“Ragtime” is a musical that tells a particularly American story — a story that should resonate with a contemporary audience, says College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Associate Professor Keith Hight of King George, Virginia.
Hight is the director of the upcoming CSM Main Stage production of “Ragtime,” which is based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow, with music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. The musical interweaves three storylines set in the early 1900s in the “melting pot” of New York City — the stifled upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant and a daring young Harlem musician. The musical shows how each of these characters choose to confront the contradictions of wealth and poverty, freedom and prejudice, hope and despair … and what it means to live in America.
“I have always loved this show,” Hight said, adding that many CSM alumni have come back to work on this production. “The cast has really come together to make this happen. We have talked about history a lot because some of these people were real, the situations were real.”
The cast list for CSM’s production of “Ragtime” includes Rick Fulton of Bryans Road as Grandfather, Elizabeth Campbell of Bryantown as Little Girl, Matt Jameson of Charlotte Hall as Tateh, Sean Scriber of Hollywood as Coalhouse Walker Jr., Melissa Tevis of Indian Head as Mother, Ken LaClair of La Plata as Father, Lisa LaClair of La Plata as Harry Houdini’s mother, Andrew Roell of Leonardtown as Little Boy (Edgar), Alyshia Bradley of Lusby as Sarah’s Friend, Justin Carty of Richmond, Virginia as Willie Conklin, Chris Lange of Port Republic as Younger Brother, Kenneth L. Waters Jr. of Waldorf as Booker T. Washington, Shemika Berry of Waldorf as Sarah, Sarah Jones of Welcome as Evelyn Nesbit, Thomas Donohue of Welcome as Harry Houdini, Caleb Smith of Waldorf as Henry Ford, Sean Smith of Waldorf as J.P. Morgan, Joanna Smith of Waldorf as Emma Goldman, Andrew Geier of Waldorf as Harry K. Thaw and Bradley Evans of Waldorf as Standford White.
The ensemble is comprised of Kaylin Beach of La Plata, Jamie Lee Slack of La Plata, Stephanie Kenney of Accoceek, Tom Nuzzi of Waldorf, Katie Ludy of La Plata, Kathy Keough of La Plata, Rick Albert of La Plata, Kasey Murphy of Waldorf, Maecy Richardson of Indian Head, Anthony Montgomery of Indian Head, Ciara Levins of Bryans Road, Reva Taylor of Waldorf, Gershawn Mason of Indian Head, Imani Brock of Waldorf, Emma Harman of Waldorf, Sarah Slack of La Plata, Olivia Gordon of Welcome, Emily Roell of Leonardtown, Dasul Lee of Waldorf and Ebie Prideaux of Lusby.
Hight says that the themes reflected within “Ragtime” remain relevant today. “We as a society haven’t learned much from our past,” he said. “Change a few characters’ names and the beginning of this century was the same as the last. Instead of Eleanor Nesmith, insert O.J. Simpson. Instead of Harry Houdini, insert David Blaine. Instead of Coaltrain, insert any African American in the country. Instead of the Jewish, Eastern and Southern Europeans, insert Hispanic, Muslim.”
Hight referenced an Italian quote: “An old Italian saying summed up the disillusionment felt by many: ‘I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold,” Hight said. “’When I got here, I found out three things. First, the streets weren’t paved with gold. Second, they weren’t paved at all. And third, I was expected to pave them.’”
Despite the struggles that challenged the characters of “Ragtime” and the actual New York City residents of that time, the overall story is a positive one. “In spite of the difficulties, few gave up and returned home,” Hight said.
The CSM Main Stage production of the musical “Ragtime” will be presented 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2 and 9; 8 p.m. Nov. 3, 4 and 10; and 2 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Fine Arts Center (FA Building) Theatre at the La Plata Campus. Cost is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and military with ID as well as youths of high school age and younger.
“Ragtime” is presented at CSM through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI (www.MTIShows.com).
For information on theater and arts-related productions at CSM, visit www.csmd.edu/arts.
CSM’s campuses are accessible to patrons with disabilities. Audio description for the visually impaired and sign language interpretation for the hearing impaired are available with a minimum two week advanced notice. If you are interested in these services, please contact the academic support/ADA coordinator at 301-934-7614.
CSM Main Stage Theatre: “Ragtime.” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2 and 9; 8 p.m. Nov. 3, 4 and 10; 2 p.m. Nov. 11. College of Southern Maryland, La Plata Campus, Fine Arts (FA) Building, Theatre, 8730 Mitchell Road, La Plata. The musical “Ragtime,” based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow, tells several stories about turn-of-the-century New York. $15 adults, $12 military/seniors/youth email@example.com, 301-934-7828, or visit www.csmd.edu/Arts.