Spotlight Series: Meet Anzu Lawson - an Asian-American Actress, Playwright, Stand-Up Comic, and Yoko Ono Doppelganger


With the current theatre world on hiatus, I have created a Spotlight Series of interviews with some of am the many talented artists who make our Los Angeles theatre community so exciting and vibrant thanks to their ongoing contribution to keeping the arts alive in the City of the Angels. And like all of us, how are they dealing with the abrupt end of productions in which they were involved?

This Spotlight focuses on Anzu Lawson, an Asian-American Actress, Playwright, Stand-Up Comic, and Yoko Ono doppelganger who I first met during the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your personal theatrical background?

Anzu Lawson (Anzu): I’m an Asian-American Actress, Playwright, and Stand-Up Comic who has been performing my One Woman Show called Dear Yoko to sold out theatres here in Los Angeles. It was an official selection for 2019 Binge Fringe Festival, the 2020 SOLOFEST & the 2020 Crazy Woke Asians Solo Performance Festival.

I also penned & starred in an all-original musical called Dear John, Why Yoko? which garnered my first Best Actress nomination at the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival for my role as “Yoko Ono.”

(SB): And I am happy to share links to my reviews of both your shows during which you absolutely amazed me with your authentic portrayal of a woman so erroneous hated the world over for her involvement with John Lennon.

(SB): Were you involved with any production(s) when word went out that you needed to immediately postpone/cancel a show?

(Anzu): I was playing the role of YEN opposite Al Pacino with a huge, talented cast in a Benefit Staged Reading for Al Pacino’s charity in the David Rabe play called “The Basic Training Of Pavlo Hummel” that garnered Al his first Tony Award on Broadway in 1977. Al Pacino and director Robert Allan Ackerman revived it on stage to help raise funds and awareness for one of Al’s charities to help war veterans. We performed it Sunday, March 8th at The Wallis Annenberg in association with The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles. There were talks of doing it again, but the very next day the Wallis Annenberg closed its doors due to the Corona Pandemic. Here’s a link to a Broadway World article about that amazing production

(SB): How has the shutdown affected your current and future production plans?

(Anzu): I had to make some hard decisions. This has been an extremely unforeseeable event affecting every single human on this planet and not knowing how long we will be quarantined, has many artists unsure if they can even afford to do their show, even with rescheduled dates. I feel bad, but I am canceling all my show commitments until there is a vaccine.

I heard the remaining solo artists involved in the 2020 SOLOFEST dates at The Whitefire Theatre, in which I have participated, have been offered to have their performances streamed online. Personally, as good a solution as that may sound, performing to an empty theatre is not the ideal situation when a) audience interaction and response is a huge part of the experience as a solo performer and b) the main world focus is on live coronavirus news updates. I appreciate everyone trying to rally together to find a solution but I think people everywhere will need more time. Every person is processing what is happening very differently.

As for my future plans, I was about to fly to Chicago’s Cinespace Studios to film another episode of Chicago Med on which I have a recurring role, and I was counting on that money to pay for my 2020 Fringe solo show dates. Unfortunately, I had to cancel my entire participation in the 2020 Hollywood Fringe and am trying my very best to get my invested monies and deposits back. Even though 2020 Hollywood Fringe has been moved to October (much like Stage Coach and Coachella) at this time, I do not have the heart to ask my friends to hurry and get over their Coronavirus/social distancing fear by October to buy tickets and sit in a crowded theater while there is no income coming in for most, nor a readily available vaccine on the horizon.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Anzu): Thank God for the internet and the free classes being offered by so many teachers and studios. I am also grateful for the funny memes on social media keeping me light-hearted and smiling through all this uncertainty. This pandemic has given all of us a “pause button” to reassess our beliefs, our tribes, our creative visions for ourselves as well as for the world. We are being forced to look at our individual contribution to humanity, not only as humans but as artists. This will forever change us as a society, hopefully for the best.

Personally, I’m in research mode. I started revisiting scripts and thinking deeply about what I want to say as an artist from here on out. I am forced to sit still, get grounded and put pen to paper.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Anzu): Never forget there is always a silver lining and now more than ever, we artists are being called upon to be the beacon for a new humanity. We will get through this but only together and only by thinking of each other. Feed your soul now and get ready to create! Inspire! And be daring with your artistic voice. We have a huge responsibility ahead of us to shine bigger light and tell new stories that will ever remind us there is nothing more valuable than our ability to care for each other. As Yoko Ono always said, “We are all connected together. We are all one.”

I invite everyone to follow me on IG/FB/Twitter @AnzuLawson and read more about my credits on my IMDB profile. I also want to give a shout out to my director Jessica Lynn Johnson who offers free Solo show creative writing classes now on ZOOM.

(SB): Thank you Anzu. I am hoping to focus a spotlight on Jessica Lynn Johnson in the near future so more people learn about her outstanding contributions to the L.A. Theatre world.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



JOAN OF ART: DARK SIDE OF THE DOME, 100 MUSICIANS, AND ANOTHER SCORSESE MASTERPIECE

There are so many unique events going on this weekend and since I won't be able to attend all of them, I picked out a few of my favorites.

On Friday I will venture to Downtown LA to visit the acclaimed experiential immersive theme art Park WISDOME.LA.

I've been there in January for their amazing shows Samskara and this one promises to be just as awesome.

This weekend, November 7th and 8th, PINK FLOYD's Dark Side of the Moon will be playing live in a 360 dome by Think:EXP FT members of Pink Floyd, Jane's Addiction, Kid Rock, and Fishbone. The popular, new, full dome music and art venue in the Downtown LA Arts District transforms into a 360 degree virtual reality experience for'Dark Side Of The Moon.'

Think:EXP combines musical art and eye popping visuals with 3D sound, as an all star band plays Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon' album in its entirety. You will journey into the magical realms of virtual reality, iconic musical art and 3D sound for the mind-bending debut of Think-EXP who bring together the 10 piece above mentioned bands which includes world renown musicians: Scott Page from Pink Floyd, Roberta Freeman from Pink Floyd, Stephen Perkins from Jane's Addiction, Kenny Olson from Kid Rock/Hendrix Experience and Norwood Fisher from Fishbone.

On 8th and November 9th - 10th you can join Melvin Seals & JGF as they celebrate Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead with an immersive exploration of his music and art.

For tickets and information go to Wisdome.LA/dark-side-of-the-dome or call 323-689-6530. The park is located at 1147 Palmetto Street, LA.

Come Saturday I am also venturing Downtown again to see an amazing event entitled ART AT THE RENDON - RHYTHMS OF THE CITY. I've been to the one hundred year old vacant hotel The Rendon to see another one of their shows and it was incredible.

From November 8th to the 10th Art At The Rendon will present an immersive, site-specific experience that will fuse various styles of live music and dance into a simultaneous, collaborative performance that transforms the building itself into a musical instrument.

RHYTHMS OF THE CITY will highlight the musical and cultural diversity of Los Angeles while emphasizing the synergy of the city as a whole. 100 musicians will come together to perform a piece of music by Grammy winning composer Heitor Pereira - a love song to Los Angeles.

One building, 40 Rooms, 100 Musicians. Don't miss it.

100% of the proceeds will be donated to Play with Music, a Los Angeles non profit that brings music and technology education to undeserved youth. For tickets and more information go to ArtattheRendon.com. The Rendon is located at 2055 7th Street, Downtown LA, 90021.

So after all this great music what could be better then to see a great film and Martin Scorsese's THE IRISHMAN is a masterpiece. The film directed by Scorsese and written by Steven Zairian was produced by Netflix, where you'll be able to see it at the end of November. But you should definitely see this film on the big screen, so check out your local theaters for the showtimes.

It stars Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino. The Irishman follows the misdeeds of Frank Sheehan (Robert DeNiro) a real life hit man for the Philadelphia mob who first cozies up to the head of the Bufalino crime family (Joe Pesci) and eventually becomes an enforcer for Teamsters chief Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino)

As the story crosses decades, Scorsese and his screenwriter use Sheeran as a narrative means of dipping in and out of the East Coast underworld, painting an expansive and disturbing portrait of American avarice that has ever been produced.

There is so much more I could say about this film but I won't because this is one film that should just be seen without spoilers. THE IRISHMAN is playing at theatres around Los Angeles.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, I hope you all have a fun one.


JOAN OF ART: Tarantino, Vice is Nice, and Art Share

I love Quentin Tarantino's films. I've seen every single one of the them more then twice and I know, having seen "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" at a press screening early this week, I will definitely be seeing it again.

This time Tarantino takes us on a trip back to 1969. The place is Hollywood, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) discover as they make their way around an industry that they hardly recognize anymore.

The ninth film from this writer/director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood's Golden Age. The film is touching, funny and knowing what winds up happening...horrifying.

"Once Upon A Time in Hollywood" opens in theatre July 26th. Also in the cast is Al Pacino, Dakota Fanning, Luke Perry in his last role and the wonderful Margot Robbie who plays Sharon Tate capturing her childlike innocence and joy which adds to the audience's pain of knowing her fate.

Compared to all of Quentin's other films, this one is the least violent. It has plenty of humor and insight into a time long gone.

'Once Upon A Time in Hollywood' starts Friday and will be playing in theaters all around town, but get your tickets as soon as possible. I'm sure the film will be selling out quickly.

VICE IS NICE is the next thing on my list and it is not at all what it sounds like. This is an event put on by the Animal Rescue Alliance on Saturday, July 27th from 6:30pm to 11pm. You will have a blast at this event and at the same time make a big difference in the lives of animals are in need of a home.

Last year over 750 animal lovers attended VICE IS NICE and helped raise much needed funds for the Animal Rescue Alliance. This 10th annual event will be the best one ever. Music, dancing, drinks, food, raffle, casino games, tarot card reading and more.

The Animal Rescue Alliance rescues and finds loving homes for abandoned and abused companion and farmed animals. They offer sanctuary to those animals that have special needs and for which it is more difficult to find a good home. The animals come from a variety of backgrounds...from homeless strays and feral animals to rescues from kill shelters and hoarding situations.

Wherever and whenever they see an animal in distress, they help. This is one of my favorite organizations. All an animal wants is to be loved and in return they are forever grateful. I always say, an animal always knows when you save their life. Why not support an organization that does just that?

The Animal Rescue Alliance (TARA) is located at Rancho Providencia, a peaceful four acre ranch in Chatsworth. TARA is a haven for goats, horses, donkeys, parrots, geese, cats and dogs. Their address is 10945 Old Santa Susana Pass Road, Chatsworth, CA 91311.

For tickets and more information go to TheAnimalRescueAlliance.org. or call 818-256-0060.

THE FUTURE IS NOW is a free art show that starts on July 27th and runs through August 11th.

Art Share LA'S 'The Future Is Now" poses the question: What then, does our future look like? Will it be a warning? A call to Action? A celebration of ingenuity? Witness for yourself what the future for you, Los Angeles, and the world may hold. Intriguing? VERY.

Art Share LA is located downtown at 801 East 4th Place, Los Angeles. They are opened Wednesday-Sunday 1-6pm.

For more information call them at 213-687-4278 or email them not only about their upcoming shows, but submitting art work as well at... ArtShareLA.org.

While you are downtown you might want to head over to the REDCAT theatre to check out THE NEW ORIGINAL WORKS FESTIVAL 2019. At REDCAT you will find some of the world's most intriguing envelope-pushing avant-garde theatre, film, music and performance art.

This Annual New Original Works Festival launches nine new works by Los Angeles emerging and mid-career artists who are redefining the boundaries of contemporary performance to invent hybrid artistic disciplines, re-imagine traditions and confront urgent issues. All artistic teams receive free rehearsal space, tech support and artist fees.

The 16th Annual New Original Works Festival kicks off with a program of works by solo artist Sola Bamis; visual and performing artists, Zach Dorn and Danielle Dahl; choreographer Katherine Helen Fisher and Andrew Ondrejcak's THE MUSES renders a suite of lush and riotous dances that conjures a communal space in celebration of the divine feminine.

For more information and for future performances go to RedCat.org.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, make it a fun one people.