Roundup: Nine to target at this year’s OYR High Performance Rodeo

It’s time once again for one of Calgary’s most unique, world-class artistic events. One Yellow Rabbit’s High Performance Rodeo kicks off on Wednesday, Jan. 8 and runs until Jan. 26, filling many of the city’s stages with the most cutting-edge, challenging and, of course, entertaining, theatrical works from around the world. 

Before it gets going, we asked theYYSCENE’s theatre writers — Lori Montgomery, Kari Watson and Caroline Russell-King — to share the productions they’re most looking forward to from the Rodeo’s predictably stellar 2020 lineup. 

Room 2048, Hong Kong Exile (Jan. 14-16 at 7:30 p.m.; Engineered Air Theatre): Hong Kong Exile is a Vancouver-based company, and this show is a multimedia dance theatre piece about the Cantonese diaspora (the year 2048 looming as a potential end to Hong Kong’s “one country two systems” agreement with the Chinese government). The show was created in 2017, but has particular relevance now, given recent protests in Hong Kong that have finally gained North America’s attention. 

Let’s Run Away, reWork Productions (Jan. 22-25 at 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 26 at 3 p.m.; Big Secret Theatre): If you’ve seen anything by Canadian theatre icons Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks before, you know why this is on my list, and why I don’t even care what it’s nominally about. It will be a solo show featuring arguably the country’s best theatrical team, and it will be funny and strange and slightly tortured but in all the right ways.

How to Fail as a Popstar, Vivek Shraya/Canadian Stage (Jan. 22-25 at 7:30 p.m.; Engineered Air Theatre): This is a workshop version of a show that will have its world premiere at Canadian Stage in February, and I always love to see a show at this stage of its gestation. Vivek Shraya is a trans musician, author and filmmaker who will try her hand at theatre for the first time with this new show, and given her previous work, I think it’s safe to say that it won’t be boring. You might be getting in on the ground floor of something amazing. 

— Lori Montgomery

Certified, Squid Thinks (Jan. 21-25 at 8 p.m., Motel Theatre): What does it mean to be “crazy?” What kind of assumptions do we make about people who have mental health issues? In this solo performance, playwright, performer and comedian JD Derbyshire systematically explores her own mental health in front of you, the audience, who then gets to determine whether or not she is, in fact, “crazy.” This show is hilarious, insightful and heart-wrenching.

How to Fail as a Popstar, Vivek Shraya/Canadian Stage: If you’ve read any of Vivek Shraya’s books or experienced any of her art, you too have been blown away by this transgender artist at some point. Shraya’s work is honest, poignant and vibrant, and let’s not forget incredibly thought provoking. In this, her debut theatrical work, Shraya reflects on the power of pop culture, disappointments and finding one’s authentic voice.

Queer Blind Date — A Spontaneous Theatre Creation by Rebecca Northan (Jan. 21- 25 at 8 p.m.; Jan. 26 at 2 p.m.; The Studio, Vertigo Theatre): It would be difficult to be an engaged and curious theatregoer in Calgary and not have taken in at least one of Northan’s spontaneous theatre shows over the years. Queer Blind Date, a show where a member of the audience is brought up for an improvised “date” with French Clowns Mimi or Mathieu, is a fresh take on its predecessor, Blind Date — celebrating and exploring queer courtship and romance. Always fun, saucy, and unpredictable!

— Kari Watson

I think it’s almost impossible to represent plays with an image and a few sentences. Some of the shows I’ve seen were so startlingly different than what I anticipated either for the better or worse. Surprises are the best.

I have seen iterations of three of the offerings already: JD Derbyshires’s Certified,  The John Ware Project Reimagined by Cheryl Foggo and Miranda Martini, and the improvised franchise of Blind Date by Rebecca Northan. These are all worthy plays and if you’ve never been to Blind Date, catch it; you’re in for a memorable evening.

Here are the three other productions I’m looking forward to this year.

Let’s Run Away, reWork Productions: This will be the seventh solo work by the legendary Daniel MacIvor. He’s a great Canadian playwright/performer and his work has brought me to my feet before. 

bliss (the birthday party play), Verb Theatre (Jan 8-11 at 7 p.m.; Jan. 12 at 2 p.m.; The Grand Theatre): Jamie Dunsdon’s production is billed as “a heartfelt exploration of ignorance, bliss and everything in between. It’s an interactive birthday party with cake.” This will be a nice female counterbalance to the MacIvor show, and I like supporting new works by female playwrights … and cake!

PechaKucha Night Calgary, One Yellow Rabbit and PechaKucha Calgary (Jan. 13 at 7:30 p.m.; Central Library): Normally drawn to scripted work, I confess I’ve never been to a PechaKucha Night. I’ve heard lots about it – presentations with 20 images for 20 seconds for six minutes by multiple presenters on the theme of Wild. I’m a huge fan of TED Talks and I expect this to be its wacky cousin. 

—Caroline Russell-King

One Yellow Rabbit’s High Performance Rodeo runs Jan. 8-26 at various locations around Calgary. For tickets and the full schedule, please go to