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July 14

Arthur Laurents

Arthur Laurents, a son of New York City, set his Story in the very place where he was born and raised—Brooklyn.

Photo by Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images

1918: From Brooklyn to Broadway
Arthur Laurents is born in Brooklyn, New York
Arthur Laurents, the playwright and lyricist who wrote the book for West Side Story, one of the world’s most beloved musicals, had another source in mind when he conceived of the tragic tale of Maria and Tony. He was thinking of Shakespeare and his play, Romeo and Juliet, and this pair of lovers whose family conflicts stand in the way of their feelings for one another.

Though the theme wasn’t new, Laurents set his characters’ love affair in an urban setting, with rival gangs standing in for the families Shakespeare had put at odds. Laurents worked closely with composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim to create the Broadway version of West Side Story.
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