I really hate strike. Like really. More than most people, I would imagine. However, it’s not because I didn’t like the work, and I have love electric power tools (e.g., going to town on planks of wood like there’s no tomorrow). No, I hate strike because it signals the end in the most tangible way possible. The set is demolished, Reynolds is cleaned out, and all that is left of our experience is the memory of a great show (and maybe a few spare tires from the Henry Ford scene). Yet, this strike was a little bit harder for me than my previous one. Why, you might ask? It’s easy: Ragtime was just better. It was bigger. We worked harder, and we came together to a larger extent than I’d ever seen. We delved more deeply into our characters, and for the first time I’ve seen, all performers were encouraged and supported to develop their characters. No one on stage was a throw-away. No lines were wasted, and the dialogue was not just an amalgamation of dramatic interactions between major musical numbers. Recognizing that I’m largely untrained in theatre, this concept took the longest amount of time for me to learn well. A performance was not being staged, art was being made. I’ve had 2 weeks to ponder just why Ragtime meant so much to me, and why it moved from the opportunity to put on a great performance to my life’s necessity. Why were these 3 hours a day the highlight of my day? Why could I barely contain my energy, my enthusiasm once on stage? It’s because the time we spent learning from our artistic directors (and giving them migraines as well), frustrated at run-throughs, laughing, screaming, studying, and concentrating transformed our experience from a student production to an artful depiction of a time that was old, tumultuous, yet still relevant.
A wise person once said that you make time for things that matter, and excuses for things that do not. For months, nothing mattered more than RAGTIME (besides class and work, which I feel are always assumed to take precedence over breathing). I had to stay healthy: I took care of myself more than I ever had, I found a way to get sleep, I functioned extraordinarily well, I kicked coffee, Red Bull, and most soda out of my life, and I stayed in. What’s more, I can point to so many others in the cast who transformed themselves from students into artists and made sacrifices for their craft. The end result: RAGTIME. The culmination of my junior year (including time spent abroad). This performance-from the brilliant set, to the fluidity of movement, to the stage presence of each character, to the glory of our harmonies when our voices came together-was just bigger than anything I could have expected or hoped for. It was beautiful, and it came together in the nick of time (this really worried me, to be honest).
Despite what I was seeing transform on stage, I could not ignore what was happening within me. I was finding my voice, and I was realizing my potential. The Coalhouse Walker Jr. who emerged during that Friday night show was different from the Jordan Caesar Rodriguez who entered in January. I had the confidence going into this show. I knew that I had worked like crazy to share this lead role, and despite the fact that it was my first as a principle, I promised the Artistic Direction Team, Dr. Linnartz, and most importantly, myself that I would put in all the effort I had in order to bring this character, this man who was broken and in an internal search for both revenge and redemption, to life.
Here’s where I thank Dr. Storer, Dr. Kelley, Dr. Dickinson, Dr. Linnartz, and more for taking what I gave them and adding their knowledge, expertise, patience, and passion. In the span of 2 months, I gained the ability to sing in a more healthy manner, to become the man in the 3-piece suit through my interactions with those on and off stage, to place myself correctly so that I face the audience, to feel emotions and perform actions instead of preempting results, and above all else, to trust my instincts and be creative. Here is also where I thank Martavius, Nathaniel, Katherine, Robert, Drew, Ruthie, Dominique and others for their specific tips and advice – from helping me fix my posture, to watching my wild and self-conducting hand, to finding the place from where my voice must resonate, and more. Here is lastly where I thank this family of a cast and crew, with whom I became such good friends, for pulling me out of my room to get dinner, to being the shoulder I needed when my cousin died unexpectedly and I didn’t want to leave bed, to being the encouragement I fed from every night to put on the best show I could.
I didn’t mean for this to get sappy, but I can say if nothing else, I left RAGTIME transformed. I left as an artist, and the things I learned gave me an appreciation for the arts, for this university, and for living a life of fulfillment, joy and happiness. Not many people can say that they got this within four years, let alone a semester. So thank you, all of you. I look forward to more shows together, in some capacity.
All my best,
Left Strike: 9:37
Hours: 1 Hour Stage / Runner
2 Hours tabling