Brian Stokes Mitchell, a Tony nominee for creating the role of Coalhouse Walker Jr. in the original Broadway production of Ragtime, will visit Cherry Hill High School March 3 to discuss the racially charged language employed in that musical, which will be presented by the New Jersey school beginning March 10, according to Philly.com.
In January the school received national attention when it decided to replace or eliminate the n-word and other racial slurs in the script of Ragtime, which concerns the immigrant experience in America at the turn of the 20th century. The decision was made by school officials from Cherry Hill High School East with approval from the Cherry Hill African American Civic Association and the Camden County East NAACP. Following an outcry from students and community members, it was decided that Ragtime would go on as originally written, handing a victory to those who opposed earlier plans to alter the script to eliminate racial slurs.
Mitchell, who is also the Chairman of the Board of The Actors Fund, will participate in a closed meeting with students to discuss the racial themes in the Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens-Terrence McNally musical. The Broadway favorite will also be part of an open talkback with the cast of the musical.
Mitchell, who also visited South Orange's Columbia High School when that New Jersey school performed Ragtime in 2015, told the Arts Integrity Institute in January, “[Ragtime] is about terribly ugly things that happen to people and how they surmount that. Our country has an ugly history with race.”
Students at Cherry Hill East will also discuss stereotypes and racism in both history and English classes prior to the production. All students will have the chance to see the musical, although attendance is not mandatory.
The school will also display signs to alert audiences about the themes and language utilized in the musical, which made its debut on Broadway in 1997.