In today's Urban Planner: a fire-house tour, improvised Shakespeare, and simply the best variety show.
- History: You may walk past them every day (or be woken up by their employees at night), but have you ever really paid attention to the fire stations in Toronto? If you’re a history or architecture junkie, you’ll want to join this ROMbus adventure: Fire Halls with Corey Keeble. The day starts with a lecture at the ROM, followed by a history-rich tour of our city. Lunch will be provided. Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queens Park), 8:30 a.m., $110, $100 for members. Details
- Theatre: We Happy Few are back for another round of entertaining audiences and making English professors cringe with Shakespeare Forgive Us IV. While the play is completely improvised, the actors lean on the playwright’s style, themes, and plot points to manufacture a new—and likely hilarious—narrative. In the event that the production doesn’t get you chuckling, special guests Jess Beaulieu and Bitches Leave will rectify that with stand-up and sketch comedy, respectively. Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $5. Details
- Performing Arts: Want to be a part of something great? Don’t worry, it doesn’t require any effort beyond showing up at the Gladstone Hotel for Simply the Best Live Podcast Variety Show, hosted by Rhiannon Archer. Witness the best in stand-up by Chris Locke, Steph Tolev, and Andrew Barr; storytelling by Michael Flamank; characters by Allison Hogg and Kathleen Phillips-Locke; and music from Casey Lyons. Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West), 8 p.m., $5. Details
- Art: If The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors has a mascot, it’s Emperor Yongzheng. The image of the 18th-century Chinese ruler dominates the promotional material of the exhibition, which is one of the centrepieces of the Royal Ontario Museum’s centennial year. His portrait certainly has visual appeal, but Yongzheng is also a figure associated with surprising elements of life within the former imperial palace. Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queens Park), all day, $27 adults. Details
- Theatre: Playwright Bobby Del Rio was inspired to write The Trial of Ken Gass, a Kafkaesque look at a man’s encounter with an officious bureaucrat, by the ousting of Factory Theatre’s artistic director by its board of directors (who earned themselves a place in our Villains roster in 2012). The play is less interested in the scandal’s details, however, and more in the different ways people react when confronted by an unreasonable person who’s the gatekeeper for an uncaring system. To drive the point home, as in the original production, Del Rio has cast a different performer every night to play the title character, who’s put through the wringer by a mercurial investigator played by Jess Salguiero. Among the guest “Gasses” are playwright Matthew Edison, comedian Sandra Battaglini, and cabaret performer Ryan G. Hinds. Big Picture Cinema (1035 Gerrard Street East), 8 p.m., $15. Details
- Fashion: If a period drama has ever inspired you to visit the past, but you couldn’t because you didn’t have access to a time machine, listen up! The Spadina Museum is taking history, television, and fashion fans alike back to the Edwardian era with its “Dressing for Downton: The Costumes of Downton Abbey” exhibit. Twenty pieces from the hit show will be on display, along with the City of Toronto’s own collection of garments from the time. Attendees will also be treated to Downton Abbey–themed tours of the century home. Spadina Museum (285 Spadina Road), all day, $25–$30 + tax. Details
- Art: You should not, would not miss this event if you’ve ever read Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, or Green Eggs and Ham. Why? The Art of Dr. Seuss is coming to Casa Loma! Presented by Liss Gallery, the exhibit features over 30 paintings, drawings, and sculptures showcasing the mind of Theodor Seuss Geisel. Come during March Break (March 8-15) to take advantage of extra-Seussy programming, including storytelling, arts and crafts, and live performances. Casa Loma (1 Austin Terrace), 9:30 a.m., $27, $17 kids, $21 seniors. Details
- Fashion: Ichimaru—once one of Japan’s most famous geishas—left the profession in the 1930s to pursue a career in entertainment. Never really leaving her past life, she became known for adorning herself in the traditional geisha garb when performing in concert or on television. “From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru” exhibits several decades’ worth of outfits and personal effects, shedding light on the woman behind the makeup. Textile Museum of Canada (55 Centre Avenue), 11 a.m., $6–$15. Details
- Art: Artist Sarah Anne Johnson delves into life’s most intimate moments in “Wonderlust.” Using photography and visual arts, she explores the emotional attachment, romance, and self-consciousness that come with sex. Stephen Bulger Gallery (1026 Queen Street West), 11 a.m., FREE. Details
- Theatre: With female criminals being en vogue these days thanks to Netflix, Mirvish has picked a great time to bring the Tony Award–winning Chicago to Toronto. Set in Prohibition-era Chicago, the musical revolves around the incarceration of Roxie Hart, a wannabe star who gets her name in lights—but only after killing her paramour. Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King Street West), 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., $32–$130. Details
- Dance: Told through South American music and dance, Arrabal is the story of a young girl desperate to find out what happened to her father after the Argentine military made him disappear when she was just a baby. Her search leads her to the Tango clubs of Buenos Aires, where she discovers both the truth, and herself. Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge Street), 8 p.m., $44–$84. Details
- Theatre: In Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs, on now at the Tarragon Theatre Extraspace, two people—a man and a woman in their late twenties to mid-thirties—stand on an empty stage and talk. They talk at each other, mostly, about themselves and about more abstract thoughts, as time shifts in the script propel them from pivotal moment to pivotal moment. It’s a style of theatre that can go wrong in an instant—but it can also produce a work that invigorates, or even inspires, a passion for the art form. Fortunately, this one does the latter. Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Avenue), 8 p.m., $21–$53. Details
- Theatre: You may not be able to see the Fab Four in the flesh anymore, but Mirvish Productions has the next best thing. Rain – A Tribute to The Beatles features four performers who have spent years mastering the sounds and nuances of Paul, John, Ringo, and George. Not only will they play all the songs you love, they’ll also include tracks that the Beatles recorded but never performed in front of an audience. Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King Street West), 8 p.m., $32-$124. Details
- Theatre: For three weeks straight, the Alumnae Theatre will be obsessing over freshness even more than your local grocery store. The New Ideas Festival is taking over for another year, bringing 15 new, developing, and experimental works to the stage. Each week of the festival, five new plays with a variety of themes will find themselves on the marquee, each one ranging from 10 to 60 minutes in length. Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street), 8 p.m., $15 per week, $40 for festival pass. Details
- Theatre: Performer, writer, and producer Sandra Shamas provides a new perspective on the aging process with her work-in-progress, Big Girl Panties. She plays a 55-year-old woman who views middle age as a beginning rather than an end. But even though her experience is very different from those of women in previous generations, she asks why the mainstream media still treats her age group as if it didn’t exist. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street), 8 p.m., $25. Details
- Theatre: Circlesnake Productions closed out the Storefront Theatre’s 2013 season with their production of the TTC crime comedy Special Constables. Now, they’re the first full production in the space since February’s flooding, and space is where their new show is set—it’s a science-fiction adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Dark Matter follows Captain Marlow as she travels to a remote space colony to confront Commander Kurtz, who’s “gone rogue.” As per their previous show, expect a show that translates film’s big-budget effects into highly physical staging for the small stage. The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., PWYC–$20. Details
- Theatre: In line with Tarragon Theatre‘s theme for it 2013/2014 season– “Love, Loss, Wine and the Gods”—the company is currently presenting two one-act plays that document the journey of two very different romantic relationships. The first, in the Tarragon Extra Space, is Duncan MacMillan’s brilliant Lungs, which receives an equally brilliant production from director Weyni Mengesha and actors Lesley Faulkner and Brendan Gall. Lungs is a touching and entertaining portrayal of a couple in love—but above all, it’s honest. It’s that honesty that the show next door in the Tarragon Mainspace, Stephen Sondheim’s song cycle Marry Me a Little, is lacking. Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Avenue), 8 p.m., $21–$53. Details
Theatre: Going into a play with no prior knowledge of the characters, plot, setting, or theatrical style can be a very liberating exercise—most of the time. However, for 6 Essential Questions, on now at Factory Theatre, that approach is highly discouraged.
The play is the theatrical debut of author-turned-playwright Priscila Uppal, and has been adapted from her acclaimed memoir Projection: Encounters With My Runaway Mother, which recounts a trip to Brazil during which she briefly reunited with the mother who’d abandoned her 20 years before. The play follows the same basic storyline, but that becomes clear only about halfway through the 90-minute performance. Uppal’s approach to playwriting appears to be heavy on the poetry and metaphor, and light on context and basic exposition. That can be fine, as long as the audience has a basic understanding of the world being explored, which sadly isn’t the case here. Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street), 8 p.m., $15–$42. Details
- Theatre: Sam Shepard and Patti Smith’s torrid love affair in the early ’70s resulted in Cowboy Mouth, a helter-skelter impression of a lost weekend (or longer) spent in a hotel room while hazy from drugs, alcohol, and rock and roll. The play was last seen in Toronto in the summer of 2013 as part of the Playwrights Project; now, there’s a short, week-long run at Sterling Theatre, featuring Oliver Pigott as rock star Slim, Danka Scepanovic as his manipulative muse Cavale, and Nick Stojanovic as the enigmatic Lobster Man. Each night of the run will feature a different local musical act. Sterling Theatre (163 Sterling Road), 8 p.m., $15–$20. Details
Theatre: Though the sterile walls and forgettable furniture make a hospital hallway seem an unlikely place for any surreal, even magical, moments to happen, anyone who’s spend a nerve-wracking evening in those hallways knows that the mind can play some funny tricks thanks to a combination of stress, sadness, and lack of sleep.
In Jennifer Tremblay’s one-woman-show The Carousel, produced by Nightwood Theatre and on until this Sunday, we see the central figure alone in a hospital hallway, sitting, at first, outside the room where her mother lies dying. The Woman, played by Allegra Fulton, then finds herself tracing out moments from her family’s past, acting out characters ranging from her grandfather to her own small sons, as she attempts to build an understanding of her grandmother, her mother, and herself—and draw similarities between their shared histories and her future. It’s a very theatrical concept, emphasized by dreamlike projections on the set’s blank walls by designer Denyse Karn. An understanding of The Woman’s emotionally distressing situation, though, makes the situation painfully immediate. What else can one do in while in hospital limbo, waiting for an end, but carefully dissect how one got there, and where one is going? Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street), 8 p.m., $25–$45. 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.