10 Surprising Facts about West Side Story That Will Make Your Head Explode

10 Surprising Facts about West Side Story That Will Make Your Head Explode

West Side Story, one of the most groundbreaking musicals of all time, opens at The Western Stage on August 9. To get everybody in the mood to join us for this Shakespeare inspired story about forbidden love, we have a BuzzFeed inspired listical for you to enjoy because we all know BuzzFeed is the Shakespeare of the internet age, right? (Sarcasm intended) So enjoy these fun facts that will hopefully not cause any bodily harm.  ws1

  1. Stephen Sondheim has said he wanted West Side Story to be the first Broadway musical to drop the “F-Bomb.”  He actually included it in the original lyrics during the “Gee Officer Krupke” number when the Jets are roughing up Office Krupke before the War Council scene. However, once the creative team learned this would prohibit distribution of the Broadway cast album, Sondheim re-wrote the lyrics.
  2. The original premise for the show involved a young Italian, Catholic boy whose gang was embroiled in a fierce rivalry with a group of Jewish kids.  It was to be called East Side Story.  However, the creative team changed the premise once the influx in Puerto Ricans on the West Side became a hot button issue in New York City.  A reference to the original idea made it into the final script when Riff refers to how Tony helped the Jets beat the Emeralds – the name they were going to use for the Jewish gang.
  3. The original producer of West Side Story quit raising money for the show early in the development process because he thought tackling such serious topics was too risky for a Broadway musical. Luckily, another producer stepped in to take a chance on what would become one of the most successful musicals in Broadway history.
  4. Most of the actors including the leads from the original Broadway musical were rejected after auditioning for the film version because they looked too old on camera to play the roles of kids.ws2
  5. Most people know that West Side Story is based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  However, did you know Shakespeare based his play on a poem by Arthur Brooke called The Tragic Historye of Romeus and Iuliet, which in turn was based on a poem by the Roman poet Ovid called Pyramus and Thisbe from his masterpiece Metamorphisus?
  6. Two of the actors from the film version of West Side Story would go on to play major roles in David Lynch’s television series Twin Peaks.  Richard Beymer (Tony) and Russ Tamblyn (Riff) went on to play Ben Horne and Dr. Lawrence Jacoby in this likewise groundbreaking show.
  7. In the play version, Tony and Riff make a vow of lifelong friendship to each other that includes the line “from sperm to worm.”  They changed it for the film version to “from birth to earth” to satisfy censors.
  8. All of Natalie Wood’s songs in the film version of West Side Story – and even some of her dialogue – were dubbed by Marni Nixon, a respected voice actor who dubbed musical numbers for Deborah Kerr in The King and I and Audrey Hephburn in My Fair Lady.  Don’t worry, there will be no dubbing or lip synching in The Western Stage version.ws3
  9. Although West Side Story failed to win the 1958 Tony Award for Best New Musical, losing to The Music Man, the film version won 10 Academy-Awards, the most awards won by a musical in film history.
  10. Jerome Robbins, who choreographed the Broadway premiere and film version of West Side Story, was such a task master that the actors shooting the film version burned their knee pads in his office after shooting the “Cool” scene for the film.  Natalie Wood even begged at one point to be fired from the film because he was working her over 16 hours a day.

So now that we’ve hopefully stirred your interest with these little known facts, we would love to see you at the show.

West Side Story plays through August 30 on the main stage at The Western Stage, Hartnell College Performing Arts Building. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2 pm.  Purchase tickets through www.westernstage.com or at the box office by calling 831-755-6816. Also consider purchasing a Flex Pass for 2014 and help The Western Stage celebrate its 40th Anniversary. Group tickets are available through Marketing and Group Sales at 831-759-6012.

Author – Daniel Tarker

 

 

Cesar Flores Talks American Song and Mother Earth

Cesar E Flores

Cesar Flores

  If Woody Guthrie Were Alive Today, What Kind of Protest Song Would He Be Writing? I believe he would be writing protest songs on Immigration, Fracking and global warming What Song Are You Looking Most Forward to Sharing with Audiences? Why? The Deportees and This land. Because he says” I am out to sing songs that will make you take pride in yourself and your work. Many of the Songs in Woody Guthrie’s American Song Were Written While He Was Traveling Around the Country During the Great Depression. What Do These Songs Still Have To Say About America Today? We may not be in a Depression now, but the problems resurface and we have come a long way but still have a long way to go to get people to care about someone else others than themselves. Why Do You Think People Are Still Drawn To Guthrie’s Music? It’s the people’s music and says what some people want to say but do not have the means. The Arts is the greatest weapon we have against ignorance. What do you hope audiences take away from this production? That we all live in the same world and we must learn to get along and protect our Mother Earth.american song “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” performs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m through June 22. Purchase tickets throughwww.westernstage.com or at the box office by calling 831-755-6816. Also consider purchasing a Flex Pass for 2014 and help The Western Stage celebrate its 40th Anniversary. Group tickets are available through Marketing and Group Sales at 831-759-6012.  

Actor Cheryl Games Talks Picnic and Her Character Flo’s Deep, Dark Secrets

Cheryl Games rehearsing Picnic

Cheryl Games rehearsing Picnic

Who are you playing and what would they bring to a picnic? I’m playing Flo Owens, the mother of Madge and Millie, and, in my mind, the matriarch of the whole town. In addition to a commanding attitude, superb organizational skills and a need to control the outcome for everyone, Flo would bring make sure she brought everything to the picnic in case someone else forgot what they were supposed to bring. But for sure she would bring one of those cute little food tents to cover the watermelon to keep the flies away. I’m not sure if those contraptions had been invented yet, but, If not, Flo would have jerry-rigged one of her own. Have you dreamed up any deep, dark secrets for your character? If so, what are they? Yes, of course! But if I told you, then it wouldn’t be…well, you know the rest. Let’s just say that I got my idea for the deep, dark secret from the book ‘Millie’ is reading in Act I: The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers. What scene are you most looking forward to performing? Why? I like my first scene. And my last scene. And all of the scenes in between. Seriously, they’re all good, but I’d have to say it’s the final scene. Flo takes an incredible journey in this play, as do all of the characters. I love how she is in a completely different place at the end of the play than at the beginning. Her expectations are so high and clearly defined right before she enters for the first time. But those expectations are thrown a big wrench the instant she walks out and sees Hal in her yard, and it’s pretty much downhill from there. Her unraveling culminates in the final scene; it’s fast, furious and so perfectly written. As an actor, I feel like I don’t really have to do anything other than trust the words and actions that Inge so beautifully put on the page. What was that old commercial for Prego spaghetti sauce? “It’s in there.” Yep, that’s how I feel about this play. It’s all in there. _52a1247What themes and issues in the play still resonate in the play? Why do people keep returning to Inge’s plays? We’re all looking for love and understanding, but we never seem to get it the way we want it, or they way we think it should happen. But we never stop trying to find it. I don’t know if that’s a theme or an issue, but that’s what comes up for me when I think about what this play is about, and what these characters are going through. This play is so simple in its complexity, or so complex in its simplicity. Inge’s deep connection to this longing in the human spirit, and his uncanny ability to dramatize it, is what makes his plays ring universal and timeless truths. Plus, having the hunky Hal shirtless throughout much of the play doesn’t hurt. What do you hope audiences take away from this production? I hope they are moved. I hope they identify with one or more of the characters. I hope they respond as they do in the comments to those silly memes posted on Facebook: “Oh, that is so true!” Cheryl is a playwright and actress originally from Youngstown, Ohio. Favorite roles include Macbeth (Lady Macbeth), Agnes of God (Mother Superior), What’s Wrong With This Picture (Shirley), Dinner With Friends (Karen), A Don’t Hug Me County Fair (Clara) and Circle Mirror Transformation (Marty).  Cheryl’s plays have been produced in New York, Los Angeles, Columbus OH, & Pittsburgh PA.  Plays include:  August, Rain Delay, To Be Confirmed, Tears For Sale, Onus On Us, Little Death, The Addicts, and Trip Twenty.  Education:  M.F.A., Actors Studio Drama Program, New School University; M.B.A., Ohio State University. Check out Cheryl’s sketch comedy group on YouTube www.youtube.com/WheresMyBottle and Facebook www.facebook.com/wheresmybottleproductions. A recent transplant to the Monterey area from Los Angeles, Cheryl lives with her husband, David, in Del Monte Forest, CA.  

Actor Joelle McGrath Talks Picnic and Cucumber Sandwiches

 
Joelle McGrath

Joelle McGrath

Who are you playing in the show and what would they bring to a picnic? Rosemary Sydney.  She would bring cucumber sandwiches to the picnic. What scene are you most looking forward to performing? Why?  I’m looking forward to the scene where Rosemary lets loose and dances at the picnic.  My first love is dance and I can’t wait to kick my legs up in the studio theatre, a pretty rare sight in that space. What themes and issues in the play still resonate in the play? Why do people keep returning to Inge’s plays?  The theme of regret stands out to me.  Waking up, realizing that half your life has gone by, wondering where it went and what you have to show for it.  What happened to all those hopes and dreams?  How quickly time flies by. People return to Inge’s plays because we see ourselves in his characters.  It’s comforting to know we aren’t alone experiencing the challenges life brings on: aging, loneliness, unmet expectations, lost love. What do you hope audiences take away from this production? I hope audiences come away feeling better about their lives and the challenges they are enduring after 
Joelle and her husband director Jeff McGrath in rehearsals

Joelle and her husband director Jeff McGrath in rehearsals

witnessing the struggles of Flo, trying to raise her 2 daughters as a single mom, and Rosemary longing for her lost youth. Picnic performs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m through June 1. Purchase tickets through www.westernstage.com or at the box office by calling 831-755-6816.  Also consider purchasing a Flex Pass for 2014 and help The Western Stage celebrate its 40th Anniversary. Group tickets are available through Marketing and Group Sales at 831-759-6012.   

 

Meet Cindy Womack, Playing Christine Schoenwalder in Picnic

2014 TWS Picnic8

Cindy Womack in Rehearsal for Picnic

Who are you playing and what would they bring to a picnic? I am playing Christine Schoenwalder a ‘Feminine Hygiene’ teacher new to the community. I imagine Christine would either bring something very dainty and formal like cucumber sandwiches or a rather robust German potato salad, depending on the occasion. Her studies of the ‘Feminine Arts’ (cooking entertaining etc) as part of the Household classes she teaches at play with her practical Teutonic heritage. Have you dreamed up any deep, dark secrets for your character? If so, what are they? Let me check with her. “Oh Christine?” “Yes Cindy?” “Have you any deep dark secrets? You keep things so close to the vest.” “Me? Oh no, heavens no. I am so new here so I am trying to learn about  the school and the community at large. Meeting new friends and fellow teachers. A deep dark secret, why no heavens, no, definitely not, why girl, that’s ridiculous!” (Nervous Laughter) “Of course it is, Christine. Though some may notice just how often and how fondly you speak of one of the other characters.” “Do I? Why I don’t think so, I don’t think so at all. I think you’re just imagining things Cindy.” “I think you’re right Christine, just my overactive imagination.” What scene are you most looking forward to performing? Why? That would be a toss-up between the scene where I have a good bit and the one where I have the cutest outfit. As the new ‘girl’ in town, she’s more inclined to observe the scenes of others as these 12 hours unfold and very much change their lives. What themes and issues in the play still resonate in the play? Why do people keep returning to Inge’s plays? Some of the constant questions we ask ourselves throughout our lives still resonate: “Do I chase the dream or grasp what’s within reach?” “Have I just survived or have I also thrived?” “Am I what people perceive me as? Or am I completely different and they just can’t see it?” Inge’s characters are wonderful to both the actors performing them and the audience watching them. Layered ,nuanced and not always what you expect but very recognizable. Multifaceted and contradictory and rarely black or white; much like real human beings. Even with the work we’ve done as a cast thus far, we’ll be talking about a character and find we have very different ideas about how and why they behave and any of us could be ‘right’. Inge is so good at showing the America of his time in a very different, but not stark light. This isn’t the 50s as told thru sitcom television, Doris Day movies or Madison Avenue. It’s a time and place full of people trying to live up to those expectations while happening to be the same flawed individuals humanity’s always been. What do you hope audiences take away from this production? I hope they are utterly convinced of “knowing” one character’s happy ending and one character’s sad ending; the fun of that being one of their fellow audience members probably is utterly convinced of the complete opposite for the same characters. I hope they let the play allow them to consider someone in their lives whom they are sure they “knew’” very well and imagine  the possibility they don’t “know” them at all; they just judged them. I will have you know that was very hard to spell out without giving away Big Spoilers as to the plot! In particular, I hope people take away the urge to see more plays at The Western Stage and the other wonderful theaters in this county. Cindy Womack is a Monterey native now living in Santa Cruz , working in Carmel and driving Constantly! She became interested in theater while at Monterey High, tho her parents will verify  shes had a lifelong MeloDramatic Flair. As a teen she discovered Grovemont’s (now Pacific Repertory Theatre’s) Theaterfest; attending every day for three summers before going from audience member to cast member. Inspired to audition,in part, by one particular Saturday in which Jeffrey Heyer (Howard Bevans in this production of Picnic) played Cinderella’s Ugly Stepsister in the morning,a comic Hercules in the afternoon and Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar that evening! Over the next 13 summers she improvised in, then directed the Human Chessgame, acted in the Carmel Shakespeare Festival (Macbeth,Henry IV-V-VI, Richard II & III, Two Gentlemen of Verona,Julius Caesar) and performed in the Fairy Tale Theater. Along the way there were stops at Cabrillo College , MPCs SRO and California’s First Theater. In 1998 she performed in Western Stage’s Madwoman of Chaillot ,The Front Page and Singin’ in the Rain in 1999; where she met the love of her life Scott Harrison (AKA The Big Bopper in PRTs many versions of  Buddy:the Buddy Holly Story). She spent two years with Carey Crockett’s Unicorn theater directing Laughter on the 23rd Floor, The Tempest and acting in The Rivals, The Mystery of Irma Vep ,Winnie the Pooh and I Hate Hamlet (featuring Picnics director Jeff McGrath as TV star Andrew Rally). Taking a few years off to join PRTs staff (last year becoming box office manager under Julie Hughett’s mentorship) she returned to theater with a role in Up the Down Staircase, following that with To Kill a Mockingbird, a reprise of her role in I Hate Hamlet and a chance to call the square dance in 2013’s Grapes of Wrath. When she isn’t acting, reading Another book on John Barrymore or tracking a Kickstarter project shes backed, Cindy watches other people act in plays, silent films and movies of all stripes and cohosts a NSFW podcast with actor Scott McQuiston called The Satyrsphere. Picnic performs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m through June 1. Purchase tickets through www.westernstage.com or at the box office by calling 831-755-6816.  Also consider purchasing a Flex Pass for 2014 and help The Western Stage celebrate its 40th Anniversary. Group tickets are available through Marketing and Group Sales at 831-759-6012.    
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