We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists from all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. This past year has reinforced what we have been doing at LAFPI – putting women of all kinds first! It is vital that we make space and open doors wider for women from all cultural backgrounds if we are to have a bold, forward thinking American Theatre that reflects America.
Diana Elizabeth Jordan is one of the busiest actresses working in L.A theatre, and one of the most beloved and talented comediennes doing work that’s outside the box. Her new show, Happily Ever After, is a prime example of her righteous spirit as she takes us on a glorious, hilarious and heartbreaking emotional rollercoaster to find her “prince charming.” Diana is like a real life princess – chosen by the people, not anointed or given the title through marriage – and hers is a solo show I don’t want to miss!
Constance: How long have you been sitting with this work? Why Fringe? Why this year?
Diana: I have been working on Happily Ever After for several years. It started as a short storytelling project when I took a Story Coaching Workshop with Tanya Taylor Rubenstein. It has grown from a ten-minute story into what it is now. When it comes to producing at the Fringe, my “Why” is” Why Not?” It just felt like the right time. If I have learned anything in the past year and a half, it is that life is so unpredictable. I was honored with a Diversity Scholarship and the Fringe Staff could not be more welcoming and supportive. I have also surrounded myself with an amazing support system and team including Women of Color Unite founded by Cheryl L. Bedford, my director Paul Kampf, my sound designer Alexander Tovar, my costume designer (aka my mom) and many others. This really is taking a village and I could never do this without them.
Constance: What are you enjoying most as you create your show?
Diana: I am really enjoying everything, even the most challenging things like finding time to sleep. (LOL) Seriously, though, I think I have been enjoying some of the non-acting things like picking out my props, and some of the production side of things like creating visual images. It has been fun. For example, I talk about two childhood friends in my show (whose names I changed) and chose not to use their actual pictures, yet I found visual images that kind of remind me of them.
Constance: What has been the most surprising discovery?
Diana: Honestly the most surprising discovery has been learning about the business decisions I have had to make in terms of ticket sales, along with the best use of my limited funds. It really is wearing two hats with completely different goals. I have also learned a lot about delegation of responsibilities. I have often served as a Disability Accessibility & Inclusion Coordinator on projects but for my show I’ve handed those responsibilities over to members of my team.
Constance: And what’s been your biggest challenge in terms of your development/creation process?
Diana: My biggest challenge with anything I do continues to be to trust myself. Like a lot of people, I can be my worst critic. My critic, “Mrs. H.” (named after a mean music teacher I had as a kid), can be incredibly loud sometimes. I also think it is a challenge to tell my truth in a way that is entertaining. I have been to storytelling events where people just share stories and there is value in that. But sharing diverse stories is a bridge builder and connector. I am intentionally creating a piece of entertainment. So, the challenge then becomes how do I both share my heart and my truth in a way that is entertaining.
Constance: What do you hope audience members take away after experiencing your show?
Diana: I am a Black woman who has a disability (cerebral palsy which mildly affects my speech and gait); I am proud of the intersection of my identities. That is not what I focus on, though. My show is about my journey of finding true love, without the assistance of a fairy godmother or talking mirror like a lot of the princesses had in the fairytales I used to read as a girl. So I hope audiences members see themselves in the stories I share.
Constance: The work will be given away soon – how does that feel?
Diana: I have felt every emotion from sheer terror to giddy girl excitement and that has been within this past hour. I was watching a video of my 14-year-old nephew the other day, marveling at how fast these 14 years have flown by and realizing he is going to be a man before I know it. I will just blink, and he’ll be a man. This show feels the same way. The preview and performances still seem so far away yet I know it will be here before I know it – like this week (my first preview). It is a lot to take in so I am just saying my prayers, trusting my faith and taking it moment to moment right now and enjoying the ride.
Constance: Anything Extra? Please Share!
Diana: One of my favorite mantras is “Don’t Step Outside Your Comfort Zone Expand It.” It is one of the mantras I live by. It may not always be easy, but the journey of continuing to expand my comfort zone is worth it.
Diana Elizabeth Jordan (www.dianaelizabethjordan.com) is an actor, solo artist, theater & filmmaker, artist educator and disability influencer. For more information on “Happily After (One Woman’s Journey To Find A True Love)” in #HFF21, visit http://hff21.co/6896