Chautauqua Lecture Series: West Side Stories - The Winding Tale of a Broadway Phenomenon

 Tuesday, August 3, 2021 
10:30am-12:00pm  
Orchestra Hall

West Side Stories: The Winding Tale of a Broadway Phenomenon, from Its Earliest Inception to the Spielberg Film

From its earliest inception at a 1947 Hollywood party where Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins approached Arthur Laurents to write a musical up-date of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, to the yet-to-be released major motion picture by Steve Spielberg, West Side Story has enchanted and, yes, disenchanted American audiences. It’s journey has been long and storied, taking 10 years to make it to a lackluster Broadway opening, 4 more years to sweep the 1961 Oscars, and surviving 3 Broadway revivals, its musical numbers reshuffled, the iconic director-choreographer fired, opera singers’ “cross-over” recordings, a modernization by a Belgian director (with cell phones and a giant video screen), this score has remained an indelible part of the fabric of American culture, even to this day as we consider who is entitled to the American Dream and who is not. Join BGSU’s Dr. Geoff Stephenson on this wild and often wacky journey of a legendary Broadway work.

Dr. Geoff Stephenson

Dr. Stephenson is currently a teaching professor of applied voice, and musical theatre history and literature at Bowling Green State University. Having received his Ph.D. in Theatre from BGSU, Dr. Stephenson served 2004-05 as Interim Director of Music Theatre Performance at Western Michigan University. He holds a Master's degree in music education from BGSU, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theatre performance from Kent State University. Dr. Stephenson spent 10 years in the musical theatre industry before turning to a career in education, and has taught vocal performance at every level of the public education system as well as professional venues such as vocal coach for the boys on the Broadway National tour of Billy Elliot: The Musical.

In addition to directing and performing at BGSU, Dr. Stephenson also maintains a career as a professional actor and director, and is a proud member of Actors Equity Association. He has served as a director and consultant on musicals at many Ohio high schools such as Otsego and Kettering-Fairmont in Dayton, and continues to conduct high school and college level workshops in musical theatre performance at BGSU’s Summer Music Institute Musical Theatre Camp and beyond.

Dr. Stephenson earned regional and national recognition winning the Mark Twain Comedy Award at the 2001 Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival in Washington, D.C. He has worked in virtually every aspect of the theatre and has performed many roles with companies in New York City, Chicago, Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, and Ohio. From 1992-2012 Dr. Stephenson's enjoyed 20 seasons performing, directing, and choreographing for the Department of Theatre and Film's summer theatre program, the Huron Playhouse.

October 2021
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