Discuss the limits of free speech and what to do with Old City Hall; see The Rainbow Chorus and Basia Bulat in concert; see theatre in a snowstorm (Beaver) and comedy in a cloud, with Terry Bockston.
Urban Planner is your weekly curated guide to what’s on in Toronto—things that are local, affordable, and exceptional.
Monday, November 21
In the wake of the U.S. election, where misinformation and outright lying was commonly used by the winning candidate (and with many suggesting fake news and satirical websites played a hand in his win), freedom of speech online has become a pressing topic. Tonight’s fifth edition of Civil Debates will focus on harassment, Canadian Charter rights, and the feasibility of limits on free speech, especially how that might impact artistic expression, with an all-star line-up of theatre artists: Brad Fraser, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, and Shaista Latif, plus civil-rights lawyer Abby Deshman and moderator Sarah Garton Stanley. The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West), 7 :30 p.m., PWYC.
Tonight, the boys of Party Hard Hard Party welcome some high-profile female pairs to their improv show, including Baroness von Sketch Show co-creators Aurora Browne and Carolyn Taylor, recent Second City members Lindsay Mullan and Leigh Cameron, and Second City alum Jan Caruana (Sunnyside) and Dale Boyer (Night of the Living Dead Live). Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor Street West), 9:30 p.m., $10.
Tuesday, November 22
What to do with Old City Hall? The historic building has been used primarily as a courthouse for the past few decades, but the provincial and municipal courts are scheduled to move within five years, and the prime real estate at Queen and Bay has many people interested in possible public uses, including as a city museum. The Old City Hall Future Uses consultation will feature presentations by City staff and solicit ideas from the general public in a panel discussion afterward. Metro Hall, room 308 (55 John Street), 6:30 p.m., FREE.
The Ethnic Aisle blog is presenting a panel discussion and dinner as a fundraiser for the publication, which focuses on discussions of culture and race in the GTA. Its Filipino-themed event, Will There Be Halo Halo?, will feature The Kapisanan Centre’s Nicole Cajucom, Lamesa’s head chef Daniel Cancino, editor Ethel Tungohan, and, of course, a feast of Filipino food. Super Wonder Gallery (876 Bloor Street West), 6:30 p.m., $35–$55.
Just opened at the Tarragon Theatre, Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses, directed by Tarragon’s artistic director Richard Rose, showcases two couples in a idyllic rural mountain town who connect over shared difficulties—that is, a medical disorder that affects cognitive ability. We don’t want to go into any more detail than that, but we will say that the four cast members—Susan Coyne, Tom Barnett, Patrick McManus, and Jenny Young—are sublime, portraying people affected by fear and frustration who still desperately yearn for connection and humour in their lives. The revolving stage designed by Charlotte Dean is especially effective—it’s rare to see montages done so well on stage. Both this show and The Circle (see Friday’s listing) at Tarragon have “indie unite” ticket pricing for tonight only, at $22 a pop. To December 18, Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Avenue), Tues-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m., $22–$65.
Wednesday, November 23
The original intent behind Music of the Rainbow Nation was to showcase the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University choir, which was to travel here from Port Elizabeth, South Africa. But a nation-wide strike over post-secondary fees scuttled the students’ trip, so Soundstreams has recreated the intended performance with local music talent, including Lorraine Klaasen and the Rainbow Chorus, opera soloist Justin Hopkins, and special guests Kim Sanssoucie and Batsile Ramasodi, two actors from Johannesburg who’ll intersperse the musical performances with readings from Mandela’s writing. Koerner Hall (273 Bloor Street West), 7 p.m. reception, 8 p.m. show, $22–$67.50.
Winter has officially begun, and in the opening scene of Beaver, the remount of Claudia Dey’s first play, a dysfunctional family leaves Beatrice (a wide-eyed and mutable Chala Hunter) at her mother’s wake as a storm descends on their town of Timmins. Directed by Shakespeare in the Ruff’s Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, the mostly female ensemble of characters crackles with spite, antipathy, and resentment of each other, with poor Beatrice/Beave forced to leave her alcoholic father (a pitiable and yet resolute Jimi Shlag) to live with her stern but fragile aunt (Carmen Grant) and is plagued by visions of her dead mother (PJ Prudat). Every cast member has plenty to dig into, as Dey’s gift for poetic prose was already well-developed for her debut, though her later plays were better plotted (the first act is overlong, while the second is chronologically mixed). We were especially riveted by Katie Swift’s wild woman Dorris, who delivers several mesmerizing monologues. Wednesday nights are PWYC for this final week of the show, whose story of Beaver’s quest for self-emancipation is ultimately life-affirming. To November 27, Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West), Wednesday–Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., $25.
Thursday, November 24
It’s a bit difficult to describe Capitalist Duets in brief, but we’ll try: 14 artists have been given “micro-grants” by Public Recordings to create duets. Seven such duets will premiere as part of this show, and they’ll be performed simultaneously, perhaps not as songs, as many are not singers but technicians, poets, and more. According to Public Recordings, “everyone involved holds the status of performer.” Said performers include Imposter host Aliya Pabani, Theatre Centre artistic director Franco Boni, Liz Peterson, and a dozen more. To November 27, The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West), Thursday–Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., $12–$15.
For the season finale of Cloud Comedy, co-hosts Chris Wilson and Marty Topps have booked some sketch and stand-up heavy hitters, including DeAnne Smith, Sam Mullins, Get Some, and the Toronto headlining debut of “Terry Bockston,” a hack comic alter ego of Wilson’s that took on a life of his own on social media. Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor Street West), 9:30 p.m., $10.
Friday, November 25
Polaris Prize-winning musician and activist Tanya Tagaq brings her Retribution tour, with the new material on her so-titled new album, to Toronto, along with opener Michele Nox. It’s an all ages show, though if her new titular video for the album is any indication, younger children (and some adults) may find some of her newer material pretty scary. Trinity St. Paul’s (427 Bloor Street West), 6 :30 p.m., $34.50.
It’s the final week (and weekend) to catch The Circle, Geoffrey Simon Brown’s teens-in-a-garage morality play, directed by Peter Pasyk (Killer Joe, Late Company). There’s some fine work by the younger cast (none of whom are actual teens, but most of whom are making their Tarragon debut), especially Brian Solomon as a socially disastrous street kid, and the realistic dimensions of the set keep things unusually intimate for the space (which no doubt required some careful choreographic work by Pasyk, the cast, and fight director Steve Wilsher). Some “b” plot character development fizzles, and antagonistic events are a shade too foreshadowed. Still, it’s an intriguing change of pace from Tarragon’s normally more “mature” work on stage. To November 27, Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Avenue), Tuesday–Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2:30 p.m., $22–$65.
Weekend, November 26-27
Pat Thornton, Torontoist Hero, has starred in critically acclaimed (but commercially short-lived) comedy series like Sunnyside and Hotbox and appeared in many more projects on screen. But to date, he hasn’t recorded his own comedy album. That’ll change this weekend when Thornton headlines two album tapings, with special guests Todd Graham and Kathleen Phillips at the early show, Tim Gilbert and James Hartnett at the late show, and Dawn Whitwell hosting both shows. In typically absurd form, Thornton plans to name the resulting album after his dog, Chicken. Saturday, Comedy Bar (945 Bloor Street West), 7 p.m. & 9 p.m., $10.
There’s been a fair amount of upheaval in Basia Bulat‘s life of late; she moved to Montreal from Toronto, ended a long-term relationship, and wrote her latest album, Good Advice, in the wake of those changes. It’s been getting great reviews, and the always enchanting performer will be performing the material at her largest hometown headliner show to date. Saturday, Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth Avenue), doors at 7:30 p.m., $29.50–$39.75.
We’ve lost track of what number this weekend’s Wavelength show is (something in the 700s?), but there will be a first for the prolific and award-winning music showcase–their first time at the venue, the DIY-encouraging bike repair shop Bike Pirates. On the bill: Ice Cream, HanHan (with members of HATAW), Vancouver’s Plazas, and Bénédicte. Saturday, Bike Pirates (1416 Queen Street West), 9 p.m., $7 in advance, $10 at the door.
The Cycle Toronto Advocacy Forum is looking to empower more community members with its all-day workshop. Before lunch, organizers will be tackling “Advocacy 101” as it pertains to the group, going over the basics of Cycle Toronto and how it interacts with City Hall. After (a provided) lunch, the afternoon will focus on initiatives members can take up in their own neighbourhoods and how to work in conjunction with the organization to (hopefully) see results. The day is free for members, or $30 for those who wish to join the organization and participate. Sunday, Metro Hall (55 John Street), 10 a.m.–5 p.m., FREE–$30 (pre-registration required).
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