The return of annual music festivals Camp Wavelength and Mad Decent Block Party; the return of Sail-In Cinema and the Canadian National Exhibition; and the return of hit local comedies Life Records and Swordplay.
Urban Planner is your weekly curated guide to what’s on in Toronto—things that are local, affordable, and exceptional.
Monday, August 15
Electoral reform advocates Why Should I Care? (WSIC) are hosting a round-table discussion to solicit feedback about the sort of changes they want to forward to the Trudeau government. To keep things loose and casual, rather than doing so in an office or community centre, they’re hosting the meeting in a pub, open to all (though RSVPs are encouraged). Moderating the discussion will be David Berlin, founding editor of the Walrus. Madison Avenue Pub (14 Madison Avenue), 7 p.m., FREE.
Tuesday, August 16
Ken Gass’s Canadian Rep Theatre is using early plays by two established Canadian writers, George F. Walker and Wajdi Mouawad, to highlight a diverse ensemble of emerging performers. Walker’s TOUGH! has played Toronto many times, with several productions at the venue Gass founded, Factory Theatre; Mouawad’s Dreams (Rêves) is having its English language premiere here. The Gass-directed double bill, which began in previews on August 9, opens tonight and runs until Saturday, August 20 at a student-friendly price. Citadel Theatre (304 Parliament Street), TOUGH! at 7:30 p.m, Dreams at 9 p.m., $15 per show, $20 for both.
Of the singer-songwriter all-stars currently touring as Case/Lang/Veirs, it could be argued that American Neko Case (also a member of Canadian “supergroup” The New Pornographers) has the strongest connection to Toronto, despite k.d. lang being (truly) Canadian; Case recorded parts of her live album The Tigers Have Spoken at the Matador, back when the infamous College and Dovercourt illegal spirits-soaked country hall was still open, using local heroes, The Sadies, as her backing band. The trio are playing their eponymous album here for two nights, August 16 and 17, at a more upscale venue. Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth Avenue), doors at 7 p.m., $54.45 to $64.70.
Wednesday, August 17
Hot local music show alert: Cousins (a.k.a. Aaron Mangle) is playing a solo headlining set with two great supporting acts, Lido Pimienta and grunge-pop up-and-comer Dorothea Paas. The Burdock (1184 Bloor Street West), doors at 8:30 p.m., show at 9 p.m., $8 in advance, $10 at the door.
Comedy-theatre troupe Sex T-Rex specializes in both plays and improv inspired by cinematic properties, so it’s a perfect fit for them to launch a new show inspired by the hit Netflix 80s mash-up Stranger Things, which itself wears its influences—the work of horror writer Stephen King, as well as the films of Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter—proudly on its sleeve. Stephen Kinger Things will feature the troupe and guests mashing up the audience’s favourite King things, improv style. (If you prefer your entertainment scripted, Sex T-Rex also performs their scripted shows Callaghan, an Indiana Jones-style adventure, and Swordplay: A Play of Swords, which has many nods to The Princess Bride, on August 19 and 20, before embarking on an east coast tour.) Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor Street West), 9:30 p.m., PWYC.
Thursday, August 18
Quick, name a skateboarder other than Tony Hawk. Most people can’t; the veteran athlete is arguably the sport’s only household name. He’ll be at Yonge-Dundas Square with a crew of five (much younger) showcase skaters, doing two 45-minute half-pipe demos to promote the launch of his apparel line with Walmart Canada. Yonge-Dundas Square (1 Dundas Street East), 8 a.m. and noon, FREE.
The popular on-the-water (the screen, anyway) outdoor film series Sail-In Cinema is back with a trio of magical adventure films for the whole family. On Thursday, the series kicks off with Hook, a movie celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a recent revisit with the late Robin Williams’s child co-stars; Friday, another Williams vehicle, the board game gone bonkers Jumanji; and on Saturday, the series wraps up with The Princess Bride. Those who plan to watch the films from dry land are encouraged to bring blankets, chairs, and the like; as with boat mooring, space is on a first-come, first-served basis. Sugar Beach (25 Dockside Drive), gates open at 6 p.m., films begin at 8 p.m., FREE.
Friday, August 19
The travelling dance music festival Mad Decent Block Party returns to Toronto for one night only, with a line-up that includes Diplo and occasional collaborator Sleepy Tom, Bishu, Grandtheft, and more. Fort York Garrison Commons (100 Garrison Road), doors at 3 p.m., $46.50 to $71.50.
Stand-up and storyteller Rhiannon Archer had a big hit on her hands at last year‘s Fringe Festival with Life Records, a show where she recounted personal stories tied to particular albums and songs. She’s remounting the show with a three-night stand at Bad Dog Theatre in their late show slot from Friday to Sunday. Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor Street West), August 19 to 21, 9:30 p.m., $10.
Weekend, August 20-21
It’s the only time of the year you can legally camp on the Toronto Islands—and it comes with a terrific bill of local artists’ creations and musical talent, including Operators, Bruce Peninsula, Cloud Nothings, and more. Camp Wavelength is the city’s most locally focused music and culture festival, curated by the eponymous music series, who we named Heroes last year. There are still tickets available in all categories (save for the VIP passes), but if you plan to camp, hop on it—they sold out camping passes last year and seem close to it again, a week away. Artscape Gibraltar Point (443 Lakeshore Avenue), August 19 to 21, gates open at 5 p.m. Friday, August 19, 1 p.m. on August 20 and 21, $20 to $160.
Last week, we wrote about Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in High Park series. But they’re not the only outdoor Shakespeare experience in Toronto—just the largest. If you’re looking to watch classic comedy by The Bard a little closer to the downtown core, where there’s less nature (and bugs) surrounding the show, Dauntless City Theatre is staging Twelfth Night and A Winter’s Tale every weekend in the Market Square neighbourhood, free to all (though pay-what-you-can donations are encouraged.) St. James Park (120 King Street East), 1 p.m. (Twelfth Night) and 7:30 p.m. (A Winter’s Tale), PWYC.
The Canadian National Exhibition opens on Friday, August 19, running until September 5—and the opening weekend is a big one, including the Warrior’s Day Parade, a Toronto Argonauts game, and popular perennial attractions like the Super Dogs showcase. Musical acts at the CNE Bandshell on opening weekend include Jane’s Party, Randy Bachman, and the Headstones, but perhaps the biggest draw may be a simulcast; after Jefferson Starship’s set on Saturday, August 20, the Bandshell will be screening The Tragically Hip‘s hometown concert live in Kingston, in association with CBC. (Other FREE venues to watch the Hip simulcast in Toronto that night include The Horseshoe Tavern, the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, and Sorauren Park; if you know of a venue not listed here, let us know in the comments!) CNE Bandshell (210 Princes Boulevard, southwest grounds corner), 8:30 p.m. – 11 p.m., FREE w/ entry to the CNE grounds ($14 to $18).
Have a tip for Urban Planner? Let us know via email, ideally more than a week in advance.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the CNE as the Central National Exhibition. Torontoist regrets the error.
Did you like this article? Do you love Torontoist? Support articles like this by becoming a Torontoist subscriber for only a couple dollars a month. Get great perks and fund local journalism that makes a difference—support Torontoist now.