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University of Victoria’s The Waste Land lays bare Eliot poem in pandemic parallel

100-year-old poem echoes our time, director/choreographer Conrad Alexandrowicz says
The Waste Land director and choreographer Conrad Alexandrowicz on the set at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre with a painted map of London. (Courtesy UVic Department of Theatre)

Thirteen actors portray a reimagining of the classic T.S. Eliot poem The Waste Land at the University of Victoria’s Phoenix Theatre this month.

Written in 1922, the poem bears witness to the devastation of the First World War and the 1918 global flu pandemic. There is value in celebrating the poem’s centenary, but more importantly, it echoes our time, director and choreographer Conrad Alexandrowicz said in a news release.

Parallels between 1922 and 2022 range from the perils of war, to the upheavals caused by a pandemic, the politics of public health measures, and the years spent struggling to adapt to constantly changing circumstances.

Alexandrowicz is a director, writer and choreographer who has created more than 45 dance and physical theatre works. His work addresses issues of relationship, gender and power and the nature of the performance event itself.

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The stage set, designed by UVic masters student Lisa Van Oorschot, creates an open, minimalist environment for various movement scenes. Soldiers goose-step and corpses roll across a stage painted with a sepia map of London, while three expansive silk drops hang to be manipulated into shapes by the actors on stage. Costume designer and instructor Carmen Alatorre channels Cubist art of the 1920s to re-interpret clothing and uniforms of the period while lighting designers Miriam Dumitra and Emily Trepanier create drama and on stage.

Recent alumnus, sound designer Logan Swain, places the audience into the post-war era and the trenches with historical soundtracks. Composer Marco Neri joins the team from UVic’s School of Music and renowned choreographer and recent appointee to the Order of Canada, Jacques Lemay lends his expertise to the production for a rousing 1920s Charleston dance. Fourth-year student Jamie Anderson is the stage manager and fellow fourth-year Emily Campbell directs the three-camera, streaming presentation of the production, to be broadcast Feb. 24-26.

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Shows are Feb. 17 to 29 with matinees on Saturdays. Alexandrowicz hosts an in-person lecture Friday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. The lecture will be recorded with the audio files later shared on the Phoenix Theatre website.

Featuring some coarse language, The Waste Land is deemed suitable for ages 13 and older.

Tickets are $16 to $30 for in-person performances and $15 per household for livestream, available at the Phoenix box office online at, by phone at 250-721-8000 or in person.

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