One beauty of live theater is also a challenge: there are no movie-style ratings to guide parents and guardians in deciding whether a show is appropriate for their children. Ragtime is a majestic, intense and important musical that is not for most young children, owing to episodes of violence and racial epithets. Some ticket buyers are understandably asking: Should I bring older children, and if so, how old should they be? Since Near West Theatre offers a 12-and-under ticket price (it’s $6 for kids, $8 for adults), we want you to have information to aid in your decision.
We won’t spoil the plot, but anyone wanting to be completely surprised by Ragtime may not want to read on.
Ragtime is a vigorous and heartfelt portrayal of races and classes encountering each other in the early 20th century. (See our show description here.) It’s about beauty, dreams and reconciliation for sure, but it’s also about power, bigotry and brutality. There is no graphic violence but there are deaths by beating and by gunshot — portrayed in a stylized theatrical manner and without blood. There is an emotional funeral scene. A racial slur beginning with “n” is used several times during the show – sometimes in the most hateful way possible and other times by African Americans rejecting it. There is a smaller amount of other swearing, though the expletives are not of a sexual nature. Perhaps less problematic, but worth noting, is a striptease played for comic effect and containing some pretty sexy and scanty clothing, though there is no nudity. “In looking over the description of Motion Picture Association of America ratings, I believe our production would receive a PG rating,” says Ragtime Director and NWT Artistic Director Bob Navis Jr.
How do you decide which shows to bring kids to? Leave a comment or anecdote here or at our Facebook page.