Getting past the ‘drinking party’

The Queen’s Players production team dishes on their changing image and underlying passion for charity

Queen’s Players, a campus club dedicated to raising funds for charities through their performances, is focusing on the quality of production, rather than alcohol.
Queen’s Players, a campus club dedicated to raising funds for charities through their performances, is focusing on the quality of production, rather than alcohol.
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The 2013-14 Queen’s Players troupe holds an animated rehearsal for their upcoming season.
The 2013-14 Queen’s Players troupe holds an animated rehearsal for their upcoming season.
Photo: 

Queen’s Players is no longer just a drinking party.

The student-run affair is well-known on campus as a sketch comedy show fueled by alcohol consumption. Although they are undoubtedly hilarious, there’s a lot more to this theatre troupe than meets the eye.

Established in 1900 as the Queen’s Drama Guild, the group began by performing comedy sketches, eventually evolving to include a cappella and musical routines.

Simon Gagnon, ArtSci ’15, hails from New Brunswick and first heard of Players while in high school — his teacher’s son was a member of the troupe in 2005.

As the current president and last season’s director, Gagnon has been an integral member of the campus-renowned production.

Even though drinking plays a big role in the show, the organization has taken steps to ensure that it’s not the most important part of it.

“Three years ago, we really tried to change Players a lot,” Gagnon said. “[It] was on a downward spiral where it was just a drinking party.”

The board set a limit on the amount of pitchers the cast could drink during the show—10 pitchers for 25 people. However, there’s no limit on the amount of beer the audience can buy for them.

“If you’re too drunk or belligerent, you can be cut off,” Gagnon said. “In the past, people would be puking on stage — it was bad.”

Now, there’s a lot more attention directed towards the performance, Gagnon said.

“The quality of the show drops [when you drink too much], which is a shame because you rehearse for two months to do the show and you’re so drunk that it just sounds terrible,” he said.

They found though that these recent restrictions don’t hamper the party atmosphere.

Actors who opt-out of drinking are handed an opaque cup filled with water or ginger ale when an audience member buys them a drink.

But the beer isn’t everything.

Queen’s Players is the second largest charitable organization on campus. They’ve raised over of $42,000 over the past two years.

“We started a system last year [in which] every beer that’s bought at the bar will donate one dollar to charity,” Marta McDonald, ConEd ’14, said.

By limiting the cast’s beer intake, the audience feels more compelled to buy them drinks; it’s drinking — alcoholic or not — for charity, McDonald said.

At their annual general meeting, members vote on which charities should be given money and generally, most of them are chosen.

“We try to stay away from already-funded Queen’s charities and focus on things that might not necessarily get funding from Queen’s already,” McDonald, social events coordinator, said.

Last year, Players decided to spread their profits among nine charities, including Girl Guides, Mohawk College and the Nyantende Foundation.

“Players has evolved over the past five or six years,” McDonald said. “It’s working harder to spend less money and make more money for charity.”

After moving from Clark Hall Pub to Time to Laugh Comedy Club in the early 2000s, the organization has become more profitable as the venue’s rental is practically free.

But charity work isn’t the only thing remarkable about Queen’s Players.

The cast members aren’t just funny; they can sing too.

Thomas Dashney, CompSci ’15, is one of the show’s two music directors and works with both the cast’s vocals and the production’s compilation score.

Since you can’t re-use a song within five years, it can be pretty heartbreaking trying to find a song, Dashney said.

The band is composed of eight students — a guitarist, drummer, bassist, keyboard player and several in the horn section.

“It’s not like we’re throwing on tracks for people to sing on top of,” Dashney said. “It’s a huge live experience.”

The talented group have touched the hearts of many, like their sound guy, Charles Ryce. As a Kingston Sound Company employee, he’s been operating the soundboard at every Players show for around 30 years.

“Ask him what [Queen’s Players] was like in the 80s,” Dashney said. “He’ll tell you.”

Ryce’s ties run deep with the theatre troupe, so much so that members of Players were even part of his wedding party, Dashney said.

Queen’s Players’ fall season will run from Nov. 13-23 at Time to Laugh Comedy Club.

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