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1100 Playwright Interviews

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May 8, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 936: Diane Rodriguez

Diane Rodriguez

Hometown: San Jose, CA

Current Town: Los Angeles, CA

Q: Tell me about The Sweetheart Deal.

A: SWEETHEART DEAL is a story I’ve been wanting to tell for a long time. Though it is not autobiographical, it is very personal. The big gesture of the play is a theatre company acting in both the actos, which are political sketches, and in the more naturalistic play. Eventually both forms merge. The acto was developed by Luis Valdez and his El Teatro Campesino. Though I did not join the company until years after it started, I did learn the acto style and performed in many a one. At the time I was a member of the company, it was an international group that toured months on end in Europe, year after year. So, I grew up on the road, honing my chops as a performer on multiple kinds of stages from flat bed trucks to Greco roman amphi-theatres to schauspiel houses in Germany. So the play takes in many of my own life experiences, including a family history of volunteering for the United Farmworkers Union and being in new play development. The body of this work is a play that intersperses this heightened acto form as if they were songs, deepening characters and moving us forward into the story.

Q: What else are you working on now? 

A: Currently, I’m developing and directing a play written by two Los Angeles veteran theatrical artists, Roger Smith and Richard Montoya, currently titled VENICE IS DEAD: A WAKE IN ONE ACT. I’m also going to direct Culture Clash’s BORDERTOWN NOW in the Spring. This production will be in Los Angeles, but I’m not at liberty of saying where as the theatre hasn’t announced their season. I have one play that I need to finish. The working title is PITCH LIKE A GIRL that I haven’t cracked yet, and I have a love story that is taking flight.

Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be? 

A: The one thing I’d change about theatre in the US is that theatres across the country would produce work that was more experiential; that wasn’t so set on being a well made play, but rather an experience through sight, sound, visual elements, physicalization. I’m interested in this place where performance bridges theatre, which is odd since I write plays and I’ve spent the last twenty years of my career developing plays. But I tend towards liking work that is made by a company rather than by one person.

Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes? 

A: Peter Brook is a hero who I worked with as an actor in my youth, in the production of CONFERENCE OF THE BIRDS. This was the mid-‘70s. During this same time I worked with Helen Mirren, who even then was fearless as a stage actor and would dive into the work at hand. I’ve always said that Socorro Valdez was the best actress I’ve ever worked with. She is Luis Valdez’ younger sister. She has since become a pastor. She was riveting, and whenever she was on stage you couldn’t take your eyes off her. And, of late, I have always admired how Young Jean Lee has handled her ambition and her career.

Q: What kind of theater excites you? 

A: I like the work of Christian Lupa who directs big epic work. The last piece I saw of his was hours long at a festival in Poland. I’m excited about the work of Romeo Castulluci, an Italian director who directs with great beauty and composition. And I love the work of Angelica Lydell from Spain who is a sorceress, a wizard on stage. She is dangerous and vulnerable at the same time. Romeo and Angelica write and direct their own work and I’m interested in continuing to do that as well.

Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out? 

A: Know who you are writing for, who your audience is, and write for them.

Q: Plugs, please: 

A: My latest play, THE SWEETHEART DEAL opens on May 12. It is the premiere and I am also directing it. It is at The LATC in downtown LA.

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