#tbt The Light in the Piazza – What I Learned

Kelsey as Margaret with Sarah Agar as Clara in The Light in the Piazza. Wright State University, 2010.

I’ve so enjoyed writing little wrap up posts about what I learned from a production, I decided to to a few throwback posts.  I’ll be writing about a few shows that had a big impact on me, but never received a “What I Learned” feature.

For the first one, it seems fitting to write about when I worked on The Light in the Piazza, because this week marks the ten year anniversary of that show.  I got out the journal I kept during that time, and reading through my old notes was like being reintroduced to an old friend.  I’m a little nervous about this, but I’m going to share some of those journal entries in this post.

I played Margaret Johnson in The Light in the Piazza during my senior year at Wright State University.  Looking back, there’s so much about that process that stuck with me.  When preparing for the show, I took detailed notes and did SO MUCH research.  Parts of my script are barely readable now, but at the time, they were an important road map.  I made to-do lists for myself about what I wanted to accomplish in each rehearsal, in each scene, or with each acting partner.  I look back through those notes now, and I see the beginnings of what would become my creative process.  Laying that kind of groundwork really clicked with me; I would continue to use those methods over the course of the next decade.  Whether it’s as an actor, a director, a teacher, or a super cool non-profit project manager – I started forming the tools and processes I use in my work during that production.

Piazza also taught me a lot about what kind of professional I wanted to become.  I recall observing the collaboration among the creative team with great admiration.  Small details stuck out to me – the props designer asking if I wanted to use a piece early, the lighting designer excitedly telling me details about a special cue, the stage manager leaving me pep talk notes at my seat, the pianist who rehearsed a particularly hard page every single day right up to closing night. They were building an environment of positivity and creative exploration, and I wanted to contribute to it.  There’s no question that the bulk of the show’s success was thanks to the cohesive spirit among the cast, crew, and creative team.

I vividly remember finding out I’d gotten the role and feeling an instantaneous mixture of joy and terror.  I had a visceral reaction, like there was a tennis ball sitting in my gut.  I was so excited, but right away I had a flicker of doubt in the back of my brain.

A few weeks before rehearsals started, I wrote:

“The further I get into preparing for this role, the more I doubt my ability to execute it….but that ends now.  I don’t have the time or the energy to waste on being afraid.  I can acknowledge the fear is there without letting it consume me.  It’s there, but it’s not in charge.”

And that’s the one and only journal entry about my doubt.  Giving myself permission to let it go was liberating, and definitely improved what would come in rehearsal.  Looking back now, I think that might have been the first time I might have articulated my own fears that way.  It’s okay to be afraid…but fear is not in charge.  A lesson I’ve used since, and need reminders of sometimes even now.  I read that journal page and gave a silent cheer to my past self for having made that discovery.

After our first read through, I wrote:

“My best song tonight was Fable, for sure.  I think because I didn’t hold the book, I didn’t try to be right.  I trusted myself.  And that made the difference.”

It did make the difference, young Kelsey!  

There were fulfilling projects before and after, but working on The Light in the Piazza was a gift.  I’m glad for the chance to be reminded of what I learned.

“If you find in the world

In the wide, wide world

That someone sees

That someone know you –



Love, if you can, oh my Clara,

Love if you can and be loved…”

– Adam Guettel, The Light in the Piazza


Wright State University, 2010

by Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas

Directed by Joe Deer

Music Direction by Rick Church

Set Design by Don David

Lighting Design by Matthew P. Benjamin

Sound Design by Jason Nickoson

Costume Design by Jessica Hafer

Stage Managed by Angel Emerson


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