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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Paper Mill Playhouse Mourns the Loss of Beloved Theatre School Director and Founder MICKEY McNANY, Celebrates Her Legacy

Paper Mill Playhouse is mourning the loss of its beloved Theatre School Founding Director Mickey McNany, who lost her brave battle with cancer on Wednesday morning.   Mickey, as she was called by everyone, founded the Paper Mill Playhouse Theatre School in 1989 and continued to manage the arts education initiative until recently. Information regarding services and arrangements will be posted on Paper Mill's website ( when it is available. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to "Paper Mill Playhouse Education Fund" or "Peggy's House at Hope Village" in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Paper Mill Playhouse released a tribute video today in Mickey's honor:

Over the decades Mickey trained thousands of students throughout the state of New Jersey who would go on to become Broadway stars, Tony Award winners and movie stars including Academy Award-winning actress Anne Hathaway. "Mickey taught from a place of love, always with a smile in her eyes… that was Mickey's gift," Anne Hathaway recently remarked, who studied with Mickey for several years in her youth. "She taught us that this part of ourselves, the part that just had to sing and dance to feel whole, the part that for some of us wasn’t an easy fit in the rest of our lives, was lovable and cherished. She was the leader and constructor of our enchanted playground and she was always smiling."

Paper Mill Playhouse Producing Artistic Director Mark S. Hoebee added, "You will never meet another teacher as beloved as Mickey McNany.  She is truly one of those unique individuals you may meet once in your lifetime, if you are lucky enough – and if youare lucky enough to have had her as a teacher or colleague, she will leave an indelible mark on the very core of who you are. I know this because I have seen it happen countless times during my 15-year relationship with her and, in fact, have been transformed by her myself."

Mickey McNany, a resident of Springfield, NJ, was a certified instructor with a BA in Fine Arts Education and a PBM degree in Music Performance from Kean University.  Mickey tirelessly devoted herself to Paper Mill Playhouse students for nearly 30 years.  She founded the Paper Mill Playhouse Theatre School in 1989 and grew it from a single class to a thriving, year-round enterprise offering classes to over 500 students each year.  She oversaw the Junior Division of Paper Mill's esteemed Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory.  She was an instructor, a director and the brilliant set designer for Paper Mill’s three student touring companies.  In her home garage “scene shop” she transformed cardboard refrigerator boxes into stunning sets as varied as the Darlings' nursery andAladdin’s Agrabah.  Recently Mickey’s touring production of Aladdin was showcased on Paper Mill's mainstage.

Inspired by her granddaughter Mary, Mickey had a life-long passion for ensuring that children with disabilities could experience the joy and magic of theater arts. From the start of her Paper Mill tenure, she brought student touring companies to schools and centers for children with disabilities. She started Paper Mill's Creative Drama class for children with disabilities. She collaborated with the Horizon School on the “Lend Your Voice” project, an innovative partnership in which Paper Mill students record voiceovers that enable nonverbal children to realize the characters in their school play. This program was recognized with the Cultural Access Network’s 2013 Innovator Award. Mickey’s other awards include the New Jersey Theatre Alliance 2009 Applause Award for Excellence in Theatre Education, the 2013 New Jersey Governor’s Award for Arts Education, the 2013 VSA New Jersey Education in the Arts Distinguished Service Award,  Kean University’s 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award and the Byrne-Kean Arts Advocate Award from Paper Mill Playhouse.

"Mickey’s magic is that she makes every child feel like the most worthwhile person in the room," stated Paper Mill Playhouse Director of Education Lisa Cooney.  Because Mickey needed to retire from the classroom last month, a Facebook page was created so that her current and former students have a forum in which to share the impact Mickey has had on their lives. Among the hundreds of inspirational tributes, one student summed it up best when she said:

In a way, I am surprised by the hundreds of people here expressing how much Mickey meant to them. Mickey made me feel special and appreciated; she was a steadfast advocate. How did she have the time, love, and energy to make everyone else feel the same way? I think this is a testament to Mickey's capacity to care, her insight, her passion, and her uncanny ability to make everyone feel appreciated for their own specific skills. She made me feel like a star!

Cooney continued, "Every kid feels like a star when they are in her presence because, to Mickey, every kid, in their own way, is a star.  Discovering the inner strength and worth in each individual child and nurturing it until the child feels and believes it himself is the greatest gift a teacher can give to a student.  And Mickey has done this thousands and thousands of times.  She is an irreplaceable gift to her students and her colleagues, and everyone at Paper Mill Playhouse."

In a recent interview Mickey remarked,   “I have had the gift of working for 30 years in a place I adore and has given me the opportunity to meet and work with so many outstanding people.  I have seen people transformed through the magic of theater and students who are differently abled rise to their true potential and have so much fun, and it has been glorious. I am surrounded by a loving family and friends and cannot possible ask for anything more out of life. I am living the life out of every day I am given, and I'm so grateful for all the miracles I am noticing every day. Who could ask for anything more? Be assured that I will have my students and Paper Mill family in my heart…Always!”

My Paper Mill Playhouse Story… by Mickey McNany
Once upon a time
A girl had a dream
And it was not to be a Broadway star
As strange as that may seem

She wanted to work with children
And she loved directing plays
So she went to the Wizards of Paper Mill
To see what they would say

She wanted to start a program
For kids who loved to perform
She’d call them the Paper Mill Players
And even write a theme song!

So, the great and powerful rulers
Sir Angelo, Robert & Roy
Granted her permission                        
And her heart was filled with joy

Then thankfully the Quest began                                   
With a tiny band of three                                  
And with the help of Agnes and Rita
Enrollment rose from 8 to 103!             

And then the magic really happened
When this partnership began
With Susie the Wise and Wonderful
And John McEwen the miracle man

John made the magic connection
With a nearby castle in Short Hills
And classes continue to grow there
Continued that is until…..

As with any incredible journey
True tests and drama falls
The tiny kingdom was threatened
And perhaps had to close its doors!

But through the brilliant guidance of Kings Mark, Patrick & Todd
And their incredibly valiant board
The kingdom doors did not have to shut
And class enrollment soared!

Classes today are all inclusive
And Everyone can be a star
Talents are used for “giving back”
We have come so very far!

But now as I finish my final entry
I realize there’s more to be told      
So to Mark and Lisa and my PMP friends
I give you this book to hold

Continue to dream and add many pages
There is so much more magic to do
But please keep in mind that my heart, love and thanks
Will be holding the pen with you

So thanks to my colleagues, my teachers and friends
Parents and students for sure
And to my family who has given me a lifetime of love
Who could possibly ask for more?

For this is a story of miracles
And I thank you for sharing MY chapter
So one last time with all my heart
I wish you happily ever after.    -

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