Date: Friday, Nov 23, 2018

Time: 10:00AM - 11:30AM
Nanaimo Campus

Malaspina Theatre

Add to CalendarPrison Theatre: Rebelling Against the Man, Playing Women, and Restoring Justice in Antigone11/23/2018 10:00 AM11/23/2018 11:30 AMMM/DD/YYYYAmerica/Vancouverfalse

In 2017, VIU Theatre professor Eliza Gardiner spent a lot of time in prison. For nine months she directed a cast of inmates in a play at William Head Institution, a minimum-security federal facility located in Metchosin, just outside Victoria. Professor Gardiner will share her experiences working with inmates in a presentation entitled "Prison Theatre: Rebelling Against the Man, Playing Women, and Restoring Justice in Antigone."

The nine-month William Head theatre project included team-building, and the inmates participated in envisioning and reworking the play, which eventually became a post-apocalyptic, dubstep rendition of the Greek classic. The men of William Head on Stage (WHoS) had to put aside differences to adapt, design, rehearse, and build the show. The production of Antigone was the 56th presentation in the well-known inmate-run theatre program, and the 15-performance run was seen by over 2000 people who visited the prison just to see the play.

Gardiner notes that “in this play, that features the perspectives of women and their fight against a patriarchy, the WHoS men not only identified with the challenges facing the female characters, but they portrayed all the heroines too. In the penitentiary environment where gender expression is limited, this was a brave artistic choice that empowered conversations about vulnerability, sexuality and feminism.” The participants even developed an alternative ending to the play, in which the vengeance and violence demanded by the noble male leaders is not used to punish crimes; instead of continuing with corrective measures that perpetuate more pain, the participants in the play proposed an end to oppression by way of democracy. The male inmates gave voice to the female characters, letting them restore justice with promises of forgiveness, solidarity and hope.

Gardiner holds a BFA in Film from York University and an MA in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her scholarly focus on fifth-century Attic tragedy has evolved into “researching participatory theatre methodologies that build chances for marginalized populations to access transformative education.” In March 2019 she will direct Oedipus Rex for the VIU Theatre Department. A talented group of technical and theatre diploma students will be involved in re-writing, performing, building, and running this rendition of the ancient, award-winning script. Her talk will include consideration of how her prison experience will shape working with students in the spring production.

For more information, contact Theo Finigan at 250-740-6459, or email

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