LCC does ‘Ragtime’

Racial justice, women’s empowerment, immigrant aspirations. No, these aren’t campaign speech themes for the last week of election season. They’re issues that are brought up in Lansing Community College’s upcoming production of “Ragtime: the Musical.”

The musical, based on E.L. Doctorow's novel and which had its Broadway debut in 1998, tells the story of three different groups of people dealing with the social changes occurring at the turn of the 20th century: an African American man, an upper middle class white family and an Eastern European immigrant. The story also incorporates a long list of historical characters, including Harry Houdini, Booker T. Washington, Evelyn Nesbit and Henry Ford.

The incorporation of these characters introduces another theme that shapes today’s electoral landscape: the media and its effect on social justice. It may seem like a lot to cover in just a couple hours, but the big cast makes it plausible. An ensemble of about 40 students and faculty make up one of largest productions LCC has put on in the past decade.

“Ragtime: the Musical”
LCC Performing Arts
Nov. 2-11
8 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays
2 p.m. Sundays
Dart Auditorium
500 N. Capitol Ave.
$15 general seating/ $10 students
(517) 372-0945 from noon - 4pm Tues.-Thurs.

‘Dark Nights’ rises

What happens when all the lights go out at the Williamston Theatre? The politicians come out, of course. Well, actually it’s just actors playing politicians, so that isn’t nearly as scary. Um, right?

This weekend, Williamston Theatre is staging its first ever “Dark Nights in Billtown,” a series of staged readings from two full-length plays and five shorts that explores political and social issues.

“We wanted to do something about the political season, and we liked all of the plays we looked at but obviously we couldn’t do them all,” said artistic director Tony Caselli. “So we decided on a stage reading. It seemed like a great way to handle it.”

Caselli said that since the theater is doing plays it wouldn’t normally do, the group decided, similarly, to present the shows in a way they wouldn’t normally present them: he said the readings will be performed in rooms around the theater that audience members don’t usually get access to.

“One reading is in the green room, another is in the scene shop,” Caselli said. “We liked the idea of the actors and the audience sharing the same space.”

Caselli wants this intimacy to help the audience connect deeper with the stories being told.

“Some plays are funny and some are dramatic, but they all deal with politics and how they affect people’s lives.” Caselli said.

The shows include David Mamet’s “November” on Friday, Don Zolidis’ “The Election” on Saturday, and the short play series on Sunday, which includes Langston Hughes’ “Let America be America.”

“Dark Nights in Billtown”
Nov. 2-4
Williamston Theatre
122 S. Putnam St., Williamston
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday
2 pm. Sunday
$5 suggested donation
(517) 655-7469