By Rachel Woodward, January 12 2016 —
Thirty years ago, One Yellow Rabbit theatre company co-founder Michael Green launched a festival showcase of local theatre. Within a year, the company rebranded the festival as High Performance Rodeo, cementing the event as a perennial Calgary favourite.
The 30th annual HPR began on Jan. 7 and runs until the end of the month. Each day features several events — a total of 24 productions are showing. Pieces range from humourous improv to serious productions discussing issues like addiction. Associate producer Josh Dalladone says this blend works well.
“The HPR has a really dedicated following of audience members around Calgary, so the expectations from those individuals are going to be for something wacky and wild and new,” Dalladone says. “I think what we have is exactly that, but more importantly, exactly that for each and every person.”
Bizarre pieces like Porno Death Cult, a theatrical dance production that sees a woman, a preacher and a god come face to face, support Dalladone’s observations. He believes Calgary is the perfect place to house the festival because of the city’s unique personality.
“[Calgary is] a place where people want to hear what you have to say, because they believe in a better future and they believe in the success of this particular place,” Dalladone says. “So while all the politics of the place are very conservative, there’s also a very liberal and diverse set of tastes that come from the city. That’s why I think people really attach themselves to HPR.”
The festival takes place at venues across the city, including the U of C campus. The University Theatre will house Jack Charles v. The Crown from Jan. 28–30. The presentation is about Charles, an Australian Aboriginal elder, who tells the story of his art and recovery from addiction and poverty.
Another show sure to be popular is Theatre Replacement’s production of Kate Bowie, which tells the tale of David Bowie and Kate Bush’s trip to a countryside manor to collaborate on an album that was never released. While the show was written before Bowie’s passing, artistic director Maiko Yamamoto says the production honours the artist’s life.
“The way the material is handled, it’s with a deep respect and honouring of who he is and who he was,” Yamamoto says. “It’s a lot more elegiac now, but it’s a beautiful honouring of who they are and the stars that they are.”
Another staple is OYR’s in-house production. This year, they’re showing Calgary, I Love You, But You’re Killing Me, a cabaret-style show that explores what it means to be a Calgarian by exploring both the good and bad parts of the city, illustrating how you can love a city in spite of its flaws.
The High Performance Rodeo showcases productions every day until Jan. 31.