April 5-15, 2012

Looking beyond the music

Sell the show. Make people want to go. As one of the PR/Marketing directors that’s my job in a nutshell. Initially I thought, “Well, how hard can that be?” Turns out, it’s much harder than you think—especially when much of your target audience is a campus full of busy Duke students. Realizing the difficulties in reaching an audience that might not be familiar with the show or have the time to spend studying it like I have influenced how I approached the cast photoshoot we did last Sunday: how can we create pictures that capture Duke students’ interest, but still convey the message of what Ragtime is about. And beyond just making students notice them, how can we showcase the excitement the show has to offer that will make people want to go see it?

I’m going to be honest. I enjoy musical theater but I had never heard of Ragtime. I got involved because I figured, hey, I like musicals and I’m sure it’ll be fun. I can safely say that over the past few weeks, the class discussions and readings on Ragtime and its history have allowed me to develop a much more meaningful stance on why I care about helping produce this show. A show is not just about the songs, dances, and energy that’s seen opening night—it’s about the history of the show and what messages a show is trying to convey about the culture in which we live. Asking questions such as why the songs say the words they do or sound the way they do deepen the appreciation for the energy and amusement we feel from them when watching a show.

It was new to me to be asked to analyze Ragtime as not just a form of entertainment, but as a way to convey truths about our society during a period of time where a diverse population was striving to adapt to changing times. What was even more exciting was to realize that the themes that emerge in this show are still applicable today. The way in which we choose to showcase this musical may be different from its original production, but that’s why we do it—to relate to a different time period and different audience. The cool thing is, it still does relate.

So the question remains of how to convey this rich information I’ve learned by reading the book and discussing its themes to busy students who haven’t had this same exposure. Regarding the photoshoot, we decided to go with the idea of choosing backdrops that many students might recognize—Shooters.  The image of Evelyn hanging from a suspended cage still rings vividly in my mind. Intrigued yet?

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