LIVES IN COLLISION — In the musical Ragtime, the lives of, from left, Mother (played by Becca Southworth), Sarah (Athena Jean-Etienne), Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Kadesh Lewis) and Tateh (Gavin Waid) unexpectedly collide and are forever changed. Ragtime will be performed April 15-May 8 at the Athens Theatre, 124 N. Florida Ave. in Downtown DeLand. PHOTO COURTESY MIKE KITAIF

“It was the music of something beginning …”

As it is even now, America at the turn of the 20th century was a symphony of diverse and often dissonant melodies.

From Friday, April 15, through Sunday, May 8, travel back in time with the Athens Theatre to 1902 and into the world of Ragtime, as DeLand’s historic theater presents this quadruple-Tony Award-winning smash musical phenomenon.

“In 1902, Father built a house at the crest of the Broadview Avenue hill in New Rochelle, New York, and it seemed for some years thereafter that all the family’s days would be warm and fair.”

But then, cultures collide with the influx of immigrants by the millions. The divide between rich and poor grows as industrial and financial giants loom large. The march for equality and the fulfillment of the American experiment charges ever onward.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, passions and tempers flared over the inequalities reinforced by Reconstruction’s failure and the broken promise of the coveted American dream.

Ragtime tells a story that weaves in and out of history-book pages, focusing on contrasting cultures by spotlighting three families — each struggling to find their way in New York City during this era of rapid industrialization and urbanization.

Each of these families grapples with the changing American cultural climate. Each figures out, and grasps toward, their own version of the dream.

The ragtime, jazz, gospel and ballad songs (30 of them in all) trace the once-unimaginable sundering and merging of three families: a daring, young, Black Harlem musician Coalhouse Walker Jr. (played by Kadesh Lewis) and his son’s mother, Sarah (Athena Jean-Étienne); a determined Jewish immigrant Tateh (Gavin Waid); and a stifled, white, upper-class mother (Becca Southworth). They are all united by their courage, compassion and belief in the promise of the future.

They all have children to think of: Coalhouse Walker III, Mother’s Little Boy (Harrison Bitler/Parker Williams) and Tateh’s nameless Little Girl (Isobel Cloudman/Lila Southworth) … and Mother must find her own place as a woman in the new century, growing beyond both of the men in her family, Father (David Coalter) and Grandfather (Brian Allan Chambers), and the antiquated constraints on female expectations.

They all must confront history’s timeless contradictions of wealth and poverty, unity and prejudice, hope and despair … and what it means to be an American in trying times. The themes and events still resonate 120 years later.

The play includes historical figures such as Booker T. Washington (Stelson Telfort), Evelyn Nesbit (Sheradin Jansen), Emma Goldman (Kelly Fagan), J.P. Morgan (Andrew Johnson), Henry Ford (David Coovert) and Harry Houdini (Gabriel Garcia).

The soaring and stylized score of Ragtime was written by the award-winning composer and lyricist team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (Seussical, Once on This Island, Anastasia, Rocky), and Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally (Master Class, The Full Monty, Catch Me If You Can, Anastasia). Ragtime is based on E.L. Doctorow’s National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novel of the same name.

The Athens Theatre happily invites hearing-impaired audiences to our special ASL-interpreted performance Friday, April 29.

Located at 124 N. Florida Ave. in Downtown DeLand, the Athens Theatre has instituted extensive precautions to ensure the safety of actors and audiences.

Tickets to Ragtime cost $31 for preferred seating (rows A-E, center); $26 for adults, general seating; $24 for senior citizens; $12 for students/children; and $22 per person for groups of eight or more. A $3-per-ticket processing charge will be added to each purchase.

To purchase tickets in advance or to find out more specific information about dates, times and safety precautions, visit the Athens Theatre website at www.AthensDeLand.com.

If you are looking to purchase socially distant seating or tickets in the ASL-interpreter location, call the box office at 386-736-1500, or email to boxoffice@AthensDeLand.com to find the perfect spot.

Box-office hours are 1-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and one-and-a-half hours before live performances. Voicemails are received daily.

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