The High Performance Rodeo building on its legacy as “Calgary’s festival” with cooperation, collaboration and community

The legacy continues.

Laurel Green is ready for the 2019 High Performance Rodeo. Having stepped into the role of festival producer earlier this year, she is excited to put her mark on this beloved festival, while knowing she has big shoes to fill.

“I’m very aware of sitting two people removed from Michael Green, and the incredible legacy that he has left with the festival and the organization,” says Green of her role in this, the 33rd High Performance Rodeo, which, by all accounts, is a grab-bag of performances that will coax audiences out of their homes this January. “It speaks remarkably well to the appetite of Calgary to have an international performance festival … the legacy that the festival has built over the years, and the (festival’s) reputation for being a place, a destination.”

The festival, itself, has evolved over the years and part of its longevity and success is, undoubtedly, it’s broad appeal to arts lovers of all types, which undeniably is thanks to Michael Green’s creative vision. When speaking of when she first met Michael back in 2012, Laurel remembers him being interested in the bigger picture when it came to the arts.

“It was then that Michael started talking about the role community played in all of this, and the role that self expression played in community arts and how it was that you build community, how is it that you invite people in, how is it that you harness the energy of what is happening in Calgary and keep developing it.” 

“I’m thinking a lot about community,” says Green, “and how it is that we can invite people into the festival, what partnerships we can forge and how we can just keep growing and deepening those.”

Building community for Green also means collaborations, involving and inviting other groups to take part in the festival, this year including Alberta Ballet, CPO, DJD among others, which Green believes is beneficial for everyone involved.

“Being able to co-present a work with those partners gives not only the partner an opportunity to cut loose and do something a little wilder in their season, but it also gives the Rodeo an opportunity for (a new) audience and to have performances happening at different venues around town and different conversations. (It’s about) cooperation, collaboration and community. So many locals in the festival one way or another, it does start to seem like Calgary’s festival.”

So what is Green most excited about in this year’s Rodeo? A tough call, for sure, but there are definitely some standouts, beginning with the international shows.

“I’m really excited to be bringing Cow Love coming from France. We also have two projects coming from Australia, (one being) a dance piece co-presented with DJD called Blood on the Dance Floor which is about a young Indigenous performer who lives with HIV, and then we’re bringing in Back to Back Theatre which is really one of the world leaders in disability arts to Calgary to work with Inside Out Theatre. They’re actually going to be filming a movie throughout a week’s residency together called The Democratic Set, and then we’re going to be doing a free screening of their film at the new Central Library. So those are for me the highlights of the international parts of the festival.

“Of course we have Shane Koyczan, the amazing spoken word artist, and the OYR ensembles’s new show Live Your Prime, with Damien Frost starring John Murrell which is a comedy about when getting old is getting old.”

She continues. “I am really excited to see a few local companies try out some different things, one show that’s selling really well right now is Shakespeare Company’s Hammered Hamlet – drunk Shakespeare, which will be something just a little bit different from the Shakespeare Company, again a chance to cut loose. This Little Piggie is a dustbowl bluegrass opera written by David Rhymer and Pete Balkwill, starring musicians like Tim Williams and Little Miss Higgins.

“Scott Thompson is coming with a new show starring Buddy Cole, everyone’s favourite from Kids in the Hall. Buddy Cole was such a cutting-edge character of his time and really like a huge icon for the queer community, so you have that up against a kind of a new contemporary show, Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua. Pearle’s a drag queen doing a show in a tent, it’s like a revivalist-style show.”

The High Performance Rodeo also strives to showcase Indigenous artists in the festival. “I think the Rodeo’s been always really connected to the Indigenous community here in Treaty 7 territory,” explains Green, “and this year more than ever featuring work from Indigenous artists across Canada and beyond bringing them to Calgary. I’m looking forward to a show called Bug that’s produced by manidoons collective, a stunning performance by a young Indigenous performer. I just really recommend that one just to see an incredibly virtuosic performance by a young artist and really get a different type of storytelling, one that’s really informed by Indigenous culture, tradition and community.”

The High Performance Rodeo will feature 25 shows at 16 venues for three weeks, with a number of free events and some new initiatives, including partnering with Inside Out Theatre’s Good Hosts Program to include some accessible performances with ASL interpretation and audio description. As well, the Rodeo is offering up more affordable pricing including student and arts worker discounts. An arts worker discount is available to anyone that self identifies as an artist,or that works for an arts organization.

As is par for the course, there really is something for everyone at this year’s Rodeo, and as for her outlook on where the festival is headed, Green is excited about what’s to come. “I think a legacy is great, but it needs to keep evolving, and so I think it’s just going to be great to see what new conversations are sparked this year at the festival.”

Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring The Culture Cycle event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE. Contact her at