PLAY GUIDE - Actors Theatre of Lou will meet Ella Fitzgerald and . ... a critically acclaimed run in

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  • January 26 February 20book by Jeffrey Hatcher

    conceived by Rob Ruggiero and Dyke Garrisonmusical supervision and arrangements by

    Danny Holgatedirected by Rob Ruggiero


  • AboUt tHE Ella PLAY GUIDE

    This play guide is a resource designed to enhance your theatre experience. Its goal is twofold: to nurture the teaching and learning of theatre arts and to encourage essential questions that lead to enduring understandings of the plays meaning and relevance. Inside you will find:

    Contextual and historical information including a list of characters, plot synopsis and information about the playwright.

    Evocative, thought-provoking articles on topics surrounding the play, which are meant to incite conversation and analysis.

    Bridgework activities connecting themes and ideas from the play to your curriculum.

    Oral discussion and writing prompts encouraging your students to draw connections between the play and their own lives. These prompts can easily be adapted to fit most writing objectives.

    We encourage you to adapt and extend the material in any way that best fits the needs of your community of learners. Please feel free to make copies of this guide, or you may download it at: We hope this material, combined with our pre-show workshop, will give you the tools to make your time at Actors Theatre a valuable learning experience.

    Ella student matinees and study guides address specific EduCAtiOnAl OBjECtivEs:

    Students will identify or describe the use of elements of drama in dramatic works.

    Students will identify or explain how drama/theatre fulfills a variety of purposes.

    Students will identify a variety of creative dramatics.

    Table of conTenTs3 What to Expect from Ella; One of the Good Ones: A Note from the Director

    4 About the Adaptor: Rob Ruggiero; What Makes a Musical Legend?

    5 Becoming Ella

    6 A Legends Life in Music

    8 Ella: Our First Lady of Song

    9 Bridgework, Writing Portfolio, Works Cited

    12 Upcoming Opportunities

    Actors Theatre EducationSteven Rahe, Education DirectorJacob Stoebel, Education CoordinatorJeffrey Mosser, Education FellowSarah Lunnie, Literary/Education AssociateRebecca Davis, Education InternCaitlin Puckett, Education Intern

    Study guide compiled by Rebecca Davis, Emily Feldman, Adrien-Alice Hansel, Jeff Mosser, Caitlin Puckett, Steven Rahe, Jacob Stoebel, Amy Wegner.

    Graphic design by Jen Dorman.

    Yum Brands Inc. is honored to sponsor Actors Theatre of Louisvilles Student Matinee Series for the 2009-2010 season.

    The crawford charITaBle foundaTIon supports Actors Theatre of Louisvilles 2009-2010 education programs.

    ParTners In educaTIon

  • 3

    WhaT To expecT from ellaHow do you tell the story of a great American singer on stage? How do you showcase her music, while including information on her life, times and lasting contributions to American musical history? do you write a play or a musical?

    Ella happens to be a play with music. The playwright refers to this as a musical portrait. So, what is a musical portrait? With traditional plays and musicals, the protagonist strives to overcome conflicts and obstacles. In Ella, the challenges of Fitzgeralds real life are on display and serve to create the conflict in the play. In traditional musicals, like Hello, Dolly! or West Side Story, songs typically advance the development of the character and/or the plot and often include choreography. But instead of moving the plot, Fitzgerald sings in Ella to capture the spirit of her incredible talent and showcase the magnitude of her legacy.

    The result is a living biography of sorts, acted out in the first person and accompanied by live musical performances. Heres what you can expect from this musical portrait:

    n You will meet Ella Fitzgerald and several of her band members, who also play the roles of important men throughout her life.

    n Ella will tell and show you her journey from being a lookout at a bordello in her childhood to becoming the musical legend we know today.

    n You will hear her sing some of her most famous hits including: It Dont Mean a Thing if it Aint got That Swing, You Cant Take That Away From Me, That Old Black Magic, Lets Call the Whole Thing Off and many more!

    one of The Good onesa noTe from The direcTorElla is a dream come true for me. Five years ago I began developing this musical portrait of The First Lady of Song. I have always been a fan of jazz, and Fitzgeralds amazing body of work seemed to cry out for a theatre piece celebrating the life of this woman. Her story needed to be told. Everyone I know loves Ella Fitzgerald, yet most do not know much about her life and her history. They just know her as the great singer she was. Our journey has afforded me the great privilege of taking a closer look at this brilliant musician, and really getting to know the sweet woman we all remember as the nice one her past, her struggles, her dreams, her desires, her connection with her music and her audienceher real story, so to speak. One thing quickly became clear: Ellas music was her gift to the world and (like most great artists) she defined herself through her work. Also (like most artists) she struggled with her sense of self and her ability to balance her life and her talent. Ella shared many of the same personal battles as so many of us, including her own painfully familiar search for love. Yet she sparkled and triumphed, and remained a huge defining force in the music world for decades. I found it fascinating (as I hope you will too) to see and know more about the Ella behind closed doorsthe Ella we never could see on concert stages and on televisionand to experience the musical voice of one of the greatest singers of all time. I think its about time we celebrated the life of one of the good ones. Her life and her music are truly food for the soul. Enjoy.

    -Rob Ruggiero

  • abouT The adapTor: rob ruGGeieroRob Ruggiero is a freelance professional director who has directed at numerous regional theaters around the country as well as Off Broadway. He conceived and directed the world premiere musical portrait of Ella Fitzgerald entitled Ella (starring Tina Fabrique). A popular and critical success, Ella has been or will be seen on 22 regional theater stages from 2005-2010. Ella recently won three Kevin Kline Awards, including Outstanding Director of a Musical for the St. Louis Production and the Chicago production won three 2008 Joseph Jefferson Awards including Best Director Revue. Mr. Ruggiero also conceived and directed the musical revue Make Me A Song: The Music Of William Finn, which opened Off-Broadway in 2007 to great reviews. The production received nominations for both the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Review and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical. In 2008 an original cast recording was released and the London premiere

    was also produced at the New Players Theater. He made his Off Broadway debut directing All Under Heaven, his second collaboration with Valerie Harper, which toured regionally and in Florida, and had a critically acclaimed run in Los Angeles. Mr. Ruggiero recently collaborated again with Ms. Harper in Matthew Lombardos new play Looped which continues to be produced nationally, including a recent production in Florida and a production at Arena Stage with a projected Broadway production opening in the fall of 2009. Mr. Ruggiero has received four Kevin Kline Awards, two for Best Direction of a Musical (Urinetown and Ella) and two for Best Direction of a Play (Take Me Out and The Little Dog Laughed). Upcoming projects include a revival of Camelot at Goodspeed Musicals, where he also directed a highly acclaimed production of Big River as well as a production of 1776, which garnered him his third Connecticut Critics Circle Award for best direction. Mr. Ruggiero has staged numerous musical productions including William Finns ElegiesA Song Cycle, Falsettos, Ragtime, West Side Story, Crazy for You, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,

    WhaT makes a musical leGend?

    The Last Five Years, Godspell and Howard Crabtrees When Pigs Fly (Boston Premiere). His production of Island Of The Blue Dolphins had an extensive national tour and was seen by thousands of children.

    until well into the 1930s. The Vaudeville circuit included hundreds of talented singers and actors and Ella would take much of her musical inspiration from these touring acts.

    The roaring 20s were the heyday of jazz and blues, and musicians such as trumpet player Louis Armstrong and pianist Duke Ellington caught Fitzgeralds ear. Bing Crosbys lush baritone was one of Ellas favorites, but she modeled her own sound after Connee Boswell of the Boswell Sisters. A group of three women who made dozens of hits with their tight-knit harmonies and jazzy sounds, the Boswell Sisters helped pave the way for female performers to come. Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith brought

    the Delta Blues up north to New York and captivated a young Fitzgerald with their moving melodies and gritty lyrics. Musical theatre composers like Irving Berlin and George and Ira Gershwin were often times more famous than the people who sang their songs, and their jazzy arrangements could be found in films, musicals and nightclub acts from Harlem to Hollywood. Like many before her, Ella would go on to tackle these styles, and added swing, big band, be-bop and even nursery rhymes to her veritable repertoire. From jazz, blues, musical theatre and Vaudeville, Ella Fitzgerald heard it all, and sang it all, becoming one of the most versatile artists the world has ever seen.


    Ella Fitzgeralds childhood memories were shaped by the sight