Kevin Ray Johnson
I would like you to meet the amazingly talented Natascia Diaz. Natascia is currently starring as Elizaveta Grushinskaya in Grand Hotel at Signature Theatre in Virginia (Directed by Eric Schaeffer). At Signature she has been seen in West Side Story (Anita), Jesus Christ Superstar (Mary) as well as Fosca in Passion and Jenny in The Threepenny Opera (both performances earning her a Helen Hayes Award Nomination). On Broadway, she has been seen in Man of La Mancha and Seussical and has toured in West Side Story (Anita).
Many of you though may remember her in the documentary film Every Little Step. Natascia is an amazing spirit with an unbelievable stage presence. When you see her name on the bill, you are indeed in for an unforgettable treat. It was truly an honor to interview her!
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a performer?
From a very early age. I started ballet when I was 3 and was constantly backstage with both my parents from as early as I can remember; my mother in ballet, and my father in opera. By nine years old, I was performing in The Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet.
Where did you study? Are there any mentors that genuinely helped make you the performer you are today?
Aside from my parents, first came SChool Of American Ballet, the Belvoir Terrace, an all-girls performing arts camp I attended from 9-15. An idyllic place where I danced ballet and jazz all morning and did straight acting and musical theater in the afternoons. Nancy Goldberg, the head of the camp, still is there, and still follows my career and life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeexD5gFFM0 I would not be the performer, or woman I am today without her constant guidance, wisdom, support, and involvement in my life. She even came to see me play Fosca in PASSION last year. It was an incredible full circle moment at what was the highlight of my career. There at Belvoir, I could spend all day exploring and honing my skills as an actress, singer, and dancer with the safety and camaraderie of that place. I would go back if I could. Carnegie Mellon University is where I learned the rest of what makes acting an art.
Congratulations on Grand Hotel at Signature Theatre! I remember seeing you in Grand Hotel Off-Broadway at City Center Encores! performing the role of Rafaella! What do you enjoy most about this show?
Thanks! City Center was nothing short of a dream, and my first show back in NY after eight years. What a homecoming. Josh Rhodes was revelatory in his casting and direction of that show, and every moment singing Rafaella's material with Rob Fischer and that 26 piece orchestra was just otherworldly. I love the style of this show the most. It is of another time, and I love inhabiting the grace and poise of it. Grushinskaya is the most affected I've ever been, but I love giving her her posture, the ballerina stiffness, and lyricism. It takes a lot of work to do that level of physical character work, not to mention the pointe shoes! I can't believe I'm actually doing it, but after a month of adjusting to it, I'm up there. My mom says the costume, and the look is perfect. She would know, she's the expert, so I feel great about how it's going.
You have had an incredible career that many dream of achieving. Are there any shows (Other than Grand Hotel at Signature) that you have done that will always be near and dear to your heart?
Oh, thank you kindly for that, but let me tell you definitively; I wouldn't wish the depth of the betrayals and disappointments I've endured on my worst enemy. Without exaggeration, they have almost destroyed me. And they continue. But when a pal and star-like Stephanie Block comments "you are living my dream checklist of roles...", well you see things differently. It's all perspective. And love. And discipline. And sometimes it seems like pure madness to keep going. That you even say such a thing about my career is very kind. And if my work has been of any use to anyone....to open them, to remind them of a part of themselves they've forgotten, or inspire them to be a better version of themselves, then it has to have been worth something. Every performer has things they have to fight every day, at every level, to keep doing it all, and I am no exception. For sure, Fosca in PASSION is by far, the most exalted experience I've had on a stage. I have never experienced a sea such as Sondheim made for her, and never inhabited a nobler worthy soul as hers. That Signature Theatre just handed me this role, with no audition, in complete faith, was an act I will never forget. To be surrounded by a Broadway-sized 16 piece orchestra. It was transcendent for me. I hope I can do it again. And any Shakespeare I've done is also where I dream of going more into. I know in my soul I belong there.
What advice would you give young performers who want a career in this business?
Get used to waiting. Become friends with auditioning. Stay curious about yourself and the process. Have goals for yourself that you can actualize. And to borrow a quote from a performer and person I deeply admire Stephanie Block; "Breathe. Then be Bold."
Grand Hotel at Signature Theatre is running until May 19th. For more information make sure you visit – www.sigtheatre.org. To learn more about Natascia please visit her website at www.natasciadiaz.com