People To Watch in 2013
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People To Watch in 2013

Who in Toronto is going to be huge in 2013? Here are our educated guesses.

Keep an eye on the Blue Jays in 2013. This might just be their year. Photo by {a href=}PJMixer{/a} from the {a href=}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

From athletes to actors, there are lots of people (and groups of people) who will make waves in Toronto this year. Read on for a roundup of a few local up-and-comers we think are worth keeping an eye on in 2013.

The Toronto Blue Jays
Local ball team with new blood.

For Toronto sports fans, the start of a new season is less about renewed hope and more about masochism. Every year is a grim trudge towards finishing just outside of playoff contention and being rewarded with another good-but-not-great draft pick. Our love for our teams is not only unrequited, but also unhealthy. We know we should cheer for someone else, or just stop watching sports, but no matter how many times we try, we get sucked back in.

The 2013 baseball season, however, already feels different. With snow still on the ground and several weeks to go before the start of spring training, all anyone with even a passing interest in sports can talk about is the Blue Jays. That’s mostly because Jays GM Alex Anthopolous has managed to engineer an almost mind-bogglingly good off-season, starting with his raiding of the Florida Marlins’ salary-dumping fire sale, and continuing with his addition of talented-but-troubled outfielder Melky Cabrera. Also, in what may be Ahtopolous’ greatest triumph of all, he managed to nab last year’s National League Cy Young winner, RA Dickey.

All this adds up to buzz the likes of which Toronto sports hasn’t seen in years. And lest you think this championship talk is just homerism or some sort of collective delusion on the part of Toronto’s championship-starved fanbase, consider this: Las Vegas bookmakers have already tapped the Jays as the team most likely to win this year’s World Series, giving them 15/2 odds of taking it all.

The Jays are definitely the team to watch this year. All those casual fans should practice their bandwagon jumping.

(Chris Dart)

Super sketch-comedy troupe.

With Picnicface‘s members scattered across the country and the troupe on hiatus, Canada is in need of a new top sketch company. One Toronto-based collective looks to be a contender. Primo boasts powerhouse Second City and Sketchersons alumni, and over their first year of live shows they’ve developed a unique sketch style, and attracted guests like Scott Thompson, Colin Mochrie, and Debra DiGiovanni.

Several individual Primo members had banner years in 2012. Kayla Lorette (YTV’s That’s So Weird!) co-starred in Picnicface’s feature-length film Rollertown; Alex Tindal began a series of satirical op-ed videos for the Toronto Star; and Inessa Frantowski starred in a Avicii and Nicky Romero video that’s passed five million views in two weeks. Primo has also earned some accolades as a group. When they premiered a playful homage to the classic Roseanne sitcom opening credits, Roseanne Barr herself retweeted and LOL’d at it.

(Steve Fisher)

Tatiana Maslany
One-of-a-kind screen actor.

Tatiana Maslany has been on “one to watch” lists for years now, owing to her exceptional work in Canadian film. 2012 was a high water mark for the Regina-born and Toronto-based actress. She made TIFF’s “Rising Star” list for her starring role in the film Picture Day, and she also impressed us with a rare stage appearance in the Toronto premiere of Christopher Shinn’s Other People.

But 2013 is the year that Maslany is moving to a new medium in a big way, starring in a new sci-fi series for BBC America called Orphan Black, in which her character becomes embroiled in a mystery after she discovers she’s just one of many clones spread across the world (all played by Maslany, naturally). It’s too early to tell whether the show will be a breakout success or an over-the-top genre dud, but the exposure could nevertheless push Maslany to a next level of stardom. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time a Canadian in a starring role on a schlocky show went on to big things.

(Steve Fisher)

Reema Major
Young rap artist earning a rep.

Ever since Drake exploded in the late ‘00s, making him the best-known Torontonian musician in a generation, local hip-hop heads have been waiting for a new star. Who will be the next Toronto artist to break internationally, proving that Drake wasn’t just some sort of outlier and that our city has a pool of rap talent that’s every bit as deep as those in New York and Atlanta?

Over the past two years, 17-year-old Reema Major has emerged as the clear frontrunner. Not only does she hold the distinction of being the youngest performer to take part in a cypher at the BET Hip-Hop Awards, she’s also received a co-sign from one of rap music’s heavy hitters. Last summer, Waka Flocka Flame took to Twitter to announce that Major had been signed to his Brick Squad Monopoly label. He then took Major across the US to open for him on his Triple F Life tour. (In addition to getting the deal with Flocka, Major has also received high-profile co-signs from Rick Ross and, somewhat inexplicably, Gene Simmons.)

With an increased profile, a pocket full of endorsements, and a new mixtape set to drop in the near future, there’s a very strong chance that 2013 will be Major’s breakout year.

(Chris Dart)

James Reimer and Ben Scrivens
Maple Leafs netminders.

The 2012/2013 NHL season isn’t so much saved in its entirety as it is partially salvaged. Now that the lockout is over, we can expect a condensed season, meaning some teams will occasionally see 5 games a week.

Leafs General Manager Brian Burke’s confidence in James “Optimus Reim” Reimer—$5.8 million dollars worth of confidence, as Reimer’s three-year contract extension suggests—marks the goaltender as a clear starter. Even though Reimer showed flashes of brilliance in the net last year, he has yet to manage a full, consistent, and healthy NHL season. Now, given a shortened season, expect both him and backup goalie Ben Scrivens to get plenty of starting opportunities.

Speaking of Scrivens, his performance last season simply cannot be ignored. He backstopped the Marlies to the AHL finals while setting new franchise records for both goals against average and save percentage. And while Reimer has not been playing during the lockout, Scrivens has helped bring the Marlies to first place in the AHL western conference.

Both Reimer and Scrivens have yet to prove themselves capable of providing the Leafs with a long-term goaltending solution. Even so, over the next few months, expect both of these young goaltenders to be given plenty of opportunity to prove their worth. That said, if you want to cheer for a winning professional hockey franchise in Toronto, you’d better stick with the Marlies.

(Corbin Smith)

Nazem Kadri
Maple Leafs draft pick coming back from the minors.

Those few Leafs fans still holding their breath for some on-ice performance from 2009 first-round draft pick Nazem Kadri—the very first selection under the regime of Brian Burke—are blue in the face by now. Despite intermittent glimpses of the dynamic talent that made him such a highly coveted prospect, he has helped temper any potential excitement with erratic play and, most recently, questionable conditioning. It’s these shortcomings that have led to an inevitable demotion back to the minor-league Marlies and increasing criticism by impatient supporters ready to write Kadri off as yet another misstep by Leafs brass.

So why would this year be any different? For one, Kadri may have an advantage over many other players who have waited out the lockout. While they fretted over the details of the new collective bargaining agreement, practicing only when the opportunity arose, Kadri was rounding into mid-season form as one of the leaders in points for the Marlies. It remains to be seen whether his momentum can carry over when the NHL resumes play—an uncertainty aided by a recent head injury—but there are, at least, new signs that the 22-year-old London, ON native will play a crucial role in what will be an especially frantic playoff push for the Leafs.

(Kevin Scott)

Ingrid Veninger
Innovative and economical filmmaker.

Photo by Benjamin Lichty.

While Ingrid Veninger is hardly new to the Toronto film scene, her recent work seems poised to make her a household name. She started as a young actress, but has developed into an innovative and economical filmmaker.

Veninger came into her own with the 2011 release of the critically acclaimed i am a good person/i am a bad person, a film produced with a budget of just $20,000. (Veninger wrote, directed, and starred in it.) Also, through her company, pUNK FILMS, she produced Peter Mettler’s newest documentary, The End of Time.

In 2012, Veninger teamed up with The Royal Cinema’s director of programming, Stacey Donen, to present the 1K Feature Film Challenge, in which five local filmmakers were each tasked with producing a feature film on an impossibly stringent $1000 budget.

The plan now is to use the earnings from screenings of those films to fund another, similar challenge. Also, all those works will be considered as possible acquisitions for Donen’s College Street Pictures, a distribution company that had two films at TIFF in 2012.

With her dedication and eye for talent, Veninger is one to watch in the coming year.

(Kevin Scott)

Bahia Watson
Stage actor in the spotlight.

Photo by SIDDIQUI.

Last year, the dynamic duo of Bahia Watson and Liza Paul spoke out for West Indian women (and, more specifically, their private parts) in the brutally funny pomme is french for apple, which went from a short run at The Tranzac in February, to a hit stint at the Toronto Fringe, to the Best of Fringe fest in July, and finally to a spot in JFL42 this fall. The two of them will follow that rollercoaster year with a remount of pomme in 2013 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, and Watson will also appear in the upcoming Someone Else, a highly anticipated new play from Kristen Thomson.

Watson has already proven she can stand out among a cast of 13 legendary women (like Megan Follows, in Nightwood Theatre’s Dora Award-winning The Penelopiad), so this added experience with Thomson is sure to confirm the actress as a young, well-rounded, sharp female presence in Toronto theatre this year.

(Carly Maga)

Nina Lee Aquino and Nigel Shawn Williams
Breathing new life into the Factory Theatre.

Photo by Jonathan Heppner.

Nina Lee Aquino and Nigel Shawn Williams aren’t new to Toronto theatre. In fact, both have been fairly big names for quite some time. Aquino is known as an accomplished playwright, director, and Artistic Director of Cahoots Theatre Company. Williams is an esteemed film and theatre actor, and a Dora winner for his performance in last year’s Topdog/Underdog. But this past fall saw the pair take on entirely new roles. They’re now the Interim Artistic Team at Factory Theatre, positions they inherited after the firing of former Factory Artistic Director Ken Gass and all the associated controversy. This month, they’ll mount the first production in their new Factory Theatre season, Every Letter Counts, written by Aquino and directed by Williams.

The pair will have to rebuild the theatre from the ground up. Not everyone has stopped fuming over Gass’ termination, but now that he has revived Canadian Rep Theatre (another project to watch in 2013), there is no longer any chance of him returning to the company he founded. And so, in 2013, Factory Theatre will begin its new future in the hands of Aquino and Williams, a challenge they voluntarily accepted and should tackle boldly.

(Carly Maga)

Noble Beaver Trading Co.
Makers of hand-crafted wares.

Photo by Corbin Smith/Torontoist.

Every so often, a project launches with such gusto that time appears to shift around it. Weeks and months expand in hindsight, as though to account for vast productivity within a short period of time. Such is the case with Noble Beaver Trading Company, a joint venture between artisans Jay Kelly, Graeme Marrs and Dawn Petticrew.

Barely a half-year into its existence, Noble Beaver—a company bent on bringing handmade Canadian wares back into gift shops—has already received lifestyle section shout-outs and a coveted spot in December’s City of Craft fair (which is basically the Super Bowl for local makers). Specializing in ceramic arts, nifty wood-based treasures and knives forged in a West-End backyard contraption called the “BBForge,” Noble Beaver’s got its fingers (claws?) in all the key houseware pies. 2013 is looking good.

(Kelli Korducki)

Compiled by Chris Riddell.

CORRECTION: Tuesday, January 8 1:30PM, 2:10PM, & 2:30PM Nazem Kadri, Reema Major, and Dawn Petticrew’s names were previously misspelled in the post above. The corrections have been made.