In today's Urban Planner: the city's ghostly past, the smartest funnyman in the world, and the out-of-this-world offerings of Fan Expo.
- Offbeat: There’ll be a full moon in the sky, so it’ll be a good night to take a stroll as the sun goes down and learn about some of Toronto’s spookier history. The Ghosts, Greasepaint, & Gallows walk, led by guide Shirley Lum, starts off at St. Lawrence Market and weaves through the downtown east end visting former jails, hanging sites, vaudeville theatres, and more, including the historic Mackenzie House—which supposedly still houses restless spirits. St. Lawrence Market (92 Front Street East), 6:30 p.m., $15-$25. Details
- Comedy: Veteran stand-up comic and improviser Greg Proops returns to Toronto for three shows at Comedy Bar. On Friday night, he’ll be taping an episode of his “Proopcast” The Smartest Man In The World. And on Saturday night, he’ll headline early (7 p.m.) and late (11 p.m.) stand-up showcases, with guest openers like Steve Scholtz, Bobby Knauff, and Pete Zedlacher. Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $20. 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
- Art: “Before and After the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes“ is a collaborative effort of the AGO and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, in New York City, where the exhibition recently wrapped up after a one-year run. The displays are organized by themes relating to Anishinaabe concepts of place and spirituality, and how they interact with the outside world. One of the most intriguing themes is “cottager colonialism,” which suggests that the colonization of indigenous land continues by way of vacationing tourists. Political statements are scattered throughout the exhibition, from Nadia Myre’s bead-covered pages of the Indian Act to the use of historical indigenous status documents in Robert Houle’s “Premises” series. Floral beaded bags and leggings, meanwhile, provide inspiration for the contemporary paintings of Christi Belcourt, an Ontario Arts Council Aboriginal Arts Award recipient. Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas Street West), all day, $19.50 (included with general adult admission). Details
- Theatre: Only about two hours away from Toronto, madness is infiltrating the town of Stratford, Ontario—but fortunately, it’s the kind that produces delightful results. Stratford Festival artistic director Antoni Cimolino has designed this year’s season around the theme “Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge,” and explores it through everything from jukebox musicals to Shakespearean tragedies. And with the festival’s increasingly popular twice-daily bus service to and from downtown (in its second year), it’s easy to get a taste of what the mania is all about. Here’s Torontoist‘s take on a sampling of this year’s festival offerings—Ira Glass and his opinions notwithstanding, a whole lot of people would welcome a chance to spend some time with the Bard and some of Canada’s most esteemed artists. Multiple venues, all day, $25–$133. Details
Art: Alex Colville’s paintings include some of the most recognizable works of Canadian art. Prints of his iconic Horse and Train and To Prince Edward Island hang in homes and classrooms and art shops around the world. And yet the Toronto-born artist, whose career spanned seven decades, is not often celebrated for the incredible influence he had on artists of many media.
With its new exhibition, “Alex Colville“, opening August 23, the Art Gallery of Ontario has mounted a show that not only documents the career of one of Canada’s most prolific artists, but also examines the nature of inspiration in art, literature, film, and beyond. Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas Street West). Details
- Festivals: Every year, just before the fall kicks in, it’s time for Fan Expo, the city’s annual convention for every hobby that might potentially involve dressing up in an elaborate costume: comics, horror, anime, gaming, sci-fi—you name it. As always, the con is promoting dozens of huge events. (There are two high-profile—and expensive—reunion events, for example: Patrick Stewart shares a panel with William Shatner, and Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Arthur Darvill reunite to thrill Doctor Who nerds everywhere). And the speed-dating is back for another year, meaning the organizers are still hopeful they’ll find straight male nerds willing to try out speed-dating (it happens every year: the women’s slots fill up and, despite there being plenty of single dudes about, the men are always outnumbered). But there are lots of other things to do at Fan Expo. Here are seven of them. Metro Toronto Convention Centre (255 Front Street West), all day, Day passes $25–50, Four-day passes $115–149. Details
- Music: Yes, Toronto has a huge number of music festivals, but we’re not complaining! Soundtrack of the City gives you something to do every night this long weekend as bands take over Kensington Market. Cover is cheap, the showcases are within stumbling distance of each other, and many of the venues will be serving alcohol until 4 a.m. What more could you want? Multiple venues, 7 p.m. and 7 p.m., $5-$10. Details
- Film: There’s a moment in the 2002 Academy Award telecast where the camera pans across the crowd during a standing ovation for the freshly minted Best Director winner Ron Howard and finds, standing in the aisle together with conspiratorial grins on their faces, none other than David Lynch and Robert Altman, a pair of high-profile losers who the comparatively green Howard had just bested. Altman never won that competitive Oscar before his death in 2006 (though he did get an honorary award in 2001), but even more so than Lynch he’s become a bellwether of quality American filmmaking—a roguish sort who brought an idiosyncratic authorial signature to studio films in the 1970s. Tied to the upcoming release of Toronto filmmaker Ron Mann’s profile of the late filmmaker, TIFF Cinematheque’s retrospective “Company Man: The Best of Robert Altman” is a fine introduction, screening 18 of the iconoclastic filmmaker’s most important works. TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West), 6:30 p.m., Prices vary. Details
- Theatre: If the thought of battling crowds at the Aquarium has you feeling a little crabby, may we suggest an underwater voyage of a different kind? Bring the kids (or your adult friends, whatever) to the Lower Ossington Theatre’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. The classic story of a whimsical mermaid, a land-living prince, and her desire to be part of his world has been specially adapted for younger audiences, and will only be onstage this August. Al Green Theatre (750 Spadina Avenue), 7 p.m., $29.99- $59.99. 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.