The world’s biggest jazz festival canceled a controversial performance after protesters objected to the musical that featured mostly white actors dressed up as cotton pickers and field workers, the New York Times reports.
On Wednesday, the Montreal International Jazz Festival canceled all remaining performances of “Slav” following a week protests accusing theater director Robert Lepage, who is white, of profiting off the music of black slaves.
The show, which is billed as “a theatrical odyssey based on slave songs,” features a nearly all-white cast including its star Betty Bonifassi, who is a co-creator, performing the music. It premiered last week at the 10-day festival and was canceled after only two performances, even if it was scheduled for 16 performances.
The show drew protests outside the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, where protesters jeered, heckled, and blocked theatergoers. Singer-songwriter Moses Sumney, who was scheduled to perform at the festival, withdrew in protest of the show. “This kind of black imitation is very reminiscent of blackface minstrel shows. The only thing missing is black paint,” Sumney wrote in a letter to the festival, explaining his decision to pull out.
In a statement, festival organizers said they were “shaken” by the negative response. “We would like to apologize to those who were hurt. It was not our intention at all,” the statement said.
Lepage on Friday responded on the abrupt cancellation of the controversial show. “To me, what is most appalling is the intolerant discourse heard both on the street and in some media,” the acclaimed Quebec director said. “Everything that led to this cancellation is a direct blow to artistic freedom.”
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