Iris Menas from “West Side Story” brings a new dimension to the old character
In the 1961 film version of “West Side StoryThe Anybodys tomboy character is a young teenager, a stereotype one would find in any sitcom of the time, wearing dungarees and a T-shirt with a cute haircut leprechaun. But in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story”, a non-binary transgender actor iris menas (who prefers not to use capital letters) shines like an older Anybodys as Tony Kushner’s screenplay highlights racism, the harms of gentrification, and the frustration felt by those on the fringes of an after society. – war that does not value them because they do not fit into the story of the American dream. Menas imbues Anybodys with all the pain of a person who has the confidence to know who she is, but who faces ignorance and hatred on a daily basis.
Menas was working on a Broadway show when Zie (they) got the call to audition for “West Side Story”.
âI was like, ‘oh my god,’ West Side Story. âOh my God, Steven. Oh my God, Tony Kushner.â¦ I’m excited. I’m stressed out. I do it. So I went to the audition room. I read a little side for Cindy Tolan and their assistant Nick [Petrovich] and saw a bunch of trans and non-binary people there. I was like, ‘wow, they’re looking specifically for trans and non-binary artists for the role,’ and that intrigued me a lot.
âAnd at first I was worried because I thought, ‘Well, that’s what people are trying these days. People try to write trans roles and it doesn’t always have the impact that people want, I think, and can end up being very harmful to the trans community. But I’m like, ‘Hey, they’re masters at their craft, I’m definitely going to give it a go.’ “
Then menas forgot about it, until zie got a callback and auditioned for Spielberg, Kushner, producer Christie Krieger and other heavyweights in the movie industry.
âI walk in and honestly I literally felt like I was walking into my family’s living room. I was like, ‘it’s so cold,’ âMenas says with a laugh.
Menas’ experience was a bit unusual. âThere was never anything expected or asked for. A lot of times trans people come in and we are the only trans in the room and we have no advocates. There was no consultant. We end up doing the work and emotional work of a team of consultants and reliving our trauma for the process. But that was not the case here, they put forward all the effort, all the work. I mean, not only historically, but obviously in a way that felt like a 1950s trans person, and what reality would have looked like. And so it seemed so much safer to me that I could step into the role, because I didn’t have the job of educating anyone.
The actor “wanted to bring my lived experience as a non-binary trans person to Anybodys, first and foremost because we rarely see trans people portrayed in the media. We rarely see them portrayed correctly.
âWe see how Anybodys is treated by gangs and how Anybodys is excluded from society, which is a very real aspect, unfortunately, which continues. We see that, but we also see Anybodys standing up for himself and being true to himself at a time when everyone was telling him that trans people aren’t real, that you don’t exist, basically.
âI really honestly wanted to bring life and reality and an anchor in Anybodys understanding of himself because we don’t see trans people so confident on screen. And that was really important to me – to make anyone sure of who he was at all times.
Menas says that “the plateau was a place of joy”. Spielberg’s passion for the material and his confidence in the cast resulted in a great performance, and the camaraderie between the cast and the crew was unique.
âWe were all on discussion threads off the set. We have had such a unique experience and it is cemented in my body, in mind as this simply wonderful, uplifting and beautiful collaboration that I think is so exciting to finally share with the world.
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