Telling Stories with Lydia R Diamond

Excerpts from a 2016 interview at The Interval.

Playwright Lydia R. Diamond, a mid-40s black woman with short hair and a chunky sweater, smiles over her shoulder at us.

What is the first piece of storytelling that had a major impact on you?

My brain just went to, weirdly, Sleeping Beauty. It must have been this book of Walt Disney fairy tales and there was this image of the prince with the sword and the queen has turned herself into the dragon and has flames. It would scare the bejesus out of me and I’d be like, “Not that page!”

What is your writing process like? What’s your way into a story?

In broad brushstrokes, there would be theme. But when I say theme, I don’t start with a thesis statement. […] And then the characters [come next] and I let them talk to one another and that dictates the form. Then I keep letting them talk to one another, and then I massage the structure of the play on the back end. There’s a lot of posting of scenes and of pages on the wall and on the floor and rearranging things and writing things to fill in holes. […] I have this puzzle-like way that I put it together. Very seldom do I write in chronological order.

When you’re writing, do you know what your characters wear?

Yes, but I learned not to write that in the stage directions because designers can get very fixated on it, and I’ll be like, “Why is she wearing a bright pink hat?” And they’ll be like, “Because you said she’d wearing a bright pink hat and we looked all over town for it.” And I’ll be like, “Oh, sorry, I just saw it in my mind when I was writing, but it’s not important.” So I’ll write them and then go back and edit stage directions to make sure they’re integral to the story and so I’m not micromanaging the designers.

What’s something you think people can do to improve equality in theatre?

Just produce some plays that don’t look like the plays you’ve been producing forever and don’t presume it’s some old, white audience seeing them, and the audience will diversify and the conversation will elevate. […] We’re theatre: we know how to put angels on stage, we know how to make people look like they’re levitating, we can lose electricity five minutes before a show and figure out how to put on a play, but we can’t figure out how to diversify theatre in America? That’s ridiculous.

Read the whole article here. Then get your tickets to Lydia R. Diamond’s most celebrated play. Stick Fly is on stage Jan 25–Feb 6, 2022.