by Ursula Zeydler
Starting tonight, Wilson Theater Arts will proudly debut this year’s musical, West Side Story. I recently caught up with co-directors Harriet Bronstein and Jill Roos, and two of the stars, to chat about the highly anticipated Wilson musical.
Harriet Bronstein, who has directed musicals since her children were attending Lafayette Elementary School, thought West Side Story, in particular, would be an appropriate musical for Wilson students.
“It’s a story about teenagers, so it’s already relevant. It really works well for our population…. We told the kids that we’re going to cast it in a way that – our Jets are all white and our Sharks are… not,” Bronstein said.
Indeed, Wilson’s diverse student body allows for a uniquely authentic presentation of the original casting. Furthermore, considering its ethnic and social diversity, Wilson students are likely able to draw parallels from West Side Story to their lives – both in and out of school – and can relate to the racial and ethnic undertones presented in the script.“For some of the kids in the show – they can probably relate to some of the situations of being victims of prejudice,” Bronstein said. And Jill Roos, assistant director of the Wilson musical and director of the Alice Deal musical theater program, echoed these sentiments in pointing out the unintentional learning opportunities presented in the script.
“It’s more interesting what they can’t relate to. For instance, they didn’t know the meaning of racial terms like ‘wop’ or ‘spic.’ So, this show is able to create those conversations with all of these different groups that make up Wilson. There have been those conversations that allow for an introduction to a period of American life – and the gang-beatnik type of language that the characters use – that they do not know at all,” Roos said.
“We’ve had a 10-minute conversation about calling someone ‘Daddy-O’. They could not get it… Why would I call someone ‘Daddy-O?’ So, then it’s, ‘OK, let’s go and have a history lesson now.’”
“It talks about the relationships between races and the need for, at the very least, tolerance and understanding between different groups,” Ben said. “Wilson is a very diverse environment and if different social groups can’t intermingle and can’t get along then you will have a lot of problems, similar to those that the gangs in West Side Story experience.” He excitedly declared, “So, I think it has an important message for the world.”
Yana Madrid plays the female lead, “Maria.” “The world can relate to this – not just Wilson students – especially those dealing with oppression and social injustice,” said Yana.
West Side Story is a tale of two young lovers, Tony and Maria, who find themselves caught between the cultural expectations of their warring street gangs. On this topic, Ben believes that the message of West Side Story is about breaking social norms.
“In West Side Story, we see Tony and Maria falling in love even though they are from different areas,” Ben said. “Everyday, we see people who are defying social norms. Even if its not starting a revolution, even if it’s just a multi-racial couple like Tony and Maria, it’s bridging the gap between races and prejudice.”
And if these messages aren’t carried over, Ben added, “West Side Story shows what can happen if you don’t break the norms and stick to the status quo.”
Yana agreed. “Wilson students might see things a little differently [after viewing the musical] and see that social injustice is real and still happening around us every day.”
Ms. Bronstein, Ms. Roos, the 100-member cast and crew and the 18-piece Wilson community orchestra are excited about this production. They welcome you to come and watch West Side Story in the beautifully renovated Wilson auditorium.
Tickets are $15.00 for adults and $5.00 for students/children. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve tickets or for more information.
Friday, November 15 at 7:30
Saturday, November 16 at 7:30
Friday, November 22 at 7:30
Saturday, November 23 at 2:30 (Special Matinee Performance) and 7:30