Preview: HPR premieres showcase Bruce McCulloch's real world view, and a Filipina love story

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Premieres from Bruce McCulloch and Lunchbox Theatre will help close the 2024 High Performance Rodeo.

Whenever Bruce McCulloch performs in Calgary, he considers it a homecoming, and, if that performance is for One Yellow Rabbit, it’s doubly exciting.

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McCulloch will premiere his new stand-up show, Dark Purple Slice, in the Martha Cohen Theatre Feb. 1-3 to help bring down the curtain on the 2024 High Performance Rodeo. It is directed by One Yellow Rabbit’s artistic director Blake Brooker.

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“Blake is my oldest best friend. I met him back in 1985. The Rabbits were this freaky theatre company, out to change theatre in Calgary, and that intrigued me. It was an honour to be his friend,” says McCulloch.

Bruce McCulloch
Dark Purple Slice with Bruce McCulloch at High Performance Rodeo. cal

Dark Purple Slice is McCulloch’s sixth stand-up show, and his first since Tales of Bravery and Stupidity, which he created in 2019 and performed off-Broadway the following year.

“Dark Purple Slice is part musical, and a lot more fun than Bravery and Stupidity. Craig Northey is my on-stage musician. There will be five or six songs, and maybe even a medley of songs that are not in the show. Things will change from performance to performance. My shows always have some construct, but I allow for improv. That’s what I have always carried with me from my Loose Moose Days.

“People shouldn’t expect a perfect show, but rather, a real one. I’m obsessive by nature, so I’ll change it every night. My stand-up is always a conversation with a new group of people each night.”

McCulloch says Dark Purple Slice will show more of his humanity than some of his past shows.

“I started out being a punk, hiding my humanity. I don’t need, or want, to do that anymore. I haven’t lived a traditional life, and I’ve always relied on gallows humour to get through the hard times. It’s all there in this new show. All the funny bits people expect are there, but there’s something deeper that comes, for all of us, with aging. This show really is, much more, my world view.”

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McCulloch, who is a writer, director and actor, says stand-up will always be part of his life.

“This is where I started, and I will do it until I can’t do it anymore. I love a live audience. I can’t wait to meet them each night.”

There is a special meet-and-greet event with McCulloch on Feb. 2 at 9 p.m. in the Martha Cohen Theatre.

THE EVOLUTION OF A LOVE STORY

Lunchbox Theatre has teamed with Chromatic Theatre for the world premiere of Bianca Miranda’s Kisapmata, a queer love story that is being presented as Lunchbox’s contribution to the 2024 High Performance Rodeo.

It will run in the Vertigo Studio Theatre from Jan. 30 to Feb. 4 as part of the Rodeo and then continue its run as the third play in Lunchbox’s current season until Feb. 18.

Kisapmata, a Tagalog word which means blink of an eye, is also the title of a song by the punk Filipino band Rivermaya. Miranda’s play tells the love story of two Filipino women. One is living in Canada while the other was born and raised in the Philippines. Through a series of vignettes, the audience sees this love story from inception to closure.

Miranda’s play has been in development, first with Chromatic, and then with Lunchbox, since 2021. Miranda co-wrote and performed The F Word for Alberta Theatre Projects last season, and is the associate producer at Downstage Theatre.

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Lunchbox Theatre’s artistic director Bronwyn Steinberg says she fell in love with Kisapmata the first time Chromatic Theatre presented a reading of it. She recalls she “knew right away that I loved Bianca’s writing, and that I’d love to see Kisapmata at Lunchbox, which is why we supported Kisapmata through our new play development workshops.”

Kodie Rollan, the artistic director of Chromatic Theatre, describes Kisapmata as “an embodiment of a bunch of different love letters. It is a love letter to oneself, one’s identity and romantic partner, but also a love letter to Filipino culture.”

Steinberg stresses that “a story about Filipino characters in Canada is an absolutely Canadian story. I think audience members from all communities can relate to Bianca’s characters.”

Kisapmata, directed by Edmonton-based artist Gina Puntil, and starring Michelle Diaz and Isabella Pedersen, is not suggested for preteens.

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