Boys Like That: How two ‘West Side Story’ adaptations are perpetuating harassment and assault

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains descriptions of sexual harassment and assault. 

Like the state of 2020, no one could have predicted the show that would mark this year would be West Side Story. To some, it refers to the Ivo van Hove-helmed Broadway revival. Van Hove made drastic cuts from the original, which tracks with his reputation for re-imagining classics. These included eliminating Maria’s only solo, “I Feel Pretty,” and the quintessential “Somewhere” ballet (buh-bye Jerome Robbins) while compressing the three-hour musical into one act. Van Hove also added multi-racial actors, but sent mixed messaging by casting them as the Jets, originally intended to be white. He brought on choreographer Sergio Trujillo and ballet dancer Patricia Delgado for consultation to make the dance more “authentically Latino”, but only after the cast requested it. Did I mention there were also cameras?

Another recent adaptation that had the theatre community on its heels was Steven Spielberg’s film penned by Tony Kushner (Angels in America) still scheduled to premiere this December. Boasting the film debut of many young talents including newcomer Rachel Zegler as Maria and Ariana DeBose (Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, Hamilton) as Anita, it has come with a lot of buzz.

Continue reading “Boys Like That: How two ‘West Side Story’ adaptations are perpetuating harassment and assault”

Abuse Is Not Art: The Yard, CCPA, and Academic Atrocities

Trigger warning: sexual harassment and assault, racism, body shaming.

“Can we not force students to be around reported abusers? Students and otherwise.” – Anonymous Roosevelt University Student, June 17, 2019.

Just yesterday the news broke that Senn High School teacher and former co-Artistic Director of The Yard, Joel Ewing was charged with a count of sexual assault involving a minor.

Earlier this year The Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University’s Associate Dean and Director of the Theatre Conservatory Sean Kelley was accused of repeatedly humiliating and sexually harassing his students. This was never reported, but as you can see from the cover photo of this article, students and faculty were quietly notified via e-mail that he was no longer employed at the university after months of outcry on social media.

These events, and the culture of every theatre program in America, are closely intertwined, and it’s time we acknowledge that. Continue reading “Abuse Is Not Art: The Yard, CCPA, and Academic Atrocities”