One Yellow Rabbit

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One Yellow Rabbit
Dates January
Location(s)  Calgary,  Alberta,  Canada
Years active 30
Inaugurated 1982
One Yellow Rabbit


One Yellow Rabbit is a performance theatre company dedicated to its Resident Performing Ensemble, and based in the Big Secret Theatre in Calgary’s EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts. OYR creates new, original theatrical works for its local audience each year and has toured its unique brand of performance across North America, Australia, Asia, Mexico and Europe. OYR also hosts the High Performance Rodeo, Calgary’s International Festival of the Arts, and the Summer Lab Intensive school of performance creation. The company has created almost 80 full-length original productions.

OYR was founded in 1982, operating as a collective until coalescing into the OYR Performing Ensemble circa 1987-8. Ensemble personnel have remained relatively consistent since then. Around this time OYR established a professional administrative staff, and built the Secret Theatre, its first permanent home in the Calgary Centre for Performing Arts (now the EPCOR CENTRE), where it has remained a resident company. The company’s philosophy and practice was influenced as much by contemporary dance, the “artist run centre” movement in the visual arts, and the punk DIY creed, as it was by its Canadian professional theatre context.

Although OYR had toured nationally since its founding, and internationally since 1986, the 1990s saw a large increase in the number and frequency of tours, starting with The Erotic Irony of Old Glory and Ilsa, Queen of the Nazi Love Camp. Scotland’s Traverse Theatre was often the launching pad for international tours.

In 1987, OYR produced the Secret Elevator Experimental Performance Festival, renamed The High Performance Rodeo[1] in 1988. The festival has grown annually in audience, venues and impact, surpassing 10,000 attendees in 2006 and 16,000 in 2009, it now reaches over 20,000 audience members every year. The Rodeo features theatre, dance, music and multimedia presentations from across Canada and abroad. Curated by Michael Green, it is dedicated to entertaining as wide an audience as imaginable, while remaining fertile ground for the progressive and wild. Artists presented in recent years range from hundreds of emerging artists to Philip Glass, Catalyst Theatre, Electric Company Theatre, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, Laurie Anderson, Andy Jones, members of The Kids In the Hall, Les Deux Mondes, Peggy Baker, Daniel MacIvor, and the OYR Ensemble itself. His Excellency Jean-Daniel Lafond was the Rodeo’s Honorary Patron from 2008-2009. He and Governor General Michaëlle Jean attended performances and hosted three “Art Matters” community forums as part of the festival.

In 1995 OYR expanded the Secret Theatre into the Big Secret Theatre, increasing its technical versatility and doubling seating to 130. Seating was further upgraded in 2002 to a potential 249 (although most theatre shows play in the 189 seat configuration.)

In 1998 OYR’s Denise Clarke founded the Summer Lab Intensive, attended by 20 students from across Canada. The 2009 Lab was the 13th annual edition. 250 “labbits” have graduated.

In 2003 Banff Centre Press published Wild Theatre: The History of One Yellow Rabbit by Martin Morrow. Billed as “a breezy, irreverent chronicle of the company considered by many to be English Canada’s foremost creation theatre”, the book contains prefaces by Ronnie Burkett and Factory Theatre’s Ken Gass.


Past Productions[edit]

For a list of past productions click here

Artistic Practice[edit]

One Yellow Rabbit is a Performance Theatre. Performance theatre is theatre in which the dominant amount of information streaming from the stage is derived from the performances; the players themselves, in the combination of their bodies, voices and spirits, carry the freight. The artistic vision that defines One Yellow Rabbit has been developed through the company's history and is defined by a grouping of sensibilities that include: working with available light, the development of robust theme bundles, and an inclination towards a form of virtuosity in the area of performance theatre.

Available Light[edit]

“Available light” refers to a sense of cleaving to the sustainable and manageable in the realm of the physical demands of theatre making. The term “available light” is borrowed from the photographic concept of using ambient natural light for a shoot, rather than any contrived device casting light on the subject. As it applies to One Yellow Rabbit's practice, the term refers to the trajectory of every creation process, which will begin as a bare bones idea and progress with what is uniquely available: the skill sets of the people involved, the intellectual capital, the room and the creation methodology.

Theme Bundles[edit]

A “theme bundle” is simply what it suggests: a group of themes that can be examined, compared and contrasted. Fluency with theme bundles provides the architects of performance with valuable tools to parse the noise of modern society.


Virtuosity references the root word virtuoso and presumes great technical skill, ease and proficiency of delivery, and a fluency of style that is exquisite. Performance theatre requires the ability to speak with mind and body on a level that is more than text, and One Yellow Rabbit's process challenges this competency to new levels, requiring performers to concurrently deliver information on the psychological, physical and textual planes.


A partial list of awards includes: The Dean Ott/Debbie Boult Award Honouring Outstanding Achievement in Technical Production for Ensemble Member Richard McDowell in 2013, An Honourary Doctorate for Ensemble Member Denise Clarke from the University of Calgary Faculty of Fine Arts in 2013, The Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Management for Executive Director Erin O'Connor in 2013, The Lt. Governor of Alberta Arts Award for the Ensemble in 2007; The Rozsa Award for Excellence in Arts Management for Executive Director Stephen Schroeder in 2007; The Alberta Centennial Medal for significant contribution to the province to Michael Green in 2004; and the Scotsman Fringe First Award to John Murrell and OYR in for the world premiere of Death In New Orleans in Edinburgh in 1998.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]