People to Watch in 2015
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People to Watch in 2015

A look at some of the actors, artists, activists, and public figures who will be making news in 2015.

Jordan Tannahill's new book, Theatre of the Unimpressed, will be published this spring by Coach House Books  (Photo by McKenzie James )

Jordan Tannahill’s new book, Theatre of the Unimpressed, will be published this spring by Coach House Books. (Photo by McKenzie James.)

Every year, a handful of Torontonians take the next step in their fields and suddenly seem to be everywhere. While predicting who those people might be is bound to produce some hits and misses (we’re looking at you, 2013 Blue Jays), we nonetheless made our best informed guesses for Torontonians to watch in 2015.

Jordan Tannahill

It isn’t often that a young playwright-director’s theatre manifesto is picked as one of The Globe and Mail’smost anticipated books of 2015.” But not every young playwright-director is the dynamo known as Jordan Tannahill. In April, Tannahill—whose previous book, the play collection Age of Minority, won a 2014 Governor General’s Award—will unleash the provocatively titled Theatre of the Unimpressed, a work that his publisher, Coach House Books, describes as no less than “a road map for a vital 21st-century theatre.” At the same time, the 26-year-old Tannahill will put his theories into practice this year by remounting his much-talked-about 2013 production of Sheila Heti’s All Our Happy Days Are Stupid, which will kick off the World Stage season at Harbourfront in February before flying south for a McSweeney’s-backed run at legendary New York venue The Kitchen. And this summer, in the collaborative spirit of his recent hit Concord Floral, Tannahill will join forces with Necessary Angel Theatre and the bluemouth inc. collective to create an immersive production for the Pan Am Games. Whether Theatre of the Unimpressed will turn out to be the Canadian answer to such seminal works as Peter Brook’s The Empty Space or Antonin Artaud’s The Theatre and Its Double remains to be seen, but you can bet it will be on every indie theatre lover’s must-read list this year.

(Martin Morrow)


Singer Jasmyn Burke “Weaves” through the room, with dancers attached to her by lines signifying the hour, minute, and second hands of a clock. Photo by Dahlia Katz/Summerworks.

Including Weaves in this list might seem both obvious and late to the party. After all, in 2014, Weaves was labeled a “band to watch” by Rolling Stone, and garnered heaps of praise for its self-titled debut EP. But this year, the genre-bending fuzz-rock band will release its first full LP album, and that’s the sort of thing that gets you on best-of lists and noticed by mainstream outlets. If its most recent single, the excellent grunge-tinged “Shithole,” is any indication, the band has been distilling its sound into something a bit more pop-friendly—though, of course, when you call your single “Shithole,” you’re clearly not overly concerned with appealing to the masses.

(Steve Fisher)

Mark Little and Dan Beirne

Little and Beirne had a successful 2014, particularly in terms of getting their comedy seen outside of Toronto (locally, Little had an annus mirabilis, appearing on both our top ten list, and getting a Now Magazine cover story). They’ll be making waves in 2015 as well: their sci-fi spoof Space Riders: Division Earth has been picked up for CTV’s digital Extend channel, and they’ve just been nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. Not only will Space Riders get a second season, but the pair also has a new television pilot for the show Dad Drives, a family comedy that’s definitely not for the whole family. Building on an initial webseries run, the pilot features Canadian screen heavyweights like Sheila McCarthy and Tony Nappo and should be on a savvy network’s slate well before year’s end.

(Steve Fisher)

Akio Maroon

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Akio Maroon says that although her activism doesn’t pay the bills, it lifts her spirit. Maroon, an occupational health and safety worker by day, has been devoting her free time to fighting for sex workers’ rights and police accountability. She helped to organize last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, fought against federal legislation that criminalizes sex work, and started a local child-care collective. Maroon is also in high demand as a sex educator and human rights speaker, both locally and around the world.

Maroon describes her work as “raw, emotional, and sometimes debilitating,” but adds that a sense of humour is as necessary as a sense of purpose, “otherwise you spend your whole day crying.” While her year ahead will consist of advocacy at all levels of government, Maroon is particularly interested in the upcoming federal election. She says her struggles as a mother and activist pale in comparison with those of the parents and young people she supports: “As difficult as it is for me, I know why I’m doing it, and it’s the best reason to get up every morning.”

(Desmond Cole)

Dan Levy

Don’t let the eyebrows fool you: Dan Levy is not his father. While Papa Eugene helped put Canadian comedy on the map with goofy SCTV sketches, Dan is a proud millennial. A former MTV host, he’s got a hefty social media following, a funky designer eyewear line, and, as of 2015, his own CBC comedy sitcom, Schitt’s Creek.

He’s played his cards well. He’s primed to carry his teenage MTV fanbase over to CBC TV’s new cable-style territory; it’s hoping to shed the Little Mosque image for something a little more Eastbound and Down-ish. And while Schitt’s Creek‘s premise is a standard fish-out-of-water plot—rich family loses everything and moves to small town—with big-name Canadian talent like his father, Catherine O’Hara, and Emily Hampshire, the show could work. It’s been getting good early buzz, the pilot drew a strong audience, and CBC folks are certainly hoping it will deliver on its promise.

(Michael Fraiman)

Lido Pimienta

“I want to be huge,” Lido Pimienta doesn’t mind saying. Well, 2014 was plenty big for the larger-than-life performer, and with her long-awaited sophomore album La Papessa still waiting to drop, 2015 is shaping up to be even bigger.

Pimienta enjoyed quite a bit of international acclaim in Europe and South America after the release of her debut album Color in 2010, but the recognition didn’t materialize back home in quite the same way.

Now, after touring with A Tribe Called Red and sharing stages with the likes of Tanya Tagaq, Canadian fans of politically engaged avant-pop have started to catch on.

A favourite of promoters like Wavelength and Silent Shout, Pimienta has built a reputation in Toronto’s indie scene for her gripping, incendiary shows and her love of collaboration. Thanks to her stunning, jam-packed SummerWorks performance, her set at the Music Gallery’s X-Avant Festival, and her appearance in Jason Collett’s Basement Revue, her reputation has deservedly grown.

All the indie love notwithstanding, Pimienta has no interest in obscurity. She aims for mainstream success, and her upcoming “gangster pop” album La Papessa has the ironclad beats and unfettered songwriting that could take her there. The album title roughly translates as “the Lady Pope,” which nicely captures the singer’s defiantly grandiose persona: we think 2015 will be the year her ambitions are realized.

(Mark Mann)

Peter Sloly

Image from Peter Sloly's Twitter account

Image from Peter Sloly’s Twitter account.

If you happen to be job hunting, the top job in the Toronto Police Services is available. It’ll help if you’re personable, have a thorough understanding of ongoing police issues such as carding and the use of force, and know its budget inside and out. And an ability to navigate the delicate politics of policing in Toronto would certainly be an asset.

One man seen as having the necessary experience and background for the role is Deputy Chief Peter Sloly, a much-talked-about candidate to replace outgoing Chief Bill Blair. Born in Jamaica, the 48-year-old moved to Canada when he was nine and played for Canada’s national soccer team before joining the police force. Since then, he has risen through the TPS ranks, earned an MBA from Schulich, graduated from the FBI National Academy, and participated in a UN peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

It’s not just Sloly’s impressive resumé that recommends him for the position: he’s also seen as the police official best able to reach out to marginalized communities and restore trust, which will be one of the top challenges for the next chief.

Whether Sloly will become chief or not remains to be seen, although inside observers feel he has a good shot. Regardless, he’ll be at the centre of one of Toronto’s most important political issues over the next year as Toronto continues to look at how and why policing is done the way it is.

(David Hains)

CORRECTION: January 19, 2015, 2:18 PM This post originally misspelled Dan Beirne’s last name. We regret the error.