The scale of Ragtime is very new to me as well. The biggest production I have been involved in had three actors, and Lady in the Red Dress which opens later this March has nine, which required a lot of coordination of people and schedules. Ragtime has over 40 casts, and so far it has been incredible to see how things come together. It could be that the production is also a class, and your participation will affect your grade, but I also think the play allows everyone to have a story they identify with. Moreover, Jeff and Barbara were also very encouraging of the ensemble to develop personal narratives for ourselves, which allowed even the most minor roles to be engaged in the play.
Ragtime is largely a story of New Rochelle people (the white folks), the Harlem people (the Black folks), and the immigrant group (mostly Jewish, Italian, and Haitian), so there isn’t much space for Asian actors to fit in. Ivy and I are the only Asian casts, and we have been discussing from very early on how we might be able to find our place in this play. We don’t have a part in the three-part immigrant song in 6a Ellis Island, so we had to sing with the Haitian immigrants. And we do stand out in scenes like “Gettin’ Ready Rag” or “Coalhouse Demands,” where we are part of the Harlem group. From what I know, most of the Chinese immigrants around that time period were male laborers for the railroad constructions in the West coast and later for the Transcontinental railroads. It is very fun to play those parts, and it is also a blast feeling the sense of community as an ensemble. But it is still a little confusing, my role as a female and “Asian” immigrant and the so-called “Blasian” member of the Harlem community. Sometimes it seems like I might be bordering on ruining the sense of historical accuracy of our production, for which Jeff has made a lot effort—children casts, and race-specific casting processes and decisions.