Alumni Spotlight: Alayna Jacqueline ’13 (BA Theatre)

Posted Mar 11, 2022

Alayna Jacqueline (BA Theatre ‘13), Playwright, was commissioned to write a new play for Lakeshore Players Theatre in Minnesota.  “An Evening with Ella and Harold” premiered in February 2022.

Alayna Jacqueline
Alayna Jacqueline

What inspired you to write “An Evening with Ella and Harold”?
I was actually commissioned to write this play by Lakeshore Players Theatre. I feel ashamed to say, but I never heard of Harold Arlen until they approached me. Then when I did a quick Google search and realized he wrote the music to so many classic broadway and film songs, I felt so embarrassed I never heard his name. They [Lakeshore] came to me this summer with the concept to create a cabaret with Ella Fitzgerald singing Harold Arlen’s songbook. A thing that we all were interested in highlighting was that these two people have never met, and yet they’re linked together through their artistry. I pitched them the idea that Harold would be listening to the album in 1970 while grieving his wife. Then on the other side of the stage, Ella Fitzgerald is recording the album he’s listening to throughout the night. 

How does this play differ from others that you have written? How is it similar?
An Evening with Ella and Harold is pretty different from what I usually write. I don’t usually write about real historical characters. I love doing the research part–so much so, I forget to actually write the script. I’m more of a macabre-style writer. My comfort zone is horror, psychological thrillers, and dark comedies. So, it was interesting writing a more family-friendly-styled piece that isn’t filled with plot twists and red herrings. I’m also a very theatrical writer. I needed to find a way to weave two stories of characters that never speak to each other together. This script still allowed me to play with the narrative structure to tell this story the way only theatre can.

In addition to writing, what else are you doing?

Actually, I moved to a different position at the Playwrights’ Center. I’m currently transitioning to a managerial position in the Membership and Education Department (at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis). I’m the Membership Programs Manager, where I help create the education season, facilitate and mentor playwriting instructors, and create opportunities for members to share and receive feedback on their work. Also, I was an intern at the Playwrights’ Center my final semester at Otterbein. 

Why did you choose to attend Otterbein?
I chose Otterbein because it seemed like I could make opportunities for myself in the theatre dept. As a B.A., I got to make the degree fit my interests of playwriting and directing, and the faculty and staff supported me in my endeavors. I was a theatre major with three minors (art administration, music, and film studies). My advisor, Melissa Lusher, was always supportive, but I know I probably gave her some grey hairs with the amount of stuff I tried to fit into each semester.

How have you applied the skills you learned at Otterbein to your writing?
The biggest thing I learned at Otterbein was don’t stifle your voice. I was pretty quiet as a student, but observant. In classes where we shared creative writing, I tried to write what I thought people wanted to hear/perform. But when I started writing what I wanted, I got a better response from the audience, and I felt like I shared more of myself with people through my writing. 

What do you want prospective students to know about Otterbein?
You have the opportunity to create opportunities for yourself. Freshman year, we created a short festival called Freshman Five. It was an opportunity for the writers and directors to showcase their work, while also working with actors in and outside of the department. That’s one of my favourite memories of creating theatre at Otterbein and it started with a random conversation in a dorm room.