Prison-based theatre group William Head on Stage is offering the community something a little different this season, with a play written by the inmates and based on their collective experiences.
Time Waits for No One: A Prison Play, was inspired when several of the inmates of the minimum security prison read The Five People You Meet In Heaven, a book which looks back and reviews the protagonist’s life after his death.
The question, “If you could travel back in time, what advice might you give your younger self?” evolved into the central theme of the William Head play, with main character Eddie coming to terms with what he has given and taken from people throughout the course of his life, and the ripple effects created by his actions.
An old man looking back over his life, Eddie revisits an amusement park he explored as a kid, and finds a magical carousel that takes him back to relive pivotal days in his past, with five spirit animals helping to guide him through the experience.
The inmates hired Kate Rubin, an actor, director and drama teacher with more than 25 years experience, to help bring the story to life.
“We’re calling it a fable, because it’s a simple story, but it holds many of their stories within it,” she says, adding that of the 20 inmates in the theatre company, practically every one of them has contributed their experiences through writing, workshopping and group discussions.
“These men’s stories are a combination of moving and amazing, challenging and painful,” she says. “(This experience) can be very transformational for these people.”
The inmates have been involved with every step of the process. They’ve worked throughout the summer to transform the prison gym into an interactive amusement park, designing and building sets and interactive carnival games. And at the end of all the hard work, they’ll experience the thrill of being onstage in front of a live audience.
“There’s something really amazing that can happen just in that audience-performer interaction. Getting the audience clapping at the end can really be profound for some of them,” says Rubin. “For some, this is the first positive feedback they’ve had. It’s huge to get acknowledgement. It can really shift someone’s direction.”
This is Rubin’s fourth year working with WHoS, and her second experience as a director after 2012’s sold-out performance of The Hobbit. She and seven other women in what they call the Prison Arts Collective have been working hard with the inmates to see the show come together.
Time Waits for No One is running now until Nov. 8. The gate is open from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m., and shows start at 7:30 p.m at William Head Institution, 6000 William Head Rd. For performance dates, visit whonstage.weebly.com.
Tickets must be purchased in advance and are available at MyChosen Cafe, 4492 Happy Valley Rd., TicketRocket at 1609 Blanshard St., or by phone at 250-590-6291.