Stage & Candor


A Conversation with Diana Oh

Creator and Star of {my lingerie play}

Connect with Diana on      

Written by Corey Ruzicano         
Art by Michelle Tse            
Handlettering By Amanda Tralle   
July 7, 2016


I’ve lived in cities all my life. On the sidewalk, I have been called a slut, a princess, a whore, a bitch, I’ve been bowed to and guilted and leered at and grabbed at and followed home. And, of course, it doesn’t just happen on the street: I’ve been propositioned at corporate events, had hands slid onto knees under tables, been called jailbait. I live in a state of recoiling, of doubt, full of questions that I never know how or when or whom to ask, when so often the story written is of The Girl Who Cried Wolf. So I stay quiet more often than not. This year, I met Diana Oh, a performance artist whose ten-piece installation and social movement is dedicated to creating a safe world for women to live in. Diana is a Courage Woman whose acts of art and of activism are intimately entwined. Working with Diana has granted me permission as an artist, as a citizen, and as a woman to speak up, to question, to push back on a world that grinds along, fueled by silences like mine. In a world like this one, where bombs are falling and bullets are flying and people are abandoning one another, I look to people like Diana for how to talk about these impossible things. We sat down to talk on the threshold of her show at Joe’s Pub to about the messy process of making art and making change, and figuring it out as you go along.



Corey Ruzicano: So this is it, right? This is the final installment of {my lingerie play}. Do you see an end goal for this project?

Diana Oh: I don’t know if there is one. I can’t really see an end, if anything I see a passing onto. If I were to move on from this project, it would look like: okay Corey, it’s yours. Have fun with the facebook page, it’s your cultural hub. Take over the website. I’d like to blog, when I want to blog, but it’s yours.

CR: Now you have a written text, you have songs written, so in the next world do you think it’s a different installation? Do you think that this text lives on or pieces of it live on? Or you write new text that lives in the same world of questions?

DO: I have no idea.

CR: That’s kind of amazing.

DO: It’s what’s so awesome, right? It’s not my lingerie play, it’s our lingerie play. We really did reinvent the wheel with this one. Rather than it being, I’m scared it won’t work or no theater is going to produce this…it will work. We know what we’re trying to say.

CR: So when you find other people with that vocabulary –

DO: or enthusiasm –

CR: or the same kind of values or respect…it keeps moving?

DO: Exactly. With the ‘Catcalling Sucks’ shirts – I have my own artistic experience wearing them. It’s not a public street installation, I’m not standing on a soapbox, but it’s a very one-on-one thing. I always end up engaging in conversation about it, because it always spark questions. Just last night, some guy stopped me in a Swatch store and said talk to me about your shirt, what does it mean? And I said to him, catcalling sucks. It sucks. And so he asked what men should do when they want to talk to a woman, when they have something to say to a stranger, and I said you just don’t. Don’t say anything. We don’t leave for the day wanting your attention, so don’t. And if you genuinely feel a real connection with a person and you think you want to get to know that, then you can pursue that in a sincere way. But we don’t need to know that you think we’re pretty.

CR: We weren’t made for that.

DO: Exactly. I realized it while talking to him, that, wow, we both just had a learning experience.

CR: And an artistic experience.

DO: Yes! I had this one-on-one performance thing. Isn’t that what theater is? We all get into a room to be changed in some way. You don’t just go to be entertained. I’m learning more and more that theater isn’t just entertainment. It can be entertaining, but there’s something there. You’re going there to be challenged.

Stage & Candor Diana Oh Catcalling Sucks 1

(Amanda Tralle, @trallskis_writes)


CR: I think it’s about an intersection of those roads. There’s a reason people love television – not that there aren’t challenging and intelligent television shows, obviously there are, but it takes an extra step to show up in a room with strangers. I guess I struggle with whether or not it’s okay to have something that’s purely entertaining?I just can’t un-see how, say, white everything is, and especially in something where people are bursting into song spontaneously, it feels like there’s just zero justification for whether or not there were historically people of color in that particular story’s setting. It’s a space to be expanded, why can’t we just lean into that?

DO: I know…I can’t enjoy Disney movies anymore. I can’t watch children’s television. I know too much…so because all of that is true, I can’t see {my lingerie play} ending.

CR: I guess the ending is that we have racial and gender parity. With this publication, too, our mission is in hopes that the space for conversation about these things is no longer necessary because it’s already habit, it’s already known.

DO: Exactly. But even then, maybe it’s a celebration of gender equality. There was a decision, I remember, when I changed all my social media stuff from my name to {my lingerie play} where I felt: I am ready to be this, to be {my lingerie play}. Just this, right now.

CR: It’s your calling card.

DO: Yeah, it’s comfortable now. I’ve already accepted that I’m a multi-disciplinary actor-singer-songwriter-whatever, so I’m not trying to push myself as one thing, as Diana Oh.

CR: Which is so exciting to me, this rise of the slash-person, of the interdisciplinary artist. What is it like to pursue many things at once?

DO: It’s exhausting and really exciting and manic. You can’t turn it off because your senses are always on fire. You’re always inspired. There’s a genuine curiosity and a genuine hunger for anything. Even if it’s “bad”, it still feeds some part of you.

CR: Everything connects to everything.

DO: Yes. I’m so thankful JLo exists. I just feel like she’s the only person we can really look up to.

CR: Really?

DO: Yes!

CR: Please say more about this. Why do we love JLo?

DO: In terms of commercial success, I feel like she’s the only true hyphenate artist –

CR: singer, dancer, actor, producer –

DO: Produces her own things, makes her own projects happen. I’m sure she has a perfume line in there somewhere, or makes baby clothes or something. She does it and makes time for it, or maybe it’s all a team. I don’t know her strategy but she does it and she has a platform. She’s like the commercial version of Taylor Mac, whom I would love to have as a mentor.

CR: Because they both do it all?

DO: Exactly. It’s about being able to answer the vertical, the core why or calling – you’re given these gifts, why? What are you trying to communicate into the world? That higher purpose calling is the vertical, for me. And by being secure in my mission, in my understanding of what I’m trying to do, I can then answer the horizontal.

CR: You mean how you relate to other people?

DO: Exactly, how you can spread yourself with communication? You need tools: social media? Manipulative tool. Websites? Manipulative tool. All this stuff, we use to spread ourselves out into the world, and they can only occur as long as your vertical is clear. Does that make sense?

CR: I think so. You have to start with something, so you have to be clear about what you start with?

DO: Yeah, cause otherwise you’re just a horizontal blob that exists and here’s my selfie and here’s all this stuff…but if you have a vertical line that you’re answering, that I’m posting a selfie because there are people out there in the world that want to kill me and people like me, now I’m tall and horizontally wide.

CR: Totally, start with why.

DO: Yeah, that’s how I made peace with all the social media stuff because I used to hate it. Then the street installations happened and I realized this is just a tool. This is an artistic tool.

CR: That everyone has tools or weapons that take all different forms. Words are definitely a weapon, pictures can definitely be a weapon. But it’s all stories so however you end up telling them –

DO: It’s just like what you were saying about stories and how stories shape the world.

CR: It sounds dramatic, but I believe it – people live and die by stories. You can change a life in the telling. And I’m sure music is a huge tool or weapon in all of this.

DO: It’s the best. It’s the best one. I think it’s also the hardest one. I’ve been trying to record for the past five years and it’s been impossible to me. I have yet to put anything out because there’s always a problem. There’s too much of an inner critic. I can’t release it in the way I can release live performances or acting. I only ever want it to be experienced live, but I understand that you need that tool. You need the recording to get your voice out there, but I don’t know…

CR: I guess you either have to redefine your picture of what success looks like, or find a different way to get the same picture.

DO: Yeah…probably the answer is just to record. And you have to figure out the way to do it. The moral of the story is everything is hard, and what makes it easy is that you have to do it.

CR: What do you do when you get stuck?


CR: I know you love a good deadline.

DO: I do. I’ll have a rewrite deadline coming up, and I won’t know how to fix any of it, but I’ll find a way because I don’t have a choice. Pressure is cool like that, and the singing-songwriting stuff is the best one because everyone loves music. It’s another tool, another manipulator.

CR: That word, manipulation, is so full of negative connotations for me, but it’s true, music is incredibly communicative. There’s a stage direction in one of Jeff Augustin’s plays where two characters are listening to music together and inevitably something happens to them, they are changed, in the way theater wishes it could but music is simpler, more visceral than we can ever be in the theater. It reaches right on in and you can’t help yourself.

DO: I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve done and it’s been fine or good but then the sound designer comes in and it’s like, whoa we’re doing a play now, I’m ready to take my job seriously. Now {my lingerie play} has a band, which it didn’t have in January. The scheduling is crazy in the wild freelance arts world, but it’s all worth it. Matt Park leaves his job in Brooklyn on his lunch break to take the train for an hour so that we can play music in Hell’s Kitchen for an hour, so he can go back to his job in Brooklyn, because we love it so much. Playing music is the best.

CR: It always feels like a magic trick, too, even though I know there’s study and precision and science behind it, songwriters still always feel like wizards to me.

DO: And it’s also a unifying thing, right? Maybe this play is making some people sleepy and some people are really into it, but if there’s music, at least we can all sway together?

CR: And some of these things, the feelings that your play, and that all stories elicit to some degree, are bigger than language, in the way that music too is bigger than language. I think that some of those complicated, deep things are really hard to express in a linear monologue form. It’s possible but really hard and language-bound.

DO: Yeah, it’s a really powerful tool and I’m still just barely learning. I’m only scratching the surface. I wish that the tickets for the Joe’s Pub show could be pay what you can, because really this is just visibility. It’s just a vehicle to ask the question of how to get a producer who can make this their pet project, who can connect and produce it in a way that breaks the form with us. How can we do it so the audience pays at the end of the show and they pay what they can? How can we learn to trust our audiences?

CR: Well and it’s funny because my first reaction is always naive. Or, I guess I should say, that my first reaction is idealistic and then my immediate second reaction is, oh, right, I’m naive, of course I don’t know. But maybe the answer that I don’t necessarily know how to do this or what these venues need or whatever, maybe the answer is that we don’t even want to live in the same system.

2016-07-02 11:55

DO: Exactly, and when I even just try to picture it, I don’t see it in a Broadway house. The day that I do, the day that this fits there, will be revolutionary. We will all feel that like a revolution – the day this weird badass feminist story thing that started as street art is in a big commercial space? Who’s even going to come see that? People are going to be fucking confused. But it’ll have to be in a way that works for us and our audience.

CR: And that idea of trusting the audience is such an interesting thing, because so much of it does feel like it stems from a divide between the people in the seats or the people behind the curtain. But if it started with trust, at least if it crashes and burns, it started in the right way? I’m not sure. It’s complicated.

DO: Exactly, at least you were striving for authenticity. And I’m falling so much more in love with grants and fellowships. There are a lot of opportunities if you keep looking.

CR: Especially if you walk in these spaces where the paths meet.

DO: Last night was an excellent example of that – I was asked to come in as an actor, and I love acting so much. It’s the first of my hyphenates. And I came in because Adrienne Campbell-Holt knew me from having worked with me in Chris Nunez’s play, the work that I do with {my lingerie play}, and she had me come in and do this reading of Winter [Miller]’s play to honor Dr. Willie Parker, hosted by Gloria Steinem. It was just this perfect synthesis of soul-brain-heart-talent-gifts. And it was the most rewarding thing. This is what every job should feel like. I just kept thinking, whoa, this is an option? You don’t just have to do Nickelodeon? This is real. Your acting roles are your political choices, and there’s space for that.

CR: And it’s such a hard balance to strike when work for actors is so scarce – you have really tough choices to make: do you work on a project you don’t believe in because you might meet someone who will lead you to a project that will feed you, figuratively but also literally?

DO: Oh yeah, I went through that. There were so many years of does this headshot look like me? And now I can’t even look at my headshots. I just feel like, you’ll ask me because you want me. Not my face picture, but me.

CR: And probably part of that is knowing who that person is, and the confidence of knowing who you are.

DO: Yes, and there’s always another way in. How many people can say, oh yeah I met that playwright because I did their friend’s workshop in a garbage can where I ate trash and then they cast me in She Loves Me or whatever. I feel like 89% of the past few years has been that, just building those little things in an organic way.

CR: Do you have any other advice for young artists?

DO: You have to set your Dope North Star. You put that star, that dream, up here and you say to yourself: that’s my Dope North Star and I just have to let myself be dope so I can reach it, and all I need is one other person to believe in it. Everyone else can think I’m crazy, because all I need is that star and that one person to help me keep going. So when I start to doubt my star, I can turn to my person and they’ll tell me to shut the fuck up and keep my eye on the prize. Half of it is just figuring out what you actually want. We don’t have to have all the answers. The conversation can be messy.

CR: And it should be, probably. Life is.



Diana Oh creator of {my lingerie play} that culminates into an 80 minute concert-play of her original music featured on, The Huffington Post, Upworthy, Marie Claire Netherlands, at Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Lark, and All For One. One of Refinery 29’s Top 14 LGBTQ Influencers, recipient of the Van Lier New Voices Fellowship in Acting with the Asian American Arts Alliance, the first Queer Korean-American interviewed on Korean Broadcast Radio, a featured Playwright at the Lark, a Radical Diva Finalist, an Elphaba Thropp Fellow, and one of New York Theatre Now’s Person of the Year. Great big music from the {my lingerie play} band coming soon. The Wall Street Journal and Upworthy call her “bad-ass.”

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