Dear John, Why Yoko?
Anzu Lawson is an actress, stand up comic and playwright. We had a talk with her about the musical and screenplay she wrote about John Lennon and Yoko Ono's love called "Dear John, Why Yoko?"
Why did you choose to write this musical and screenplay "Dear John, Why Yoko"?
Little did I know, in September 2011, during my first class with the Jocelyn Jones Acting Studio how my life would change. Every brand new studio member is required to perform what is known as an “Environment exercise,” where the actor creates and lives in a personal space, complete with personal objects. I chose putting on makeup in front of a mirror. After I was done, my teacher Jocelyn Jones asked me "Have you ever thought about playing Yoko Ono?" Ever the stand up comedian, I joked, "the woman who broke up the Beatles?" A few laughs came from the studio audience. Without cracking a smile, Jocelyn assigned me a "Picture Exercise" of Yoko where the actor replicates on stage the exact pose, clothes & expression in the picture. In that month of researching Yoko, I fell in love with this incredibly misunderstood- "before her time" Renaissance woman whose true life story had not been told from her perspective. I found that I identified with so much of her journey. Being a FishOut-Of-Water in Japanese society, a victim of International kidnapping by a parent during a custody battle and the struggles of being a female Asian American artist in America, just to name a few. I didn’t understand why the most famous Asian woman in the world had been given such a bad wrap. The more I learned about Yoko, the more I felt compelled to write her side of the story and play her, as an actress. By doing so, I have been led to my life purpose as an actress, writer, musician… to tell stories of the many Asian American women in history, whose stories would forever be forgotten, if I don’t.
What are the problems in getting your project to Yoko Ono?
As the piece developed & fan base grew, and I was told repeatedly how great the songs and story was. I made several attempts over the years to reach the Yoko gatekeepers I could find and even emailed one mutual friend of ours. But for some reason, those people did not extend themselves in the way I had hoped. After learning that Yoko was hospitalized a month ago for flu like symptoms, I felt it was only right, to get it to her as soon as I could. I started once again, putting my feelers out there to my industry contacts, to see where that door will open. Everyone is just two degrees away, they say.
How would I like to get Yoko’s blessing?
Honestly, if I was Yoko, and an artist had dedicated the last 5 years writing a beautiful homage about my life’s work and my art, I would want to know about it. Even though Yoko is very active on social media, I haven’t reached out to her there. I feel this project is too personal and deserves to be presented to her by someone she trusts and respects. I have faith she will know about this project very soon. The seed for this passion project wouldn’t have been planted in my heart if it wasn’t suppose to be shared with the world in a big way. This project is so much bigger than me. I am just the vessel in which it was channeled. This timeless love story must be told for new generations. We must constantly be reminded to give Peace a chance and Love is THE only answer to the fear, hatred, negativity, racism, segregation, wars, etc. that is still happening in the world today.
How would I like to get Yoko’s blessing in your project?
Yes, I’d love her blessing, but it’s her story so I’d love her collaboration. I would want to incorporate details into the story that are meaningful to Yoko. There are so many things written about Yoko and John when they were together but there are also many gaps in time, I’ve had to speculate and take creative license on. For instance, when Yoko sent John away to Los Angeles so she could focus on her own art and album (when she was not so in the “public eye”), I wonder what was going through “her mind” and “her heart?” I’d like to incorporate more of her POV into the story, to develop her character arc better. Maybe someone reading this interview will be the person who helps that connects the bridge to Yoko Ono and this project.
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