker, Simon Woods and in 1992 they founded the award-winning Zen Zen Zo performance centre.

I believe as a teacher, you’re always learning, you should be always open to learning from your students and making the most of every opportunity.”

The marriage of Lynne’s musical theatre and Simon’s film-making experience, created a unique performance style, which, at that stage did not have a name. It wasn’t until they returned to Japan and encountered DV8 Physical founder, Lloyd Newson, that they realised where their unique artform fit in.

“When we heard the term ‘physical theatre’ we thought, Oh my God! That’s what we do. Before that we felt a little bit like outcasts,” Lynne says.

“When we talked to dancers, they would say we weren’t dancers because we spoke. But then when we talked to theatre performers they would say we weren’t theatre performers because we danced.

“When we found physical theatre we felt like we’d found our tribe and we were able to include and nurture a lot of artists who had traditionally been pushed to the margins, in terms of art-making. We found a cross disciplinary art form and were able to bring that to life for more than 20 years.”

Photo by Simon Woods

Physical theatre isn’t just for those seeking a career in performing arts, for Lynne, some of her most rewarding clients have been young professionals wanting to gain confidence or shake off the tiresome throes of a day job.

“At the moment I have this wonderful barrister training with me. She started because she wanted to get more confident when she was delivering her addresses to the jury. She’s blossomed like you wouldn’t believe, I would hate to be prosecuted by her now!”

Never one to stop learning, Lynne sees her new role with USC as one of her most exciting yet, “I believe as a teacher, you’re always learning, you should be always open to learning from your students and making the most of every opportunity.”

As the course expands, so too will the students. Lynne aims to teach more than just the innovative mix of performance styles that Zen Zen Zo is famous for. Rather, she’s carefully planned the Masters of Professional Practice program to specifically equip the next generation of artists with the skills that they will be using every day in their careers.

“I have done a lot of research in designing the curriculum. All the assessment is practical, in the sense that it’s all things that I do all the time in my job as an artist.”

As the students grow, Lynne plans to grow with them. Her desire to never stop learning makes this teaching experience one that she’s been anticipating since her early days in the United States. Having learned from the best, she plans to impart the best, and in doing so will be raising a generation of performers, set to transform the artistic world.

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