June 22, 1951 – April 10, 2020
I remember the first time Diane Rodriguez and I got serious about changing the world (or at least our theatre). It was 1994. We were both performers for a benefit at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Diane was part of a comedy troupe she had co-founded called Latins Anonymous and I was a solo performer around town. By this time, we had already had many years in the field doing art, and just as importantly, social and political activism. Maybe that is why I was so drawn to Di.
That year I performed at over sixty fundraisers. If they needed a poem, a performance, an M.C., I was there. Diane and I kept running into each other at all these gigs. I remember the big run of Latins Anonymous at LATC. We weren’t friends, but we were friendly. There is something about the fellowship of the backstage and all the bonding that goes on amongst performers. It was community.
She was an artist that I did not see too much of in my early performance art days; a working-class Chicana from San Jose. My family roots were in Delano’s Central Valley and we gravitated to each other instantly. We spoke the same language. We would run into each other, hug and instantly finish each other’s sentences. We would laugh, laugh, laugh and then she would say, “Hey, have you seen this play? We should go.”
She was my familiar in the art world.
I knew her history with El Teatro Campesino, and that she and her great husband, Jose Delgado (JD), had moved to L.A. to do the initial research for what would be the birth of the seminal Chicano play, Zoot Suit, which originated at the Mark Taper Forum.
I was backstage at the catering table, trying to devour as many mini roast beef appetizers this starving artist could consume. Diane was next to me giving it a go as well. The catering people were losing patience with us because we started making to-go bags.
Diane had that wonderful straight black hair with the severe bangs. Lots of big loud jewelry, black tights and a funky t-shirt; her performance drag. She was always good for a laugh backstage or some chisme about some gig. But this night, she came up to me and said there was a job opening up at the Taper and that we should apply together, as a team.
I had a life history at the Taper, seeing tons of shows as a kid, ushering through my teens, performing on stage for various events, and finally studying with my mentor, Maria Irene Fornes, through the Taper Writers Group, which I was in for twelve years. I didn’t even hesitate. Before I knew it, we were having our first meeting with artistic director Gordon Davidson.
It’s important to note that we did not invent the Latino Theatre Initiative, the groundbreaking new play development program that we were privileged to run for ten years. It was started by Jose Luis Valenzuela, Evelina Fernandez and the Latino Theatre Company. We were the stewards who took it over.
Our office was ridiculous.
It was the first one you saw as you entered the Taper Annex rehearsal building. We came in on a Saturday when everyone was gone and painted it bright yellow with gold trim. I remember that because the weekend guard made it us stop because we were using oil paint and he gave us masks. Then we went thrift store shopping to decorate it. We got rid of the fluorescent light immediately and installed floor lamps. We hung too much art and draped fabrics. That was our look.
We gave up individual desks and shared a communal dining table which we covered with a loud red tablecloth.
We were determined to break bread with every artist who came to visit us.
That first year we had a pan dulce and coffee budget and then administration was like, “Uh, hold on here…” Still, we managed to make it a sanctuary for ourselves and the artists who came through our doors.
You would think the only people you might remember are the legends that strolled through and sat with us like Chita Rivera, Zoe Caldwell, Helen Mirren, among others (oh, my goodness, remind me to tell you about my 7AM audition with Maria Conchita Alonso).
The truth is, it was the privilege of meeting so many young artists who came to the office. The days when we would sit opposite each other and read their plays all day. Hitting the stack and handing each other our reads, and then getting into amazing conversations about the plays. This wasn’t a job – it was a way of living.
I faced Diane every day across the table for ten years.
We laughed, we cried, we fought to diversify the Taper with all we had.
Along with Chay Yew, Lisa Peterson, Rachel Hauck, Timothy Douglas, Annie Weisman Macomber, Brian Freeman, Vicky Lewis, our beloved John Belluso (RIP), Pier Carlo Talenti, Anthony Byrnes, Michael Jung, Robert Egan, Corey Madden, Dolores Chavez, and so many others, we made a family.
Along the way, Robert Castro, David Roman, Tiffany Lopez and Caridad Svich joined us for the ride. Jesus A. Reyes became a mentee.
There were days when it felt like we were wasting our time trying to make a dent in the larger American regional theatre, and others where we would look at how much we were able to accomplish. All with the ridiculous arrogance that we were not going to ask for permission but offer apology when we pissed off our bosses.
I turned the office into my own workspace as well, and some nights I was there writing or at the copy machine until three in the morning. It was a tremendous time of creating and learning. I am not going to lie, I made a ton of mistakes, but I had a partner who I could shoulder the learning curve with.
Diane and I might have differed on our art, but our politics were clear.
We had a great time making work, giving out hundreds of commissions, hiring over a thousand actors, designers, directors, dramaturgs, etc. We did hundreds of readings, workshops and productions.
We used our money wisely, because we knew it was not ours, it belonged to the community. We were given the privilege for a time to make something with it. I am so grateful to Chantal Rodriguez, now at Yale, for taking our archive and turning it into a book.
We stretched every cent. I don’t know if folks realized that we split a salary to get that job and we were both working eighty hours a week sometimes and being paid half of what everyone else was.
It didn’t matter as much because we knew it was the way to get into the building, through a door that we immediately propped open. We never closed that door. There was great sacrifice, but there were also so many opportunities.
Right at the very end, we took our last fifteen thousand dollars and gave out thirty ‘investment’ grants of five hundred each to emerging artists. We didn’t ask for anything in return. We wanted young playwrights to know that we believed in their artistry, and that hopefully this investment would help in the moment of writing.
I loved our crazy ideas. Many we accomplished, and many were just too much, even for the Taper. That’s cool.
Diane was a magical person. Crazy and magical. And sometimes moody and ambitious and complicated and one of the most larger-than-life beings I knew. She lived large.
I don’t know if people are aware that for years I lived directly across the street from her house in a little bungalow in Echo Park at Baxter and Vestal.
We went to work together. I would wave from my kitchen when I was ready to go. I was often in their backyard or sitting in her house full of local art. Oh my god, that Shrimp Boil we threw, what a mess.
We took a ton of trips for our work, and I was always astonished on our flights to New York, because we would chat in the car to the airport, chat in the terminal, sit together on the plane and chat all the way across the country. Chat in the taxi. And, without fail, Diane would always say, “Oh my goodness, are we already here? Honey, we just started talking!”
The same thing would happen when we drove to Arizona or went to Mexico. “We’re already here? I was going to tell you about my Cousin…”
I remember one time we were at the Minneapolis airport after a TCG Mentor meeting, and we were deep in chat, chat, chat and this woman with curly hair sitting next to us says, “Can I join you?” She had gravitated over to us because she had seen that Diane was wearing a UFW (United Farm Workers) pin on her jean jacket. She’s animatedly talking and after a few minutes I said, “Aren’t you legendary singer-songwriter Carole King?” Diane just looks at her with all seriousness and says, “Wow, I guess we attract celebrities, okay, go on Carole…”
I wrote work for her to perform, we co-directed a ton of stuff, we read and dramaturged a million plays. I think we gave each other gifts; she helped me get into mainstream work, and I helped her get into more experimental theatre.
I wish I could tell you about the artists who came and sat at the table with us. Our dining table, with my Talavera plates, and the Pollo Loco takeout, helped birth ‘Chavez Ravine’ with Culture Clash, among many new Latinx plays. These guys; Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza were a huge part of our lives.
I remember the day we were at the table prepping for an all Latina variety show on our mainstage, Diva L.A., and a well-known performer dropped out at the last minute. I go upstairs to Gordon’s office and ask if he has anyone in his rolodex I can call. He gives me Rita Moreno’s home number and Diane and I call her. I tell Rita what’s going down and that the show is coming up in four days with five performances all weekend. I really wasn’t counting on it, but Rita says, “for Gordon, anything.” She gives me the name of some union musicians in Hollywood to gather right away.
I am looking at Diane and I tell Rita on the speakerphone that we have a whole costume shop filled with gowns, I am sure there is something for her in there and we will make adjustments. I’ll never forget Rita Moreno’s voice filling our room with love as she says, “Oh darling, don’t worry, I have my own Bob Mackie”. I hang up the phone and Diane and I just look at each other in amazement. Diane says, “Wow, that’s a veterana.”
Maybe, for me, the best and most emotional experience I had with Diane was doing a lecture at NYU for our dear Queer Cuban scholar godfather, Jose Munoz (RIP), who had us lecture to his classes, perform and show slides and talk about the work we were developing.
It was an amazing week in New York, meeting our funders and overbooking the hell out of ourselves to meet as many artists as we could. Jose offered us a generous stipend for the gig, but we didn’t feel good about taking money when we already had a salary at the Taper, which was a non-profit.
We pitched Jose to use the money and throw a party where we would invite as many Latinx theatre artists as we could, folks we knew and folks we wanted to meet, and create a community moment.
Jose loved the idea and hosted it at his place in the East Village. It was a magical night. I can still see Nilo Cruz and Michael Garces drinking beers in the kitchen. Maria Irene Fornes flanked by Carmelita Tropicana and Marga Gomez. It was just surreal to meet the people whose plays we were reading like mad in the office.
All good things end, and my time at the Taper came to a close in 2005.
Diane stayed on another fourteen years, bless her. What a complicated transition. I will leave it at that. I went off to do my art, but truly I was changed by the experience. Diane and I took a break from each other for a few years. Truly, it was like a marriage ended, and I think we both needed time apart as artists.
But we always found the time to connect around the work, and we had these ridiculous day long ‘chats’ at Café Tropical in Silver Lake that started with a Cuban coffee, a trip to Wacko’s in Hollywood for books, a Goodwill pop-in for something to refurbish, then a might-as-well-have-lunch at Astro Diner on Hyperion, a hike through Elysian Park, an Uncle Jer’s/Furthr pop in for decorative art, and then realizing that we had been together the whole day, would pick up JD and go to dinner at La Parrilla in East L.A..
In the last few years, we started to hang out a lot more, we recently had a magical day at the Sundance in L.A. playwright’s lab, dramaturging plays with the great Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony. I planned last year’s birthday for her. It was as if we never had been apart. She directed a reading of mine for the Fornes Festival at Hero Theatre, and at the end of the night, she put an arm around me and whispered, “You know who is really crazy…” and the chisme flowed like it had never ever stopped.
After ten years of asking, she and JD finally came to lecture in one of my classes at USC recently. It was my first time teaching a Latinx Theatre course and they were the perfect end to the semester.
I started to attend her New Year’s Eve dinners with a close-knit group of her best friends. This year she was especially insistent that I go. I wonder if she knew it would be our last?
She catered from my old Echo Park haunt, Taste of Spain, and she was excited to do a round of Dog Bingo I bought for her a few years ago. I made a traditional sangria with all the rums and fruit appropriate. “Oh honey, you’re really good at playwriting and sangria” followed by her big full laugh.
We had our moment in the kitchen, late into the evening. I was slicing pies, and I feel Diane reach around and hug me from behind. “I am so happy you came, Luis Alfaro”. We would laugh and call each other by our full names at funder meetings. I said, “For you, Diane Rodriguez, anything”.
Rest in peace, friend.
Diane met me when I didn’t know who I was going to become. She was there at the inception of who I came to be. She could see my potential way before I could imagine it myself. She was a sculptor of lives, our lives. Molding the clay of our words, nascent ideas, into tangibles that could be shared with others. Her eyes and smile, forcing us to not give up on ourselves, not yet. My Diane, your absence in this dimension will work as a powerful black hole of energy, that will hold all of us you sculpted, together. Rest in peace knowing your work on this Earth will continue to walk the walk. Gracias, gracias, gracias.
Diane was a contributor to Scenes for Latinx Actors and had a forthcoming article planned for a new book that I am editing with Cynthia DeCure. In mid-December 2019 we had a rich conversation about her life’s work and the field. In this photo, we were at the Latino Theatre Common’s 2015 Carnaval of New Latina/o Work at DePaul University in Chicago. A moment of connection with Jorge Huerta and Jerry Ruiz—we had such a good time!
My heart hurts. She meant so much for so many.
The ache, loss of Diane Rodriquez on Good Friday required pause:
Do not surrender your grief so quickly
Let it cut more deeply
Let it ferment and season you
As few human or divine ingredients can
Something is missing in my heart tonight
That has made my eyes so soft
And my voice so tender
And my need of God so absolutely clear. —Hafiz
As this Easter “mourning” in Texas is felt, amid “severe weather warnings” and tornado watches that light up my phone, my kitchen window reports another possibility: the Sun too is “peaking.” What then to “rest” or rely upon if any prediction, consolation or easily expressed Truth quickly turns to its most outer limit? Change then, change now is a moment to moment requirement it seems, and the moments themselves so rapidly flashing before me of late, especially as I slow down to meet. . .them all. As is. It has been very challenging to reduce these day filled losses, and the unknowns of the pandemic to “entries.” Advice is just that—adding vice to an already challenging time. But then there remains the everyday. The births, the passings, that are daily with or without the virus and what some have called, “our time.” What then do we do with that ‘gold’ which we are given, so fragile and impermanent even in the best of times? Diane Rodriquez, I was fortunate to witness, made the most of it! I had no idea she had been battling cancer for a while, so formidable was her living!
My first memory and impression of Diane was in Los Angeles 1990 when I admired her courage, talent and “on the field” experience with everything CHICANO as evident with her work with LATINS ANONYMOUS. Thankfully, it was a lasting impression that she herself kept surpassing in the decades to follow. Before you can satirize anything and do it well, you have to know the hard-won pain of it all. You don’t take something funny and make it funnier. Comedy comes from pain. And because Diane had experienced the first-hand challenges of marginalized Latinx community groups firsthand, she brought great insights to her Teatro work to help bring focus to the hardships of others, whether it was because of stereotyping, social injustice or gender inequalities—you name it—she used her talents to give voice to the otherwise “unspoken.” And she did that through theater making, wearing various hats to secure equal rights (and time for all) on so many fronts- -simultaneously. Diane walked (marched) her talk. When she spoke we all listened because it wasn’t theory, it was the frontline ‘punchline’ of wisdom. She was a role model and example about how to seize the right place, the right time and the right way to make Art.
The last time we spoke was via a conference call with the Latinx Theatre Commons when we were brainstorming about a comedy festival sometime in the future. I remember thinking, if I only had nine (more) lives to give Diane’s nine x 9 lives the homage/coverage, whether it be a book, another panel, podcast or just sharing of a good meal together to celebrate her insights, accomplishments and express all of our tireless gratitude to her! How fortunate I was to enjoy and witness how one person can do so much for so many artists in one, too short of a lifetime. Beyond this life, I hope I have tickets on the front row to ALL that you continue to inspire and create, Diane. And if you choose to watch and enjoy instead, from the audience, some of what is being offered by the many that will follow, I hope our assigned seats are at least close enough to the other so that we get to have our next best platica about it—ALL! God bless you and your loved ones always, may we feel your bright LIGHT ever near.
Brian Eugenio Herrera
See the second half of the Stinky LuLu Says! podcast for Brian Herrera’s thoughts on Diane’s legacy. Listen here.
Remembering Diane Rodriguez: A Life in the Theater
The term, “a life in…” has graced many a book title. But when I use the term in the title of this memorial I mean that Diane Rodriguez brought life into the theatre, whether as an actor, director, designer, producer or any of the many facets of this extraordinary woman’s career.
I met Diane in 1970 while she as an undergraduate student in Dramatic Art at the University of California Santa Barbara. Diane was the only Chicana (or Chicano) student in the department and we bonded swiftly. By the end of that academic year, Diane became a founding member of El Teatro de la Esperanza. We were performing actos by Luis Valdez and the Teatro Campesino; the first time either I or my students had performed anything about the Chicana/o and Mexican experiences in the U.S. We performed the classic acto, Los vendidos (The Sellouts) and Diane played the Mexican-American, Ms. JIM-enez, a secretary in Governor Reagan’s office looking for a “brown face in the crowd.”
I can still visualize Diane as Miss JIM-enez: sharp, intelligent and witty. She knew how to make people laugh and she knew how to laugh at herself. After graduating from UCSB Diane moved to San Juan Bautista to work with the Teatro Campesino. While there, she met her future husband, Jose and the two became integral members of this world-famous theatre troupe, performing all over the US an abroad.
After many years with the Teatro Campesino, Diane and Jose moved to Los Angeles. Diane became the Co-Director of the Center Theatre Group’s Latino Theatre Initiative with Luis Alfaro and the two began one of the most important projects developing new voices in the American theatre. As the Associate Artistic Producer of the CTG Diane developed multi-million dollar initiatives. Diane’s purpose was to assist emerging talents in playwriting and all aspects of theatre practice. The heartfelt messages that started posting after Diane’s passing speak to the hundreds of theatre artists that she encouraged, mentored and gave hope and purpose.
Diane was a powerhouse and when she became the Chair of the board of the Theatre Communications Group, she was not only at the table, she was at the head of the table, changing the faces of that important national organization and literally changing the faces of the American theatre. When President Obama appointed Diane to the National Council of the Arts, her role as spokesperson for all of the arts was assured. I loved bragging about Diane as the most powerful Latina theatre artist and advocate in the country. She was. And she will never be forgotten.
As we say in Latin America when somebody has passed:
DIANE RODRIGUEZ: PRESENTE!
I remember Diane from her days with Luis Alfaro at the Mark Taper Forum. I was gathering information for my dissertation at a time when there were few people doing so. I clearly remember walking into their rather jam-packed offices at the Taper and feeling the thrill of “real” theatre (not just the academic stuff I was learning in the Spanish Department at UC Irvine). So, for me, there are some people who stand out in my memory as key to opening the doors to the world of performance and theatre: Diane, Luis Alfaro, and José Cruz Gonzalez (who was at the South Coast Rep in Costa Mesa) and the Hispanics Playwrights Project. Another key figure for me was Caridad Svich and Irene Fornés, and Pedro Monge Rafuls … and then there was the outrageous Latins Anonymous and Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Emily Hicks, Coco Fusco and so many others down the line. Cannot do this without mentioning Jorge Huerta, Juan Villegas, Augusto Boal, and Diana Taylor. I am very bad with dates and stuff like that, but I guess this had to have been in the mid- to late 80s. I am forever grateful for the generosity that these and so many other Latinx artists and scholars who generously shared their work with emerging scholars. It made our ability to document this thrilling time possible. And the coolest part is that they continue creating, sharing, and pushing the bar NOW. I connected with Diane again through the Latinx Theatre Commons, another incredibly important development in the 21st century. Thank you for making this possible, LTC! Diane will be a shining light for generations to come. Although briefly compared to others, I am grateful to have witnessed her warmth, intelligence and her expansive vision of who we are collectively and to what we can aspire: full artistic citizenship.
How do you grieve when you are trying to hold everything together to survive a global pandemic? And when the very nature of our response to that pandemic is to prevent our collective deaths? Then you find out that someone who has made a hugely significant impact on you as a thinker, writer about theater, and as a mentor and leader with a generous heart has passed away due to cancer. And when you know so many, so, so many have been touched by this generous spirit and theater powerhouse, you want to be careful how you celebrate and honor their life on social media.
With this post, I send my love to Diane’s husband, JD, her family and all who knew her dearly, which includes so many of you, my mentors and my peers, in Diane’s dearly numerous concentric circles of theater communities throughout her career. They are vast. And I count myself lucky to be have been impacted by Diane’s generous spirit and love along with you.
I first met Diane Rodriguez in 2005. I was a PhD student at USC in L.A. I was 30. I was working on a dissertation on Chicana feminist performances and was writing about Diane’s work in El Teatro Campesino, as an actor in Hollywood, and as a theater director/actor. My mentor and one of my dissertation committee members and now friend, Tiffany Lopez, encouraged me to interview Diane. In fact, Tiffany was adamant I interview Diane. At this prospect, I experienced a combination of excitement and dread. I was pursuing a PhD in literature and was very comfortable analyzing texts, not interviewing living artists, let alone living legends. But, of course, I said, “yes, this sounds great!”
In the weeks prior to the interview, I had shared and practiced my interview questions with one of my colleagues. She asked “what are you going to bring to the interview”? “What do you mean,” I replied. She stated, “well, it might help bring a gift to the interview to appreciate the interviewee for their time.” I indicated was a great idea, but was clueless as to what to bring. “Why not flowers?” my friend encouraged. “Perfect,” What a brilliant idea, I thought.
I showed up to Diane’s gorgeous home in Echo Park with an array of flowers. I recall that when I opened the door, Diane’s eyes lit up seeing the flowers. She was so enthusiastic about the flowers she immediately walked me through her kitchen, got a vase, filled it up with water, and put the flowers in the vase, and then set the floral array on the table. It turned out it was Diane’s birthday. I thought, “wow, I’m always showing up to interviews with flowers”!
I then interviewed Diane several more times at her office at the Mark Taper Annex, the headquarters of the Latino Theater Initiative. Soon, she started to invite me to see her current work. She was currently directed Dan Guerrero’s solo performance GAYTINO. Of course, I went. And, of course, it was hilarious. I wanted to go up to Diane after the show, but again, that nervous “I’m just a little old PhD student” mind crept back in. So I watched the show and then left immediately after.
Next time I saw Diane, she inquired, “I didn’t see you at the show.” I replied “Oh, I was there! It was so great!” But as I talked she was focused on one thing, “why didn’t you come up after and say hello?” I replied, “Oh, I saw you were busy and didn’t want to bother you.” She replied puzzled but with a subtext of encouragement of (i.e. just say hello to me; that’s silly): “Oh, ok!”
This captures Diane. She was always generous of mind and spirit. It was authentic. She sought out real connections with those around her. I continued to have numerous other encounters and other opportunities to engage and write about Diane’s work throughout the years, but here I want to share the story surrounding the photo I post here to honor her and celebrate her presence in my life:
This photo was taken in L.A. in March 2017 (I was in L.A. to see the 40th anniversary production of Zoot Suit). As I had just so happened to be in town, I took the opportunity to meet with Diane a few months in advance of her premiere of THE SWEETHEART DEAL in May 2017. The play was part of the El Fuego Ignite Series, curated by Irma Mayorg and Olga Sanchez Saltviet, through Howlround, and I was tasked with writing about it. Okay, I was requested by Diane to write about it:-) I was honored. And again, feeling amazed by that gesture.
On this day, I had met with Diane and others working on the project in the Lobby of the Los Angeles Theater Center to get a sense of all the work going into the production, including an exhibit in the lobby of the theater of ETC memorabilia related to the show. Again, Diane was so enthusiastic and I got to witness her encouragement and leadership with the two women working on the exhibit. After we closed the meeting, Diane encouraged me to attend a pre-performance workshop of a project called REMOTE LA: A PEDESTRIAN LIVE ART THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE, by German performance collective Rimini Protokoll. Diane was the Associate Artistic Director for the production (Diane’s involvement with all theater is so vast it continued to amaze me).
In fact, Diane was on her way to the Mark Taper and would I like to also attend?
If anything I had learned by now not to shrink and cower but to accept and say yes to Diane’s generous spirit. So of course my answer was an enthusiastic “YES!” And as she was driving over there, would I just also like to hitch a ride with her? Duh, of course.
Here we are, two kindred souls, in the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes as we waited for the interactive pedestrian performance that would blow me away later that afternoon.
As each encounter I had with Diane, my mind grew, my heart grew, and my optimism and embrace for the power of theater grew.
Diane, you are so deeply missed. I will continue in this life honoring your work, your love, and generosity.
With so much love,
I met Diane in San Francisco in the Mission District in the early 80s during a Dia de Los Muertos event produced by the Galeria de la Raza curated by Maestro Rene Yanez. Diane was dressed as a skeleton in true Dia de Los Muertos fashion. I thought: This chick is fun, I want to get to know her. We got to talking and we found out that we were both born in the city of San Jose at San Jose Hospital. We also discovered that both of our families shopped at the supermercado called The Pink Elephant—the Mexican store. Every time I would run into her after that event, we would always ask each other: Hey, have you been to The Pink Elephant lately? We seemed to end up in Los Angeles around the same time in 1987. Our first meeting in LA was at Dupars Restaurant in Studio City on Ventura Blvd, a classic LA place to make deals, hand off your screenplay to some big wig and talk show biz. We sat in a red booth and I interviewed her; I was new to LA and desperate to know how Latinas made it in Hollywood. I knew Diane would have great advice. She gave one of her big laughs and said, “Girl, it’s difficult but if you hustle, you’ll get in. You gotta have tough skin.” She told me she was auditioning here and there and that she had some parts in an upcoming TV series called “Roseanne.” She said, “I think the show is going to do well.” Diane was sure right about that. Years later, Diane along with Luis Alfaro, as they both headed the Latino Theatre Initiative at the Mark Taper Forum, would commission me to write plays. Theatre creator, maker, shaker, mentor, fashionista, and friend, Diane will be hugely missed. My love goes out to her husband JD and her mother. Diane, rest in power and party in the sky!
I first met Diane when I received a playwriting commission from the Latino Theatre Initiative at Center Theatre Group. This was in late 1997. Luis Alfaro, whom I had met four years before at the Playwrights Center of Minneapolis’ Playlabs, where we both had plays workshopped, was co-running LTI with Diane and invited me to the CTG administrative offices in Los Angeles to chat about what I might wish to write and to outline the basic structure of the commissions they were giving that year. I had been in Los Angeles again for four years, after having been in New York City training with Irene Fornes at INTAR’s HPRL. My parents lived in Los Angeles area and I had found myself back in the city, slightly dazed by a transformative artistic experience working with Fornes, but also somewhat disoriented about where and what my path as a writer would be next. I was in some ways floundering a bit. So, walking into the LTI office was an act of being welcomed into the complex terrain of a large cultural institution. In 1998, after I had fulfilled my commission for LTI, I received an NEA/TCG Playwriting Residency through LTI at CTG and the residency itself was another year, which became two years. I sat in on staff meetings with Diane, writers retreats, and more. I always found her to be forthright, dynamic, engaging, and a mover-shaker in the best way. Later, after my
residency at the Taper was over, we intersected in various ways, one of them was through NoPassport theatre alliance and press, and the other through TCG. I saw Diane work up close at the Taper, fight for artists to be heard and shows to be produced. She also directed, of course, and wrote pieces. When Gordon Davidson passed away, I remember it to be a tumultuous time at CTG, as the organization searched for a new artistic director. Founding director Davidson championed Diane, as she did him. And this was a difficult time for all. But despite that, and despite the uneasy terrain then, Diane always seemed to keep a level head about things and a forward way of thinking. I think back on that now. That must not have been easy. Through the years, Diane and I chatted on occasion. She always asked what I was up to, and even asked me about plays I’d written back then when I was at LTI. The last time I saw her in person was at a TCG Conference in Washington D.C. I was launching my book Audience Revolution, and Diane kindly walked up to the book table and said she’d buy all of the books I had edited or written that were there. And she did. She gave me a big hug and said how proud she was of me. When I think of Diane, I think of that big hug. The warm smile. the capacity for joy and giving but also her ability to fight and fight hard for what she believed in, and also to effect change in the field.