FOR BETTER THAN 40 YEARS, UVIC THEATRE AND ITS PREDECESSORS have brought theatre to local audiences. A peek into the UVic Archives’ poster collection evokes a history of entertaining and innovative productions.
An early example is the 1966 production of the Braggart Warrior by the Campus Players (graphics by Pat Daniel and Sue Denny). Theatre at UVic has its origins in several enthusiastic groups including the Campus Players, the AMS’ Player’s Club (which began in Victoria College’s English Department) and the Department of Theatre. As recounted by Peter Smith in A Multitude of the Wise: UVic Remembered, the Campus Players established the first physical stage on campus in 1963 in the workshop of Q-Hut, an original Gordon Head army camp building constructed in the 1940s and still standing near Sinclair Road. Smith fondly remembered the group in his well-known history, noting that the Campus Players nurtured a sense of community during a period of rapid university expansion: “This cosy little space (of Q-Hut) saw the birth of the Campus Players, a ragtag collaboration of faculty, faculty wives, students, university staff and townspeople.” Smith himself provided the translation from the Latin for the Braggart Warrior.
The Phoenix became the primary generator of productions on campus and continues to occupy a predominant position in Victoria’s theatre community on and off campus. The archives’ theatre poster collection documents the Phoenix’s range of productions, delivered through various programs, including Victoria Fair at McPherson Playhouse, with productions such as 1969’s Tartuffe by Moliere (with graphics by Frank Edmonds) and Summer Theatre, which presented Romeo and Juliet in 1968. A number of poster and set designs for the Campus Players and Phoenix Theatre years were the work of the late William D. (Bill) West, who before his appointment to the Department of Theatre in the 1970s, headed the art department at Oak Bay High School while volunteering his skills to UVic productions beginning in 1964. Among his poster graphics is 1977’s Revenger’s Tragedy and 1984’s Fool for Love. West was also instrumental in design of the Phoenix theatre itself.
Phoenix productions over the years have included classics such as Euripides’ The Trojan Women from 1971 (graphic by Jim Bennett), the Music Theatre Workshop’s The Man of La Mancha in 1986, as well as the sexually-charged melodrama Zastrozzi (graphic by Bridget McGuire) in 1987 and Theatre of the Film Noir (graphic by Mark E. Anderson), both written by Canadian George F. Walker.
In addition to the theatre poster collection, UVic archives holdings include the set and sculptural designs of Bill West, the costume designs of Biddy Gaddes, the theatre production files of John Krich and Harvey Miller, and an extensive collection of theatre production photographs.
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