Take Five with Kurt Kanazawa ’11

Kurt Kanazawa ’11 is an actor based in Los Angeles. His mother, Millicent Sanchez, is a labor lawyer with deep roots in Kauai, Las Vegas and Southern California; his father, Sidney Kanazawa, is a trial lawyer from Honolulu. Kanazawa graduated from Harvard-Westlake H.S. in North Hollywood and from The Juilliard School in 2015 with a G.D. in vocal arts. He played Ichiro on the television series Provaci ancora Prof! (2017) and starred in the opera The Rape of Lucretia (2015) and in the plays Hamlet at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2007) and Nothing is the Same (2018) at the Sierra Madre Playhouse. In August, Kanazawa will star as Rafael Chan at the Ojai Playwrights Conference’s Cocks Crow, written by Alice Tuan.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

Foolish! My family is from Hawaii and I grew up in L.A., so for me, a winter wardrobe used to mean a super-cool hoodie — maybe two. Also, I had never seen snow before moving to New York. So go figure that by February, I had walking pneumonia! Definitely learned that stubborn lesson the hard way: Always dress appropriately for a disastrous winter, and leave your cool hoodies at home!

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

Tila Tequila! Oh, Carman 12. I remember us all gathering up for MTV’s “A Shot of Love” every Tuesday at 10 p.m. sharp, crowded around that tiny television at the end of the hallway with our entire floor plus our R.A. Why? I still do not know. But someday, I would like to thank Ms. Tequila for bringing us all together for a few good laughs and very warm company with such a random, weeknight study break. I am seriously grateful for that.

What class do you most remember and why?

Kurosawa seminar! The six of us enrolled in that intimate class watched every single black-and-white film shot by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. I remember we would all stay until well past 11 p.m. to debate the night’s screening or to pick brainy fights about each of our own online bulletin rants and responses to those rants. Professor Paul Anderer was always so passionate, patient and kind. After our last class he generously hosted us all in his home, where he and his wife cooked a delicious homemade Japanese meal.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

College Walk! Under the beautiful shade of those trees in the spring, there was an awesome farmers market at 116th on Sundays. In particular, there was a Korean vegetable vendor who was always so kind to me. No matter the hour, she was always hilarious, upbeat, relentlessly curious about my dating life and reliably grilling up generously portioned free samples of her signature garlic and scallion pancakes.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

Nothing! Except, maybe, I wouldn’t have told my cousin I was getting Core Curriculum credit for taking basketball. She made fun of me so much for that, and in front of my grandmother: “Kurt’s taking ‘basketball’ … at Columbia?! What is that!?” Good thing I didn’t tell her I actually took it twice, and then took sailing!

Truthfully, I wouldn’t do anything over. I made great lifelong friends (many of whom I need to call and text, I know! My cell number is still the same y’all!), played in New York City, witnessed incredible performances at the Met Opera and BAM and St. Ann’s, explored amazing dim sum parlors in Chinatown, held up a sweaty, pre-platinum, crowd-surfing Lady Gaga in a tiny dance club (for a $12 ticket, true story), sat two uncomfortable feet away from Ahmadinejad v. Bollinger and bumped up against global perspectives in a challenging and diverse environment.

However, I would definitely be president of NOMADS (New and Original Material Authored and Directed by Students) again, just to continue producing extravagant, original theater works alongside Samantha Carlin BC’09, Natalie Glick BC’09, Rebecca Greenstein BC’10, Melissa Caffrey ’11, Meghan Coppoletti ’11, Katie Lupica ’11, Charlie Dinkin BC’12, Cassandra Adair BC’12, Livia Huang ’12, Rolando Rodriguez ’12, Jacob Rice ’12, Lorenzo Landini ’13, Lauren Lepow ’13, and all the supportive audiences and awesome collaborators — from playwrights to opera composers to DJs to painters to ballet choreographers to spoken word poets to assistant directors to actors — throughout those seven kinetic semesters together. Thank you all for that amazing ride!