Sunnyvale Community Players (SCP) ( www.sunnyvaleplayers.org) “West Side Story” opened on September 11 and will run until October 3. The timeless musical is about the romance between Tony and Maria and the dangers of life in street gangs, Sharks and Jets. During the dress rehearsal on September 8, the show opened with an impressive orchestral overture, led by music director Kevin Surace, who teased the audience with a sample of Leonard Bernstein’s music.
Samantha Mills shone as Maria. Peter Spoelstra was vibrant in the role of Tony. Mills and Spoelstra’s energetic duo, “Tonight,” captured the thrill of a young love. Other highlights include the fiery “America”, sung by Anita (Rebecca Bradley), Rosalia (Naomi Evans) and the Shark Girls and the provocative “Gee, Officer Krupke” sung by Action (Joe Galang), Snowboy (Calvin Yin) and the Jets.
According to its press release, SCP is the first local theater to work with a privacy director.
“That a role involves emotional intimacy, physical contact, dealing with sensitive subjects, and so much more….
Stacy Levin, the show’s Intimacy director, has worked with a diverse and talented cast, alongside director Thomas Times.
“Thomas and I had several meetings with the cast to create a context for the difficult aspects of the show, such as gang violence, blatant racism, gender issues and scenes of aggression,” Levin said. “We have provided the actors with tools to make these moments feel safe for the actors.”
Spoiler ahead: For example, Levin and Times worked with cast members in what Levin called “the dinner scene,” when members of the Jets sexually assault Anita.
“I spoke with the actress playing Anita and the actors who play the Jets about their limitations and what they felt comfortable with.” said Levine. “I ask the actors to use a very specific and reproducible choreography so that every touch and every movement is expected and practiced. Behind the scenes, actors can breathe together, give each other a high 10, or make eye contact in a ritual they choose to get in and out of their character.
“All of the guys who play the Jets are incredibly nice and they were uncomfortable with the restaurant scene,” said Rebecca Bradley, referring to the attempted rape of her character Anita.
When Levin and Times asked Bradley what she felt uncomfortable with, Bradley shared that she was uncomfortable with sexually aggressive words, such as “bitch” and “bitch.” The group also agreed on a safety note that Bradley or the cast playing the Jets could call out if, during a rehearsal, they wanted to order the action in the scene to stop.
Joe Galang, a first-time actor playing Action, one of the Jets, endorsed Levin’s advice on self-care.
“To take care of myself after doing this scene, I meditate, write in my journal, drink tea, and talk to close friends and family,” Galang said. “It’s not a formal ritual but off the stage Rebecca and I play music from other musicals and jam together.”