My H8 Letter to the Gr8 American Theatre

NORTHAMPTON, MA – The Smith College Department of Theatre presents My H8 Letter to the Gr8 American Theatre by Diana Oh ’08 in Hallie Flanagan Studio Theatre on February 24, 25, March 2, 3, 4 at 7:30 p.m. NYC Queer Icon, Contemporary Artist and Musician Diana Oh returns to Smith to direct their new play-extravaganza that satirizes the Great American Theatre—the galas, diversity panels, white leads—using humor, A List of Things, music, and flamingos. My H8 Letter is a call for evolution crossed with a Queer dance club inspired by a kindergarten classroom hiding behind a stage reading. There is a “before” and an “after” My H8 Letter to the Gr8 American Theatre, and liberation is on the other side of it.

Diana Oh (they/them) is a multi-hyphenate Generative Artist — performer, musician, singer, songwriter, director of their own work, maker of installations, performances, concerts, and parties. Oh describes themselves as an open channel to the art that feels good to their body and is driven by pleasure, mutual care, and keeping things heart-centered. Oh’s work defies easy categorization. The New York Times called it “messy-beautiful,” “(a) blend of compassion, defiance and practicality” and “a glitter bomb of feminist and queer protest.”

My H8 Letter for the Gr8 American Theatre was developed in The Emerging Writers Group with its first reading at The Public Theater, and its second performance with Ma-Yi over the pandemic. Oh says they wrote H8 Letter at first as a joke and then realized it was written out of necessity. Using truth bombs and confetti canons, My H8 Letter takes aim at the ignored problematic history and culture of the Great American Theatre. The play shows that artists, producers, and audiences could benefit from a more expansive, inclusive sharing of our collective humanity. Oh wants the Smith production to be a “Bat call to folx of disability, trans folx, queer folx, poc folx, womxn, all the people who need a reminder, to come gather and get some courage to keep living their lives.”

This production marks the first time that Oh has agreed to direct a college performance of the play. “It’s a little surreal to be doing this show at Smith,” Oh admits. “Now that I am here, it just feels so right, so perfect. My rock concert-play, “{my lingerie play}”, has a section about Smith and how free and safe I felt here as a student. So, to be able to come back and be a part of providing that space for another generation of Smithies is really powerful.” The ensemble cast is intergenerational, multi-gender, cross-disciplinary and poly-talented, several of whom are acting or performing their true identities for the first time. Music Director Michael Maloney is teaching the cast to be their own backing rock band to perform the original songs with music and lyrics by Oh.

While Oh pulls no punches on the dark realities of the theatre and entertainment industry, My H8 Letter is more hopeful than haranguing. The play reminds us what art can be and where we can go from here if we so choose. A highly collaborative team of designers and technicians are bringing this vision to life: Anya Klepikov, Set Design; Lara Dubin, Lighting Design; Emma Merchant ’24 and Haley-December (HD) Brown ’23, Costume Design; and Maisy Hoffman ’25 and Emily Wilson, Sound Design. Summing up the experience they are creating, Oh enthused “WELCOME TO OUR PARTY FOLX, WE ARE SO HAPPY YOU'RE HERE: YAY!!!!”

Audiences should know that My H8 Letter contains some strong language, slaying, Queer space, and hot joy. Tickets are $5–10 and available online at Free for Smith students by emailing from their school email. All venues at Smith are open to the public. Masks are optional and welcome.