The 10-Minute Play Festival Returns With Unpredictable and Unexpected Performances

This year's 10-Minute Play Festival is on January 7.

A scene from the 10-Minute Play Fest 2016.

Photograph by Chantal Wall


The 10-Minute Play Festival at High Performance Rodeo is a perennially sold-out event that counts Mayor Naheed Nenshi among its devotees. Invited theatre companies create 10-minute plays over the preceding 24 hours, each featuring a specific prop and line of dialogue introduced as the countdown period begins.

The event has become a rite of passage for emerging theatre artists in the city. Originally founded by Ground Zero Theatre, the reins were passed to Downstage theatre in 2011, a company that had participated prior to assuming the producer role.

“Because it’s such a popular event, it’s a great chance for smaller companies to put their artistic identity in front of a larger audience,” says Downstage artistic director Simon Mallett.

As both performer and producer, Mallett has a considerable number of 10-Minute plays under his belt. “Every year gets harder as I get older — the sleep deprivation isn’t as easy now as it was 10 years ago,” he says. While there’s no real formula for success, he’s certainly picked up a few things along the way, namely that comedy is easier to create in 24 hours than heavy drama. “That the audience usually has a drink or two before the show starts certainly helps, as well,” Mallett says.

Drinking aside, Mallett says the enduring appeal of the 10-Minute Play Festival is due to its titular brevity, something that bodes well for the event if theatregoers, like the rest of society, are becoming increasingly prone to distraction. “If there’s a show that doesn’t work for you, there’s going to be a new one on in 10 minutes, so you’re not stuck in the theatre watching a show you don’t like for two hours,” Mallett says. “It’s like Calgary weather — in 10 minutes, it will change.” 

High Performance Rodeo 2017 runs Jan. 5 to Feb. 2. For a complete schedule visit


This article appears in the January 2017 issue of Avenue Calgary. Subscribe here.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

9 Cocktails to Try at the Tribute to Craft Spirits Festival

More than 90 original cocktails made with Alberta and B.C. spirits will be available in Banff and Lake Louise from January 16 to 27.

High Performance Rodeo Show bug Brings Resilient Storytelling to the Stage

The show will offer storytelling workshops for Indigenous youth ahead of its three-day run at West Village Theatre.

Winter Workouts to Prepare You For Your Upcoming Summer Adventures

How to hone your winter workout so you can rock your New Year’s resolution this summer.