Skip to main content

A Theatrical Callout—And a Celebration

Smith Arts

Diana Oh ’08 Directs a Show at Smith

Theater artist Diana Oh holds their dog shovels against a backdrop of shimmering beaded curtains

Published February 13, 2023

Diana Oh '08 bounds into the Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre followed closely by their petite rescue dog and takes a seat amidst a sea of inflatable pink flamingos.

The plastic birds—along with assorted disco balls, shimmering beaded curtains and rock ’n’ roll drums—are props for a new play that the uber-inventive artist and musician is directing at Smith this semester. 

Oh's play, My H8 Letter to the Gr8 American Theatre, is a no-holds-barred callout about the lack of inclusion and caring in the theater establishment. It’s also a celebration—the kind of queer, feminist “glitter bomb” that Oh has become known for since graduating from Smith with a degree in theatre.

Beginning with their 2014 installation "{my lingerie play},” Oh has won praise for dynamic performance works that one reviewer described as “equal parts theater, punk rock concert, protest, confessional and celebration.”  

Their new play—first read at the Public Theater in 2019 and adapted for the Smith cast of 14—is no exception. It includes “singing, drag, emails being read, poetry, a lot of funny stuff and some foul language,” Oh says, with an energy that radiates like the sparkling beams of the nearby disco ball.

“We also have multi-hyphenate activity in the show,” Oh adds. “Hula hooping, flag, people who kind of play music and also people who do play music. Our assistant stage manager is doing the drumming. I just really believe in that DIY, punk aesthetic.” (Oh’s dog, Shovels, is not in the show, but he does star in the poster.)

My H8 Letter opens on Friday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m. in Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre, with additional performances on February 25 and March 2, 3 and 4. Tickets are free to Smith students and can be reserved by emailing

Here’s what Oh had to say about their sendup of the theater industry, and what it’s been like to be back on campus:

What was the inspiration for this new show?

I started out emailing some scenes as jokes to a friend at the Public Theater about an experience I had while I was in a residency at a very prominent theater institution. There was a lot of silencing, overwork, an imbalance of power because of race and gender. I caught on to being that diversity hire and I just felt, like, a real lack of care. But this play is super not just about the theater. It’s going to resonate with anybody who feels like “the man” is getting them down. A lot of friends in nonprofits, who work in education could spot it right away. Anyone who has a job in America could spot it. You might want to quit your job after seeing it!

The play is a “hate letter,” but there are also disco balls, garden murals and flamingoes, (courtesy of set designer Anya Klepikov).

As an artist, my greatest joy and intention is celebrating folks of marginalization through desire and pleasure—that’s my special calling. This play feels like a relief for us all. It’s not just an f-you, f-you play. It’s a “Gosh. Can we stop and reset!?” I believe so much in doing a heart-centered process—a process that leads to progress and not just a product. That means taking the time to build a room of care. That’s what informs the work.  

What’s it been like to be back on campus?

The students are so much more progressive and brave and resilient and enthusiastic and amazing. They meditate—just that alone! Coming from Smith to the outside was what made me realize how special this place is. When I came to Smith, I thought I was going to major in something else. I tried economics, I tried history. I tried. Smith taught me that it’s okay to listen to your body. It was the first place I felt safe running around in my underwear—and I made art out of that.  

You have cast some non-actors in your play. What has that been like?

Thank you so much for asking about that. People don’t understand how important that is. The people who are acting for the first time are the folks who have not been given the space before or who have not felt safe in theater spaces. It’s about recognizing what art can be if you just do a paradigm shift—just refocus the lens.

What do you hope audiences will come away with from seeing this work?

I hope they listen to their intuition and their bodies more; practice compassion for themselves and others and bring that into their ways of making money. Every relationship deals with commerce in some way. If we don’t figure out how to deal with it in a way that is kind and compassionate—and so we are fulfilled—we will be miserable; we’ll be controlled by the chaos machine. That’s the core, the heart of the play.




Photo by Jeff Baker