By Pinn Duong
Runo Suzuki is a sophomore majoring in Theatre Arts at GCC. She is an international student from Hokkaido, Japan. She’s currently a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Student Government Association, Forum Players Theatre Company and a Resident Assistant at GCC’s College Village.
During high school, Runo partook in at least six theatre productions in various roles as an actress, lightning crew, stage manager, and director. At GCC, she had participated in four productions including Bakkhai (as one of the Bakkahs), Single Black Female (as a dancer), Encounters (as an actor), and Children’s Theatre: The Lamp is the Moon (as an ensemble member). Together with the Forum Players Theatre Company, Runo Suzuki performed The Rocky Horror Show as Janet Weiss on October 17-20, 2019 at GCC’s Stuart Steiner Theatre.
“Your heart will thump and your blood will sing / So let the party and the sound rock on / We’re gonna shake it til the life has gone” (lyrics of “Wild And Untamed Thing”). Runo Suzuki and cast performing “Wild And Untamed Thing.”
Were there any difficulties being an international student at GCC?
Absolutely. Last year I was too scared, too shy and too embarrassed to talk to people, ‘cause I thought my English was not good. I’m involved in theatre, have to communicate with the crew and the cast, I was in the situations that I have to talk. Also, my American roommate, Brittany, who is also a theatre major, was also extremely helpful; she always stayed to help me and we hung out a lot, and that boosted my confidence in English speaking.
Why did you choose GCC? And why the theatre major?
I’ve always loved theatre since I was little. In Japan, there are very few colleges that provide theatre programs, and they are mostly very expensive. And I love English, so I want to learn more about it, and I want to learn theatre in New York, since it is the hotspot of theatre and arts. I searched through various colleges with theatre programs and specifically chose GCC to start my English and theatre studies.
What’s your favorite theatre course or professor at GCC?
My favorite course was “Lighting the Stage” taught by Instructor Brodie McPherson, who is also the director of the show. Brodie is so amazing, he can do everything, from light tech to staging and building set props and designs. Currently, I’m working as a lighting design assistant under Brodie as well.
How was the audition process? Why did you choose to audition for this role?
Actually, I initially chose to audition for Frank-N-Furter (Big laugh). I only wrote down Frank-N-Furter and that’s it, I did not write down any other roles. I just loved Frank-N-Furter and after I auditioned for the character, and I was shocked when I was cast for Janet. Because Janet is a pretty, girly and extremely Janet, and I am absolutely not that kind of person.
And I’m shocked to hear you were shocked that you were cast for Janet. I skimmed over the main cast and I could not imagine another cast member that can fit the role and exhibit the bubbly and mischievous innocence as well as you did. It’s either the director cast really well or you acted really well, or both. Why were you shocked you were cast as Janet?
Long story short, I attended an all-girls high school and I mostly played male roles, so I have always been used to the masculine role-playing, so my mind and my comfort zone has always been filled with male’s roles. This was one of the reasons why I auditioned for Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Then one day, I had to be Janet, an utterly feminine, cute and sexual woman.
So the most difficult for me was transforming my gender identity as an actress from masculine roles to feminine roles. There are many different versions of Rocky Horror Picture Show and I watched everything I could find and especially focused on Janet’s pretty and womanly movements. The part I felt most difficult was performing Janet’s “Toucha, Toucha, Touch Me,” which was about her pent-up sexual frustrations and lust awakenings. The scene I feared the most was the scene at the start of Act II (shyly giggles), in which Janet had her first sex with Frank, who disguised himself as her fiancé, Brad, to seduce her.
What are your strong and weak points as an actress? Let’s start with your strong points.
I think one of my strengths so far is adaptability [to different roles]. I’m overly facially expressive. I think another one of my strengths is craziness. Brodie always told me, “you’re a weirdo!” I’d proudly response, “I know!” – maybe that’s a strong point for an actress. I love moving my body, I can’t stop moving my body and dancing whenever I’m hyped.
For weaknesses, I’m not a good singer. I’ve played the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” in high school, but I think I was terrible, I think no one was moved by my singing. During the first few weeks of rehearsal, the musical director, Lauren, taught me vocal lessons on learning how to breathe, how to project my voice. I also need to improve more on understanding, analyzing in-depth and empathize with the character’s backgrounds and motives.
Did you learn anything new about American culture through this production?
YES! Americans are more open-minded regarding LGBT and they are not too bothered about what others are wearing or what their gender and sexual identity labels are. In Japan, it’s more conservative, the topic is not openly address and people of Japan’s LGBT community in most of the time feels they have to hide a huge part of themselves.
What are your plans post-graduation?
I plan on transfer to a 4-year university or work in a theatre-related position for a year on OPT (Optional Practical Training).
Any words or tips for future GCC theater students?
I experienced so many wonderful experiences with the theatre people here and I couldn’t be more proud. I do hope they will get to have the same terrific experiences as I did.
Credit: Photos by Kotaro Watanabe from GCC Photo Club.