Stage & Candor


A Conversation with Orion Stephanie Johnstone

Co-Director of {my lingerie play} 2017: Installation #9: THE CONCERT AND CALL TO ARMS!!!!!!!!!, The Final Installation

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Check out Diana Oh's {my lingerie play} installations at   

Written by Michelle Tse   
Photography by  Emma Pratte, Jeremy Daniels, and Pedro Aijon Torres
October 17, 2017


Upon entering Rattlestick Theatre for my scheduled conversation, an air of freeing and loving spirit came over me as I look up to see Orion Stephanie Johnstone ready to greet me. Once in awhile, you connect with someone so inspiring, time flies by, and you forget you’ve only just met this person for the first time an hour before. I sat down with Orion, co-director of Diana Oh’s {my lingerie play} 2017: Installation #9: THE CONCERT AND CALL TO ARMS!!!!!!!!!, The Final Installation for a wide-ranging and impassioned conversation about their influences, their identity, giving power to marginalized voices, and what it means to “queer the world.”


Michelle Tse: Let’s start with your journey with Diana [Oh], and specifically with {my lingerie play}.

Orion Stephanie Johnstone: Well, first off, I’d like to clarify: Diana has been doing {my lingerie play} installations since 2014, and what we are talking about here is the 9th installation in 2017: the concert and call to arms!!!!!!!!!, yes, with nine exclamations points.

Diana is a brilliant, powerful force in the world and we have circled each other and held each other in huge mutual respect for years, but had not worked together until this project. She came to me and said, “You are the one that I need to co-direct this.” At first I was humbled, and I hesitated, and I asked a lot more questions because I’m a highly collaborative theater artist, not primarily a capital “D” director. I have loads of facilitation experience and other things and I’m very comfortable in leadership positions, but this is a different hat than I’ve ever worn. Diana said, I don’t need this experienced director; I need a spiritual leader of the room. I need someone who I trust will hold a space where we all can transcend shame together. As a sexuality educator, I am passionate about not just inviting individuals to transcend shame, but in deepening all of our understanding of how our personal shame is connected to intersecting and overlapping systems of oppression.

After many conversations where I was always honored to be asked but wanted to ask more questions to make sure that this was a fit, I said an enthusiastic, “Hell yes.” And I’m so grateful that I did. We’ve been working together pretty intensely since early summer.

Orion Johnstone

(Pedro Aijon Torres)


MT: I have to say that when I was here, I felt like it was the first time in a long time other than a couple things here and there, that I actually had the thought of, “This is what an inclusive space is.” It’s happened a couple times before, but never in theater, honestly. Can you talk about the vision and the preview process?

OSJ: The two central questions of my life are: Who and how might we be together, more bravely in light of our collective liberation? And how might I be consistently expanding who I mean when we say “we”? I keep trying to run hard and fast away from theater-making because I have so often run up against the “who and how we are together” being so secondary to hitting certain other marks, or to commodifying the soulfulness of what’s being created.

The invitation that Diana posed to me, essentially, is how do we live by those central questions, to embody our commitment to the idea that how we make is as important as what we make. How do we create a robust culture of courage and compassion, and care, and lead with that and trust that in every aspect of the process. There are always going to be things that are beyond our zones of awareness, but I’m done with feeling immobilized by that. I’m always so grateful when something is brought to my attention like, Oh, I haven’t actually been accountable to this person or this community in this. I think it’s easy to feel guilty and overwhelmed and shut down, but my prayer and intention for myself and for all of the work that I make is “May I embrace that we’re all on a continual learning journey about this, and to hear that feedback. Hold that with love and how might we expand, how might we do better, even knowing that nothing is going to be perfect.” I fiercely love Diana in her commitment to that, too!