Arthur Laurents

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How do the stage notes and directions in this passage help you to better understand the characters and what they are thinking and feeling? In the following Text: from the West Side Story: 5:30p.m. A backyard. On a small ladder, a good-looking sandy-haired boy is painting a vertical sign that will say: "Doc's." Below, Riff is haranguing.* Riff:Why not?...You can't say ya won't, Tony boy, without sayin' why not? Tony[grins]: Why not? Riff:Because it's me askin': Riff. Womb to tomb! Tony: [Surveying the sign] You sure this looks like skywriting? Riff:It's nrilliant. Tony: Twenty-seven years the boss has had that drugstore. I wanna surprise him with a new sign. Riff:[shaking the ladder]: Tony, this is important! (act 1, scene 2) *rantint at, lecturing

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The stage directions are important in the outset of this scene and throughout because they show the difference in the primary motivations of Riff and Tony.  At the start of the play, Riff and Tony are life long friends ("Womb to Tomb"), yet are poised at different ends of life.  I think you can see that Tony is focused on his post- Jets life and Riff is driven by his role with the Jets.  Once you have seen this, find evidence in the stage directions that show this?  What evidence can you find that Tony is concerned with his life after the Jets and Riff is focused on his life with the Jets.  Remember:  When someone is focused on something, stage directions tell us that their body language will indicate it.

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