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Wonder Women

Susan Misner

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Susan Misner (prefers Suze, or Susie) is an artist located in New York City. She considers herself more of a pie lady than a cake lady and loves her dog more than anything. She finds joy in swimming with her dog, writing, and watching movies with her guy. She believes in the life changing power of letting go of perfection and embracing imperfection.

Where were you born?

S: Patterson, New Jersey

Where did you go to college?

S: I skipped college. I came to NYC with very limited knowledge of the larger dance community, (remember this was pre-google) made me believe the only thing available to me was Broadway. I knew a dancer's career is relatively short, so I thought what the heck let’s give this Broadway thing a whirl.

What are some of your favorites right now?

S: A book called New American Bestfriend by Oliva Gatwood, it's a book of poetry.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

S: She wouldn't listen to anything I would tell her, but I’d probably try to introduce her to the concept of “wabi sabi” sooner.  The word imperfect, to me as a 20 year old, would have been a lovely introduction, because that’s what art is all about. Unfortunately, dance and singing are often taught from a place of perfection rather than a truthful place, but I think you can accomplish both.

When you were 20, what did you envision your life to be like now?

S: My expectation was that I’d be successful. But I’ve had to redefine what “successful” means to me a hundred times over. Ultimately, my journey has been learning how to choose myself, in relationship to myself, and not others. It's an ongoing process.

What is something that brings you joy?

S: My dog. And Jonathan. My friends with my dog with Jonathan in the country by a lake is perfect. The other place I find joy in is in the studio, working and collaborating with others.

What do you love to do outside of the performing industry?

S: I love writing. I love hiking. I love exploring. I love going to junky antique places with my mother. I love going to the movies. I’m taking a bite out of life in general and living from a place of gratitude.

What is your strongest/most important relationship in your life right now?

S: It’s family. Johnathan for sure, and my friends. I’ve realized you can’t have one relationship that can do it all for you, you need a tribe of people.

What are some of your fears?

S: That I’m not going to reach my full potential. I became a great dancer because I worked my ass off and was never bored by it. I was infinitely interested in dance, and I still am to this day, but I left dance when I was young to became an actor. And it’s not that I’m bored with acting, it’s just that I’m more interested in being a maker. The fear is that maybe I won’t fully come to fruition. I hope that’s not the case, but if it is, then I hope I find beauty and gratification in the journey. All we have is the journey.

How do you best take care of yourself?

S: It’s not all business and it’s not all play. It’s working on my screen play, and then cleaning the house. Or going to yoga/the gym, and connecting with friends. Having time with Jonathan and my dog after a day in the studio. That’s when I feel the most balanced because I’m being productive in many areas. I also think part of taking care of myself is accepting that there is no “getting rid of the things that plague you” there’s only making friends with everything that you’re struggling with, because it’s actually beautiful information that can be an asset to your work, and to your life. I don’t think there is a “get rid of it”, but rather “work with it”.

What are your mornings like?

S: I like to get up, put on NPR and make coffee. I usually try to day dream during that time. It’s pretty amazing to let myself be bored and to let my thoughts go wild and see what comes.

Can you tell me a little about your career?

S: I was seen in a dance class in New York by a choreographer named Terry Beeman. He wanted me to go to Italy for six months and dance on TV. So off to Rome I went and danced on the worst variety show ever. It was amazing. Then I was asked to stay because they loved Americans at the time. They asked me to stay and they would develop me as the next star and pay me a million dollars and I was like “No, I think I want to go home and dance on Broadway” because I was a fool and had no idea. So I come home and I audition for A Chorus Line. I sang “Happy Birthday”[laughs] for Rob Marshall who was the director. I left (thinking I’d blown it) and they called me and I got the job. Later I auditioned and got Guys and Dolls on Broadway where I had the privilege of dancing for Christopher Chadman. Those three things happened by the time I was eighteen and that was my start. But there is no path, there’s no fucking path. There’s just no road. It’s “make your own road”. Over time I met a woman who became my friend and mentor; (legendary dancer) Mary Ann Lamb. She was constantly talking about Jerome Robbins and Fosse. How they believed and pursued acting in dance, so I thought “I better become a better dancer by going to acting school.” I went to William Esper (Meisner School) and that’s where I began my path to acting. That was a really hard moment (when I decided I wanted to be an actor) because I realized I sort of did all I could do on Broadway. There was nothing harder that was going to be asked of me than what was already asked of me. I did four Broadway shows and the movie Chicago and then I thought, “I think I’m done with this”. For the record I was wrong. Turns out I’ll never be done with dance. But it was a scary and hard time. It was a leap off of a cliff to say no to job offers and to trust that I would develop wings on the way down. To get something else. As artists you are often put in a very narrow lane so you have to create a wider lane for yourself. I continue to work with myself and try and push my boundaries to make myself wider but it’s not an easy journey.

How do you continue to challenge and push yourself career wise or wellness wise? How do you continue to be curious and chase after that curiosity?

S: I am a curious person. I’m lucky because I’m constantly inspired by collaborating with people that are better than me at something. I try to collaborate with people that fucking terrify me. As an introvert and a shy person asking (often times) strangers to get in the studio and experiment, really stretches me past my comfort zone. I get real inspiration from that. I think the world is infinitely interesting. Watching how people function in the world, what they’re dealing with, what they were dealt, breaks me.

What inspires you?

S: Paintings, I love fucking paintings. I love art. I love music, animals and nature. That’s it. That’s inspiration. My collaborators, peers, and Jonathan! They're so inspiring.

What’s the hardest lesson you had to learn during your career as a performer?

S: I had to learn, and am still learning, to ask myself “what do I think?” first, before anyone else tells me anything. Not “did the director like that take?” When I make a piece and people are like “I think you should... and what about this... and what about that…” I look at it and say” what do I think?” Then I can open my arms and say “tell me everything that you think.”

Who do you consider to be another badass in this industry (can be multiple people)/ who would you want in your circle of badass women?

S: I have always loved women. I have so many women in my life that are badasses. I think Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are groundbreaking, extraordinary people. I think Ellen Degeneres is extraordinary too. Anyone who saves animals is extraordinary. There’s a guy named Rick O’Barry who started The Dolphin Project. I would love to interview him or just know him. John Lasseter, a writer for Pixar, is (I think) one of the best storyteller of our time. And Ohad Naharin. He is the head of the dance company Batsheva, which I think is the best in the world. The choreographer Crystal Pite of Kidd Pivot is spectacular. My mom, and my tribe of female friends are all powerhouses, but there are so many more.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

S: The best advice I've received comes from Jonathan’s mom, Toby Frank, who was a huge inspiration in my life. She passed away three years ago. She was a beast. She was an amazing human. She said to me one time, when she was talking to me about aging, she said "aging is this process of acceptance and fight, because you have to fight what you can and you have to continually accept those little deaths. And there can be growth out of those deaths, there can be something else that comes from that little thing that you lost that you thought was so important." That advice was crucial in my reframing of what it means to be an aging person, let alone what it means to be an aging athlete.

As a woman, in 2018, how do you navigate, deal with, associate with politics?

S: I feel like “fuck yes, women.” I am so excited to live in this time where I marched with women and men for change. I feel empowered by what’s happening and excited about the possibility of a shifting paradigm. Women are going to be the answer and that makes me happy. You look at these students in Florida, they’re the future. That woman (Emma Gonzalez), she’s going to change the world. And is. It’s so interesting because my mom is not a Democrat and I grew up with a lot of opposition. I didn’t form from same, I formed from opposite. I was questioning how I felt. I thought, “this doesn’t feel right for me, this feels right for you. How do I still love you when we so radically disagree?” That lesson continues because I get so angry. The way I channel it is by making a political piece that's about meeting someone in the middle. How do we stop binary thinking and start to say, “that’s a human being.” Try and see them as a human being and meet them somewhere in the middle, even if we disagree. I don’t think there’s anything harder than that. I just have to continue to look for that middle place and make space.

The Brights