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Art 4 Presents Virtual Production of RAGTIME

Ragtime is a Tony Award-winning musical that takes place in New York during the early 1900s.

Art 4 Presents Virtual Production of RAGTIME

"It just felt like the right thing to do," says Aaron Albin, Executive Director of Art 4, when asked about their upcoming production of the hit Broadway musical Ragtime. "We wanted to produce a show that met the moment we are collectively facing as a society," says Aaron Albin.

Ragtime is a Tony Award-winning musical that takes place in New York during the early 1900s. With beautiful music, the story follows the lives of three different cultures of the time: White suburbanites in New Rochelle, African Americans in Harlem, and European immigrants living in tenements on the Lower East Side. While showcasing the intersectionality of these three different groups of people, Ragtime addresses heavy topics of racial inequities, immigration, and women's rights; topics that are just as relevant now as they were 100 years ago when this story takes place.

Art 4's production of this groundbreaking show was pre-recorded in mid-March. Audience members will watch the show similar to an experience one would have streaming Netflix or Hulu. Art 4 captured this 2.5 hour musical in South Bend around various locations including the Oliver Mansion, the Morris Performing Arts Center, Four Winds Field, and the Scottish Rite, just to name a few of the 10 cultural landmarks that are showcased in this virtual production.

To tell this monumental story, Art 4 cast a group of 25 regional actors to fill the large casting requirements of Ragtime. "Typically this show is done with about 45 people on stage. We're proud of the approach we took to keep artists safe, and are glad that the steps we took were well received by the artistic community," says Mark Albin, Artistic Director of Art 4.

Over 550 actors auditioned for Art 4's production of Ragtime from across 17 different states and 3 different countries. These auditions happened virtually, as did the entire rehearsal process for Ragtime. All music, acting, dancing, and blocking rehearsals took place over Zoom in preparation of a 3-day weekend of recorded performances. The entire cast and crew were required to receive a negative COVID result prior to arriving on set. And as for the singing?

"For the safety of the cast and crew, there was no live singing during the recording of Ragtime. We wanted to take every precaution possible. Each actor recorded their vocals at home during the rehearsal process with a recording kit that Art 4 sent out to each cast member. Then, during our video shoot, the actors lip-synced to the sound of their own voice to keep everyone free of the additional aerosol that live singing produces," says Aaron Albin.

Art 4 began to pivot to online content in April 2020 with their ShowTunes Sunday program, which was dedicated to raising money for local artists who had been financially impacted by COVID-19. Other online programs included their Cyber Sizzle; a virtual block party, a Masquerade fundraiser, and Art 4's Jingle Mingle. The pinnacle of this work occurred last fall when Art 4 released an online version of Ryan Scott Oliver's 35mm: A Musical Exhibition, a pre-recorded musical that was produced in a similar fashion to Ragtime.

It's been an entire year of producing virtual content for this small theatre company; something they never thought they would do. However, making online musicals and music videos wasn't the only way Art 4 responded to the economic and social issues of 2020.

"In the wake of George Floyd's murder, everything changed. We knew we needed to act, and we knew we needed to act differently than other theatre companies," says Mark Albin. So, the small non-profit in South Bend decided to use its resources to raise money for a local partner who could make an impact on the community in a way that Art 4 could not. "We already had an existing system that would meet this need with our ShowTunes Sunday program," says Aaron Albin. Art 4 used their ShowTunes Sunday program to mobilize the community and contributed a matching donation to Black Lives Matter South Bend.

After their financial efforts, Art 4 set their sights on igniting social change the best way a theatre can; with dynamic storytelling that creates authentic conversation. Ragtime is expected to be a major success for this family-run business, and they hope to reach a wider audience with this virtual experience.

"Change requires action from us all, and our hope is to inspire change in our community. The story of Ragtime addresses difficult topics of our past and present. But that's exactly why we decided to bring this award-winning musical to South Bend. It just felt like the right thing to do," Aaron Albin.

Performances will be available for streaming on April 16, 18, 22, 24, 30, and May 2. Tickets are $25, with discounts available for couples and families of four or more. To purchase tickets online, visit art4sb.org.

About Art 4:

Art 4 is a professional musical theatre production company integrating four different mediums of art - performing, visual, literary, and culinary - to cultivate unique arts experiences that engage our community. We believe art should be accessible to all people and that all artists should be compensated for their contributions. Art 4 is committed to partnering with local artists and businesses to build a stronger and more economically prosperous future for all.

Art 4 actively shapes South Bend's cultural landscape by cultivating innovative artistic experiences and paving pathways to professionalism for emerging artists. We challenge our audience to immerse themselves in contemporary works enriched with universal themes reflective of the human condition. We ignite the soul through expressive storytelling and create authentic conversation as we navigate, together, through our complex world.


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