The phone rang Monday night to a group of more than 65 high school students who were rehearsing "West Side Story" at Simsbury High School -- and it was Rita Moreno calling.e
Technical problems trying to connect on Facetime with an IPad 2 caused problems so at the last minute the call was placed via a cell phone on speaker.
She had them with her first words: "Technology sucks!"
She was delighted when cast member David Rodriguez told her he was a Jet: "Finally a Latino playing a Latino."
She talked about wanting the "West Side Story" part so much that she took dance lessons for three weeks straight, because she hadn't danced in 15 years. Her teacher told her to take the day off, because her face had turned purple from so much effort.
She told Emily Amarill, who is playing Maria: "Don't play the part like a virgin. Play it like you have ovaries ... like a woman."
She told the kids not to just read the words of a script, but to make them your own. " Don't get into acting just because you want fame, like may do today... do it because you love the craft. Always have a back-up way to make a living."
There were many light moments, including when Stephen Potter introduced junior Cailin Cowley, who plays Anita, to Moreno as “your competition.” Moreno asked Cowley if she was scared at the prospect of performing. She admitted, “A little,” leading Moreno to exclaim, “I don’t blame you!”
SHS junior Joey Martin asked if she had any advice for someone who wants to break into show business. Her reply, “You better have another job that can pay the rent!”
Her final words of wisdom for the cast were practical ones for the dedicated group of theater students. More than focusing on being “a star,” she acknowledged there is no substitute for hard work. Simply put, “Work on your scenes.”
When she won her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in "West Side Story" movie (1961), she remembered was that someone had told her not to run to the stage, but to walk with dignity, which was all that ran through her mind when she was named..
Moreno, 81, was the first Latina actress to win an Oscar and has had a spectacular career both on Broadway and in movies. Currently, she is filming the second season of Happily Divorced on TV Land. She also headlined a one-woman show entitled Life Without Make-Up this past November at Berkeley Repertory in California.
Ann Marie Potter, mother of SHS senior and dance captain Stephen Potter, conceived the idea for the interchange between the West Side Story theater company and its film star.
Pictured is Stuart Younse, director of West Side Story for Simsbury High School, who also directs the choral program at the high school, and is director of the Connecticut Children's Chorus for the Hartt School.
"West Side Story" will run for two weekends, beginning Feb. 3.
The SHS musical production of West Side Story runs Feb. 3, 4, 10, 11 at 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 5 and 12 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 adults; $10 students and senior citizens; free for senior citizens with VIP pass from Simsbury Board of Education. For more information about the VIP pass program or to reserve tickets online, go to www.simsbury.k12.ct.us(under Community Connection). You can also reserve tickets by calling (860) 658-0451 x991.
Info: www.simsbury.k12.ct.us (under Community Connection) or call (860) 658-0451 x991.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times