In today's Urban Planner: the International Festival of Authors begins, The Black Museum talks about the history of Halloween costumes, and the Global Cabaret Festival returns.
- Performing Arts: Where can you find over 150 of Canada’s top performing artists under one roof? At the Sixth Annual Global Cabaret Festival, of course. This year’s festival will include A Bob Dylan Songbook; “Rebel Rebel,” The Music of David Bowie; and Whirl, The Dance Cabaret. The event will also feature the 2013 Soulpepper Dance Awards (the nominees will be showcased in the Whirl cabaret). Click here for the full schedule. Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane), all day, $22 advance, $25 door. Details
- Books: For its 34th birthday, the International Festival of Authors is actually getting younger. One of the themes this year is Brave New Word, a Huxleyan allusion referring not to the demise of books (a Brave New World scenario), but to the next generation of notable writers participating in the festival. Among this group is Canadian-born author Eleanor Catton, who last week, at age 28, became the youngest person ever to win the Man Booker Prize (for her second novel, The Luminaries). Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West), all day, FREE–$100 (most events $15–$25). Details
- Dance: Searching for ways to heat up as winter approaches? Search no more. The Bacchanal is described as an “ancient and illicit orgiastic experience”—in layman’s terms, that means this is an event not to be passed up. This dinner cabaret show—for which “interactive experience” tickets are also available—is brought to you by Love Letters Cabaret and is choreographed by Pastel Supernova. The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West), 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., Tickets starting at $30. Details
- Film: Halloween hasn’t always been an excuse to go out scantily clad. The costumes we wore as children, and even the ones we continue to wear as adults, are rooted in the ancient traditions of the pagan holiday. Costume designer Alex Kavanagh takes the lectern at The Black Museum to impart more knowledge on the subject during her lecture, A Social History of Halloween Costumes. Drawing on her wardrobe work for films such as Land of the Dead, the Saw and Ginger Snaps franchises, and Repo! The Genetic Opera, Alex will discuss the Halloween costume’s history and meaning, how costumes have been molded by the entertainment industry, and how they reflect our culture. Big Picture Cinemas (1035 Gerrard Street East), 8 p.m., $12 advance, $15 door. Details
- Music: In many ways, opera still represents the clearest embodiment of difficult music in the popular imagination. The complex orchestration, highly stylized performances, and grand stories are all part of this, as is the perception that an audience member needs to be a highly educated connoisseur of the form to properly appreciate and enjoy it. In contrast, pop and rock music are considered easy to grasp and consume. They have plenty of hooks and handholds, while opera can often come across as monolithic and impervious. Operanation, the Canadian Opera Company’s annual fundraiser, seeks to alter some of these perceptions by turning opera into a multimedia experience. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen Street West), 9 p.m., $150.00. 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
- 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
- Film: With the gala hangovers and celluloid-induced eye strain from the 2013 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival just beginning to fade away, film addicts who are already starting to feel the itch have another movie extravaganza to check out: the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Now in its eighth year, TAD is a celebration of everything frightening, disturbing, challenging, and gloriously bloody. While the primary focus of the fest is on horror films, there will also be generous offerings of speculative fiction, unusual action movies, and cult flicks. Scotiabank Theatre (259 Richmond Street West), all day, Tickets $13. 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
- Comedy: Improv comedy performers from across North America will converge on Toronto for nine days during the Big City Improv Festival, including special celebrity performers like MADtv alumni Phil Lamarr and Jeff Richards. Also on the bill is recent Canadian Comedy Award winner MANTOWN, which will perform an improv set on opening night. Local acts include Burns and Gallo, winners of the Big City TKO competition, and Mark Little and Kyle Dooley, who impressed us during last month’s Just For Laughs 42 festival. Multiple venues, all day, $10–$60. 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
- Dance: Kaha:wi Dance Theatre brings a unique First Nations creation story to the stage with A Story Before Time. The Onkwehonwe narrative—which embodies the beliefs, symbols, and dreams of its people—is conveyed through dance, theatre, and a blend of traditional and contemporary music. It incorporates both Mohawk and Cayuga languages. Young People’s Theatre Studio Space (165 Front Street East), 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., $15–$24. Details
- Art: Throughout history, witches have typically been depicted as ugly women with evil powers. Not to mention, they’re usually found preying on children, riding brooms, and donning black cloaks and pointed hats. But is this accurate? Just in time for Halloween, “Witch” has materialized to challenge our previously held notions on the topic. The art exhibition includes pieces from over 20 artists that explore the history and concept of the witch. Elephant Shoes (1342 Bloor Street West), 12 p.m., $5 suggested admission. Details
- Theatre: Fans of the seminal 1968 horror-film classic, Night of the Living Dead, will delight in Night of the Living Dead Live, a new theatrical production of the story. Despite a weak second act, it’s a fun black-and-white romp with some inventive deaths—and even a chipper musical number. Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue), 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., $20–$80. Details
- Offbeat: Whether you participate in the Zombie Walk, have elaborate Halloween costume ideas, or just want to prepare a disguise for the inevitable zombie apocalypse, you’ll want to attend the Zombie and Monster Makeup Workshop. Presented by Complections College of Makeup Art and Design, the course—which covers basic to extreme makeup techniques—will be led by special makeup effects artists/instructors Stuart Conran (Shaun of the Dead, Hellraiser) and Ryan Louagie (Evil Dead: The Musical, Monster Warriors). Complections College of Makeup Art & Design (110 Lombard Street), 6 p.m., $80 for workshop, $164.75 for workshop + makeup kit. Details
- Theatre: Every revolution needs a leader. And though the movement to bring the classic 1980s musical Les Miserables back to Toronto is markedly different than the quest for political accountability and social equality, it has its hero just the same. After Wednesday night’s official opening performance at the Princess of Wales Theatre, the audience likely would have followed London-based, Richmond Hill-raised performer Ramin Karimloo (as the story’s golden-hearted protagonist, Jean Valjean) anywhere he would lead. Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King Street West), 7:30 p.m., $35–$130. 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), 8 p.m., $24–$29. Details
- Theatre: The great vaudevillian performer and comedian W.C. Fields is believed to have coined the infamous showbiz axiom, “Never work with animals or children.” Others in the entertainment industry have adopted the rule, because of the unpredictability of toddlers and beasts on stage. But in his recent play The Best Brothers, Daniel MacIvor embraces both of these snubbed theatrical minorities—even if the dog only appears for a brief moment and the two adult characters only act like feuding minors. And surprisingly, there’s little unpredictability in it. Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Avenue), 8 p.m., $21–$53. Details
- Theatre: In the movies, when a car breaks down in the middle of nowhere it usually leads to sexy times, amusing adventures, or utter terror. The Rocky Horror Show is all of the above. In case you’ve somehow managed to avoid watching it on TV every October, the story follows the exploits of newly engaged (and stranded) couple Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, who are forced to stay overnight in the strange home of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. A Toronto Halloween tradition, the theatrical production of this cult classic returns to the stage for the sixth straight year, starring Cory Strong, Amanda Milligan, and Adam Joshua Norrad. Lower Ossington Theatre (100 Ossington Avenue), 8 p.m., $39–$49. Details
- Theatre: The List is a Governor General Award-winning play in which the lone actress is lit up only by a single projector, which is used to visually illustrate the character’s emotions. Torri Higginson stars as a woman who speaks to the audience from her kitchen (her neighbour is dead; is she to blame?) in this story about everyday to-do lists. The Artisan Factory (344 Westmoreland Avenue), 8 p.m., $20 advance, $16 door. Details
- Theatre: Local playwright Laura Cockburn-Tulk has written two new one-act plays that Glasswater Theatre is premiering together as Prayers For the New World. The double header will have a limited run at the Berkeley Street Theatre. In the first play, Confessions, a Soviet-era spy discovers that she can communicate across space and time with an accused Salem witch while the two are imprisoned; in the second play, Gone Home, the mysterious death of a child tests a family’s bond during the the Second World War. Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street), 8 p.m., $18–$25. Details
- Theatre: What’s the trickiest part of volunteering to play a Toronto G20 detainee during the current remount of You Should Have Stayed Home? Donning the plastic zip-tie handcuffs used on those who wound up at the Eastern Avenue Detention Centre three years ago. If you lack nimble fingers, or have a tendency to wear things the wrong way, ask one of your fellow detainees to fix the strips so that they’ll stay on during the performance, and won’t require a pair of scissors for removal. Aki Studio Theatre (585 Dundas Street East), 8 p.m., $22–$25. Details
Theatre: On stage now at the Panasonic Theatre are 85 tiny pieces of artwork. Beautifully detailed, textured, colourful, and startlingly evocative, these creations are intensely mesmerizing—even when hanging lifeless on a display wall, their toothless mouths gaping open.
When they get hands stuck up their asses, though, it’s an entirely different story.
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Mirvish Productions announced an expanded season last month that includes the following: Chicago, starring Elvis Stojko; this year’s Toronto Fringe hit The Musical of Musicals, the Musical!; and Puppet Up: Uncensored, which began a short engagement in Toronto last night. Billed as “a live, outrageous, comedy, variety show for adults only,” the show elicited genuine childlike enthusiasm from audience members. They had likely grown up watching Jim Henson’s beloved puppets on the The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock (or in the more sinister Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal). But Puppet Up: Uncensored is a very different from your average puppet show. Co-created by Brian Henson (Jim’s son) and comedian Patrick Bristow under the Henson Alternative label, these puppets are weird, foul-mouthed, and dirty. Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Fozzie would be appalled. Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge Street), 8 p.m., $19–$79. 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.