beautiful scott freethy
I had been hoping that I wouldn’t have to write this article for a long, long time and yet, today the Canadian theatre community mourns and celebrates Scott Freethy, who passed away early on the morning of June 5th, 2013 from cancer. News of his death reverberated on Facebook from cities and theatres across the country, which is a beautiful testament to the incredible life he led and the powerful impact that he had on those he met along the way.
I did not know Scott well. We have a great number of mutual close friends and we attended a lot of the same events in Toronto, but the most vivid memory I have of him was when I went to see his Cabaret show Scott and the City #4 in January 2010 at the Bread and Circus. I think about that show often. It is the only reason that I downloaded Miley Cyrus’ song “Party in the USA” (which Jordan Bell sang that night as one of Scott’s special guests and it was hilarious and fabulous and fun). In fact, what I remember most about the entire evening was that it was all hilarious and fabulous and fun. Scott was a delightful host, a gorgeous musical performer, a funny, self depreciating storyteller and his show felt like an event- similar to Sharron’s Party. It felt cool to be there.
Scott and the City came out of a magical time in Toronto when Cabaret was beginning to experience a resurgence. It was an incredibly exciting and dynamic time to be in the musical theatre community. People like Scott were bursting on to the scene, creating their own work, showcasing their myriad of talents and there was this beautiful momentum and sudden awareness of just how many people in Toronto there were who were immensely, powerfully, gifted singers, actors and dancers and they were suddenly busting out of theatres like The Bread and Circus by the seams. It seemed like we were all on the brink of something gigantic- of reclaiming our city from the American touring casts, of shaping musical theatre in our distinct image, of taking over in a torrent of talent. For me, even though I only saw Scott and the City once, I always thought of him as being part of that incredible wave, that steady force of optimism and Renaissance that we were just on the precipice of. He was a vital part of Toronto musical theatre’s bright future.
I don’t remember how or when I learned that Scott was sick, but soon Scott was radiating a different kind of optimism as he shared his journey on Facebook and valiantly fought cancer with every fibre of his being. Scott not only remained courageous and strong in the face of terrifying and horrific circumstances, but he grabbed life, clutched it, and continually made the best of every available minute to be joyful, to radiate love, to laugh and to do exactly what made his heart shine. For months, Scott’s Facebook page was the most inspiring place for me to visit. I was just emerging out of the fog of a year or so fighting off Depression and when I felt myself sinking back into the wallowing, negative head space, Scott reminded me how lucky I was. I was breathing. I had a head start. His bravery made me feel brave. His optimism made me feel optimistic. His faith in the human spirit, his pure resilience against all the odds, the JOY that he shared so selflessly, he reminded me that I loved being alive too- that the world was full of loveliness. That happiness was a choice and I was the boss of my emotions. I am so grateful to Scott. He gave me one of the most incredible gifts: perspective. I was certainly not alone. His spirit reached hundreds of people- probably more. He changed lives. Enriched lives. He made the world a far better place.
Jenni Burke posted this quote from Scott on her Facebook page today, “Sometimes we just can’t see the big picture. I see it now, and I’m grateful, and it is all about love. I don’t care about what people think, or playing games, I have no time for anyone who is still fighting to prove something or make themselves a hero. Life is too short… and if in ten years I’m still here, then that means for ten years I got to live like I was dying. And I got to remind people how important they are, and that they changed my life. And that in the darkest moments, my hand is right there, and I want to be the lifeline so many people have been to me.” Sharron Matthews wrote a beautiful blog honouring Scott and quoted him thus, “I have always believed people talk too much and do too little. So, I hope that I am living what I say, and being some type of enforcement for everyone to wake up, let go of the negative, and make sure that you are living life to its fullest, and with as much joy as possible. That you are putting love, and yourself, and your family and friends and your animals and your dreams far ahead of work, or stress, or fear, or games, or people that try and steal your fire. You will never get a chance to be here again, so if you woke up today, then it’s a good day. That is really the only thing you need to remember. Stop talking, and start doing. There are so many things to live for. And we are so lucky.”
The grim truth of the matter is that we are all dying. Life is brief and none of us know for sure how much time we have left. Things are not perfect. Things in the theatre in Canada, in Toronto, in Halifax, in New York, everywhere, it is not perfect. Things can be very difficult. Very challenging. I hear a lot of frustration from people working in the musical theatre community in Toronto and in Halifax, a lot of concern, usually 100% justified, because, although we still have so much to be proud of, so much we have accomplished, our tidal wave hasn’t yet come as dramatically as I once believed it would. Scott was certainly not given a perfect set of circumstances, but he lived as much in the short time that he was given (or more) than many people do with twice as much time. Scott made beautiful, magical, experiences happen. So too can we can make musical theatre and Cabaret thrive in Canada. We can make each other’s lives easier and more special and richer with kindness and love, caring and cooperation. We can take risks, chase our dreams, live the lives we want to live and accomplish our own bucket lists, just as Scott showed us how so generously. From what I have read, Scott loved going to the theatre. He loved making theatre. He loved making people laugh. He knew that the community that we have here, the Canadian theatre community, is beautiful and exceptional, full of promise- a community to be optimistic about, a community with a bright, bright future. We are that future. We are that future now.
We need to keep doing the things we say. We need to keep the faith when the obstacles seem bleak. We need to help each other. We need to remember that we are lucky to be here, together. From that first show I saw in 2010, Scott Freethy (among others) exemplified the optimism that I had in the future of musical theatre and Cabaret in Canada, and now I am even more determined to try to live and be part of that optimism every day, not just in my theatrical life, but in my personal life as well.
I think that if we all keep paying Scott’s joy, his passion for life, his gratitude and appreciation of all the world’s underappreciated wonders forward we can accomplish anything. We will all be part of a tidal wave of excited, dynamic, positive energy that will make our Canadian theatre thrive even more than it already does and, more importantly, we will keep making our hearts thrive in friendship and kindness and love.
Don’t stop believin’. Hold on.