Yours Truly, Billie Holiday

Material Information

Yours Truly, Billie Holiday
Ferreira, Renata
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Cocktails ( jstor )
Curtains ( jstor )
Hell ( jstor )
Hum ( jstor )
Jazz ( jstor )
Keyboard music ( jstor )
Music education ( jstor )
Musical register ( jstor )
Singing ( jstor )
Syringes ( jstor )
Holiday, Billie, 1915-1959
One-person shows (Performing arts)
Undergraduate Honors Thesis


The one person show, (OPS) is an enacted solo performance. Throughout my creative process, I went through a series of highs and lows. Daily, I would question myself and ask, “ What is my passion?” After much thought and consideration, I chose do my thesis on the late jazz singer, Billie Holiday. To me, music is the best form of self-expression. Billie Holiday was just as passionate about music as I am. She was a master of understanding human emotions, which most of us are afraid to tap into, because she lived them. During the production process, I was asked to conceive, write, and direct my solo performance. As an artist, this experience was beneficial in many ways. I built my representation of Billie Holiday using several books, news articles, interviews, music archives, and tapes in order to make my show as accurate as possible. I also acquired the help of vocal coaches so I could best portray Billie Holiday’s vocal timbre/style. Tapping into different emotions and exploring the world of the great “Lady Day” was an unforgettable experience. Overall it was a very challenge process, but it allowed me to grow as an artist and as a human being. ( en )
General Note:
Awarded Bachelor of Fine Arts; Graduated May 4, 2010 summa cum laude. Major: Theatre Performance, Emphasis/Concentration: New World School of the Arts(NWSA)- Music/Theatre
General Note:
College/School: College of the Arts
General Note:
Advisor: David Kwiat

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright Renata Ferreira. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.


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Yours T ruly, Billie Holiday By: Renata Borges Ferreira (Stage Name: Renata Eastick ) Time: 1959 (6 months before Billie Holiday passed away.) Place: Club Tijuana in Baltimore, Maryland (As the audience enters the curtain is completely closed. The lights are low and an upbeat Jazz tune is playing in the background, giving the audience the feeling that they are entering a Jazz club. When the audience is completely seated, the houselights go all the way down, and the curtains open j ust enough to see BILLIE H OLIDAY in a chair behind a screen UC. A light is up, o nly behind the screen, so BILLIE is in silhouette. BILLIE is in her dressing room. She is seen preparing to shoot up. She is about to inject herself when a m an enters, startling her. BILLIE rises, hidin g the syringe behind her back. The man immediately starts an argument with her and then notices the tourniquet on her arm. He gets more upset, grabbing her arm and scolding her. BILLIE retaliates angrily, revealing the syringe to the man. In complete fury, he grabs the syringe and takes it with him He motions that she has two minutes to Showtime and then exits. BILLIE does not know what to do. She realizes there is no use; she will have to do the show As the curtain closes and the music and light behind the screen begin to fade BILLIE speak s .) BILLIE: (While slamming the dressing room table.) Damn, damn, damn! (BILLIE takes a moment, removes the tourniquet, pours herself a drink drinks it, closes the bottle and hurriedly begins to put on her perfume and shoes. Immediately after, as the music begins to end a is heard .) ANNOUNCER: And now Club Tijuana proudly presents, the one. The only Lady Day, Miss Billie Holiday! (THE PIANO PLAYER curtain opens to three quarters, where it will remain for the entirety of the play. The stage shows a dimly lit jazz club stage with a microphone C, and a stool slightly UL of i t BILLIE is seen in a special at the microphone, singing.) BILLIE: (Singing) 2:40 min. (BILLIE clears her throat twice before she begins.) Ooh, ooh, ooh What a litt le moonlight can do Ooh, ooh, ooh What a little moonlight can do to you Your hearts fluttering all day long


You only stutter cause your poor tongue Just will not utter the words I love you Ooh, ooh, ooh What a little moonlight can do Wait a while When you have kissed him is What a little moonlight can do Ooh, ooh, ooh (PIANO PLAYER follows her) Ooh, ooh, ooh (PIANO PLAYER follows her) Ooh, ooh, ooh (PIANO PLAYER follows her) What a little moonlight can do BILLIE: to see thank you Earl invited me to come If you en you (To any a udience member) Hey She smiles) know that? (To an audience member) Damn, y Real nice. You look wonderful. et me tell you folks ody care to dress up. I love up ng. (BILLIE Points to an audience member) very special to have such a pretty lady next to you. You got give the boys is here some pointers. (She laughs) I tell re I am Baltimore Got There's no damn business very lady like, now was it? (BILLIE takes a sip of her "top and bottom" cocktail.) ou see, love it and you love the people. (She smiles) I know I do. T (She laughs) without a purpose behind my music. When you sing somethin', don't try to please nobody. You see, you gotta sing it for yourself. That's why I get upset when I see all them young musicians on TV. Everythin' so technical, so precise... I always want to bend One night is a little bit slower the sort of a mixed up thing, you j ust have to feel it.


got to be that way in music t's just dead space. Those cats on TV got no emotions... no fe ? They they like to act as if ain't had no perfect life. (BILLIE takes another sip of her "top and bottom" cocktail.) Man, I never had a chance to play with dolls like other kids. I started working when I was this house 'cause a lady friend of hers said she had a job for me Now, I don't think I gotta needed that money M ama was too sick to work, so I busted my behind and worked d everythin' I could to hide the bruises ( She sub consciously scratches her arm ) my, my shame from mama. ...but there was nothing else I could do. As much as I wanted to stop, I had to sell my body so we could survive. I just had to, you know? uh, "Pod and Jerry's" in Harlem, and sign or a note on the club door ause they was auditionin' for dancers. So, I wandered on in an' I told the cat that owned the club that I was a dancer. (She smirks) I could see al l the girls dancin' an' kickin'. I sure as hell couldn't do any of that fancy dancin'. But, I got up there an' as soon as I started ... the cat said, "Ah Dolly, thanks, t hat 's enough. Watch your step on the way out ." (She laughs) I musta been a sight to see I was awful I mean, I was good 200 pounds, ok. It was like tryin' to get a hippopotamus to tango. You get the picture ? (She chuckles) So, as I was leavin' the can you sing?" an' I said, "Hell yes, I could sing, I sing all the time!" I mean, I needed a job. And, I knew I could sing 'cause I always did sing. B ut I never knew I'd make any money out of it. (She laughs) ... e. [Musical Underscore of ] ( As the intro to ALL OF ME begins to play, t he lights change into a special as if BILLIE has traveled back in time BILLIE begins to sing a litt l e bit of ALL OF ME ) BILLIE: (Singing) All of me Why not take all of me Can't you see I'm no good without you Take my lips I want to lose them Take my arms I'll never use them Your goodbye left me with eyes that cry


How can I go on dear, without you You took the part that once was my heart So why not take all of me (She laughs) Man, I sang that song an' everybody loved it. Oh, I made a good $40 in See, money so damn fast in my life! Not since hustling a nd was i t a surprise ause I ain't ever sing in front of nobody but Mama, and that's when I knew, I knew the Jazz scene was for me. [Piano Music Begins] (The PIANO PLAYER begins to play the introduction to the next son g to try to keep BILLIE on schedule ) BILLIE: (To PIANO PLAYER ) Alright, alright to! (BILLIE shakily takes another sip of her "top and bottom" cocktail. She really needs a fix. ) BILLIE: Hey Earl! little break? I need a little help, now. ( BILLIE looks out at EARL but he BILLIE takes a moment to pull herself together She wipes her forehead with the back of her palm. She then ) BILLIE: this. Let me tell you them boys took me everywhere. (She laughs) We was like a bunch of chickens our heads cut off. Boston, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia. There I was, a black a buncha white fellas. (Thoughtfully) You know d a lot of times the bus B ut ah I guess the thing that that really bothered me the most was w hen we went out to dinner. Poor Artie had to pay twice the amount of money, just so I could be able to eat with the boys. wer e unforgettable We were family! A nd even though he paid all that money, they still had us eat in the dinning rooms. fancy restaurant once W e had just fi nished supper and I had to use the ladies room. matre d tells And I where do all the m in the k itchen do their business ? So she gave me this pretty little smile and said, (BILLIE mocks the matre d) Well, we have a


restroom for colored men, (She switches back to herself) not for colored girls." Like I was remember how many cocktails Then I thought to myself Now Billie, you just better (Pause) And I sure as hell did. I let it l ive right there on her pretty pink pumps Oh yes I did. here now, I pissed on that nice (She chuckles slightly) I know, I know, the boys and me laughed about that for a long damn time. Sure it m akes you think, huh. Y no sugar cane for miles, but to some people always working on a plantation. (Pause) (She Chuckles to herself) Ah huh, t he south at that time was a scary place for people like me. Sh own eyes. And w hat they do ept may B place at the wrong time I never thought See, w hen Mr. Lewis A llen a sked me about this next song, I k new I had to do it. It touch ed me real deep. [Musical Underscore of Strange Fruit Begins] ) ( As BILLIE is sing this song. The lights slowly fade from normal to a bright red. ) [ If possible, a man will be seen behind the screen in a silhouette While holding a noose around his neck, the man will be shifting his weight from side to side as if he was hung ] BILLIE: (Singing) 2:33 min. Southern tress bear strange fruit Blood on the leaves Blood at the root Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze Strange Fruit hanging from the poplar trees Pastoral scene of the gallant south The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth The scent of magnolia sweet and fresh Then the sudden smell of burning flesh Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck For the rain to gather For the wind to suck For the sun to rot For the tree to drop


Here is a strange and bitter crop BILLIE: The first time I sang that song ; I was so scared of what might happen to me, but you know I pushed through no matter how tough thi cause t he things that I sing about are about bout pretty. ( BILLIE although d efeated, she cries for help futile ) BILLIE: Alright now, I really (Pause) I that (A longer pause) (BILLIE looks toward EARL and gets the silent treatment. Looks back to men in the audience.) BILLIE: (Chastising) Ya gotta know how to be good to your girls, fella h s. Love is a tricky thing. You want so much to get it; always know how to keep it. My husband different colored lipstick on his collar. himself to me. (BILLIE stare s out into the audience blankly as if she is in a daze. ) [Musical Underscore of Begins] (The PIANO PLAY We are really being to see She is really struggling to sing this next song. ) BILLIE: And t BILLIE: (Singing) 2:00 min. Hush now, don't explain Just say you'll remain I'm glad you r e back, don't explain Quiet, don't explain What is there to gain Skip that lipstick Don't explain You know that I love you And that love endures All my thoughts are of you For I'm so completely yours


Cry to hear folks chatter And I know you cheat Right or wrong, don't matter When you're with me, sweet Hush now, don't -[Musical Underscore of ] (BILLIE stops singing. She begins to hum the song as t t Explain continues.) BILLIE: (Ramblingly ) W hat is love? Love, love, love what love is anyway? (Humming in the rhythm of the song.) Hum, hum, hum, hum (Pointing at EARL ) ght Earl? Nobody ever loved me like I loved th ause why a singer sings a song a certain way. em. You got one life to live and you go tta get through it somehow. ause at end up six feet under. [Musical Underscore of egins] (The PIANO PLAY ER begins to play the intro to ) Pain is all I ever felt. And s To keep ( As BILLIE continues to sin in on her. She is singing the song as if she is in a trance. ) BILLIE: (Singing) 3:43 min. I'll be seeing you In all the old familiar places That this heart of mine embraces All day through. In that small cafe; The park across the way; The children's carousel; The chestnut trees; The wishin' well. I'll be seeing you In every lovely summer's day; In every thing that's light and gay.


I'll always think of you that way. I'll find you In the morning sun And when the night is new. I'll be looking at the moon, But I'll be seeing you. [Musical Underscore of ou Continued. ] SEEING YOU continues playing, blending into a recording of the real BILLIE HOLIDAY for the second verse. Lights up on screen/scrim. BILLIE is back in the dressing room collapsed on a chair. EARL walks in. She reaches for him, stumbles and lands at his feet. She then reaches her arms up to him pleadingly. He shakes his head sadly, pulls out the syringe from his pocket and hands it to her. As he walks out the room, BILLIE gets up from the floor, finds her tourniquet, puts it on and shoots up. After a moment in silence, she begins to cry. ) ll Be Seeing You Ends] BLACKOUT [End of Play]