Billy Bishop Goes to War – Media Release


Thursday, November 2nd, 2023

TheatreOne Brings high flying musical Billy Bishop Goes To War to Nanaimo

Join TheatreOne in celebrating our 40th anniversary by flying through the skies and going down into the trenches with Billy Bishop Goes to War. this engaging, whimsical, and heart-wrenching production dramatizes the life of Canadian First World War flying Ace, Billy Bishop, who is credited with 72 victories – including those during the Battle of Vimy Ridge – and surviving an encounter with the infamous Red Baron himself.

Nearing the end of his life, an aged Bishop recounts the triumphs and horrors of the First World War, – “the war to end all wars.” Through raucous stories, haunting memories, and vibrant song, Bishop traces his journey from Royal Military College troublemaker to the top flying ace of the British Empire.

Damon Calderwood plays Billy Bishop (as well as 17 other roles) while Chris Robson tackles the piano and provides vocal accompaniment. Calderwood has brought a fresh new interpretation to Billy Bishop which is packed with humour and hellfire.

Written in 1978 by John MacLachlan Gray, in collaboration with Corner Gas star Eric Peterson, Billy Bishop Goes To War met with rave reviews during its original run. The play has since been performed in over 150 independent productions. It has won the prestigious Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Award, the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award, and the Governor General’s Award for English Drama.

Billy Bishop reconciles the ecstasy of flying with the horrors of war as he takes the audience along on his incredible journey.

“Missing this show is a mistake for anyone who is even a casual fan of theatre. Not only does the show make for an entertaining piece of theatre, but it also shines a light on one of Canada’s great military heroes.” – Fort McMurray Today

Billy Bishop Goes To War is coming to the Malaspina Theatre on December 1st at 7:30 pm (pay what you can for this performance only), December 2nd at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm, and December 3rd at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $33 for adults and $20 for students and can be purchased online through .

Billy Bishop Goes To War is generously sponsored and supported by: The Province of British Columbia and the City of Nanaimo


Michael Cade – Executive Director 250-754-7587

TheatreOne has been bringing professional theatre to Nanaimo and the mid-Island for 40 years. We engage diverse local audiences of all ages and persuasions, including the very young, and in doing so support theatre professionals and local businesses. We work with playwrights from British Columbia and across Canada to foster development of new Canadian works; we premier new productions; and through our support to touring artist’s we give Nanaimo audiences access to great theatre developed elsewhere.

About Billy Bishop

William Avery (Billy) Bishop (1894-1956) was Canada’s highest scoring fighter pilot of World War 1, with 72 victories. Born on Feb. 8, 1894, in Owen Sound, Ontario, Bishop attended the Royal Military College in Kingston before joining the 8th Canadian Mounted Rifles once war began in 1914. Bishop sought and received a transfer to the British Royal Flying Corps in December 1915.

He eventually received his pilot’s license in 1917 flying Nieuport 17s and SE5As. He was referred to as The Lone Hawk for his preference (like Albert Ball) for solo missions. Perhaps unfortunately for a member of the RFC, he was also regarded as something of a weak pilot, suffering from a tendency to crash land his aircraft.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross for a single-handed attack against the German Aerodrome at Arras on June 2, 1917, and was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for the feat of scoring 25 kills within just 12 days as leader of the so-called Flying Foxes.

Bishop survived the war (unlike a great many of his contemporaries) as commander of 85 Squadron. He was in fact withdrawn from active duty in June 1918 for fear that he would be shot down (with consequent ill-effect upon morale at home). The same year he published his war memoirs, Winged Warfare.

After the armistice, Bishop initially traveled the U.S. giving lectures and co-founding (with fellow Canadian ace Billy Barker) a charter airline business, which went bankrupt. He eventually established himself as a successful sales director for Frontenac Oil in Canada.

During World War II he served as Air Marshall with responsibility for Canadian recruitment. After the war he entered semi-retirement, later attempting to enlist (unsuccessfully) during the Korean War.

He died peacefully November 9, 1956, in Florida.

About the Performers

*Damon Calderwood, Billy Bishop

Damon Calderwood was born in Vancouver, grew up in North Vancouver, and began acting at a very young age. Some of his favourite roles include John Merrick in The Elephant Man (Pacific Theatre), Dylan Thomas in Dylan (Elder College), Billy Bishop in Billy Bishop Goes to War (Ace Productions/First Impressions Theatre), Bardolph and Orleans in Henry V (Bard on the Beach), Man 1 in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (Oregon Cabaret Theatre), Sherlock Holmes in Holmes and Watson Save the Empire! (Ace Productions/First Impressions Theatre), and Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (Royal City Musical Theatre). Recent credits include Franz in The Sound of Music (Arts Club Theatre), Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the

Forum (Blue Bridge Theatre), Beadle Bamford in Sweeney Todd (Snapshots Collective), Herr Schultz in Cabaret (Royal City Musical Theatre), Mr. Harari in Ruined (Dark Glass/Pacific Theatre), C.S. Lewis in Freud’s Last Session (Ace Productions), King Triton in The Little Mermaid (Align Entertainment), Mr. Bumble and Bill Sykes in Oliver! (Theatre Under the Stars), and Burl Sanders in Smoke on the Mountain (Pacific Theatre). A passionate bird photographer, Damon is the author of four books on bird photography with his latest, Birding for Kids, coming out in the near future. Damon is also the proud Daddy of a 9 year-old son, Riley, and a 5 year-old son, Corey.

Chris Robson, Piano

UBC Graduate (BFA: Acting, MFA: Directing) Theatre acting highlights include: apprenticeship – Stratford Festival; Ontario tour – Cascade Children’s Theatre; Carousel/Axis Twelfth Night tour: Count Orsino/Aguecheek; Vancouver Fringe Festival Picks of the Fringe: The Brontë Brothers, The Maenads, ‘Nucklehead Fever New Wit, Blandiloquence, David Mamet’s Romance.

Directing: Suburban Motel, In The Beginning, Our Country’s Good, The Last Five Years, Freud’s Last Session, and Tour Director/Accompanist/Moriarty in Holmes and Watson Save the Empire!


*Gerry Mackay

Select directing credits include Billy Bishop Goes to War for ACE productions and First Impressions Theatre, The Braggart Soldier, for United Players, Twelfth Night for Malaspina College, The Memory of Water for Metro theatre, and Electra, The Bald Soprano, Problem Child, Give and Take, and Measure for Measure for the University of British Columbia.

Select acting credits include: Julius Caesar, A Winter’s Tale, Much Ado About Nothing for Bard on the Beach. Dinner with Friends, and Hamlet for the Arts Club. A Christmas Carol, A perfect Ganesh, For the Pleasure of Seeing her Again, for the Globe theatre, The Retreat, Scandal, Ethan Claymore, and Sexy Laundry for Western Canada Theatre, True West for Humdinger Productions. Other theatres include the Citadel, Canstage, and the Stratford Festival. Gerry has a BFA from the University of Victoria, and an MFA from the University of British Columbia.


John MacLachlan Gray

John MacLachlan Gray was born on September 26, 1946, in Ottawa. He grew up in Truro, Nova Scotia and moved to Vancouver in 1968. A graduate of UBC, he was a founder of Tamahnous Theatre.

The show you are about to see is his tour de force and is truly a Canadian treasure.

Billy Bishop Goes To War was written in 1978 by Gray in collaboration with Eric Peterson (of Corner Gas fame). It premiered Nov. 11, 1978, at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre before touring across Canada, to Washington, DC, on and off Broadway, the Edinborough Festival and London’s West End. This iconic Canadian play with music won the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Award in 1981, the Chalmers Canadian Play Award in 1982 and the Governor General’s Award for Drama in 1983. John MacLachlan Gray was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2000.

Gray and Peterson collaborated again in 1998, writing another version of the play as seen through the eyes of the older Billy Bishop looking back on his life. One song was added, and John and Eric have since updated the play once again for the film by the same name.

“A high-flying ace of a show capturing the humor, the hellfire, and the derring-do of an extraordinary career!” – The New York Times …

Eric Peterson

Eric Peterson was born on October 2, 1946, in Indian Head, Saskatchewan. He has had a long and distinguished theatrical career, performing across Canada, including doing many local shows at The Arts Club Theatre, Vancouver Playhouse, and many other venues.

Educated at both The University of Saskatchewan and UBC., in 1974 he moved to Toronto, where he joined Theatre Passe Muraille and appeared in several collective documentary productions, including The Farm Show (1972) and most notably 1837: The Farmers’ Revolt (1973), in which he played principal roles.

In 1976 he began working with John Gray, a playwright/director and fellow alumnus from Tamahnous Theatre, to create his most critically successful work, Billy Bishop Goes to War, a two-man show (Gray appeared as the narrator and pianist) in which he played more than 17 characters. The stage play premiered in Vancouver in 1978 and went on to tour internationally for several years, acclaimed on Broadway, in London’s West End, and at the Edinburgh Festival Mainstage.

He was awarded the 1980 Drama-Logue Award for Outstanding Performance for Billy Bishop Goes to War at the Mark Taper Forum Theatre in Los Angeles, California, and the show was also awarded the 1980 Drama-Logue Award for Outstanding Production. In addition, John Gray and he were awarded the 1980 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Distinguished Playwriting for Billy Bishop Goes to War.

In September 1982, the CBC broadcast a televised adaptation, which earned Peterson an ACTRA award nomination for his performance. In 1998, Peterson reprised his performance at Canadian Stage in Toronto and later at the National Arts Centre (NAC) in Ottawa.

In October 2000, he appeared in Hysteria at CanStage and in January 2001 he performed in Clout at the NAC.

During the 1980s, Peterson established himself as a film and television actor. Until recently, his most prominent television character was left-wing lawyer Leon Robinovitch on the long-running CBC drama Street Legal (1986-94), for which he won three Gemini awards for best actor in a drama series.

His guest performance in the children’s TV program Sesame Park (1972-2002) brought him another Gemini Award in 2001. From 2004 to 2006 he was seen as Judge Malone on the George F. Walker CBC drama This Is Wonderland. He appeared as the irascible Oscar Leroy on the hit CTV sitcom Corner Gas (2004-09). The cast, including Peterson, won a Gemini Award in 2007 for best ensemble performance. In 2008 he received the Award of Excellence from ACTRA Toronto and in 2009 he was honoured with the Earle Grey Award. He was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2010.

Eric Peterson continues to appear in Canadian television, in episodes of The Ron James Show (2009), Republic of Doyle (2010), Murdoch Mysteries (2010) and Dan for Mayor (2011).

Again, with John Gray on piano, Peterson stars in a filmed version of the acclaimed stage play Billy Bishop Goes to War (2011), whereas Bishop, now a senior citizen, he reminisces about his wartime accomplishments and experiences.

He is married to Annie Kidder.

*Appearing with the permission of Canadian Actors Equity Association.

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