What to Check Out in Toronto September 19–25: The Polaris Prize, JFL42, and Bells On Bloor
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What to Check Out in Toronto September 19–25: The Polaris Prize, JFL42, and Bells On Bloor

This week features A Tribe Called Red, literary festival Word on the Street, and a burlesque tribute to Queen Bey.

Urban Planner is your weekly curated guide to what’s on in Toronto—things that are local, affordable, and exceptional.

DeAnne Smith co-hosts Salomon and Smith, and appears on the opening night of the JFL42 comedy festival this week. Photo by Corbin Smith/Torontoist.

DeAnne Smith co-hosts Salomon & Smith and appears on the opening night of the JFL42 comedy festival this week. Photo by Corbin Smith/Torontoist.


Monday, September 19

Jurors from across Canada will debate the 10 shortlisted Polaris Prize nominees behind closed doors, while seven of the nominated music acts (also from across Canada) play live for attendees of tonight’s gala and awards ceremony. As of press time, tickets for the event were sold out—but you can stream it live to see if there’s another controversy like the “four guys from Calgary” who refused to change their name. The Carlu (444 Yonge Street), doors at 6 p.m., show at 8 p.m., $65 to $250.

Another award ceremony taking place tonight, much smaller in scope, is the Patrick Conner Award, which recognizes Canadians whose work incorporates environmental sustainability, in honour of the local theatre artist and eco-activist who died of cancer in 2012. This year’s recipients are Georgina Beaty, who recently wrote and starred in Extremophiles at the SummerWorks festival, and Sarah Pittoello, an instructor at Acadia University and the farmer-in-residence at the Just Us! Centre for Small Farms. The event, open to the public, will recognize the recipients on the Theatre Centre’s green roof deck. The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West), 6:30 p.m., FREE (ticket required).

Comics DeAnne Smith and Jess Salomon are bringing back their popular Salomon & Smith comedy monthly for “Season Two.” Both stand-ups have had busy summers touring; Smith, one of our 2016 Local Ladies Who Make Us Laugh, released an album, Tell It To My Balls, and headlines later this week at the JFL42 festival. Their special guests for the night are two other long-time comedy collaborators, Phil Luzi and Sandra Battaglini. Bad Dog Theatre (875 Bloor Street West), 7:30 p.m., $12.



Tuesday, September 20

The interactive show The Stranger, a mobile adventure designed for one audience participant at a time, returns to Toronto after successful stagings in Vancouver, Italy, and India. The show, which originated at the SummerWorks Festival (and was one of our favourite experiences of that festival in both 2014 and 2015), begins on a street corner in the Queen West neighbourhood and roams across the city. We won’t say any more, except that tickets are going fast and attendees should wear shoes they’re comfortable running in (for short stretches). Secret location, September 20 to October 9, Tuesday to Friday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (25 minute interval start times), Saturday and Sunday 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., $30 to $50.

Fresh off of their headlining set at the close of the Manifesto Festival at Yonge-Dundas Square on Sunday night, A Tribe Called Red, who’ve just officially released their new album, We Are the Halluci Nation, play another free show for 6 Degrees Citizen Space, an initiative of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, tackling inclusion and citizenship in the 21st century. Goldring Centre (100 Devonshire Place), doors at 7 p.m., FREE.

The AGO Creative Minds series launches tonight with Art and Social Justice, a panel conversation moderated by Matt Galloway and featuring Buffy Sainte-Marie, Deepa Mehta, André Alexis, and Rebecca Belmore. The night will open with a special performance by Measha Brueggergosman and delve into the interconnectivity of activism and art. Massey Hall (178 Victoria Street), 8 p.m., $19.50 to $49.50.


Lucy Hill plays Petal in Erin Vandenberg's new play Salt. Photo by Robert Harding.

Lucy Hill plays Petal in Erin Vandenberg’s new play Salt. Photo by Robert Harding.


Wednesday, September 21

Tonight is the official relaunch of the Great Hall, a storied Queen Street venue, with a pair of Heritage Toronto plaque unveilings. One commemorates Indigenous Canadian athlete Tom Longboat, who trained there when the building was a YMCA, and the other commemorates the building itself, which has been open since 1889. (You can read our feature on the recent renovations here.) Speakers include Councillor Mike Layton, Toronto’s Poet Laureate Dennis Lee, and Pan-American gold medallist Waneek Horn-Miller. Advance tickets are free, but required for entry. The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West), 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., FREE.

Local playwright Erin Vandenberg’s new play, Salt, tackles many of the same topics as Kill Your Parents in Viking, Alberta, which we reviewed last week: toxic family relations, mental illness, and dangerous delusions. But unlike the latter black comedy (still running at Storefront Theatre), Salt is a bona fide psychodrama, complete with a raging alcoholic and domineering mother (played with relish by Philippa Domville). We saw the show’s first preview this weekend, and its tone was still uneven, with more naturalistic performances swallowed up by scenery chewing. But there was some clever projection work by set designer Anna Treusch and director Briana Brown and an intriguing performance by Lucy Hill as a sweet teen traumatized by living with her volatile mother. Alumnae Theatre Studio (70 Berkeley Street), September 17 to 28, Tuesday to Sunday, 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1:30 p.m., $15 to $25.


Amanda Brooke Perrin headlines at the JFL42 festival before leaving Toronto for LA. Photo by Corbin Smith/Torontoist.

Amanda Brooke Perrin headlines at the JFL42 festival before leaving Toronto for LA. Photo by Corbin Smith/Torontoist.

Thursday, September 22

Inspired by Beyonce’s landmark video album, The Lemonade Experience is a burlesque show tribute to Queen Bey. The squad in formation for the show includes such burlesque performers as Coco Framboise, Obskyura, and Zyra Lee Vanity. The Round (152A Augusta Avenue), doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m., $15 to $20 in advance, $20 to $25 at the door.

This year’s JFL42 comedy festival kicks off tonight with performances by out-of-town stars like Maria Bamford and Todd Barry and locals like DeAnne Smith and Amanda Brooke Perrin. It continues to the end of the month, with headliners that include Roseanne Barr, Trevor Noah, Tig Notaro, and more—many more than 42, if you take Andy Kindler’s Alternative Show, the SiriusXM Top Comic competition, and other showcases into account. Various venues, September 22 to October 1, $25 to $199.


Friday, September 23

Canada’s Walk of Fame Festival kicks off day one with a Free Festival that boasts a full day slate of music performances, including Vancouverites and potential Polaris Prize winners Black Mountain, local roots rockers Zeus, power-pop rockers The Balconies, and many more. Yonge-Dundas Square (1 Dundas Street East), noon to 10 p.m., FREE.

The Groundswell Festival, an annual celebration of new theatrical work by Canada’s premier feminist company Nightwood Theatre, runs all this week, kicking off with a Monday night reception and continuing all week with the Write From The Hip reading series. On the bill for tonight is a new iteration of Jijo Quayson’s Osia, which recently debuted at the SummerWorks Festival. Ernest Balmer Studio (9 Trinity Street), 7 p.m., PWYC.

With the Great Hall officially reopening on Wednesday, this week sees the return of some regular programming, including The Big Sound. The soul and Motown experience brings together a massive band to play live versions of danceable classics, with DJ sets in between the live ones by Wes Allen and Matt Cully. The Great Hall (1087 Queen Street West), doors at 10 p.m, $15.


Photo by Martin Reis from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Photo by Martin Reis from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.


Weekend, September 24 to 25

The City of Toronto is hosting an all day poverty reduction meeting to solicit opinions from Torontonians on the best way to tackle issues arising from poverty for the creation of a Lived Experience Advisory Group. The focus is to include those voices underrepresented at City Hall when it comes to dealing with issues—such as housing, transportation, and employment—that relate to how the municipal government can help those near or below the poverty line. To compensate those who give their time by attending, food, TTC tokens, and child care will be provided on site. Lawrence Heights Community Centre (5 Replin Road), 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., FREE.

The World Cup of Hockey Fan Village launched this past weekend but was somewhat overshadowed by TIFF. However, as the teams head into semi and finals play this weekend , the village will really step up the entertainment level. A headlining concert by Green Day has unfortunately been cancelled, but we’re curious to see what replaces them; in the meantime, programming like NHL player meet and greets, bubble hockey games, and an international food selection remains. Distillery District, September 16 to 25, FREE.

The ninth annual Bells On Bloor bike ride, advocating for bike lanes along the east-west arterial street, this year becomes a victory lap, celebrating the already hugely successful pilot project of lanes. The Sunday ride will start at Christie Pits, ride to Sherbourne Street, and back again, where there will be food, drink, and a performance by the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, who are there as well for the Christie Crawlfest. Start at Christie Pits Park (Bloor Street West & Christie Street), 11 a.m., FREE.

Toronto’s annual book and magazine festival, Word On The Street, is down by the water for the second year running, with indoor and outdoor programming all Sunday and featuring top literary talent, family-friendly activities, and, of course, so many publications to take home and devour. The Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West), 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., FREE.


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