A Story About Us: An Interview with Peter Rothstein

By Kwapi Vengesayi, Community Engagement Specialist

On December 8, 1996, Ragtime, a musical based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow, celebrated its world premiere at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Fourteen months later, on January 18, 1998, it made its Broadway debut, which marked the beginning of what would be a two-year run: 27 previews, 834 performances, 13 Tony Award® nominations and four wins, including Best Book of a Musical and Best Score.“The original production was glorious,” says Peter

“The original production was glorious,” says Peter Rothstein, director of The 5th Avenue’s production of Ragtime. “It had a huge and incredible cast, it was an epic production; it was theatrically thrilling.” Peter Rothstein is the Founding Artistic Director of Theater Latté Da based in Minneapolis. In fall of 2016, Rothstein directed a new, reimagined

Peter Rothstein is the Founding Artistic Director of Theater Latté Da based in Minneapolis. In fall of 2016, Rothstein directed a new, reimagined
version of Ragtime. With a scaled down cast of just 15 actors—11 adults and four children—Theater Latté Da’s production presented a new take on the original musical. As Rothstein continues to develop the show, this number has also adjusted. The 5th’s
production features 13 adults and four children.“I intentionally said there would be no chorus.

“I intentionally said there would be no chorus. The production would engage just the principal characters.” For example, in the opening number when the immigrants are introduced, the entire cast is onstage singing, but the event is focused in such a way that the audience observes only the Jewish immigrant Tateh and his child rather than a full chorus of immigrants. As a result, the central characters are given more attention, more focus.These principals then serve as the ensemble,

These principals then serve as the ensemble, chorus and narrators of each other’s stories. When Coalhouse is purchasing a Model T, you’ll see the rest of the cast playing the factory workers. This allows the audience to spend more time with each actor than they would in a more traditional large-scale production. It also underlines a central metaphor in the piece. “As a community, as a nation, we are personally responsible for each other’s story. I believe that,” Rothstein says.“Ragtime is about our core values as a nation.” At a

“Ragtime is about our core values as a nation.” At a time in which the nation’s social and political climate has been abrasive when it comes to conversations about identity, Rothstein feels that Ragtime is a production that will inspire dialogue. Anchored in the narratives of three characters—a Jewish immigrant, an African-American musician and an affluent white woman—this musical weaves these stories in a profound and beautiful way as it explores the different relationships the characters have within the power structures of the nation.

Click here to get tickets for Ragtime at The 5th Avenue Theatre.


Spotlight Night Remix: A Celebration of RAGTIME and Community

Ragtime is a musical that inspires each and every one of us to imagine a more hopeful future: a story about people of different backgrounds, cultures, and ideas united by their desire and belief in a brighter tomorrow. And in this spirit of togetherness and community, on Wednesday, October 4, The 5th Avenue Theatre and the Northwest African American Museum partnered to put on an event that would celebrate Ragtime and history of our region and diversity: an evening of music, dance, poetry, conversation and remembering.

Photo credit Lauren Wolbaum

Ragtime plays October 13-November 5. Click Here for Tickets to Ragtime.


A 5th Avenue Theatre New Musical Commission: ’64

Douglas Lyons HeadshotDouglas Lyons is starring as Coalhouse in our new production of Ragtime. This may be his 5th Avenue Theatre mainstage debut, but the New York actor has been working with the company for a year as a composer behind the new musical ’64, a 5th Avenue Theatre commission of the New Works Program. Despite a vigorous rehearsal schedule, Lyons took the time to sit down with us and answer some questions about this exciting new show.

Your new musical is based on a true moment in history. Can you tell us what is ’64 about?

Amidst the Civil Rights Movement in 1960’s America, one chapter of fraternity men at Stanford University fought segregation head-on. And not with their fists, but with their brotherhood. Continue reading “A 5th Avenue Theatre New Musical Commission: ’64”

Getting to Know The 5th: A Uniquely Seattle Broadway Experience


Did you know that the large majority of shows you see on The 5th Avenue Theatre stage are self-produced? This fact actually makes The 5th incredibly unique, so let me explain what this means.

There are two ways that a musical appears on our stage. Once or twice a year, you’ll see a show that is part of a national tour. These musicals are hot from the Broadway stage and are now traveling across the country. In these productions, you will see sets, costumes and staging that is often the same or very close to what audiences experienced during the show’s run on Broadway. Recent national tours have included Tony®-award winners (or nominees) like Fun Home, Matilda and Something Rotten! Continue reading “Getting to Know The 5th: A Uniquely Seattle Broadway Experience”

Ragtime Historical Figures & Their American Story

By Kwapi Vengesayi, Community Engagement Specialist

Based on the 1975 novel by E.L Doctorow, Ragtime is a musical that introduces the stories of fictional characters and intertwines them with the lives of real-life historical figures. Get to know some of these characters from history below.

HenryFord_Logo_wnameHenry Ford
July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947

Henry Ford was an industrialist, inventor, and founder of the Ford Motor Company. He was the first to apply the assembly line process to automobile manufacturing, a move which revolutionized not only the industry but also transportation in general.

Continue reading “Ragtime Historical Figures & Their American Story”

Behind the Scenes at Ragtime Rehearsal

The stellar cast of Ragtime, stripped down to an essential 17 members, is currently deep in rehearsal for the production which begins performances next week. Take a peek behind the curtain at these rehearsal shots.

Sounds Good to Me!

Karen Katz has had a remarkable year. Being the Head Sound Engineer at The 5th Avenue Theatre is no small undertaking during any given season, but this year, in particular, Karen took a ride on a technological rollercoaster following The 5th Avenue Theatre’s transition from an analog sound system verging on antique in technological years to a state-of-the-art digital system.

“People come up to me and say ‘Oh, you’re going digital! I bet your job just got easier,’ and it’s like ‘oh, no no no!’” Karen laughs and shakes her distinctive curls. “This job just got 10 fold more complicated than it had ever been before because there are so many more things you can do. And everything has a lot of programming that needs to be done before you can just ‘do’ it.” Continue reading “Sounds Good to Me!”

Ian at Large

Over the past two years, The 5th Avenue Theatre’s beloved Resident Music Supervisor and Alhadeff Family Director of New Works Ian Eisendrath has packed up his family and home and traveled to San Diego, Washington D.C. and Toronto, finally settling in New York City to continue his incredible work on the sensational hit Come From Away. Ian is still working closely with The 5th from the East Coast but in an entirely new capacity. We recently caught up with Ian over email to hear about what the future holds.

Ian Eisendrath conducts Titanic in Concert at The 5th Avenue Theatre (credit Mark Kitaoka)

Tell us what your new job title is and what your new responsibilities are as far as 5th Avenue Theatre projects are concerned.

I am an Associate Artist for Music & New Works at the 5th! My new role includes discussion and collaboration with the artistic leadership at the 5th Avenue, attending readings, meetings and events in New York City on the 5th Avenue’s behalf and returning to Seattle periodically to develop, musically direct and conduct new work.

Why the big change?

Over the past thirteen years that I have been in residence at the 5th Avenue, the organization has afforded me ample opportunities to work on exciting new musicals.  One of these projects was Come From Away, an unlikely musical about the surprising outpouring of love, generosity and acceptance that took place in Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11.   Continue reading “Ian at Large”

Rising Star Project: the Next Stage

Six years ago, the first iteration of something truly special took place at The 5th Avenue Theatre. Following the mainstage production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma, it was simply called “The Oklahoma Project.” The idea was to invite students from all over Puget Sound to remount our professional production on our stage under the direct mentorship of 5th Avenue professionals. Students were invited to perform, to stage manage the production, to work the technical elements, move scenery, alter costumes, fit and style wigs, manage fundraising campaigns, set ad budgets and project manage direct mail campaigns.

In all its many facets, the project was, in a word, unique. Continue reading “Rising Star Project: the Next Stage”

The Musical’s The Thing

By BILL BERRY, Producing Artistic Director, and ALBERT EVANS, Artistic Associate


Well, no. But—despite what Something Rotten! implies—neither did his rivals. Still, there are striking similarities between Shakespeare’s plays and our modern musicals.

Four hundred years after his death, Shakespeare’s legacy is everywhere—in our language, our notions about “genius,” even our conception of what it is to be human. So of course we’ll find his ghost still haunting our theaters, telling us how to write, mount, and see plays. Shakespeare’s scripts include well over a hundred songs, making them function, at moments, as actual musicals. Some of the music survives, and over the years Shakespeare’s lyrics have been reset thousands of times by popular and classical composers. Continue reading “The Musical’s The Thing”