Let the show go on

(Elle, played by Catarina Ciccone, speaks to Emmett (Eric McDace) as the pair rehearse a scene from the St. Lawrence College production of 'Legally Blonde.')

What, exactly, is the difference between boycotting St. Lawrence College’s music theatre productions and “re-examining” one’s “support” of the program?

Might I suggest it’s a difference of degree?

That’s debatable, to be sure.

Might I suggest it’s an ill-advised idea, regardless of the degree?

Let me state, again, that I am in favour of a continued dialogue with the college in order to hold it to its promise, delivered through Brockville campus dean Doug Roughton, to use local musicians in its productions whenever possible. This is important both for the local economy and for providing future opportunities for local music students.

But there are two broad reasons any attempt to put pressure on the program through withholding of support is ill-advised.

The first is practical. To wit, if budgetary pressures are at least one reason the college is cutting back on live musicians, then refusing to buy tickets to its shows, or refusing to provide in-kind services, only deprives the program of further revenue and further strengthens the argument that it cannot afford a twelve-person pit.

The second reason is moral, in the more expansive sense of that word.

Upper Canada Musicians’ Association president Al Torrance had an interesting point in our interview today.

By staying away from SLC shows, he argues, you are not depriving the music theatre performance program’s students of any educational benefit, since their job, as students, is to please their professors and not a general audience.

This is strictly true. Those very professors confirmed to me that the local performances do not factor into the students’ ultimate pass or fail. They are, as they say, “icing on the cake.”

Well, perhaps so, but by not showing up you are still depriving the school of at least some revenue for future shows (see above). And the fact is, figures of speech notwithstanding, those performances have always been about more than icing the cake.

The arts enrich a community, whether the artists are touring professionals, local volunteers or professionals in training. To keep away from a theatrical production for political reasons is to deprive oneself of that enrichment.

Not only that, withholding support from the program is conduct unbecoming of a community that hosts such a program. A robust crowd at one of the college’s musicals is also a show of moral support, of pride in being the host of the program and of a willingness to continue engaging with it.

And if all of that does not argue strenuously enough against a boycott or whatever else you want to call it, then there’s the plain fact these young people are energetic, enthusiastic, sincere in their devotion to their art in that idealistic way only people in their 20s can be, and, to put it simply, bloody good at what they do.

They do not deserve to suffer for the disagreements we might have with their elders.

Please, if you do care passionately about having more locals in the pit, and if you think OrchExtra and the like are the work of the devil or our future robot overlords, don’t fight your fight by presenting these young performers with an empty seat.

Call the dean to complain. Start a letter-writing campaign.

Better still, flood the comments section of the R&T website and Facebook with your opinions.

But let the show go on.