HPR kicks off Calgary’s year as Canada’s cultural capital
International arts festival runs until Jan. 28
Last year it was announced that Calgary would share the title of “cultural capital of Canada” in 2012 with the Niagara region of southern Ontario. At first, many were shocked to hear that Calgary was receiving that honour, which led pundits to joke about how the world really is ending in 2012. As soon as the initial laughter died down and people started giving it some honest thought, the decision slowly started making sense.
Calgary, while still maintaining the conservative label it’s earned over the years, has quietly created a booming arts scene — especially since the apex of the recession. While events like the Calgary Stampede, which is poised to celebrate its centennial this year, have seemingly always been around, the music and theatre scenes are slowly becoming noteworthy.
While no one is comparing Calgary to Toronto or Montreal, it is no longer a spot to pass over in western Canada. In fact, Calgary leads the way in Canadian play development, with Mount Royal University contributing to the cause this year with Neil Fleming’s Man of the North, which is a studio piece coming to fruition next month.
With all that is happening this year, we are currently in the midst of this years first major cultural event, the 26th annual High Performance Rodeo. Taking place from Jan. 5 to 28, the HPR focuses on “encompassing theatre, music, dance, comedy and interdisciplinary art.”
It is the largest event of its kind in western Canada. Drawing local, national and international performances, HPR has set the bar high for itself each year with award-winning performances taking place all over the city. Heralded participants in the past have included Brian Eno, Old Trout Puppet Workshop, and Denise Clarke and the festival shows no signs of slowing down any time in the near future.
One of the must-see acts from this year has turned out to be Taking Shakespeare, running until Jan. 28 at One Yellow Rabbit theatre. It stars John Murrell as Prof and the aforementioned Denise Clarke as Murph. The two put on a wonderful show for the 90 minute runtime — even for those to whom Shakespeare may as well have written in Greek. Prof, a once-great professor whose status is beginning to dwindle, is hired by Murph’s mother to teach her 24-year-old son. It is her hope that the professor, whom she is a very big fan of, can inspire the man to be interested in something other than video games. After reluctantly taking on the job, Prof decides to use Othello as a starting point for Murph, and we watch the two progress over six study sessions. While it is not crucial to have paid attention to Shakespeare in school to appreciate the play, it is incredibly important to pay close attention to the careful word choices of Prof, who also wears the hat of playwright. Bringing the show together is director Blake Brooker. Along with the tech crew, the three more than deserve to be a part of the High Performance Rodeo with a solid show that keeps a steady pace.
With the HPR taking place until Jan. 28, there is more than enough on the docket to catch and help Calgary kick off its year as a cultural capital. Once the initial shock of that title becoming synonymous with Calgary wears off, hopefully everyone in the city can start taking part in what should be just another solid year for the city’s thriving arts scene.