Trinity College grounds

The show won’t go on … but here’s why our cancelled musical is still worthy of reflection

It's with great regret that we've had to announce the cancellation of Trinity's 2020 musical 'Once on this Island', particularly given the show's storyline means so much to our producer. In this heartfelt piece, he explains why.

Empty theatre

By Ian Coyukiat, Trinity College Musical Producer 2020

‘The show must go on’ is one of the most popular sayings in the world of theatre. The fact that a production will still run even if a prop breaks, the theatre shuts down, or an actor goes missing, reveals the resilience of theatre and the hearts of all those that are a part. However, all of these things rely upon the safety and health of the cast and crew, as without them, it would be impossible to put on a production. So, unfortunately, at a time like this, it is with my deepest regret that I have to officially announce the cancellation of this year’s Trinity College musical, Once on this Island

For those unfamiliar with the storyline, Once on this Island is based on the original Hans Christian Andersen tale of The Little Mermaid and tells the story of a poor peasant girl who falls in love with a rich grand homme. It’s a story of life, pain, love, grief, faith and hope. 

For me, growing up on an island – the Philippines – in the midst of much racial tension, this musical held close to heart for me. As Trinity’s Musical Producer for 2020, I was very excited to host the show’s Victorian premiere and introduce this musical to Melbourne. 

When all this began, I made a promise to the cast and crew that I would tell them the story of why this show means so much to me at our end-of-show celebration. Unfortunately, that’s been cancelled as well, so I decided to write the story down for everyone to read instead.

It all began with me hearing this line from the musical: ‘Your black blood will keep you forever on the island’, holding the sentiment that one’s race would prevent them from achieving their wants, goals and dreams. Growing up, this same sentiment was echoed by those around me when I said that I wanted to pursue theatre and music, with many telling me that I wouldn’t be able to achieve my aspirations, solely based on my race. And with regards to the arts in general, I was told ‘In a time of crisis, who needs theatre or music – people look for doctors, not actors’.

However, on the contrary, it is at this point in time where the arts are needed the most. To quote Joyce Carol Oates, ‘art is the highest expression of the human spirit’, and during a crisis it is paramount that the arts are kept to show our self-expression. Art flourishes during times of struggle and plays a role in keeping a sense of hope and optimism. 

Growing up surrounded by different cultures, I found that music was the only language other than English that I could communicate in. Music gave me a sort of identity founded by its intrinsic ability to express emotions that could cross language barriers. It’s for these reasons that I chose to study music and continue supporting the arts. 

And thus, the reason I chose Once on this Island. And the reason I wanted to share what this piece of musical art means to me. 


Ian Coyukiat Trinity College

Ian Coyukiat is a second-year Bachelor of Music student at Trinity College. Active in the community, he sings in the College choir, is president of the Music Society and is the Intercollegiate Activities Council Treasurer. In his free time, he’s usually heard playing jazz on the dining hall piano or singing with Trinity’s male a cappella group, the Tiger Tones.