The process of character self-discovery has definitely been a slow one for me. Unlike certain characters in the show, I am more of a filler which no specific direction. That is to say, often I am told nothing about whether I am an immigrant, a rich person, or something different entirely. Because of this ambiguity, I’ve spent the majority of this experience simply watching others develop interesting characters while I, myself, feel slightly outside. In the past few rehearsals; however, beginning during tech, I started to encounter a sense of ownership of this show which has motivated me to personalize and really delve into my subtle actions within group numbers. I always felt connected to the emotion of the music “a day of peace”, given my intense passion for justice in my own life; however, choosing my own connection to the words within the world of Ragtime has brought these lyrics and others to light for me in a new way.
Contemplating my place in this show, I’ve become attached to the idea of playing my own great grandmother who emigrated from Ireland around this time period. Her name was Bridget McGuilicuty and, though I never knew her, I imagine her being a strong, tough, young woman. I also imagine her feeling totally stripped of any security or confidence upon her arrival in America. In the “America” number, in which I play an innocent immigrant entering wide-eyed, but finding herself a prostitute, I picture the lengths my great grandmother may have gone to as she established herself in a country so unwelcoming and discriminatory towards Irish and other immigrants. It is conceivable that she could have worked as a prostitute before meeting my grandfather, also an impoverished Irish immigrant. This one random character which I chose for myself is one of my most poignant acting experiences for me in this show. While I do not speak, or even enter the foreground, I have an internal monologue of becoming a prostitute and encountering double layers of discrimination from fellow immigrants as well as wealthy Americans. I have chosen to continue this character into other scenes such as the beating of Sara and the rally. With this complex self-creation added to the stunning lyrics and melody “a day of peace, a day of pride, a day of justice we have been denied”, I feel a new sense of connection the message. The injustice of selling ones body to survive in a country which prevents me from encountering any alternative form of survival is something I can latch onto as inspiration for this entire performance.