Play in Angel Park April 16-20: ‘Tilda Swinton Betrayed Us’

by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer

University of the South senior Olivia Millwood, C’24, makes her directorial debut with the play “Tilda Swinton Betrayed Us” at 7:30 p.m. April 16-20 in Angel Park.

“Weather pending, it is every night,” Millwood said, “We planned a longer run this year because we learned from last year — we cancelled half of the performances because of the weather.”

Tickets, as always, are free, and may be reserved at <;. Runtime is about 35 minutes, and patrons should bring their own chairs or blankets.

“Olivia Millwood has done just about everything in our department — danced, choreographed, done the lighting design for a mainstage production, and stage managed two mainstage productions,” said Professor Jim Crawford, Theatre and Dance Department chair, “I’m delighted that she’ll be able to finish up her time at Sewanee directing a production of her own. She’s earned the trust and respect of the faculty and her fellow students. I’m really looking forward to seeing her work on this production and to see the trail she blazes beyond Sewanee.”

Millwood actually selected this year’s play.

“‘Tilda Swinton Betrayed Us’ is about this intense fan club,” she said. “The play is about a meeting that they have at the end of the year 2016 when Tilda Swinton has done something very controversial, and they meet to decide whether or not they need to disband.”

The controversy is based on a real-life incident involving Swinton in 2016.

“In Marvel’s ‘Dr. Strange,’ she played a character called The Ancient One, which in the original comics was an old Asian man,” Millwood explained.

Swinton, a white woman playing this particular role, caused an uproar.

“It started this controversy of Tilda Swinton defending whitewash casting — her defense was they didn’t want to create a negative Asian stereotype by casting an Asian person in this magical Asian old man role,” Millwood said.

Swinton took the brunt of the criticism after her emails with Margaret Cho, a prominent Asian comedian and actress who’d reached out to Swinton expressing concerns with the casting decision, were released to the public.

The real-life event served as a catalyst for the play’s Asian author, A. Rey Pamatmat.

“A lot of times what we see — very much like what happened with ‘Dr. Strange’ — is that there is Asian representation onscreen, but, as someone Asian myself, I can very much tell it was written by a white person and that all the decisions were made by white people, so I really think this author has a very unique perspective of looking at it,” Millwood noted.

“I think the play challenges the audience — no matter the age — to think about what their beliefs are, and it challenges them to change their perspective,” Millwood said. “This play does a really great job — there’s no like straight antagonist, there’s no like villain of the story. Everyone has such a valid point, and I think plays like that are really interesting where you don’t have someone to root against or you don’t have someone to really root for.

“It’s great insight and conversation that really deals with race and racism and representation in Hollywood and what that means to people and whether or not all representation is great representation or if more negative representation is making it worse for everyone in the world.”

The play’s cast includes 10 actors.

“I think a wonderful part of this play also is there are no leads — there’s only ten characters, and they all are pretty equally spread, and they’re all just fantastic,” Millwood said. “I think this cast has such a wonderful energy — such a youthful, refreshing energy.”

Initially planning to become a lawyer, Millwood, who is from Bristol, Tenn., started at Sewanee as an English major with a dance minor.

“One of the requirements of a dance minor is to take a theater production class, and it kinda stuck,” she said. “I really landed on stage management and directing.”

She will graduate in May with a theater degree and hopes to eventually travel with a theater company.

“One of my main goals in life is to be part of a company or an artistic team that brings theater to smaller towns because I grew up in a small town in Tennessee that didn’t have a lot of theater — that’s why I didn’t get into theater until I got into college,” Millwood said.

Millwood will definitely miss the sense of community in Sewanee’s Theatre and Dance Department after she graduates.

“I am going to miss being a part of this team and everyone around here because it has such a wonderful energy,” she said.

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