It’s difficult for me to find the appropriate words to describe my experience with Ragtime this semester. Ivy’s comment in the last class encapsulated my reflections; she stated that the groups we sat in that Tuesday did not reflect how close we had all grown throughout the show. I completely agree with this statement, and find it one of the many rewarding aspects of dedicating my semester to the production of Ragtime.
Especially in the upperclassman years at Duke, I’ve found it’s very easy to get stuck in a rut. For all intensive purposes, this isn’t a bad thing; perhaps “comfort zone” would be a more appropriate description. We have our group of friends, eat with the same people on a regular basis, see the same faces in classes for our major, and go out in the same scene. Ragtime changed all that this semester by forcing every member of the cast to break out of their comfort zone. I met many people and made friendships I can confidently state would not exist otherwise; ironically, a show about breaking down racial and social barriers in the late 19th century led to the formation of new friendships across all walks of life at Duke. We were all united by many factors: scrambling to complete homework when we had five hours of rehearsal daily, meeting for dinner before six pm to avoid eating in our costumes, and collectively participating in the emotional catharsis that took place in every performance. I remember hearing a person describe our show and compliment the unity of the cast, both ensembles and leads; I couldn’t agree more. I loved looking around onstage at the conclusion of the first act and watching everyone’s emotional reaction to Sarah’s death, and gathering backstage every performance to watch “Sarah Brown Eyes.” (And yes, it still made me and a group of girls cry literally every time we watched it).
I was one of the many crying during the last performance. I couldn’t believe that every time I spun around holding a wheel or belted out “’Til We Reach that Day”, it would be the last time…on that beautiful set, with this amazing cast, and with an exceptional set of directors and teachers dedicated to helping us along the way. I wouldn’t trade my experience with Ragtime this semester for anything in the world, and can’t wait to carry with me the relationships and lessons learned from now on.