The Ritz, The Ritz, and The House Next Door

Diana Burbano, a Colombian immigrant and punk rock playwright, is always true to herself, never a puppet to the public or her own desires. She’s been called the next Joan Didion because she writes…

The Ritz, The Ritz, and The House Next Door

Diana Burbano, a Colombian immigrant and punk rock playwright, is always true to herself, never a puppet to the public or her own desires. She’s been called the next Joan Didion because she writes with the same intensity and honesty as the writer of To Have Had it with You, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. As with Didion, Burbano has made a career of writing, first of her life, and then in the public eye. She has been published in the New York Times and in Playboy, and was the subject of a documentary film starring Angelina Jolie and a musical by Stephen Schwartz.

Burbano got her start as a child actress, with a role in Woody Allen’s Zelig, and in 1994, she starred in the Broadway musical The Ritz, directed by George C. Wolfe and with music by Jonathan Larson. She returned to the stage in 1995 with a play, The Boys in the Band, with music by Michael Friedman that became a hit on Broadway. In 1998, she had a starring role in the television version of The Ritz, and then went on to appear in The Sopranos, ER, The West Wing, and an episode of House. And, just like Didion, she has gone on to write several well-received novels, including The Last American Play, The Truth About Mary, The Death of Eloise, and The House Next Door.

In 2011, Burbano published a memoir, How to Live in the City of Angels: The Adventures of a Radical Woman. It’s an account of her immigration to the United States in the 1990s. (She was born in Colombia and was a teenager when she arrived in New York City, unaware of her American citizenship at the time.)

We met in April at an event celebrating the book, which was released late on a Saturday. Burbano had gone to visit the bookstore on the Upper West Side, and she was feeling under the weather. As we waited to begin, she took out a book of poems

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