by Kristen Leinbach, Dramaturg
Elizabeth Spencer, author of the novella The Light in the Piazza stated,
“I believe no one can read The Light in the Piazza without seeing how remarkably Southern Margaret Johnson is. She appears to be feminine and gracious, certainly well mannered, a little vulnerable, a little innocent, a loyal wife and devoted mother… It is worth considering Margaret Johnson in many ways–isn’t she basically a very practical woman? It is practicality versus love that comes into conflict. Her heart goes to battle with her mind…
Readers and audience members will certainly have their own opinions as to the rightness or wrongness of Margaret Johnson’s decision. This mystery is the center of any real story’s appeal and offers, to my mind, the only approach to what life is about. It cannot be predicted or reasoned through from any remote vantage point. It can only be lived, experienced, felt. My story invites you to go along with her and see.”
Margaret Johnson, Clara’s mother in The Light in the Piazza experiences a fascinating journey with her daughter as they vacation in Italy. In BYU’s production Margaret is being portrayed by Kimberly Bunker. When I asked Kimberly about her experiences here at BYU and her opportunity to perform as Margaret Johnson, she shared the following
“I am beyond excited to play Margaret in BYU’s Piazza. I am a Senior this year in BYU’s Music Dance Theater program. So many wonderful experiences and opportunities have surrounded me here at BYU. I have been privileged to be a Young Ambassador on the South Africa, Swaziland, and Botswana tour. I have also had the opportunity at BYU to play Madame Firmin in The Phantom of the Opera, Gussie Carnegie in Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, and Young Anne in Mel Larson’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I couldn’t have asked for a better production to cap off my wonderful time here at BYU, as The Light in the Piazza.
I first fell in love with Piazza when I was about 17 years-old, while watching the PBS broadcast with Katie Rose Clarke and Victoria Clark. Being 17, I immediately connected with Clara and Fabrizio’s love story. I didn’t really take much notice of Margaret! Through the years of admiring the sound track and then playing the role of Margaret in a class project, I came to see how the story of Piazza is just as much about Margaret’s journey as Clara’s. Margaret is a smart, charming, polite, and strong southern woman. Though I have not experienced many of the things she has in life, I see bits of her in myself and in others around me. She has taught me a piece of what it is like to be a parent. How truly hard it must be to give your life to a person and then have the bravery to set them free to find their own happiness. Piazza is already a joy to rehearse and be a part of. I think audiences will be surprised at how much they will laugh and tear-up all in one evening. Piazza is such a beautiful journey I cannot wait to share!