Artist Spotlight - Susan Koozin, Actor
Susan Koozin and Company in The Great American Trailer Park Musical. Photo by Amitava Sarkar.
Susan - let’s start at the beginning. Where are you from?
I am originally from Washington D.C., but moved to North Dakota when I was 7 years old. I attended the University of North Dakota, where I continued my life-long passion for theatre and music, then went on to graduate school in Lincoln, Nebraska. After grad
school, I moved to Florida and worked in various theatres throughout the state, did some film work and was a member of a comedy improv company in Miami. I lived and worked in Minneapolis, taught and directed in several schools and theatre companies in Minnesota, then back to North Dakota to teach at my alma mater, perform and direct local high school theatre.
How did you get to Houston?
My husband accepted a teaching position at The University of Houston’s Moores School of Music in 1997, and the three of us moved here then. My son was a year and 1⁄2 old at that time and this May, also a musician, he graduates from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in NYC. Proud mama!
You’ve been a part of the Houston theatre scene for over 20 years. How has it changed?
This production is my 22nd with Stages. I remember when we first moved here and I knew no one, walking my headshot and resume into the Stages office introducing myself to Rob Bundy and telling him I was new in town. It was not something I was comfortable doing, but I had heard Stages was great and I took a chance. I think it was almost a year later that I got my first audition here and have been a part of the family ever since. When I think of the glorious range of characters and shows I’ve been afforded the opportunity to play here, I feel incredibly lucky. I’ve gotten to play a karaoke singing 17-year-old-angel, a crazy old-cat-loving-corn-eating recluse, an iconic movie star, an androgynous singing cowboy, a psycho pre-school mom, a bored sexy menopausal wife, a British lesbian doctor, a wine-drinking busybody, a grumpy but caring broad, half of a 1960s famous singing duo, an Appalachian song collector, a Russian sexpot, a murdering housewife, a 4 year old boy,
a revolutionary soldier, a maid, multiple men, a karate loving wife, an evil kid-hating villain, a wealthy socialite, and 2 Southern tough-as-nails but heart-of-gold women I’ve had the pleasure of portraying hundreds of times; Louise (Always...Patsy Cline) and Betty in this show.
You have a long history on stage at Stages—starting with Company in 2000, to Patsy and Trailer Park and everything in between. Out of all of your work at Stages, what stands out as the one that you’re most proud of? Why?
The show I guess I’m most proud of is the one that was the most terrifying to me. It is the one-woman production The Blonde, The Brunette And The Vengeful Redhead. I loved the challenge of playing 7 very different characters and I really liked the material, but every night I feared what might happen if I couldn’t remember my lines! Needless to say, I felt a great sense of accomplishment performing the show (with nearly all the words) and tackling my fears each night. I’ve done a few one-woman shows, but that one was special.
Betty is an iconic role for you at Stages—what do you love about her?
My 4th time playing Betty is surreal in some ways and like wearing an old pair of comfy shoes in another way. Some things come right back, other things not so much. Each time I play her, I try to honor what has worked in the past and feels right. I add new things that evolve from being a little older and from working with different actors and directors. I think, honestly, I typically fall into a lot of the same Betty voice and mannerisms out of habit more than choice. I love Betty! She’s tough, bossy, maternal, quick-witted, accepting and warm hearted. She’s also got a little crazy, wild side and that’s where I find her most liberating to play! Betty gets to be the voice of reason but also be over-the-top ridiculous. That’s one of the great things about all the characters in this show. Each character is full of an equal balance of humor and heart.
You’ve reprised the same role in different productions before—how do you approach this kind of work?
As far as approaching both of my recurring roles as Louise and Betty here at Stages, I think I approach both reprises the same way. These women, theses characters, are in my bones now. They have similarities: both Southern, strong, fun-loving women with heart. I can
easily connect to them. They are women who have qualities I admire. True broads in the best sense of the word!
Thank you to Mitchell, Steven and Sara for all your work on this production. To Kenn and all of the Stages company, thank you for providing me with so many wonderful opportunities to spread my artistic wings, work with amazingly talented actors, directors and designers and to connect with nearly 20 years of loving, supportive audiences who constantly remind me that what we do matters!