Queen's Players decide to cancel winter show

Comedy theatre troupe deals with new reality facing performing arts

Queen's Players cancel Winter show.
Credit: 
Illustration by Xinyuan Hu

Queen’s Players’ winter sketch comedy show, The Tonight Showhemian Rhapsody: An Evenin’ wif the Big Fab Woolf, was set to open this Wednesday, March 18.

As their last show of the year, it was meant to be a final send-off for the cast and crew that had devoted hours to producing it over the course of the semester. They spent hours casting the show, writing the script, choreographing the scenes, and arranging musical number after musical number.

Unlike the previous two shows that the Queen’s Players have put on this year—one in the summer and another in the fall—the winter show was an opportunity for graduating students to say goodbye and close off their time at Queen’s. This show was an opportunity to share the art that they’ve devoted so much of their time and passion to.

However, with the many closures and cancellations that have come as Canada prepares to weather the novel coronavirus, Queen’s Players, like so many other clubs and teams, had their plans swept out from underneath them. 

“You never believe that you could ever cancel your show,” Mark Polese, vice-president of Queen’s Players, said in an interview with The Journal.

“Then, slowly, you realize more and more that there’s no way to make it happen and it just hits everyone like a ton of bricks. We had all our equipment loaded in [to The Mansion], we were ready to go. Now, today, we just cleaned it all out. We’re sitting here right now. It's really grim.”

Like many artists and performers, Polese and the club’s president, Sean Begy, spent the week grappling with what to do moving forward.

Just one week earlier, not getting the chance to bring their winter show to the stage felt impossible. Since then, the group has had to face their harsh new reality head-on. Though they wanted to continue with the show whatever the circumstances—they even proposed a livestream—the group quickly realized that bringing the full cast and crew together would pose too great a health risk.

As the group works to provide refunds to those that had bought tickets prior to the cancellation, the impact of the loss of performing arts events like this one, is undeniable. As a charitable organization, the group pools the revenue from each show at the end of the year and distributes the money in the form of grants to a variety of local charities.

This offers support to the arts and sends children to summer camps in the Kingston area. Over the past two years, the group has raised $52,000 for various charity initiatives. Now, Queen’s Players will instead lose a third of its yearly charity earnings. 

This is an experience shared by many Queen’s clubs that donate the proceeds of their end-of-year shows back to the community like Queen’s Dance Club, whose 25-year anniversary show was also cancelled this week.

Polese was quick to bring attention to the difficulties facing local performing arts venues such as The Mansion, which are now going without a revenue stream.

“Another thing we’re realising now is that the venues that host arts are getting hit even harder,” he said.

“Who knows how long this is going to last, or what it’s going to look like after? If you’ve bought a ticket for a show, maybe consider not asking for a refund and donating [that money] directly to your local music venue. As much as this sucks for us as students, it’s worse for people [for whom] this is their livelihood.”

Still, the team has hope for the future of art and music, even as venues close their doors indefinitely.

“I think especially at a time when we’re all closed in, people really start looking toward the arts,” Begy said.

“Your soul is your art, it’s your music, your playwriting, your comedy, whatever you find that you really love,” Polese said. “People are turning to art as a way for them to get through it.”

Although their show may never make it to the stage, Begy and Polese want their team to know that they’re just as much a part of Queen’s Players as any other cast and crew have been. They emphasize the heart of Queen’s Players will always be in bonding together and encouraging members to embrace who they are.

“It’s rough […] but you can look at it both ways,” Polese said. “How lucky we are to have something that we feel so passionately about, and a group of people we care about so much, that we’re this affected when it’s taken away from us.”

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