William Head on Stage has collaborated with SNAFU Dance Theatre to co-produce an original dramatic comedy called The Emerald City Project, which riffs off character archetypes from The Wizard of Oz. (Sam Redmond/SNAFU Dance Theatre)

William Head on Stage play explores transition, transformation, community

Inmates at William Head Institution will perform the original play

William Head Institution in Metchosin opens its doors for The Emerald City Project, an original play created by its resident theatre company.

William Head on Stage – or WHoS – is Canada’s longest-running prison theatre company. WHoS has collaborated with SNAFU Dance Theatre to co-produce an original dramatic comedy that riffs off character archetypes from The Wizard of Oz.

The men in WHoS co-devised, performed, produced, co-composed, costume designed and constructed the play.

In it, Tin Man, Lion, Scarecrow and The Witches take a journey that leads to the discovery they already have what they seek. The play explores themes such as how boys are conditioned to be men, transition and transformation and looming gentrification.

READ ALSO: William Head prison theatre company marks 35 years on stage

It is set in 2019 on a run-down Kansas Avenue where residents are dealing with the issue of renoviction. Featuring live music and hip-hop, the play explores what home means to a community that is trying to find balance on unsteady ground.

Ingrid Hansen, co-artistic director with SNAFU, said the men in the show did free-writing and invented songs, images and character ideas that would form this original play.

“Creating a play from scratch is an incredibly challenging task for any group of humans and this group has risen to the challenge,” Hansen said. “Being a part of this requires an intense level of teamwork, trust, overcoming fears and supporting each other.”

Prison theatre projects are in institutions around the world, providing a challenging and rehabilitating experience to prisoners. Director Kathleen Greenfield said theatre gives men the chance to work towards a collective goal, despite social behaviours being discouraged in prison culture.

“Theatre allows them to practice social scenarios both on stage and in producing a play with their incarcerated peers,” Greenfield said. “William Head on Stage is not a mandatory program and the men freely choose to be involved in the process. This gives them a sense of ownership for the outcome and the product.”

READ ALSO: Inmates’ performances support sick children

Greenfield said she has enjoyed seeing the men in the show make discoveries about their skills and gifts as singers, dancers, writers, designers and leaders.

Actors in the theatre company, whose names are required to be anonymous, said they felt supported and encouraged by their peers and were able to face their fears and build confidence by being a part of it.

One of the actors said the theatre company has given him a chance to change his life for the better.

“WHoS is a safe place where we don’t have to wear a mask or project an image that we think we need when living in a prison population,” he said. “When guys like me become involved with WHoS they enter into a positive environment where they are supported in what they are trying to do; the positive chances they are trying to make.”

There will be performances of The Emerald City Project every weekend from Oct. 4 to Nov. 2. Audience members must arrive early to go through prison security and no latecomers are allowed. Tickets must be purchased in advance and must be printed out. Those in attendance must be 19 years of age or older with valid government-issued photo ID.

Personal items including wallets, purses, phones and money are not allowed in the facility.

For more information visit whonstage.weebly.com.

Tickets can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com/event/4337176.

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Victoria Flamenco Festival goes virtual for 2020 event

The show will go online from July 23 to 26

Metchosin bird card project finds its wings

On display at Metchosin ArtPod from July 10 to 12

UVic research team creating virus-resistant washbasins for post-pandemic world

Civil engineer Rishi Gupta hopes basins will be installed in public spaces

Walk for Peace takes a virtual turn for Victoria Hospice

Residents can still register for Gordy Dodd’s 11th annual fundraiser

United Way Greater Victoria launches Hi Neighbour program in Esquimalt

Feedback sought from residents about funding for micro community projects

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Annual music event in Comox Valley celebrates online instead

Vancouver Island MusicFest holds virtual celebration set for July 10

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Most Read