The furor over SLAV isn't over
The artistic director of a Quebec theatre says he doesn't want to cancel a play that sparked protests and accusations of racial insensitivity that prompted the Montreal jazz festival to cancel the show's multi-night run in early July.
The St. Jerome theatre will put on the show SLAV by Quebec director Robert Lepage in early 2019, David Laferriere said in an interview Tuesday.
It features a predominantly white cast picking cotton and singing songs composed by black slaves.
"Should white people in 2018 sing and celebrate slave songs, created by suffering and humiliation? It's not for me to say,'' Laferriere said.
"I haven't finished my reflection on that and I don't think adding my voice to this debate is pertinent at the moment.''
The Gilles-Vigneault theatre in the town 60 kilometres north of Montreal is one of several venues scheduled to host SLAV next year.
Tickets can still be purchased for dates in Sherbrooke, Drummondville and Saguenay, despite criticism from Montreal's black community, which accused the show's white creators of profiting off the pain of black people.
One of the hottest tickets at this year's Montreal's jazz festival, the show was billed as a journey through "traditional Afro-American songs, from cotton fields to construction sites.''
On opening night in late June, protesters converged outside the downtown Montreal theatre hosting the play and screamed invective at people trying to enter the building, forcing police to form a protective cordon for ticket-holders walking in.
Activists denounced the show and its mostly white cast, and U.S. musician Moses Sumney cancelled a gig at the festival in protest.
Laferriere said he's empathetic with those who have criticized the play.
"I am sensitive to their comments, to their suffering and opinions, I understand it very well,'' he said. "But ... the last thing for me to do is to kill this creation, and to not have this discussion.''
Meanwhile, the SLAV Resistance Collective, theactivist group that got the show pulled from the jazz fest, says they're still waiting for an answer on their other demands.
The cancellation of the show was one of the demands, but they have seven more — among them, getting apologies from those involved in creating and supporting the show, redistributing the money that went into SLAV to Black artists, and to ensure something like this doesn't happen again.
-CJAD 800's Matt Guité contributed to this report.