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Otterbein hosts panel, “Appropriation or Empowerment: A Provocative Dialogue with Dick Scanlan about his musical ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’”

February 21, 2018
Otterbein University

Westerville, OH—Otterbein University’s Department of Theatre & Dance and Office of Social Justice and Activism will host a panel discussion, “Appropriation or Empowerment: A Provocative Dialogue with Dick Scanlan about his musical ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’” at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 2, in the Campus Center Theatre, 100 W. Home Street. The event is free and open to the public.

“Thoroughly Modern Millie,” written by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan, with new lyrics by Dick Scanlan and music by Jeanine Tesori, to be performed in Otterbein’s Fritsche Theatre at Cowan Hall, April 5-8 and 12-14, provides the catalyst for this panel discussion.

Tony Award-nominated writer and lyricist Dick Scanlan will visit the campus to participate in a panel discussion about the musical’s subplot of human trafficking and how the subject resonates in contemporary society in comparison to when the show originally premiered in 2002.

Scanlan will be joined by Thom Christopher Warren, the director of the production and Otterbein Theatre & Dance faculty member; James Prysock, the Director of the Office of Social Justice and Activism at Otterbein; and Otterbein University Chaplain Judy Guion-Utsler. Three student performers cast in the Otterbein production, Cameron Chang, Harry Lin, and Tristan Gillia, will also participate.

“Thoroughly Modern Millie” is a stage adaptation of a 1967 movie of the same name, which was a spoof on 1920s musicals. Dick Scanlan, in partnership with the story’s original writer, Richard Morris, approached the characters of Mrs. Meers and her two Asian “henchmen” by making deliberate choices for the musical version in order to create a greater statement about racial stereotypes.

“We felt completely in-authenticating, disempowering, busting, and delegitimizing the stereotype and revealing it to be a creation out of other people’s phobias and desires and all kinds of things that creates this monster…. We thought it was a theatrical way to bust a stereotype without being didactic,” explained Scanlan in a podcast produced by Music Theatre International.

“This production provides an opportunity to shed light on our responsibilities as artists regarding cultural appropriation,” said Christina Kirk, chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance and moderator of the discussion.

In addition to his nominations for “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Scanlan received Tony, Drama Desk and Lortel nominations in 2010 for his work as co-author of the Broadway musical “Rapture,” a critically acclaimed musical written with and for Sherie Rene Scott, produced on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre by The Roundabout Theatre Company, and Off-Broadway at Second Stage.

“Thoroughly Modern Millie,” which enjoyed a Broadway run of more than 900 performances, won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 2002.

Thom Christopher Warren, the newest member of the Otterbein University Theatre & Dance faculty, spent 25 years working on and off Broadway, in companies of many a National Tour, and at some of the country’s most prestigious regional theaters, including The Guthrie Theatre, Paper Mill Playhouse, Hartford Stage Company, The La Jolla Playhouse, George Street Playhouse and countless summers stocks. 

Most recently, Thom finished a 15-year run with Disney’s The Lion King in both the Broadway and National Touring companies, and in which he played Scar, Zazu, Timon, Pumbaa and Ed over the course of his time with the show. Thom's tenure with the show also included serving as the Resident Director of the second National Tour, as well as serving on the creative team of the Chinese production in Shanghai. 

For more information about the Otterbein Theatre & Dance production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” or the panel presentation, contact the box office at 614-823-1109 or visit www.otterbein.edu/drama. The box office is open from 12-4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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