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Why Is This Artist Singing and Ranting in Her Underwear?

By: Regina Robbins
Date: Oct 10, 2017

Multihyphenate Diana Oh bares almost all in her latest performance piece


Lingerie as liberation; lingerie as imprisonment. Lingerie as a tool of the patriarchy and as an expression of queer identity. These are just some of the intriguingly contradictory themes explored in actor-singer-writer Diana Oh's {my lingerie play} 2017: THE CONCERT AND CALL TO ARMS!!!!!!!!! THE FINAL INSTALLATION, currently running at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Like the title, the (mostly) solo show is over-the-top and jam-packed with original songs, stories from Oh's distant and recent past, no-holds-barred political rants, interactive bits, and underwear galore. It's full of ideas and not easily categorized -- much like Oh herself.

"My father is a clairvoyant," Oh says, recalling his prediction that she would grow up to be an artist. The child of Korean immigrants, Oh originally identified as an actor and singer, but a year spent at the National Theatre Institute while in college exposed her to other creative roles. One of her teachers, librettist Donna Di Novelli, told Oh in no uncertain terms that, like it or not, she was a writer. "It scared me," says Oh, but she followed Di Novelli's advice and enrolled in NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing program.

The inspiration for {my lingerie play} came, as so much does these days, from the internet. Oh happened upon a blog where an anonymous woman had shared pictures of her underwear collection alongside anecdotes of experiences while wearing each item. An aficionado of lingerie since her teens, Oh was moved to tell her own intimate stories: "I want to humanize a sexual woman onstage," she says.

The show at Rattlestick is the culmination of a multi-year project as Oh has performed, reworked, and remounted the material in different installations since 2014. Most have been staged in public spaces, some also live-streamed. These public performances were born out of her realization that doing the piece solely in a theatre "wasn't enough." She worried New York audiences would already be primed for her message of racial and sexual freedom. So she took her show on the road, appearing outside in her undergarments in New Orleans, D.C., Brooklyn, Manhattan, and on the New York City subway, often joined by friends. Standing on a literal soap box as strangers passed by, Oh and her collaborators shared personal details of their sexual histories, as well as the fear and the anger they have felt as women, people of color, and/or members of the queer community.

{my lingerie play} 2017: Installation #1

While THE CONCERT AND CALL TO ARMS!!!!!!!!! is unabashedly political, it's also quite entertaining, a glittery, exuberant, two-hour tour through Oh's adolescence and young adulthood, co-directed by Oh and Orion Stephanie Johnstone. Playing guitar and singing her own songs in a voice reminiscent of Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney, Oh is backed by an ethnically diverse and scantily clad band on a stage that, by the end of the night, is always covered in silver confetti. Audience members are also enlisted to do what Oh calls their "civic duty" by singing along, stamping their feet, and blowing soap bubbles. Select spectators are invited on stage to play instruments they don't actually know how to use; one even joins Oh in a romantic encounter as a demonstration of "enthusiastic consent."

Despite billing her current performance as THE FINAL INSTALLATION, Oh has one more part of {my lingerie play} to go. Set to take place at the end of the Rattlestick run, this climactic installation aims to bring audience members back together for a reunion of sorts. She will then start working on a new piece about her father, who was an activist in his home country, organizing public protests. Although Oh has enjoyed sporting skimpy attire in {my lingerie play}, she is looking forward to being fully clothed for her next project since, "It’s really hard to sing in a corset."


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Regina Robbins is a writer, director, native New Yorker, and Jeopardy! champion. She has worked with several NYC-based theatre companies and is currently a Core Company Member with Everyday Inferno Theatre.

Top image: Diana Oh in {my lingerie play} 2017: THE CONCERT AND CALL TO ARMS!!!!!!!!! THE FINAL INSTALLATION. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Regina Robbins is a writer, director, native New Yorker and Jeopardy! champion. She has worked with several NYC-based theatre companies and is currently a Core Company Member with Everyday Inferno Theatre.