Antigone by William Head on Stage October 6-November 4, 2017. An interview.

Antigone by William Head on Stage October 6-November 4, 2017. An interview.

Since 1981, the inmates of William Head Institution in Metchosin have mounted theatrical presentations open to the public.  Antigone is their 57th.  William Head on Stage (WHoS) is now the only inmate-run theatre company in Canada.

VW, the current managing director of William Head on Stage, answered a series of questions about their sci-fi remount of the ancient Greek tragedy by Sophocles.

Please note: tickets must be purchased in advance.  All theatre-goers need ID.  19+

Why the decision to return to a text-based play this year?

This is the first year in which the Society organized a formal application process, receiving a total of 6 applicants. There was a good balance between original devised and text-based proposals. I think what stood out for us was the way in which Prof. Gardiner framed the text as dealing with social justice themes relevant for our times and context, i.e. issues of authority, obedience to law, punishment, the conflict between state law and listening to one’s conscience. She suggested that a prisoner’s perspective had something to say to these themes and that the project had the potential to enrich the text and ignite an important dialogue between the inside and outside members of this year’s production team. We hope to continue this on-going dialogue this fall with our audiences as well.

How did you go about selecting Eliza Gardiner as your director?

We first heard of Eliza Gardiner last year when she notified us that she planned to bring out a busload of 50 criminology and theatre students from VIU. Unfortunately, there was an accident on the Malahat and the students were unable to make it to the show. We kept Prof. Gardiner in mind when we were sending out application forms.

I see Carolyn Moon as sound designer and believe this is her first time working with WHoS  – are there other first-timers as well?

The company is fortunate to have a rising star such as Carolyn Moon on our team as sound designer. And yes, we have many new faces added to the living WHoS community this year.

Marites Frazer and Victoria Isaak are in the final year in the Phoenix theatre program at UVic. They are helping out with lighting and set design. It is exciting to work with the next generation of local theatre talent produced out of UVic’s prestigous program.

We also have Scott Wilson and Patti Faulconbridge helping out with acting mentorship and costume design. Both Scott and Patti are board members for Help Fill A Dream Foundation, our charitable partners from last year. It’s deeply satisfying to see that charitable venture take new life with Scott and Patti now giving back to our company.

And I can’t forget the fabulous Silvia Knapp. A Nanaimo-based choreographer, she’s working with the 8-man chorus ensemble of Theban Elders.

How has the approach this year differed from the work you’ve done over the past few years with The Prison Collective?

One of the resourceful things we’ve been able to pull off this year has been drawing on our hugely successful original devised playmaking trend. So, for example, while we are producing a Greek classic, we had the confidence to revise Sophocles’ famously ambigous ending and give it our own restorative justice stamp. It’s sure to be controversial, but our fanbase has grown to expect nothing less from us.

What would you say is the most significant learning this year?

Working with new theatre talent in the prison context is always a challenge, but something we have done well managing. We started early, in April, so we had good lead time to sort out logistics and carry momentum forward.

Are there a lot of returning members of the ensemble and if not, how has that changed the dynamic?

12 of our 20 cast members are new to the stage, but we have 8 veterans who have offered encouragement and support along the way. It has become a WHoS tradition to have returnees mentor newbies, boosting confidence for the entire cast to thrive. In the living WHoS community, theatre is  a team sport.

Can you speak to the creation process of this work?

The process started way back in early April with Boalian-inspired theatre games to build trust and teamspirit. The journey quickly turned to script readings of Antigone and challenging conversations on ethics, politics, history, and the contemporary experience of state incarceration in Canada. Drawing on all this collective labour, Prof. Gardiner revised the text inspired by our vision. The creative process was critical, continual, and conversational unto the end.

Who will your show appeal to?

We have a loyal fanbase among Metchosin folks, and a growing following among university students and the theatre community in the Victoria area. But I think this show cuts across demographics and will appeal to anyone interested in seeing prisoners breathe restorative life into a classic Greek tragedy.

What would you say to entice a potential audience member to come?

Three brave men are performing as women in a prison production of Antigone. Prepare to be captivated!

What do you hope to inspire in your audience?

We are grateful to simply entertain our audience on the aesthetic merits of our production alone. But we also strive for nothing less than a revolution of the heart, in which fear-based stereotypes of prisoners are transformed into clear-eyed visions of our common humanity and need for grassroots community engagement.

Antigone by Sophocles, directed by Eliza Gardiner
William Head on Stage
October 6-November 4, 2017  gates open at 6:30pm
William Head Federal Penitentiary, 6000 William Head Road, a 35 minute drive from Victoria
TICKETS $20 at Ticket Rocket Box Office: 101-804 Broughton St 250-590-6291
ALL TICKETS MUST BE PURCHASED IN ADVANCE, None are for sale at the prison gates.
Photo ID is required. Must be 19+

Oct 6th, 7th,
Oct 13th, 14th,
Oct 20st, 21nd,
Oct 26th, 27th, 28th,
Nov 2rd, 3th, 4th, 2017
Gates Open at 6:15pm
Gates Close at 7:15pm
Show Begins at 7:30pm
Absolutely no late-comers

Nov. 4th
Gates Open at 12:15pm
Gates Close at 1:15pm
Show at 1:30pm

Custom Hobby crafts will be available for sale. A percentage of hobby crafts and ticket sales will go to NEED2, a local charity committed to preventing the tragedy of suicide in our community.

TRAVEL REMINDERS: The Prison is a 35 minute drive from downtown Victoria. Please plan to arrive between 6:30 and 7:00PM.

AUDIENCE REMINDERS: PHOTO ID IS REQUIRED. WHoS is located inside a Federal Prison.
Must be 19+ to enter and You may be electronically scanned and searched by a dog. Personal belongings (purses, wallets, cell phones, money, etc) are forbidden and must be left in your car. No smoking materials are permitted.

This 57th theatre production is directed by Professor Eliza Gardiner from the Theatre Department at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo/Duncan. While the decision marks a return to the text for the company, fans will not miss WHoS’ signature style of adding its unique perspective to the play. WHoS selected Gardiner because of her contagious enthusiasm and risk-taking ideas. Paying homage to the ancient Greek tradition, Gardiner asked for an all-male cast. The three female characters in the play—Antigone, Ismene, and Eurydice—will all be played by men.

As a practitioner of Applied Theatre, Gardiner uses arts-based activities to inspire dialogue on social justice issues in order to consider different perspectives and develop solutions to problems faced by marginalized populations and the larger community. Gardiner worked with the men to unpack the play’s themes which resulted in a new ending grounded in non-violent and restorative justice principles.

The entire cast will be clad in masks to pay tribute to ancient Greek traditions, but that’s as far as the ancient style is honoured in this play. The costume room is full of neon paints, electrical wires, and foam to give the characters a cyborg, futuristic look that aligns with the original music and post-apocalyptic rendition of the classic plot.

Produced By: William Head on Stage Theatre Society
Revised, Designed and Performed by the Men of WHoS

Directed by Eliza Gardiner
Choreography by Silvia Knapp
Choreography Assistant Jeni Luther
Sound Design by Carolyn Moon
Original Composition by Brent Derion
Lighting Design by Tori Isaak
Set Design by Marites Frazer
Costume Assistant Patti Faulconbridge
Actor Coaching by Scott Wilson, Tasha Diamant
Guest Facilitator Lauren Jerke
And Student Volunteers from Vancouver Island University

About @lacouvee

Community Builder. Catalyst. Speaker. Writer. Arts Advocate.

Passionate about bridging online and offline communities to effect positive change.

I truly believe that one person can make a difference and that we all have our own lives to live, creatively, while respecting the unique nature of others.


  1. Eric Pawlett says

    My wife and I attended the Nov.4 Matinee and enjoyed it immensely. We were impressed with how articulate the performers were in the following Q&A. Entirely a very rewarding experience with the production.

    A question….How can one bid on after sales of the costumes (When and where?) …I’m captivated with the shields of the two bodyguards. The dark Jackson Pollock screen backdrop was marvelous.

    Thank you so much.for this very moving was an honour to be able to attend.

    Eric Pawlett

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