The Trumbull Youth Association will present Ragtime to audiences on August 3 - 5 as its annual summer musical.

The show explores racial and ethnic discrimination through the intersection of three different families during the turn of the 20th Century. The lives of an upper class New Rochelle family, an African American family from Harlem and an immigrant Jewish family are woven together through current events, historical figures and – most importantly - music. This uncensored production of Ragtime offers a timely presentation of a uniquely American story, with all its struggles and triumphs.

In casting for the show, director Brett Boles prioritized recruiting high-school and young adult cast members from a variety of backgrounds.

“I saw Ragtime as an opportunity to expand our TYA family into a more diverse body … and I very much look forward to having all of our new family members return year after year for more,” he said.

Boles achieved his goal, as cast members hail from many surrounding communities, including Ansonia, Bridgeport, Derby, Fairfield, Milford, Monroe, Newtown, Norwalk, Sandy Hook, Shelton, Stratford and Trumbull.

Ragtime is a departure from TYA’s recent summer musical productions which have included more “family-friendly” fare, such as last year’s production of The Little Mermaid. This more challenging show for 2017 is part of an effort to promote community and understanding, Boles said.

The message of Ragtime “is one of building bridges and focusing on the things that make us the same — the things that make us human, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual or gender identity, or any of the other differences that exist between us,” he said. “It is the obligation of the arts to expose these issues and initiate conversation.”

The TYA summer musical began as a community project in 1969 when it mounted its first show, West Side Story. This tradition of programming has continued for 48 years, with co-producers Merial Cornell and Mary Joan Wright currently at the helm. Participants experience the full range of challenges and benefits associated with theater production.

Essential life skills such as teamwork, presence, and appreciation for the creative process are embedded in building a show from the ground up,” Wright said.

This year, cast and crew have the opportunity to work with professional artists, including Boles, returning music director, David Harris, and returning choreographer, Lisa Minnilli.

Performances at the Trumbull High School auditorium begin Thursday, Aug. 3 and continue through the weekend. For information, show times and tickets visit trumbullyouth.org. Parents should be aware that while the show offers important lessons for middle-school children and older, it does contain some mild profanity and simulated violence. Therefore, it may not be appropriate for elementary-school age and younger children.