This is a Spell

Issue Five: The Chinese Lady
Diana Oh
March 24, 2022
Diana Oh

Diana Oh (they/them) is an open channel to the art that feels good to their body and is driven most by pleasure, mutual care, and keeping things heart-centered. Oh is an Actor, Singer- Songwriter, Writer and a Creator of Installations, Experiences, Rituals, Concerts, Parties, and Unboxable Art. Oh is the Creator of {my lingerie play} (ten underground performance installations in my lingerie staged in an effort to provide a safer, more courageous world for women, queer, trans, and non-binary humans to live in, culminating into a concert of Oh's music), Clairvoyance (a year-long installation, tree-planting and concert series celebrating Queer Magic in Harvard Yard, the Boston Public Library, Institute of Contemporary Art, and Harvard Arboretum with A.R.T.), The Infinite Love Party (an intentional barefoot potluck dinner, dance party and sleepover for QTPOC and Their Allies; Bushwick Starr), My H8 Letter to the Great American Theatre (Public Theater), Asian People are Not (, and was the mentor for Cherry Lane’s Mentor Project 2020 for Shawn Randall’s (The Making of) How to Save the World in 90 Minutes, Composer and Initiating Artist for Arden (The Flea). Oh is a Refinery29 Top LGBTQ Influencer, the first Queer Korean American interviewed on Korean Broadcast Radio, a TOW Fellow (Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre), Van Lier Fellow in Acting (Asian American Arts Alliance), Venturous Capital Fellow, Sundance Institute Fellow, Helen Merrill Award recipient, and band member of the U.S. Open. Oh tours with their art in unexpected spaces and enjoys not fitting into boxes. UPCOMING: The Gift Project (a Rock&Soul&Shamanic&BoomLaLa Concert and Documentary Film Series Celebrating Elders at Symphony Space April 9 and 10 with All-for-One).

This is a Spell.
For The Chinese Lady.
An Immense Blessing.
Of Absolute Gratitude.
This took me longer than I thought it would to write. Because there was so much I wanted to say.
I needed to say.
I wanted to get right.
It felt like a public proclamation.
It felt like I was writing Vows.
I wanted to be in the right headspace for it. Grounded.
In solitude.
In silence.
In peace.
Funnily Enough.

I’m typing all this in the backseat of a Lyft with my thumbs, with my two psychiatric service dogs, Lula and Shovels, sleeping on my lap. We are now driving along FDR Drive, passing all the overworked, lit up New York City high-rise buildings.

The words come when they come.

And to be honest: my words for this play, they have always been stirring inside, and have always been there; like a tasty Cyclone, like a Hurricane and I’m truly ready to hurl them out at any moment to anyone who asks me about it.

Because that is how deeply I love this play.

I love this play for its deviation.
For its edges.
For its beyonds.
For the unquestionable strength I know it took to get here. For not backing down.

For not dumbing down. For not playing small.
For trusting itself.
For being a Mature Lover.

Admittedly, I sat next to a white reviewer when watching it and all I wanted to do was take her pen and scream, “What could you possibly have to say about this?!?” But I didn’t say anything: because I knew I’d be writing this. Instead I sat next to the Reviewer and I was present with the work, in all honesty, and I listened, and I admired, and I laughed, and I was moved to surprise, and I was in spaces of deep learning because phenomenal acting is opium and can give you any history lesson you would have never been able to stay awake for in class. By the end, I felt the immense appreciation for a team of people who made a piece of art that is one of the most masterful and elegant “fuck you”s I have ever seen on a theatrical stage. I rose to my feet and I screamed “YES!” It is one of those plays where I judge you for not getting it if you don’t. It won’t pander to you or shrink or ask for shorter monologues. It knows exactly who it is, and what it wants. It is the Mature Lover who is waiting for the world to catch up to it. It’s The Bachelor, if Reality TV was actually good for us.

This is a spell of Integrity.For I know, so deeply within me, the struggles it has taken to get this particular Art out there. I had seen it under the hot sickly temperamental agonizing pressure of the white gaze in Pittsfield, MA and I saw it maintain its composure: because the play knew it was a Bad Bitch and it wasn’t going to succumb to yet another swallowed half-truth. This wasn’t going to be another failed attempt at telling a Story of Significance. This Play is a Warrior, a Champion, a Necessity, and a Deep Love of my Life. And I fall asleep in most things with beginnings, middles, and, ends. IT’S NOT PERSONAL. And if you were a child of immigrants who grew up in chaos, like me, perhaps you understand.

A picture of a polaroid picture featuring two people with big smiles.
Polaroid by Actor, Daniel K. Isaac of Actor, Shannon Tyo and Me in the Lobby.

Inspired by the true story of the first Chinese woman to step foot in America, Lloyd Suh’s THE CHINESE LADY, is a portrait of the United States as seen through the eyes of Afong Moy, who was sailed into New York Harbor in 1834 and put on display for a paying audience. As audiences follow Moy’s travels through America as a living exhibit for decades, Moy shares her impressions of a young America defining itself. I first saw THE CHINESE LADY while I was the Artist-in-Residence at Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2018, and it was in production at Barrington Stage. This was my second time seeing the play at The Public, and it won’t be my last.

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