DIVA TALK: Chatting With Broadway and Chess Star Natascia Diaz

By Andrew Gans
27 Jul 2012

Question: When did you play the part?
Diaz: Oh, God. Well, the last time I played it was in Germany in 2008, but I did it on the national tour, '95-'97. I did it at the Muny. I think I've done it five places in total. The elegance of this young girl, and the smartness of her… Brother Russia was [also] incredible. I mean, Brother Russia, I got to be a princess—literally. What girl does now want [to play a princess]?… It was the first time that I've ever worn a crown in a production. They put a crown on you, and you go, "Oh my God, these are my little girl dreams!" But she was very gentle. She was very subdued and very gentle and very graceful… Again, another thing that was so weird to me was that they wanted me. They didn't want an ingénue, they wanted me. I get scared of it. They wanted someone with a low voice. They didn't want me to sing high. They wanted a rich, low sound. And, I said, "Oh my God, I've waited all this time in my career, and now I'm finally playing a princess of this grace and this warmth—this warmth and earthiness." That was pretty amazing. Savage in Limbo was transcendent for me. If you asked me when I graduated, I never would have thought that I would not be in plays this much. I never thought I was going to do as many musicals as I've done. I had fully intended to be in a corset running through a field. [Laughs.] Literally, that's where I felt I belonged.

As I went along in my journey—year 1, year 2, year 3 after graduating—I saw what was happening and where I was getting far in things. It was always me and the blondes. It was me up against the blonde for Martin Guerre. I can only assume that the actor and the storyteller in me challenged their perception as to what their ingénue would look like—instead of always being blonde and white! [Laughs.] And, a couple of times, they went in my direction, and a couple of times they didn't. Obviously, Martin Guerre went to Erin Dilly, and Saturday Night Fever… I had a whole journey with Saturday Night Fever—and it went to Paige [Price]. They were fashioning me to have this part, and the producer came and said, "No, I want the blonde." I used to talk about this with Sara Ramirez… It's amazing. It happens over and over and over. And then, of course, we know what happened to Sara. Mike Nichols had the good sense to see that [The Lady of the Lake] was her role. She was funny, and this was her role. I've never had to cast something, so I don't know what it feels like to be on the other side of the table and talking about type and stuff. Like everybody else, I think I've found myself in places where people resonate with my storytelling. My type of performer either is attractive to you and will help you… If I can be of help in the production and elucidate moments, then great, or it's not. You will never, ever see me in Shrek. It just won't be. I won't do that. Then again, not that there's anything wrong with that, but you get to know where you fit… and then make peace with it! That's a whole other layer. [Laughs.] Whether you like it or not, you have to. I stopped trying to put myself, even though I had the skill set of the singer-dancer-actor, and I could do anything that these amazing Broadway divas could do, I said, "Well, why can't I be in that?" If I think about it long enough, I actually don't really want to be in that… And, there's a weird turning point in your career when you turn from doing anything and everything that you can to choosing [what you want to do]. It's funny, it sneaks up on you… I think I was even late because in my mind, you are so conditioned to just take anything that anyone gives you. And, I never missed an audition. I would always go in for everything. I barely turned anything down. I started turning things down way after my contemporaries. Like, "Oh, I turned that down. I didn't go in for that."… "How could you do that?" [Laughs.] "Why would you turn down an opportunity to go in for anything?" God forbid! And, it took me a long time to understand that there comes a point where not only it's advisable, but you should.

 

 



[LaGuardia Arts is located at 100 Amsterdam Avenue. Tickets, priced at $128.50 (reserved) and $67.50 (general admission), can be purchased online at www.SmartTix.com or by phone at (212) 868-4444.]

Well, that's all for now. Diva Talk will return July 27. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.