2014 has gotten off to an incredible start in the arts and culture scene here in Calgary. Much has happened in the months January and February, I’m assuming for the reason of keeping our midwinter depressions at bay until the foliage returns.
January was a-flutter with the likes of the High Performance Rodeo (HPR) which is an international festival of the arts and includes, but is not limited to, theatre and music. I only caught two shows out of the array of events to chose from but was inspired by both performances on two very different levels.
The first production I saw was the sold out “A Brimful of Asha” written by Canadian Ravi Jain. We were pulled in by free samosas and stayed for the story. The play was performed the playwright and his own mother as they told the story of Ravi’s trip around India being kiboshed by his parents stealthily trying to arrange his marriage. Hearing the account from both sides, the Canadian born-and-raised Ravi, and the traditional Indian mother Asha, culminated into a hilarious story which rehashed the old nature vs. nurture dilemma. The sincere manner in which the story was told not only made it appealing to all of the different cultures in the audience, it made for touching moments in which many of the audience members, including myself, could reflect on our own upbringings and silently give thanks to our mothers.
“Do you want what I’ve got? A Craigslist Cantata“, also part of HPR, was a musical made up of songs taken from real craigslist ads. There was no linear plot line here but the sheer ridiculousness of the stories tied the musical together. One song was about a woman who was giving away a box of hats, only they were hats for cats and some of the hats were formal and others were casual… Another song was sung by a man who was looking for someone to come sit in his bathtub filled with cooked pasta in a one-piece bathing suit, for five minutes. He claimed he wouldn’t be there when they got there but that his neighbour would be watching… Yet another character sang about putting out a basket of new sponges on her porch between the hours of 1 and 6 pm and that people were free to come and take one. She claimed she was very busy and therefore could only update how many sponges were left online every 45 minutes….The craziness continued song after song but there was a sad theme that prevailed as well, a theme of a lonely digital society that thirsts for human contact.
When the snow is dirty and the outside world doesn’t look the way we want it to, we create escapes in different ways. In that way, festivals are like trees.