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NORTH KINGSTOWNâ€”Within the darkened auditorium, the only light coming from the stage, over 50 North Kingstown High School students sacrificed their Saturday for a 12-hour day of rehearsals for â€śWest Side Storyâ€ť last weekend. The classic story of star-crossed lovers came to amazing life during the cue-to-cue light rehearsal, which started at 10 a.m. and lasted until well into the evening hours.
The students have been putting in seven-hour rehearsal days after school since January, according to director Norma Caiazza.
â€śItâ€™s been so rewarding watching students who might not have had a lot of experience, grow and get better,â€ť she said.
This is the biggest show that Caiazza has undertaken since she started teaching at the high school in 1999.
â€śIt really builds a sense of community because the kids are so close now,â€ť she said.
Tony and Maria, played by seniors Nick Jorgensen and Lindsay Sampson, are also best friends. They met as freshman during an audition of a one-act play called â€śThe Showcase.â€ť Jorgensen, who initially balked at the theatre scene, quickly fell in love with the art. For â€śWest Side Story,â€ť he has reached deep into his imagination to convey his emotions, especially while singing â€śMariaâ€ť and â€śSomethingâ€™s Coming.â€ť
The gut-wrenching ending, however, is understandably difficult for these friends to play.
â€śThe ending is tough for both of us,â€ť said Jorgensen. â€śThereâ€™s so much hurt going on.â€ť
â€śThe emotion in this show is so widespread,â€ť Sampson agreed. â€śItâ€™s just a wonderful musical, and itâ€™s great that we have the resources.â€ť
Rounding out the cast were junior Helena Tafuri as Anita, and senior Troy Crawford as Bernardo. For Tafuri, to play Anita has been a dream since childhood.
â€śI love the adrenaline rush and just getting to display this thing that weâ€™ve worked months on,â€ť she said. â€śThereâ€™s definitely some awesome people in this show that I didnâ€™t know before.â€ť
Although singing was not Crawfordâ€™s strong point at first, he has found a support system within the playâ€™s family.
â€śIâ€™ve found out I really like singing,â€ť he said. â€śEveryoneâ€™s been very supportive, and Iâ€™ve made a lot of new friends.â€ť
But all this could not have been possible without the guidance of Caiazza and assistant director and Drama coach Bob Schaffer, who enjoys â€śthe pure energyâ€ť the students put into their craft.
â€śThey have hundreds and hundreds of hours of work on this show,â€ť he said. â€śThey play with fierce intent.â€ť
All afternoon long, as the light cues went scene by scene, the 54 students could barely contain their energy as they stood onstage in groups, socializing while waiting for a cue to be finished, and then springing into action as they acted out a scene with the cues in place. Their camaraderie was palpable, and their energy barely swaying, even after time after time of Schaffer calling out, â€śCan we hold it for a sec? Please and Thank you.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s been really long but itâ€™s been effective,â€ť said senior Tyler Greene, who plays Riff. â€śWeâ€™ve gotten a lot of stuff done.â€ť
For senior and lighting director Ben Green, this is the project of his life so far.
â€śIâ€™m excited,â€ť he said. â€śI think people will enjoy the showâ€¦Iâ€™m hoping that people who donâ€™t have very high hopes will come and see the show and be amazed.â€ť
Green, who is hoping to get into the North Carolina School of Arts, undertook the task of lighting director for his senior project and desires to pursue light design as a career.
â€śHeâ€™s an amazing kid,â€ť said Caiazza.
A dinner break, prepared by a parent of one of the students, was welcomed around 5 p.m. For dessert, there was an immense cake, decorated with sharks and jets. After some welcomed down time, the cast and crew were back at it.
â€śThatâ€™s better. Power!â€ť Schaffer called out to the actress playing Anybodys, as they rehearsed the scene of the rumble where Riff and Bernardo are killed.
â€śWest Side Storyâ€ť will be presented at the high school March 10-12 at 7 pm. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door and just $10 for students.