don jail theatre

Toronto's infamous Don Jail will soon become a performance space

Few buildings in Toronto hold as much intrigue as the historic Don Jail, which closed as a prison for good in 1977 after 113 years of rampant violencedaring escapes and inhumane public executions.

Thirty-four men were hanged at the old jail between 1908 and 1962, when Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas became the last two men to serve out capital punishment sentences in Canada. Unidentified human remains were found buried there in 2007, further stoking the widespread belief theory that The Don's original wing is haunted.

Suffice to say, it's hard for members of the public to get inside the notorious wing, which is why they stand in line for hours to see it during Doors Open Toronto.

Enter Toronto's Eclipse Theatre—a new company that will debut its first official production this spring at none other than the Historic Don Jail (a.k.a. Bridgepoint Hospital's "administration building.")

Kiss of The Spider Woman will have a limited run inside the old jail at 550 Gerrard Street East from March 6 to 10 with performances every evening at 7:30 p.m. and matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

"I looked up the Don Jail online before I'd ever been inside and saw the pictures of what it used to look like before it was restored. I thought it looked amazing," said theatre designer Nick Blais this week in an interview with The Toronto Star.

Blais, who is now preparing the jail for Eclipse's site-specific production, says ensemble members will make use of the space's structure by "playing the shadows of each other."

Unlike the 1998 film Cocktail or the TV show Orphan Black, both of which feature scenes shot inside the Don Jail, Eclipse's show will be open to members of the public... or at least to those who scored tickets before the entire production sold out.

Perhaps other companies and event producers will take a page out of Blais​​​​​​' book in the future, taking advantage of the Don Jail's beautiful bones and spooky, irresistible allure.

Lead photo by

karin s


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