Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Suzen Murakoshi talks Clowning, Body Work and her ‘Hands and Feet’ Workshop at Christopher Harrison’s AntiGravity Lab on Dec. 14

The last time I saw my ex-roommate Suzen Murakoshi, she was performing her solo show Breathe Love Repeat: a near-life experience at Under St. Marks, during the 2012 Frigid New York Festival in February 2012. www.breatheloverepeat.com

Suzen Murakoshi in rehearsal for Breathe Love Repeat at Under St. Mark’s in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Suzen Murakoshi in rehearsal for Breathe Love Repeat at Under St. Mark’s in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Helmed by longtime collaborator Obie award-winning actress Ching Valdes-Aran, Breathe Love Repeat: a near-life experience, written by and starring Ms. Murakoshi, is an intimate tribute to her beloved mother focusing on the last days before her mother succumbed to cancer.

 Ching Valdes-Aran and Suzen Murakoshi in rehearsal for Breathe Love Repeat at Under St. Mark’s in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Ching Valdes-Aran and Suzen Murakoshi in rehearsal for Breathe Love Repeat at Under St. Mark’s in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

The Hawaii native seamlessly transported us to the mountains of Japan as she snowboards during a trip with her mother in 2009; to her homebase of New York where she receives the news about the cancer; then to the islands of Hawaii, where she returns to take care of her mother.

 Ching Valdes-Aran and Suzen Murakoshi in rehearsal for Breathe Love Repeat at Under St. Mark’s in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Ching Valdes-Aran and Suzen Murakoshi in rehearsal for Breathe Love Repeat at Under St. Mark’s in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Suzen Murakoshi is a veteran of Broadway, off-Broadway and regional theatres. Her favorite roles include “Juliet” in Romeo and Juliet at the Cleveland Playhouse and “Connie” in A Chorus Line on Broadway. Together with Obie award winner, Ching Valdes-Aran, Ms. Murakoshi has performed her own past work at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where she was short-listed for Best Actor for her role as “Helen” in Slippery When Wet (SWW). She has appeared in the films Bill Murray’s Quick Change, Oliver Stone’s Wall Street and Mario Van Peebles’ New Jack City.

Suzen Murakoshi and Ching Valdes-Aran in rehearsal for Breathe Love Repeat at Under St. Mark’s in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Suzen Murakoshi and Ching Valdes-Aran in rehearsal for Breathe Love Repeat at Under St. Mark’s in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Ms. Murakoshi received an MFA from the NYC New School of Drama in Playwriting and Acting. She also attended Oxford University, Balliol College, with the British American Drama Academy. Her work has been produced at the Penumbra Theatre in Minneapolis, MN to critical acclaim. Other produced plays include Slippery When Wet at La MaMa Experimental Theatre, Sisters at Circle in the Square Downtown, NYC. Her short play, Dunno, Gotta Go was accepted and given a reading at the Edward Albee Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska, 2004.

Suzen Murakoshi. Photo by Ron Rinaldi

Suzen Murakoshi. Photo by Ron Rinaldi

Ms. Murakoshi has worked with the 52nd Street Project in New York City for many years as a writer, actor and director. While there, she co-wrote short plays with ‘Genius Award” fellow, Willie Reale as well as having been directed as an actor by Oscar winner Frances McDormand.

After many years of navigating her multiple careers in Manhattan, she now splits her time between two islands – Honolulu and New York where she has established a business in body work. Her current clients include several heiresses, Isabella Gucci and Crystal Audigierre, Tony winner Ruthie Ann Miles, Tony nominee Geneva Carr, fashion icon Emily Lemer. She has also worked on Reed Birney, Willy Reale, Ching Valdes-Aran and J. Elaine Marcos.

On Monday, December 14th, she returns to New York to teach her ‘Hands and Feet’ workshop at Antigravity Fitness New York in the Antigravity Training Lab, 265 West 37th Street, Suite 1100 (1:15 – 2pm). Click here for more information and here to RSVP.

Suzen Murakoshi and Anti-Gravity Yoga founder, Christopher Harrison on Halloween. Photo by Carol Nakamoto

Suzen Murakoshi and Anti-Gravity Yoga founder, Christopher Harrison on Halloween. Photo by Carol Nakamoto

Christopher Harrison, the founder of Anti-Gravity Yoga, is also a former Broadway dancer. Harrison and Murakoshi both performed in A Chorus Line around the same time, but in different productions around the world. The aerial hammock technique, Anti-Gravity, which he created, is for the general public to experience weightlessness, flight, and  zero-compression inversions. In fact, after the lyricist Stephen Schwartz saw Christopher’s Anti-Gravity company, he composed, “Defying Gravity” for the musical, Wicked.

“Yamuna Body Rolling is one of my favorite techniques for stimulating bone and breaking up fascia knots. It boasts multidimensional elongation of muscle fibers. In other words, Yamuna Body Rolling releases tension that constricts muscle. The best part is that you don’t have to tell your massage therapist “deeper.” Instead, you monitor your own resistance through the use of your own body weight.
                                                    —Christopher Harrison, Creator AntiGravity Yoga

We caught up last week over lunch and chatted about her body work, her love of clowning and what it is like to be bi-island.

Suzen Murakoshi. Photo by Carol Nakamoto

Suzen Murakoshi. Photo by Carol Nakamoto

Lia: How long have you been doing body work?
Suzen: I’ve been pursuing it for ten years since I met Yamuna Zake at her flagship studio on Perry Street. But, as a dancer, I’ve been doing it my whole life.

Photo by Carol Nakamoto

Photo by Carol Nakamoto

I love working on performers because they know their bodies so well, and immediately get the concepts of bone stimulation, alignment and necessity of releasing jaw/mouth/tongue tension. Yamuna’s work is based on these concepts. There is also a supportive body rolling technique with Italian-made balls of varying sizes to allow us to do the work on ourselves at anytime, anywhere.

Photo by Carol Nakamoto

Photo by Carol Nakamoto

Lia: How are you navigating being bi-island?
Suzen: The sharing of visuals, ideas and communication is easy online. But, theatre needs to be done in the flesh. Energies, smells, and touch must be done in person. Crossing the Pacific and the continent between Honolulu and Manhattan, has become my commute. In fact, I taught a workshop at the Honolulu Club called, “Yamuna On the Go/Travel.” I shared my travel tips using Yamuna’s body rolling on the plane, while sitting. I’m now able to handle any long haul. Using the balls to roll up the spine, down the legs, and into the shoulders keeps my body free whenever I land. Other secrets I shared were: castor oil as a go-to moisturizer for coating my skin everywhere. And, playing with the body’s work of digestion in setting my body clock. I make sure I eat well, control it, and set my internal clock to the destination, 24 hours before flying, and live accordingly.

Suzen Murakoshi. Photo by Carol Nakamoto

Suzen Murakoshi. Photo by Carol Nakamoto

Lia: How did you become interested in clowning?
Suzen: Michael Howard, one of my acting teachers, was adamant that all actors should learn physical comedy/clowning. My collaborator/director, Ching Valdes-Aran also highly recommended that all actors should learn clowning after she studied with Christopher Bayes (Yale, Julliard, NYU). So, I did. At first, a weekend workshop with Chris Bayes, here and there. Clowning teaches performers to be the most authentic, honest and in the moment at all times. This is basic acting, however, there is no script! It was terrifying. And, that’s why I now am involved with it; because it’s so frightening. I also now understand the value of the work. Like a snowball gathering momentum, I’m rolling downhill with it. In fact, I’m bringing Aitor Basauri, another master clown teacher to Honolulu in March. And, plan on learning from the expert, Philippe Gaulier, in Paris next summer.
Related Articles
Photos: Breathe Love Repeat – In Rehearsal with Suzen Murakoshi and Ching Valdes-Aran at Under St. Mark’s
Suzen Murakoshi is a “Samurai Super Daughter” in her solo show BREATHE LOVE REPEAT
Suzen Murakoshi’s Breathe Love Repeat: a near-life experience, directed by Ching Valdes-Aran, at 2012 Frigid New York Festival at Under St. Marks
Suzen Murakoshi’s Breathe Love Repeat: a near-life experience, at 2012 Frigid New York Festival at Under St. Marks
Suzen Murakoshi’s Breathe Love Repeat: a Near Life Experience, at 30th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, 8/11-8/20/11
Snowboarder Suzen Murakoshi to Debut Tale of Unconditional Love at Calgary Fringe Festival, 7/29-8/5/11

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek, which will screen at the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival on November 21st. She is profiled in Examiner.com, FebOne1960.com BlogJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Other Articles:
Hide and Seek starring Lia Chang and Garth Kravits screens at the 2015 Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (PAAFF15) in Women’s Shorts Program at Asian Arts Initiative on Nov. 21
AsAmNews.com: Actor Tzi Ma Rides ‘Hell On Wheels’ to New Heights
Q and A with Jason Tobin, star of Dax Phelan’s JASMINE
Q & A with Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Ruby Yang; New Film MY VOICE, MY LIFE screens at #PAAFF15 on Nov. 22 at Asian Arts Initiative
Ed Moy’s Animated Short UP IN THE CLOUDS has East Coast premiere screening at PAAFF15 on Nov. 20
Gotta Dance Star André De Shields receives 2015 Award for Excellence in the Arts from The Theatre School at DePaul University
AsAmNews.com: Partying with George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and the cast of ‘Allegiance’ on opening night
George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, Michael K. Lee and more at the first preview of Broadway’s Allegiance; opens Nov. 8
GOTTA DANCE stars André De Shields, Stefanie Powers, Lori Tan Chinn, Lillias White step out for ON YOUR FEET!
Tiger Morse by Mark Shaw: Jet Set Style Quest, 1962, on view at The Liz O’Brien Gallery through Dec. 18
Joel de la Fuente, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Alexa Davalos, Luke Kleintank, Rufus Sewell, DJ Qualls and More at ‘The Man in The High Castle’ New York Series Premiere
Darren Criss, Jenna Ushkowitz, Ann Harada, Kristin Chenoweth, Karen Ziemba, Jon Cryer and More celebrate Great Writers at Dramatists Guild Fund’s 2015 Gala
Greg Watanabe makes Broadway Debut as Mike Masaoka in ‘Allegiance’ 
AsAmNews.com: Q & A with Arthur Dong, Award-winning Filmmaker and Author, Gay Icon, Distinguished Professor of Film
Film Lab Screening of ‪#‎72HrSO‬ Films at Time Warner Theater & Panel Discussion of Mass Media Constructions of Beauty 
AsAmNews.com: Creating an Asian American presence on Wikipedia, one WikiAPA Edit-a-thon at a time 
AsAmNews.com: The King and I’s Special Performance Benefits The Actors Fund 
Playbill.com: Hugs, Laughs and Photobombs By Tony Winners! Go Backstage at the Special Actors Fund Performance of The King and I
Broadwayworld.com: Photo Flash: Phylicia Rashad, Andre De Shields & More Original Cast Members from THE WIZ Reunite in Central Park! 
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA Cast Reunion featured in BLACK BELT MAGAZINE August/September 2015
Drumhead Magazine: Living Colour Drummer Will Calhoun, Photos by Lia Chang 
AsAmNews.com: AAPI Heritage Month: My Grandmother’s Detention on Angel Island 
Crafting a Career

Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at lia@liachangphotography.com

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