Streets & Alleys

  • #Hashtag Gallery (801 Dundas Street West)
  • All day

Streets & Alleys is a series of photographs that originated from the artist’s bike rides through Toronto’s back alleys and side streets. The exhibition, which runs as part of Bike Month, is particularly relevant as it takes a close look at the role the bicycle plays in everyday life. The project is described by the artist as one that “would unite my experience as a documentary photographer with my love of bicycles.” The opening reception takes place on June 20.

Details: Streets & Alleys

A Guide to the 2013 Toronto Jazz Festival

The Bobby Sparks Trio.

  • Multiple venues
  • All day

The 2013 Toronto Jazz Festival descends on the city on June 21 with a huge “free for all” event. That means all of Friday, June 21’s programming at every Jazz Festival venue is, yes, completely free of charge. There will be concerts from local favourites Molly Johnson and Mary Margaret O’Hara, plus a show by Smokey Robinson and Martha Reeves, who will be launching the fest from its epicentre, Nathan Phillips Square.

Here’s a rundown of some of the shows worth checking out on Friday—and during the rest of the festival, when you’ll actually have to pay.

Details: A Guide to the 2013 Toronto Jazz Festival

Toronto Dragon Boat Festival

Photo by Dean Bradley.

  • Toronto Centre Island (Toronto Centre Island)
  • All day

If, while wandering Toronto Island, you happen to come across dozens of dragons slithering in the water, never fear! The Toronto Dragon Boat Festival has returned. This epic weekend brings together some 200 teams and 5,000 athletes from countries around the world. And don’t worry if you don’t think you have what it takes to register; it’s still a lot of fun to watch (and free to do so). Check out our review of a previous year here.

Details: Toronto Dragon Boat Festival

The Royal Ontario Museum Takes a Modern Approach to the Cradle of Civilization

  • Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queens Park)
  • All day

The name “Mesopotamia” derives from a Greek term meaning “land between the rivers.” The Royal Ontario Museum’s latest major exhibit, which opens on June 22, takes this literally, as visitors flow between painted representations of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers on the floor.

Presented by the British Museum and rounded out with pieces from institutions in Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia, “Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World” covers 3,000 years of human development in the cradle of urban civilization. Most of the 170 artifacts on display have never been shown in Canada.

Details: The Royal Ontario Museum Takes a Modern Approach to the Cradle of Civilization

New Toronto Production of Cats Meets Expectations

Cats Ensemble. Photo by Racheal McCaig.

  • Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge Street)
  • 1:30 p.m.

Cats is a challenging musical to stage for a number of reasons. The narrative is thin and strange; the lyrics are drawn primarily from T.S. Eliot’s poetry collection Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats, with more borrowed from some other Eliot poems, “Rhapsody on a Windy Night” (which original director Trevor Nunn adapted into the song “Memory”) and “Moments of Happiness.” The result is not so much a story as ideas and character sketches. Old Deuteronomy, patriarch of the Jellicle Cats, calls the creatures together once a year to celebrate, and for one cat to be chosen to ascend to the Heaviside Layer (essentially, to die and be reincarnated). Most of the songs detail the adventures and virtues of a single cat in particular, essentially serving as that cat’s audition for the honour of ascension.

Details: New Toronto Production of Cats Meets Expectations

The Man in Black

Stephanie Hutchison, Jonathan Renna, McGee Maddox, and Kevin D. Bowles in The Man in Black. Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic.

  • Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen Street West)
  • 2 p.m.

Who says ballerinas can’t wear cowboy boots? Dancers of the National Ballet of Canada will do just that during the production of James Kudelka’s The Man in Black. Set to songs by the man in black himself—Johnny Cash—the choreography borrows from line, swing, and step dancing. As an added bonus, the show also includes a performance of Jorma Elo’s Pur ti Miro, Guillaume Côté’s No. 24, and George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations.

Details: The Man in Black

Passion Play‘s Journey Through Time

The Director (Jordan Pettle) speaks to "J" (Andrew Kushnir) while they rehearse the crucifixion scene.

  • Eastminister Church (310 Danforth Avenue)
  • 1:30 p.m., 7 p.m.

There are a lot of chefs in the kitchen for the Canadian premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play, a triptych set in three time periods that tells the stories of amateur actors (played by real actors) involved in staging performances of the story of Christ. Three different Toronto independent theatre companies, all with reputations for innovative staging and creation in their past work, each tackle one of the three acts. Ordinarily, such a complicated arrangement would be to a show’s detriment, but not in this case. While you need to be prepared for a marathon of theatre (the show runs four hours, incluing two intermissions), you’re certainly going to get your money’s worth.

Details: Passion Play‘s Journey Through Time

Luminato 2013: Impressive But Scattered Compositions

Rafael Benatar handling a baroque lute. Photo by Virginia Lee Hunter.

  • Koerner Hall (273 Bloor Street West)
  • 7:30 p.m.

Offering no further justification up top other than the mere fact that “magician” and “musician” sound similar, Rafael Benatar combined the two disciplines with skill, if not grace, in Compositions. Nearly as adept with a baroque guitar or lute as with a deck of cards, Benatar effectively performed two disparate shows: one a fun, crowd-pleasing string of illusions and the other a contemplative display of nimble fingerpicking that intermittently ground the momentum to a halt. It was a jarring enough transition that when Benatar sat down to pluck a few tunes after first performing a couple of tricks, audible snores could be heard from somewhere in the audience during the quieter moments.

Building nicely from simpler tricks employing handkerchiefs and cards to more baffling stunners that may or may not have involved witchcraft, the magic portions of the show were enthralling for the most part. As he called audience members to the stage, Benatar showcased a nice comic rapport with each of them. He has the kind of inscrutable face and deadpan demeanor that work well in the field, at one point countering a young girl who had just told him her age with, “I was nine when I was your age too.” At times, though, he did have a tendency to perform variations on the same trick that belaboured what he had already accomplished.

Alternating regularly between magic and music, there couldn’t help but be a slight sense of disappointment whenever Benatar sat down on a couch and picked up the baroque guitar or lute. Playing songs largely by 17th-century composer Robert de Visée, the abrupt shift in tone managed to suck the energy out of a room that was eagerly anticipating more tricks. It was hard not to expect him to perhaps transform the guitar into a rabbit or a dove at any moment. Not to dismiss Benatar’s obvious talent, as his complex runs along the fretboard were worthy of praise, but he did strike a few “dead” notes occasionally and soldiered through some tuning issues with his lute. Watching someone who seemed at times to be able to manipulate people’s minds fiddle with the tuning keys broke whatever spell had been cast, like watching a rocket scientist struggle to open a pudding cup.

Details: Luminato 2013: Impressive But Scattered Compositions

Luminato 2013: Ronnie Burkett’s The Daisy Theatre

Puppeteer Ronnie Burkett plays with an assortment of marionettes old and new in his nightly cabaret show, The Daisy Theatre. Photo courtesy of Luminato.

  • Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street)
  • 9:30 p.m.

Ronnie Burkett has solidified his reputation as Canada’s premiere solo puppeteer with complex full-length plays, like the Memory Dress Trilogy, or last year’s “apocalyptic comedy” Penny Plain. So it’s a rare treat to see him cut loose and perform The Daisy Theatre. It’s a free-wheeling show that’s different each night, with audience participation, special guests, and some new marionettes and stage trappings paid for out of Luminato’s coffers.

Details: Luminato 2013: Ronnie Burkett’s The Daisy Theatre

Luminato 2013: Jason Collett’s Courtyard Revue

Cover band extraordinaire Vag Halen playing a special Basement Revue show at Luminato in 2013 . Photo by David Leyes.

  • Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street)
  • 11:30 p.m.

Jason Collett’s Basement Revue has long been a local hot ticket for those with an interest in what the lanky musician and his Broken Social Scene pals are up to—with a generous mix of other literary, theatrical, and cultural talents mixed in. The nightly late-night Luminato edition, the Courtyard Revue, staged in the lobby of Canadian Stage’s Berkeley Street Theatre (and spilling out into the open-air courtyard), is offering more of Collett and co-producer Damian Rogers’ carefully selected programming. The difference, however, is that, with a larger venue and profile due to Luminato, some of the acts look to be more than one-night-only tryouts.

Details: Luminato 2013: Jason Collett’s Courtyard Revue