I’m not gonna lie. I was nervous a few weeks ago—I mean, absolutely fearful that this show would be a flop. But oh goodness, I could not have been more wrong. Last night proved that this show isn’t about the music, the set, the lights, the costumes: it’s about us—the ensemble. We are finally one. Which certainly is what every musical is about, but especially Ragtime.
I have had difficulty in this show: straddling the line of ensemble member and principle. Evelyn is an interesting character to portray: she doesn’t really fit in any particular group (immigrant, Harlem, and certainly New Rochelle rejects her tasteless, bawdiness). In addition I really had a hard time finding her character arc. She just pops up in the show when you literally least expect it: she almost seems unnecessary to the plot. Moreover, she was such a large part of the novel, but the musical neglects her. I struggled to see why she was important to the show.
Throughout this process I found myself reverting to what felt comfortable for me: playing for the laughs, the sex, the cutesy. But after many talks with Jeff I learned that that is not who Evelyn is.
Several weeks ago, Jeff sent me this image and asked me to look at her eyes, explore what story they tell.
Immediately I was reminded of this image of Marilyn Monroe
Their eyes seem to be telling a similar story. One of beauty, but yet absolute defeat. I sense of hope, longing. Both of these women experienced unstable upbringings. They were both held back by their mothers and each began careers in show business but didn’t get famous until they met their respective wealthy gentlemen. Both Dimaggio and Thaw were notorious for being jealous men, and resented their women’s affections with other gentlemen. But behind everything with these women is an intense sadness and sense of guilt. The same sadness that leads Marilyn to abuse alcohol and drugs, and even Evelyn’s life was marred by countless suicide attempts, an addiction to morphine and alcohol.
Dwelling in this darkness, Evelyn’s inner self comes out. She was absolutely in love with Stanford White. Thaw’s mother told her after White’s death that if she claimed that White raped her, and that Thaw was mentally insane, that she would receive 1 million dollars. She did this, but yet never received a dime.
This is her character arc. In crime of the century, Evelyn is putting on a giant show: one of fame and fortune just at her finger tips. She has the whole world promised to her, but yet it is still all an act.
However by the Atlantic City, it is clear she will not receive her money. She is alone, working in New Jersey, lost everything. She has to play sexual.
And by the epilogue, her world is broken. She hasn’t only ‘lost her looks and faded into obscurity’ but she is itching to leave the world, attempting suicide often and dragged down by morphine and alcoholism.
In 1966, several months before her death, Evelyn quoted “Stanny was lucky, he died. I lived.”