Interview: Tricia Corcoran of RAGTIME at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre

On stage now through May 12th

By: Apr. 09, 2024
Interview: Tricia Corcoran of RAGTIME at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
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Interview: Tricia Corcoran of RAGTIME at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre

Ragtime, based on the 1975 novel by E. L. Doctorow, premiered in Toronto in 1996 before opening on Broadway in 1998. The musical, by Terrance McNally, Stephen Flaherty, and Lynn Ahrens, tells the story of the United States in the early 20th century, focusing on the experiences and tensions that existed (and still exist) between different groups of people. It is a beautiful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking show, and audiences can experience it on stage at Dutch Apple through May 12th. Tricia Corcoran, who portrays Emma Goldman, spoke with BroadwayWorld about this production of Ragtime.

BWW: Tell us a little about yourself and how you first became interested in performing.

Corcoran: I have been performing since I was in high school. I started out as a dancer, but then I thought, “hey, I could actually sing, too.” That’s how I found out I really liked to do both. So, I started out in high school as a lot of us do. I remember one of my first shows was Oklahoma. I was in the ensemble, and when people were applauding at the end, I was like, “I like this. This is pretty cool”. I kept dancing and doing theatre all through college. I did a few professional things in my 20s, but it’s a hard life. My degree is in health and physical education. I became a teacher, but still worked with theatres in the summer and on weekends, and I had the opportunity to work on shows with some of the schools. Theatre is really my social life, too, so it’s something I enjoy and has become very important to me.

BWW: What’s your favorite role to date, and why is it your favorite?

Corcoran: I’ve done so many shows, it’s hard to choose just one. One of the shows I’m the proudest of is Follies. I did that a long time ago at EPAC, before they renovated. I got to play Sally, which is one of the lead roles, so I was very proud of that. I’ve also done Cabaret five times, and I played Fraulein Schneider three of those times. I love that show, and in a way Cabaret and Ragtime have some similarities.

BWW: I understand this is the second time you’ve played Emma Goldman in Ragtime.Interview: Tricia Corcoran of RAGTIME at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre Talk to us a little about how your perspective has changed as you prepare to play the role for a second time. How does portraying a real person impact your preparation for the role?

Corcoran: I don’t know if my perspective has changed drastically. But, every time I do a show, I discover new things. I’m probably a little freer this time around with being passionate in the role. A lot of people don’t know who Emma Goldman is. Unless you’re a student of history or interested in the Russian revolution or the union movement in the United States, you may not know who she is. She’s fascinating, and I’ve done a lot of research on her. She was so brave and radical, so I feel like I need to be brave and bring that passion to the character. Each time I do a show, I also think about the world we live in. Last time I did this show was about five or six years ago, and the world is different now. It’s interesting to see how the things that she was fighting for as a voice for women and immigrants are the same battles we’re faced with today. For example, she was really interested in birth control for women. So, this woman was giving speeches about and fighting for reproductive rights for women in 1912 and 1916, and here we are still working for those same rights. Ragtime and the themes it explores through all of the characters is still so relevant.

BWW: How does it feel to portray a real person?

Corcoran: Sometimes I worry because I don’t really look like Emma Goldman, especially since at the beginning of the show she is much younger than I am, being in her 30s. Luckily, though, as I mentioned before, people don’t really know who she is, so that helps me feel better about it. The cool thing about playing a real person is that you can read up on them and find out a lot of really interesting things about them. Many of her speeches are available, as well as her memoir, and I have just learned so much about her—about her life and her character. In Ragtime, we only just scratch the surface—she’s really not in it that much—she’s more like an idea. Her story is not told in Ragtime, but her passion, words, and ideals are a vehicle for illuminating things about American life in the early 20th century.

Interview: Tricia Corcoran of RAGTIME at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre BWW: Ragtime is a hard-hitting show that illuminates the complicated realities of the “American dream”. What do you find to be the most interesting or important aspect of the show?

Corcoran. Mother has an amazing arc throughout the show. She starts out as a wife and mother, but as Father travels and is away so much, she takes on more responsibility and learns that she can take on that responsibility.

BWW: The music in this show is phenomenal—if you had to pick just one, which is your favorite song and why?

Corcoran: One of my favorite songs is Mother’s song “Back to Before”. She sings about how she was happy as a wife and mother, and she talks about the road she’s been on. But she evolved and grew, and things changed. I feel like this change happens for a lot of women as they realize they can overcome expectations.

BWW: If you could take on any other historical figure (whether there’s an actual show about them or not), who would you want to play and why?

Corcoran: I would love for them to make a show about the founding mothers. Cokie Roberts wrote a book called Founding Mothers, that I found fascinating. It was about the wives, daughters, and mothers—the women around our founding Fathers. It was really interesting. I think they should do a show about these women.

BWW: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

Corcoran: Sometimes you go into rehearsals for a show and you wonder if you’re actually going to have a show. The very first day of rehearsal for Ragtime the director, Joshua William Green, who has performed in Ragtime himself, started doing the Prologue, and the voices started singing, and I immediately thought, “wow, this is going to be good.”

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