The performance of the Romeo and Juliet inspired tragic love story “West Side Story” last Friday on the Roosevelt High School stage marked an important first step in a new direction for theatre at the school, one where students and faculty have joined forces to bring the Performing Arts back to the eastside campus.
Four months in the making, the production was the return of full musical theatre to the school for the first time in nearly 30 years, according to post-show press release.
The production was made possible through a unique partnership between SHOUT (Striving to Heighten Outcome by Uniting Teens), an after-school program offered at Roosevelt since 2009 run by the Salesian Boys and Girls Club of LA and Jaxx Theatre.
While most of the performers in high school plays are students, Roosevelt’s cast included Dr. Christopher Berru and Elizabeth Bjornen, both social studies teachers, and Principal Bruce Bivens along with 24 students.
This is Bivens first year as principal of Roosevelt and according to the school he has made the return of the performing arts one of his “tasks” for improving student achievement and graduation rates.
Over 300 Roosevelt fans, including students, teachers and local residents attended the production, according to Bivens.
“On Friday night, we marked a new era at Roosevelt,” Bivens said in a written statement in which he also extolled the performances by the school’s “neophyte thespians that performed with confidence and perfection in song, dance, and stage acting.”
“Friday night’s rendition of West Side Story was an excellent reinvigoration of the Arts for a campus loaded with talented and enthusiastic students,” said Br. Tom Mass, executive director of Salesian Boys and Girls Club. “The administration and staff have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into caring for the kids at Roosevelt and we at SHOUT are proud to be a part of this Renaissance,” he added.
According to Tam Nguyen, program administrator with Salesian Boys and Girls Club, the idea to put on the play evolved out of the partnership between the school and the after-school program, and took four months of diligent work by the production team. The program “provides an opportunity for students to explore their creative side and motivates them to take their passion into reality” with the support of professionals and staff, Nguyen told EGP via email.
“These activities are offered free to students from Roosevelt and the local community through the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant,” Nguyen added.
Another play will be coming soon, Nguyen said.