By Victoria Gourdin
Meter Staff Writer
West Side Story is a well-known play that follows the unrequited love story of Maria and Tony trapped in the midst of gang violence and ethnic differences, much like that of Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Tennessee State University’s Dr. William Crimm has put his creative license to use as he directs and recreates his own version of the story.
His overall eccentric cast comes from many different backgrounds and levels of experience. While that may prove to be challenging at times, they all have a general thirst and hunger “to do what they have not done before” says Dr. Crimm.
Many of the students outside of the theater “don’t know the process or how many hours it will take, and they learn patience and how to be supportive of each other,” says Dr. Crimm. He believes that bridging this divide is important and the theater is absolutely a part of that.
The director almost could not wait to say that “West Side Story is dealing with the issues of today.” TSU and the rest of the world constantly face gangs and campus shootings, and he wants to show through the arts how the needless killings and subsequent violence are not needed in society and in a college environment.
The actors are not being educated on the stage of the PAC; they are being trained. According to Dr. Crimm, at the end of training, there will be an ability to demonstrate that the actors have mastered the overall goals. One of those goals is to bring a show to life.
Despite its original Puerto Rican/American form, the directors of this show were clear when they mentioned that it was in fact an African American adaptation. Because of that, while the music and script have not changed, certain parts of the dance have, mainly the style.
Instead of it being just traditional forms of “ballet or modern dance, you can see hip hop and jazz coming out in the moves,” said Dr. Peter Anthony Fields Jr., choreographer in his second year working with TSU’s theater program.
None of the current process would have gone as smoothly as it has so far without the help of stage manager Anderow (Drew) Shafik. Drew is a mass communications major from Egypt , and is not only a stage manager but also a props manager and will spend some time on stage with his fellow actors.
When asked about his experience as stage manager he described it as wonderful because he “gets to see what it’s like [behind the scenes], working hands on with the music.” He also has the responsibility to call the show and therefore has to know the show inside and out.
Thanks to set director Mr. David Brandon and his crew, there will be a beautiful visual aspect to the show to add on to the actors and the dancers along with all of the background work.
West Side Story presented by Tennessee State University opens up for the public on March 31st and goes through April 3rd in the Cox-Lewis Theatre in the Performing Arts Center.