Despite the curtain closing and the set being dismantled over a week ago, I still find myself being reminded of Ragtime daily. The most recent flash of nostalgia came while I was at Bring it On the Musical at DPAC on Sunday. I had not seen the movie and when the first number began, I instantly questioned what I had got myself into. This glitzy, poppy, and cliché musical provided a stark contrast to sitting in the audience for “Make them hear you” and it frankly caught me off guard.
Cue the start of Act II and I was settling in for another spectacle of flying cheerleaders and (very) light plot development. This all changed, however, when I heard the song “Enjoy the Trip”. I was immediately overcome with emotion, something stunningly surprising given the fact that the show seemed to have the emotional capacity of a teaspoon. The following lines really resonated with me and not only reflected my experience with Ragtime, but my experiences in aggregate at Duke as well.
So don’t sit on your ass waiting for life to begin
If you do what you love with your time then you win
What a long, strange, wonderful trip it’s been
When talking to President Brodhead last week, he asked me how I was. My answer surprised even myself; I didn’t talk about my job for next year, my major, or my weekend plans. I talked about Ragtime. Now of course I am proud of my other accomplishments and have enjoyed the process, but in my mind Ragtime is what was really unique in my life. Whether it was talking to visitors/friends, discussing reception with the Chronicle or tabling on the plaza, I found it was one of the easiest sales I had ever had to make. I’m a true believer that excitement is contagious; watching people react to me talk about the show further confirmed my belief. My sincere pride and satisfaction translated through both my spoken diction and my sprawling smile.
One of the best decisions I’ve made at Duke was to get involved with musical theater. There was so much pressure to join investment clubs, science research labs, and find the perfect internship. I shied away from the arts because if I were to ever perform in a show like Ragtime, it would turn it into a comedy (not because of the material but because of the embarrassing combination of a lack of singing, dancing, or acting ability – the true triple threat). While nobody would accuse me of ‘sitting on my ass’ as I am always running from one thing to another, I was playing things safe for me. I wanted to do something that I would never have the chance to do again and I was fortunate enough to find a supportive group of people that allowed me to step out of my comfort zone. It was most definitely a long and strange trip, but while in the audience for the Saturday matinee during the second weekend, how wonderful the trip really was finally hit me. I found myself giving the show a standing ovation all 5 times I saw it – not out of obligation but because just like the rest of the audience, I was moved to my feet.
Working on Ragtime, watching the fruits of everyone’s labor come to fruition on stage, and seeing the final ticket sales confirmed everything that I felt throughout the entire process: I had done what I loved with my time and as a result, I had won.