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NXNE 2013: Genre By Genre, Our Best Bets

Fans in Yonge-Dundas Square during NXNE 2011. You too could be this stoked.

Fans in Yonge-Dundas Square during NXNE 2011. You too could be this stoked.

  • Multiple venues
  • All day

It’s hard to believe, but if North by Northeast was a person, it would be old enough to drink this year. The festival, which started out 19 years ago as a pale imitation of Austin’s South by Southwest, is now a force to be reckoned with in its own right. It’s a place where up-and-coming acts from around the world come to get noticed. It also provides a few of Toronto’s best free concerts in any given year, lined up back-to-back.

Every year, we come out of NXNE with a new favourite band that we refuse to shut up about for the rest of the summer. The only problem is, finding that new favourite band involves sorting through literally hundreds of contenders. We’ve managed to come up with a totally subjective list of acts worth seeing, broken down by genre, to help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

Here are a few key tips that apply to fans of all genres.

Details: NXNE 2013: Genre By Genre, Our Best Bets

New Toronto Production of Cats Meets Expectations

Cats Ensemble. Photo by Racheal McCaig.

Cats Ensemble. Photo by Racheal McCaig.

  • Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge Street)
  • 1:30 p.m.

Cats is a challenging musical to stage for a number of reasons. The narrative is thin and strange; the lyrics are drawn primarily from T.S. Eliot’s poetry collection Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats, with more borrowed from some other Eliot poems, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night” (which original director Trevor Nunn adapted into the song “Memory”) and “Moments of Happiness.” The result is not so much a story as ideas and character sketches. Old Deuteronomy, patriarch of the Jellicle Cats, calls the creatures together once a year to celebrate, and for one cat to be chosen to ascend to the Heaviside Layer (essentially, to die and be reincarnated). Most of the songs detail the adventures and virtues of a single cat in particular, essentially serving as that cat’s audition for the honour of ascension.

Details: New Toronto Production of Cats Meets Expectations

Passion Play‘s Journey Through Time

The Director (Jordan Pettle) speaks to "J" (Andrew Kushnir) while they rehearse the crucifixion scene.

The Director (Jordan Pettle) speaks to "J" (Andrew Kushnir) while they rehearse the crucifixion scene.

  • Eastminister Church (310 Danforth Avenue)
  • 1:30 p.m.

There are a lot of chefs in the kitchen for the Canadian premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play, a triptych set in three time periods that tells the stories of amateur actors (played by real actors) involved in staging performances of the story of Christ. Three different Toronto independent theatre companies, all with reputations for innovative staging and creation in their past work, each tackle one of the three acts. Ordinarily, such a complicated arrangement would be to a show’s detriment, but not in this case. While you need to be prepared for a marathon of theatre (the show runs four hours, incluing two intermissions), you’re certainly going to get your money’s worth.

Details: Passion Play‘s Journey Through Time

An Interview With Carmen Choreographer Davide Bombana

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While the Toronto International Film Festival may have shifted into a more relaxed mode, it’s still offering plenty of opportunities to gawk at movie stars—they’re just a little more spread out. Midweek, fans could catch the premieres of Good Kill (Ethan Hawke as a drone pilot), Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg’s new bit of oddness), The Imitation Game (Benedict Cumberbatch as World War II cryptographer Alan Turing), Jauja (Viggo Mortensen, and we don’t know much else really), Laggies (Sam Rockwell and Keira Knightley in a comedy about people taking their sweet time to grow up), October Gale (Patricia Clarkson and Scott Speedman in a thriller/drama set in a remote cabin), Pawn Sacrifice (about the chess duels between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer), The Cobbler (Adam Sandler’s latest) and Escobar (Benicio Del Toro is the famous drug kingpin).


Want more TIFF coverage? Torontoist‘s film festival hub is right over here.
Details: TIFF 2014 Scenes: Tuesday–Thursday Nights, Featuring Good Kill, Maps to the Stars, The Imitation Game, Jauja, Laggies, and More

Bard in the Park: The Merry Wives of Windsor

Bard in the Park presents Merry Wives of Windsor. Image courtesy of Bard in the Park.

Bard in the Park presents Merry Wives of Windsor. Image courtesy of Bard in the Park.

  • Kew Gardens Park (2075 Queen Street East)
  • 2 p.m.

It’s a sure sign of summer when theatre productions start popping up in green spaces across Toronto. Launching into their eighth season, Bard in the Park is happy to present The Merry Wives of Windsor. In this Shakespearean comedy, the vain, yet cowardly, knight Sir Falstaff attempts to pursue two wealthy women in hopes of financial gain. Embarrassment ensues.

Details: Bard in the Park: The Merry Wives of Windsor

Luminato 2013: Concerto for Piano & Pasteboards Speaks To Everyone

Paz Sabater and Miguel Puga. Photo by Joaquin Puga.

Paz Sabater and Miguel Puga. Photo by Joaquin Puga.

  • Koerner Hall (273 Bloor Street West)
  • 7:30 p.m.

When Miguel Puga first spoke after performing a couple of introductory card tricks, it was in part to apologize for his broken English. The Spaniard, known also as MagoMigue (yes, that’s pretty much Spanish for Magic Mike), may not have the greatest command of the language, but he then proceeded to prove his assertion, as trite as it may sound, that magic possesses a universal power that can transcend ordinary communication. Blessed with a naturally funny presence and an undeniable gift for showmanship, Puga’s expert card manipulations were every bit as impressive as the apparent telepathic abilities he put to good effect on more than one occasion.

Details: Luminato 2013: Concerto for Piano & Pasteboards Speaks To Everyone

Luminato 2013: Ronnie Burkett’s The Daisy Theatre

Puppeteer Ronnie Burkett plays with an assortment of marionettes old and new  in his nightly cabaret show, The Daisy Theatre. Photo courtesy of Luminato.

Puppeteer Ronnie Burkett plays with an assortment of marionettes old and new in his nightly cabaret show, The Daisy Theatre. Photo courtesy of Luminato.

  • Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street)
  • 9:30 p.m.

Ronnie Burkett has solidified his reputation as Canada’s premiere solo puppeteer with complex full-length plays, like the Memory Dress Trilogy, or last year’s “apocalyptic comedy” Penny Plain. So it’s a rare treat to see him cut loose and perform The Daisy Theatre. It’s a free-wheeling show that’s different each night, with audience participation, special guests, and some new marionettes and stage trappings paid for out of Luminato’s coffers.

Details: Luminato 2013: Ronnie Burkett’s The Daisy Theatre

Luminato 2013: Jason Collett’s Courtyard Revue

Cover band extraordinaire Vag Halen ends every night at the Luminato Courtyard Revue. Photo by David Leyes.

Cover band extraordinaire Vag Halen ends every night at the Luminato Courtyard Revue. Photo by David Leyes.

  • Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street)
  • 11:30 p.m.

Jason Collett’s Basement Revue has long been a local hot ticket for those with an interest in what the lanky musician and his Broken Social Scene pals are up to—with a generous mix of other literary, theatrical, and cultural talents mixed in. The nightly late-night Luminato edition, the Courtyard Revue, staged in the lobby of Canadian Stage’s Berkeley Street Theatre (and spilling out into the open-air courtyard), is offering more of Collett and co-producer Damian Rogers’ carefully selected programming. The difference, however, is that, with a larger venue and profile due to Luminato, some of the acts look to be more than one-night-only tryouts.

Details: Luminato 2013: Jason Collett’s Courtyard Revue