We had the good fortune of connecting with Suzanne Down and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Suzanne, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
A few different answers pop into my head when you ask this question. The first one is my team. I am constantly humbled by the fantastic amount of talent I am surrounded by in my career. My team has helped my brand become known for consistently delivering the highest level of performers on stage and top-level production crew backstage. Every person I work with is just such a great human with whom I am lucky to share friendships and working relationships. I think clients and audiences feel the love, fun, and bond we bring to any production.
The second is listening. When I am producing my theatrical shows, I get to flush out my own vision, but when I am creating custom entertainment that needs to reflect an event designers vision or support a companies branding or conference messaging, it’s important to listen well and ask questions so I can fully understand what my client is trying to convey. I can then take that and translate it into a visual story using the language of costuming, make-up, music, movement and sometimes immersive experiences. I consider myself an interpreter.
And finally, the ability to not panic. We have run into some crazy challenges (ask me another time about building a stage with scrap lumber on a ship in the middle of the South China Sea when the stage didn’t make it). When you have the mindset that any problem is just a solution waiting to happen, it helps keep a positive and fun environment.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art has taken on many shapes and forms; dancer, actor, photographer, performance artist, sculptor, costuming, circus acrobat to show creator, designer & producer. I think my understanding of many different visual languages sets me apart. I don’t differeciate between what some would consider “low art” or “high art”. I get inspiration from things as disperate as a classical ballet performance to a beautifully painted east LA low rider.
I was a classically trained balet dancer and then went on to study fine art with a BFA from the San Franciso Art Institute and an MFA from UCSB. I have also spent decades immersed in underground art movements that sprung up from small black box theatres, galleries & public performances in San Francisco’s Mission District in the early ’90s, along with attending early SRL shows under bridges and overpasses. Vibrant warehouse parties we used to throw in unmarked locations in downtown LA in the early aughts. My mix of formal fine art education, classical dance training, and involvement in various experimental, often subversive art give me a wide breadth of inspiration & historical knowledge to draw upon when creating.
My biggest challenge is I can’t think small; I don’t know how to do it. Trust me, if I could be satisfied being a watercolor artist that works in 8″ x 10″, I would. It can be challenging when my ideas and inspirations outweigh my budget, but I also live by the motto that there is no idea too big to keep from taking the first small step.
And at the end of the day, I love what I do, and I love the people I do it with.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
As a native Los Angeleno (yes, we do exist) I have so many favorite spots. The Broad Museum is a must. Topanga Canyon down to the ocean where a bit of the 60’s & 70’s free spirit vibes still hang in the air like heavy pot smoke. A stop at any east LA taco truck. A motorcycle ride up to the Rock Store on Mullholland. A hike in Eaton Canyon by my house in Pasadena. A tour of the murals and street art in downtown LA. Some music at the Hollywood Bowl with a picnic and a couple of bottles of wine. On any given night we’d have our pick of theatre & dance performances from venues like unmarked downtown lofts to the Pantages and Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, and if we are there, then of course a bowl of French Onion Soup and Kendalls’ before the show is a must. A dive or a snorkel in the Pacific’s Kelp Forests. I mean there are others but I can’t give away all the good spots, can I?
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Oh my gosh…so many! As cheesy as this may sound, my shout-out has to go to my mom & dad. I learned so much about running my own company from watching my mom, who started her own real estate business in the corner of our kitchen when I was little. She taught me to control my own life and the importance of knowing how to balance a checkbook. My dad instilled my love of dance and musical theatre. I have watched Singing in the Rain so many times with my dad we can recite the entire movie together, and when I was 16, he turned an extra room in our house into a dance studio for me. Both of them supported me 100% and were at every ballet recital and show I was ever in as a kid, and they are still my biggest cheerleaders today. Having parents that supported my pursuit in the arts was huge.
My biggest artist influence would have to be David Bowie. Ok, I’m dating myself now, but when I was a kid his Glass Spider Tour was coming to Doger Stadium. I spent the night sleeping on the sidewalk in front of the record store so I could be first in line to get tickets. (yea, kids that’s what we did back in the day.) I got 5th row! Watching Bowie decend onto stage from a giant lit up spider with cryo blasts and gerbs sparking on stage….it was life changing, the rock and roll production value was off the charts. I remember thinking I want to be part of something this over the top, this cool. So much in fact, he’s the inspiration for my new show. He made pushing against societal norms and boundaries and being a freak something to celebrate. He made it ok to be a chameleon and not have to lock into one thing, he made us think we all can be hero’s.
Curious Josh Mark Madeo Jeromy Roberts Kevin Rolly