‘Respect’ — and They Ain’t Lyin’

Palm Beach Post
July 18, 2004
By Hap Erstein, Palm Beach Post Theater Writer

Musicals have been made from classic novels, campy movies and even comic strips, but it seems likely that RESPECT: A Musical Journey of Women is the first show to come from a social history textbook.

The Top 40s revue with a subtext of empowerment was written by and stars Dorothy Marcic, a Vanderbilt University management professor whose workshops and seminars became much more popular once she sprinkled pop songs throughout them.

“I got asked to give a talk on the equality of men and women,” says Marcic. “When I went to look at the list of songs that might fit, that’s when I saw it, the progress of women was all there in the popular music.” The presentation went so well that it attracted an agent, who got Marcic a book deal for the history-lesson-turned-concert.

Marcic began touring with the material as a one-woman show, which has expanded to a full production with a cast of four, premiering Friday at the Cuillo Centre in West Palm Beach.

While Marcic narrates stories of women coming “a long way, baby” throughout the past century, they are illustrated by the songs that helped shape our values, for better and for worse.

She used to do it all, but in this new production Marcic leaves the singing to others. “This is more about the real professional singer,” she says. “In terms of management professors, though, I’m probably the best singer around.”
The show begins in 1902 with Bill Bailey (Won’t You Please Come Home), “and you realize that the music is a way of tracking social change,” says Marcic. “Up until the mid-’60s, the majority of songs that women sang that hit the Top 40 were codependent. My Man, I Love Him So, He Beats Me Too, What Can I Do?, Someone to Watch Over Me, Mean to Me, Why Must You be Mean to Me?”

It was not until the ’90s that the charts were dominated by songs of inner strength — “songs like The Greatest Love of All and Hero,” notes Marcic. “Also by the ’90s you had women moving into positions of power, so that started being reflected in the music. While there are still those needy songs, the percentage of them has diminished.”

Relax, RESPECT is not a dry feminist tract. “I don’t get into all the academic stuff in the play, but if you want that you can read the book,” she says reassuringly. “From the beginning, I made sure it was not going to be an anti-male, male-bashing thing. Because it’s really about women getting their own power, it’s not about blaming anybody.

“We sang those songs. We believed in all that stuff. We were waiting for Prince Charming to rescue us. We had to come to our own sense of power, being able to be partners with men,” Marcic adds.

“It’s fun, it’s entertaining, but it also gives you an awareness of the human condition. And you don’t listen to songs the same way after seeing this show. You’re suddenly going, ‘What is the real meaning of that?’ ”

If RESPECT proves successful here, Marcic hopes it will go on tour or generate other productions around the country. Chances are that Vanderbilt has lost a professor. “I was an academic for over 25 years, and I feel like I’ve done that,” Marcic says.

It gives one ‘Pause’: Not lost on Marcic is the fact that the Cuillo Centre is where *…* was launched before becoming a hit in several productions around the country. It, too, uses pop songs, but with parody lyrics.