Not having performed on stage, I don’t know what kind of connection there is with the house, but I would imagine that there is some sense of seeing the audience. In the pit, however, the audience is composed of the sound it produces. You can’t tell how big the audience is or what kind of demographic it has, much like you can’t see most of what happens on stage. Because of this, playing for an audience was enlightening with respect to Ragtime. For example, although I still haven’t seen what happens on stage during the show, I could tell you at what measure in the music Coalhouse III appears (from what I’ve heard), because after the first shows I would always get a smile on my face just before then, knowing that the audience would cheer for him at that swell of music in the epilogue. I loved the part even more in “Till We Reach That Day” when the stage hits the word “pray” without accompaniment, because I knew that there was an entire crowd of people out there, I imagine silent with awe at being hit with a powerful wall of sound. Hearing an audience respond emotionally also renewed my responses, because these were people who hadn’t seen it over and over and weren’t focusing on one aspect (such as the music or acting or lights), but rather connecting with the lives of the characters. I’ve also enjoyed observing the quirks of each crowd — for example, when Father says something about Coalhouse and Sarah’s courtship not being Christian because it has already produced a child, it would sometimes be silent in the house, while with other crowds there would be some (perhaps nervous) laughter. It’s always interesting to note these differences, and it was sad during the last show because we knew that it was our last crowd and that strike would follow.
Although I’ve been involved with several shows before, I had never been part of a strike on quite as large a scale as for Ragtime. In addition, previous to last Sunday, as part of the pit orchestra, I had only ever helped with striking the pit for shows, so my exposure to the whole strike procedure was very limited. However, I stayed until the very end of strike for this show, and it was definitely a cathartic experience. It felt very odd seeing the set come down — although it took a lot of work, with everyone in the production helping, everything came down so quickly in comparison with the time I am sure it took to build and the time that was spent with it, in rehearsal and in performance. In a sense it reminded me of Edward’s line at the beginning of the epilogue, in which he says something like, “The era of Ragtime had passed, as if it were no more than a tune on a player piano.” In the same way, with the coming down of the set, it almost felt like an era of all of our lives has passed. Hopefully in our time with Ragtime, we have been able to move our audiences, and it will live on.
This is not really related to this post, but I wanted to say…
Unfortunately, it’s almost inevitable that there will be some divide in who hangs out with each other when everyone is in the same room because of split rehearsals and thus prior time spent together, but I would like to think that we bridged that at least a little (it was great seeing everyone work together during strike!). To each of the many, many people involved in Ragtime, some of whom I still don’t know, great job, and I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to play in the pit for this production in which we were all involved.