'SLAV' show will go on in cities across Quebec, despite protests, cancellation in Montreal
Montreal's jazz festival has cancelled the controversial show 'SLAV', but the show will go on.
The mostly white cast singing songs of slavery and picking cotton in the U.S. south drew picketing protesters calling it cultural appropriation.
The storm surrounding the show forced the Montreal International Jazz Fest to cancel it.
Now, news that the show will continue in the months ahead in other Quebec cities is being greeted with disbelief.
“We were again forgotten, and it’s unacceptable,” said Michael Farkas, president of the Round Table on Black History Month. “So from that point of view, I regret that it continues.”
Early next year, 'SLAV' will be staged in Saint-Jerome, Sherbrooke, Drummondville and Saguenay – one night in each location.
The show -- and the debate surrounding it -- is important, said David Laferriere, the artistic director of Theatre Gilles Vigneault in Saint-Jerome.
The theatre plans to facilitate discussions before and after the performance.
“What’s happening now, it's precious, I think,” he said. “More than ever, we have the responsibility to ensure the presentation of 'SLAV' to all our spectators, to have access to this work.”
That echoes the reaction of the show's director, Robert Lepage, who called the cancellation in Montreal a blow to artistic freedom.
"When we are no longer allowed to step into someone else's shoes, when it's forbidden to identify with someone else, theatre is denied its very nature," he wrote in a statement.
Security issues prompted the cancellation, said Jacques Andre Dupont, president of the Montreal Jazz Festival.
“I know that the intentions were good from everyone, but I cannot not see the depth of the division that we have in front of us,” he said.
Farkas is reluctant to see art being censored, but said Lepage shouldn't ignore the demands of the community his work depicts.
“If you want the Black community to be going to the show and enjoying or getting something out of it and not feeling that it totally doesn’t concern us, you need to work with us,” he said.
If the show is to be staged again, Farkas and others hope Lepage will make changes to the cast to better reflect the subject matter.