Fabulous Piazza Fashion

by Kristen Leinbach, Dramaturg

Until the 17th century, Italy was the world leader in fashion.  Then, for several centuries, they lost that title to other European nations.  However, in 1951 they made a comeback when the first multi-designer Italian fashion show was held in Florence. “The fashion press responded with enthusiasm, using phrases like “seductive elegance” and “aristocratic ease.”  “Throughout the 1950s, competing fashion shows in Florence and Rome solidified Italy’s reputation for Capri pants, “palazzo pyjamas,” and other youthful, elegant sportswear.” [1]

Not only did the Italians lead the world in “elegant sportswear” but they were also producing evening wear and every day designs – influencing what would become the iconic 1950’s look.  One popular style was the I-line where “a fitted bodice was paired with a pencil-slim skirt. The outfit hugged the body from the shoulders to several inches below the knee. . . The addition of a wide-brimmed hat, long gloves . . . and the new stiletto-heeled shoes made the style all the more elegant”.  “During the 1950’s and 1960’s, women’s fashions were transformed from sharp, geometric shapes in artificial fabrics to free-flowing lines in natural fibers”.

The style in these shows were continuing many fashion trends that were developing in the late 1940’s-early 1950’s as people throughout the world recovered from World War II. One of the most influential fashion changes was the “New Look.” In fashion, “The “New Look” consisted of a below-mid-calf length, full-skirt, pointed bust, small waist, and rounded shoulder line… At first, the style was not well received by Americans; however, that quickly changed as the trend dominated fashion magazines.”

Other styles that became popular during the post-war period were “a tailored, feminine look with gloves and pearls, tailored suits with fitted jackets with peplums, with a pencil skirt.  Day dresses had fitted bodices and full skirts, with jewel or low-cut necklines or Peter Pan collars.  Shirt-dresses and halter-top sundresses were also popular.  Skirts were narrow or very full, held out with petticoats, while poodle skirts were a brief fad.”[2]

In The Light in the Piazza you will see the results of the fashion changes that occurred in both Italy and the United States post WWII.  We are excited to work as a team to find and create costumes for our actor’s that will share the Italian and United States fashions that would have been worn in 1953.  We are working to capture and bring to life the essence of 1953 as two American tourists are swept away on an adventure through Italy!

[1] “The History of Italian Fashion.” Fashion Italian Style. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2013.

[2] “Fashion.” 1950-1959. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2013.




Meet the Musical Composer and Lyricist-Adam Guettel

by Kristen Leinbach, Dramaturg

“This is wanting something, This is reaching for it, This is wishing that a moment would arrive, This is taking chances…This is praying for it, This is holding breath and keeping fingers crossed, This is counting blessings, This is wondering when.”[1]

– Clara Johnson

Clara Johnson begins her journey in Italy feeling out of place in a world that seems to make sense.  She states “I don’t understand a word they’re saying.  I’m as diff’rent here as diff’rent can be, but the beauty is I still meet people like me.”[2]  Although lost in an Italian culture with expectations she isn’t sure that she can meet, Clara maintains her desire to discover, to explore, and to achieve her dreams.

Adam Guettel

Although Adam Guettel, the musical composer for The Light in the Piazza, began composing when he was fourteen, as a teenager in reference to musical theatre he also thought “I’m not going to have anything to do with that lame, fairy-tale, unsophisticated, boring, clunky old art form.”[3]  But musical theatre ended up becoming the path he chose.  He later stated “I knew it would just be a terrible idea to try to make a career in musical theatre, but the excitement of realizing I had the ability to tell stories through music became impossible to resist.[4]

Adam Guettel was born in 1964 and is the son of Mary Rodgers and Henry Guettel.[5]  If you think the last name Rodgers sounds familiar, then you are correct.  Adam Guettel grew up playing music for his grandfather, Richard Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein.  Regarding his grandfather Adam Guettel stated “He was practically on his deathbed.  I played to him through the bedroom wall, and he told me he liked what he heard. But that was all the advice he was able to give.”[6]

Many of us have heard the beautiful music found in Oklahoma!, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, all written by Richard Rodgers and I am here to inform you that the music written by Richard Rodgers grandson in The Light in the Piazza will not disappoint.  In regards to The Light in the Piazza, Guettel stated “I wanted to write a love story, because I hadn’t found love when I wrote it and needed a ­vessel to pour all that energy into. There are melodies that are ­directly inspired by my grandfather – but I also wanted to incorporate the ­romantic language of Liszt and the ­orchestral colours of Ravel. They’re my go-to guys for that kind of ­sumptuous harmony.”[7]

As the composer for The Light in the Piazza, Adam Guettel earned two Tony awards in 2005 for Best Score and Best Orchestrations. [8] Regardless of all of his successes Guettel has still stated “Three of four times, after a period of high exposure and accolade, I have had a period of anguished paralysis and fear. And only by feeling forgotten do I find myself again and start to really focus and work.”[9]

In a world full of so many talented and wonderful people, it is easy to feel as if we have been forgotten or lost.  There is always something or someone else to live up to, but as Clara states “the beauty is I still meet people like me.”  The Light in the Piazza captures the fairy-tale like reality that we can experience throughout our lives as the ordinary can become extra-ordinary if we are willing to open our eyes, dream and fight for what we believe in.

Adam Guettel stated “I only ever had one dream about my grandfather.  I was pursuing him across a lobby in New York as he was about to get into an ­elevator. I wanted to ask him if he thought I was any good. He looked at me and said, ‘You have your own voice.’ Then the doors closed and he was gone.”[10]

We invite you to join us in the fall to experience this beautiful musical that captures how each and every one of us is an important individual and like Adam Guettel, has the ability to find your own voice.


[1] Lucas, Craig.  The Light in the Piazza. 19.

[2] Lucas, Craig.  The Light in the Piazza. 19.

[3] Staff of American Theatre Magazine, The American Theatre Reader (volume 2 of 2): Essays and Conversations from American Theatre Magazine (publication place: ReadHowYouWant.com, 2010), 423.

[4] Alfred Hickling, “Alfred Hickling Meets Adam Guettel, Grandson of Richard Rodgers,” The Guardian,http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2009/may/19/adam-guettel-light-piazza-curve-leicester (accessed August 1, 2013).

[5] Steven Suskin, Show Tunes: the Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway’s Major Composers, 4 ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2010), 393.

[6] Alfred Hickling, “Alfred Hickling Meets Adam Guettel, Grandson of Richard Rodgers,” The Guardian,http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2009/may/19/adam-guettel-light-piazza-curve-leicester (accessed August 1, 2013).

[7] Alfred Hickling, “Alfred Hickling Meets Adam Guettel, Grandson of Richard Rodgers,” The Guardian,http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2009/may/19/adam-guettel-light-piazza-curve-leicester (accessed August 1, 2013).

[8] “Tony Awards: Tony’s Trivia,” Tony Awards, http://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/history/facts/ (accessed August 1, 2013).

[9] Staff of American Theatre Magazine, The American Theatre Reader (volume 2 of 2): Essays and Conversations from American Theatre Magazine (publication place: ReadHowYouWant.com, 2010), 438-439.

[10] Alfred Hickling, “Alfred Hickling Meets Adam Guettel, Grandson of Richard Rodgers,” The Guardian,http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2009/may/19/adam-guettel-light-piazza-curve-leicester (accessed August 1, 2013).

Meet the Playwright – Craig Lucas

by Kristen Leinbach, Dramaturg

As we move from discussing the original novella of The Light in the Piazza, to discussing the musical, Craig Lucas will be our first stop as the award winning playwright.  Throughout his career he has received honors that range from a 1989 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play, to a Tony Award for Best Play.  Most recently, in 2005, he received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for non-other than The Light in the Piazza.[1]

Craig _Lucas.jpg

Craig Lucas

While Piazza was in production at Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage, Lucas stated that, “having lived with and within the worst excesses of reactionary America, [he] considers himself the luckiest man alive to be able to express himself.”[2]

Born on April 30th, 1951 Lucas was found by police in a parked car across from a gas station in Atlanta, Georgia.  The acclaimed playwright came from an unconventional background as his unwed teenage mother gave birth to him at a hotel with only her mother there as comfort.  She placed Lucas in a parked car and after calling the police waited for her baby to be safely taken to a local hospital.[3]

Lucas was adopted by a couple living in Pennsylvania where he grew up already beginning to enjoy performance and the theatrical world.  As a child he would write his own scripts for performances he would give as a puppeteer and a magician.[4]  He continued to practice the dramatic arts as he attended Boston University studying theatre and creative writing.  After graduating and throughout his twenties he supported himself by performing in the choruses of a number of Broadway plays which also allowed him time to begin cultivating his talents as a playwright.[5]

Throughout his career Lucas has written countless books, screenplays, and theatrical plays including the award winning musical, The Light in the Piazza.  We look forward to bringing the eloquent language and story of The Light in the Piazza to life on stage as we have the opportunity to share Craig Lucas’ written work with you!


[1] “Craig Lucas – Performer, writer,” Internet Broadway Database, August 5, 2013, accessed August 5, 2013,http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=4924.

[2] “The Light in the Piazza: Craig Lucas’ Laurels,” Arena Stage, August 5, 2013, accessed August 5, 2013,http://www.arenastage.org/shows-tickets/sub-text/2009-10-season/the-light-in-the-piazza/craig-lucas-laurels.shtml.

[3] “The Light in the Piazza: Craig Lucas’ Laurels”

[4] “The Light in the Piazza: Craig Lucas’ Laurels”

[5] “The Light in the Piazza: Craig Lucas’ Laurels”

Meet the Author – Elizabeth Spencer

By Kristen Leinbach, Dramaturg

“The light. . . .  The light in the piazza.  Tiny sweet. And then it grows, and then it fills the air. . . . It’s rushing up. It’s pouring out. It’s flying through the air. . . It’s everything and everywhere!” (Guettel, pg. 50)

Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer
(Passing the Pen)

The musical The Light in the Piazza opened on Broadway on April 18th, 2005.  But before we discuss the accomplishments of the playwrights Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas, we first have the opportunity to learn about the author whose novella, or short story, inspired the musical.  The musical itself is based on a novella titled The Light in the Piazza written by Elizabeth Spencer in 1958 and published in 1960.

Describing her efforts in writing the novella, Spencer stated, “As I lived in Italy five years at the time of writing this, it was easy to include a vivid texture of daily Italian living. The settings of Florence and Rome were easily recognized by any number of readers and a pleasure to write about” (Spencer, Works). She also explains that “memories of the place itself were what saw this story [The Light in the Piazza] through” (Seltzer).

Elizabeth Spencer was born on July 19th, 1921 in Carrollton, Mississippi.  After graduating high school she went on to attend Belhaven College.  After receiving her undergrad she attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville where she received a Master’s Degree in Literature in 1943.  After graduating she taught at Northwest Mississippi Junior College and then taught at Ward-Belmont until she took a job as a reporter for the Nashville Tennessean in 1945.  She then became a professor at the University of Mississippi and after receiving the Guggenheim Fellowship award left Mississippi to live in Italy for five years to focus on becoming a full time writer.  Throughout her life, now at the age of 91 living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, she has written nine novels, one non-fiction work, seven collections of short stories and a play.

Interestingly, it wasn’t until after Spencer left her five year trip to Italy that she wrote her best known work, The Light in the Piazza, set in Florence Italy.  Before her trip, Spencer’s early works were set in Mississippi, where she was raised, and featured male protagonists who were grappling with their fates.  After visiting Italy, her writing style shifted to reflect American female protagonists overcoming their difficulties as they traveled abroad.  In regards to her experience writing The Light in the Piazza, Spencer stated

“Before I went to Italy I thought I would always be encased in the southern social patterns and lineage and tradition, and if the South changed, then I wanted to be part of that change.  I didn’t see myself as separate from it.  Then, especially after I married, I had to come to terms with a life that was going to be quite separated from that.  I got to thinking that the Southerner has a certain mentality, especially Southern women-you can no more change a Southern woman than you can be a French woman; they’re always going to be French no matter what you do.  So I thought that really nothing was going to happen to me as far as my essential personality was concerned, that I could broaden and include more scope and maybe get richer material.  I looked at it from the standpoint of my characters, that the Southern approach was going to be valued no matter where they found themselves. It seemed to me that there wasn’t any need in sitting at home in the cottonfield just to be Southern, that you could be Southern elsewhere, in Florence, or Paris, or anywhere you found yourself” (Spencer, pg. x-xi).

After leaving Italy, The Light in the Piazza was written in 1958 while Spencer and her husband were living in Montreal Canada. The novella “so full of Italian light, was written in one month, under great compulsion, during a snowstorm her first winter in Montreal.  It was partially inspired by Spencer’s memories of the light in Italy during that long dark Canadian winter” (Spencer, pg. x).

I wanted to provide you with these quotes found in the introduction to The Light in the Piazza and Other Italian Tales because they eloquently captured the mentality found in Spencer writing the The Light in the Piazza.  Even though it was only written in one month, this story has become Elizabeth Spencer’s best known work.  It is a story that accurately captures not only, in my experience, the common stubbornness/determination of Southern women but also their compassion as we follow Margaret and Clara’s journey as they make decisions that will hopefully best serve the love they have as mother and daughter.

Elizabeth Spencer not only worked to capture the beauty of the Italian culture but the experience of two Southern women becoming integrated into that culture.  Having grown up in North Carolina and now attending school in Utah, I can relate to Spencer’s experience of that unfamiliar, first cold winter in Canada.  Regardless of who we are and where we are from, we carry our culture and our heritage with us.  The Light in the Piazza successfully merges the experiences of two cultures coming together.  But if I might add, the production will share more than two cultures coming together, because you, as the audience, will be bringing your own culture, history and experiences that will enhance the performance of The Light in the Piazza as we grow together.    

Works Cited

“Elizabeth Spencer 1921.” Elizabeth Spencer, Mississippi Writer, Author of The Light in the Piazza. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013.

Guettel, Adam, Craig Lucas, and Elizabeth Spencer. The Light in the Piazza. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2007.

Seltzer, Catherine. “Exploding the Canon/cannon: Elizabeth Spencer’s the Light in the Piazza.”Southern Quarterly 46, no. 3 (April 1, 2009): 100-27.

Julius, Novick. “The Light in the Piazza.” Back Stage 46 (May 5, 2005): 48.

“Passing the Pen: Generations of Southern Authors.” South Writ Large RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013.

Spencer, Elizabeth. The Light in the Piazza, and Other Italian Tales. Jackson, MS: Banner, 1996.

Spencer, Elizabeth. “Elizabeth Spencer – Works.” Elizabeth Spencer Writer.http://www.elizabethspencerwriter.com/works/thelightinthepiazza.htm (accessed February 28, 2013).




Welcome to “The Light in the Piazza”

By Kristen Leinbach, Dramaturg

Piazza is defined as a small open square usually located in an Italian town.  So what exactly is the Light in the piazza as referred to in the title of the upcoming production of The Light in the Piazza at BYU in Fall 2013?

          The Piazza

Hello!  Welcome to 4th Wall Dramaturgy!  My name is Kristen Leinbach and I am the Dramaturg for BYU’s production of The Light in the Piazza.  It is my pleasure to take you on a tour of the backstage processes of creating our production of The Light in the Piazza, directed by Scott Eckern.  Having already held a plethora of production meetings, plus auditioning and casting the show, we are well underway on our journey to creating this beloved musical.

Let’s begin with a little bit of back story into the world of The Light in the Piazza.  The story covers the adventures of Margaret Johnson and her daughter Clara Johnson on a vacation in Italy in 1953.  Upon arrival and after taking time to tour the Italian art and architecture, Clara meets a young Italian name Fabrizio Naccarelli.  Although Clara and Fabrizio aren’t able to fully understand each others verbal language, they begin to fall in love.  As for the rest of the story . . . .well that you will have to come and see.

While I can’t answer the question what is the Light in the piazza for you, the production will allow people to answer that question for themselves. As our characters journey through Italy, romance and self-discovery it is our hope that you, as the audience, will be able to join them on that same journey. Paraphrased from the words of our director Scott Eckern, The Light in the Piazza takes the characters and the audience on a journey from an “ordinary experience that becomes extraordinary.”

As we move forward in the production process I will keep you up to date on our own journey as we work to bring The Light in the Piazza to life.




Welcome to the 2013-2014 Season!

Welcome back to the 4th WALL for BYU’s 2013-2014 theatre season.  The 4th WALL will be your one stop shop for all sorts of insider information about our upcoming productions, which include:

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale, adapted for the stage by Timothy Mason

The Light in the Piazza, by Craig Lucas (book) and Adam Guettel (music and lyrics)

Cymbeline by William Shakespeare

A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a NEW adaptation for the stage by Melissa Leilani Larson


Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant, adapted for the stage by Teresa Dayley Love

Take a moment to meet our dramaturgs, and then check back regularly as they take you inside the world of each of these productions.  You can also make sure you never miss a post by choosing to Follow the 4th WALL (to the right), with an email arriving in your inbox every time new information is added.

For those of you returning from last season, you will notice some slight changes in the design of the site.  It is our hope that this new design will make it easier for you to follow along with any specific shows.

As always, we love to hear from our audience members, so please feel free to engage with our dramaturgs or with the productions by leaving comments on any of the posts.

Thank you for visiting the 4th WALL!