Interview: Writer/Performer Anzu Lawson on the L.A. Debut of her Solo Show THE RUB

at the Whitefire Theatre’s Solofest 2023 on Saturday 2/18

By: Jan. 17, 2023

Interview: Writer/Performer Anzu Lawson on the L.A. Debut of her Solo Show THE RUB

Anzu Lawson is gearing up to debut her second one-woman show, The Rub, inspired by her 30-minute single camera comedy pilot about her life as a stand-up comic who secretly pays her bills by being every Asian mother's worst nightmare... a masseuse. Written and performed by Anzu, directed by and developed with Jessica Lynn Johnson, The Rub marks the first time Anzu has revealed publicly about her two-decade long secret survival job that ultimately became the greatest spiritual lesson of her life.

I first met Anzu when she was performing as Yoko Ono during the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival, a role she inhabits with her entire body, heart and soul. So it makes perfect sense that The Rub debuts on Yoko Ono's 90th birthday on Saturday, February 18 at 8pm as part of Whitefire Theatre's Solofest 2023.

I decided to catch up with Anzu to find out more about her new show.

Hi Anzu. After all the shows I have seen you in as Yoko Ono, I had no idea you were a celebrity masseuse. What motivated you to follow that career?

Thank you, Shari. I'm so excited that you have been on this creative live theatre journey with me from the very beginning, starting with my John & Yoko musical debut at the Fringe Festival in 2014. And... Here we are again! To answer your first question, I never dreamed of being a masseuse. I became one long AFTER I got my "big break" in Hollywood as an actress starring opposite Viggo Mortensen in a movie. I thought, 2 years, tops! Then, I'll quit. I even used an alias name and I never ever advertised. But roles for Asians in Hollywood were few and far between and the inclusivity and diversity movement took much longer to happen.

I am curious about how you reached out to get celebrity clients. Were you working independently or through an agency?

Well, you can throw a stick in this town in any direction and hit a celebrity, LOL. But for me, I worked at a famous recording studio called The Record Plant, one day a week, for free studio time. All my clients were through referrals and friends. It just so happened that most of my friends were in the industry.

Why did you decide to write about your secret life now?

Interview: Writer/Performer Anzu Lawson on the L.A. Debut of her Solo Show THE RUB

Many, many reasons. But #1, I was asked by Whitefire Theatre's Solofest 2023 to bring back my first one woman show "Dear Yoko" and that is why I requested the date February 18th, Yoko Ono's 90th birthday in her honor. Yoko was my muse for my shows Rock 'n Roll's Greatest Lovers, Dear John, Why Yoko? and Dear Yoko. #2, My managers and friends had been urging me for years to write about my own life. A story that I DO own all the rights to. Also, I had been pitching The Rub comedy pilot and been doing the stand-up comedy circuit for 15 years and it was time to take all those jokes and turn it into a final opus farewell to this chapter of my life.

You probably didn't know that the Rock 'n Roll's Greatest Lovers Fringe showcase you saw, was originally a film script that no one in Hollywood would read because it was all original music, not the Beatles. With the surprising success of those shows, I was inspired and mentored to turn it into a Broadway-ready musical, so I learned how to write a book, as they call it on Broadway and wrote 23 more original songs with my cowriter Joerg Stoeffel, and we workshopped it with Cal State LA in 2018 and called it Dear John, Why Yoko? I could not have produced any of it had I not had the immense support of my massage clientele. But to circle back to your second question, I needed to do this for me. After 10 years of spearheading and pitching John Lennon & Yoko Ono projects, I needed to tell a story that was all mine to tell.

No doubt that story contains a lot of secrets! Without revealing names, what was the strangest, or funniest, thing a client ever revealed to you?

Not so much funny but spiritual wisdom perhaps. The biggest secret I learned is that our bodies are a record of everything that's happened to us stored in our cells and muscles. And everything is energy and energy doesn't lie.

And the transfer of energy through touch must have told you a lot about people. So okay now, let's name names. Who are some of your celebrity clients you will be talking about during The Rub?

Interview: Writer/Performer Anzu Lawson on the L.A. Debut of her Solo Show THE RUB

I purposefully don't mention anyone by name. It would take away from the real message. But if you're savvy, you'll get the hints. The Crying Game twist here is how everyone we touch in our lives, touches us. There are no accidents to who we attract in our lives. How all these people I was paid to heal, inadvertently healed ME of my biggest pain and my deepest shame. And for that, I'm forever indebted.

I assume eventually you told your mother about your hidden career. What was her reaction?

I'm not sure what she hated more - the fact that I was a stand-up comic or that I had to massage as a side gig. Either way, it was a huge disappointment all around. My mother is a big part of this show, as she was in the writing of Dear Yoko. Tiger moms make for great comedy. I can't give away the jokes here, Shari!

I totally understand. But I hope there is a bit more you would like to share with readers about The Rub.

As a comic, Comedy is Truth and Pain. As a writer, pain makes for great inspiration for stories. As a former masseuse, I never met a person who wasn't in some form of pain. That means, all of us have a funny, truthfully painful story inside of us that if we dared to share... would connect and thread our humanness.

No doubt every audience member will see a bit a themselves in The Rub, given how universal the experience of pain in all its forms can be. Do you have any other projects on the horizon after The Rub debuts?

After this One Woman show, The Rub pilot is going to get a nifty rewrite because I've grown bigger balls from this experience. That's the crazy thing about this solo theatre medium. The more vulnerable you are, the more powerfully you connect with everyone's humanity.

That's a very powerful statement that deserves to be re-read many times.

Thanks so much for speaking with me, Anzu. I look forward to being at The Rub!

Anzu Lawson's The Rub debuts in Los Angeles as part of Whitefire Theatre's Solofest 2023 at 13500 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks, 91423 on Saturday, February 18th at 8 p.m. This performance will include a live taping. Tickets are $25 and available at

A bit of background information:

Anzu Lawson is an Asian-American Singer-Actress/ Stand Up Comic/ Playwright-Screenwriter who got her start opposite Viggo Mortensen in an indie film called American Yakuza for HBO. She's since guest starred on numerous TV shows playing many ethnically diverse characters. Most recently reprising her role as Mariko on Season 10 of NBC's The Blacklist (airing 2/28/23), recurring as Ashley Kim on Chicago Med, & Netflix's Manifest; Season 4 (TBD). After decades of frustration with the lack of leading roles for diverse women in Hollywood, Anzu parlayed her story telling passions by receiving her certificate in screenwriting at UCLA in '09, where she optioned her first script, The Seed Between the Stones, a coming-of-age story inspired by her time with Mick Jagger and her music mentor Richard Perry.

During the pandemic, she began co-writing a limited series with two-time Academy Award winning writer/producer of Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Oh Yoko! The Never-before telling of Yoko's incredible yet controversial life, her World Peace influence and struggles as an Asian female artist in a world wrought with xenophobia.

Anzu has also written a 28 original song Broadway-ready musical in which she starred as Yoko Ono called Dear John, Why Yoko? Her performance garnered Anzu her first Best Actress nomination in the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival for the musical's original staging as Rock and Roll's Greatest Lovers.

She is passionate about being a part of the "next wave of inclusivity focused writer-performers that not only edu-tain but also elevate social awareness and humanity in the most uplifting way. Anzu writes edgy stories that challenge stereotypes while bringing to light the untold stories of Asian American & diverse women throughout history. She resides in Los Angeles and is repped by Bohemia Management Group. and NTA Talent.

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