What to Do in Toronto November 7–13: Wasteland, Pomona, and Pussy Riot

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What to Do in Toronto November 7–13: Wasteland, Pomona, and Pussy Riot

Horror and apocalypse themes in theatre and comedy; appearances by Amy Schumer and The Elwins; Remembrance Day ceremonies; and Iceland's finest.

Urban Planner is your weekly curated guide to what’s on in Toronto—things that are local, affordable, and exceptional.

Photo courtesy of Get Some.

Photo courtesy of Get Some.


Monday, November 7

The Giller Prize, Canada’s most lucrative award for fiction writing, will be awarded tonight, and the live broadcast will be shown at seven different venues across the country simultaneously—but the actual giant cheque will be handed out here in Toronto. Our city’s Giller Light Bash will feature hosts Vivek Shraya and Evan Munday, and guests from the the CBC TV gala broadcast, hosted by Steve Patterson, will likely end up at the bash—including, perhaps, the winner? Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East), 7 p.m., $35–$40.

Called Toronto’s best sketch act (first by Torontoist and the Toronto Sketch Festival, then by Toronto Life), the loosely affiliated supergroup Get Some has managed to round up the whole pack for a pair of Monday night shows, tonight and November 14. The collective’s busy members include Kyle Dooley (Second City’s Come What Mayhem), and Laura Cilevitz and Miguel Rivas (whose satirical TV news show The Beaverton premieres Wednesday night on the Comedy Network). Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor Street West), 9 p.m., $10.


Bria McLaughlin and Michelle Chiu in Swan. Photo by Cesar Ghisillie.

Bria McLaughlin and Michelle Chiu in Swan. Photo by Cesar Ghisilieri.


Tuesday, November 8

Little Black Afro Theatre Company’s first full production, Swan, is a mystery thriller set in Hamilton, where a group of former teen quasi-celebrities, alumnae of a lesbian environmental activist group, reunite a decade later to investigate an unsolved mystery. Written and directed by Aaron Jan, the cast is all young women of colour—their characters knowingly and bitterly refer to themselves as “the other” in their “colourblind” harbour city—and it’s refreshing to see them portraying heroes, villains, and flawed people in-between, especially driven protagonists Joey (Bria McLaughlin) and Rachel (Isabel Kanaan). Dramaturged by Lucy Powis, with assistance both financial and creative from fu-GEN Theatre and Factory Theatre artistic director Nina Lee Aquino, the unsettling story could be a spiritual successor to Jordan Tannahill’s recently remounted teen drama Concord Floral. Both unfold in neglected urban nature locations, as our heroines are increasingly drawn into a horrifying series of events sparked by their unfinished teen business. To November 13, Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue), Tuesday–Saturday 7:30 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 2 p.m., $12–$20.

Just down the street, fu-Gen and Aquino are debuting a full production of David Yee’s acquiesce, a project he and Aquino first began 15 years prior. Encouraged by Factory’s recently deceased dramaturg Iris Turcott, it’s the opening show in Factory’s “Beyond The Great White North” 2016–2017 season. Fittingly, it takes place both in Toronto and Hong Kong, as troubled novelist Sin Hwang (Yee) travels to China for the first time to reluctantly deal with the funeral preparations for his estranged father. More meditative and introspective than Yee’s previous plays, the production benefits greatly from an inspired use of Factory’s large main space by Aquino and designers Robin Fisher, Michelle Ramsey, Michelle Bensimon, and Joanna Yu—there’s bravura sequences involving water, snow, and more flowing into and out of Sin’s luggage—as well as strong comedic supporting turns by Richard Lee and John Ng. To November 27, Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street), Tuesday–Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m., $25–$55.



Wednesday, November 9

Native Earth’s 29th annual Weesageechak Festival features writing, poetry, dance, and more from Indigenous artists across Canada, including Drew Hayden Taylor, Olivia C. Davies, and Craig Lauzon. Some highlights this year include a two-spirit cabaret hosted by Gwen Benaway, and one-night-only performances of Tenille Campbell and Andréa Ledding’s Fancydance: The Musical, and Brad Fraser’s Ménage à Trois. To November 19, Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East), events & times vary, $15 per night, $60 festival pass.

She was a live stand-up highlight of the 2014 JFL42 festival, and since then, she’s become a best-selling author (of Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo), filmmaker (star and writer of 2015’s Trainwreck), and a high-visibility target of critics on both the left and right. Judge Amy Schumer‘s feminist, liberal, activist, but mostly, comedy bona fides for yourself at her one-night -only Toronto tour stop. Air Canada Centre (40 Bay Street), 8 p.m., $39–$140.

Well, Second City took our advice and gave theatre troupe Sex T-Rex some late-night slots on their main stage in which to remount their comedically ultra-violent take on the apocalypse, Wasteland. A hapless janitor (Conor Bradbury) escapes from the warlord Marshall (Seann Murray) and travels with an unusually talented dog (puppeteered by Kaitlin Morrow) in search of a safe haven radio station that plays all the hits of the 80s. The troupe’s hyperkinetic comedy style will be on full display, creating epic chase scenes and mutant-on-survivor knock-down brawls with just their bodies and a couple of tubes. November 9, 16–17, Second City Toronto (51 Mercer Street), 10:30 p.m., $15.


Bahareh Yaraghi in Ponoma. Photo by Christopher Stanton.

Bahareh Yaraghi in Pomona. Photo by Christopher Stanton.

Thursday, November 10

They’ve been relatively quiet since The Sketchersons absorbed three-quarters of the troupe into their weekly shows, but Panacea—Gillian Bartolucci, Nicky Nasrallah, Marshall Lorenzo, and Allana Reoch—is back with new material and a monthly showcase of their wicked sketch ideas. Joining them for their inaugural show are Jackie Pirico and musical duo Flo & Joan (who may very well also guest on Songbuster after). Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor Street West), 8 p.m., $10.

In a week of spooky theatre offerings, Alistair McDowall’s Pomona was the most terrifying we’ve seen. Set in a strange underworld version of Manchester, England (the cast has kept the setting but foregone the accent), director Christopher Stanton and a top-notch design team have staged this show in a large, shallow, and immersive space, with the stage covered in what appears to be charcoal and ash, and plastic sheeting and exposed scaffolding, much of which will end up with blood on it. A disparate cast of characters works to uncover (or cover up) the secret of why people keep going missing in a desolate space in the centre of town. There are elements of roleplaying games and the mythology of writer H.P. Lovecraft, with scenes in particular between a mysterious girl (Bahareh Yaraghi) and a geeky security guard (Ryan Hollyman) that will certainly seem familiar to Stranger Things fans. To November 19, Geary Lane (360 Geary Avenue), Tuesday–Saturday 8 p.m. (no shows November 8–9), Saturday–Sunday 2 p.m., $19–$34.


Friday, November 11

Torontoist‘s 2015 list of Remembrance Day ceremonies holds true for this year as well, including the 8 a.m. sunrise ceremony at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the University of Toronto observance, and the city’s main commemoration, just across from Nathan Phillips Square. Don’t forget, if you can’t attend in person, you can still mark the two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. wherever you are. If you’re in front of a computer, you watch the online simulcast of the National War Memorial’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Old City Hall Cenotaph (60 Queen Street West), 10:45 a.m., FREE.

Like the protagonist in acquiesce, Edward Talbot (played by playwright Joshua Browne) sees things others can’t in Circlesnake’s The Queen’s Conjuror. Whether or not the demon/angel (played by John Fray) that Edward sees is real is left to the audience’s imagination, but academic husband and wife team John and Jane Dee (played with conviction by Tim Walker and Sochi Fried) are convinced his visitations hold information of great import for Queen Elizabeth I (Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah). Director Alec Toller carefully ramps up the pressure on the mystics until they find themselves considering compromising sacred vows and morals, with everything playing out in intimate parlour play style in the close confines of The Attic Arts Hub. The detailed work by set and costume designer Erica-Maria Causi goes a long way in transporting the audience to Elizabethan England, where much of what the Dees and co. are doing could be considered dangerous heresy; a subplot about Edward’s treatment of Jane and his own wife Joanna (Roberts-Abduallah as well) simmers slowly but unexpectedly shifts the stakes in the second act. To November 20, The Attic Arts Hub (1402 Queen Street East, 3rd floor), Wednesday–Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m., $20–$30.

Chipper rock band The Elwins buck the trend of all this week’s dark and mature entertainment picks, headlining a show at Adelaide Hall with fellow guy-pop purveyors The Kents and The Nursery. The Elwins have been on tour across Canada all fall, so they’re honed to deliver on the power-pop tunes from their 2015 album Play For Keeps. Adelaide Hall (250 Adelaide Street West), doors 8 p.m., $10.



Weekend November 12–13

The Naked Heart Festival, “an LGBTQ festival of words,” features readings, workshops, and cabarets over its three days of programming, including a Friday night book launch at Glad Day for Kai Cheng Thom’s memoir, a Saturday night POC literary “mash-up” at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and a Sunday night Grit Lit reading by authors on themes of pleasure and pain. Friday–Sunday, various venues, FREE–$39 (festival pass).

Raw dance-theatre piece KATA, from Theatre Parallax Toronto, returns to its home city after a successful run at the Wales World Stage Festival. Its four male dancers have trained, dieted, and worked out for months, body sculpting in order to effectively portray the rising body issues in hyper (some might say toxic) masculinity. The audience takes the role of investors, asked to consider if the performers, who push themselves further and further physically onstage, should be considered “sustainable investments.” To 20 November, Dancemakers (15 Case Goods Lane, Studio 301), Tuesday–Saturday 8 p.m., Saturday–Sunday 1 p.m., PWYC-$25.

Russian artists/feminists/activists Pussy Riot return to Toronto, several days after an extraordinarily toxic (and as of press time, too close to call) U.S. election, to sit in conversation with Damian Abraham. The fervent critics of strongman Russian president Vladimir Putin will no doubt have some interesting perspectives on current international politics, and the role of art and music in influencing them. (Note the recent venue change, for those already holding tickets.) Saturday, Velvet Underground (508 Queen Street West), doors at 7 p.m., $27.50.

More guests from across the ocean: the annual Taste of Iceland festival, which endeavours to expose Torontonians to the culture, cuisine, and virtues of the northern island nation, culminates with a rock showcase Saturday night, entitled Reykjavik Calling. This year’s special guests are roots troubadour Axel Flóvent and pop act Ceasetone, with local support act LAL. Saturday, Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen Street West), doors at 9 p.m., FREE.

Filmmaker Mitch Fillion is best known for his massive body of work documenting live musical performances for Southern Souls; his series, which we profiled after his first year, has now filmed thousands of videos for (mostly) Canadian acts. His latest project, however, is a feature-length film, Calling Occupants, about a young man yearning to be abducted by aliens. It features cameos from some of Fillion’s favourite artists. It recently had its world premiere at a festival in Hamilton, and now gets a one-night-only screening in Toronto. Sunday, CineCycle (129 Spadina Avenue), doors at 5:30 p.m., $10 in advance, $15 at the door.


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