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Weekend Planner: March 22-23, 2014

In this Weekend Planner: Roller-derby pandemonium, Henson hysteria, and theatrical ghosts.

Toronto’s best variety acts pay tribute to the puppet mastery of Jim Henson. Image courtesy of Nerdgasm.

  • Sports: Toronto Roller Derby is stirring up some four-wheeled pandemonium with its Quad City Chaos tournament weekend. All day Saturday and Sunday, girls from Montreal, Ohio, Indiana, and Toronto will be tearing up the flat track. The headlining bouts take place Saturday night between Ohio Roller Girls A-Team and Bleeding Heartland Flatliners, followed by Montreal New Skids on the Block versus Toronto’s CN Power. The Bunker, Downsview Park (40 Carl Hall Road, Studio 3), all day and all day, $12 + fees in advance, $18 at the door. Details
  • Offbeat: Paranormal enthusiasts will know that Toronto has a number of haunted hotspots. If you have the guts, see of one these sites for yourself with Haunted Hamilton’s Ghosts of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre. Richard Fiennes-Clinton of the Muddy York Walking Tours will take you on an exclusive tour of this century-old double-decker venue, where more than a few tragedies have resulted in numerous ghostly experiences over the years. Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge Street), Saturday at 6 p.m., $30. Details
  • Fashion: Calling all anachronists! For one day, you can save yourself the trouble of traversing the city to paw through vintage stores, because all sorts of retro fashions will be conveniently located in one place. That’s right, the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show is on, bringing all sorts of garments, jewellery, and accessories from decades past to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Metro Toronto Convention Centre (255 Front Street West), Sunday at 10 a.m., $10. Details
  • Performing Arts: If you’ve ever wanted more Muppet content in your entertainment, well, Nerdgasm is making your dreams come true. Some of the best burlesque dancers, fire and aerial artists, and other variety acts have come together to present Henson Hysteria, an homage to Jim Henson’s masterpieces from Labyrinth to Sesame Street, in true Vaudeville style. The Virgin Mobile Mod Club (722 College Street), Sunday at 7 p.m., $15–$40 + fees. Details

Ongoing…

  • 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), Friday at 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 and all day, $25–$30 + tax. Details
  • Film: Except when it comes to hockey, we Canucks don’t brag about our talents nearly enough. To remedy this, the 2014 Canadian Film Fest is taking over the Royal Cinema for three days to showcase the best of our country’s up-and-coming filmmakers. Now in its eighth year, the fest boasts a diverse program of fourteen shorts, along with six feature films. Among the titles is Alec Toller’s Play the Film, making its Canadian premiere. The Royal Cinema (608 College Street), all day, $12.50 + fees. 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), Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and Sunday at 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), Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 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), Saturday at 11 a.m., FREE. 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), Saturday at 12 p.m.,2:30 p.m.,8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m., $15 per week, $40 for festival pass. 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), Saturday at 2 p.m.,8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., $44–$84. Details
  • Theatre: Megan Follows makes her directorial debut in Nightwood Theatre’s The Carousel, a sequel to The List. Allegra Fulton returns to play an unnamed woman facing the imminent death of her mother. Told through a series of carousel rides, the story explores the complicated relationships between three generations of women. Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street), Saturday at 2 p.m.,8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., $25–$45. Details
  • Theatre: Before Lost took over our lives, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies exposed the ugly side of human nature by marooning children on a deserted island, following a plane crash. The Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts brings the Nigel Williams adaptation of this classic novel to the Toronto stage for just five nights—get tickets while you can! Annex Theatre (730 Bathurst Street), Saturday at 2 p.m.,8 p.m., $22 + fees. Details
  • Theatre: We grew up with stories that ended with “and they lived happily ever after,” but what actually happens during that glossed-over period of time? Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine answer this burning question in their musical Into the Woods. The Trinity College Dramatic Society brings this re-imagining of “Cinderella,” “Rapunzel,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and other such fairy tales to the small stage for a short run of just five nights. George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire Place), Saturday at 2 p.m.,8 p.m., $20, $12 students. 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), Saturday at 2:30 p.m.,8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m., $21–$53. 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), Saturday at 2:30 p.m.,8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m., $21–$53. Details
  • Music: Bebop legend and Jazz Master Sheila Jordan, a contemporary of Charlie “Bird” Parker, is well into her 80s and still performing live. She’s been teaching singers at the Banff Centre for the past fifteen years, and is in Toronto to do a weekend workshop—and a pair of shows, with Don Thompson on piano and Neil Swainson on upright bass. Chalkers Pub Billiards & Bistro (247 Marlee Avenue), Saturday at 6 p.m., $30. Details
  • Theatre: The senior students of U of T Scarborough’s Theatre and Performance Studies are dabbling in witchcraft with their production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Set in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692, this play reveals how quickly suspicion, prejudice, and fear can tear a community apart. Leigha Lee Browne Theatre, U of T Scarborough (1265 Military Trail), Saturday at 7:30 p.m., $8–$10. Details
  • Theatre: You can be taken out of a war, but can you truly remove the war from within you? This question is posed in Kawa Ada’s The Wanderers, a Buddies in Bad Times production about a father and son who flee a battle-worn Afghanistan. Though they start a new life in Canada, the horrors from their homeland refuse to be left behind. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street), Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., PWYC–$37. Details
  • Dance: Christian Bök’s poem, Eunoia, plays by a certain rule: each chapter uses only one vowel throughout. Eunoia, the dance production based on the poem, works with similar restrictions. The piece explores how certain sounds create moods that influence movement. Dancer and choreographer Denise Fujiwara is at the helm of this show, which makes its world premiere at Harbourfront’s World Stage. Harbourfront Centre, Enwave Theatre (231 Queens Quay West), Saturday at 8 p.m., $39. 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), Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 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), Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., PWYC–$20. 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), Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., $15–$42. Details

  • Theatre: There’s a lot of new ground covered in Alanna Mitchell’s solo show, Sea Sick. It’s the first show of the Theatre Centre’s 2014 season, and the first at the centre’s new home at the Carnegie Library. It’s also the first show Theatre Centre’s artistic director Franco Boni has directed in 12 years—he helms this production alongside the company’s artistic director in residence, Ravi Jain. It’s the theatrical debut of Mitchell, a daily reporter for The Globe and Mail turned globetrotting ocean explorer. Sea Sick also provides an opportunity for many in the audience to truly appreciate for the first time the staggering damage that global warming has caused the Earth’s oceans, and the grim future that will mean for life in the water and on land. The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West), Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., $25 to $30. Details

Happening soon:

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.

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