Satire, podcasts and an Olympian: High Performance Rodeo brings the 'wild' to Calgary

Calgary's annual three-week theatrical festival High Performance Rodeo kicks off next week, and this year's rodeo features everything from pop stars to podcasters to 10-minute plays.

Winter festival features more than 100 artists from around the world

One Yellow Rabbit will present the ecological comedy The Land, The Animals during High Performance Rodeo. (

Calgary's annual three-week theatrical festival High Performance Rodeo kicks off this week, featuring everything from pop stars to podcasters to 10-minute plays.

High Performance Rodeo starts Wednesday and runs to Jan. 26 in venues across Calgary. The festival features 27 shows at 13 venues across Calgary's downtown for three weeks.

"If you've made a New Year's resolution to get out and see more art to spend some more time with your friends, have we got something for you," festival producer Laurel Green told the Calgary Eyeopener. "If you have any nights off in January there will be something — we like to promise 'something wild' — for everyone."

The Land, The Animals

Ensemble troupe One Yellow Rabbit will kick off the first week of the festival with a play called The Land, The Animals.

The ecological comedy was first produced by the ensemble in 1991 and is being brought back with new performers, choreography and music in light of today's environmental concerns.

Mark Tewsbury will perform his one-man show Belong during High Performance Rodeo. (Mark Tewksbury)

The production is directed by Blake Brooker and performed by long-time ensemble members Denise Clark and Andy Curtis, with new music by David Reimer.

The Land, The Animals runs Jan. 8 to 14 at Big Secrets Theatre.

Mark Tewksbury

Another highlight of week one is a chance to meet Olympian Mark Tewksbury up close and personal.

"He's trying something new, bringing his story to the stage with this one-man show," Green said.

Tewksbury is best known for winning a gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics. He's now a public speaker and the director of the Special Olympics.

The one-man show is based on his book Belong and is presented in collaboration with Wordfest.

"He's a force to be reckoned with," Green said. "Mark Tewksbury is a great Canadian, great Calgarian and an impressive speaker."

Belong runs Jan. 9 to 11 at the DJD Dance Centre.

Political Satire

If you can't get enough American satire in the vein of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, you'll want to check out It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel F****d) featuring political blogger Lee Papa.

"It's gonna be a really funny show that really delves into some American politics and talks about the state of the world today," Green said. 

The show runs Jan. 8 toi 12 at Motel Theatre at Arts Commons.


Jamie Dunsdon mounts an intimate and heartfelt performance that examines her own life.

The show is set during a birthday party, and the whole audience is invited to examine ignorance, bliss and everything in between.

Jamie Dunsdon stars in the one-woman play Bliss. (Jamie Dunsdon)

Bliss runs Jan. 8 to 12 at The Studio at the Grand.

Room 2048 

Music and dance hit the stage together in week two of the festival, starting with Room 2048.

The ensemble group Hong Kong Exile combines pop music, dance and fog in a mind-bending performance that runs Jan. 14 to 16 at Engineered Air Theatre.

How To Fail As a Pop Star

A brand new one-woman show called How To Fail As a Pop Star from Vivek Shraya chronicles the Calgary performer's rise through the Canadian music scene.

"Vivek, of course, is a celebrated author and the face of MAC Cosmetics," Green said. "It's so exciting to get to see her up close and personal."

Vivek Shraya presents a brand new one-woman show called How To Fail As a Pop Star Jan. 22 to 25 at the High Performance Rodeo in Calgary. (Vivek Shraya)

Vivek will take a humorous look at a career in the entertainment industry.

How to Fail as a Pop Star runs Jan. 22 to 25 at Engineered Air Theatre.

Podcasting in Canada

Don't miss a free podcast recording at Calgary's Central Library of one CBC's podcasts, The Secret Life of Canada, on Jan. 10. 

"So the audience part of the event is just listening in quietly. There will be some audience participation and then, of course, we'll get to hear the podcast when it's broadcast later. We'll be really focusing on stories from Calgary," Green said. "We'll have some special guest stars and lots of chances to make some noise."

Queer Blind Date

Green said one of the festival fan favourites is an audience participation show called Queer Blind Date.

"A member of the audience is selected as the romantic hero and with their permission, they come on stage and get to go on a date," Green said. "We'll get to see audiences of all descriptions represented. All couples are welcome."

If you're a romantic comedy fan, this one's for you.

Green said no one has to participate in any productions unless they want to, adding the festival is all about fun.

Decidedly Jazz Danceworks

Decidedly Jazz Danceworks will bring back bring the classic Juliet + Romeo, just having completed a national tour.

The show will feature a live musical score and, of course, dancing.

Decidedly Jazz Danceworks will present Juliet and Romeo during the High Performance Rodeo. (Trudie Lee)

"I like to think that there's a spark in it for everyone, that everyone's a little bit adventurous that comes to the festival," Green said.

Juliet + Romeo runs Jan. 16 to 23 at DJD Dance Centre.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.