‘Respect’ Creator Traces Women’s Progress

Palm Beach Daily
By Jan Sjostrom, Daily News Arts Editor for Palm Beach Daily News
July 22, 2004

Several years ago, Dorothy Marcic began using Top 40 songs to enhance her leadership seminars. I Will Follow Him, for example, illustrated the old-style management model, which eventually provoked a You Don’t Own Me response among employees.

“People loved it,” said Marcic, a business management professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

The lectures led to a new career for Marcic, who now is at home on stage as she is at the podium.

Marcic’s new musical Respect: A Musical Journey of Women, will open Friday at the Cuillo Centre for the Arts in West Palm Beach. The show tracks women’s history through more than 50 popular songs, from the limited aspirations of A Bicycle Built for Two from 1892 to the liberated proclamations of Video, recorded by India Arie in 2002.

The show appeals to the same people who flocked to see… l, said Gail Shank, the Cuillo Centre’s managing director and associate producer of Respect. Women’s enthusiasm for… the Musical, kept that show at the Cuillo Centre for 18 months during two runs from 2001-03.

Respect is a step above…, Shank said. “Theatrically, is it deep?” she said. “No. But it’s definitely a much more intelligent show… because it tells the story of women.”

Marcic’s lectures grew into a show when she realized the music’s potential for telling a bigger story. She began with a one-woman show that she toured to Australia, New Zealand, Israel, the Netherlands, Britain and South Africa.

“I’m not a professional singer, but as far as management professors go, I’m probably the best singer,” said the 55-year-old professor, whose college training in television, film and radio production and work on the children’s television show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood provided a foundation for her detour into theater.

Meanwhile, she developed the material into another format Ñ a book, Respect: Women and Popular Music, which was published in 2002.

She’s written 12 books, mostly on management topics. Respect: Woman and Popular Music combines analysis of song lyrics and interviews with women talking about how music affected their lives. In turn, the interviews provided more fodder for the show.

The show became so popular that Marcic reduced her teaching schedule to part time so that she could spend more time on it. A couple of years ago, she expanded the show into a four-woman vehicle, with herself as the narrator.

Her most enthusiastic fans were women older than 45. It didn’t take a statistician to pinpoint where she might find a dense concentration of that demographic.

In March, she rented the Hollywood Playhouse in Hollywood, Fla., for four days and invited producers to the show. That’s where Shank saw it. She persuaded Palm Beacher Bob Cuillo to produce the show at his theater in West Palm Beach.

The show, which unfolds chronologically and alternates music and narrative, has developed considerably under the Cuillo’s guidance.

The script has been reworked. Some of the more somber stories have been cut. An orchestrator revamped the score. Recorded tracks were replaced by a three-piece band. A choreographer was called in.

“They’ve made it look more like a Broadway show than community theater,” Marcic said.
The show retains some of her favorite stories, including one about her grandmother. After emigrating to the United States from Norway in the early 20th century, she married and had five children.

When her husband’s alcoholism became insupportable, she divorced him and raised the children alone. Years later, her husband, who had become a vagrant, sent her a postcard asking to come home. She forgave him, and they remarried.

What song Marcic did choose to illustrate that tale? Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man.
Decades later, women of the ’70s were venting their frustration at the glass ceiling with I Am Woman.
Marcic notes a dichotomy in today’s music. “It’s very disturbing to me,” she said. “Either you’re a whore and do whatever, or there are songs about independent women who are survivors and fighters. There’s a dialogue going on. Either way, old values are changing.”

The show will run through Aug. 15 at the Cuillo Centre, 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. For tickets, call 835-9226.