With a cast of 65 members, Wootton High School will perform “Ragtime,” the Tony-award winning musical.
“Ragtime” is a portrayal of the social issues in America at the turn of the century set to music. The three ensembles — the people of New Rochelle, Immigrants and Harlem — each have a different story to tell. The New Rochelle Ensemble represent a people who do not welcome the change in their society brought on by immigration and racial diversity. The Immigrant Ensemble is comprised of mostly Eastern Europeans working the lowest wage jobs and struggling for rights and opportunities in America. The Harlem Ensemble is discriminated against most blatantly.
“Each of these groups not only represent the views and opinions of the turn of the century America, but are still representative of some of the attitudes today concerning immigration and racial integration,” said Director Jessica Speck.
Viewers should be aware that the play incorporates specific racial and ethnic epithets that are important to understand how each group reacts to one another. Said Speck, “It has been a real education for our student performers to understand not just how these words have been used historically, but also how each immigrant group had it's own term that carried with it years of discrimination and vitriol. These words are essential in the story being told — to scrub them out would also erase the true history of this time period and the imagined history of these characters.”
To prepare for their roles, many of the characters have been studying accents. In addition, there has been much attention placed on the sets and costumes. Set direction is being handled by Wootton 2012 graduate, Nick Hatcher, currently a technical theatre major at Emerson College in Boston looking to specialize in set design. The props and costumes will orient the audience to the time period. There will be many period specific props and costumes — including a real Model T.
The play incorporates historical figures intertwined with the fictional characters including Emma Goldman, Evelyn Nesbit, Harry Houdini, JP Morgan, and Henry Ford.
“Ragtime” will be performed on April 12, 13, 19, and 20 at 7:30 p.m. and April 14 and 21 at 2 p.m. in the Wootton Center for the Performing Arts auditorium. Order tickets (reserved $15, general $10) on the Wootton Website On-Line Store to the Center for the Arts at http://www.schooltix.org/wootton.