About 100 protesters showed up to the premiere of SLĀV at the Theatre du Nouveau Monde on Tuesday, shouting “shame” at the gates of the theatre.
On Wednesday, a handful of protesters showed up again.
Described as “a theatrical odyssey based on slave songs,” SLĀV is the most popular show at this year’s Montreal Jazz Festival, with its first five shows all sold out.
But it’s also been the most controversial so far.
Featuring Quebec actress Betty Bonifassi and directed by Robert Lepage, the show was labeled by critics as cultural appropriation.
“They’re making a profit off it and that’s the definition of cultural appropriation,” said the organizer of the protest, Lucas Charlie Rose.
On day two of protest, Rose is still calling for the show to be cancelled.
“If you want to put this show together again, ask yourself, ‘How can I do it better?’ Ask black people,” Rose said.
He says having a white director and white artists interpreting songs written by black people about slavery is not right.
“It’s not just songs. These songs are really, really spiritual to us. They represent our ancestors who had to fight through 400 years of slavery and resisted these 400 years in order for us to be here. And we just want when that history is spoken, we just want our voices to be centered,” Rose told Global News.
Bonifassi and Lepage released a joint statement defending the play.
The statement reads in part: “Diversity and its artistic potential are at the heart of SLĀV as much as the legacy of slavery. Do we have the right to tell these stories? Audience members will have the opportunity to decide after having seen the show.”
“To say that you don’t see colour means that you have the privilege to ignore the fact that colour and race actually makes a difference,” Rose reacted.