Sunday, February 12, 2012

West Side Story Guest Star Kicks It Up A Notch

Professional Actor, James Tully, who played Dective Schrank in a National Tour of West Side Story dropped in for some intense work with the Phoenix House Students and Suffolk County Police Officers at the Long Island West Side Story Project session last week.  An imposing figure with a booming gravely voice, Tully brought to life one of the more disturbing characters from WSS for the workshop participants.  Playing his signature role several times with a variety of students and officers swapping out to play the other roles, Tully then stepped into gang roles himself within the scene, giving everyone a chance to play Shrank and look at that opening scene over a dozen different ways.  The post-workshop discussion was a vibrant sharing of stories.  The officers, students and Phoenix House Staff members broke down the Shrank scene line by line, beat by beat, and identified body movement, language, objectives and circumstances, and the overall reaction generated by the script for the scene and the performing of it.  The items receiving the most debate were large group fights and how officers deal with this situation.  Officers shared that bringing everything under control and making it quiet quickly was key.  Also, stereotypes were talked about, and how officers are sworn to protect and serve the public is similar to friends and families feeling strongly about sticking up for each other.  Yet everyone agreed, oaths and beliefs were important, but that within groups there are often a few individuals who are not nice and choose to behave in  highly inappropriate ways.  Like Shrank.  Hence, a conflict is born.
Tom Demenkoff
Artistic Director


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