What Piedmont Opera’s RAGTIME meant can best be summed up by quotes from one of the youngest and one of the older people I knew in the audience:
I have never been so invested in a show before!! — one of my orphans from ANNIE
I am 78-years-old, and that is the best thing I’ve ever seen. And I saw HAIR on Broadway in the ’60s. In the front row! — someone I know from work
It feels too easy and trite to say that RAGTIME is just as relevant now as it was back in the time frame in which it was set, the early 1900s. But also: it’s true. Not nearly as much has changed in the last century re: racism and immigration as we like to think it has. Heck, just this week, a sitting senator said he thought it was a mistake that the Supreme Court protected interracial marriage — which, granted, he has since tried to take it back, but the fact that no one was actually surprised he said the quiet part out loud…
Anyway: RAGTIME. A big show, in more ways than one. As evidenced by these crowd pics I am shamelessly stealing from our director, Jackie Alexander.
As previously mentioned, I was so excited to reunite with Jen, who I met in my first Piedmont Opera show eight years ago.
As you can tell by this photo of the back of my head. What you can’t *hear* from this photo is my first ever attempt at an Irish accent. Some of the UNCSA kids were very impressed. I didn’t ask our actually-Irish Houdini what he thought. On purpose.
Act I brought me a lot of costume/character changes, from a Jewish immigrant to an Irish maid to an immigrant again to a Ford factory worker to a mill worker to a bureaucrat to two other crowd scenes. With some pit singing in between. At one point, our music director (and the opera’s general director) apologized for giving me so much to do in Act I. I assured him I had it, thanks to years of experience.
And it really was fun getting back to my ensemble roots. Despite spending the first decade and change of my semi-pro career as third-girl-from-the-left-singing-alto, my last chorus role was the summer after the opera’s SOUTH PACIFIC, in MISS SAIGON. Which is 100% *not* an ensemble I would join these days, but that’s for another essay. #knowbetterdobetter
Another funny story with Maestro Jamie: before our last performance he asked me to adjust placement and diction for my single bureaucrat line in the middle of the song “Justice”. I replied that I would certainly try, but I wasn’t sure what else I could do as the stage manager cues me so I get to my place the end of the platform just as the line occurs and I was trying not to *panting*. See, I had to go up a bunch of stairs and walk quickly to the end of a [wobbly] platform high in the air, while projecting the line in just a few short measures over the orchestra.
It was then he realized I didn’t have a microphone, when everyone else with lines did.
Jamie: I could have sworn you were mic’d for the maid scene!
Ann: welllllll, I was right beside Jen’s mic, but also *Peter Pan pose* thank you *hair toss*.
I mean, I know opera singers are usually not mic’d but also leave it to the musical theatre belter to make you assume she’s mic’d.
No small parts, only small actors, as they say. And, yes, it would have been nice to have an actual seat in the [very crowded and oh so loud] dressing room as opposed to being at a folding table in the middle with the rest of the immigrants [there’s some optics], BUT I’m very proud, in my very small way(s), to have been a part of something so big. Now: to take these lessons to the streets. And by streets, I mean calling my supposed representatives even more. Equal rights ain’t pie, y’all.