Seattle is returning to the 50-year-old musical “West Side Story” in a antigang project, the Seattle Times reports. The paper says the musical “offered a commentary on the senselessness of gang violence long before drive-by shootings and the proliferation of assault rifles.” Seattle police Detective Kim Bogucki said its message about gang violence still resonates with today’s youth. The West Side Story Project is an effort by police, high-school students and the theater community to engage people in discussions about youth-violence prevention.
Using the musical as a catalyst, the program will include youth summits on gang violence, a workshop, and a performance of the musical featuring a cast of high-school students. “These were issues 50 years ago that are similar to issues now,” Bogucki said. “It’s not a problem we’ll solve overnight, but we need to keep having the conversation.” Anna Laszlo, wife of Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, said the idea to use “West Side Story” for discussions about youth violence hit her last year while watching the 1961 film version of the musical. She approached officials at the 5th Avenue Theatre, where Laszlo, a criminal-justice consultant, is a board member. She said her husband and top administrators at the theater helped make the idea happen.