Kennesaw State University Department of
Theatre and Performance Studies presents

March 14-24, 2019


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Located at the Howard Logan Stillwell Theater


KSU Ragtime Splashpage ImageRagtime, based on E.L. Doctorow’s distinguished 1975 novel, was called “a triumph for the stage” by TIME and “the best musical in twenty years” by the International Herald Tribune when it premiered on Broadway in 1998. Winner of 4 Tony Awards, the original cast of Ragtime featured Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Marin Mazzie.

Combining historical figures such as Emma Goldman, Harry Houdini, and Booker T. Washington with fictional characters, Ragtime uses diverse musical styles to weave together stories of volatile turn-of-the century New York from three different perspectives: African Americans in Harlem, immigrants from Eastern Europe, and the upper-class suburban white residents of New Rochelle. Together, these characters confront and explore what it means to live and fight for fairness and social justice in America.

Not only is Ragtime rich with historical information and context, but it provokes serious questions around themes of race in America, justice, imprisonment and liberation, suppression, industrialization, integration and segregation, and pursuit of the American Dream. The music is lush and full of different styles. The characters are rich and our production boasts a cast of 40 actors from across our department – actors who represent diverse ethnic backgrounds as well as different concentrations of study. Featuring a large and intricate set from Ming Chen (KSU faculty), video and image design provided by Andre Allen of Blacklight Productions, choreography by Angela Harris of Dance Canvas, beautiful era-specific costumes, and a live orchestra, this will be an event you do not want to miss!

Historical Context for Ragtime

  • Immigrants

    • From 1855-1890: Castle Garden was the main location in New York City for processing immigrants and processed over 8 million.
    • 1892: Ellis Island processed its first immigrant
    • 1907: the peak year for Ellis Island, 1,004,756 immigrants were received this year, only one year after the musical Ragtime takes place.


    • 1873: The Panic of 1873 caused property values to decrease by 80% in Harlem
    • 1880: Elevated Railways (above ground subway system) were extended to Harlem.
    • 1904: Massive influx of African American migrants into Harlem due to lower cost of living and bad living conditions in other areas of New York City.
    • 1907: White residents began to move from Harlem and avoid it due to increase in African American population

    New Rochelle

    • 1890’s: population jumped from 9,057 to 14,720
    • 1902: Grew to be one of the most popular suburbs in New York because of its accessibility to downtown without being in downtown New York City, made residents feel safe.
    • 1906: Musical “45 Minutes from Broadway” comes out. It takes place in New Rochelle and pokes fun of the “country” life of living in the suburbs.
  • Ragtime takes place at the turn of the twentieth century. During this time period there were many systems that held influence on the events of the show such as the growth of what would come to be known as the Progressive Era and the rise of prevailing power structures such as patriarchy and capitalism. These influences affect each character’s struggles to obtain success and recognition within the society they live in no matter what background they come from.

    Progressive Era:

    Progressive Era PosterIn the late 19th century and early 20th century, there was a sense of change happening across the United States. Citizens began to question economic growth, political corruption, immigration, industrialization, and wanted social reform. The desires of improvement from the government during the 1890s - 1920s created a movement that became known as the Progressive Era.

    Muckraking journalists, wrote in-depth, investigative stories that exposed the problems of urban society, were calling attention to the exploitation of child labor, corruption in city governments, the horror of lynching, and the ruthless business practices employed by businessmen. Social activism proved to be a result of justice and people began to speak about their constitutional rights or the lack thereof. According to The Heritage Foundation. org “The existing constitutional system was outdated and must be made into a dynamic, evolving instrument of social change, aided by scientific knowledge and the development of administrative bureaucracy. At the same time, the old system was to be opened up and made more democratic.” The population was growing, and as a solution, progressives sometimes allowed space for the public to participate in political issues. They also made decisions to restrict it when they saw fit. Progressive tried to dismantle many issues that we are still fighting today like inequality, immigration, and political corruption.


    Capitalism is defined as an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. The beginning of the 1900’s in the United States was overflowing with the creation of privately-owned businesses, and few government restrictions were put in place to regulate these organizations. Huge corporations began to rise, and the American economy was given a boost. Through this, the mentality of “the American Dream” was created and people upheld the idea that anyone could become successful through hard work, as apparent in the Ragtime songs “Wheels of a Dream,” “Henry Ford,” and “Success.” However, the lack of government involvement in business led to unfair wages, inhumane labor conditions, corruption, and the development of monopolies.



    Bell hooks defines patriarchy as “a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence” (hooks, 1). By this definition it is understood that patriarchy is a power structure that the United States has been invested in since its founding. During the turn of the century the boom in capitalistic ideals paved the way for men to continue to hold the power and oppress women. A glaring example of patriarchy in Ragtime is the character of Father and especially in his relationship to Mother. This relationship gives a great example of the difficulties and frustrations that women had to suffer through during this oppressive time. When Mother sings “Back to Before” she reveals the outcome of what living in an oppressive patriarchal relationship has done to her psychological and emotional well-being.

    • J.P. (John Pierpont) Morgan

      J.P. (John Pierpont) Morgan (1837-1913)

      One of the most powerful bankers of his era financed railroads and helped organize U.S. Steel, General Electric and other major corporations. Morgan initially was widely commended for leading Wall Street out of the 1907 financial crisis; however, in the ensuing years the portly banker with the handlebar mustache and gruff manner faced increasing criticism from muckraking journalists, progressive politicians and others that he had too much power and could manipulate the financial system for his own gain.


      • Emma Goldman

        Emma Goldman (1869-1940)

        Emma Goldman stands as a major figure in the history of American radicalism and feminism. An influential and well-known anarchist of her day, Goldman was an early advocate of free speech, birth control, women's equality and independence, and union organization. Her criticism of mandatory conscription of young men into the military during World War I led to a two-year imprisonment, followed by her deportation in 1919. For the rest of her life until her death in 1940, she continued to participate in the social and political movements of her age, from the Russian Revolution to the Spanish Civil War.


        • Henry Ford

          Henry Ford (1863-1947)

          One of America's foremost industrialists, Henry Ford revolutionized assembly-line modes of production for the automobile.  He was an American automobile manufacturer who created the Model T in 1908 and went on to develop the assembly line mode of production, which revolutionized the industry. As a result, Ford sold millions of cars and became a world-famous business leader.


          • Evelyn Nesbit

            Evelyn Nesbit (1884-1967)

            The 1906 murder of Stanford White by Harry K. Thaw quickly became known as "The Crime of the Century" and Evelyn Nesbit became known as "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing." The shocking story and the lurid details which emerged from Thaw's trial became a modern morality tale which informed the consciousnesses of early Twentieth Century America. Nesbit, Thaw and White enacted an archetypical tragedy of sex and violent death on a dark, urban stage. The story is a disturbing marriage of the breaking of ancient taboos and the anxiety of life in an ultimately unknowable city; a tale of innocence lost in a myriad of ways. These events made a strong imprint on the American mind.


            • Booker Taliaferro Washington

              Booker Taliaferro Washington (1856-1915)

              Booker Taliaferro Washington was the foremost black educator of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He also had a major influence on southern race relations and was the dominant figure in black public affairs from 1895 until his death in 1915. Born a slave on a small farm in the Virginia backcountry, he moved with his family after emancipation to work in the salt furnaces and coal mines of West Virginia. After a secondary education at Hampton Institute, he taught an upgraded school and experimented briefly with the study of law and the ministry, but a teaching position at Hampton decided his future career. In 1881 he founded Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute on the Hampton model in the Black Belt of Alabama.


            • Like the difference in the treatment between Evelyn Nesbit and Coalhouse Walker, crimes committed by white people are viewed in our culture as intriguing or even sexy, while crimes committed by people of color are condemned. This is seen in contemporary times through the glorification of murderers like Ted Bundy, and absolute condemnation of Cyntoia Brown.


              Police brutality, especially towards people of color, was prevalent in the early 1900’s, as exemplified in the Ragtime song “President.” However, this issue still exists today and can be seen in the cases of Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, and many others. In addition to this we have seen a lack of punishment for the perpetrators, both a hundred years ago and now.


              A fear of immigrants prevailed during the turn of the century and can be seen in the way Tateh and his daughter are treated upon arriving in the United States. Today a fear of immigrants is on the rise, it and is being increasingly fueled through rhetoric from President Donald Trump and his campaign to build a border wall between the US and Mexico, and upholding the idea that immigrants are “dangerous” by creating a national emergency.


            Sneak peek of Ragtime, plus interviews with the Director, Designer, and cast members

            Kennesaw State University Department of Theatre and Performance Studies presents Ragtime, directed by Amanda Wansa Morgan.

            Kennesaw State University asks Ragtime director, Amanda Wansa Morgan: "Why this play, now?"

            Kennesaw State University asks professor and Ragtime scenic designer Ming Chen: "What influenced your design? Would you please describe the meaning behind your design concept?"

            Kennesaw State University asks cast members Nathan McCurray (Tateh) and Courtney McCullar (Emma Goldman): "What obstacles does your character face in trying to obtain success and how do these experiences relate to your own experience in contemporary America?"

            Kennesaw State University asks cast members Thomas Cox (father) and Abagail Dawkins (Mother): "What obstacles does your character face in trying to obtain success and how do these experiences relate to your own experience in contemporary America?"

            Kennesaw State University asks cast members David Wilkerson (Coalhouse Walker, Jr.) and L'Oreal Roache (Sarah): "What obstacles does your character face in trying to obtain success and how do these experiences relate to your own experience in contemporary America?"


            • KSU Theater Ragtime Director - Amanda Wansa Morgan

              Amanda Wansa Morgan serves as Coordinator of Musical Theatre & Assistant Professor at Kennesaw State University. At KSU, she teaches classes in musical theatre performance, voice, acting, and musical theatre history and literature. Amanda served on the faculty at The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) for three years and served as Director of Music Education at Charleston Stage, serving as music director, director, sound designer, dialect coach, music arranger, and composer for various productions. Additionally, she has music directed at The Alliance Theatre, Six Flags Over Georgia, Atlanta Lyric Theater, Actor’s Express, Playhouse on the Square (TN), Post Playhouse (NE), and Osceola Center for the Arts (FL). She is the 2018 Suzi Bass Award winner for Outstanding Music Direction for her work on The Color Purple at Actors Express, for which she also won a 2018 BroadwayWorld Award in Music Direction. As composer, her original musicals have been produced at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre & Charleston Stage.

              Amanda has an MFA in Acting from The University of Central Florida and undergraduate degrees in Music and Theatre from The Florida State University. She has also worked as a professional actor throughout the Southeast since 2001.  Amanda has a Certificate of Figure Proficiency from Estill Voice Systems and she is an active member of Musical Theatre Educators Alliance (MTEA), Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC), National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), Dramatist’s Guild, and ASCAP.


            • KSU Theater Ragtime Choreographer - Angela Harris

              Angela Harris is a choreographer and the founder and Executive Artistic Director of Dance Canvas, Inc., a career development organization for emerging professional choreographers and youth. A Baltimore native, Angela is a graduate of The Baltimore School for the Arts. She received her dance training at Dance Theater of Harlem, Steps on Broadway, School of the Hartford Ballet, and The Eglevsky Ballet. 

              Angela danced professionally with The Georgia Ballet, Columbia City Ballet, and Urban Ballet Theater in NYC. Her Atlanta theatre performance credits include Sophisticated Ladies and Degas' Little Dancer (u/s) (Alliance Theatre); Hunchback of Notre DameA Chorus Line (Kristine Deluca), and Chicago (Aurora Theatre). Her choreography has been performed by The Georgia Ballet, Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute, Steps on Broadway Ensemble, Ballet Lubbock, Savannah Arts Academy, as well as other companies and schools across the country. She choreographed the Suzi Bass Award winning Bridges of Madison County (Aurora Theater), 110 in the Shade (Theatrical Outfit), Little Shop of Horrors (Actor's Express), West Side Story and Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka (Fabrefaction Theater) and The First Noel (True Colors Theatre Company).

              She was awarded the 2012 Emerging Artist Award in Dance from The City of Atlanta's Office of Cultural Affairs. Angela was selected as one of five Inaugural National Visiting Fellows at the School of American Ballet in NYC. She also received an SDCF Observership and worked with Susan Stroman on the new musical, Little Dancer, during its Development Lab for Broadway in 2017. Through Dance Canvas, Angela has been a catalyst, consultant, and resource for numerous new dance organizations and artists throughout metro Atlanta. 

              Angela has developed and facilitated youth dance/career development programs for the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs, recording artist, Usher's New Look Foundation, and the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation. She received the 2011 National Emerging Leader Award from Americans for the Arts and American Express. Angela served on the national Emerging Leaders Council for Americans for the Arts from 2011 - 2014.  She attended Mercyhurst College and City College of New York, earning a B.A. in Journalism. Angela is part of the ballet faculty at Dekalb School for the Arts and Academy of Ballet.

            • KSU Theater Ragtime Music Director - Cristina Dinella
              KSU Theater Ragtime Music Director - Cristina Dinella

              Cristina Dinella serves as Interim Instructor of Musical Theatre Vocal Technique and Accompanist. B.M. Music, Eastman School of Music. Cristina Dinella is in demand as a musical theater musical director, pianist, and arranger in both NYC and regional theatre. She brings extensive experience with Off-Broadway, regional, and touring productions, along with her background as a music educator and training in both classical and musical theater vocal technique. Recent credits include Music Director at Shawnee Summer Theatre in Indiana, Pianist for Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble in NYC, and Music Director and Arranger for the first full production of Giovanni The Fearless at Theatre for the New City.

              A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Ms. Dinella trained as a classical pianist and accompanist. Upon graduation, Cristina spent two years as Director of Bands at Hancock Central School district in Hancock, NY. She is also an experienced arranger and composer, having arranged music for Off-Broadway shows and cabarets at the world-famous Feinstein’s/54 Below. She is the composer for Summer’s Child, an original musical which was performed in NY in January 2017. When not otherwise occupied with pianist and musical director duties, Ms. Dinella is an avid writer of silly songs, which detail mundane observations of daily life.

            • KSU Theater Ragtime Lyrics- Lynn Ahrens
              Lynn Ahrens won Broadway’s “triple crown”—Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards—as well as two Grammy nominations for Ragtime. In the same year, she received two Academy Award nominations and two Golden Globe nominations for Twentieth Century Fox’s animated feature film Anastasia.

              Broadway: She wrote both book and lyrics for Once On This Island (Tony nominations for Best Book, Score and Musical, London’s Olivier Award, Best Musical); Seussical (Grammy nomination, now one of the most performed shows in America); and A Christmas Carol (ten years at Madison Square Garden). She provided lyrics for My Favorite Year; Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life; the 2009 Broadway revival of Ragtime; and Rocky, which opens on Broadway in 2014. Lincoln Center Theater, Off-Broadway and Regional: Book and lyrics for The Glorious Ones (two Drama Desk nominations); Dessa Rose; and Lucky Stiff; Lyrics for A Man of No Importance (Outer Critics Circle Award, Best Musical); Book and lyrics for Little Dancer, an original musical which will premiere at the Kennedy Center in Fall, 2014.

              Feature Film: Original songs for Camp (IFC Films); After the Storm; Lucky Stiff (screenplay); and others.

              Television: She is a mainstay songwriter/singer for the renowned animated series Schoolhouse Rock, wrote the musical teleplay for A Christmas Carol (Hallmark Entertainment/NBC), and wrote and produced many other shows. She is an Emmy Award winner and four-time Emmy nominee.

              Publishing: Her short stories and essays have appeared nationally and have been nominated for Best American Essays and the Pushcart Anthology. She serves on the Council of the Dramatists Guild of America and co-founded the Dramatists Guild Fellows Program for Emerging Writers. 2013 marks her thirtieth year of collaboration with composer Stephen Flaherty.


            • KSU Theater Ragtime Composer - Stephen Flaherty
              Stephen Flaherty is the composer of the Broadway musicals Ragtime (Tony Award, Drama Desk, OCC Awards, two Grammy nominations), Once on This Island (Tony Award Best Revival, Tony nomination for Score, Grammy nomination, Olivier Award, Best Musical), Anastasia (Drama Desk nomination), Seussical (Grammy, Drama Desk nominations), and Rocky. Additional Broadway includes Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life and Neil Simon's Proposals (incidental music). Four musicals at Lincoln Center Theatre: The Glorious Ones (Drama Desk, OCC nominations), Dessa Rose (Drama Desk, OCC nominations), A Man of No Importance (OCC Award Best Musical, Drama Desk nomination) and My Favorite Year. Other theater includes In Your Arms (Old Globe), Little Dancer (Kennedy Center), Lucky Stiff (Playwrights Horizons), Loving Repeating (Chicago’s Jefferson Award, Best New Musical) and the upcoming Marie.

              Film includes Anastasia (two Academy Award and two Golden Globe nominations), After The Storm, and Lucky Stiff. Mr. Flaherty's concert music has premiered at the Hollywood Bowl, Boston's Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Guggenheim. In 2014, he and longtime collaborator Lynn Ahrens received the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement, and in 2015 they were inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. Council, Dramatists Guild of America; co- founder, Dramatists Guild Fellows Program.


            • KSU Theater Ragtime Writer - Terrence Mcnally
              Playwright Terrence McNally was born in 1939 and grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, listening to radio broadcasts of The Green Hornet and the Metropolitan Opera. McNally's love of the opera and especially of the famous diva Maria Callas would surface in his work, most notably in his Tony award-winning Master Class (1996). His love of music also inspired him to collaborate on several musicals, including The Rink (1984), Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993), and Ragtime (1996).

              Graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia in 1960 with a degree in English, McNally enjoyed a fellowship in Mexico where he wrote a play that earned the attention of the Actors Studio and got him a job as a stage manager, allowing him to acquire some practical theatre experience. In 1961, he enjoyed bonding with John Steinbeck and his family, on tour with them through Europe as the Steinbeck children's tutor. After McNally's first Broadway play And Things That Go Bump in the Night flopped, gaining notoriety for being 1964's most scandalous, he went forward working odd jobs until his subsequent and successful play Next elevated him to full-time playwright status.  

              From the macabre to the farcical, the range of McNally's satire and drama borrows from his personal life and his personal understanding of the world. McNally's plays about homophobia, love, fear, and AIDS, among other things, illuminate the dominant theme of how people connect and fail to connect. McNally has no fear of offending as he explores new territories with his pen. His controversial 1999 play Corpus Christi dramatized a homosexual version of Jesus Christ, drawing mobs of angry protesters to his home theater at the Manhattan Theatre Club, and inciting a fatwa or death sentence from a Muslim group in England.

              Despite the controversy surrounding some of his plays, Terrence McNally is one of the most beloved and prolific modern-day playwrights. Besides the afore-mentioned, some of his other notable credits include: The Ritz (1975), Frankie and Johnny at the Claire de Lune (1987), The Lisbon Traviata (1989), Andre's Mother (1990), Lips Together, Teeth Apart (1991), and Love! Valour! Compassion!(1994). In addition to four Tony Awards, McNally has received two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Grant, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Hull-Warriner Award, and a citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

            THE TEAM

            • Aeon Jones | Little Boy

              Abagail Dawkins | Mother

              Thomas Cox | Father

              Alex Harding | Younger Brother

              Troy Martin | Grandfather

              David Wilkerson | Coalhouse Walker Jr.

              L’Oreal Roache | Sarah

              Jalen Davidson | Booker T. Washington

              Brandy Bell | Sarah’s Friend

              Nathan McCurry | Tateh

              Danielle Lorentz | Little Girl

              Alec Andrew | Harry Houdini

              Joey Mangum | JP Morgan

              Zach Elton | Henry Ford

              Courtney McCullar | Emma Goldman

              Laura Reboulet | Evelyn Nesbit

              Parker Ossmann | Willie Conklin

              THE ENSEMBLE

              Alec Andrew, Brandon Bayani, Brandy Bell, Sully Brown, Jovahn Burroughs, Jalen Davidson, Zach Elton, Maggie Ewing, Harper Ford, Natalia Franceschi, Sarah Joseph, Jackie Lenz, Thy Ly, Casandra Mayfield, Blake McNeal, Joseph Ndoum, Brooklyn Norrington, Parker Ossmann, Grayson Parker, Fatimah Pounds, Kourtney Price, Laura Reboulet, Riley Schatz, Chandler Shearin, Michael Stewart, Elaina Trent, David Wells, Chandler West.

            • Assistant Director: Greta Goldberg

              Assistant Choreographer: Briannajoy Ebunola

              Fight Captain: David Wilkerson

              Dance Captain: L'Oréal Roache

              Scenic Designer: Ming Chen*

              Lighting & Video Designer: André Allen†

              Costume Designer: Elizabeth Rassmuson*

              Sound Designer: Anna Lee†

              Props Designer: Christopher Dills†

              Fight Choreographer: David Sterritt†

              Dialect Coach: Jan Wikstrom*

              Acting Coach & Dramaturgical Support: Kristyl Tift*

              Dramaturg: Angela Farr Schiller*

              Technical Director: Daniel Terry*

              Production Stage Manager: Paige Wiggins

              Stage Manager: Anna Eck

              Assistant Stage Managers: Raine Hess & Will Redmond

              * = KSU Faculty        † = Guest Artist