Ghost River Theatre

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Ghost River Theatre is a Calgary-based devised creation company, founded in 1992 by Doug Curtis. Its current artistic directors are David van Belle and Eric Rose.

Poster image for the premiere production at Alberta Theatre Projects

Current Project

The company is currently creating a new signature show, The Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst with Alberta Theatre Projects, which will premiere on February 28 as part of Alberta Theatre Projects' 2014-2015 season.[1]

Mission Statement

Ghost River’s artistic mission is to approach performance creation in the spirit of collaboration, creating and presenting original Canadian theatre that is innovative, accessible and highly theatrical. The company's productions address challenging contemporary and topical issues and themes, while emphasizing the personal, human experience.

About Ghost River Theatre

GRT is a devised theatre company that creates, develops, and mounts original productions through a significant investment in imaginative research and development. They make their work in a rigorous, supportive collaborative-creation environment that recognizes and utilizes the unique abilities of all participants, premiering their work in Calgary and then touring it nationally and internationally. Their work embraces a hybrid of high tech visual spectacle with low-fi theatrical magic. As Stephen Hunt of The Calgary Herald stated, “Ghost River does more with less money than any other theatre group since those Cirque du Soleil guys were busking on the streets of Old Montreal.”

Over their 23 year history, their unique creation process has yielded a roster of critically acclaimed productions: Mesa, Eye for an Eye, ONE, The Highest Step in the World, The Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst, amongst many others. With a keen desire to create, to engage and to push the boundaries of live performance GRT has established itself firmly as a leader in the Calgary, Alberta, and national cultural ecologies.


The company began as an ad-hoc group in 1992. In the summer of 1999, GRT was incorporated as a non-profit society, and established a Board of Directors. Under the visional leadership of its founder Doug Curtis, Ghost River quickly established itself as a social and political provocateur creating boundary-defying performance theatre in Canada. Seminal shows like The Carrot Warrior, Mesa, and An Eye for an Eye brought issues of local and national importance to the stage while garnering critical acclaim for the company, opening up both national and international touring opportunities.

Curtis began a transition away from the company beginning in 2006 due to health problems. In 2007 artistic associate Jason Rothery took over as the company's second artistic director, presiding over shows such as Politiko and a co-production with Alberta Theatre Projects and The Only Animal entitled Nix. He left to join Toronto's Soulpepper Academy.

In 2009, David van Belle and Eric Rose were appointed as Co-Artistic Directors with a mandate to reinvigorate the organization and establish a clear artistic and administrative structure. Van Belle and Rose implemented an aesthetic vision of imaginative storytelling and provocative and challenging creation processes, resulting in such landmark shows as The Highest Step in the World, Reverie, and Everything Is Terribly Nice Here.


4-Day Introduction to Devising Theatre

Ghost River holds one four-day Introduction to Devised Theatre Intensive annually, generally in November to coincide with university and college reading breaks. This Intensive holds up to 16 students, and offers a concentrated look at Ghost River's creation principles and practice. The Intensive is taught through the lens of a common story being told. The specific focus is on the dramaturgy of information within a devised process (how do we identify, extract, and organize effective key theatrical moments from a given story) and a ‘total artwork’ approach to expressing these theatrical moments through devising tasks (encouraging students to use design as much as written work as means of creating theatrical meaning).

The intensive covers:

  • collaborative creation dynamics
  • visual approaches to storytelling
  • non-traditional text generation
  • key principles of healthy creation practices

3-Week National Devised Production Intensive

The three-week Intensive held annually in May each year draws together a community of participants from across the country for a more in-depth study of the principles of devising. Led by Ghost River Theatre's co-Artistic Directors Eric Rose and David van Belle, the Devised Production Intensive is a longer, comprehensive, advanced program of study designed for established and emerging artists and educators. Open to adventurous artists in all media (including theatre designers, dramaturges, writers, performers, dancers, visual artists, musicians, video artists), the intensive explores the complexities and potentials of a guided, complete devised production process, from initial idea to public presentations, in three weeks of intensive, hands-on creation. The overall structure of the Intensives leads participants to create an original, collaboratively-made 30 minute performance, which is presented twice publicly at the close of the Intensive.

The intensive covers topics included in the four-day introduction, plus:

  • dramaturgy of devised work through a practical creation process
  • audience engagement theory and techniques
  • long-term strategies for collaboration and decision-making
  • workshops in marketing and grant writing, specifically tailored to the challenges of new work creation
  • the building of a national network of artists who are versed in a common process and interested in future collaborations

Production History

  • Tomorrow's Child, Calgary, March 2014
    • Calgary remount (as part of Beakerhead), September 2014
  • Everything is Terribly Nice Here, Calgary, December 2012
  • ONE (initially produced with RedtoBlue Performance), Calgary, December 2011
    • Toronto ON, SummerWorks Festival, August 2012
    • Burnaby BC, Shadboldt Centre for the Arts, March 2013
    • Victoria BC, Belfry Theatre, March 2013
  • Reverie, Calgary, May, 2011
  • The Highest Step in the World (co-presented with Alberta Theatre Projects Calgary, February 20-March 7, 2010
    • Calgary Remount, November 2011
    • St. Albert AB, Arden Theatre, January 2012
    • Richmond BC, Gateway Theatre, October 2013
    • Saskatoon SK, Persephone Theatre, October/November 2014
  • Pack of Lies, Calgary, October 15-24, 2009
  • Something to do With Death (co-presented with Invisible Elephant Performance) Calgary, June 20-28, 2009
  • NiX (co-presented with Alberta Theatre Projects and The Only Animal) Calgary, February 6-March 8, 2009
  • Double Solo: Motel Years and Effable, Calgary, September 8-27, 2008
  • Politiko, Calgary, May 8-17, 2009
  • DOOM 2012: When Will YOU Flee?, Calgary, February 14-23, 2009
  • Double Solo: Iraq and Back and My Autopsy, Calgary, November 8-24, 2007
  • Confessions of a Paperboy, Calgary, April 1-15, 2007
    • Vancouver, The Vancouver East Cultural Centre, December 9-14, 2008
  • While My Mother Lay Dreaming, Edmonton, October 12-29, 2006 (co-production with Shadow Theatre), Calgary, February 1-17, 2007
  • Alan Parkinson’s Project, Calgary, May 10-June 26, 2006
  • Dig, Calgary, April 27-May 7, 2006
  • Sailor Boy, Calgary, Oct. 19-30, 2005
  • An Eye for an Eye, Calgary, October 17th and 18th, 2006
    • Produced and presented by CBC Radio
    • Alberta Scene/National Arts Centre, May 2005
    • Theatre Network/Edmonton, Feb. 2003
    • Edmonton Fringe Festival, August 2002
  • X-Ray, Calgary, September 8 – 26, 2004
  • I Love Mondays, Calgary, June 16 – 27, 2004
  • Picnic, Calgary, April 28 – May 9, 2004
  • Photo Double, High Performance Rodeo, Calgary, January 2001
  • Venus Rising, Calgary, June 2000
    • Edmonton Fringe Festival, 2001
  • Mesa, High Performance Rodeo, Calgary, January 2000
    • Vancouver, November, 2006, Presentation House Theatre.
    • England, March/April, 2006 International tour to the United Kingdom (The Pride of Place Festival in Ipswich and Woodridge)
    • Lethbridge, January, 2006, Showcase at the University of Lethbridge
    • Magnetic North Festival/Ottawa, June 2005
    • Ghost River Revival/Calgary, December 2004
    • Southern Ontario Tour, August 2001
  • The Carrot Warrior Seminar, Edmonton Fringe Festival, 1997
    • High Performance Rodeo, Calgary 1998
    • Eastern Front Theatre, Halifax, 1999
  • Paranormal, Edmonton Fringe Festival, 1995
    • High Performance Rodeo, Calgary 1996
    • Les 20 jours du theatre a risque, Montreal, 1996
    • Vancouver Fringe Festival, 1998
  • The Cruise, High Performance Rodeo, Calgary 1993
    • National Fringe Tour, 1994
    • Alberta Tour, 1995
    • Radio broadcast on CBC Radio, Calgary, 1993
  • Lester’s Hat, High Performance Rodeo, Calgary 1992
    • Whitehorse International Storytelling Festival, 1992
    • National Storytelling Festival, Toronto, 1992
    • Edmonton Fringe Festival, 1994

External Links