Agnes of God

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!


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