April 5-15, 2012

Reflections on Ragtime

I feel truly lucky to have been a part of this show. It is by all means and measures the largest production I have ever been part of. I also felt honored to work with and perform alongside so many talented people. Each time I walked into Reynolds, I would take an extra minute to admire the set. I never quite got over it. There were certain numbers I’d listen to backstage and be moved by each and every time. Those parts of the process were very special.

However, Ragtime was by no means a perfect production or a perfect process. I do believe that those who expected it to be set themselves up for disappointment. With such a large production being put on in so little time, of course there are things that are going to fall through the cracks. Many people have pointed out that they felt as if a lot of technical instruction in music or acting was missing, others a degree of professionalism or cohesion.

I blame some of the struggles we faced in putting on this musical with the show itself. Its message is one of unity but with many of the numbers being performed only by specific groups within the cast, much of our rehearsal time was LITERALLY segregated. One of the first weeks, I remember distinctly being dismissed early from rehearsal while everyone in Harlem was made to stay to learn the dance for the “Getting Ready Rag.” I never even got to see “Sarah Brown Eyes” performed until we were in the theater a week before the show went on. I felt like I missed out on seeing vital parts of our telling of this story develop. Of course, however, that was necessary in keeping rehearsals as efficient as possible. I was happy to leave and get home to do other work, but also I realized that the process was not going to be as faithful to the themes of the work as it should have been.

Manny made a comment in the talk-back about how his favorite show is always the one he is working on in the particular moment he is asked to pick one. I did not fall in love with Ragtime while I worked on it. I found the show to be very problematic in the way is divided its cast and gave so many characters short shrift. I cannot say I felt united and close with my cast mates until we got into the theater. Then, however, I will say I noticed a remarkable change. The first time we ever ran the musical through, some things miraculously fell into place. I got to hear my friends perform numbers that I had never heard before. I was amazed and excited and proud of everyone involved and I couldn’t wait to get an audience in the room.

But I wish we had all felt that way throughout the entire process! Maybe that’s crazy? Well, finding a baby in your backyard is pretty crazy. So there.

 

Shop hours: I made most of my contributions to the show through tabling. I was desperate to get people in those seats! And I’m pretty sure we all know that I am useless with any kind of, uh, power tool but definitely useFUL when it comes to getting people’s attention. I spent hours tabling and stopped by at least every single day when people were out there. One day we sold 50+ tickets in just a couple hours? I will be proud of that until the day I die.

1 Comment

  1. antk@duke.edu's Gravatar antk@duke.edu
    April 29, 2012    

    If I could do it all over again, I would have simply insisted that we just run the entire show [or at least an act at a time per session] sequentially until we hit the theater–even if it meant inconvenience for most other characters. Because, as you reflect, there would have been a sense of continuity and coherence that could not have otherwise been achieved.

    So there. I said it.

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