Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Let's Go On a Safari! From Voice of America

Lions drinking from a river in Chobe National Park




VOICE ONE:

I’m Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we go on safari to experience the sights and sounds of Africa’s rich wildlife. The word “safari” comes from the Swahili and Arabic words for a trip or journey. Tourists from all over the world go to Africa to enjoy the excitement and wonder of safari explorations.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Imagine climbing into an open sided four-wheel drive vehicle early in the morning.

(SOUND)

Your expert guide drives you through the entrance to Chobe National Park in Botswana. All around, you can see the huge pink sky at sunrise. The trees and thick grass move slightly in the wind. Then, suddenly you hear the movement of leaves nearby. A few meters away a huge elephant walks out of the green bushes. He is so close you can see his white ivory tusks and the deep lines in his gray skin. He seems to look right at you, then moves on to continue his search for more food. Welcome to Africa and the excitement of safari.

VOICE TWO:

There are many national parks and game reserves in Africa where you can go on safari. For example, many tourists visit Kruger National Park in the northeastern area of South Africa. This park was established in nineteen twenty-six in an effort to protect the wildlife of South Africa. It has a surface area of almost twenty thousand square kilometers. Many kinds of plants and animals live in Kruger, including the famous “Big Five.” The Big Five are five large animals: the elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros and buffalo.

Big game hunters created the term Big Five. For hunters, these five animals were some of the most difficult and dangerous to catch. Many tourists think mainly about seeing the Big Five while on safari. But there are many other interesting, and much smaller, animals as well.

VOICE ONE:

Kruger National Park represents a good example of the many kinds of safaris that are available to visitors. For example, in parks including Kruger, you can rent a car and drive around some areas on your own. There are also wilderness trails for safaris where you walk on a path to see the animals. A guide or ranger comes with you to keep you safe and tell about the animals. There are also mobile safaris where you sleep in a tent. The campsite moves with you as you travel through the park.

Private hotel companies operate some areas of parks such as Kruger. These hotels can be very costly. But many people think it is worth the cost to enjoy fine food and service. After all, it is not every day you can look out of your bedroom window and see a monkey or elephant standing outside.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

There are several general rules to follow when traveling on safari. For example, most people wear light-colored clothing such as light brown or tan. This is because lighter colors take in less of the strong heat of the sun than dark colors do. Darker color clothes are also more likely to attract mosquitoes. It is also important to wear a hat and sunscreen lotion to protect your skin from being burned by the very hot African sun. Binoculars are also very helpful for seeing animals that are far away.

VOICE ONE:

When you are out in nature it is important to speak softly so as not to frighten the animals away. Also, never try to feed or go near one of the animals. And, if you are in a boat, keep your arms and legs out of the water. You might want to touch the water to cool off. But you never know if a hungry crocodile or other creature is nearby. By following these guidelines you can enjoy a safari that is both safe and exciting.

VOICE TWO:

Tanzania is another country with many parks and game reserves. People who like chimpanzees can visit Gombe Stream National Park on the western border of the country. This is an area of thick forests, ancient trees, and beautiful lakes. Animal expert Jane Goodall made the chimpanzee populations in this area famous. She spent many years studying the behavior of these endangered animals.

A guide can take you deep into the forest. As you sit waiting, you might hear the screams and calls of the chimps coming closer. Chimpanzees share about ninety eight percent of their genes with humans. Their actions and noises can seem very human. Being able to watch these animals playing, eating and communicating with each other in the wild is a special experience to treasure.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Chobe National Park in Botswana is another popular place for safari travel. This park is home to one of the largest elephant populations in the world. Mist Setaung is a professional safari guide who often takes visitors through Chobe. Listen as he tells about himself and how he got this exciting job.

A hippopotamus, either yawning or about to eat something.


MIST SETAUNG: “My name is Mist Setaung and I was born and raised in Botswana, a place called Maun which is a gateway to the Okavango delta. To become a guide you actually go through a course. There’s a six-month course of the Department of Wildlife, which is run by the government. Then, after this course you take an exam. My father offered me a job as a trainee guide and I went into the bush. Slowly and surely I started learning and eventually it got into my blood, and I just got devoted to it.”

VOICE TWO:

With a guide like Mist you are guaranteed to see new animals and learn a great deal. One excellent way to see the wildlife of Chobe is by boat. Mist can take you on a boat ride up and down the river so you can see the animals as they come to drink or play in the water.

Hippopotamuses like to stand in the grass and eat most of the day. Or, they enter the water to stay cool. In fact, a hippo can stay under water for up to six minutes. They are very good at hiding in the water. If you look carefully, you can see their two eyes looking out of the water at you. You know they are near when you hear the strange deep noise they make with their nose.

(SOUND)

These animals look too big and fat to be dangerous. But they can be very aggressive and protective of their territory.

VOICE ONE:

Paradise Whydah


If you do not see any big animals near the river, Mist can tell you about birds instead. He can point out the male paradise whydah with its unusually long black tail feathers. Or, he might show you one of many guinea fowl, which he jokingly says are also called “Chobe chickens.” He can even make noises that sound just like the birdcalls.

VOICE TWO:

There are also many smaller animals to watch for. Antelopes of all kinds live in the park. There are gnus or wildebeests with their flat wide faces. Fine-boned impalas walk around as gracefully as dancers. Solid warthogs explore the bush on their short little legs. These strange-looking wild pigs are dark with long yellow tusks coming out of their mouth. They are not very pretty animals. Mist says "they have a face only a mother could love."

Mist can also tell you about conservation efforts to protect wild animals. Some animals such as the black rhinoceros have almost been destroyed because poachers illegally hunt and kill them. Many parks across Africa have had trouble with poachers. In Chobe there is an army camp with workers who make sure that poachers stay away.

VOICE ONE:

It might surprise you that there are too many of some other animals. For example, in parts of Chobe the large elephant population has actually harmed the environment. When elephants eat huge quantities of leaves and grasses, other animals have trouble finding enough food to eat. And, elephants are not gentle eaters. They can tear out trees and bushes as they feed. In the dry season these dead plants can increase the danger of fires.

Chobe elephants at sunset


VOICE TWO:

If you are lucky, you can enjoy sunset while floating down the Chobe River. Yellow and orange colors fill the sky at this hour and are reflected in the water. The sun slowly starts to slip behind the trees. But before it is dark, you see a large movement of gray bodies. Three families of elephants have come to the water's edge.

More than thirty elephants are quietly drinking and eating. There are huge old elephants with large tusks. There are the mothers who lead each family group. Then, there are the babies who play and run around the thick legs of the adult elephants. The elephants look up and watch as your boat turns away and you head back to camp at the end of another day on safari in Africa.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Barbara Klein. You can read and listen to this program on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Presidency of John F Kennedy, Part Two




VOICE ONE:

This is Rich Kleinfeldt.

VOICE TWO:

And this is Stan Busby with THE MAKING OF A NATION -- a VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.

(MUSIC)

Today, we continue the story of President John Kennedy.

VOICE ONE:

John Kennedy began his administration in nineteen sixty-one with great energy to do good things. After just three months in office, however, he had to take responsibility for a big failure.

On April seventeenth, Cuban exiles, trained by America's Central Intelligence Agency, invaded Cuba. Their goal was to overthrow Cuba's communist leader, Fidel Castro. Most of the exiles were killed or captured.

The last administration had planned the invasion. But Kennedy had approved it. After the incident, some Americans wondered if he had enough experience to lead the nation. Some asked themselves if the forty-three-year-old Kennedy was too young to be president, after all.

VOICE TWO:

Kennedy soon regained some public approval when he visited French leader General Charles de Gaulle. The French were very interested in the new American president. They were even more interested in his beautiful wife. The president said with a laugh that he was the man who had come to Paris with Jacqueline Kennedy.

VOICE ONE:

In Vienna, Kennedy met with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Their relations would always be difficult.

Khrushchev did not want to compromise on any issue. He threatened to have the East Germans block all movement into and out of the western part of the city of Berlin.

Not long after, the East Germans, with Soviet support, built a wall to separate the eastern and western parts of the city. President Kennedy quickly announced a large increase in the number of American military forces in Germany. He said the United States would not permit freedom to end in Berlin.

VOICE TWO:

About a year later, in October, nineteen sixty-two, President Kennedy said the United States had discovered that the Soviets were putting nuclear missiles in Cuba. He took several actions to protest the deployment.

One was to send American ships to the area. They were to prevent Soviet ships from taking missile parts and related supplies to the Cuban government. In a speech broadcast on television, Kennedy spoke about the seriousness of the situation.

JOHN KENNEDY: "It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States."

VOICE ONE:

No fighting broke out between the United States and the Soviet Union because of the Cuban missile crisis. The Soviet ships carrying missile parts to Cuba turned back. And President Kennedy promised that the United States would not invade Cuba if the Soviet Union removed its missiles and stopped building new ones there.

The two sides did, however, continue their cold war of words and influence.

In Asia, the Soviet Union continued to provide military, economic, and technical aid to communist governments. The Kennedy administration fought communism in Vietnam by increasing the number of American military advisers there.

VOICE TWO:

The United States and the Soviet Union did make some progress on arms control, however. In nineteen sixty-three, the two countries reached a major agreement to ban tests of nuclear weapons above ground, under water, and in space. The treaty did not ban nuclear tests under the ground.

On national issues, President Kennedy supported efforts to guarantee a better life for African-Americans. One man who pushed for changes was his younger brother, Robert. Robert Kennedy was attorney general and head of the Justice Department at that time.

VOICE ONE:

The Justice Department took legal action against Southern states that violated the voting rights acts of nineteen fifty-seven and nineteen sixty. The administration also supported a voter registration campaign among African-Americans. The campaign helped them to record their names with election officials so they could vote.

As attorney general, Robert Kennedy repeatedly called on National Guard troops to protect black citizens from crowds of angry white citizens. Incidents took place when blacks tried to register to vote and when they tried to attend white schools.

VOICE TWO:

President Kennedy said the situation was causing a moral crisis in America. He decided it was time to propose a new civil rights law. The measure would guarantee equal treatment for blacks in public places and in jobs. It would speed the work of ending racial separation in schools.

Kennedy wanted the new legislation badly. But Congress delayed action. It did not pass a broad civil rights bill until nineteen sixty-four, after his presidency.

VOICE ONE:

In November, nineteen sixty-three, Kennedy left Washington for the state of Texas. He hoped to help settle a local dispute in his Democratic Party. The dispute might have affected chances for his re-election in nineteen sixty-four.

He arrived in the city of Dallas in the late morning of November twenty-second. Dallas was known to be a center of opposition to Kennedy. Yet many people waited to see him.

VOICE TWO:

A parade of cars traveled through the streets of Dallas. Kennedy and his wife were in the back seat of one. Their car had no top, so everyone could see them easily. Another car filled with Secret Service security agents was next to the president's.

Suddenly, there were gunshots. Then, many Americans heard this emergency report from television newsman Walter Cronkite:

WALTER CRONKITE: "Here is a bulletin from CBS news. In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting."

VOICE ONE:

The cars raced to Parkland Memorial Hospital. But doctors there could do little. Thirty minutes later reporters, including Walter Cronkite, broadcast this announcement:

WALTER CRONKITE: "From Dallas, Texas -- the flash apparently official -- President Kennedy died at one p.m., Central Standard Time. "

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

As the nation mourned, police searched for the person who had killed John Kennedy. They arrested a man named Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald worked in a building near the place where Kennedy had been shot. People had seen him leave the building after the shooting. He had a gun.

VOICE ONE:

Lee Harvey Oswald was a man with a strange past. He was a former United States Marine. He was also a communist. He had lived for a while in the Soviet Union and had tried to become a Soviet citizen. He worked for a committee that supported the communist government in Cuba.

Police questioned Oswald about the death of president Kennedy. He said he did not do it. After two days, officials decided to move him to a different jail.

VOICE TWO:

As they did, television cameras recorded the death of Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was being led by two police officials. Suddenly, a man stepped in front of them. There was a shot, and Oswald fell to the floor.

The gunman was Jack Ruby. He owned an eating and drinking place in Dallas. He said he killed Oswald to prevent the Kennedy family from having to live through a trial.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

President Kennedy's body had been returned to Washington. After a state funeral, he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River. A gas flame burns at his burial place, day and night.

An official committee was formed to investigate his death. It was headed by the chief justice of the United States, earl Warren, and was known as the Warren commission. In its report, the Warren commission said that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. It said there was no plot to kill the president.

VOICE TWO:

Many Americans did not accept the report. They believed there was a plot. Some blamed Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Some blamed extremists in America's Central Intelligence Agency. Others blamed organized crime.

The truth of what happened to John Kennedy may be what was stated in the Warren Commission report: that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Or, perhaps, the complete truth may never be known.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

This program of THE MAKING OF A NATION was written by Jeri Watson and produced by Paul Thompson. This is Rich Kleinfeldt.

VOICE TWO:

And this Stan Busby. Join us again next week for another VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. The nuclear test ban treaty of 1963 permitted nuclear tests to be performed only _____________________ .
a: in space
b: above ground
c: under ground
d: in the water

2. The Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962 was avoided because the Soviets didn't try to cross the American blockade, and ________________ .
a: the Americans promised not to attack Soviet shipping
b: the Americans would not object to Soviet missile attacks in South America
c: the American government promised to not invade Cuba again
d: the American government agreed to close the Guatanamo prison.

3. Under John F. Kennedy's administration, the US fought communism in Vietnam by ___________________.
a: sending American troops into battle
b: bombing North Vietnam from the air
c: invading Cambodia
d: increasing the number of American military advisers

4. Robert Kennedy, the attorney general under his brother Jack Kennedy, ______________________ .
a: successfully lobbied Congress to pass a new civil rights law
b: refused to call on the National Guard to protect black citizens threatened by angry southern whites
c: brought legal action against Southern states that violated voting rights laws
d: warned blacks not to try to register for white schools

5. A suspect in the assassination of John F Kennedy was shot by _______________ a local restaurant owner. The occurrence was televised.
a: Lee Harvey Oswald
b: Jack Ruby
c: Fidel Castro
d: Earl Warren

6. The new president, John F Kennedy, made a very positive impression on the French people. This was mostly because of ______________________ .
a: Kennedy's fluent mastery of the French language
b: Kennedy's admiration for French cuisine
c: Jacqueline Kennedy
d: Kennedy's ability to make General Charles de Gaulle laugh until his sides split

7. The Soviet leader, Nikita Kruschchev, often met with John F Kennedy. Krushchev _________________________ .
a: usually agreed with John F. Kennedy
b: did not want to compromise on any issue
c: was difficult to deal with, but genuinely wanted to make deals
d: drank vodka heavily during most negotiations

8. The Warren Commission concluded that _________________________ .
a: Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F Kennedy
b: Lee Harvey Oswald was part of a communist plot to kill John F Kennedy
c: Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby conspired to assassinate Kennedy
d: Lee Harvey Oswald was not Kennedy's killer. A radical American right wing group was responsible

9. One of John Kennedy's first actions as president failed. It was the attempt ____________________ .
a: to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba
b: to balance the budget
c: to raise the minimum wage for workers
d: to end the Vietnam War

10. The Berlin Wall erected by East Germany to separate the east and west sides of Berlin caused John F Kennedy ________________________
a: to invade Cuba again
b: to increase the number of military forces in Germany
c: to complain bitterly to the Soviet leader, Nikita Krushchev
d: to resolve the problem with his political party in Dallas, Texas

"The Presidency of John F Kennedy, Part One"





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Monday, November 9, 2009

'West Side Story': Love, Hate and the Immigrant Experience.


VOICE ONE:

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Shirley Griffith. Today we complete the story and songs from the American musical play "West Side Story."

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Some of the greatest artists in American musical theater worked together to create "West Side Story" in nineteen fifty-seven. Choreographer and director Jerome Robbins, who developed the idea. Arthur Laurents, who wrote the play's words. And Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the words to the songs.

However, Leonard Bernstein -- who wrote the music -- usually is considered the main creator of "West Side Story. " Although the play is fifty years old this month, his music remains fresh today.

VOICE TWO:

As we said last week, "West Side Story" is a story about young people in a poor part of New York City in the nineteen fifties. Two groups of teenagers fight each other for control of the streets.

The "Jets"
Members of the local gang -- the "Jets" -- were born in New York. They hate the Spanish-speaking people who have begun to move to the city from Puerto Rico. The young Puerto Ricans, members of the "Sharks" gang, hate the Jets in return.

The Puerto Ricans have the mixed feelings of any group of immigrants. They are divided between loving their old home and being glad to have left its problems behind.

The song "America" makes fun of some things in their new land, even as it seems to praise it. The Puerto Rican girls joke that everything is free in America ... if you pay for it. Our music is from the original recording of the play.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Seventeen-year-old Maria is the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. She has arrived recently from Puerto Rico. She is to marry Chino, another member of the Sharks. But at a dance, Maria falls in love with Tony, a former leader of the enemy gang, the Jets.

Maria and Tony hope the hatred between the gangs will ease. They no longer understand this hatred. But the Jets and Sharks are making plans for a big fight. The Jets want to push the Sharks out of their area.

The gangs agree to fight the next night. They will put the best fighter from the Sharks against the best fighter from the Jets. The winner, and his gang, will take all the street territory.

Maria
VOICE TWO:

The next night, Maria is at home. She is getting dressed to meet Tony. She is very happy and excited. Carol Lawrence sings the part of Maria.

(MUSIC)

Everyone is nervous, waiting for the big fight. Everyone except Maria and Tony. They are waiting only to see each other.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

The gangs meet for the fight. Tony has promised Maria that he will try to stop it. As he does, the action suddenly turns violent. Tony's friend Riff and Bernardo begin fighting each other with knives.

(MUSIC)

In a moment, Tony's friend Riff is dead -- killed by the brother of the woman Tony loves. Not thinking, Tony strikes back. He kills Bernardo. The gangs run away. Tony stands in horror over the bodies of his friend and Maria's brother.

VOICE TWO:

Maria knows nothing of what has happened. Then Chino, the man she is supposed to marry, goes to her apartment. He tells Maria that her lover has killed her brother. Chino gets a gun. He goes to search for Tony, to kill him.

Maria is praying when Tony climbs in the window of her room. Tony explains that he did not mean to kill her brother. He asks her to forgive him. She does.

Together, Tony and Maria imagine a life free of group hatred. The walls of Maria's room move away, and they dance. For a brief time, Tony and Maria are "somewhere" -- in the peaceful place they imagine. But they both know there will now be war between the gangs.

VOICE ONE:

Tony must hurry away when Maria's friend Anita comes in. Anita is mourning Bernardo, whom she loved. She is angry with Maria for loving Tony. Anita tells Maria that "a boy like that" -- not her own kind -- will only cause her pain. The part of Anita is sung by Chita Rivera.

(MUSIC)

Finally, Maria makes Anita understand that she loves Tony, even though he has killed Bernardo.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Anita goes to the Jets' hiding place to warn Tony that the police are looking for him. But the Jets are cruel to her and will not listen to her. They treat her so badly that, finally, she tells a lie in anger. Anita says Maria is dead, killed by Chino. Tony runs into the street, calling for Chino to come kill him, too.

VOICE ONE:

Maria appears. She and Tony hold each other for a moment. There is a shot. Chino has found them. Tony is hit by the bullet. He dies in the street as Maria holds him.

The play has ended sadly, but with some hope: together, the Jets and two Sharks carry Tony's body away. We end with "Somewhere," sung by Carol Lawrence.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Our program was produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Shirley Griffith.

VOICE ONE:

And I'm Steve Ember. You can download archives of our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. West Side Story is set in ________________ .
a: Shakespeare’s London in the seventeenth century
b: in New York City in the 1950’s
c: in Verona, Italy, in 1343
d: in Toronto, Canada in the 1990’s.

2. Besides Leonard Bernstein, _______________________ .
a: no one else created West Side Story
b: Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim created West Side Story
c: Elvis Crespo helped create West Side Story
d: Daddy Yankee created music for West Side Story.

3. The Puerto Rican teenagers who form the Sharks gang _________________ .
a: hate America and want to destroy it
b: love America without condition
c: love America but see the negative as well as the positive
d: don’t live in America.

4. Maria ___________________________ .
a: is an influential member of the Puerto Rican National Assembly 
b: decides to marry Tony instead of Chino
c: decides to marry Chino because her brother orders her to
d: is sick and tired of her brother Bernardo.

5. Riff and Bernardo fight _______________________ .
a: with knives 
b: with guns
c: with forks
d: with spoons

6. In the winner take all death match, ______________________ .
a: Riff kills Bernardo 
b: Riff injures Bernardo
c: Riff runs away from Bernardo
d: Bernardo kills Riff.

7. When Tony sees Riff on the ground, _____________________ .
a:  he helps him to his feet
b: he congratulates Bernardo for defeating Riff
c: he kills Bernardo
d: calls the police on his cell phone.

8. Chino then ____________________________ .
a: calls his lawyer 
b: gets a gun and goes looking for Tony
c: drives Maria to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where the couple are married
d: organizes a street protest.

9.Maria’s friend Anita falsely states that __________________ .
a: Tony has married Maria
b: Chino has married Maria
c: Chino has killed Maria
d: Maria has killed Chino and Tony

10. At the end of the play, ________________ .
a: everyone returns to life because it was just a bad dream
b: Maria’s lover Tony and her brother Bernardo are both dead
c: Anita marries Chino
d: the Jets and the Sharks agree to play a basketball game for charity.

11. The theme of "West Side Story" and Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" is that "_______ ".
a: Hatred causes violence between human beings
b: Love transcends racial and family differences
c: Street warfare leads to international warfare
d: Lovers don't need other people

"America" from "West Side Story" by Leonard Bernstein




West Side Story, Part One

Compare "West Side Story" to its source, Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How 'West Side Story' Gave "Romeo and Juliet" a New Home in America.




VOICE ONE:

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Shirley Griffith.

Today and next week we bring you the story and songs from the American musical play "West Side Story."

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

"West Side Story" opened fifty years ago this month, in New York's Winter Garden Theater. It was an immediate hit and played there for almost two years. Since then, it has been performed in many other theaters in the United States and in other countries. And millions of people have seen the motion picture version released in nineteen sixty-one.

It is possible, however, to enjoy "West Side Story" without having seen the play or movie. For it is the music of composer Leonard Bernstein that is most famous.

VOICE TWO:

Choreographer and director Jerome Robbins developed the idea for "West Side Story" about fifty-five years ago.

Most musicals of that time were not serious plays. They were written and performed purely for enjoyment. Robbins wanted to create a different kind of dance-musical. It would mix real social conflicts into a dream-like work of art. His idea was to make a modern American version of the great tragic play "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare.

In that play, two innocent teenagers, Romeo and Juliet, fall in love. But their powerful families are old, bitter enemies. They will not give up their hatred of each other. This leads to the deaths of several of their children, including Romeo and Juliet.

Jerome Robbins' idea was to make a musical play about the hatred between Americans of different cultures. He and Leonard Bernstein decided to base the play on the tensions caused by the immigration of Puerto Ricans to New York City.

Arthur Laurents wrote the words to the play. And Stephen Sondheim wrote the words to the songs.

Puerto Rico is an island commonwealth of the United States in the Caribbean. In the nineteen fifties, many Puerto Ricans were moving from their island to the west side of New York. They spoke Spanish. Their culture was different. Some native New Yorkers felt threatened by these new people in town.

The story takes place at the end of summer. We are introduced to two groups of teenagers. These two gangs are fighting for control of the streets. The local gang -- the "Jets" -- has long battled with the Puerto Rican gang -- the "Sharks." Now, the Jets want to push the Sharks out of their part of the city.

VOICE TWO:

Our first song is sung by the actors who appeared in the first production of the play. In the song, the Jets declare that anyone who is a member of their gang -- a Jet -- is always a Jet. Loyalty to the gang is more important than anything else.

(MUSIC)

Tony is a past leader of the Jets. But he no longer believes much in the gang. He is beginning to imagine a life outside the gang's territory. In this song, Tony senses that something new and important is about to happen to him. The part of Tony is sung by Larry Kert.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Now, the action turns to the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. Bernardo is leader of the Sharks. His seventeen-year-old sister, Maria, has just arrived from Puerto Rico. She has been brought to New York to be married. Her family expects her to marry Chino, another member of the Sharks.

That night, there is a dance. Both the Jets and the Sharks attend.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

The dance takes place at a neighborhood center -- neutral territory. The situation is tense, even threatening. The gangs dance in their own groups. Then the boy, Tony, and the girl, Maria, see each other across the room. They meet. They dance together. They are from enemy gangs, different cultures. Yet they know, immediately, that they want to be together.

Suddenly, Bernardo -- Maria's brother -- sees them. He is angry to see Maria talking with a member of the Jets. He sends her home.

VOICE ONE:

Tony leaves, too. He tries to find where Maria lives. He sings as he walks.

(MUSIC)

Tony finds the apartment building where Maria lives with her family. He calls to her window. She comes out quietly to the metal fire escape. Maria can stay for only a few minutes. She and Tony declare their love for each other. Then she must hurry inside. Carol Lawrence sings the part of Maria.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

It is now very late at night. The Jets and Sharks are about to meet with members of their own gang to plan a big fight, a "rumble." The gang that loses the fight will be forced to leave the area to the winning gang.

The play has begun to move toward its tragic ending. That will be our program next week -- the final part of "West Side Story. " We close now with the song "Tonight," sung by Maria as she and Tony say goodnight.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Our program was produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Shirley Griffith. You can download archives of our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. 1. The director and choreographer of West Side Story was _________ .
a: Leonard Bernstein
b: Muhammed Ali
c: Jerome Robbins
d: The Shark
 
2. West Side Story opened originally in ____________________ .
a: Los Angeles
b: Chicago
c: Puerto Rico
d: New York City.
 
3. West Side Story is based on
a: William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”
b: Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”
c: Brittany Spears’ “Oops, I Did It Again”
d: Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”.
 
4. Leonard Bernstein decided to _______________________________ .
a: invest money in West Side Story
b: criticize Jerome Robbins for causing social problems
c: write the music for West Side Story
d: move to Puerto Rico and become the Sugar King
 
5. At the beginning of the play, native New Yorker and immigrant Puerto Rican teenage gangs ________________________ .
a: are struggling for control of their neighborhood streets 
b: are teaching each other their native languages
c: are planning to sail a boat together to China
d: want to form an amateur baseball league.
 
6. Tony, Bernardo, Chino, and Maria _______________________ .
a: are members of the Jets gang 
b: are members of the Sharks gang
c: are the main characters in the story
d: want to live in Albuquerque
 
 
 
 
 
7. At the neighborhood dance,Tony and Maria are ________________________ .
a: introduced to each other formally by Bernardo 
b: attracted to each other from across the room
c: elected King and Queen of the dance
d: unable to see each other because they are both blind
 
8. Tony follows Maria home ______________________________ .
a: because he found her valuable gold watch 
b: because he has fallen in love with her and needs to talk to her
c: because Bernardo asked him to eat dinner with their family
d: because he is homeless
 
9.The Jets and Sharks decide to “rumble”, ________________________ .
a: to dance the mambo, la quebradita, and la lambada at the same time
b: to turn their radios as loud as they can go to the same rock and roll music station
c: to have a mass gang fight in the streets
d: to make love from sunset to dawn
 
10.The gang that loses the rumble must ________________________ .
a: give up control of the streets to the winning gang
b: prepare a big meal for the winning gang
c: buy machine guns and exterminate all the members of the winning gang
d: write a love song to Maria

"Tonight" from "West Side Story" by Leonard Bernstein




West Side Story, Part Two