Michael Green was my friend, mentor, and confidant. His generosity of spirt was infectious and his laugh will forever echo in my mind. Michael was an innovator—creating not only new processes of art production, but new ways of being in the world. Michael and I shared a weird hybrid Dadaist-utilitarian ethos—we were both passionate about bringing our politics into the world through clearly planned art activity. In retrospect, it makes complete sense! I will always credit my first experience with the High Performance Rodeo in 2001 as the reason I stayed in Calgary after graduating university and why I decided to build a career in this city. When in 2000, my colleagues Ethan Cole and Carmen Pineda-Selva, and I decided to form a performance company, it was because we wanted to create a city that we could live in. It was only later that we would learn how Michael, the Rabbits, and the crew they hung with had started working on the same project decades before—these people had laid the ground work for so many emerging artists and their efforts created space for us to quickly become members of the community. We owe a debt of gratitude to Michael and his colleagues for their tireless work. Calgary is a better place because of Michael’s dedication and love for the city he called home.
During the past fifteen years I’ve had the excellent privilege of working with Michael in a number of capacities. I was first introduced to Michael in the fall of 2001. He was a sessional instructor at the University of Calgary facilitating a course in advance performance creation. We quickly bonded. Frustrated with the university, I proposed to Michael that I organize a night of emerging performance at the High Performance Rodeo the following January. He enthusiastically said yes. This was the genesis of a five year relationship between the High Performance Rodeo and a festival called Mutton Busting. The following spring Michael hired me to be his Rodeo assistant. He took me under his wing and I developed some very important skills that have allowed me to create a career in the arts. I remember that on the first day at the new job Michael pulled open a filing cabinet drawer and said, “here is where we keep all the grants we’ve written. Read them and study them. If nothing else you will learn how to write a grant!” As a mentor and friend Michael wasn’t one for motivational speeches, instead he led by example. But if there is one thing Michael said to me that continues to resonate, it was: “work hard while you are young”. He would have been in his early 40’s when he said that and as I watched him over the past fifteen years I kept thinking to myself, “when is this guy gonna get old and slow down?” Michael never slowed down and his work ethic continues to inspire me. Instead of getting older Michael developed new skills and gained a reputation that allowed him to navigate different systems and processes—be they political, corporate, or artistic. Michael always leveraged his reputation to make things happen for his friends and colleagues without compromising his ethics. He would forge new relationships between strangers, put artists in places that artists otherwise wouldn’t be typically welcome, and he continued to build a strong community of artists and non-artists in Calgary and beyond.
I had the excellent pleasure of working with Michael and other colleagues from across the country on developing Performance Creation Canada—a network of creators, performers, and administrators. Attending these conferences with Michael—from St. John’s, to Whitehorse, to Vancouver, to Toronto—will always be some of my favourite times spent with him. Michael knew how to party! In the early years I attended PCC meetings to talk about Mutton Busting. Michael always told me I gave him too much credit when describing how Mutton Busting was started, but I disagreed. I often felt that Michael was so busy working and moving on to the next project that he would often forget the wonderful things he had done for you. But these were not the only disagreements Michael and I had. We often butted heads and had strong opinions that didn’t always align. In my post-Mutton Busting/Bubonic Tourist days I worked hard to “re-brand” myself as not a Rabbit and not the next “Michael Green”. Those were hard days for me, but Michael, despite his occasional concerns was supportive and encouraging even when I would antagonize him with ridiculous suggestions (that the Rabbit’s should create a football league or that I wanted him to support my next project…turning 17th Avenue into a pool for lane swimming). Michael always had a funny way of telling me “no”.
Over the past several years Michael and I would try to see each other every few months and sometimes more. Normally we would meet for a beer and a meal and we would talk about our lives and our careers. We could talk about things in a way that I can’t do with others. Michael was my dear friend and I already miss him so much. Michael always encouraged me to plant seeds in Calgary and to see what might come of them. Over the past four decades Michael was able to see some of the things he created blossom, but there were so many new things just sprouting up. I am deeply saddened that he will not see what is to become of some of his most treasured projects. I always imagined–like my emerging years as an artist–Michael would be my mentor later in life, working with Mia and I on the transition from mid-career to senior artists. I am sad we will never be able to have those discussions.
Mia and I’s thoughts are with Kim and Maya. I know Michael was so proud of his daughter and was excited about her starting a theatre career. Maya is a wonderful young woman and Mia and I look forward to being her friend in the Calgary arts community. To Andy, Denise, Blake, Johnny, and Ann: love love love!
It is a bit lame, but this one goes out to Michael…