A North Korean Weekend at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Between satellite photos and sympathetic basketball stars, we’re learning a bit about what goes on in North Korea. The populace, we’re told, is brainwashed. Kim Jong-un lets his people starve to death while he focuses on more important things—like grooming his nuclear warheads and dropping bills on designer bags for his lady. The oppression and human rights violations are shocking, and yet the notoriously isolated country has become the world’s creepy clown. Somalia got Captain Phillips and North Korea got Team America.
The North Korean Human Rights Film Festival, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, will attempt to flesh out North Korea’s identity for Canadian viewers. Gilad Cohen, the festival’s executive director, points out that Kim Jong-un and his military take the spotlight away from the day-to-day stories of North Korean life. “We tried to cover every angle we could,” Cohen said. “We’re trying to personalize and humanize North Korea. We’re hosting several North Korean defectors—getting to know them as people before we discuss the issues.”
The Belle Game, with Bear Mountain
The Belle Game‘s new video for its single “River” is out, and, on top of that, you can see the band play at the Drake Underground. They’ll be joined by Bear Mountain, whom we enjoyed at NXNE this year (last year’s NXNE was the last time The Belle Game played our fair city).
Zaki Ibrahim, with Brendan Philip
Globetrotter and Polaris Prize shortlister Zaki Ibrahim headlines a show in her hometown (or one of them), with R&B singer Brendan Philip supporting.
Strange Sisters: The Insatiable Redux
It’s been six years since the last Strange Sisters cabaret at Buddies in Bad Times. Now, the show returns in a big way for the theatre’s 35th anniversary. The curators, Kim Crosby and Gein Wong, have subtitled the event The Insatiable Redux, and they’ve programmed a wide slate of guests to celebrate the work of queer women and trans folks in performance, including Alvis Parsley, Donna Michelle St. Bernard, and Juliet November.
The Royal Ontario Museum Takes a Modern Approach to the Cradle of Civilization
The name “Mesopotamia” derives from a Greek term meaning “land between the rivers.” The Royal Ontario Museum’s latest major exhibit, which opens on June 22, takes this literally, as visitors flow between painted representations of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers on the floor.
Presented by the British Museum and rounded out with pieces from institutions in Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia, “Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World” covers 3,000 years of human development in the cradle of urban civilization. Most of the 170 artifacts on display have never been shown in Canada.
“David Bowie Is” Is Taking Over the AGO
When it was originally unveiled at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (England, not Ontario), the “David Bowie Is” exhibition shattered attendance records, selling over 42,000 advance tickets. Now that the show has come to Toronto, it’s easy to see why it was so successful. Composed of over 300 objects from David Bowie’s personal archive, spanning his entire career, the exhibit is arranged and presented as a completely immersive experience, enveloping visitors in a kaleidoscopic visual and aural landscape that would be overwhelming if it weren’t so brilliantly arranged and intelligently guided.
Homegrown Horror Gets Top Billing at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival
With the gala hangovers and celluloid-induced eye strain from the 2013 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival just beginning to fade away, film addicts who are already starting to feel the itch have another movie extravaganza to check out: the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Now in its eighth year, TAD is a celebration of everything frightening, disturbing, challenging, and gloriously bloody. While the primary focus of the fest is on horror films, there will also be generous offerings of speculative fiction, unusual action movies, and cult flicks.
The Sixth Annual Global Cabaret Festival
Where can you find over 150 of Canada’s top performing artists under one roof? At the Sixth Annual Global Cabaret Festival, of course. This year’s festival will include A Bob Dylan Songbook; “Rebel Rebel,” The Music of David Bowie; and Whirl, The Dance Cabaret. The event also will also feature the 2013 Soulpepper Dance Awards (the nominees will be showcased in the Whirl cabaret). Click here for the full schedule.
Stephen King and Eleanor Catton Headline the 2013 International Festival Of Authors
For its 34th birthday, the International Festival of Authors is actually getting younger. One of the themes this year is Brave New Word, a Huxleyan allusion referring not to the demise of books (a Brave New World scenario), but to the next generation of notable writers participating in the festival. Among this group is Canadian-born author Eleanor Catton, who last week, at age 28, became the youngest person ever to win the Man Booker Prize (for her second novel, The Luminaries).
The Norman Conquests
Like the company’s recent triumph, Angels in America, Soulpepper’s newest show, The Norman Conquests, requires multiple trips to the theatre—or a hearty constitution for a full day of marathon attendance. Unlike Angels in America, the three instalments of The Norman Conquests—Table Manners, Living Together, and Round and Round the Garden—are comic in nature and small in scope, with each instalment taking place in a different part of a couple’s house. Written by prolific British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, the three-part series features veteran members of the Soulpepper ensemble, and can be “enjoyed individually or in any combination.”
Big City Improv Festival
Improv comedy performers from across North America will converge on Toronto for nine days during the Big City Improv Festival, including special celebrity performers like MADtv alumni Phil Lamarr and Jeff Richards. Also on the bill is recent Canadian Comedy Award winner MANTOWN, which will perform an improv set on opening night. Local acts include Burns and Gallo, winners of the Big City TKO competition, and Mark Little and Kyle Dooley, who impressed us during last month’s Just For Laughs 42 festival.
The World According to “Ai Weiwei: According to What?”
Ai Weiwei is a 56-year-old artist confined to his home in Beijing for creating work critical of the Chinese government and Chinese culture. There are video cameras outside his house, his phone lines are tapped, his blog was deleted, his Shanghai studio was destroyed in 2010 by authorities, and his passport was confiscated in 2011. To this day, he’s unable to leave his country. Even so, Ai Weiwei has had a large presence in Toronto over the past few months.
This past June, he did a performance piece with artist Laurie Anderson during the Luminato Festival, using Skype. His Zodiac Heads have been installed, temporarily, in the reflecting pool in front of City Hall. At this year’s Nuit Blanche, a large-scale version of his sculpture of bicycles, Forever, will take over Nathan Phillips Square. And beginning August 17, the Art Gallery of Ontario is displaying “Ai Weiwei: According to What?”, a retrospective of the work he produced before and after the Chinese government’s crackdown on his activities helped him find new international acclaim.
Throughout history, witches have typically been depicted as ugly women with evil powers. Not to mention, they’re usually found preying on children, riding brooms, and donning black cloaks and pointed hats. But is this accurate? Just in time for Halloween, “Witch” has materialized to challenge our previously held notions on the topic. The art exhibition includes pieces from over 20 artists that explore the history and concept of the witch.
TIFF Feels the Rhythm of the Night With Claire Denis
The punchiest distillation of Claire Denis’s film style might well be in 2002’s Vendredi soir, a sublime romance in its own right and a highlight of Objects of Desire: The Cinema of Claire Denis, TIFF Cinematheque’s upcoming retrospective of the celebrated French auteur’s work.
Night of the Living Dead Live, Again and Again
Fans of the seminal 1968 horror-film classic, Night of the Living Dead, will delight in Night of the Living Dead Live, a new theatrical production of the story. Despite a weak second act, it’s a fun black-and-white romp with some inventive deaths—and even a chipper musical number.
Fort York After Dark
For four nights in October, Fort York will open its gates to the public for guided Fort York After Dark tours, which will focus on the more dark and disturbing aspects of the famous site’s history. (We recall well the spooky performances of The Fort at York a few years back, with the mentally disturbed private in the ammunitions depot.) The lantern-bearing guides will take tour groups to several nearby military cemeteries, to tell stories of the dead buried there.
Searching for ways to heat up as winter approaches? Search no more. The Bacchanal is described as an “ancient and illicit orgiastic experience”—in layman’s terms, that means this is an event not to be passed up. This dinner cabaret show—for which “interactive experience” tickets are also available—is brought to you by Love Letters Cabaret and is choreographed by Pastel Supernova.
Go Hear the People Sing in Les Miserables
Every revolution needs a leader. And though the movement to bring the classic 1980s musical Les Miserables back to Toronto is markedly different than the quest for political accountability and social equality, it has its hero just the same. After Wednesday night’s official opening performance at the Princess of Wales Theatre, the audience likely would have followed London-based, Richmond Hill-raised performer Ramin Karimloo (as the story’s golden-hearted protagonist, Jean Valjean) anywhere he would lead.
Good, Better, Best Brothers
The great vaudevillian performer and comedian W.C. Fields is believed to have coined the infamous showbiz axiom, “Never work with animals or children.” Others in the entertainment industry have adopted the rule, because of the unpredictability of toddlers and beasts on stage. But in his recent play The Best Brothers, Daniel MacIvor embraces both of these snubbed theatrical minorities—even if the dog only appears for a brief moment and the two adult characters only act like feuding minors. And surprisingly, there’s little unpredictability in it.
The List is a Governor General Award-winning play in which the lone actress is lit up only by a single projector, which is used to visually illustrate the character’s emotions. Torri Higginson stars as a woman who speaks to the audience from her kitchen (her neighbour is dead; is she to blame?) in this story about everyday to-do lists.
This post originally contained an incorrect address for the event venue.
Prayers for the New World
Local playwright Laura Cockburn-Tulk has written two new one-act plays that Glasswater Theatre is premiering together as Prayers For the New World. The double header will have a limited run at the Berkeley Street Theatre. In the first play, Confessions, a Soviet-era spy discovers that she can communicate across space and time with an accused Salem witch while the two are imprisoned; in the second play, Gone Home, the mysterious death of a child tests a family’s bond during the the Second World War.
Communion, but the correct title is Confessions. We regret the error.
This event originally stated that one of the plays is titled
Detained at Praxis Theatre’s You Should Have Stayed Home
What’s the trickiest part of volunteering to play a Toronto G20 detainee during the current remount of You Should Have Stayed Home? Donning the plastic zip-tie handcuffs used on those who wound up at the Eastern Avenue Detention Centre three years ago. If you lack nimble fingers, or have a tendency to wear things the wrong way, ask one of your fellow detainees to fix the strips so that they’ll stay on during the performance, and won’t require a pair of scissors for removal.
Puppet Up: Uncensored Both Frightens and Delights
On stage now at the Panasonic Theatre are 85 tiny pieces of artwork. Beautifully detailed, textured, colourful, and startlingly evocative, these creations are intensely mesmerizing—even when hanging lifeless on a display wall, their toothless mouths gaping open.
When they get hands stuck up their asses, though, it’s an entirely different story.
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Mirvish Productions announced an expanded season last month that includes the following: Chicago, starring Elvis Stojko; this year’s Toronto Fringe hit The Musical of Musicals, the Musical!; and Puppet Up: Uncensored, which began a short engagement in Toronto last night. Billed as “a live, outrageous, comedy, variety show for adults only,” the show elicited genuine childlike enthusiasm from audience members. They had likely grown up watching Jim Henson’s beloved puppets on the The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock (or in the more sinister Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal). But Puppet Up: Uncensored is a very different from your average puppet show. Co-created by Brian Henson (Jim’s son) and comedian Patrick Bristow under the Henson Alternative label, these puppets are weird, foul-mouthed, and dirty. Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Fozzie would be appalled.
All Our Happy Days Are Stupid and Weird and Touching
Sheila Heti is getting by with a little help from her friends.
In her acclaimed novel, How Should a Person Be?—which has attracted favorable notice from The New York Times, The New Yorker, Salon, and others—the 36-year-old writer documented her epic struggle to write a play about two families who meet on vacation in Paris. The play is her nemesis, a challenge seemingly insurmountable, and it throws her confidence and her friendships for a loop. Until now, that is, because that very play, All Our Happy Days Are Stupid, had its world premiere on Thursday night.
Savage in Limbo Sparks Basement-Bar Epiphanies
In keeping with play’s basement-bar motif, your program for Bob Kills Theatre’s production of Pulitzer-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley’s Savage in Limbo comes in a drink-menu format. The venue, a newly renovated basement hall called The Downstage (previously used by the Playwright Project and other independent companies), has undergone considerable changes, and now boasts blacked-out walls, more lighting, and an actual (albeit small) stage. But most of Savage Limbo, described by Shanley as a “concert play,” is set in the round on broken-down beer-box flooring that’s supposed to suggest a neighbourhood watering hole. There, a motley assortment of dreamers and malcontents are trying to change their lives.
Second City’s New Show Is a Heroic Effort
You might expect a show called We Can Be Heroes to be a send-up of superhero films, but Second City’s new mainstage production is actually a celebration of minor, everyday acts of heroism ranging from giving advice to a bullied child to managing not to be a jackass at your friend’s wedding.
The Rocky Horror Show
In the movies, when a car breaks down in the middle of nowhere it usually leads to sexy times, amusing adventures, or utter terror. The Rocky Horror Show is all of the above. In case you’ve somehow managed to avoid watching it on TV every October, the story follows the exploits of newly engaged (and stranded) couple Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, who are forced to stay overnight in the strange home of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. A Toronto Halloween tradition, the theatrical production of this cult classic returns to the stage for the sixth straight year, starring Cory Strong, Amanda Milligan, and Adam Joshua Norrad.
Rocky Horror is called the The Rocky Horror Show, not The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
This post originally referred to its subject by an incorrect name. The theatrical version of