It’s early June, and in Toronto that means one thing: schedules just got a lot tighter. On top of patio dates, intramural games, enjoying novels in the park, and all of your friends’ weddings, you’ve also got many of Toronto’s beloved arts festivals begging for your precious summer hours. Among them is the Luminato Festival: its eighth edition kicks off this Friday and wraps up on Sunday, June 15. And there are enough events—from magic shows to late-night concerts to marathon pieces of performance art—to keep even the most dedicated festival-goer occupied. The festival’s categories are not all rigidly defined and feature a certain amount of exchange and overlap–but they provide a sense of the range of experiences on offer. We’ve picked one highlight from each of the them to help you devise your Luminato plan of attack.
When: Friday, June 6, 6 p.m; Saturday, June 7, 5 p.m.; Sunday, June 8, 2 p.m.
Where: Elgin Theatre, (189 Yonge Street)
How Much: $40
The international art star celebrated at this year’s Luminato Festival is the American artist/filmmaker Matthew Barney, known for creating lengthy, large-scale projects—like the hits The Cremaster Cycle, which rolled slowly out from 1995 to 2002, and Drawing Restraint, a series that’s been ongoing since 1987 (both of these are also playing at TIFF as part of the festival)—that involve both film and sculpture. His latest work, River of Fundament, is a 311-minute-long film of three operatic performances from Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York City, and tells a story based on the Norman Mailer novel Ancient Evenings. Expect lots of ancient Egyptian symbolism and maybe a little sex (one of Luminato’s themes this year) courtesy of actors like Paul Giammatti, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Elaine Stritch—each of whom is worthy of at least six hours of your day. And if you put in the time but don’t like the result, take it up with Barney himself at his panel with Luminato artistic director Jorn Weisbrodt and AGO curator Kitty Scott on Saturday, June 7. (Carly Maga)
When: Friday, June 13, 8 p.m.; Saturday, June 14, 8 p.m.; Sunday, June 15, 3 p.m.
Where: Fleck Dance Theatre, (207 Queens Quay West)
How Much: $35, $45, $55
The big-ticket dance performance this year is definitely Kontakthof by Germany’s Tanztheater Wuppertal, founded by legendary choreographer and dancer Pina Bausch in the 1970s. By “big-ticket,” though, we also mean “good luck getting one”—but luckily, there are even more dance offerings in this year’s festival than usual. Also on the lineup is Louise Lecavalier’s So Blue, the first piece of choreography from one of Canada’s most recognizable and established dancers. The 55-year-old Lecavalier also performs throughout the entirety of this hour-long show, which aims to tap into the body’s natural impulses and let them speak for themselves. And if there’s anyone who knows the impulses of the human body, it’s Lecavalier. (Carly Maga)
When: Friday, June 13, 9 p.m.
Where: Festival Hub at David Pecaut Square, (55 John Street)
How Much: $35
Though it’s the first year Luminato has introduced ticketed concerts at the Festival Hub at David Pecaut Square (which will also host The Roots on June 7 and Ziggy Marley on June 14), $35 is perhaps a swallowable price to pay for a ticket to see the kings of Brooklyn art rock. Can you imagine dancing to “Wolf Like Me” outside on a (hopefully) warm summer night, surrounded by a cardboard beach? Enough said. (Carly Maga)
When: Saturday, June 14, 1 p.m.
Where: TIFF Bell Lightbox, (350 King Street West)
How Much: $9, $12.50
Acclaimed choreographer Pina Bausch may have passed away five years ago, but her work is a linchpin of this year’s Luminato festival: her troupe Tanztheater Wuppertal will be celebrating its 40th anniversary with a Toronto premiere of her Kontakthof, and her 1990 film The Complaint of an Empress will be screening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The best entry point to Bausch’s work is undoubtedly Wim Wender’s 2011 film Pina, which captures, in 3D, sequences from four of her signature works with her company. The only shame is that the film screens so late in the festival. (Steve Fisher)
When: Nightly from Friday, June 6–Friday, June 13, with shuttle departure at 7 p.m., talk at 8:15 p.m., Tomorrow’s Snow at 9:30 p.m.
Where: McMichael Gallery ( 10365 Islington Avenue), w/ shuttlebus departure from Metro Centre (200 Wellington Street)
How Much: FREE (shuttle tickets $13.50)
Beijing-born, Canadian-raised, and currently New York-based artist Terrence Koh premieres two new pieces for Luminato; they’ll be presented nightly for most of the festival at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburgh (approximately an hour’s shuttle-bus ride away from the festival hub). Throughout the trip, Koh narrates meditations on botany; upon arrival at the gallery, guests attend a nightly Tomorrow Talk, and will have time both before and after the tomorrow’s snow performance to view a way into the light, Koh’s installation tribute to Emily Carr. Everything is free, save for the shuttle bus tickets (guest are welcome to make their own way to the gallery). (Steve Fisher)
When: Saturday, June 7–Monday, June 9, 7:30 p.m.
Where: TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)
How Much: $35
There’s an element of theatre in most of Luminato’s presented works, whether it be Isabella Rossellini’s clowning around in animal costumes for Green Porno Live on Stage, or the intimate cabaret performances of Jason Collett’s Basement Revue. But the most theatrical show on the schedule may be Kid Koala’s Nufonia Must Fall Live—a fantastical beast indeed. The Montreal-based DJ, composer, and cartoonist has taken his graphic novel and turned it into a live stage show with puppets, filmed in real time by K.K. Barrett (the Oscar-nominated production designer of Spike Jones’s Her), and set to live music performed by Kid Koala and the Afiara Quartet. The plot focuses on an epic love story between an obsolete robot and a more advanced robotic office worker, and how their romance changes their society. Audiences will see all this played out on more than a dozen miniature sets and blown up on the big screen. (Steve Fisher)
When: June 15, various times
Where: Trinity Bellwoods Park
How Much: $25 per walk
Spinning off from the festival’s Literary Picnic in Trinity Bellwoods Park will be walks led by three writers through neighbourhoods that have inspired their works and those of other authors. The 75-minute strolls through these literary landscapes will be led by Cary Fagan (Kensington Market), Andrew Pyper (Queen West), and Alissa York (the ravines). (Jamie Bradburn)
When: June 8 and 15, various times
Where: MaRS Discovery District
How Much: $25 per talk
The only free talks not classified under other festival categories appear to be happening in Kleinburg; the priciest Talks event is a taping of Jian Ghomeshi’s Q at the Winter Garden Theatre. In the middle of this range are a trio of chats with veteran performers. Sponsored by the New York Times, the discussions feature David Byrne, Daniel Lanois (who is also being honoured with an all-star concert at Massey Hall), and Isabella Rossellini (who also brings a live version of her short Green Porno films to the festival). (Jamie Bradburn)
When: Saturday, June 14, 2 p.m.; Saturday, June 14, 8 p.m.; Sunday, June 15, 2 p.m.
Where: Berkeley Street Theatre, (26 Berkeley Street)
How Much: $45
This is not your typical birthday party magic show. Focusing on a trick that even Houdini wouldn’t do, Bullet Catch, by playwright and self-taught magician Rob Drummond, has travelled from the Edinburgh Fringe to Broadway, receiving rave reviews along the way. Telling the story of William Henderson, a magician who died on stage during an attempt to complete the Bullet Catch trick, Drummond actively involves the audience in what could end up being a fatal evening—all in the name of entertainment, of course. (Carly Maga)
When: June 7, 12:00 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Festival Hub at David Pecaut Square, (55 John Street)
How Much: FREE
Only two food-related projects appear on Luminato’s bill of fare this year. One costs $225 per head. The other, Taste of the Beach, has free admission but will set you back $5 per edible. Despite what the name implies, this event has nothing to do with the east-end neighbourhood—10 chefs will be paired with an equal number of artists to create summery dishes highlighting the festival’s cardboard beach. (Jamie Bradburn)