What to Do in Toronto, January 23–29: Piano Fest, Blanket Fort, Monster Jam
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What to Do in Toronto, January 23–29: Piano Fest, Blanket Fort, Monster Jam

Also attend closing parties for The Central and The Hoxton; talks on safe streets and fake news; concerts from Kid Koala, Jason Collett, and Hooded Fang; and a surprise album release for the late Handsome Ned.

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

Charlotte Cornfield, seen here in a still from YouTube, plays PianoFest this week at the Burdock.

Charlotte Cornfield, seen here in a still from YouTube, plays PianoFest this week at the Burdock.

Monday, January 23

Playwright Diane Flacks’ new show, Unholy, featuring a debate among women about their place in religion, has nearly sold out its run—the show has added another week’s extension until February 5. Tonight, on the actors’ night off, Nightwood Theatre hosts an edition of Brave New Theatre, showcasing seven artistic “responses” to Unholy by performers who saw it last week, including choreographer Patricia Allison, actor Suzette McCanny, musician Math Rosen, and nearly 20 more. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street), 8 p.m., $12–$17.

The second annual Piano Fest at Burdock features a wide assortment of artists performing music based on the instrument, all this week. There will be a baby grand in the intimate concert hall, and bills that make use of it this week include Charlotte Cornfield and Noah Reid as a duo, and Patricia O’Callaghan with John Millard and Gregory Oh. January 23–29, Burdock (1184 Bloor Street West), 8:30 p.m., $10–$20.

Spend your afternoon (or evening in the Theatre Centre's Blanket Fort. Photo by Erin Gerofsky.

Spend your afternoon (or evening) in the Theatre Centre’s Blanket Fort. Photo by Erin Gerofsky.

Tuesday, January 24

The new advocacy group Friends & Families For Safe Streets, profiled at its inception by Metro, holds its first open advocacy meeting tonight at City Hall. The format will be an info session for those who have “been affected because someone you know was killed or seriously injured by road violence” on how they can participate in the group’s campaign to make Toronto’s streets safe for all users. Metro Hall, room 302 (55 John Street), 6 p.m.–8 p.m., FREE.

Art is Hard has previously engaged the public with such participatory presentations as a table flip booth and a dress-up photo booth. Their latest project is tailor-made for a dark Canadian winter. Blanket Fort begins tonight with a three-hour PWYC construction session, and runs for the rest of the week with both daytime and evening programming, including a talk from representatives from Come As You Are, a pancake breakfast, and a slumber party. Bring snacks, your PJs, and a sense of fun. January 24–29, The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West), 10 a.m.–midnight, daytime PWYC, evenings $15.

Wednesday, January 25

The remount of Groundling Theatre’s production of The Winter’s Tale, which we reviewed a year ago, is the best of both worlds. It’s being remounted in the gorgeous Winter Garden Theatre, one of the few remaining Edwardian-era vaudeville houses in the world, and the audience is seated on the stage, so the opportunity to see Stratford and Shaw veterans do Shakespeare in unusually close proximity, which was such a treat of the initial production, is retained. There’s very little in the way of a set—just a few benches and boxes the actors carry on and off stage. But the house itself is all the set required, as we can look out from the stage seating on an idyllic forest (the theatre’s famous hanging garden), bedecked with festive lanterns. This week, the company begins previews of Measure for Measure, which, by week’s end, will be playing in repertory with The Winter’s Tale ( check the company’s website for which show plays when). To February 19, Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres (189 Yonge Street), in repertory, $29–$79.

Local stand-up comic Nigel Grinstead has two firsts this week: a series of headlining shows at Yuk Yuk’s and an album taping on the final night of that four-night stand. Grinstead is a past winner of the Toronto Comedy Brawl and the JFL Homegrown competitions, and this year is shaping up to take his career to the next level. January 25–28, Yuk Yuk’s Toronto (224 Richmond Street West), Wednesday–Thursday, 8 p.m., $11, Friday, 9 p.m., $21, Saturday, 8 p.m.–10:30 p.m., $21.

Thursday, January 26

The Trump administration’s propaganda efforts, coinciding with the rise of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” have a lot of people confused as to how responsible journalism is practiced and applied to confusing and seemingly contradictory current affairs. MSNBC’s chief anchor Ali Velshi, who’s originally from Toronto, makes a hometown visit for Mixed Messages: Fact, Fiction, or Judgement, a talk on “making sense of the news.” Former Globe and Mail editor John Stackhouse will moderate a Q&A after. The Ismaili Centre (49 Wynford Drive), 7:30 p.m., $20.

Choreographer Ame Hederson has a new show, NOISY, in collaboration with Toronto Dance Theatre (and musicians Robin Dann and Matt Smith). Hederson has seven dancers creating their own “soundtrack” in the show, rather than dancing along to recorded music or music played live off-stage. Find out whether that means knee-slapping, percussive instruments, or plugged-in electric guitars being wielded by dancers who may or may not be obligated to create their own music. To February 4, Winchester Street Theatre (80 Winchester Street), Wednesday–Saturday, 8 p.m., $20–$25, Sunday January 29, 2 p.m., PWYC.

Kid Koala is really into collaboration with his audiences. His newest project, the Turntable Orchestra, encourages attendees to participate in spontaneous music making, with each audience member seated at a table with a turntable and effects box, plus a crate full of colour-coded records. The artist intends to “conduct” this orchestra with lighting that corresponds to the coloured vinyl in the crates. His late shows are all sold out at this point, but there’s still very limited availability for his evening sets, as well as a just-added all-ages matinée on Saturday. January 26–28, The Rivoli (332 Queen Street West), Thursday–Friday, 8 p.m. & 10 p.m., Saturday, 3 p.m. & 6 p.m., $35.

Friday, January 27

The Harbourfront Centre’s winter exhibition kicked off last week, and now its sister venue, the Power Plant, has a Winter 2017 Opening Party for its newest exhibitions by artists Jonathas de Andrade, Maria Hupfield, and Kapwani Kiwanga. The exhibitions will be open to the public for free, plus there will be a cash bar. At 11 p.m., when the exhibitions close, the party will move next door for an after party at Boxcar Social, with a $5 cover. Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery (231 Queens Quay West), 8 p.m., FREE.

The late Linda Griffiths’ play Alien Creature (a visitation from Gwendolyn MacEwan), which won a Dora Award for Outstanding New Play in 2000, is currently receiving a remount in the Backspace at Theatre Passe Muraille, where it debuted. Directed by Jani Lauzon and featuring a solo performance by Beatriz Pizano, the show, which employs MacEwan’s poetry (and some parlour trick magic) to paint a portrait of her tumultuous, darkly humourous and ultimately tragic, uses carefully framed light and shadow to make that “portrait” more distinct, with a series of warped frames around the set. Pizano gives an impassioned performance, but the dark wit of both MacEwan and Griffith doesn’t seem to come as easily to her—she makes more of an impact in direct address than in more coy moments, which can seem meandering due to the non-chronological nature of the play. To February 5, Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue), Wednesdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., $17–$33 Saturday–Sundays, 2 p.m., PWYC at the door.

In the write-up for Hooded Fang‘s headlining show at the Silver Dollar, promoter Dan Burke hints that the show may be the last time we’ll see the band at the venue. That may have something to do with them having signed recently to Trust Management, a U.K.-based agency with a track record for helping bands like We Are Scientists and Fuck Buttons raise their profile. In any event, the Dollar is a great venue to see the (currently) buzz-punk stylings of the four piece, paired with lush electronic vocalist Anamai and “fuzzy slack ‘n’ roll” outfit Deliluh. The Silver Dollar (486 Spadina Avenue), 9 p.m., $10.

Weekend, January 28–29

Big wheels, crushed cars, wicked flips—Monster Jam is back in Toronto for its 25th anniversary tour, with trucks like Grave Digger and El Toro Loco scheduled to appear. The undercard has dirt bike acrobats and more, and both days there’s a pre-show and an all-ages “pit party” for several hours (up until gates open) outside the Rogers Centre, which is a $10 admission. Saturday–Sunday, Rogers Centre (1 Blue Jays Way), Saturday, gates at 5:30, 7 p.m. showtime; Sunday, gates at 12:30, 2 p.m. showtime, $15–$226.

A sporadic fundraiser for the Illeagle Studio, Illeagle Studio Presents, has a great line-up of musical acts and clients for this third edition of the series, including Jason Collett, Taylor Knox, Alli Sunshine, and FORCES. There will be a late night cover set and a 50/50 draw benefiting Annex Cat Rescue. Saturday, Handlebar (159 Augusta Avenue), 9:30 p.m., $10.

It’s the last night ever to party at The Hoxton, as the popular dance hall venue is slated for eventual redevelopment. Tickets for The Hoxton Closing Party, featuring No Neon with Hunter Siegel, are currently sold out, though a few may be released closer to the weekend (and some enterprising people in the event discussion thread have extras, at 10 times the original price). Saturday, The Hoxton (69 Bathurst Street), 10 p.m., $15.

Also celebrating their last event ever is The Central, which is closing down along with all the other businesses in Mirvish Village neighborhood. The Central Shutdown will feature 10 DJs on multiple floors, with hosts A2 and Lord Chedda. Saturday, The Central (603 Markham Street), 10 p.m., FREE.

Just down the street the next night at the soon-to-close Victory Cafe, the second annual Feminist Debaters, a fundraiser for Truth ‘n’ Lies Theatre, will most certainly sell out. Hosted again by Jess Beaulieu, pairs of celebrity guests will debate such topics as “who’d you rather get drunk with: Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama?” and “When do you feel most powerful: after a great workout, or a great fuck?” Sunday, Victory Cafe (581 Markham Street), Doors at 7 p.m., debates at 8 p.m., $15.

It’s certainly a surprise that Handsome Ned has a new live album being released, 20 years after his untimely death. But a recently unearthed recording of him opening for Blue Rodeo at the Horseshoe in 1985 has been cleaned up and is getting a record release party, with members of bands like The Viletones and Rattlesnake Choir participating in a tribute show, organized by Cameron House Records. Sunday, The Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen Street West), doors at 8 p.m., $10.

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