In this Weekend Planner: Chinatown throws a party, butterfly spotting in Tommy Thompson Park, and nerdy times at FanExpo.
- Festivals: The 2013 Toronto Chinatown Festival spotlights many things that are well worth checking out in Chinatown. The festival includes live performances, as well as vendors, activities, and, of course, plenty of food to go around. The festival will be taking place along Spadina Avenue (from College Street to Dundas Street West) and Huron Street (from D’Arcy Street to Dundas Street West). Multiple venues, all day, FREE. Details
- Outdoors: Summer’s slipping away, but there’s still much fun to be had outdoors. The 5th-Annual Tommy Thompson Park Butterfly Festival is your chance to see the Monarch butterfly before its annual migration to Mexico. It’s also a chance to take part in a full day of activities (nature hikes!) and to interact with some educational displays. You’ll get to learn about the more than 55 species of butterflies and moths that have been spotted at the park to date. Tommy Thompson Park (1 Leslie Street), Saturday at 10 a.m., FREE. 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
- Film: When Animal House first turned the toga into suitable party attire in 1978, the landscape of the film comedy was forever altered. TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy, a new film series that kicked off Wednesday at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, seeks to chart the changing comedic sensibilities that have occurred in the years since the film’s release. From big budget blockbusters, to libido-fuelled sex romps, to carefully calibrated exercises in nuance and timing, the selections in the program are some of the funniest films ever made. TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West), all day, $8.50–$12. Details
Festivals: Buskerfest, the annual festival that features more than 100 of the best buskers from Canada and around the world, is back. This year’s event features performers like Dr. Draw, Turbo Street Funk, Alissa Vox Raw, Gabriel Angelo, and many others. The event itself is in support of Epilepsy Toronto and takes place along Yonge Street (from College Street to Queen Street). Check out some pics from last year’s event here.
Multiple venues, all day, FREE. Details
- Comics: Every year, just before fall kicks in, it’s time for Fan Expo, Toronto’s annual convention for every hobby that might potentially involve dressing up in an elaborate costume: comics, horror, anime, gaming, sci-fi, you name it. As always, there are dozens of huge events the con is promoting (Stan Lee returns to Fan Expo this year, and the Fan Expo Party offers you the chance to hang out with the likes of Michael Rooker, Dean Cain, and Colin Baker). But there are lots of other things to do at Fan Expo 2013. Here are seven of them. Metro Toronto Convention Centre (255 Front Street West), all day, Day passes $25–$50. Details
- Festivals: Aloha Toronto, an annual surfing festival that benefits autism charities, kicks off on Friday, August 23 with a party at the Balmy Beach Club starting at 7 p.m., at the foot of Beech Avenue, off Queen Street. Saturday and Sunday, the festival will run all day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a stand-up paddle competition, Hawaiian dance show, bands, and more. The kick-off party is a ticketed event, at $25, but the festival is free to all—though donations are, of course, encouraged. Cherry Beach (275 Unwin Avenue), all day and all day and all day, FREE-$25. Details
- Music: Five years ago, the King of the Dot was little more than a few guys tossing rhyming insults at each other in parks and recording it for YouTube. Now, KOTD has evolved into one of the world’s most respected battle-rap leagues, getting shout-outs from some of hip hop’s most prominent MCs, spawning multiple divisions across the country, and giving out hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes over the years. This weekend, the organization will celebrate its fifth anniversary with an event called World Domination 4. The three-night rhymefest will be hosted by local rap hero Drake, and will feature MCs from around the globe duking it out for cash and bragging rights. KOTD founder Travis “Organik” Fleetwood calls it “the Olympics of Battle Rap.” The Opera House (735 Queen Street East), Friday at 6 p.m., $30-$250. Details
- History: Looking to brush up your cultural and history knowledge on all things Toronto? Heritage Toronto 2013 Tours offers you an enormous chance to learn tons and tons about the city you love via walking tours, bike tours, and more. Some of the events on the agenda of this weekly series include tours of Fort York, Korea Town, Don Valley, and Black Creek. It’s running all summer long so don’t miss out! Multiple venues, all day and all day, FREE. 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), Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m., $12–$16. 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), Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m., $25 (Includes general admission). Details
Theatre: Musical theatre has a reputation for sometimes being out of touch and old-fashioned, so the prospect of Mirvish Productions bringing a tour of Cole Porter’s 1934 musical Anything Goes to Toronto wasn’t especially heartening at first—even if this particular production, by New York City’s Roundabout Theatre Company, won three 2011 Tony Awards.
But say, pal, wouldn’t you know, we were downright tickled to have such a good time at the Princess of Wales Theatre. The jokes are still corny, the songs still melodramatic, and the script still has some pretty racist content, but the show manages to transcend its era. Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King Street West), Saturday at 2 p.m.,8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., $29–$130. 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), Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Various prices. 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.), Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 8 p.m., PWYC. Details
- Theatre: Revisiting history is more fun with a soundtrack, as you’ll find in The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream. Based on the story of one of rock’s most influential bands, this Broadway-show-meets-concert takes the audience back through the ’60s with hit songs like “Good Lovin’,” “Groovin’,” and “It’s a Beautiful Morning.” Produced and directed by the legendary Steven Van Zandt, the show combines performance, archival footage, live narrative, and film reenactments. Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King Street West), Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m., $59–$200. Details
- Theatre: Evergreen Brick Works may be a cool place to ride a bike or check out a farmer’s market, but it also has a rich history that many people don’t know about. Memory in the Mud brings light to these stories with a unique style of roving, interactive theatre courtesy of Words in Motion. Learn about the people who lived and worked at Brick Works throughout the years, including German prisoners of war and those who were left homeless during the Great Depression. Young Welcome Centre, Evergreen Brick Works (550 Bayview Avenue), Sunday at 2:30 p.m., $5 children, $10 adults. 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.