Soulpepper stages a classic choreopoem; the Combustion and Paprika Festivals launch, with opening workshops for minorities and youth; and summer music day festivals begin, with some flood complications.
Thursday, May 18
Soulpepper has assembled a marquee cast of Black women performers for their production of for coloured girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, the groundbreaking “choreopoem” by American writer Ntozake Shange. As far as we can tell, it hasn’t been produced in Toronto in 15 years, and then, not on this scale. The stage is bare—save for an elegantly curved ramp—and matte black, so that when the Ladies, identified by their dress colours in the script and program, appear on stage, they seem to emerge from a void (a very tricky bit of stage and lighting design by Astrid Janson and Michelle Ramsey, respectively). Each woman has a number of stories about growing up, and living, in specific places across America, and seemingly equal opportunities to shine. But there are stand out moments, most certainly; d’bi.young anitafrika (an accomplished choreopoem writer-performer in her own right) has a heart-rending story about a mother trying to protect her children from a mentally unstable father, and Akosua Amo-Adem elicited cheers with a fierce and funny turn as a fed-up woman declaring, “Give me my stuff!” Orchestrated as much as directed by Djanet Sears (with choreography by Jasmyn Fyffe and Vivine Scarlett), it’s a classic work of theatre in the same vein as Angels in America—of its time (Shange did update it about a decade back), yet still acutely topical and vitally important.
To June 3, Young Centre (50 Tank House), Monday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday & Saturday, 1:30 p.m., $32-$89.
Toronto’s queer history is rich and densely layered, and a new compendium features local authors and historians telling many stories of how our city’s queer culture developed. Coach House Books and Buddies In Bad Times Theatre are presenting the Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer book launch with short excerpt readings, a raffle, a short film screening, and (of course) a dance party.
Thursday, Buddies In Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street), 7 p.m., FREE.
Friday, May 19
This month, Toronto’s monthly “sex and sexuality variety show,” Bed Post, features a story from comedian Chris Wilson, tips on dirty talk by Lea Lawrynowicz, and, in a nod perhaps to the improvised show Blind Date (returning to Tarragon Theatre next month), Alisha May going on a date on stage.
Friday, Social Capital Theatre (154 Danforth Avenue), 8 p.m., $15 at the door.
Later in the evening, another cabaret, though it’s only occasionally so risqué. This month’s Crapshoot features Augusto Bitter, The Shaker Secessionists, Lester Trips Theatre, and more, presenting excerpts of their work in progress, to be judged in real time by veteran adjudicators and theatre makers Andrea Donaldson, Bea Pizano, and Marjorie Chan.
Friday, Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue), 10 p.m., PWYC.
Saturday, May 20
It’s the season for outdoor markets and good local food, and today features both a march—the March Against Monsanto, which departs from Yonge-Dundas Square at 11 a.m.—and a day long festival, Celebrate Farm To Fork. The fourth annual farmer’s market will feature presentation from dance company, REAson d’etre dance productions (who, like many of the acts, will have a bee theme); (very) veteran protesters, The Raging Grannies; and speakers from the David Suzuki Foundation and Kids Right To Know.
Saturday, Christie Pits (750 Bloor Street West), noon-6 p.m., FREE.
Before the Combustion Festival‘s full week of improv shows from troupes from across North America (including Portland’s Broke Gravy and Philadelphia’s The Future) kicks off on Monday, producers Bad Dog Theatre are hosting a second Our Cities, Our Stages symposium to encourage more diversity in the local improv scene. A morning meet-and-greet and industry panel explaining the goals of the weekend will be followed by afternoon workshops from Dora winner Anand Rajaram (Second City, Stratford Festival) and social worker Cathy Paton. Saturday’s programming is open to the public, while Sunday’s is for performers/producers only. (The week of shows are, of course, open to all ticket holders.)
Saturday, CSI Annex (720 Bathurst Street), 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., PWYC.
Like Bad Dog, the Paprika Festival is preceding its week of programming with a weekend of workshops, with theirs aimed at performance creators under 30. The Intersection: Safer/Braver Spaces features six different afternoon workshops about aspects of creating and producing performance work, with participants choosing three of them; the evening will feature a PWYC panel hosted by Laura Nanni, SummerWorks artistic director.
Saturday, Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East), 2 p.m.-10 p.m., under 30, PWYC-$16.50.
Staged in the round, Theatre PANIK’s Strangers, Babies‘ cunning set and staging resemble an art gallery exhibition (much like the last show we reviewed there), with audience members milling about and observing the carefully staged tableaus, before protagonist May (Niki Landeau) enters and begins interacting with the men in them, one by one. There’s a trauma of leviathan proportions underpinning every scene, which the characters obliquely reference, but it’ll take some guesswork on the audience’s part to figure it out; the scenes were written out of order chronologically by Scottish playwright Linda McLean, and current events in the U.K. in the 90s that would have been fresh in her audience’s minds are likely unfamiliar to us. The compelling part of the show is deducing that and other aspects of May’s life, Memento-style, as well as weighing the likelihood of her getting what she needs from the men, and finding a way to move on with her life; a happy ending seems unlikely, but there are small surprises in all of her interactions.
To May 28, Artscape Sandbox (301 Adelaide Street West), Tuesday-Saturday, 8 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 2 p.m., $26-$39.
Sunday, May 21
For Sunday, the Regent Park Arts and Culture Centre switches over from youth symposium to local business market. The Black Owned Summer Pop-Up Market will feature dozens of local businesses and vendors exhibiting, with music and dance, food and drink. (Admission is free, but bring your wallet.)
Sunday, Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East), 2 p.m.-7 p.m., FREE.
To kick off their summer programming, Sunnyside Pavilion’s Sunnyside Season Launch Party has a very special guest headliner, in addition to the half dozen local DJs on the bill for their all day event. Berlin-based Anja Schneider is a rarity in the international EDM scene; a veteran turntablist, broadcaster, and label owner (mobilee records), and a woman who started out when female DJs were few and far between.
Sunday, Sunnyside Pavilion (1755 Lake Shore Boulevard West), 4 p.m.-11 p.m., $20-$30.
Monday, May 22
The Lunchtime Live concert series at Yonge-Dundas Square kicked off earlier this month, but today’s is special for two reasons: one, lots of people have the day off, and don’t need to schedule around work, and two, Birds of Bellwoods are one of Toronto’s most promising emerging bands.
Monday, Yonge-Dundas Square (1 Dundas Street East), 12:30 p.m., FREE.
There were supposed to be spending the day rocking the Island, but with carp in the baseball fields and ferry access restricted, the Electric Island concert series has moved to the mainland, for their May and June editions, anyway. Still on the bill, and playing by the water down at Woodbine Park, are artists like Ben Klock, Bedoin, Red Axes, and more, on two stages. (If you still desperately want to see music on an island, The xx play Echo Beach tonight.)
Monday, Woodbine Park (1695 Queen Street East), 1 p.m.-11 p.m., $50-$70.
Tuesday, May 23
Starting tonight and running to the weekend, Tarragon Theatre’s annual Play Reading Series is a chance to get to hear new work in progress from associated playwrights and artists, free of charge, and maybe even provide some feedback when it’s over. The members of the 2017 Playwrights writing unit—Gillian Clark, Elyse Friedman, Chloé Hung, Rose Napoli, and Meghan Greeley—will all be presenting what they have so far, one a night (check here for the schedule).
Tuesday-Saturday, Tarragon Theatre Near Studio (30 Bridgman Avenue, upstairs), doors at 7:30 p.m., readings at 8 p.m., FREE.
Also at Tarragon, running in the main space, is Midsummer (a play with songs). It seems a curious choice to end Tarragon’s season; a “two-hander” suitcase comedy featuring a smattering of on-stage songs and a tale of a far-fetched weekend adventure shared by two struggling middle-aged alcoholics. It’s well staged by director Tamara Bernier Evans, and veteran actor-singers Carly Street and Brandon McGibbon have a winsome chemistry. An awkward drunken sex scene made the parents in the family unit sitting in the front row mildly uncomfortable, but for the most part, the family (and the rest of the healthy audience) seemed truly engaged. Perhaps it’s a smooth segue from the challenging original fare Tarragon is known for, to the Fringe festival programming that will be on the their stages in July. In any event, if you choose to spend your long weekend seeing it (it would be a fine date choice), you can do so for $24 with the code MAY24.
To May 28, Tarragon Theatre 930 Bridgman Avenue), Tuesday-Saturday, 8 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 2:30 p.m., $22-$60.
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