PLAYBILL VIP SPOTLIGHT: NYC High School Staging of Light in the Piazza Hits Home With Tony Winner Victoria Clark

By Adam Hetrick
18 Apr 2013

Victoria Clark coaching Parade Stone in rehearsal.

The production, which will be TL's last at the school, marks a bittersweet passage for Clark, who in a similar way to the role of Margaret, is watching her own child leave the nest. "I can't really go into the roller coaster ride of having your own child graduate from high school," Clark confessed. "This year for me is all about letting go. It's about letting TL be the man that he is. So that's part of what I'm trying to exercise here when I come to rehearsal."

Clark has also provided TL with room to grow, not only as an individual, but also as an actor. "If I need help, I usually just go to her instead of her coming to me," TL said of interpreting the role of Signor Naccarelli. "She's really allowed me to create my own identity in the show, which has been an important part of this process for me, because I know how big a role she had in it, obviously. I also just wanted to be in a really great musical in my high school senior year. We have a great relationship over the show, and I can obviously go to her to help out for a few things. But I've really been trying to challenge myself and work my way into it as an actor."

TL and his classmates have embraced the production. "We have about 50 or 60 kids working on the project in total," he said. "A lot of times all 50 kids are either inside the studio working, backstage working on the costumes, outside the studio painting, constructing different things, or working on technical stuff. It all happens after school and everyone comes together and we really get to work."

"The whole school pitches in here, it's just really incredible," added Clark. "I can't say enough about the work the Beacon High School does and how they pull together as a community to make this happen."

In contrast to last season's Spring Awakening – the Tony-winning rock musical that speaks directly to and through teenagers – The Light in the Piazza charts a path that is more outwardly sophisticated in structure and subject matter.

"The biggest challenge has been stopping the cast from trying to sing like they're 40," Cimato said. "They all want to belt this music, and it's not a beltable score. They've all learned an impressive amount of vocal technique, control and how to bridge into their head-voices without being afraid of it. I think pop music and pop musicals teach young people to ignore the top of their vocal register. And, Piazza lives in the top of their register, so all of them have developed much more vocal range than they knew they had. In addition, the music theory they've learned in preparing this show is so advanced, that they can detect the subtle differences where chords change and how key changes and meter changes are influencing the narrative. In that regard it's been very exciting to see their eyes and hearts open."

Like Clark, who is learning to let go, Cimato sees the final moments of Piazza as a message she hopes her students will take with them. "I am so pro following your heart," Cimato said. "I love this play because it doesn't resolve with a clear and happy ending. It resolves with a call to action, or a call to hope, a call to love. When Margaret says, 'Love, if you can, oh my Clara. Love if you can and be loved.' Essentially, she says, 'You should be so lucky for someone to see you as you are, and truly love you.' I think that is a message we all need to know, and as a teacher, that's something I want for every single one of my students. Whether it's a great career, a great partner, or a great family, it's something I want for every one of my kids."

The ten-performance run of The Light in the Piazza continues through April 27. Admission is $10 to the general public, $8 for students. For ticket reservations and availability, contact the B'DAT Box Office at The Beacon School is located at 227 West 61st Street.