In today's Urban Planner: Culture Days are here, with lots of free events in tow; The Norman Conquests opens; and plenty more.
- Performing Arts: For three days, cities across the country are celebrating Culture Days, a non-profit initiative to encourage Canadians to attend and participate in arts and culture events. Naturally, there’s a plethora of institutions and arts organizations taking part in Toronto. Better still, all the events are free. There are open houses, tours, and performances at places like the Four Seasons Centre, the Toronto Centre For the Arts, and Wychwood Barns. And there’s plenty of special programming at libraries, public and private art galleries, and dance studios. You can search for activities by proximity to your postal code, type, date, organizer, and more at the Culture Days website. Multiple venues, all day, FREE. Details
- Theatre: Like the company’s recent triumph, Angels in America, Soulpepper’s newest show, The Norman Conquests, requires multiple trips to the theatre—or a hearty constitution for a full day of marathon attendance. Unlike Angels in America, the three instalments of The Norman Conquests—Table Manners, Living Together, and Round and Round the Garden—are comic in nature and small in scope, with each instalment taking place in a different part of a couple’s house. Written by prolific British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, the three-part series features veteran members of the Soulpepper ensemble, and can be “enjoyed individually or in any combination.” Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane), all day, $51–$68. Details
- Music: Steam Whistle Brewing’s regular Unsigned concert series, which raises funds for the Artists Health Alliance charity, has Torontoist favourite and recent Japan charting musician Maylee Todd headlining its 36th edition. Todd played the very first edition of Unsigned, guesting with Woodhands. Opener Paradise Animals is the new project from Mark Andrade, whose other band, Green Go, is also an Unsigned alum. Steam Whistle Brewing (255 Bremner Boulevard), 8 p.m., $5. 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: 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
Comedy: The planners behind Just For Laughs 42 sure do have a good sense of humour. For starters, the name is a little bit of a joke. Anyone thinking that the “42″ refers to the number of years the comedy festival has been in operation would be sorely mistaken—it actually denotes the number of events taking place during the ten days of the festival’s run.
This year’s JFL42 will feature three headline events: appearances by Sarah Silverman and Aziz Ansari, and a live reading of an episode of Family Guy—complete with cast members and a 40-piece orchestra. But there’s plenty more worth checking out. Our overview of this year’s festival is below. Multiple venues, all day, $69–$299. Details
Art: If you look out the window while riding the bus from downtown to Markham, you’ll notice the urban landscape gradually unfolding into the suburban: tight-knit city streets loosen into faster multi-lane roads, box stores assemble in beige-brick clusters, and everywhere new structures are being outstripped by even newer buildings at various stages of completion.
Markham just upgraded itself from town to city in July 2012, and is one of the fastest-growing and most diverse municipalities in the country. And while the place may not inspire many enthusiastic road-trips from downtowners, Land|Slide Possible Futures, a new, large-scale public-art exhibition, invites visitors to explore Markham’s history, its quickly changing present, and its potential evolution—while also challenging glib notions surrounding the suburbs themselves. Markham Museum (9350 Markham Road), all day, FREE. Details
- Art: When it was originally unveiled at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (England, not Ontario), the “David Bowie Is” exhibition shattered attendance records, selling over 42,000 advance tickets. Now that the show has come to Toronto, it’s easy to see why it was so successful. Composed of over 300 objects from David Bowie’s personal archive, spanning his entire career, the exhibit is arranged and presented as a completely immersive experience, enveloping visitors in a kaleidoscopic visual and aural landscape that would be overwhelming if it weren’t so brilliantly arranged and intelligently guided. Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas Street West), all day, $30 (includes general admission). Details
- Art: “THE DOT SHOW” is a pretty cool-looking exhibition of Laura Clayton’s art, which consists of dots. Thousands of dots. (It’s supposed to deal with the concept of Horror Vacui.) Above, you can see a sample of the Clayton’s work (there’s more on the gallery website). The opening reception will be held on September 26th, at 7 p.m. Graven Feather (906 Queen Street West), all day, FREE. Details
- Civic Engagement: A coalition of campus groups at the University of Toronto has organized an alternative orientation week for those with alternative ideas on gender assignment and norms. Disorientation Week presents Gender Revolt!, a week-long series of free talks and group discussions on the “ongoing struggles against capitalism, white supremacy, colonialism, and heteronormativity.” Speakers include Torontoist 2012 hero Steph Guthrie and G20 activist Kelly Rose Pflug-Back; the keynote speaker will be author and activist Sarah Schulman. Multiple venues, 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
- 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
- Theatre: Wednesday was not a great day for feminism, if feminism means getting upset when a prominent Canadian author and University of Toronto professor says he doesn’t care much for any literature written by women, or when an engagement ring must be “earned” by making a man 300 sandwiches. Needless to say, Louise Pitre’s one-woman autobiographical show, On The Rocks, couldn’t have opened on a day when audiences were more ready to hear the personal story of one of Canada’s biggest female theatrical role models—especially in a production created by an all-female crew lead by director Jen Shuber. Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue), 7:30 p.m., PWYC to $32.50. Details
- Theatre: The Tarragon Theatre opens its 2013/2014 season with Daniel MacIvor’s The Best Brothers [PDF], in which polar-opposite brothers Hamilton and Kyle Best are brought together to plan the funeral of their mother. The older, unadventurous, and conservative Hamilton naturally doesn’t see eye to eye with the free-spirited Kyle, whose boyfriend is a sex worker. Grappling with the ridiculous circumstances leading to their mother’s death (a drag queen, a loudspeaker, and Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade), the brothers must deal with each other, as well as some tough questions concerning love, family, and who should get the family dog. Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Avenue), 8 p.m., $21–$53. Details
- Theatre: FeverGraph Theatre Company wants you to get mad (and perhaps go mad) over their new stage production. Look Back in Anger focuses on four people, and the anger that cripples each of them. Rather being a study of hot tempers, the play examines our common desire to feel something deeper than what reality delivers, our sense of futility, and the anger that ensues. Directed by Anita La Selva, the piece was co-conceived by its performers: Eli Ham, Adriano Sobretodo Jr., Tosha Doiron, and Zoë Sweet. Thrush Homes Empire Gallery (1093 Queen Street West), 8 p.m., $20, $15 for students/seniors/arts workers. Details
- Theatre: FIXED is a play by Zack Russell that describes itself as a “cross-generation mash-up of gay inventors looking for their fix.” The show’s main character, Gayle, invents a hook-up app that broadcasts men right into a user’s home. What could go wrong? Videofag (187 Augusta Avenue), 9 p.m., $10. 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.