The show was selected over a year ago, the cast a semester ago, and the pit and crew assembled months ago. Even now, we are still over a month out from the completion of Ragtime and yet we have had so much time to prepare it is impossible to be anything but hopeful; and yet we still have so far to go. With act one recently outline and act two well under way, it is time for us to focus with greater intensity on the subtexts of Ragtime: through the libretto and the score, with the novel as reference. Ragtime the book was written as a reflection on the birth of industrialized culture and, more importantly, as a reflection of how we view that time a century into the future; the monumental task which we must take, then, and with delicacy, is to ensure that all levels of the musical are effectively communicated: the stories of racism, love, guilt, vengeance and atonement which the characters suffer; the story of the era as America found itself swelling with new voices and new industries; and the story of ourselves, elegiacally reminiscing on a golden era and of the struggles which it held for its inhabitants while coming to the realization that those same struggles of class and race are still our own.
Of course, I know we can succeed, even in the time left us. One of the great virtues of performance art, if one feels compelled to defend it, is the trust which has to flow between each member of the ensemble for a show to develop and succeed. I think it’s evident that we have no lack of trust in our group, to a degree which I think we rarely see in amateur theater. Not only are we trusted with learning our lines—of course—but in this show we are entrusted with learning our music beforehand. This is a rare show of faith from artistic directors, but one which I believe will help us quickly move into the most engaging part of building a musical—tuning the details and bringing out the deepest themes of the work. As we bore down on the final weeks of our preparation I can’t wait to see where this process takes us.