Iconic ‘West Side Story’ still resonates today

Carolyn Jerz of Greensburg will be playing Maria opposite Logan Williams of Pittsburgh as Tony in the production.

She describes her character as a playful, naive teenage girl who just wants to take part in life.

“She has just moved to New York City from Puerto Rico and is attending her first school dance with her people, the Sharks,” Jerz says. “In my interpretation, she most likely has been home-schooled all her life. She meets Tony, her Romeo, a Jet, an American. He is not of her kind, but they instantly fall in love.”

Jerz, 16, a home-schooled 11th-grade student from Unity, intends to play Maria “as a real person, not a two-dimensional character. Because I consider myself an actress, playing Maria’s realistic emotions throughout the show is just as important as hitting the high notes,” she says. “I like making people cry.”

She also is having no problem slipping into her Puerto Rican character.

“My ballet and flamenco teachers are from Cuba, so I had the Hispanic accent down from hearing it so much,” she says.

Jerz has performed for PICT Classic Theatre (“Jane Eyre” and “The Merchant of Venice”), Stage Right (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Latrobe Cabaret Theatre (“The Miracle Worker” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”). She was the 2015 and 2017 winner of Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Shakespeare monologue and scene contest. —Tribune-Review