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PEMCo. organizes new forum

Kaitlynn Riely | Wednesday, January 31, 2007

After months of rehearsal, the cast of the Pasquerilla East Musical Company’s (PEMCo.) production of Ragtime – along with a panel of guest speakers – will step out of character to reflect on the play’s themes of prejudice and the pursuit of the American dream.

Senior Tim Masterton, the show’s co-producer, helped plan an academic forum for next Wednesday to complement the four performances of the play. The forum will give the Notre Dame community – which hails from all over the country and the world – a chance to discuss the social and cultural observations of Ragtime, Masterton said.

“We figured this would be the best way to take a step back from the show and try to make more relevant some of the things that were discussed in our show,” he said.

Ragtime, a musical based on E.L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel of the same name, is about three different groups that come together in America in the early 1900s, Masterton said.

The play’s depiction of the interactions between the established white aristocracies, African Americans in Harlem and immigrant groups from across eastern and western Europe who came to America at the turn of the century results in “a dramatic telling of the melting pot that was present at this time in America,” Masterton said.

All the groups are different, but each aspired to some version of the American dream, he said.

“We want to break open this idea of the American dream and how it is very central to immigrants coming to America … and what that means in the 100 years after the show takes place,” Masterton said.

PEMCo. invited five speakers to comment on the play in the forum entitled “Ragtime 100 Years Later: Defining Our Generation’s American Dream.” Graduate School Dean Donald Pope-Davis, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs G. David Moss, associate professor of economics and policy studies Martin Wolfson, Notre Dame graduate student Crystal Blount and Christy Fleming Greene, the advisor for Shades of Ebony and assistant professional specialist in the First Year of Studies, will all speak at the forum.

Ragtime is the most ambitious show PEMCo. has produced since it was started ten years ago, Masterton said in a news release, and the first show they have produced that lends itself to further academic discussion.

Senior Jack Calcutt, the director of Ragtime, wanted to put on this show when he applied for the position last February, Masterton said.

“We wanted something that had substance and could be socially relevant and could translate to people’s experience at Notre Dame,” he said.

The show, with its diverse cast, also allowed the producers to pick a varied group of students to play the parts.

“We’ve never really had very many African American members of the club,” Masterton said. “We were really excited to expand the group.”

Unlike the production of Footloose last year, the racially charged language of the play and its thematic elements separated it from plays PEMCo. has performed before, Masterton said.

“We felt like we had to do this [academic forum] because there are so many things that need to be discussed,” he said.

Ragtime will be performed Feb. 2, 3, 9 and 10 starting at 7:30 p.m. each night. Tickets – six dollars for students and senior citizens and eight dollars for adults – can be purchased at the LaFortune Box Office or by phone through the box office. The forum discussion – co-hosted by the student groups Shades of Ebony and Wabruda – will take place Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Washington Hall. The forum discussion is free.