Young actors take on complex themes of Ragtime

The much loved novel by American author E.L. Doctorow, "Ragtime," tells the story of a very different time - New York in the early 1900s. It was a time of great change and excitement in the rapidly growing metropolis, but also one of hardship, poverty, and great contrasts in the experiences of the many races which made up the city.

The much loved novel by American author E.L. Doctorow, “Ragtime,” tells the story of a very different time – New York in the early 1900s. It was a time of great change and excitement in the rapidly growing metropolis, but also one of hardship, poverty, and great contrasts in the experiences of the many races which made up the city.

Now, this enthralling story will come to Issaquah’s Village Theatre. Village’s Kidstage program will take on one of it’s most ambitious projects yet, when it stages the musical production of “Ragtime,” which was originally adapted for the stage by Terrence McNally, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.

More than 40 young thespians from Issaquah, Sammamish, and Renton, as well as cities and towns throughout the region, will star in the turn-of-the-century musical, which will run July 31 – Aug. 8, at the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre in Issaquah.

“Ragtime,” centers around three different socio-economic groups in New York City: upper class white-Americans, African Americans, and Eastern European immigrants. The serious subject matter will be a particular challenge for the Kidstage students, aged 8 to 18.

However, according to Kidstage Programs Manager, Suzie C. Bixler, taking on “Ragtime” was an enlightening experience for all.

“It has been exciting for the team and kids to truly learn about and experience our country’s history,” she said.

The students participating in Kidstage’s SummerStock program this year, which will culminate in the “Ragtime” production, are directed by Mainstage veteran Eric Polani Jensen. Jensen was last seen in Chasing Nicolette (2009) playing Count Valence, while also serving as assistant director of that production.

“Since we’re exploring an era where racism was overt and damaging, we have created an environment for the kids to feel safe with each other in as they delve into these emotional moments,” Jensen said of “Ragtime.” “Hopefully, they take away an awareness of how far we’ve come as a country and still realize how much we still need to work on it.”

Jensen is supported by a creative team consisting of KIDSTAGE alumni Brandon Ivie handling the musical staging, longtime Village Theatre affiliate R.J. Tancioco (The Gypsy King) as musical director, and Village Theatre regulars, Alex Berry (Beauty and the Beast) as scenic and lighting designer, and Deane Middleton (Beauty and the Beast) as costume designer.

For times, tickets and production details, visit the Village Theatre web site at www.villagetheatre.org/Ragtime