One Yellow Rabbit

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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 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, 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 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. 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.

In 2003, Banff Centre Press published Wild Theatre: The History of One Yellow Rabbit by Martin Morrow. The book contains prefaces by Ronnie Burkett and Factory Theatre’s Ken Gass.