In this Weekend Planner: Joss Whedon-inspired improv, bears running amok, and a free concert in Nathan Phillips Square.
- Comedy: If you wake up every day just to give thanks to the master himself, here’s another chance to get your daily dose of Whedon. Whedonesque involves a whole night of Joss Whedon-inspired improv. You’ll get to see re-imaginings of your favourite shows in three back-to-back performances: the evening kicks off with Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog at 8 p.m., moves on to Firefly at 9 p.m., and then wraps up with Buffy at 10 p.m. Don’t you want to hear the answers to pressing questions such as, “What if Penny had survived?” and “What if Billy had never become evil at all?” Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), Saturday at 8 p.m.,9 p.m.,10 p.m., $12 per show. Details
- Music: Brace yourselves. PANIC, Toronto’s ultimate retro party, is back for another round of classic beats from the artists of yesteryear. Featuring music from the 80s and 90s, new wave, shoegaze, and much more, it will have you awash in nostalgia as you dance away to the beats. This week’s edition puts a spotlight on The Spoons and Images In Vogue. You can make requests to DJ LAZARUS through the event’s Facebook page here. Velvet Underground (510 Queen Street West), Saturday at 10 p.m., $5 before 11 p.m., $10 after. Details
- Art: BEARS IN THE STREETS *the world as I’ve seen it is a solo art exhibition by Jeff Blackburn featuring works that involve bears, which act as guides through various cityscapes (see above for example). Visitors will have the chance to see different public spaces from around the world (with bears!). The opening reception will be held on September 1st and will start at 7 p.m. Gallery 431 (431 Roncesvalles Avenue), all day, FREE. Details
- Music: Looking for things to do over the long weekend? To celebrate Labour Day, drop by Unifest, a free concert at Nathan Phillips Square. Featuring major and diverse acts from across Canada—including Stars, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Les Colocs, Sister Says, and DJ Hedspin—the show will be hosted by Tash Jefferies. Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen Street West), Sunday at 6:30 p.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
- 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
- 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
- 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 and 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), Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday at 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), Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday at 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), Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 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), Saturday at 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), Saturday at 7:30 p.m.,10 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., $24–$29. 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: 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.