One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre

For its first six years, One Yellow Rabbit was run as a collective by founding members Gyllian Raby (its artistic director), Michael Green, Blake Brooker, Nigel Scott, Kirk Miles, Jan Stirling, George McFaul and Marianne Moroney.


One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre

 One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre is a Calgary-based company known for creating non-traditional theatre that blends literary and poetic texts with a distinctive physical performance style rooted in modern dance. The company was founded in 1982 and made its debut at that year's inaugural Edmonton fringe theatre festival with a production of Leonardo's Last Supper by British playwright Peter Barnes. Following that success, the troupe's members quickly progressed to creating their own eclectic work. Notable early shows were Juggler on a Drum (1983), a symbolic treatment of the life of Dr Norman BETHUNE, and The Batman on a Dime, a raunchy superhero parody that was shut down during Vancouver's EXPO 86. Since the 1990s, it has been one of the most accomplished and influential creation theatres in English Canada.

For its first six years, One Yellow Rabbit was run as a collective by founding members Gyllian Raby (its artistic director), Michael Green, Blake Brooker, Nigel Scott, Kirk Miles, Jan Stirling, George McFaul and Marianne Moroney. Raby and most of the other members had left by 1988, when Green and Brooker became co-artistic directors and dancer-choreographer Denise Clarke joined the company as associate artist. Clarke developed One Yellow Rabbit's signature physical style, first presented in her dance-drama The Erotic Irony of Old Glory (1989), and played the title role in the controversial, highly successful Ilsa, Queen of the Nazi Love Camp (1990). The latter, a musical satire of Holocaust denier James Keegstra, toured across Canada and to Scotland and Australia. The show also introduced actor Andy Curtis who, along with Green, Brooker, Clarke and composer Richard McDowell, make up One Yellow Rabbit's core ensemble.

The company established a permanent home in 1987 at the EPCOR CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS (formerly the Calgary Centre for Performing Arts), where it converted an unused retail space into the 60-seat Secret Theatre. In 1996, this was expanded into the two-level, 200-seat Big Secret Theatre. As well as presenting a season of shows in its Calgary venue and touring regularly, One Yellow Rabbit also hosts the High Performance Rodeo, an annual international festival of new and experimental work, launched by Green in 1987. Festival participants have included Canada's Compagnie Marie CHOUINARD, Daniel MacIvor, CARBONE 14, Theatre Smith-Gilmour and La La La Human Steps, major US artists Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Kronos Quartet and Karen Finley, and international companies such as Britain's Spymonkey and Israel's Clipa Theatre.

Since 1982, One Yellow Rabbit has created more than 40 productions, the vast majority of them original works. While Brooker and Clarke write most of its shows, the company has occasionally staged plays by other Canadian dramatists, including Brad FRASER (The Ugly Man, 1993), John MURRELL (Death in New Orleans, 1998) and Daniel Danis (Thunderstruck, 1999). Among its most successful touring productions are Doing Leonard Cohen (1997), a dramatic interpretation of the Canadian troubadour's poetry and prose, and Dream Machine (2003), a surreal musical inspired by seminal Beat figures William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin.

In 2005, One Yellow Rabbit participated in its first international collaboration, teaming with Dutch and German companies to create Liberators, Occupiers and Population, a triptych of plays marking the 60th anniversary of the Canadian liberation of Holland from the Nazis.

See alsoKEEGSTRA CASE and Leonard COHEN.


Further Reading

  • Martin Morrow, Wild Theatre: The History of One Yellow Rabbit (2003); Susan Bennett and Penny Farfan, eds, "Calgary's High Performance Rodeo," Canadian Theatre Review (Fall 2005).

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