EOU tells ‘West Side Story’


LA GRANDE — If there’s one thing Tony and Maria — like their Shakespearian counterparts, Romeo and Juliet — are known for, it’s their intense love for each other. For the actors portraying them, however, that passion must be cultivated.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 5.06.30 PMEastern Oregon University sophomores Jason Lineback and Aubrey Slaughter each said that has been one of the most challenging aspects of producing “West Side Story.”

“It hasn’t been easy creating the intimacy between our characters,” Slaughter said.

Lineback said the pair received coaching and pointers along the way to become more comfortable together.

“We started pretty early on doing ‘heat’ exercises with a professor on campus,” Lineback said. “That involved a lot of looking deep into each other’s eyes, non-sexual touching, that type of thing.”

By the May 10 rehearsal, however, Lineback and Slaughter had found their groove. Lineback sings a heartfelt “Maria,” and Slaughter’s smooth singing turns quickly to dialogue delivered through emotional voice breaks.

The intimacy between Tony and Maria wasn’t the only thing worth showing off at the rehearsal. After 5-1/2 short weeks of rehearsals, the cast had mastered the choppy movements for which director Michael Frasier said “West Side Story” is known.

“So much of the dancing has to be really sharp and exact,” Frasier said. “Some of the lyrics are that way, too. (The students) have done a great job picking that up.”

Frasier said Ashly Braden, who often choreographs shows at EOU, has helped substantially with those abrupt movements. Meanwhile, EOU faculty members Peter Wordelman and Mio Aoike have assisted with live accompaniment. The show is very much a musical.

“I don’t want people to come in expecting ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” Lineback said. “It’s inspired by that, but it’s got singing and dancing. It’s pretty different.”

Slaughter said “West Side Story” is one of her favorite shows included in this year’s
Shakespeare-inspired season.

“It’s just the right amount of reality versus supernatural,” she said.

EOU’s production, which has about a dozen cast members from Union County including Union’s Lineback, will be held in McKenzie Theater in Loso Hall. The shows are at 7 p.m. May 17-20 and 2 p.m. May 21.

EOU students receive free admission. The cost is $15 for general admission, $10 for seniors, veterans, active service members and other students.

Frasier said the show is likely “too dark for little kids,” but doesn’t want to exclude all
children from attending the show.

“There is some violence, but it’s stage violence,” he said. “It’s pretty clear that they aren’t really hitting each other; nobody is really stabbed or shot.”

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