Diane Rodriguez, L.A. Theater Actress, Director and Producer, Dies at 68

Courtesy of Phyllis Moberly
Diane Rodriguez

She spent 24 years with the Center Theatre Group and was appointed by President Barack Obama to the NEA's National Council on the Arts.

Diane Rodriguez, an actress, director, playwright and producer who spent 24 years with Los Angeles' Center Theatre Group, died Friday of cancer in Los Angeles. She was 68.

Rodriguez was appointed by President Barack Obama to the NEA's National Council on the Arts in 2015 and inducted into The College of Fellows for the American Theatre in 2018.

An encouraging member of the Los Angeles theater community, Rodriguez began her career in 1973 with Luis Valdez's El Teatro Campesino. For 10 seasons, she was a leading actress with the company, with which she toured nationally and internationally.

"Her power as an artist came from the heart, which she shared onstage as well as in life, by generating the collective spirit that creates theater," Valdez said in a statement. "The arc of her evolution as an artist and as a representative of the American theater will give hope and inspiration to new generations of theater artists."

Rodriguez also co-founded the comedy troupe Latins Anonymous.

A native of San Jose, California, Rodriguez worked with the Center Theatre Group from 1995-2019, most recently serving as associate artistic director overseeing new play production and developing the new work of more than 75 artists, both playwrights and companies.

Those plays included Straight White Men by Young Jean Lee, The White Album by Lars Jan, Venice Is Dead by Roger Guenveur Smith and Richard Montoya and How to Be a Rock Critic by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen.

"Diane was an incredibly disciplined artist, with equal talent as a writer, director and actor," CTG artistic director Michael Ritchie said. "But she was never more animated than when she was advocating for the work of other artists. The arts community mourns the loss of a leader and advocate for accessibility, inclusion and community."

Last year, Rodriguez directed the world premiere of Las Mujeres Del Mar for Playwrights' Arena and in 2018 Culture Clash's Bordertown Now at Pasadena Playhouse and Richard Cabral's Fighting Shadows at Inner City Arts.

She directed for numerous theater companies, including Center Theatre Group, East West Players, South Coast Repertory, Pasadena Playhouse, City Theatre in Pittsburgh, Mixed Blood in Minneapolis, Actors Theatre of Phoenix, Victory Gardens in Chicago and Playwrights' Arena/Los Angeles.

Her own plays Living Large and The Sweetheart Deal premiered at Teatro Luna in 2012 and at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in 2017, respectively. And Rodriguez curated and produced, with REDCAT, RADAR L.A., an international theater festival, in 2011 and 2013. 

She also worked for Mattel as the book writer for the Broadway-style musical Barbie Live!, which toured Asia and Latin America, and as a creative and cultural consultant for the Disney Channel animated series Elena of Avalor.

Survivors include her husband, Jose Delgado, owner of Pleiades Management and producing director of Ojai Playwrights Conference; her mother, Helen; niece Gabrielle; nephew Mario; and brother-in-law Gary.