On stage: Zena Wood chats about her annual festive season show- Space Weather Girl’s Christmas Spectacular which is launching on-stage at The Drama Factory – December 2021

What: Space Weather Girl’s Christmas Spectacular
When: December 6 to 11, 2021- 7pm, matinee on Saturday Dec 11 at 3pm
Where: The Drama Factory, 10 Comprop Sq, Henry Vos Close, Asla Business Park, Strand, Western Cape
Director and performer: Zena Wood
Accompaniment on piano: Richard Gauld
Booking: R120/R150, with credit card www.thedramafactory.co.za or call 073 215 2290
Age advisory: Recommended age- from six years    

Lift off from Rona reality and zoom into a fantastical space where anything is possible, with Zena Wood’s Space Weather Girl’s Christmas Spectacular, which will be staged at The Drama Factory from December 6-11, 2021. It is a “journey through space, combining favourite Christmas songs in a fun family holiday extravaganza”. The New York City-based producer, performer and director has been based in NYC, since 2014. She grew up in Cape Town and performed in productions staged by her mother, theatre maker and director, Margot Wood. Zena developed Space Weather Girl in 2018, “as a celebration of space exploration”. She made Space Weather Girl videos and launched a Christmas Show as an annual gig- on film. For the first time, Space Weather Girl is presenting the Xmas show on stage and the live incarnation is happening in the Cape, premiering at the Drama Factory. From Cape Town’s CBD, the Drama Factory is a forty minute drive -by car- not by spaceship. It will be a significantly quieter ride if you are lucky enough to be the owner of a Tesla.

How Space Weather Girl came about

The genesis of Space Weather Girl goes back to 2018 – before the pandemic. Wood: “I love space and I was working for film production companies in the US. With many big corporate clients under my belt, as a creative producer in New York City, I missed the creative side of life. Some of my past client credits in production include BBC, History, HBO, Conde Nast Traveller, Warner Bros, We Work, Scentbird, OneFifty and Sky.  I needed a creative outlet from my hectic life and in 2018, I threw a Christmas party for my colleagues and friends in New York. We shot a music video. The concept of Space Weather Girl had been in my mind for a while but the character materialised in that Xmas music video – as part of that thank-you event and then it evolved. In 2019, I was accepted into the Nomad Academy Entrepreneurial program and Space Weather Girl was my start-up pitch. Between 2019 and 2020, I have presented sketch informal comedy broadcasts, covering current space news and space weather on my YouTube channel: Space Weather Girl. The plan is to develop it further.” See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Kp1kXHpG5 and https://www.spaceweathergirl.com/

The inspiration for Space Weather Girl

The inspiration for Space Weather Girl emanates from Wood’s “love of nature” and that “we all need to learn about our planet in space”. She has always been a nature lover.” I have always been fascinated with Space and the world of Sci-Fi. My father is a Rambo nature conservationist in Africa.” [By profession, he is a nature conservationist].” While my dad was in high school, for pocket money, he sold milk from snakes to pharmaceutical companies. My mother is an actress and also love being in nature.” Space Weather Girl – the stage show – is about harnessing Zena’s love of the outdoors and bringing that into the theatre space – indoors. “I enjoy envisioning an alternate reality to what we mostly perceive as ‘just the way the world works’. Even; living in NYC, I liked looking up into the sky and driving out an hour or so to really experience the sky.” Her interest in space and nature, fed into what she has watched on TV and has been instrumental in shaping Space Weather Girl. “I have always loved the news and weather and shows on TV; The Discovery Channel and nature programmes. In terms of comedy, Saturday Night Live has been inspirational – sketch comedy.”

The launch of the on-stage Christmas Spectacular

After the first Space Weather Girl Xmas show in 2018; Zena presented Xmas show as music videos in 2019 and 2020. The pandemic stalled physical shows. Now in 2021 she is now going, in person, on stage, with an earthly audience-in-attendance. “Every year I filmed the annual space Christmas music video- a thrilling journey through space, combining favourite Christmas songs in a holiday extravaganza – and now it will be on-stage- which is exciting.” Wood is passionate “about creating uplifting and informative content”. She says: “Space exploration has a lot of room for that. What better time to celebrate all the beauty we have around us than at Christmas time?” This is why Space Weather Girl is stepping out with her own show, at the Drama Factory with Richard Gauld, accompanying her on piano.” Regarding the script of the show, she explains: “Space Weather Girl broadcasts her Christmas Spectacular show from South Africa after a rocket launch with Elon Musk goes South… literally. I invite people to learn why his Jozi accent is heavier in space. And there is talk about how many rings Saturn has and other bits of space intel and this while you are enjoying most-loved Christmas songs.”

The journey of Zena Wood – from Cape Town to NYC

Zena Wood grew up in Cape Town and has BA Humanities from Stellenbosch University and a MBA from The University of Cumbria in the UK (online). She completed a year in filmmaking at New York Film Academy. In Cape Town, while growing up, she learned on the boards with her mother, Margot Woods.I trained with my mom and then went to Waterfront Theatre School. I was in many of my mom’s plays when I was growing up. I also walked onto the stage during one of her plays once in my pyjamas when I was a kid.” After studying political science, musical theatre and doing my MBA, I began making political mocku-mentaries which led to my career as a producer and director. I made films in SA, for NGOs who wanted to appeal to the youth and make doccies with humour”. In 2014, Zena moved to the US and since then has produced feature films such as Blacklight (Montreal Film Festival, Julien Dubuque International Film Festival), I Heart Jenny (Green Bay Film Festival & New Filmmakers Festival New York) and Life After Her, which was selected to screen at Festival de Cannes 2017. 

Will There Be Dancing- space themed documentary

When the pandemic hit, Wood, buckled down in NYC and made a documentary, Will There Be Dancing. “I posed in the doccie-‘Will there be dancing on Mars? What social life will be there? The content is an exploration of humanitarian and recreational spaces – on Mars”. The documentary featured NASA scientists and was awarded Best Short at the Cannes Short Film Festival, 2020: “As it was lockdown, all the contributors called in over Zoom and we filmed in an empty production studio in New York.  It is still doing the festival rounds so it can’t be public yet. I can hopefully distribute it soon.” 

Locked down in NYC, Amsterdam and Cape Town

Zena navigated between NYC and Amsterdam (where her Dutch boyfriend resides- he now lives in Utrecht). They lived on a house-boat in Amsterdam, for part of lockdown. As a Space Digital Nomad, she could work from anywhere- making films and working for an immersive experience company (digital and in-person as the pandemic eases). She touched down in her hometown, Cape Town in October 2021luckily before the new Rona variant, Omicron was ‘discovered’.

The next stop for Space Weather Girl

What is next – back to NYC – Cape Town for a while? “Cape Town for a while and then we will see. Maybe LA. Definitely NASA. Zena Wood has not met Elon Musk but it is time to try and find her way into his orbit. “I haven’t met Elon Musk. Not yet. But he’s in my show so I have to meet him now.”

Space Weather Girl’s Christmas Spectacular – Space Weather Girl (aka Zena Wood) is going on-stage, December 2021, at The Drama Factory (40 minutes from Cape Town) with her annual Xmas show- which was presented in music video format, in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Supplied.

❇ Images supplied.