Sunday, July 04, 2004

"Ragtime" Resonates, Part 1: Remembering Our Past

Most classic theatre pieces touch on what they call "timeless" themes.

Sometimes the themes are a little buried. For example, "Sweeney Todd" seems to be about two amoral murderers, but really it's about loss: lost love, lost innocence, and mostly how loss can corrupt even a righteous soul.

"Ragtime" wears its timelessness somewhat on its sleeve, yet every person involved with the show beings their own experiences to the stage, finding the personal in even the most grand, over-arching themes.

Take Cath Sheldon, our 'Emma Goldman.' I've known Cath for years, and Foothill has known her even longer. She's performed here in such roles as Desiree in "A Little Night Music", Jenny Diver in "Threepenny Opera" and Mother in "Allegro." (And those are just the shows I've been in with her; she's done countless other roles here.)

But I learned something new about Cath doing this show (in her own words):

"There's a lot of personal resonance for me in this show. My Mom grew up in a mixed neighborhood in Brooklyn, and both her parents were the children of immigrants who had hard times (my grandfather was in & out of orphanages.) My parents were young Socialists living in a commune in Brooklyn when they first married. My Dad has been a lifelong activist for Civil Rights, so I started life living in the tower of a Brooklyn church where my Dad led a mostly-black congregation, and was steeped throughout my life in the events like the King speeches, freedom marches and, of course, peace rallies. Working on the show is bringing up all kinds of memories."

So, when you're watching Cath inflame the masses with Emma Goldman's stirring proletariat rhetoric, you'll now know she has her own childhood to draw on for inspiration!

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