Seamlessness can be a yawn. This year, the Parkdale Film and Video Showcase has programmed sabotage into its lineup. Sometime during the festival weekend, artist Jon Sasaki will try to shut off each of the monitors displaying the other video installations in the showcase. Ostensibly Sasaki’s jealous retaliation over the disappointing outcome of his own piece, this act of planned troublemaking finds an appropriate home in a festival that, due to funding uncertainties, almost didn’t happen this summer.
The Beaches International Jazz Festival marks its 25th anniversary as it wraps up its 2013 edition this weekend. On tap are lots of cover bands, pan flute-led ensembles, and a sea of boomers in Hawaiian shirts walking their dogs.
Is that “Cheeseburger in Paradise” you just heard? Probably. Is that 70-year-old white gentleman in the “Canadian Tuxedo” doing a Bob Marley cover? You bet he is. One love, Toronto. Calling this event a jazz festival at this point is just illogical. The flavour is really more akin to the Taste of the Danforth, or Taste of the Kingsway,than a music festival.
So what’s the best way to enjoy this fest? Grab a seat on one of Queen Street East’s many great patios, get a bite and drink and soak up the great weather and the people watching. If you’re interested in going specifically for the music, don’t linger or wander. Head directly to see one of our top three picks, which are below.
Local performer and playwright Haley McGee is bringing her award-winning, one-woman show to the world famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, and she’s doing three warm-up performances in Toronto before crossing the ocean. Oh My Irma has already won awards in New York, Hamburg, and Mongolia; if you haven’t seen the show yet, now’s the time.
Musical theatre has a reputation for sometimes being out of touch and old-fashioned, so the prospect of Mirvish Productions bringing a tour of Cole Porter’s 1934 musical Anything Goes to Toronto wasn’t especially heartening at first—even if this particular production, by New York City’s Roundabout Theatre Company, won three 2011 Tony Awards.
But say, pal, wouldn’t you know, we were downright tickled to have such a good time at the Princess of Wales Theatre. The jokes are still corny, the songs still melodramatic, and the script still has some pretty racist content, but the show manages to transcend its era.
Two of Torontoist‘s favourite performers, musician Maylee Todd and comedian Inessa Frantowski, are collaborating on a late-night, out-on-the-water dance party with special guests Laura Barrett, Laura Cilevitz, Pooyan, and more. The Tall Ship Kajama will disembark from its jetty by Harbourfront Centre at 30 minutes to midnight, and Goats on Boats will commence its at-sea bacchanalian festivities from midnight until shortly before the sun rises.
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).
If Fringe and SummerWorks aren’t enough to satisfy your summer theatre cravings, the world-renowned Stratford Festival is now only a bus ride away from downtown Toronto, thanks to the new Stratford Direct bus route (“the best thing [the Festival] has done in years” according to one usher at the Avon Theatre). Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino has put together a season to please tastes from the traditional to the extravagant. Here’s what we think about five of Stratford’s current productions.
Flight: A Thrilling History of an Idea is a new exhibition from the Toronto Reference Library that gathers a number of rare items that explore the theme of the possible and the impossible. Some of the highlights on display are La vingtième siècle: la vie électrique (a rare French book that shows how scientific discoveries would have affected people in 1955), Tame (a sci-fi pulp magazine), and Worldly Wisdom (watercolour that depicts a Leonardo da Vinci-like figure creating a winged flying machine). You’ll find the exhibition in the library’s TD Gallery.
When Animal House first turned the toga into suitable party attire in 1978, the landscape of the film comedy was forever altered. TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy, a new film series that kicked off Wednesday at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, seeks to chart the changing comedic sensibilities that have occurred in the years since the film’s release. From big budget blockbusters, to libido-fuelled sex romps, to carefully calibrated exercises in nuance and timing, the selections in the program are some of the funniest films ever made.
Tirgan, the world’s largest Iranian festival, is making its summer return to the Harbourfront Centre to bring you a weekend of arts and culture showcasing Iranian diversity. Some of the highlights include a performance by Vancouver Pars National Ballet, short films by Shirin Neshat (with a Q&A), learning to cook Iranian cuisine with Najmieh Batmanglij, and a variety of art projects happening all weekend long. Click here for the full itinerary.
This year’s edition of UNITY Festival is a little flashier than those in years past.
The annual festival is put on by UNITY Charity, which works in communities across the country to help at-risk young people channel their anger and frustration into the arts. The festival is a four-day celebration of the organization’s work. This year, UNITY participants will get to both open for and perform in front of some of their heroes, including MC Talib Kweli, who will be playing a free show at Yonge-Dundas Square on Saturday night, and beatboxing legends Rahzel and Scratch.
CUE, a non-profit arts organization that encourages artistic expression from the city’s fringes, hosts “Margin of Eras.” The exhibit gathers over 20 different artists’ work for display in a pop-up gallery on Wednesdays to Sundays for two weeks in July. For the launch party on Friday, July 12 at 7 p.m., there’ll be a live New Orleans jazz band, and more.
Travel back to turn-of-the-century Paris—La Belle Époque—with the Toronto Summer Music Festival. Established and up-and-coming classical musicians gather for this three-week festival to celebrate works by French composers such as Ravel, Debussy, and Fauré. Lectures, workshops, interviews, and concerts will take place in various venues across the city.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged is back again for a three-day stretch of hilarious insanity. For the uninitiated, this performance does exactly what’s promised in its name. It performs all of Shakespeare’s 37 plays in just 87 minutes. It sold out all last summer so consider picking up your tickets while you can.
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.
Cover band extraordinaire Dwayne Gretzky kicks off Indie Fridays, Yonge-Dundas Square’s weekly summer music night series, on June 28. The eight-piece rock ‘n’ roll cover band most recently played Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album from beginning to end. Later in the summer, Indie Fridays’ feature acts include soul singer Saidah Baba Talibah (August 2), Polaris Prize shortlisters Plants and Animals (August 23), and hip hop innovator Cadence Weapon (August 30).
Soulpepper Theatre collaborates on a Joe Orton play, Entertaining Mr. Sloane, with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre’s artistic producer Brendan Healey. Guest director Healey has coached some Soulpepper theatre stalwarts—Stuart Hughes, Fiona Reid, Michael Simpson, and David Beazley—for this dark comedy about a charming lodger who incites illicit passions among his other housemates.