In today's Urban Planner: the Hot and Spicy Food Festival, the final Critical Mass of summer, and an all-star edition of Rapp Battlez.
- Food: For the Labour Day weekend, Harbourfront Centre has programmed the Hot and Spicy Food Festival, a four-day experience of culinary delights, plus music, dance, and more. The festival kicks off with the Red Hot Market opening on Friday evening, and a headlining performance on the stage by jazz and hip-hop fusion tastemakers BADBADNOTGOOD. Harbourfront Centre (235 Queen’s Quay West), all day, FREE. Details
- Civic Engagement: Summer’s end is fast approaching, so this will be the last Critical Mass of the season. The ad-hoc group bike ride, which happens on the last Friday of every month, isn’t really a protest. Rather, it’s a boisterous reminder to downtown Torontonians that large numbers of people in the core use bicycles on city streets for transportation and for fun. Cyclists gather at Matt Cohen Park at the corner of Spadina Avenue and Bloor Street for a 6:30 p.m. departure on an unplanned and leaderless ride through the city. Matt Cohen Park (393 Bloor Street West), 6:30 p.m., FREE. Details
- Music: Trippy electronic project Phèdre will play an end-of-summer show as the duo—also members of Hooded Fang—ramp up to their album release in October. Joining them on the bill at this late-night show will be Petra Glynt and KENPARK. The Beaver (1192 Queen Street West), 10 p.m., $5. Details
- Comedy: Comedic-freestyle competition show Rapp Battlez celebrates its 40th edition by bringing back some past all-star competitors. Hosts Big MiGGa (Miguel Rivas) and DexT VocaB (Freddie Rivas) are mum so far on the match-ups, but we could see returns by fan favourites like Tripple Crown (the rapper preoccupied with becoming a horse), the Euro Cup soccer ball, and your Mom After Work. Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 10:30 p.m., $10. Details
History: The name “Mesopotamia” derives from a Greek term meaning “land between the rivers.” The Royal Ontario Museum’s latest major exhibit, which opens on June 22, takes this literally, as visitors flow between painted representations of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers on the floor.
Presented by the British Museum and rounded out with pieces from institutions in Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia, “Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World” covers 3,000 years of human development in the cradle of urban civilization. Most of the 170 artifacts on display have never been shown in Canada. Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queens Park), all day, $27 (Includes general admission). Details
- Theatre: If Fringe and SummerWorks aren’t enough to satisfy your summer theatre cravings, the world-renowned Stratford Festival is now only a bus ride away from downtown Toronto, thanks to the new Stratford Direct bus route (“the best thing [the Festival] has done in years” according to one usher at the Avon Theatre). Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino has put together a season to please tastes from the traditional to the extravagant. Here’s what we think about five of Stratford’s current productions. Multiple venues, all day, $25–$175. Details
- Art: Flight: A Thrilling History of an Idea is a new exhibition from the Toronto Reference Library that gathers a number of rare items that explore the theme of the possible and the impossible. Some of the highlights on display are La vingtième siècle: la vie électrique (a rare French book that shows how scientific discoveries would have affected people in 1955), Tame (a sci-fi pulp magazine), and Worldly Wisdom (watercolour that depicts a Leonardo da Vinci-like figure creating a winged flying machine). You’ll find the exhibition in the library’s TD Gallery. Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street), all day, FREE. Details
- Art: Arti[face]: A Wink And A Nod Can Mean So Much is a new exhibit of photo-realistic paintings by Jane Duncan (who was named an emerging artist in the 2013 Artist Project). The exhibit focuses on blank-slate toy models and aims to “animate and create a multitude of unique subtle narratives and moods using only the most basic tools and conventions of portraiture.” You can check out a preview of the exhibit here. The opening reception is on August 29th and starts at 7 p.m. Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West), all day, FREE. Details
Art: Ai Weiwei is a 56-year-old artist confined to his home in Beijing for creating work critical of the Chinese government and Chinese culture. There are video cameras outside his house, his phone lines are tapped, his blog was deleted, his Shanghai studio was destroyed in 2010 by authorities, and his passport was confiscated in 2011. To this day, he’s unable to leave his country. Even so, Ai Weiwei has had a large presence in Toronto over the past few months.
This past June, he did a performance piece with artist Laurie Anderson during the Luminato Festival, using Skype. His Zodiac Heads have been installed, temporarily, in the reflecting pool in front of City Hall. At this year’s Nuit Blanche, a large-scale version of his sculpture of bicycles, Forever, will take over Nathan Phillips Square. And beginning August 17, the Art Gallery of Ontario is displaying “Ai Weiwei: According to What?”, a retrospective of the work he produced before and after the Chinese government’s crackdown on his activities helped him find new international acclaim. Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas Street West), 10 a.m., $25 (Includes general admission). Details
- Festivals: The Canadian National Exhibition, that storied summer fair, opens for its 135th season. For 18 days, there will be amusement-park rides late into the night, all manner of overindulgent foods to gorge on, long-running traditions like the Warrior’s Day Parade and the Air Show, concerts by bands like The Beach Boys and The New Pornographers, and much, much more. Exhibition Place (Lakeshore Boulevard and Strachan Avenue), 10 a.m., $12–$16. Details
Theatre: Known as Shakespeare’s greatest villain, the title character in Richard III doesn’t seem an obvious choice of anti-hero for Shakespeare in the Ruff, an east-end alfresco classical theatre company, revived in 2012 after a six-year absence. The play, one of the Bard’s longest, typically runs more than three hours in its entirety, and is full of politics, intrigue, and murder.
Not your typical fare for summer theatre in the park. But the company, which delighted audiences with its madcap Two Gentlemen of Verona last year, has two aces up its sleeves: a fruitful collaboration with director, actor, and educator Diane D’Aquila, and leading man (and D’Aquila’s former National Theatre School student) Alex McCooeye. Withrow Park (Bain and Logan Avenues), 7 p.m., PWYC ($15 suggested donation). Details
- Theatre: Many people now routinely consume television series in marathon benders, blowing through DVDs or Netflix downloads in a few evenings or a weekend. It’s that sort of experience—but live, of course—that awaits audiences at Soulpepper’s production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, which offers over six hours of impeccably staged and performed theatre either in two long evenings or over the course of one full day, with multiple intermissions and a meal break. Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane), 7:30 p.m., Various prices. Details
- Comedy: You might expect a show called We Can Be Heroes to be a send-up of superhero films, but Second City’s new mainstage production is actually a celebration of minor, everyday acts of heroism ranging from giving advice to a bullied child to managing not to be a jackass at your friend’s wedding. Second City (51 Mercer Street), 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., $24–$29. Details
- Music: Cover band extraordinaire Dwayne Gretzky kicks off Indie Fridays, Yonge-Dundas Square’s weekly summer music night series, on June 28. The eight-piece rock ‘n’ roll cover band most recently played Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album from beginning to end. Later in the summer, Indie Fridays’ feature acts include soul singer Saidah Baba Talibah (August 2), Polaris Prize shortlisters Plants and Animals (August 23), and hip hop innovator Cadence Weapon (August 30). Yonge-Dundas Square (1 Dundas Street East), 8 p.m., FREE. Details
- Comedy: Bad Dog Theatre’s newest show is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to romantic comedies like Love, Actually. Toronto, I Love You features the Bad Dog Repertory Players, and is directed by Kirsten Rasmussen. The show runs weekly on Friday nights through August, and for obvious reasons, sounds like a great date event. Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $10–$12. Details
Theatre: In the 31st year of Shakespeare in High Park, Canadian Stage has programmed two productions that are performed on alternating evenings. The two plays could not be more different.
Both Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew involve manipulative spouses and deceptive plots—but where one ends in marriages and love, the other ends with bloodshed and terror. One is infamously problematic, and the other is one of Shakespeare’s most popular. And the two directors, Ted Witzel and Ker Wells, both of whom join Shakespeare in High Park after completing a directing program held in collaboration between Canadian Stage and York University, only exaggerate the differences. High Park Amphitheatre (1873 Bloor St. W.), 8 p.m., PWYC. Details
Urban Planner is Torontoist‘s guide to what’s on in Toronto, published every weekday morning, and in a weekend edition Friday afternoons. If you have an event you’d like considered, email us with all the details (including images, if you’ve got any), ideally at least a week in advance.