Ragtime is set to hit the stage at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre.  Whether you’ve seen it before or not, you’re not going to want to miss it this time around! If you are new to Grand Rapids then I will let you in on a well-known secret– Grand Rapids Civic Theatre is an amazing place to see high quality theater! The classic and ornate theater is styled in such a way to whisk you out of the real world and into an amazing theater-going experience.

Photo Credit: Eric Tank

We had the joy of seeing a sample performance and were taken on a musical ride full of spirit and soul. What touched me was the desire, the yearning, for a place to know as home.  We have all felt it at one time or another, and the music evokes those memories as we watch the cast struggle to find their own way in the world.  Some of them have to struggle more than others, overcoming racial barriers and giving up their whole world to immigrate to a new one.

Then it does something more.  This story, this music, it transcends politics to connect the viewer with the story of real life human stories about immigration. 

Ragtime takes place at the beginning of the 20th century and follows three families: a white middle class family, a Latvian Jewish family, and an African American family.  The story focuses on how these families’ lives come together, and the issues they each face externally and internally as the strive to move up in their worlds.  The lines between the worlds blend and as they do the lives of the characters grow and flourish together.

This may be art, but this is also real life.  Ragtime shows the viewer that this American Dream we live is something that is worth fighting for, trying for, living for- and that plenty have done so before us.  For a lot of people immigration is just a word, Ragtime shows the audience how it is a way of life.

Civic Theatre is committed to growing diversity with immigrants from all over the world.  Racial issues, immigration issues, and political issues still play a large role in our society today. Civic Theatre recognizes how immigration has affected our Grand Rapids community in a positive way throughout the years.  Civic Theatre is committed to promoting dialogue and conversations within our Grand Rapids community to highlight the good done in. This is what the Civic Theatre wants the community to think about, and to transform those thoughts to conversations.

In preparing for the production, local community members were interviewed about their own journeys to America.  You can see their stories here.  Both first and second generation immigrant families were interviewed and talked about the real life struggles they faced and what the American Dream means to them- what they had to give up to get here. No matter where they were from though, everyone discussed at least something they brought from home and have with them today.  Special foods, religious practices, and even little celebrations were all kept as important to their cultural identity, no matter where their families were here or there.

Ragtime shows the audience that we are a community and that growing together will take us good places we never realized we could even dream of.

Thank you to Guest Bloggers Jessica and Chris Schilling for this review.