Improv theatre company, based in Edmonton, Alberta. Rapid Fire Theatre was founded in 1988 to engage in theatresports, a competitive improvisational format created by Keith Johnstone in Calgary with the goal of bringing the energy of a sports match into the theatre. In 1981, Stephen Heatley introduced theatresports to actors at Theatre Network.
Under the first Artistic Director Jack Smith, Rapid Fireís first performances were at the Phoenix Theatre in downtown Edmonton, and then in the Chinook Theatre in the Spring of 1990, which became the Varscona Theatre in 1994. In 2012, Rapid Fire relocated to the Citadel Theatreís Zeidler auditorium. In October, 2020, during the Covid19 pandemic, it moved to the Strathcona district's Backstage Theatre in the Arts Barns, and mounted live and on-line events, including a theatresports event: the Apocalyptic Cage Match.
Original members of the company included David Belke, Patti Stiles, Dana Anderson, Donna Webb, and Donovan Workun. Patti Stiles was AD from 1991 to 1995, bringing improv techniques to script development. In 1995, Jacob Bannigan became AD, initiating international involvement, and launching The Nosebowl competition and CHiMPROV, which may be an improvised one act play, a montage of scenes based on a theme, or a non-linear exploration of one characterís life.
In 2004 AD Chris Craddock worked to increase public awareness of the company, and to employ more actors. In 2008 Kevin Gillese turned the focus on star talent and video production. Amy Shostak took over as Artistic Director in 2010, and focused on performer development and collaboration. The current AD is Matt Shuurman.
Rapid Fire Theatre has expanded into the development of semi-scripted performances, sketch comedy, theatre for young audiences, and full length plays. Many of its works have appeared at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival, including Suspect: a game of Murder in 1993. In 1995 it produced Marty Chanís There Is Something Dead and Evil In The Cemetery and I think Itís My Dad, and in 1999, the Fringe hit, On Being A Peon by Chris Craddock and the company, which earned two Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards nominations and one award for best collaborative effort. In 2000, The Critic by Craddock featured a number of Rapid Fire actors. In 2008, Kiss My Bus!, a collaborative work by Kirsten Rasmussen, Clarice Eckford and Amy Shostak, premiered at the Edmonton Fringe. In 2009, A Watched Pot Never Boyles, a semi-improvised comedy by Amy Shostak and Arlen Konopaki was a Fringe favourite. In 2012, Rapid Fire presented seven shows at the Fringe.
In April 2012, Rapid Fire initiated the Bonfire Festival for experimenting with long form improv formats. The annual Wildfire Festival features improv by Alberta students. The company also runs workshops.
Rapid Fire Theatre is well known and highly regarded on the international scene. It has won competitions in Canada, the U.S. and overseas. For the past twelve years, Rapid Fire has produced the largest improv comedy festival in Canada, Improvaganza. This has grown into a popular ten-day, two-venue event with more than forty performers.
Rapid Fire Theatre has received several awards, including a special Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Award for excellence in theatre.
Profile by Anne Nothof, Athabasca University
Last updated 2021-08-24