We spoke with Houston actor Susan Koozin to reflect on her character Jean Sultan in Pictures from Home. Here is what she had to say!
Can you share your initial impressions of the character Jean Sultan when you first read the script for Pictures from Home?
When first reading the script, my impressions of Jean were that she was one strong, patient, smart, and loving woman! I loved how she initially appeared somewhat ditzy and passive, but her many facets are revealed throughout the play. She is the glue that keeps the family together, the breadwinner who keeps them afloat, and the peacemaker who infuses the love that sustains them.
What aspects of Jean Sultan’s personality or journey did you find most compelling or challenging as an actor?
The most compelling and challenging aspects as an actor were her strength in her silence and the times she chose not to interject or speak her mind. Also, the challenges of her Brooklyn dialect (though a Californian for many years) and her being older than myself.
Zachary Fine and Susan Koozin in Pictures from Home.
What aspects of Larry Sultan’s photography and the overarching theme of family resonated with you personally, and how did that influence your portrayal of Jean?
The photos could be my own family home movies and videos. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, so they feel close to home…just a few years off. The photos and themes influence me in their exploration of a family, in that they provide a rich sense of history and an appreciation for the Sultan’s milestones, celebrations, hopes, loved ones, accomplishments, and struggles. I am influenced by photos of Jean in her younger years, her mothering years, and later in her working older years. She remains beautiful throughout; stylish and thoughtful looking. She wore the years well, and it’s clear she had a lot of fun along with any trials.
The play explores the question of who gets to depict the family story. In what ways do you think Jean Sultan contributes to or challenges the family narrative within the context of the play?
Who gets to depict the family story? I think Jean contributes and challenges the narrative within the context of the play in a couple of ways. I think she’s fine with Larry narrating their lives and enjoys sharing stories with him. He can share aspects of her and of their lives that she wouldn’t be comfortable sharing herself. She has some reluctance to being portrayed as old and perhaps not looking her best, most confident self and yet, is happy to help Larry with his project. She just loves having him around and she and Larry have a special bond. I feel that ultimately she’s very proud of his work and flattered to be featured in his book.
Zachary Fine, Susan Koozin, and Todd Waite in Pictures from Home.
Were specific scenes or moments in Pictures from Home particularly memorable or impactful for you as an actor portraying Jean Sultan?
It is a pleasure, every minute, performing this piece. It would be tough to say which scene is my favorite. I can’t tell you how special it is for me working alongside these two brilliant, beautiful actors; Todd Waite and Zack Fine. Truly an honor every day! We adore each other and are treasuring the experience. If I had to say one scene that pulls at my heartstrings as an actor and mother, it would be the scene with Larry in the guest bedroom. Aside from that one, anytime the three of us are together in a scene, it’s pure joy!
How will audiences connect with Jean Sultan’s character, and what do you hope they take away from her story in Pictures from Home?
I hope audiences will connect with Jean’s strength, heart and humor. She’s the kind of woman I’ve always enjoyed being around…and then some! Ha! She is one of many women who often dimmed their own light to allow a husband or children to shine. We all have known those women. I adore Jean; her love of family, her spirit, her fire, grace and her guts. I hope people will connect to the production in ways that surprise them. There is something everyone can find relevant in their lives