New York, NY, November 23, 2007 -- Fifty years after two teenage gangs known as the Jets and the Sharks first engaged in a fatal turf battle on the West Side of Manhattan, they will go at it once again in early December, in nearly the same neighborhood, as John Jay College presents what may be its most ambitious theatrical production ever, the classic West Side Story.
Directed by Professor Dana Tarantino of the Department of Speech, Theatre and Media Studies, West Side Story will open at the College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theater on Tuesday, December 4 and run through Saturday, December 8.
In a unique arrangement, John Jay is staging the work in an educational partnership with more than a dozen other colleges and universities throughout the country, including Ohio Wesleyan University’s New York Arts Program and the member institutions of the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA). “In the spirit of the original musical,” Tarantino said, “the ‘West Side Story Project’ offers a practical and potent learning experience for urban John Jay students and Midwestern students from GLCA in an artistic, social and cultural collaboration.”
Tarantino said the decision to present West Side Story was based on several factors, most notably the fact that the speech and theatre department, in keeping with the mission of the College, tries to present plays dealing with themes of justice and societal problems.
As it turns out, Tarantino has a special affinity for the show: The process of adapting West Side Story from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet into the contemporary musical format was the subject of her doctoral dissertation.
The original production was the work of a Broadway “dream team” consisting of Jerome Robbins (direction and choreography), Leonard Bernstein (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), Arthur Laurents (book) and Hal Prince (producer). John Jay’s “West Side Story Project” is being nurtured to the stage by a team that, in addition to Tarantino, includes her colleague Professor Lorraine Moller, who is serving as dramaturg, Dr. Nicholas G.M. Ross, former director of the Hunter College Symphony, who is conductor and musical director, and up-and-coming New York director/choreographer James Beaudry, who is choreographing the show. The cast and crew number more than 150 students, faculty and staff.
Although the show was to be funded by the Speech and Theater Department’s fall production budget, a project of such magnitude required additional outside support. “The biggest shot in the arm came in the 11th hour from [Academy Award-winning actor] Paul Newman,” Tarantino noted. “He was so supportive of this project. He awarded us a generous challenge grant that lifted the spirits of all involved in a huge way.”
As a satellite event, the “West Side Story Project” will include a November 27 symposium on the sociology of street gangs, “Street Organizations and West Side Story from the Latino Perspective.” Moderated by Dr. Ellen Scrivner, Director of the John Jay Leadership Academy, the symposium will feature a number of faculty experts in the fields of juvenile justice and Latino studies, including professors Luis Barrios, Luis Alvarez, David Brotherton, Wanda Arriaga and Greg Donaldson.
Show time for the John Jay production of West Side Story is 8:00 PM nightly. Tickets are $20 for general admission, and $10 for students with valid ID. Reservations are recommended, and may be made by calling 212-695-6908. Tickets can also be obtained at the Speech and Theatre Department office in Room 336 Haaren Hall. For more Information, Click Here.