Extended interview with Ragtime's Leslie Jackson

RagtimeTwenty-seven year old singer and actress Leslie Jackson is currently on her first national tour, playing the role of Sarah with Ragtime, The Musical, which comes to the Thrasher-Horne Center stage on January 7 and 8.

How did you get into opera in the first place? I started getting into classical music in middle school because I was taking private voice lessons… It picked up more in high school when I was in the choir. There were people a grade or two older than me that had really amazing classical voices. Some of them had auditioned for college opera programs and they’d tell us about it. It was so interesting. So when I applied to college, I applied for a double major in opera and geology. I eventually dropped the geology... I like science, but my heart was more with performing.

How do you prepare for going on stage? I like to listen to music in the dressing room to help distract me so I don’t get too nervous. A lot of time it tends to be more mellow stuff like Lana Del Rey and James Vincent McMorrow.

Do you think the story of Ragtime (one of how the lives of immigrants, white and black Americans intertwine) is relevant in today’s world? Definitely. It’s one of the first things we starting talking about in rehearsals. We’re still coming up with immigration issues today, and lately in the news there’s all the violence and prejudice with people of color. It’s funny how this show first came out on Broadway in 1998 [based on a book written in 1975] and it’s set in 1906 but it’s still so relevant.

What’s your dream role? This is one, and I would love to be in Hamilton one day. Oh, and I’d love to play Ti Moune in Once on this Island.

What drew you to the role of Sarah? The first thing that drew me to her was Audra McDonald [who played Sarah on Broadway]. She’s my inspiration for music theatre. Sarah’s a very sweet, sometimes naive young woman and I kind of mesh with that. But at the same time, the role is challenging because she’s very extreme sometimes. When she does something she really does it. It’s a beautiful role.