The Distillery District is stunning on its own, but it’s about to get a whole lot prettier, during the weekend-long Artfest. Take a couple of hours and explore the historic site while perusing the pottery, jewellery, painting, food, and glassware of more than 75 artisans from across the country. On a budget? Just hang around and take in the (free) live painting and musical performances instead.
If you’re planning on running away to join the circus, you won’t have to go very far this weekend (and if you change your mind by the end of the weekend, no one has to know). HarbourKIDS: The Toronto International Circus Festival rolls into Harbourfront Centre for three days of family-oriented programming, aiming to foster imagination among children. Clowns, jugglers, acrobats, dancers, and more will be on site for a variety of shows and activities.
Can you go all night? And by that, we mean stay up to watch a load of live performances at the Rock Paper Sistahz: 23 Hours Live! theatre marathon. Show off your stamina, and take in Trey Anthony’s Black Mothers Don’t Say I Love You, Amanda Parris’s The Other Side of the Game, Ngozi Paul’s The 1st Time Project, and more. Those who make it through the night will be rewarded with a pancake breakfast!
If The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors has a mascot, it’s Emperor Yongzheng. The image of the 18th-century Chinese ruler dominates the promotional material of the exhibition, which is one of the centrepieces of the Royal Ontario Museum’s centennial year. His portrait certainly has visual appeal, but Yongzheng is also a figure associated with surprising elements of life within the former imperial palace.
“The greatest art always returns you to the vulnerabilities of the human situation.” – Francis Bacon
“In the human figure one can express more completely one’s feelings about the world than in any other way.” – Henry Moore
These quotations, which welcome visitors to “Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty,” immediately establish the exhibition’s tone and focus. Each artist’s distortions of the human figure, shaped by their wartime experiences, capture the vulnerability of our mortal forms.
What makes the already difficult task of starting an indie theatre company in Toronto seem even more intimidating, if not impossible, is the number of other indie artists and companies who have also decided to take on this difficult and seemingly impossible task. Though it’s encouraging to have a healthy wave of young artists practicing and producing their own work, the number of small companies in the city brings its own set of challenges: increased competition for audiences, resources, space, and time—so much so that last year the Toronto Fringe Festival held a tent talk entitled Please Don’t Start a Theatre Company.
The Theatre Centre has responded to these challenges with its BMO incubator space and the Independent Creators Cooperative, which provides three emerging companies with six weeks of development, as well as funding and administrative support from The Theatre Centre and two other established companies, Theatre Smith-Gilmour and Why Not Theatre. This spring, the result is an intriguing trio of approximately one-hour shows: Business as Usual, Ralph + Lina, and Death Married My Daughter. All three will be in rotation at The Theatre Centre until May 18, and all have been heavily influenced by physical theatre and the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris—but that said, they have very little else in common.
What’s brewing in Toronto’s theatre community? We’re glad you asked! The Big Ideas Festival is showcasing works-in-progress from the aspiring playwrights in the Alumnae Theatre’s New Play Development Group. Over the course of five days, the work of eight writers will take the stage—some full-length plays, and some selected scenes from upcoming productions.
Outside the March seems to be Toronto’s favourite indie theatre company. Director Mitchell Cushman built up quite a buzz after consecutive hits Mr. Marmalade and Terminus, both of which were praised for their unconventional use of space (the former was set in a kindergarten classroom, the latter placed both the actors and the audience on the stage of the Royal Alexandra Theatre), so his next project had been highly anticipated. Vitals, written by Rosamund Small, was the first script for Outside the March developed specifically for a site-specific space, and its original run had to be extended even before opening night. Then, only a few days into the run, it was extended again to June 1. And though Vitals isn’t the best show in Outside the March’s history, there’s a reason that tickets have been flying.
As the world premiere of a stage adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s famous novel, Soulpepper Theatre’s production of Of Human Bondage is the jewel of the company’s 2014 season. Not that it’s a perfect play—but it does flex the strength of Soulpepper’s acting ensemble, design team, and, well, budget. The arresting opening scene sees the play’s main character, Philip Carey, well-played by Gregory Prest, enter by rising through a trapdoor centre stage while other members of the cast appear to dissect a cadaver (they’re actually crossing bows across a double bass, which is lying horizontally on an operating table). A spotlight casts Philip’s shadow against a red-brick wall, so that the bows appear to saw through his stiff, upright body. Setting the tone for the rest of the production, the scene is striking, but not incredibly subtle.
If you’re in the mood for a murder mystery with a religious twist, you’ll want to check out The Last Confession. David Suchet (Poirot) and Richard O’Callaghan star in this play about the mysterious death of Pope John Paul I in 1978. After only 33 days in office, and having warned three cardinals that they would be replaced, he is found dead. Though the Vatican refuses to open an official investigation, Cardinal Benelli goes out in search of the truth.
We’re nearing the end of Tarragon Theatre‘s 2013/2014 season, and it appears we’ve also arrived at the final stage of its theme: love, loss, wine, and the gods. But that doesn’t mean the Tarragon, which has seen some major hits this year in Lungs, The Double, and The Ugly One, is phoning it in. Sean Dixon’s ambitious new script, A God in Need of Help, has produced not only one of the longer plays in the Tarragon season, but also easily the most dense and layered, mixing as it does historical fact and fiction with timeless issues of art, religion, and politics. Fortunately, that makes it the strongest mainstage show of the season thus far (we’ll see how Tarragon’s final show, The God That Comes, co-created by and featuring Hawksley Workman, performs in June).
Talk about striking while the iron is hot—David James Brock’s Snow Bride is hitting the stage just in time for wedding season… and some other stuff in the news. When no one shows up for Helena’s bachelorette party, she turns to her oldest and most trusted friend: cocaine. Using humour, the play touches on the difficulties surrounding a life of addiction and its effects on interpersonal relationships.
Learn about a little-known bit of Toronto’s history with a theatre installation on the very spot where it all began in 1804. The Speedy tells the story of HMS Speedy, its passengers, and its doomed trip across Lake Ontario. When a Chippewa man is murdered by a white fur trader, the justice system is slow to react. The victim’s impatient brother Ogetonicut exacts revenge, killing the fur trader. Justice moves more quickly this time, and 20 members of the court system board a ship that will take them to the trial in Newcastle—but it sinks en route, leaving the case forever unsettled.
The last five annual editions of Next Music From Tokyo sold out, so the cultural exchange program, which features the best independent rock acts from Japan, has a two-night stand in Toronto this year. Night one takes place at the Rivoli and features five different acts. Those same five acts will play different sets on Saturday, May 17, at Lee’s Palace.