Jeni Lamm, Managing Director for the WordPlayers, interviews Sheryl Howard who will be playing Emma Goldman in the company’s summer performance, Ragtime, The Musical.
You are not only a fabulous singer but you play several instruments as well! What instruments do you play?
Piano – flute/piccolo, oboe/English horn, clarinet (although not very well) and saxophone (mainly alto sax and tenor) I learned these because ever since I was in high school, I wanted to be a reed (wo)man in a Broadway pit. (Or Knoxville pit – that’s cool too)
You’ve played, sung and conducted a lot of music in your career. What do you think of the music in Ragtime?
I think it is incredible. In fact, I look forward to the day when I can listen to it and not be in tears – it’s so moving. I love how ragtime music in general can sound so good whether it is one piano playing or an entire orchestra. Beautiful melodies over that stride piano sound. It will be a treat for the musical theater connoisseur or the first time theater goer.
In Ragtime, you will play one of the historical characters, Emma Goldman. People may not be familiar with her. In this story, what does she want and what does she do?
I love my character the more I read about her in history. She is definitely someone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness. I would like to be strong like her. In this show, Emma gives voice to the poor immigrant worker. One of her lines is “This is not the America he (Tateh) came here for. None of us did. None of us.” I think that is what she is all about. To fight for the rights of workers – for pay and living conditions, to give a voice to the underdog, and encourage people to stand up for what is right. We need an Emma Goldman now.
What excites you about Ragtime and your part in it?
It’s an epic production, not just because of the cast size, but what it represents. We see the beginning of the melting pot. The struggles of a young nation. From this we can see how far we have come, but we also see how far we have to go. I’ll be honest – I’m kind of jazzed about getting to play such a radical spirit. I don’t often get to play these kind of roles. I feel honored and excited to bring Emma to life.
Why do you think people should come see Ragtime?
I think this is going to be an amazing production with Leann, and Jill at the helm. I am so impressed with the vocal talent in this cast. I don’t include myself as I yell pretty much every time I’m on stage. Hahaha. This cast is a theatrical melting pot – theater people from Maryville, UT, Oak Ridge, and of course, The WordPlayers coming together to present this message of unity. “A day of peace, A day of Hope” – this is how our Lord wants us use theater. It’s not just a show – it’s a message to all of us.