Edgier and eclectic: Something for everyone in this year's High Performance Rodeo

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It’s time to saddle up for the 38th edition of One Yellow Rabbit’s annual High Performance Rodeo.

This festival of the arts, which runs from Jan. 15 through Feb. 4, will showcase 235 artists in 25 different shows running in 13 venues.

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Oliver Armstrong, the Rodeo’s producer, says the Rabbits have been listening to both their hardcore fans and novices to help make this one of the most accommodating and accessible festivals to date.

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“Our base of really hardcore fans has been telling us our scheduling in the past made it difficult for them to see as many shows as they wanted to. To try to alleviate that, we’ve made sure every show is running (on back-to-back days), and we’ve added late-night shows and matinees so people can take in more shows in a single day. We’ve scheduled extra performances for people like Scott Thompson, Bruce McCulloch, magician Carisa Hendrix/Lucy Darling, and for the world premiere of Goblins: Oedipus, which we know will be hot ticket items.

HPR Trivial Pursuit
A Not So Trivial Pursuit comes to the High Performance Rodeo from Australia. cal

“The Rabbits have always had open arms for new folks, but we realize our roster can seem overwhelming and even intimidating, so we’ve made changes to our brochure and webpage to make it easier to make selections, whether they want to take in a single show, or a few. Any of this year’s shows would make a great night out on its own,” promises Armstrong.

He also advises Rodeo novices to check the three words artists use to describe their shows. Signals like gutsy, prickly, provocative, boundary-pushing, and irreverent are clues that the subject matter is likely edgier.

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Armstrong stresses this Rodeo is also wonderfully eclectic.

“We’ve always tried to cater to as many tastes as possible, which means we include theatre pieces, stand-up, dance, multi-media and music, and program for families as well as mature audiences. When you look at this year’s lineup, there really is something for everyone.”

Armstrong attended festivals in Nova Scotia where he found what he calls two must-see shows that couldn’t be more different.

“Hippoposthumous is a family musical that has to be presented in a pond or river. It’s about a little hippo that is a descendant of a pair of hippos who were rescued from the estate of drug lord Pablo Escobar, and released in the Magdalena River where they began breeding. There are now 200 of these hippos in an environment where they are not native. We’ve scheduled this magical family show for four performances on Jan. 27 and 28 in the pond at the Devonian Gardens.”

HPR Prude
Prude is a drag show that was a hit at the Halifax Fringe Festival. cal

Also from the Maritimes is Lou Campbell’s Prude, a drag show critics called both gut-busting and thought-provoking when they named it one of the hits of the Halifax Fringe Festival. Another fringe favourite, this time from Australia, is Hew Parham’s A Not So Trivial Pursuit, which Adelaide critics said is simultaneously bizarre and hilarious. These two shows run on back-to-back days at 7:30 and 9 p.m. in the Big Secret Theatre, Jan. 23-27 so people can see them as a double bill, or select just one.

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Two years ago, Oliver was invited to the Edmonton Fringe to see a work in progress called The Immaculate Perfection which he says he couldn’t stop thinking and talking about.

“My fellow Rabbits, Blake (Brooker), Andy (Curtis) and Denise (Clarke) said if it’s as strange and wild as I kept saying it is, I couldn’t dismiss it. I should program it, so I did. It takes place in a gender-neutral bathroom in a high school over one school year. The set has three bathroom stalls. It’s unique to the Rodeo in that it is a full two-hour show, and it has a cast of seven people.”

This is the latest version of the show and it features Calgarians Alex Bergen, Yassine Elk Fassi El Fihri and Alice Wordsworth as three of the students, and Christopher Hunt as the principal. It has an 18+ rating and is being presented in the Vertigo Studio Theatre for five performances Jan. 17-20.

To see this year’s full line of shows and their artists, check out oyr.org/hprodeo.com. Brochures are available at the Rabbit box office on the second floor of Arts Commons.

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