Three years ago, Diana Oh was followed down wall street and viciously catcalled by a group of men in an SUV.
In the wake of that happen, the New York City-based actor and musician sat down in Times Square in her lingerie in front of a stack of paper bags organized on a soapbox.
One bag read, “The world bends over backward to make excuses for male violence.” She held there, silent, for hours, as passersby looked, applauded, gibed, and, rarely, joined in.
That installation, designation my lingerie play , garnered a raft of national media attention( in Upworthy and elsewhere) and spawned nine farther installments, which eventually came together in a raucous storytelling concert that follows Oh’s struggle to assert her expression and exist without dread of defamation as a lesbian maiden of color in America.
Now remounted at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York after 2 years of proliferation, the concert teeter-totter between tales from Oh’s childhood and life in New York City and its anthemic chants, laid down by a hugely talented, synced-up strap( full disclosure: Oh and I once collaborated together on a theatrical job ). Where the portion genuinely transcends are in its presumptuous — and bountiful — moments of audience participate, including an on-stage haircut and an electric make-out hearing( more on that subsequently ). Audience members are encouraged to write their own meanings on paper bags before the picture and take one home at the end, either their own or someone else’s.
Oh, who grew up “their childrens” of working-class immigrant parents in Southern California, is a magnetic, open-hearted, and funny musician. She changes the show’s wrenching subject matter into a festivity of life, change, and singer. She considers the stage show, with its message of joyful opposition and predominately performer-of-color casting, a revolutionary statement.
“We do what we want, ” Oh says. “I do what I crave on that theatre. And that is a revolutionary routine, to experience a gay female of color who is Korean-American get to be … doing what I require on that stage.”
As the Harvey Weinstein scandal drops toward an unknown tush, and #MeToo stories continue to spread, I sat down with Oh to discuss the performance, its call to arms, her idea that lily-white pundits regularly get art made by people of color wrong, how much work putting together a diverse squad required, and why that work looks worth it.
( This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity .)
There’s a moment, sometime in the concert, where you talk about the frightening experience you had on the street and how it led to the genesis of my lingerie play-act . What was the moment like when you ended, “I’m going to stand on a soapbox in my underwear in Times Square” ?
My roommate was like, “Do you crave this thing someone is throwing away outside? It’s a soapbox.” I remember I read it, and it was shifted over, it was therefore looked like an open casket, and then I revolved it upside down, and “its like”, “Oh my God. A soapbox. I know what soapboxes are. People used to use them. They used to stand up on them and talk about their feelings.” And I was like, “OK, I think this is something. And then that was it. Before I even knew, like knew , what a soapbox was, I primally knew what a soapbox was. My memory, my previous life or something like that. It was like a spiritual something, where it was just like, my spirit knows that I have to be with this thing.
I knew that I wanted it to be silent. I knew that I just wanted to stand there and make a point, and I wasn’t going to yell, and I wasn’t going to get frantic.
How did you choose the site ?
It was the most public locating I could think of, and it was like the center of the universe, and anywhere else would have been too subtle. I was done being subtle. I don’t is intended to be subtle anymore.
I was already writing this piece[ for the stage ]. And then eventually, I was like, “This is crap.” Because all the people who know not to plow beings like shit are going to come to the theater and is just like, “I’m doing so great.” It came out of being frustrated that I was choosing a bubble — that my skill word was actually a bubble. Knowing the things I had to say, I craved it bombed to the universe. So that’s where the street installations came in.
It’s very bold, certainly. You’re standing there and you know that the peoples of the territories walk-to by you — it’s not inevitably safe. What was its own experience you expected to have ?
I don’t even know. It was like I blacked out. It was like something came over me. I didn’t even has only one hope. I only was well known that I had to. I had zero expectations.
“Every step of the style, I feel like, I always have agency. Always. And that is the ability behind this piece.” — Diana Oh
Being out there, it was a mix. A lot of people were like, “Thank you, ” and a lot of other parties were like, “I don’t understand? Why are we examining more women in their underwear. I precisely don’t get it.”
In thinking about the stage show, and exchanging it, was there something you came up with that was like, “This is how we’re going to get beings in who wouldn’t ordinarily come? ”
I’m a theater nerd at heart. And I believe in accumulating people in a room together and having a potent, spiritual know. And that’s a endowment that only theater can give. So that’s what I knew. In words of marketing or selling it in any way, it was less about that than about “join in.” The revolution can’t be bought. I cannot sell the revolution. I don’t own the revolution, so it’s not mine to sell. But I can meet the revolution, and you can taken together with me. And you can give your time and your funding, and that’s it.
In terms of this year, 2017, with this concert, the thing I preserve scratching up against right now is this concert is for the people and by the people. I can sense that there’s a great void in between the person or persons and theater culture and the theater critic world.
What sort of divide ?
The divide I feel is in what we’re doing. And I imagine the people who come to it believe in it. And I guess the people of color who are in the gathering are a direct result of us making sure that people of color are stimulating the piece. The culture of the room needs to be right for the culture of the area. And I wish you could write off this dance move.
I’ll write off what you’re doing . [ Oh does a breaststroke in the air, as if releasing, then enclose, a litter of puppies .]
The chasm I find is — I call it the “theater helmet.” When people put on their theater helmet, that’s like, “Ah-ha. I know how to take this work in because I am unbelievably educated. I come from a lot of privilege. I examined numerous many things. And I come from a extremely particular socioeconomic background. And now I am deemed as health professionals thinker in the arts. I know what good artwork is.” But when it gets to be the same people with the same backgrounds commenting on what good artistry is, you can feel that commentary. You can feel the differences among event an audience member is having versus a theater commentator who has had a lot of schooling.
One of the things that I connect with is that numerous people of color have grown up in messy households. And I find that to be very true. Even if we’re affluent, even if we’re becoming doctors or whatnot, there’s a certain mess to our households by virtue of us straddling this dual citizenship in the world. And I think it’s this messiness that our improved theater critic cohort don’t fairly know and understand. Understandably — because why would they? They didn’t “re growing up” in these messy households. So there’s any particular thirst that I experience from them to have neatness.
Do you think there’s a mixture? Do you think there’s something these critics and theater professionals can do to put in the work to come to a better understanding, or do you think it really has to be a change in personnel ?
Does it have to be a change of personnel? Sure. Utterly. Do I want to see more of my artist-of-color friends being reviewed by columnists of dye? Perfectly. Because I feel like we would feel more find. It wouldn’t feel so dimming. It would just feel like, “Oh my gosh, you appreciate me. Thank you.”
I consider part of the specific characteristics of the game is, “I dispense my knowledge from up on this roost, ” and that in itself generates a defiance to listening. Because you get so many parties telling you, from slants, who are mad at you for holding their shows a bad evaluate, so I wonder if part of it is, you develop this wall .
That sounds like a appalling life. I don’t know why anyone used to select it.
The darknes I was there, at the least, you had a very young gathering, very diverse, all genders and ethnicities and ages. Not the typical profile of a theater audience. What does that feel like, that you prepared that happen ?
That is like we did the employment. That is like, I fucking fought for that. I’m done with subtlety, and I’m done with being silent. And if I’m detecting an impulse, I’m experiencing an impulse. If these young people need to be reached out to, they need to be reached out to. And our collaborators need to represent the houses that we want. We have a big problem if the majority of our group is grey or cisgender or straight-shooting. We’ve got a really big, great problem. And so we have to queer our area so that we are able queer our room.
You invested five months looking for a female bassist of coloring. Was it important to you to have a woman of color in that specific role, or was it because you didn’t have that represented already in the band ?
It only was important that it extended beyond parity, that it extended beyond equality, that it was more about simply representing my upbringing. I craved more than one Asian party because I was tired of being the token Asian. I required that there is nothing to, and I knew the bassist had to be a person of pigment, and I didn’t want to be the only woman or non-binary or homosexual person in the band.
People often talking here, “If you’re certainly committed to find full illustration, you just have to look harder.” What was that process like for you ?
It was exactly that. So much digging, so many emails, so much asking friends of friends. And even with bass musician Rocky Vega, we saw her, we encountered this character, we encountered a articulation, we detected her politics, everything. And we are continuing had to be like, “Let’s school you the instrument.” Because we could find all these capable bassists, but also the ability to sing and do accord and stand up on theatre with us in their underwear and be liberated.
Where did you find her?
Guitarist Matt Park had done “Peer Gynt” with her, and he was like, “Rocky is so awesome.” And for a long time, we were like, “Oh my gosh, but she doesn’t play-act bass, so we can’t.” And then eventually it got down to the end of five months, and “its like”, if we don’t find person, I’ll be so sad, and we can’t do it. So we just asked her, and Ryan got in a area with her alone to gambling bass, and he was like, “She can do this. She can learn this.” And she’s incredible.
“Theres” two large-hearted times in the picture where you engage in fairly intimate audience interaction. There’s one where you shave someone’s intelligence and one whatever it is you do it with an audience member as part of a consent shop. And I’m wondering how you exited about creating those instants — and the guardrails around them .
There was a lot of work that went into it, into framing it, into how to parole it perfectly so that we are mentioning enthusiastic consent. So that we know that “weve been” drawing sure it is like an bidding and not like hazing. So that it feels like a endow for the purposes of an audience member and not like they’re a prop. And every night, it changes. I generally share my head-shaving tale. And some darkness, I don’t wishes to share it when I’m shaving a person’s intelligence. I exactly want to honors it and be with them. And then I’ll share my stuff afterwards. And it’s just about being truly present.
The make-out workshop came out of so many rewrites and so many things being thrown away, being like, “We can’t do this. We can’t do this. It’s not working.” There is an issue where there was a form of this concert where there was so much damage in it that it was like, we’re not here to manipulate damage. And the make-out conference was born out of a conversation that our dramaturg Mei Ann Teo[ note: a dramaturg is virtually a theatrical writer, though the scope of the role was different from production to product .] and the director Orion Johnstone had. I think they were having a speech about the textbook, and they came to me the next day and was exactly, “We have a proposal for you. What if you make out with an gathering member on stage.” And I was like, done. Yes.
You were super enthusiastic about that from the beginning ?
Yes. Huge. I was just like, living for my fantasies. Let’s freaking do it. We’re done with intricacy. Orion, Mei Ann, and me were all aligned in the faith that our sexual liberation is so intertwined with social right. Oftentimes, the shame or the hiding or the silence or the questions or the anxiety that surrounds my sexual expres, it wasn’t born out of nowhere. And I wasn’t born with all of that. And it’s something that I feel like was piled on me as I have lived my life through this world-wide, identifying the way I do sexually.
I don’t want to feel shame in the street. I don’t want to feel reproach in the couch. And I find that to be true of so many beings. To think of how much secrete we do, of the various kinds of friendship that we want and who we want to have it with and all this stuff, and all the secrete that we do, and all the breath-holding that we do, and how that’s actually intertwined with, “Well, if you would just let us be who we are, perhaps we wouldn’t close in so much.”
The nighttime I was there, two people volunteered really quickly to make out with you. Do you ever have a moment where you appeared awkward during that part of the establish? Where you had to be, like, this is not working for me at this moment ?
This is why working with a fornication and relationships manager[ director Orion Johnstone] on your art is amazing since they are literally had to tell me, “Take your time to choose.” I have been mode to be like, “Make a option. You have to desire it. I’m so into it. Yeah. Do whatever you want.” Where it’s like, “No no no, we’re going to disrupt that and be like, ‘let me take this in and see who it is that I actually want to share this moment with.'”
From there, I have that time to sit with them in the Super Sexy Hot Enthusiastic Consent workshop to be like, “How is it that I want to caress you as I’m looking at you? ” And some nights I want to, like, make do with the person or persons. And some night it’s like, I want to give them a really soft, greeting kiss. And some darkness, it’s like, I want to kiss you everywhere but the mouth. But each step of the behavior, I feel like, I always have agency. Always. And that is the supremacy behind this fragment. And that’s something the dramaturg has given expres to. That the night is actually about watching you, about bureau in the room.
You’re acting this at a moment where these issues are explosion into public life in an regrettable channel — with previous accusations against the president of the United States and, of course, more recently in your industry, with Harvey Weinstein. What sort of implements do you hope people walk away from the display with ?
My hope is that parties walk away seeming like the government had complete and total busines to deed and speak out and honor themselves and reputation their truism and reputation their supremacy. That any time they feel that urge to be like, “I feel like I can do something but I don’t know if it’s like this, and I don’t know, ” that it’s like, “You can. You can and you will. And you must.” You only have to put one hoof in front of the other to do it.
You said you’re readying one more installing ?
On Oct. 28, at a to-be-disclosed orientation, at 4 p. m ., we are going to be inviting all the past gathering members of such demo to stand outside together with the paper bag they left with. And if you don’t have a dark-brown paper bag, we’ll give you one of the leftover ones that we have with the hopes that between now and then you will have given some thought to how we can make this thing possible in whatever tiny and big-hearted course. And it’s precisely a chance for us to stand outside together, seeing each other, match one another.
I is considered that parish is built by shared knowledge, and we will have shared its own experience. And each night is so different.
In the meantime, we want everyone to see the prove because we believes in it so much. We believe in the spell of it, that it’s actually applying our civic duty.
my lingerie romp 2017: THE CONCERT AND CALL TO ARMS. The Final Installation extends through Oct. 28 at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre in New York City. Tickets can be found here.
Read more: www.upworthy.com