Progress Lab

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Progress Lab is an ad-hoc arts service organization based in Vancouver, BC. Its goal is to establish Vancouver as an international centre for theatrical innovation. It is made up of non-profit professional organizations with a median age of about 12 years, and is known for producing works of extreme theatrical daring.

Mandate and Values

Progress Lab exists to meet the emerging challenges of our artists and companies and acts to build a stronger community and practice through communication, mutual support and staging theatrical events. Progress Lab organizes events that highlight and playfully challenge the community as a whole.

We serves the local community of creation-based theatre artists in the following ways:

  • Being an ad-hoc arts-service organization, that is to say, we believe that innovation and excellence must be artist-driven. By serving the artists, we are serving the art. We do this by deliberately seeking out new forms, events and initiatives that challenge and expand arts practice. Sometimes this is about infrastructure (like PL 1422), sometimes this is about creative initiatives (HIVE), and always it is about pushing forward;
  • Promoting cooperative community practices that forward all creation-based companies through information-sharing, resource-sharing and capacity building;
  • Encouraging and developing the next generation of creation-based artists by inviting them to participate in Progress Lab initiatives and events and deliberately creating new forms that can be adapted/adopted/bastardized by emerging artists.


Progress Lab was founded in May 2003 in response to the isolation experienced by small, independent creation-based theatre. Progress Lab began as an open exploration of challenges facing participating companies, including: administrative resources; balancing the demands of creation, management and governance; envisioning and supporting growth. The other area of significant interest and exchange concerned the creative process: participants had seen each other’s work over the course of several years and were eager for a conversation about creation methods. We found genuine excitement together. We came away with a sense of power, as well as momentum towards building a stronger community and practice. This spirit persists in Progress Lab.

Progress Lab Companies Include:

For a long time, the way that you joined Progress Lab was that you threw a party. At those parties, we would do “Hot Topics” launching into passionate discussions of the concerns du jour. Out of these discussions, initiatives were launched, sometimes advocacy, sometimes space-related (the production centre PL 1422 is an off-shoot initiative of Progress Lab) and sometimes new creative collaborations.

Past Events



Created and co-produced by Boca del Lupo, Electric Company, Felix Culpa, Leaky Heaven Circus, Neworld Theatre, The Only Animal, Radix, Rumble Productions, Theatre Replacement, Theatre SKAM, and Western Theatre Conspiracy.

November 9 – 11, 2006 The Chapel 304 Dunlevy Avenue, Vancouver

Hive blew my mind. It’s one of the most exciting artistic events I’ve ever experienced. —Colin Thomas, The Georgia Straight

Eleven performance cells clustered around a central bar. Each participating company created an intimate, short theatre piece, performing it for no more than twenty people at a time, at repeated intervals over the course of the evening. Audience members grabbed drinks and selected from a menu of performances, according to their own tastes and inclinations. They could see all 11 shows, pick and choose, or just hang at the bar, and cross-pollinate. At the first-ever HIVE, everyone was the Queen Bee.


Created and co-produced by Boca del Lupo, Electric Company, Felix Culpa, Leaky Heaven Circus, Neworld Theatre, The Only Animal, Radix, Rumble Productions, Theatre Replacement, Theatre Conspiracy and Theatre Skam.

Presented by Magnetic North Theatre Festival June 5 – 14, 2008 The Centre for Digital Media, Great Northern Way

If you need proof that Vancouver is one of the most exciting theatre cities on the continent, head on down to Hive 2. —Colin Thomas, The Georgia Straight

A featured event in the 2008 Magnetic North Theatre Festival in Vancouver, HIVE 2 took over 2 warehouse spaces at the Digital Media Centre for a 9-day marathon of perspective-rocking, intimate, outrageous, and eclectic performances by 11 independent BC theatre companies. Building on the success of the original HIVE, the member companies of Progress Lab were commissioned by the Festival through a grant from Arts Partners in Creative Development. Veda Hille curated nine bands for the after-show party each night, and Glenn Alteen of Grunt Gallery brought some seriously live artists to the cabaret space.


Created and co-produced by Boca del Lupo, Electric Company, Felix Culpa, Leaky Heaven Circus, Neworld Theatre, Pi Theatre, Rumble Productions, The Only Animal, Radix, Theatre Replacement, Theatre Conspiracy and Victoria’s Theatre SKAM.

Presented with the 2010 Cultural Olympiad March 11 – 14 and 17 – 20, 2010 The Centre for Digital Media, Great Northern Way

The buzz was right—this is the hottest ticket in town…some absolutely dazzling little displays of theatrical innovations. —Peter Birnie, Vancouver Sun on HIVE 2

Bigger, bolder and as buzz-worth as ever, HIVE 3 was one of the must-see events of 2010. From micro-theatre experiences tucked into the nooks and crannies of the venue to flash-mobs in the lobby, HIVE showcased the Vancouver’s independent theatre community like never before. The sold-out run featured inventive site-specific work, great live music each night and a super-charged celebration of Vancouver theatre.


Following three sold-out iterations of the Hive party series, Vancouver’s Progress Lab network of indie theatre-makers comes together to test the theory that creativity feeds on limits.

Inspired in part by The Five Obstructions by Jørgen Leth and Lars Von Trier, the core artists of each participating company will submit, a few at a time and under a cold spotlight, to a list of obstructions delivered by a shadowy emcee. The companies will then be commanded to create their next production around those limitations. The obstructions for each company have been developed in secret by their peers – a custom-designed set of obstacles that will prompt each artist to adapt to a new approach to making theatre. Their individual tendencies toward form, place, style, theme, design, period, story are exposed and obstructed, spilling the artist’s bag of tricks all over the stage and out of reach.