Rothstein characterizes his re-imagining of the musical as the equivalent of a "chamber setting." The musical has been pared down to three interconnected stories of a Jewish immigrant coming to America, an African-American musician living in Harlem and an affluent white woman from New Rochelle. The tale is set in the early 20th century. Responsibility for bringing these stories to life falls to 13 adult actors, four child actors and nine musicians.
|Kelli Foster Wardell, Peter Rothstein and Terrence McNally|
Upon hearing this, McNally commented he was "getting goosebumps." He later said he felt this version of the show was going to "teach me what is in my own work."
The choreography is an integral part of the story rather than a "dance break." And so Warder and Rothstein have worked hand in hand since the show's initial production at Theatre Latte Da in Minneapolis. (Rothstein and Warder also brought the musical to 5th Avenue in Seattle.)
"Sadly," he said, "there is no need." He noted--spoiler alert--that the character of Sarah is killed by the police at the end of Act I. When rehearsals began at Theatre Latte Da, Philandro Castile had been shot by a Minneapolis police officer just two weeks earlier. One can only imagine the impact that event had on both the performers and the audience.
Rothstein returned to the idea of responsibility, broadening it to the obligations of the citizenry at large. "We are all responsible for each other and our stories," he said. "Our responsibility as artists is to remind people of this."
Ragtime will run from May 1 - May 27 at Asolo Rep. Click here to see a sneak preview of the show and hear from Rothstein and some of the actors. I cannot wait.