Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre creates productive discomfort.
We engage with power structures, shining an interrogation light in society’s eyes.
We endanger the eardrums of the status quo by amplifying the voices of outcasts, misfits, diverse communities and artists who face barriers.
We hold ourselves accountable for the discomfort we create, to the communities we encounter, and to ethical working practices.
Art is how we do this. Art is awesome, and fun to make.
We learn and mutate as we engage with different sites, communities and artistic practices.
We don’t just swallow bicycles. We swallow complacency, conventions, problematic issues and sometimes cookies.
Our vision is a world free of margins and borders, where everyone has a space to create and share outside the confines of capitalism and oppression; a world where nourishment, imagination, and joy abound.
Our mission is to create “productive discomfort” through art. “Productive” as in working in service of the health, wellbeing, and joy of artists, audiences, and communities. “Discomfort” as in: challenging the status quo of art and society; breaking down imposed boundaries; questioning what is considered “normal”; and sharing artistic work that doesn’t fit neatly into the silos of conventional disciplinary categories. We are committed to continually interrogating what we mean by “productive discomfort” in response to the shifting social and creative landscapes, as a means to subvert oppressive systems, and in service of our communities. We make art that leaves an impact, through processes that are nourishing, equitable, and community-engaged.
ART: We make, produce, and present performances that stoke a sense of productive discomfort, that question societal constructs, and ask us to come together in a sense of playful, care-filled risk-taking.
COMMUNITY: We create spaces for community, which can include supportive incubators and intensives for artists, pop-up events, skill-building, community gatherings, open source resource sharing, and more.
PROCESS: We nurture process in all ways: in how we create new artistic work, how we engage community, and how we approach justice in the arts. We transform the status quo of the arts sector by creating new ways of producing performance that values the humanity and labour of artists and arts workers.
We ground ourselves in our values of provocation, care, community, sustainability, and accountability.
- Provocation: We challenge oppressive power structures, question the status quo, and invite disruptive action
- Care: We believe in the physical, mental, emotional, and financial wellbeing of artists and all those who participate in the making of art
- Community: We stay in evolving and reciprocal relationship with our communities in Mohkinstsis, the Prairies, and beyond
- Sustainability: We carry out our work in ways that support the health and wellbeing of the planet, and of all of those who live on it
- Accountability: We hold ourselves and each other accountable to the making of a better world, and welcome our communities to hold us accountable to these values
We apply our values in everything we do, and we are committed to continuous learning, adaptation and change.
Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It was founded in 2006 by Mark Hopkins and Charles Netto. For more than a decade, our main focus was creating original site-specific theatre (in other words, performance in unusual spaces). In 2018, we adopted a new Art Manifesto that guides our work.
The name comes from a quote by playwright Arthur Miller: “a playwright lives in an occupied country. He’s the enemy. And if you can’t live like that, you don’t stay. It’s tough. He’s got to be able to take a whack, and he’s got to swallow bicycles and digest them.”