The Danforth will be abuzz with acoustic songs for three days this weekend, as the 2014 Winterfolk Blues and Roots Festival takes over four venues just east of Broadview Avenue. The Black Swan Tavern, Dora Keogh Irish Pub, Terri O’s, and the Globe Bistro’s stages will be full all day with local and visiting folk musicians, including Tony Quarrington, Lynn Miles, and Swamperella. Many of the shows are free of charge, although a select few require cover; for the full schedule of the three day festival, visit the website.
First performed in Toronto at the 2012 SummerWorks Festival, Aneemah’s Spot uses poetry and music to tell the story of two lifelong friends coming to terms with a tragedy caused by gun violence. Toronto-specific and set in the “millennial MegaCity,” this two-hander starring Amanda Parris and Shomari Downer has already had a one-night-only showing in Mississauga. There’ll be five performances at the 918 Bathurst Centre over this weekend.
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).
It’s 1931 in Berlin, and the Nazis are on the brink of supremacy. But there remains another side to the city—one that’s decadent, permissive, and artistic. And that’s the world we meet when we’re beckoned into the extravagant and sleazy Kit Kat Klub by eccentric Emcee and his troupe of saucy dancers, performing “Willkommen.”
Cabaret’s primary plotline begins with the arrival of American writer Cliff Bradshaw (David Light). Without a real agenda, he’s come to Berlin to work on his novel and teach English. A patron of the Kit Kat Klub, he catches the eye of the star performer Sally Bowles (Kylie McMahon). A natural stunner, Sally is a bubbly young Brit with a powerhouse voice, a dancer’s grace, and a reputation for flitting from man to man like a bumblebee in a flowerbed. It’s not long before she and Cliff fall in love—though the question of whether he’ll be able to satisfy her wild side constantly hangs over their heads. The sweetness lacking in their relationship can be found in the romantic pairing of the boarding house landlord Fraulein Schneider (Adeen Ashton Fogle) and Jewish shop owner Herr Schultz (Don Berns). As appealing as they are, though, these middle-aged lovebirds are just as susceptible to trouble and heartbreak as their younger counterparts.
At the risk of making a terrible pun, there is a long-standing series of music events in Toronto that has always been on, well, a different wavelength. Wavelength is Toronto’s longest-running underground concert and festival series, and while it has undergone several permutations and frequency changes over the years, its passion for the innovative, the breakthrough, and the gloriously strange has never altered. What began in 2000 as a weekly curated performance series with a penchant for unearthing extraordinary talent (it featured early performances by Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Fucked Up, and Crystal Castles) has become an annual music festival, a monthly concert series, regular workshops and educational events, and a new Artist Incubator series of events.
Ichimaru—once one of Japan’s most famous geishas—left the profession in the 1930s to pursue a career in entertainment. Never really leaving her past life, she became known for adorning herself in the traditional geisha garb when performing in concert or on television. “From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru” exhibits several decades’ worth of outfits and personal effects, shedding light on the woman behind the makeup.
Those who work in the arts are well acquainted with the balancing act between creative work and life-sustaining day jobs. “Poetic Poverty; Experiments in Living” explores the notion of the starving artist, and why it’s a life so many choose to lead. This two-week show features works by Erin Loree, Stella Cade, Kevin Columbus, and more.
At 35 years old, the Rhubarb Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre may be nearing middle age, but it’s still the place to go if you’re looking for experimental, boundary-breaking, not-your-theatre-next-door kind of stuff in Canada. Every February, Buddies in Bad Times warms up the Church Street neighbourhood with public works, cabarets, live performance art, and a robust lineup of emerging and established artists pushing their own limits and those of the political and cultural moment.
Festival director Laura Nanni is taking the opportunity to look at Rhubarb’s trajectory: this year’s lineup revolves around significant works of the past, and prophetic interpretations of the future. At the same time, with 34 successful years behind it, Nanni and the Rhubarb team have faced an unexpected challenge in getting the 2014 edition off the ground: a funding denial from the Department of Canadian Heritage.
We spoke to Laura Nanni to get her perspective this year’s festival, and the repercussions of the funding gap.
The Canadian Opera Company brings a tale of forbidden love to its stage with Verdi’s A Masked Ball (Un Ballo in Maschera). Given an almost-modern treatment, the story has been transplanted to early 1960s America, where the romantic entanglements are played out against a background of Kennedy-era political tensions.
The word “idiot” was originally used in ancient Greece to describe a person unconcerned with public affairs like politics, but dedicated to following private pursuits. The setting of Robert E. Sherwood’s 1936 romantic comedy Idiot’s Delight, a failing luxury hotel in the Italian Alps called the Hotel Monte Gabriele, initially seems to be full of idiots: newlyweds on their honeymoon, a group of burlesque singers and their manager, a blissfully genial waiter, and a couple of ornery managers sour over the lack of business. And when a spark flies between a beautiful and mysterious Russian and a smooth-talking American showbusinessman, while the other guests dance, drink, eat, and sing, there’s another piece of juicy plot that can be used to distract themselves, and the audience, from the war that’s literally raging outside the hotel windows.
The producers of Riverdance have spawned yet another on-stage extravaganza. With a talented cast of 38, Heartbeat of Home is a high-energy show, combining Irish, Latin, and Afro-Cuban music and dance. Torontonians get the honour of seeing the production’s North American debut—take it in before it’s gone!
Let’s face it: being a twenty-something can kinda suck. Pumped full of confidence and aspirations, we flee the family nest…and fall flat on our faces. Avenue Q uses songs (written by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx) and puppetry both to lament and poke fun at this difficult time. Much like Sesame Street, it has a cast made up of human actors who interact with a variety of furry creatures, who themselves have hands up their butts. Think that description is tasteless? This might not be the show for you—these puppets are crude and lewd, and have a taste for alcohol and porn. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
German theatre has gone over really well in Toronto in recent years. Playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig’s contribution to Volcano Theatre’s Africa project was widely praised, and twinwerks//zwillingswerk’s production of Felicia Zeller’s Kaspar and the Sea of Houses earned the company an outstanding production award at the 2011 SummerWorks (and a trip back to 2012′s festival). Now, Theatre Smash returns with Marius von Mayenburg’s The Ugly One, a clever slice of absurdism that works well on several levels. There’s light humour when the titular character discovers that everyone finds his face repugnant, and darker tones when his new, beautiful face becomes coveted obsessively by those around him.
The Scarborough Music Theatre brings Louisa May Alcott’s classic Civil War story to the stage for a short run. Little Women follows the lives and struggles of four young sisters as they grow up while their father is off at war. Directed by Michael Jones, this musical features spirit-lifting and tear-jerking performances by Lauren Lazar, Katie Wise, Carina Cautillo, and Sarah DaCunha.
In Tarragon Theatre’s current mainstage production, Flesh and Other Fragments of Love, there are both a marriage and a body on the rocks, and the prognosis isn’t good for either of them. While the human figure appears pale, cold, and lifeless, the marriage is slightly more alive, and the play chronicles its last dying breaths. Surprisingly, though, the young female cadaver is by far the more interesting of the two.
Told through South American music and dance, Arrabal is the story of a young girl desperate to find out what happened to her father after the Argentine military made him disappear when she was just a baby. Her search leads her to the Tango clubs of Buenos Aires, where she discovers both the truth, and herself.
Even though Billy was born deaf, his family strived to raise him the same way they would have a hearing-able child. Tribes sees him learn what it is to hear and be heard when he meets Sylvia, a young woman who is gradually becoming deaf herself. Presented by A Theatrefront Production, Canadian Stage, and Theatre Aquarius, this emotional play stars Stephen Drabicki and Holly Lewis.
Young Jean Lee’s theatrical mantra—”What’s the last thing in the world I would ever want to write?”—has resulted in creative battles against some pretty intimidating opponents: religion (Church), death and mortality (We’re Gonna Die), and black racial stereotypes (The Shipment, which came to Toronto in 2012), to name a few. But the risks have paid off so far: Lee has amassed a loyal and influential following in New York City. Her fans and collaborators have included the late Lou Reed and his wife, performance artist Laurie Anderson; the Talking Heads’ David Byrne; former Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna; and Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz. According to the New York Times, she’s “the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation.”
At first, the rise of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram seemed to herald nothing more than a new kind of annoying exercise in narcissism and a devastating black hole for productivity. But, as we all know by now, they had a far darker side: although those of us who were young and vulnerable when these networks emerged are now, we hope, informed enough to use them with care, younger people, who live much of their lives online, have a large and potentially dangerous platform from which to broadcast their immature and stupid mistakes. The negative repercussions of social media aren’t limited to embarrassing photos or inane political rants—teens are being charged with cyber-bullying and, as was the case for two teens in India, a leaked video can lead to a national scandal.
Anupama Chandrasekhar’s play Free Outgoing is partly inspired by the latter, the story of two teens who videotaped themselves having sex and triggered a moral panic in India over sex-crazed teens when the video went viral.
Be among the first to get a taste of Templeton Philharmonic’s dark new comedy, which will be presented as part of its Canadian Stage residency. Created by comediennes Gwynne Phillips and Briana Templeton, An Evening in July reveals the quirks of two very different sisters as they host a fancy—albeit off-beat—party.
Skin Tight Outta Sight and Boylesque T.O. know exactly how to get you warmed up for V-Day. Their Be Mein Valentine burlesque revue has returned for its fifth year, and is just as naughty as ever. Bathed in the decadence of Weimar Republic Berlin, this cabaret is full of forbidden pleasures. Hosted by Sexy Deutsch Mark Brown, Balonia Wry, and Ginger Darling, the night will see performances from special guest Dolly Berlin, as well as musicians Big Rude Jake and Laura Desiree.