The Story Behind the Photo: "Light in the Piazza"

Tania Thompson
 | Mar 25, 2021
Light in the Piazza
Patti Cohenour and Erin Mackey in The Light in the Piazza (2014). Photo by Ben Horak.

About ​​Light in the Piazza

Filled with sunshine, light as a summer breeze, this exhilarating musical follows the Italian travels of Margaret Johnson and her stunningly beautiful daughter, Clara. When a dashing young Italian captures Clara’s heart, Margaret is compelled to reveal the secret about her daughter. Even as she struggles with concern about Clara’s future, she must decide whether or not to release her hold—and bravely give the young lovers her blessing. Early in his career, playwright Craig Lucas found a home at SCR, which produced five of his plays in five years. This award-winning play boasts one of the most celebrated scores of the decade by Adam Guettel (grandson of the iconic composer Richard Rodgers).

When actor/singer Erin Mackey is asked about her dream role, she’s quick to answer—“Clara, in The Light in the Piazza.” She says the musical’s production at SCR in 2014 became her “dream, dream role” and one of her most favorite experiences on stage. In this Q&A, she talks about the role, working with the cast and director Kent Nicholson and why she chose this photo as being a special moment from the show.

What moment does this depict?

This is the moment when I sang the title song, “The Light in the Piazza,” towards the beginning of the second act. My character, Clara, has fallen in love with Fabrizio (played by the dreamy David Burnham in our production) and her mom, Margaret (played by my dear, dear Patti Cohenour), is scared of this relationship because of Clara’s condition and the fears about her mental state. It’s very heated right up until the song, resulting in Margaret slapping Clara for some of the things she says!

How did you work to make this moment happen?

Kent Nicholson, our director for Piazza, is the freaking best! He let Patti and me talk through the complexities of this moment, play around with staging for a while and then he recognized that Adam Guettel’s music is so genius that a person standing still onstage, singing that glorious song, is enough. Patti is just such a dream actor to be with onstage; she’s so generous and thoughtful. I loved every moment of crafting this show with Kent, Patti and the entire team.

What’s the power about this moment?

This scene (and song) is an enormously important moment for both Clara and Margaret. It is a song of transformation and awakening for Clara; a time for her to finally express herself and her wants and needs in a more adult way. It’s doubly powerful because Margaret is onstage watching this happen for her daughter for the first time. Ah, I get chills thinking about it!

Anything else you’d like to say about the photo or the production?

The Light in the Piazza was my dream, dream role. During interviews, I’m asked a lot about “what’s my dream role?” and Clara was always my answer. And, it will eventually be the role of Margaret! I am so, so grateful that SCR chose this show and that Kent and the whole team allowed me to be there and create my “Clara.” It’s one of my absolute favorite experiences onstage and what I would give to do it all again!