My name is Thaddeus Clayde, and I’m a resident of Harlem, in New York City, New York. Work is hard, and life often harder, but I can’t imagine a better place for a Black man to call his home. I’m surrounded by a community more vibrant than any I’ve ever heard of; I wouldn’t believe it if you told me there was another place on earth filled with more life, more passion, more dance and music than Harlem! I don’t know of any other people who can laugh so freely, so joyously, and who are unafraid to show sorrow, or lend a and or shoulder to those who haven’t even yet asked for help. The faces that surround me, Black like mine, endure the hardships of life with a dignity and grace that makes me proud that my skin is brown like an oak. My roots are in Harlem, because here I can be respected; here I can live. [I think I started conceptualizing my character by imaging what I thought a Harlem man in that era would be. Over time, I think it seems that instead of imagining a stranger, I started to imagine what I would have been like if I’d lived then. Don’t know that I would have joined a gang and burned down buildings, but I can see myself being indignant at injustice, as well as in the club!]
Harlem is always alive with melody, but at night, the streets move with sound of Ragtime. I’m on my way to a nightclub down the block, and I can feel the heat from the piano from here! Mr. Coalhouse Walker, a friend and the most talented musicians in Harlem, is playin’ tonight! I get to the club and Coalhouse is being introduced. We all know Coalhouse though, just like we all know why Coalhouse has been acting different lately. He’s been forlorn over the loss of his love, Sarah. As he starts to play, Coalhouse tells the story of how he was the cause of Sarah running away. But he tells us that he’s changed, and what’s more, he’s found out where Sarah is, and is going to go and get her back! We spent the rest of the night celebrating with a new vigor, all of us elated and lifted by the news, and by he near frenzied sounds of joy and anticipation played by Coalhouse. [It’s funny to see how far this scene has come, and how much it has been fleshed out! I was nervous about the types of dances we were asked to do, and about whether we would be able to fill the stage. It seems like we’ve gotten more and more comfortable with it, and have more and more fun, which I think makes the number look and feel more realistic.]
In the morning, I get up and rush to work. I’m employed at the Ford Motor Company Factory where I work on the assembly line. My day is tedious and exhausting. All day on the line, the same motion again and again! The factory owners treat us little better than slave, all the time demanding that we work faster, and for the same measly pay. I’m starting to think that they believe we’re machines, just like the ones we are building. [So hot during/after this number! It seems like most of my movement in the show is concentrated in five minutes! Also a fun number though. It’s been difficult singing parts of the song when I’m particularly winded.]
Emma Goldman speaking tonight at Union Square. She condemns the factory workers for the way they treat us. Long hours in dangerous factories, working for less than nothing. It’s bad enough that grown men and women labor like this, but what’s worse is that the owners see no problem in enslaving even our children! I get more and more angry as Goldman speaks. Then a factory owners brother shows up, another slap in the face! The crowd is rightly enraged by his presences, and we direct our frustration at him, yelling insults. It’s getting hotter and hotter as our indignation and outrage build. Militiamen arrest Goldman, and the building pressure finally explodes. The speech has turned into a riot! I’m shouting and shoving back at the militiamen, as the violence grows. The militiamen turn vicious as parents try to board their children on the train that has arrived. Gun are waving, the butt of pistols and rifles used to beat the crowd into submission. A woman in front of me steps in between a militia men and a groups of children, and he fling her to the side. I catch her before she falls to the ground, and then turn to the militiaman as he raises his gun on the children. I grad the gun and we struggle until I’m thrown off and stumble over fallen bodies. I leave the square. [I enjoy the riot! I’m always thinking about not stepping on anyone or hitting someone in the face though. The movement has grown to seem much more organic, as we start to own our movements. The slow motion and miming have been the most difficult part to get used to, as I can’t shake the suspicion that I personally look slightly silly because I’m awkward in slow motion.]
A bunch of whites trashed Coalhouses new car! The law turned its back again on a black man again. He has no legal recourse left. Sarah was killed soon after at a speech by the president. They said she had a gun. I watched them beat the life from her body, and saw Coalhouse’s pain. I don’t knowhow much more of being stepped on any of us can take. [I’m always surprised how emotional Till We Reach That day is for me every time. The sound the rest of the cast makes feels palpable. It’s also one of the more difficult songs for me to sing because of the intensity of other voices singing different harmonies around me, but I’m getting it!]
Coalhouse has made his demands for justice. He’s right and I’ve joined up with his gang to make sure it’s justice that he gets. We’ll burn this whole city down if we have to.
We’re so close! We’ve taken over the library, and have hostage so many of the things the white men hold dear. They send Booker T. Washington to reason with us. I don’t think Coalhouse will listen, but he does. He wants to surrender. I’ve haven’t been this angry since they killed Sarah. I just barely begin to understand why he did it as we make our escape. [I’ve felt less and less out of place in this scene as we’ve continued to run it, allowing myself to listen to the story, and try to put myself in the place of one of Coalhouse’s gang in term of the thoughts that must be going through their head.]