New Times once referred to the kids at Dreyfoos School of the Arts as "pretentious little artists." But you know what they say about makers of snarky comments: They're just jealous.
And we admit it. At Dreyfoos, kids take a minimum of two classes in their chosen artistic fields -- visual arts, communications, music, dance, or theater. This year, students, teachers, and one very special alumnus have come together for an ambitious production of Ragtime, a Tony Award-winning musical about three socially different families pursuing the American dream at the turn of the 20th Century. Based on the E.L. Doctorow novel of the same name, Ragtime focuses on a Harlem musician, a well-to-do family, and a Jewish immigrant.
"We get out of it what we put into it, which is really quite a lot," 17-year-old James Parenti, a junior who plays two roles in Ragtime, says of the theater program. The 56 students who make up the Ragtime cast have been rehearsing until 8 each school night, plus ten hours on weekends. Scenery, costumes, and lighting were all designed by students.
The musical, with lots of infectious Joplin-esque music and a tale that seeks to capture the ethos of pre-World War I America, is directed by Kimberlea Kressal, a Dreyfoos alum who went on to earn a BFA from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and founded the New York-based theater company Estrotribe. She is the first Dreyfoos alumnus to be invited back to stage a production.
Kressal is "an amazing director," Parenti says. "We all really respect her." About the show's choreographer, Garry Q. Lewis, who came to teach at Dreyfoos after a successful Broadway career, Parenti says: "Even if I weren't in theater, he would make me want to jump around on-stage. I know it's cliché, but we're all a big family. Everyone is equal and trying to do their best work." Hey, are we too old to enroll? -- Deirdra Funcheon