So Far to Go
Mar 03, 2016 10:53AM
By Andy Williams
“Broadway or something else would be cool,” Diaz says, “but it’s been important to me over the years to try to keep my head down and focused on what I’m doing now.
“If I don’t do that, I won’t be focused on the right things.”
With the fast start he’s had in his young life, no one would blame Diaz for looking beyond Omaha for his future.
After getting started in theatre as a fourth-grader in a Council Bluffs school production, Diaz has acted in more than 90 shows in the Omaha area and has also tried his hand at directing and writing—his personal favorite.
“I don’t think I was ever meant to be in theatre,” Diaz says. “I think I was meant to be a writer.”
Diaz’s prolific acting vitae, and anyone who has seen him on a local stage, might beg to differ.
While filling up a trophy case with Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards and Theatre Arts Guild nods, Diaz has turned such notable performances as The Cat in the Hat at the Rose Theater, the Scarecrow in the Omaha Community Playhouse’s Wizard of Oz, and a high-school misfit in SNAP’s production of Speech and Debate into a career fit for someone much farther along in life.
Even as a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Diaz has kept up a blistering pace—acting in five to eight shows every year. Some local aficionados see him as “the next big thing” in Omaha theater.
“Acting is fun and challenging, but I think the thing I like most about the theater is the self-discovery,” says Diaz, who is on track to graduate from UNO in 2017 with a degree in special education and communication disorders. “Every production, I learn new things about myself—how my mind works and how I think.”
Diaz has done plenty of thinking about combining his passion for theater with his desire to serve the deaf community. He is focusing on American Sign Language at UNO and someday wants to work as an interpreter.
He performed in Chicago in a special adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in which Romeo’s family is deaf and Diaz’s character interprets for the audience. In one of his most challenging roles, Tribes at the Omaha Playhouse, Diaz portrayed a deaf person, but not without struggling over whether to even take the part.
“Eighty percent of the audience the first night was deaf, and I about had an aneurysm I was so nervous,” he says. “But it was very well received, and a deaf friend of mine said afterwards he was glad someone with a heart for the deaf community did the part.”
Diaz isn’t slowing down any time soon. He completed a run in Beertown at the Omaha Playhouse in November. A play he wrote, The Motherhood Almanac, recently was staged as a workshop reading at The Shelterbelt Theatre, where Diaz serves on the board. And he will be directing The Feast at the Sheltebelt, which opens April 15.
“I feel as if I have so far to go—not in terms of success, but in terms of finding out who I am supposed to be,” he says. “So I want to keep pushing myself and bringing more to the work.”