From ballet to Broadway - three time Helen Hayes Award recipient - Natascia Diaz has done it all! Currently reprising her role as Anita in the Signature Theatre production of West Side Story, running through January 31, Natascia shares how playing a holiday treat in the Nutcracker persuaded her to follow in her parents' footsteps in the arts.
1) What was the first show you ever saw, and what impact did it have?
With my mom being a ballerina and dad being an opera singer, I was inundated with the majesty and grandeur of opera and ballet from about the age of 1-2. Those operas and ballets were epic and I knew something very special was happening of which I was in awe.
2) What was your first involvement in a theatrical production?
I was in the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center with the New York City Ballet at the age of 9. I danced as candy cane behind Christopher D'amboise. It was everything to me.
3) What’s your favorite play or musical, and why do you like it so much?
For selfish reasons, West Side actually is my favorite musical that I already know. To be able to do all three skills you have; act, sing, and dance at this highly sophisticated and poetically integrated level is something I relish...and is rare. I love Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare, Shanley, Chekov. But I believe I will have new favorites as they come to me in my life. I tend to love the one I'm with, and am always looking for something new to give life to.
4) What’s the worst day job you ever took?
Telemarketer. That was brutal. lol
5) What is your most embarrassing moment in the theatre?
Embarrassing and slightly scary; I fell off a Broadway stage. In Seussical the opening sequence had a lot of people traveling the front of the stage, and the lip of the stage had curves. Dressed in my gorgeous deep purple William Ivy Long Bird Girl costume I got body checked and started falling off. I managed to literally go into a sort of leap, over the orchestra, and landed in the lap of a guy in the front row, who calmly said, 'I gotcha'. I had a second of a smile with him, and made my way back up to the stage. Some people didn't even notice.
6) What are you enjoying most about working on West Side Story?
Honestly, everything. The depth of the life inside these moments, this music and these relationships is a constellation that tattoos itself on your soul. The opportunity to meet new spirits in them is just magic. I look around and can't believe how perfect this cast is, in look and feel. Mary J Grisso is nothing short of a dream. Her stature, her voice, her poeticism and open heart. Austin Colby has a connection to this role in his velvet tenor I have seen only once before. Max Clayton's magnetic Riff would make anyone want to be a Jet. With Sean Ewing's power and sensuality our waters run deep and we bring those real colors to the love between Anita and Bernardo. And my America girls!!! Ilda, Katie, Olivia and Jasmine are the backbone of that number and they give me LIFE!
7) Other than your significant other, who’s your dream date (living or dead) and why?
I tend to love the ones I'm with, onstage and off. I also keep in my heart all the men that have had the audacity? stupidity? courage? to love me...onstage and off. I don't give much space for fictional what ifs in this respect. That being said, under no circumstances would I turn down a date with Chris Hemsworth, Ed Norton, or Gary Oldman. :)
8) What is your dream role/job?
Doing more Shakespeare, more plays in general, getting a great TV series, being part of bringing new and important pieces to life on the American stage in play or musical, and being able to keep doing it while having a family.
9) If you could travel back in time, what famous production or performance would you choose to see?
I would have loved to see WSS when it opened. I would loved to see any performance Sir Lawrence Olivier gave. Would have loved to see my mother dance Ophelia. I would have loved to be in the audience of that inaugural performance of Nijinsky and Diaghilev's The Rite of Spring. It was a shocker.
10) What advice would you give to an 8 year-old smitten by theatre / for a graduating MFA student?
An 8 year old (SLASH) graduating MFA student? lol That's funny because I guess it would be the same, and the message gets louder as you get older. Be curious. Keep searching. Don't stop growing. Give yourself credit. Be courageous. Be kind. Stay open. Do better than you think you can. Learn to listen. Really well...to others, and to yourself. Be gentle to yourself when you need to, and disciplined when you have to, and learn to recognize the difference. Never forget to perform is a privilege. Use it well.
Natascia Diaz has performed professionally since the age of nine. Growing up in New York City, she began her training at The School Of American Ballet, going on to receive her BFA with Honors from Carnegie Mellon University. Her Washington credits include: Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Soon, Brother Russia, and Threepenny Opera (Signature Theatre), Zorro (Alliance Theatre), A Little Night Music and Carnival (Kennedy Center), Agamemnon and His Daughters (Arena Stage), Savage In Limbo and Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (MetroStage). She has also performed in a host of Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, and a plethora of television and film.