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High Performance Rodeo Calgary

3 shows you should see at the High Performance Rodeo

The High Performance Rodeo, Calgary’s international festival of the arts, runs from January 9 – 27 and tends to defy explanation. HPR’s founder, the late Michael Green, said it best in a 2014 interview with Where Calgary: “One theme you’ll always find at the High Performance Rodeo is ‘nothing ordinary.’ There’s no ordinary work here.” Here’s a small sample of the more than 20 performances featured:

Whether you’re aging gracefully or not so gracefully, join Damien Frost, his son Damien Junior and his wife Darlene on a hilarious journey behind the scenes of self-help gurus and untangle questions such as, is there really a Fountain of Youth? And, what if the longer you live, the likelier you are to live longer? The side-splitting world premiere is brought to you by the creative force behind hits like Ilsa Queen of the Nazi Love Camp and Calgary, I Love You, But You’re Killing Me. Playing January 9-19.

High Performance Rodeo

Photo courtesy High Performance Rodeo.

Sure, you’ve seen Shakespeare before. But have you ever seen a version of Hamlet where the cast is, well, hammered? Be prepared for some slurred speech, outlandish antics and audience participation as the performers stumble their way to that final scene — and yes, they really are drunk. Playing January 23-26.

High Performance Rodeo

Photo courtesy High Performance Rodeo.

“Part cabaret, part tent revival, all drag” is the formula for this wartime wonder and tragicomedienne’s show, which includes music, sing-alongs, puppet shows and (why not?) an exorcism. Pearle Harbour is an All-American gal who’s sweet-as-pie and sharp-as-nails, and has — somewhat ironically — received a Dora Award nomination for Outstanding Male Performance. Playing January 10-12.

High Performance Rodeo

Photo courtesy High Performance Rodeo.

Winners and Losers play is sparking conversation


In Winners and Losers, on stage at Arts Commons from November 15-25, two friends and performers debate on stage over whether certain topics are winners or losers. The random topics run the gamut from Robin Williams to Meghan Markle, and camping to private schools. Is Meghan Markle a winner or a loser? That depends on which person you ask, because the two friends are each shaped by their different life experiences. 

Courtesy Chromatic Theatre.

“The two women are different races, different ages, different generations, and they bring a variety of different opinions to the table — and they might not always be the ones you expect,” says Jenna Rodgers, the founder and artistic director for Chromatic Theatre, which develops and supports culturally diverse voices in Calgary’s theatre community. Winners and Losers is a Calgary adaptation of an original play co-written and performed by Canadian theatre artists and friends Marcus Youssef and James Long. 

One Yellow Rabbit hosted the show’s run in Calgary in 2017 as part of the High Performance Rodeo, but it’s going to be new to audiences here, even if you’ve seen it before, since Rodgers and the two performers, Makambe K. Simamba and Valerie Planche, have re-written and re-cast the performance with an all-female team. 

“Gender is a construct, but we all know what society tells us about gender is that men and women fight differently — so what is at the core of our fighting?” Rodgers says. “How do you achieve similar effects when you flip the gender? Does gender matter at the core of the play? Can we get people talking the same way they were able to get conversation started with their work?”

The production premiered at Toronto’s SummerWorks Performance Festival in August, and Rodgers says the audience was keen to jump up and ask questions — or protest if they didn’t agree with the way the conversation was going. The play is scripted but the performers do ask for talking points from the audience, so don’t hesitate to bring your own ideas. 

“It’s a play that’s going to encourage you to have a conversation,” Rodgers says. “Bring a friend who you like having long, passionate talks over a drink with, or a friend you wish you could have a long, passionate talk over a drink with, because there will be plenty of fodder for conversation and thinking about your worldview afterwards.”