Beautiful Little Fools written and performed by Tessa Leigh Williams - Yale University Senior Thesis 2010 - Photo by Jim Caldwell    
    about what's new productions resume contact    

Photos by Jim Caldwell.
a new play by Tessa Leigh Williams
directed by Gary Jaffe

APRIL 1 - 3rd, 2010
at the Whitney Theatre
a Yale Theatre Studies Senior Thesis
for Tessa Leigh Williams

Tessa Leigh Williams’s original play Beautiful Little Fools follows the marriage of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald as it veers from moments of tenderness to vicious extremes. As the director of its world premiere production, I envisioned a stage world that reflected the beautiful messiness of the relationship, piling scene upon scene and slamming them together. I am particularly proud of placing the final flashback of the couple’s first kiss over a brutal moment in Zelda’s bed at the insane asylum where she lived out the rest of her life (pictured above). Directing Tessa, I encouraged her to be objective about her text and helped her discover the physical gestures which allowed her to hit emotional heights, most notably her heart-renching repetition of the double pirouette at the end of the first act.

Featuring: Tessa Leigh Williams (featured left), Matthew George, Will Turner

Scenic Design by Rachel Sturm; Lighting Design by Zoe LaPalombara; Costume Design by Claire Seaver, Sound Design by Taylour Chang


View scenes from Beautiful Little Fools, including Tessa's 19 double pirouettes, which begin at 3:15 of Part 1.

And the gasp/laughter/sigh producing end of the first Act...


“The whole sweep of brilliance finds an able guide in Gary Jaffe ’10, a director who has both an intellectual and intuitive understanding of the text. The actors’ movements are orchestrated as if the whole thing were a morbid ballet. … Their descent is rendered with savage simplicity: a broken glass, a half-empty bottle of whisky, a pile of crushed sleeping pills. Before the performance is over, the floor is literally strewn with the remnants of a life destined for disaster. But the truly soul-wrenching power of Beautiful Little Fools derives from the fact that the artistic team never loses sight of the beautifully brutal tempest of a love story at the center of the play.”

Austin Bernhardt,
Yale Daily News

Directorial Anatomy of a Scene


In this scene, true danger emerges for the first time in the play. To spite Zelda for an affair she may not have had, Scott has given himself wholeheartedly to a book named Gatsby and begun ignoring her almost entirely. Zelda’s loneliness reaches a crisis point when he goes down to the hotel bar one night and forces her to stay in the room. Alone, she attempts to console herself by drinking heavily, dancing furiously, and finally by taking a heavy dosage of sleeping pills. Scott finds her just in time, but the damage to the relationship has been done.


My set designer and I envisioned a landscape which would shift from being open and clean, full of possibilities, to being absolutely cluttered by the Fitzgeralds’ mess. Furniture would never be removed from the stage, simply used again and again. This scene marks a midway point--the stage is for the most part still bare, but one chair overturned in the previous scene remains overturned, an ominous warning of the mess that is to come. Additionally, sugar glass stemware has been shattered on stage and left there, covering the bare stage, creating unsettling crunching noises and the illusion that the actors are in danger.


In our first rehearsals of this scene, Tessa would complete her double, then run to the doorway yelling for Scott to come see it, which would ultimately (and unsatifactorily) lead to her breaking down alone in a massive monologue. I knew we needed an engine which would propel her through the monologue, so I told her to keep doing her spectacular double until either Scott walked in and saw it (which he wouldn’t) or she fell and couldn’t do it anymore. Not only did the continued spinning energize the text, but when she did fall, the physical exhaustion of spinning allowed her to access the incredible visceral emotions she poured out in performance. As the director, I give my actors the tools they need to perform at their best, and this scene is one of my proudest actor-director collaborations.

<<return to top