Montreal’s International Jazz Festival has finally canceled SLAV. All remaining dates have been removed from the festival’s calendar. The cancellation comes after critics and parts the Montreal community have deemed the show to be racially insensitive at best. Once past the euphemisms, it can be said that Betty Bonifassi’s efforts were atrociously misguided, morally unsound and riddled with a flagrant sense entitlement. Actually, those are still euphemistic terms, considering the type precedent a production this scale is capable setting.
The show was listed as a musical odyssey based upon “traditional African-American slave and work songs, from cotton field plantations to railroad yards.” The production, steered by Bonifassi and Robert Lepage, might have stumbled into a misinterpreted “Theatre the Absurd” influence when they decided to cast white actors to play slaves within this context. When the festival finally caught on to the magnitude the misstep, they decided to end the show’s run, which had previously been extended due to increased popularity. Their arguably flimsy statement included an apology: “We would like to apologize to the people who were hurt and obviously that was not our intention at all” Sounds like this was penned by a f*ckboy, tbh.
Charlie Rose, a Montreal-based activist, spoke on behalf his community: “We don’t want the conversation to end today.” The higher-ups need to be mindful in their response. A cool “wyd” a couple months from now won’t cut it.