In the fall of 1982, Diahann was in New York for a
brief vacation. She decided to see some current plays, and a friend of hers
recommended Agnes of God, a play written by John Pielmeier. The story
is about a young nun (Agnes) who gave birth under mysterious circumstances
and may or may not have killed the baby to hide her shame. While watching
the play, Diahann soon found her self caught up in the character of Dr. Livingston,
the psychiatrist appointed by the court to determine if Agnes should be brought
to trial (this is the role Jane Fonda later played in the movie adaptation
of the play). She felt as if she knew this woman - it was almost as if the
part was written for her! She knew she could do this part, but she was also
sure that because of the color of her skin and the fact that she had never
done a drama, she would never be given the opportunity to play Dr. Livingston.
But Ms. Carroll was wrong! A few days after she first had seen the play, she
was contacted by Ken Weissman, the producer of the play. He wanted Diahann
to replace Elizabeth Ashley for one week as (you guessed it) Dr. Livingston!
Diahann recalls in her book, Diahann!, that it was probably a stupid
thing for her to consider - it would take a lot of effort to prepare for the
role, and then she would only have the chance to play it for one week, but
she was so thrilled to have the opportunity that she accepted at once. She
had only about two weeks of rehearsal time, and during this time she had to
learn all the lines, and learn how to "pin down the nuances of her character".
There was also the fact that the other two actresses had worked together for
months. Yet, when Diahann took over the role the public reaction was very
positive, and Diahann loved the play so much that she asked if Elizabeth Ashley
would consider taking an additional week's vacation. Ashley accepted on the
condition that she was payed during that time, and without hesitation Diahann
payed her salary for that week!
In the spring of 1983, Ms. Carroll received yet another phonecall from the producer of the play. They wanted her to come back to the play for the rest of the New York run, before the company took Agnes of God "on the road". She accepted again (though her nightclub work was going very well, and payed much better than Broadway theater, she felt she just had to do it.) Diahann ended up playing Dr. Livingston for six months!