Name: Noah Diaz
Hometown: Council Bluffs, IA & Omaha, NE (it’s hard to explain, but they’re basically one city)
Current Town: New Haven, CT
Affiliations: The Yale School of Drama
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: My father is Mexican and my mother is white, so I find that the truest identifier for myself is simply as Hispanic.
Q: Tell me about The Juniors.
A: A class of high school juniors are tasked with a simple Home Ec assignment: parent a sack of flour for a week or fail. When the flour babies begin dying one by one, the students stop at nothing to ensure that they, and the pretend children they bore, are the last ones standing. A play with war, carnage, and genocide, The Juniors is a pitch black comedy about the ambitious and cut-throat world of high school Home Economics and the lengths we’ll go to in order to protect what we think is ours.
That’s the quick blurb of the play, and I think it’s mostly true. I’m untethering myself from a recent workshop that was held in the New Play Lab here at Yale, a class that pairs playwrights, actors, directors, and dramaturgs where we stage small-scale presentations of our new works, and I’m reevaluating what the larger themes of this play might want to be.
I thought I wrote a sharp-edged ’90s teen comedy and I slowly realized that while, yes, that’s true, I also wrote a pretty devastating examination of parental violence, lineage, legacy, inheritance, pattern-making, grief, abandonment, and other wacky things, so that’s been fun to parse through.
I’ll have another workshop of the piece later this spring, so I’m excited to continue giving this piece the space it needs so it can tell me what it wants.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: In production:
My play The Guadalupes will be receiving its world premiere at the Yale Cabaret in March 2018. The quick blurb is as follows: To come to terms with what it means to share a history with a family he barely knows, a young playwright hires two actors to role-play as himself and his dead grandmother. The Guadalupes is a meta-theatric exploration of history, memory, family, sadness, the importance of naming things, and the profoundly human task of learning how to let go of the things that we’re no longer able to carry.
My play Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally is currently in workshops here at Yale. It finds the old “Dick & Jane” characters from the ubiquitous early 1950s children’s readers grown up and struggling to stay afloat in a home fractured by grief. Dick (now going by Richard) is raising his two children, Dick Jr. and Sally, who is deaf, while trying to hide a terminal sickness from them will leave them orphans. He calls home his estranged sister, Jane, to try to reconcile and make peace with their shared history before he passes away. It’s a poetic family drama that has sadness, ghosts, talking dogs, sign language, and Snickers bars.
(1) Your Father’s Field Guide to the Wild West–A very sad, very funny, and very nonlinear play about a father teaching his young daughter how to survive alone in the wilderness because he plans to kill himself by walking into the desert; characters include Grover Cleveland, cowboys, and a talking lizard
(2) Pumpkinhead–A pageant about competitive bodybuilding, body dysmorphia, and body manipulation set against the swampy backdrop of the Florida Everglades that features an appearance from a young Arnold Schwarzenegger
(3) Untitled Streetcar piece–A modern day continuation of A Streetcar Named Desire that finds Blanche living in an upscale New Orleans suburb and raising Stella’s teenage daughter who has recently come out as gay; a play about memory and familial cycles we must learn how to break
(4) God Hates Ugly So God Hates You (working title) – An adaptation of the documentary Men in Rubber Masks that follows a widowed father who, in an attempt to help his two children cope with their grief, orders a wearable, rubber female suit that looks exactly like his dead wife
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: I think the defining moments for me were my applications to different graduate programs last year. Of the twelve programs I applied to, I was accepted to and/or interviewed with eight before accepting Yale’s offer of admission and removing my name for consideration in the others. My surprise at these programs’ interest was not a matter of low expectations, but rather having had no expectations at all. It was one of the first times that I felt seen. Those programs’ investment and belief in my work gave me hope that there was space for my work in this industry.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: I’m in the profoundly fortunate position of being in a graduate program that allows me to study under former heroes who are now mentors, including Tarell Alvin McCraney, Sarah Ruhl, Amy Herzog, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Young Jean Lee, Robert O’Hara, Anne Erbe, and others.
Playwrights whose work I’ve always deeply admired: Sheila Callaghan, Edward Albee, Lucas Hnath, Caryl Churchill, Seth Bockley, Lauren Yee, Suzan-Lori Parks, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Annie Baker, Rinne Groff, Will Eno, Anne Washburn, Clare Barron, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.
Playwrights in my cohort whose work I deeply admire: Josh Wilder, Genne Murphy, Majkin Holmquist, Jeremy O. Harris, Alex Lubischer, Christopher Nuñez, Christopher Puglisi, and Margaret E. Douglas.
Playwrights from my hometown of Omaha, NE, whose work I’ve always deeply admired: Ellen Struve, Beaufield Berry, Kaitlyn McClincy, Joe Basque, Marie Schuett, Max Sparber, Laura Leininger-Campbell.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: I’m very much at the beginning of my own career, so maybe they can help me? Maybe we can help each other?
The only thing I can offer is what I wish someone had told me when I began writing plays: your identity (whatever that word means to you) will always be a great, continuous unfolding, and sometimes this will reflect in your work and sometimes it won’t, but either way, the work is valid.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I spent my undergrad studying Special Education and Communication Disorder with a focused track in American Sign Language, so I work extensively within the d/Deaf communities. I’m always looking for opportunities to work with d/Deaf talent on- and offstage.
***For more on Noah Diaz, visit:
- Read Noah Diaz’s work at the New Play Exchange
- “Omaha actor has amassed 80+ credits — and he’s just 21” – Bob Fischbach (Omaha World-Herald)
- “Council Bluffs native earns coveted spot at Yale School of Drama” – Betsie Freeman (Omaha World-Herald)
- “So Far to Go” – Andy Williams (Omaha Magazine)
- “Noah Diaz: Metro theater’s man for all seasons and stages” – Leo Adam Biga