The Otterbein University Department of Theatre and Dance replaces 'West Side Story' with 'Singin' in the Rain'
Theater department cancels spring production of 'West Side Story' following racial controversy
The Otterbein University Department of Theatre and Dance replaced the spring production of "West Side Story" with a production of "Singin’ In the Rain" amid controversy surrounding white students portraying Puerto Rican characters.
Christina Kirk, chair of the department of theatre and dance, said, "We wanted to send a message that there is no need to think of Puerto Ricans as a particular color.”
According to Kirk, discussion about changing the production began after an email was sent from a student who was uncomfortable with Otterbein producing the show.
Following this email, Kirk met with James Prysock, director for the office of social justice and activism, to decide the department's next steps. A public forum was later held to allow students to voice their opinions on the issue.
Despite the forum, some students felt that their opinions were not taken into consideration in regards to the decision to cancel the show.
According to André Spathelf-Sanders, a senior musical theatre major and assistant choreographer for "West Side Story", the production was set to continue until a letter was sent from department alumni expressing discomfort that with the show.
“What confused me the most was that it seemed like the show was shut down because of the alumni, not because of the people that are here right now and had a problem with it,” said Spathelf-Sanders.
The Department of Theatre and Dance has replaced "West Side Story" with a production of "Singin’ In the Rain". It will debut on March 28 and is co-produced by the Otterbein University Department of Music.
Kirk credits Robert Johnson, the lead set designer, with the ability to transform the designs for "West Side Story" to be compatible with "Singin’ In the Rain" in time for the production's debut.