A Common Core Study Guide - RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

A Common Core Study Guide
Jump start the
Help engage reluctant
Why take your students to the
With new educational initiatives in Washington, D.C. focusing on
synthesis of knowledge; theatre is actively becoming a
mainstream way of allowing young people to “experience text”
by “engaging interactively” while simultaneously working on
their listening and comprehension skills.
We, here at Rivercenter, are interested in helping you- the
educator- experience nationally acclaimed programing to be
both arts inclusive and an arts integrated classroom.
Aid in the lengthening
of attention spans!
Make connections to
vocabulary words!
What is the difference between Arts Integration and Arts Inclusion?
Aid in the
development of
Provide a prompt for
multiple intelligences!
So glad you asked! You probably are already actively INCLUDING the arts in your
lessons. This is most frequently displayed by watching a movie (acting/film), taking
your students to a play (theatre), drawing a picture (visual arts), or singing/playing
a song (Music). However, arts INTEGRATION actively takes the fine art standard
and evaluate it as equally as the core subject standard! Our Job is to help make
that easier for you by giving you both the academic and arts standard for quality
lesson plans, and easy to follow directions that will entice you to use them in your
classroom. We hope you will join this movement to move both your classroom and
the district full S.T.E.A.M ahead!
Plot Synopsis
The Ragtime musical "" takes place in early 20thcentury America, the era of ragtime as represented by
the lively piano music of Scott Joplin. The story
concerns three intersecting story lines. As Father
leaves on a voyage, his ship passes that taking Tateh
and Little Girl to America. Sarah and her son are both
welcomed by the family in New Rochelle, New York.
Coalhouse visits the family weekly in attempts to
reunite with Sarah and their son. Little Boy is in love with the iconic celebrity of the era, Evelyn
Nesbit. Tateh is woven into the story when Nesbit, on a visit to their lower east side
neighborhood, connects with Tateh's daughter and visits regularly. Younger Brother takes up
the workers' cause, with violent results. Through several twists and turns, the three story lines
eventually converge when Coalhouse Walker's beloved Model T car is vandalized by racists.
Sarah appeals to the future president Howard Taft for justice in the vandalism case and is shot
by the secret service. In the second act, Tateh has become a successful filmmaker. Attempting
to seek justice for Sarah's death, Coalhouse takes hostages at the Morgan library and is shot by
police after agreeing to a peaceful resolution. Father dies in Europe. Mother marries Tateh and
moves with him, Coalhouse Walker III and Little Girl to California.
Musical Numbers
"Ragtime," the musical, is told almost entirely in song. Several numbers stand out for their
emotional content, lyricism and melody. "New Music," sung by Coalhouse, Sarah and the
family, introduces the ragtime style of the era. "A Shtetl Iz Amereke" is a song featuring the
languages spoken by immigrants to America during the ragtime era. "Wheels of a Dream," sung
by Coalhouse and Sarah, describes their dream of owning a car and traveling throughout the
country with their son as he grows up. "Til We Reach That Day," the closing song for the first
act, is sung at Sarah's funeral, asking if and when there will be an end to racial injustice.
The Author
Edgar Lawrence "E. L." Doctorow (January 6, 1931 – July 21, 2015) was an
American author, editor, and professor, best known internationally for his works
of historical fiction. He has been described as one of the most important American
novelists of the 20th century.
He authored twelve novels, three volumes of short fiction and a stage drama. They
included the award-winning novels Ragtime (1975), Billy Bathgate (1989), and The
March (2005). These, like many of of his other works, placed fictional characters in
recognizable historical contexts, with known historical figures, and often used
different narrative styles. His stories were recognized for their originality and
versatility, and Doctorow was praised for his audacity and imagination.[1]
The Progressive Era was an extremely important time for America’s
women. During this time Women gained greater access to education
and began to assert their equality in the home. At the end of the 19th
Century women were seen as the “moral guardians” and protectors of
the home. Many activists used this ideology as a justification for
women to take a more active role in the political arena. During the
Progressive Era women became more civically engaged then ever
before and played a major role in the labor movement and the
temperance movement. Settlement houses founded by women
became important community centers in urban areas; they provided
education, health services, arts activities and helped immigrants adapt
to American culture. Women’s rights advanced significantly during this time period as women worked on many issues
related to sexuality, marriage and childbirth; including divorce rights and birth control. Right here in Portland famed
anarchist Emma Goldman and her partner Ben Rietman were arrested in 1915 at the corner of SW 4th and SW Yamhill
for distributing birth control information. Thanks to the hard work of prominent women activists like Elizabeth Cady
Stanton and Suzan B. Anthony the 19th amendment to the constitution was ratified in 1920, giving women the right to
America saw tremendous industrial growth during the late 19th century and early 20th century, resulting in corporations
of unprecedented size like Standard Oil and U.S. Steel Corp. Big business leaders, often called “robber barons,” enjoyed
unprecedented power by taking advantage of minimal government regulation and exploitative labor practices. Worker
strikes were common and often violent affairs. Activist journalists called “Muckrakers” published numerous exposés of
big business, including Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle about unsanitary and unfair practices in the Chicago meat packing
industry and Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives exposing the conditions of tenement slums. President Teddy
Roosevelt broke with many of his Republican colleagues when he supported stronger government regulation of business
and took the side of labor in the settlement of the Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902. As a result of these efforts the
Progressive Era saw significant reforms in the regulation of working conditions and numerous antitrust suites.
New Rochelle is a suburb of New York City located in Westchester County, New York. The town was settled by refugee
Huguenots (French Protestants) in 1688 who were fleeing Catholic pogroms in France. In 1900 its population was
14,720. During the Progressive Era New Rochelle became the site of one of the first planned communities in the United
States. Rochelle Park, completed in 1904, was the precursor to today’s ubiquitous suburban subdivisions.
From 1891 to 1900 4 million immigrants entered the United
States, from 1901 to 1910 that number increased to 8.8 million.
In 1910 three-fourths of New York City’s population was either
immigrants or first generation Americans. Unlike earlier
immigrants, the immigrant populations of the progressive era
came primarily from non-English speaking European countries.
Large numbers came from Italy, Russia and Poland and often
had a difficult time adjusting to American life. Many faced
extreme poverty and discrimination. Most settled in urban
centers where jobs were available and ended up taking work
that other Americans would not. They became a cheap source
of labor for the country’s wealthy robber barons and played a
key role in the labor movement. Settlement Houses founded by a new generation of educated women played became
important education and community centers for many poor urban immigrants.
Despite the advances in Women’s rights and labor, the rights of African Americans actually regressed after the progress
made during Reconstruction. Post emancipation The Progressive Era: 7 the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, as well as
the Civil Rights Act of 1875, provided many new freedoms. However, rights began to whittle away after Reconstruction
ended in 1877. The end of the 19th century saw the rise of Jim Crow laws in the South, where 90% of African Americans
lived at the time. Supreme Court Rulings like Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, which upheld a Louisiana law segregating train
cars, paved the way for legal discrimination throughout the South. Lynching was a common practice and “progressive”
reforms made it easier to deny African American’s voting rights. It was not until 1815 with Guinn v. United States when
the Supreme Court began to strike down some of the laws, although Plessy v. Ferguson would have to wait until 1954’s
Brown v. Board of Education to be overturned. Still, the era was not without its victories, the Niagara Movement lead by
W.E.B. DuBois and William Monroe Trotter resulted in the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. Booker T. Washington, one of Ragtime’s characters, became a prominent and
influential African American leader and founded the Tuskegee institute in 1881 to educate blacks. The onset of World
War II saw the beginning of the Great Migration, as many southern Blacks headed north to find industrial jobs and
escape the violent racial oppression in the South.
Ragtime music was an important element of the Progressive Era soundtrack. The African American piano style
originated in the Midwest and South sometime in the late 1880’s or early 1890’s. One of its defining characteristics is
heavily syncopated or “ragged” rhythms. The style grew out of the Cakewalk, a popular African American dance
competition of the time named for the prize commonly given to the winner. Composer Scott Joplin popularized Ragtime
in 1899 with the release of his classic “Maple Leaf Rag.”
Vaudeville was a popular theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early
1880’s to the early 1930’s. Acts were diverse and unrelated; they included everything from classical and popular
musicians to one-act plays, trained animals, magicians and acrobats. By the late 1890s Vaudeville had large circuits,
houses (small and large) in almost every sizable location, standardized booking, broad pools of skilled acts, and a loyal
national following. New York City’s Palace Theatre was the most prestigious of the Vaudeville venues. Evelyn Nesbit
became a Vaudeville performer after her husband Harry K. Thaw murdered her lover Stanford White.
Henry Ford July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947 The American founder of the Ford Motor Company and
father of modern assembly lines used in mass production. His introduction of the Model T
automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry. He was a prolific inventor and
was awarded 161 U.S. patents.
Matthew Henson August 6, 1866 – March 9, 1955 An African American explorer and associate
of Robert Peary during various expeditions, the most famous being a 1909 expedition which
claimed to be the first to reach the Geographic North Pole.
Harry Houdini March 24, 1874 – October 31, 1926, born Ehrich Weiss A Jewish-Hungarian-American
magician and escapologist, stunt performer, actor and fi lm producer, as well as a skeptic and
investigator of spiritualists.
J.P. Morgan April 17, 1837 – March 31, 1913 An American financier, banker and art
collector who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation during his
time. He is widely credited with having saved or rescued the U.S. national economy
in general—and the federal government in particular—on two separate occasions.
He bequeathed much of his large art collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City
and to the Wadsworth Atheneum of Hartford, Connecticut.
Evelyn Nesbit December 25, 1884 – January 17, 1967 An American artists’ model
and chorus girl, noted for her entanglement in the murder of her ex-lover,
architect Stanford White, by her first husband, Harry Kendall Thaw.
Harry K. Thaw (February 12, 1871 - February 22, 1947) A son of Pittsburgh coal and railroad baron
William Thaw, brother of South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club member Benjamin Thaw. He is best
known for the murder of architect Stanford White at Madison Square Garden in 1906 over their
mutual relationship with Evelyn Nesbit, and the sensational trial that followed. Thaw was a violent
and paranoid man who was known as a womanizer.
Charles S. Whitman Served as Republican Governor of New York from January 1915 to December 1918. Prior to his
election as governor, he served as a New York City municipal judge and as Manhattan District Attorney. As District
Attorney, he gained national fame in prosecuting New York City Police Lt. Charles Becker for the July 16, 1912 murder of
Times Square gambling house operator Herman Rosenthal.
Stanford White November 9, 1853 – June 25, 1906 An American architect and partner in the
architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White, the frontrunner among Beaux-Arts fi rms. He
designed a long series of houses for the rich and the very rich, and various public, institutional, and
religious buildings, some of which can be found to this day in places like Sea Gate, Brooklyn. His
design principles embodied the “American Renaissance”. In 1906 White was murdered by
millionaire Harry Kendall Thaw over their mutual relationship with Evelyn Nesbit, leading to a
widely-reported trial.
What is Ragtime Jazz?
Considered the first completely American music, ragtime was
popular towards the end of the 19th century and into the first
two decades of the 20th century, roughly 1893 to 1917. It is the
style of music that preceded jazz.
Musical Characteristics
Structured in a way similar to the march, ragtime’s use of
syncopation is largely what distinguished it. Its rhythms made it
lively and springy, and therefore ideal for dancing. Its name is
believed to be a contraction of the term “ragged time,” which
refers to its rhythmically broken up melodies.
Ragtime developed in African American communities
throughout the southern parts of the Midwest, particularly
Missouri. Bands would combine the structure of marches with
black songs and dances such as the cakewalk. The music,
which predated the explosion of sound recordings, became
widespread through the sale of published sheet music and piano
rolls. In this way it contrasts sharply from early jazz, which was
spread by recordings and live performances.
Ragtime Composers
Scott Joplin – Perhaps the most famous composer of ragtime music, Joplin composed two highly
popular pieces, “The Entertainer” and “Maple Leaf Rag.”
Jelly Roll Morton – A prolific performer and outspoken personality, Morton made many recordings and
his music is regarded as a bridge between ragtime and early jazz. His most famous pieces are “King
Porter Stomp” and “Black Bottom Stomp.”
Eubie Blake – Getting his start playing ragtime piano in vaudeville acts, Blake co-composed “Shuffle
Along,” a 1921 musical revue that was the first Broadway hit composed by African Americans.
James P. Johnson – One of the originators of the style known as stride piano, Johnson combined
elements of ragtime with the blues and improvisation, leading the way towards early jazz.
Joseph Lamb – Encouraged by his hero, Scott Joplin, Lamb had many of his rags published between
1908 and 1920. He was a member of the “Big Three” ragtime composers, which also included Joplin
and James Scott.
James Scott – A member of the “Big Three,” Scott published "Climax Rag," "Frog Legs Rag," and
"Grace and Beauty" from Missouri, ragtime’s hub.
-About Jazz by Jacob Teichroew
The RiverCenter Night School Program is meant to supplement curricular activities with shows that are relevant
to our time and most importantly the classroom. Please READ the articles provided in the guide to a) know the
general plot of the show b) understand the context in which the show takes place and c) leave with a deeper
understanding of many of the themes and motifs of the performance. Afterwards display comprehension by
WRITING on any of the essays topics provided or writing a REVIEW of the performance. Any reviews turned
into the RiverCenter may appear on our young critic’s page!
Essay Topics
How do some of the main characters serve allegorical roles? What movements or social trends are they intended
to represent?
What questions and concerns does Doctorow raise about the nature of historical truth?
How does the struggle for stability and meaning manifest itself in the characters' thoughts and actions?
What is the role of the motion picture in Ragtime? What is its significance as a cultural influence at the turn of
the century in the United States? How is the process of "duplication" significant?
How to write a review
Look at the traditional structure of a play review. The standard play review contains five paragraphs. There
are other approaches you can use, such as comparing two plays in one review or writing longer reviews for one
play. But traditionally, a play review will analyze several elements of the production in five paragraphs,
Paragraph 1: Your introductory paragraph should describe what you saw on stage. You should also give
context for the play, such as the playwright or composer of the play and where the play is being staged.
Paragraph 2: Briefly summarize the plot of the play.
Paragraph 3: Discuss the acting and directing. React to the performers playing the characters in the play.
Paragraph 4: Describe the design elements of the production, such as the lighting, sound, costumes,
make up, and set and props.
Paragraph 5: React to the play as a whole. Would you recommend the play to potential audience
members? You can also include a recommendation, like a star rating or a thumbs up/thumbs down.
- http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Play-Review
Literacy Across the Curriculum Standard
L9-10WHST2: Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific
procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.
L9-10WHST5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a
new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
TAHSFTI.1 Analyzing and constructing meaning from theatrical experiences, dramatic
literature, and electronic media
Critiquing various aspects of theatre and other media using appropriate
supporting evidence
Engaging actively and appropriately as an audience member in theatre and other
media experiences