Deputy Culture Editor - Theatre
There seems to be some massive internalized conflict between the Glasgow Guardian and the Cecilian Society, the University’s largest musical theatre company. In my opinion this stems from a disconnect between the critical and the creative but that is neither here nor there.
In the past week, an anonymous opinion piece was published in the Views section of the paper, outside of the umbrella of the Theatre section. I read it for the first time, published promptly and unabashed in its criticism while walking out of a theatre festival, and was frankly shocked by the stance the writer had taken on not only the Cecilian’s methods of sales, but on the society as a whole. I want to make it clear that while this was published by the paper, it in no way reflects the feelings or opinions of every member of the management staff, in particular mine. I feel it only appropriate as editor of the section to elaborate on some of the points that were made and to explore some of the very blunt statements expressed in that opinion piece.
First off, the rhetoric employed in this piece is not befitting of a criticism or review and for that I apologise. As the anonymous writer admitted, “we are all students”, so to exemplify the attitudes of the actors and board of the Cecilians as “wrathful” is hyperbolic and honestly? Just a bit over the line. The truth of the matter is that when it comes to selling tickets, you go hard or you go home. As a board member of Student Theatre at Glasgow, I know first hand what it looks like to scroll through your Facebook and see waves of ticket source links and headshots, to change your cover photo every week, and to see thousands of promotional Instagram stories over and over. I can’t think of a major theatre society on campus that doesn’t impose quotas for their members, as a matter of fact I don’t think that I’ve ever not had a quota to sell through all my years in theatrical companies.
But the truth is... that’s just how you sell tickets. Yes, some of the tactics allegedly used by the Cecilians are a bit questionable, particularly those regarding “guiliting” your friends into buying, but to assert that the board will somehow attack or manipulate their members for better sales? No more so than other companies. The long and short of this whole issue is that the people who want to see the show are going to see the show, the people who don’t won’t, and this group of artists legitimately don't have the power to “shame you”. If you don’t want to attend a show, don’t attend, but don’t judge the people that have poured their hearts and souls into the production for wanting to share it with everyone they know.
The pressure leading up to a show is the thing that forges crystalline productions and the idea that the ticket sales are the thing that defines this company is an insult not only to their hard work, but to their performance itself. As a theatre-maker I know what it’s like to see everything come together in the last second, to see the curtain rise and know that you’ve done your very best to make this show thrive. That is when you feel connected to your company, when you finally get to share your craft with the world.
Our anonymous article claimed that a production should feel like a family. I can’t think of a more perfect example of a family than one that fiercely fights for their stability and loves each other unconditionally through stress and crisis: a collective of similar people bonded together by something they love. Best of luck to the Cecilians on the rest of their run of Children of Eden, I can’t wait to review it.