Steering you through one last Rodeo weekend

One Yellow Rabbit presents The High Performance Rodeo

Runs through Sunday, at almost every conceivable Calgary venue

A chinook has arrived, just in time for Calgarians to head out for one final weekend binge on the High Performance Rodeo.

This year’s festival — the 31st — has, by all the buzz, been one of the very finest High Performance Rodeos. Twenty-eight shows, a diverse lineup combining international, national and local performing arts groups.

Not surprisingly, a lot of Canada’s leading theatre professionals have been making their way to town to take some of it in, including the Queen of Stratford, Seana McKenna — starring as Queen Elizabeth in The Audience, opening tonight at Theatre Calgary — who has been a Rodeo regular, attending (so we hear) a half-dozen different productions.

Also spotted at various productions, sometimes more than one: Mayor Nenshi, kd lang, Stephen Hair, and Theatre Calgary favourite (he was Undershaft in Major Barbara) Dean Paul Gibson.

And now that it’s wrapping up, there might be the thought that there is little left to see. For many years, the High Performance Rodeo had the habit of petering out — so many shows, so many winter nights, and then suddenly, it all dwindled down to a precious few performances.

2017? Not so fast.

Friday and Saturday are absolutely stacked with performances, from noon (Six Guitars) to 9 p.m. (Winners and Losers). There’s also Mouthpiece, a show that made both the Globe & Mail and Toronto Star’s list of the best Toronto plays of 2016 and won several Dora Awards a year ago playing at the West Village Theatre at 7 p.m. Mouthpiece tells the story of a single day inside the head of a woman trying to write her mother’s eulogy in a way that’s imaginative, unconventional, and incorporates music, movement, text, two different women playing the same character — and a bathtub. So, yes, there’s still a lot to take in

For the uninitiated, here’s a brief history of most of what you can still catch at the High Performance Rodeo this weekend. (There’s more but I don’t want to overwhelm you:)

Stranger to Hard Work (Martha Cohen Theatre, Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.): Cathy Jones is a Canadian comic legend, and is back kicking comedy ass in Stranger to Hard Work at ATP, which explores all the unexpected pleasures — and complications — of being a woman hitting your sixties without having them hit back.

Juliet & Romeo (DJD Dance Centre, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.): Decidedly Jazz Danceworks’s artistic director Kim Cooper teams up with a former Trailer Park Boy, Cory Bowles, and her talented company of dancers, to reinterpret a Shakespearean classic through the glass of DJD’s gorgeous new dance centre. Bowles adds a little hip-hop flavour to the Bard’s prose, too.

Six Guitars (Lunchbox Theatre, Friday at 6 p.m., and Saturday at noon): Portland’s Chase Padgett plays six different genres, featuring an array of different guitar slingers, in a show that’s been one of the toughest tickets in town – ever since Padgett first brought it to the Calgary Fringe in 2013.

Through the Gaze of a Navel (Lunchbox Theatre, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. on Sunday): One part light yoga workout, one part New Age satirical gaze into the pseudo-spirituality of yoga in a capitalistic culture, this one figures to combine hamstring maintenance with belly laughs. .

All’s Well That Ends Well (Vertigo Studio Theatre, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and a 2:30 p.m. matinee Saturday): The Shakespeare Company takes on one of the Bard’s ‘problem plays’ in a moody production that feels like it wants to be a romantic comedy, but keeps breaking out into reality instead. I hate when that happens! Allison Lynch as Helena, and Braden Griffiths as Parolles, both deliver shining performances – maybe because in real life, they’re married.

Declaration (Calgary Municipal Building, Friday at 7 p.m.): an innovative, moving indigenous creation art lab that transforms the municipal building into one of the more unique performing arts spaces you’ll ever experience – one part theatre, one part Gotham City.

Winners and Losers (West Village Theatre, 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday): Two longtime Vancouver theatre pals, Marcus Youssef and James Long, play a game where they define the world in a very narrow binary, including themselves and their relationship with each other. It’s funny, until it begins to get real.

And then, just like the end of the movie Carrie, it turns out the Rodeo isn’t actually done: next Thursday at the Jack Singer, it all wraps up with dirtsong, from Australia’s Black Arm Band. Featuring musicians, composers, dancers and filmmakers, Black Arm Band is an Aboriginal arts collective that promises to send the High Performance Rodeo off to the other side of the planet on one final, blazing, beautiful farewell. (Jack Singer Concert Hall, Feb. 2 at 8 p.m.)

Stephen Hunt is the 2017 High Performance Rodeo writer in residence. He wrote about theatre for the Calgary Herald for 10 years, and teaches playwriting at UBC. He is also the author of The White Guy: A Field Guide. You can reach him at, follow him on Twitter here, and read his High Performance Rodeo blog here