Sleeping Giants Marks 35 Years of Prison Theatre by William Head on Stage

35 Years of Prison Theatre: William Head on Stage presents Sleeping Giants, a new play about The Day the World Stopped Dreaming

An original co-production between WHoS and SNAFU Dance Theatre

“WHoS is a testament to the power of theatre
to change lives.”- The Globe and Mail
Sleeping Giants: A Dream Play
Sleeping Giants: A Dream Play

In honour of William Head On Stage’s 35th Anniversary of producing and presenting innovative theatre through extraordinary collaborations between prison inmates and Victoria-based artists, is pleased to share reflections by WHoS inmate artist V. W. and Artist Mentor Emma Zabloski.

William Head Prison in Metchosin, BC, is the home of William Head on Stage (or WHoS), Canada’s longest-running prison theatre program. Since 1981, the inmates have staged a play each fall and invited the general public. Anyone 19 or older can buy a ticket, go through prison security, enter the prison gymnasium and experience the show performed by the inmates. This October, the company is creating and performing Sleeping Giants, a play about what happens when the world stops dreaming.

Co-Choreographer Ingrid Hansen writes that “Sleeping Giants began inspired by such stories as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Rip Van Winkle, and soon grew and evolved into a wholly original piece with music, costumes, lighting, set and props–all designed and built by the inmate team.  We follow the story of five human dreamers and a family of dream spirits who act as guides through the subconscious landscape. Dreams are scarce, and the dream spirits must find a way to make the humans dream again, or else fade away into oblivion. “

Reflection from WHoS inmate artist V. W. who created and performed the character Zip Jam Totempole in Sleeping Giants

“In July, we started devising Sleeping Giants. For narrative inspiration, we read Rip Van Winkle, a fable that I felt naturalized the patriarchal, colonial, and capitalist aspects of society. So I created Zip Jam Totempole as the antithesis of Rip Van Winkle. I started with the idea of Jam as an old prophet figure who is land-centered, pro-feminist, and anti-colonial in outlook. As our development workshops went on throughout the summer and early fall, I drew inspiration from the 17th century Wet’suwet’en prophet Bii Nii, the 19th century political figure Louis Riel, and my own life story as a Gitxsan who lost his grandmother to cancer at 15.

Now, as a 30-year old man with over a decade of incarceration, I reflect on the experience and find it has been truly awakening. In a safe creative space, I’ve learned to accept my own character flaws, set aside creative differences, and just trust, play, and enjoy the journey of self-discovery. Such dignifying creative opportunities are rare behind bars and sorely needed across this country.”

A WHoS artist tests out a costume for Sleeping Giants. Photo Credit WHoS/SNAFU
A WHoS artist tests out a costume for Sleeping Giants. Photo Credit WHoS/SNAFU
Reflection from Artist Mentor Emma Zabloski, who is performing in and co-choreographing Sleeping Giants

“This is my first year being a part of a WHoS production. My first session out there, I felt nervous and didn’t quite know what to expect. How do I interact and connect with convicts? What I have experienced since then has transformed me.

A very special environment is cultivated at WHoS, one of respect, support, dedication, and appreciation. I have witnessed the power that creative collaboration has to bring people together in this context. I have witnessed men encounter their vulnerability, move through their fear, and explore raw, genuine expression that stems from their lived experience of being incarcerated. And I have also laughed so much that my cheeks hurt. WHoS plays are magical and vital, a vehicle for learning and transformation. Come witness it for yourself!”

WHoS inmate-actor shows the wooden bones he has carved for a costume
One of the WHoS inmate-actors shows the wooden bones he has carved for a costume for Sleeping Giants


Co-Produced By William Head on Stage Prison Theatre Company (WHoS) and SNAFU

Directed by Kathleen Greenfield

Co-Created, Designed and Performed by the Men of WHoS and Anne Cirillo, Tasha Diamant, Jeni Luther, and Emma Zabloski

Catch 6 more performances of Sleeping Giants: Oct 27th, 28th, 29th and Nov 3rd, 4th, 5th, 2016

at William Head Prison: 6000 William Head Road

a 35-minute drive from Victoria

NB: Gates Open at 6:15pm, Gates Close at 7:15pm, Show Begins at 7:30pm

Tickets must be purchased in advance and are not sold at the prison gates.

PHOTO ID must be presented at the Gate. Absolutely no late-comers are permitted!


  1. $20 at Ticket Rocket Box Office: 101-804 Broughton St Victoria (250-590-6291)
  3. Metchosin Country Store, 4384 Metchosin Rd, (250-478-2405). Cash only.

ALL TICKETS MUST BE PURCHASED IN ADVANCE; none are for sale at the prison gates.

10% of proceeds go directly to the Help Fill a Dream Foundation

AUDIENCE REMINDERS: WHoS is located inside a Federal Prison.

Spectators must be 19+ to enter. You must bring Photo ID. 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. Free lockers are available.

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

Website: Twitter: @WHoS_Theatre @snafudance

WHoS & SNAFU inmate actor builds nest to be used in the poster photo shoot
An inmate actor builds nest to be used in the poster photo shoot for the play

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