More than 40 sketch troupes started out at the start of this month’s Sketch Com-Ageddon, but just 12 of those will play in two semi-final rounds on Friday, and six of those in the finals on Saturday evening. It’s not just for bragging rights, either—there’s a substantial winner-take-all, entry-fee-pool cash prize, and a coveted headlining spot for the winners in the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival next March. Twelve dollars gets you both the 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. rounds on Friday, or you can see just one set (or the 8 p.m. finals on Saturday) for $8.
Produced by Sunparlour Players’ Andrew Penner, Dreams From Belle County is the debut album by Toronto’s Local 164. The roots and alt-country band is releasing the album with a free party at TO’s folk headquarters, the Tranzac Club. Penner will join the band on stage, and Zachary Bennett from Tin Star Orphans will open.
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.
When it was originally unveiled at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (England, not Ontario), the “David Bowie Is” exhibition shattered attendance records, selling over 42,000 advance tickets. Now that the show has come to Toronto, it’s easy to see why it was so successful. Composed of over 300 objects from David Bowie’s personal archive, spanning his entire career, the exhibit is arranged and presented as a completely immersive experience, enveloping visitors in a kaleidoscopic visual and aural landscape that would be overwhelming if it weren’t so brilliantly arranged and intelligently guided.
Since its humble beginnings in the back room of Toronto’s Tranzac club back in 2003, Evil Dead The Musical has steadily risen in infamy as a ridiculously fun, tongue-in-cheek, gore-soaked musical experience. From those earliest shows, the musical has gone on to make an off-broadway debut, to win and be nominated for several Dora awards, and to play in dozens of cities around the world, from Montreal and Vancouver to Tokyo and Madrid. It was high time that the show make a triumphant homecoming to a stage in Toronto, and it finally has, at the Randolph Theatre.
It’s not every day that a media tour opens with the injunction not to photograph “the sex blob,” but so began TIFF’s preview of “David Cronenberg: Evolution,” the organization’s first large-scale touring exhibition (for now, it’s stationed at the TIFF Bell Lightbox’s HSBC Gallery). It’s an exhaustive, stunning look at some of the wildest, most perverse creations of a pioneer of the body-horror genre—who also happens to be Canada’s most internationally renowned filmmaker.
“Telling: An Audio Survey of Parkdale,” curated by Phil Anderson and Tara Bursey, gathers site-specific audio clips that relate to spaces across Parkdale. The opening reception and panel discussion (where the public will get the chance to discuss the different works) are on November 7th and November 13th respectively (both at 7 p.m.).
Campbell House Museum is artfully decorated for A Room Of One’s Own‘s nightly pre-show reception. Always elegant, the various rooms have cozy fires going, and books and letters are arranged for audience perusal. (We later heard many of these materials were sourced specifically for the show by star and producer Naomi Wright, who exhaustively researched her role as Virigina Woolf.)
Every revolution needs a leader. And though the movement to bring the classic 1980s musical Les Misérables back to Toronto is markedly different than the quest for political accountability and social equality, it has its hero just the same. After the official opening performance at the Princess of Wales Theatre, the audience likely would have followed London-based, Richmond Hill-raised performer Ramin Karimloo (as the story’s golden-hearted protagonist, Jean Valjean) anywhere he would lead.
The old adage “appearances can be deceiving” rings true in Promise Productions’ new musical, Pieces of Me. Though Pamela and Parker seem to have a perfect marriage, trouble brews just below the surface. Parker works to solidify a happy future with his wife, not knowing that Pamela is restless, and harbouring a secret that could destroy everything. Written and directed by Deon Denton, the play stars the Shahi Teruko (Canada’s Got Talent), and recording artist Sheldon Neil.
If the name Shakespeare Bash’d sounds familiar, it’s for good reason. For two years in a row, the collective creative effort founded by James Wallis and producer Rob Kraszewski has been upending the way local audiences experience the Bard’s work. In 2012, Shakespeare Bash’d’s Fringe Festival staging of The Taming of the Shrew, at Mirvish Village’s Victory Café, earned citywide praise.
The Alumnae Theatre Company presents its inaugural FireWorks theatre showcase. Akin to the New Ideas Festival, this series features plays created in-house by local artists. Three pieces will be staged during the three-week run: Theory by Norman Yeung, Gloria’s Guy by Joan Burrows, and Measure of the World by Shirley Barrie. For those who want more than just stage productions, there will also be several roundtable discussions and playwright talks to attend.
The Unit 102 Actors Company brings Shakespeare’s tale of power and corruption to life with its production of Julius Caesar. Taking place in 44 B.C., the play follows the events surrounding Caesar’s assassination. First performed as early as 1599, many of the story’s central issues are still relevant today.
Toronto theatre audiences have seen a number of adaptations of Strindberg’s Miss Julie in the past few years. The original now seems dated, but Miss Julie: She’Mah, a Canadian-targeted adaptation by playwright Tara Beagan, ratcheted up the tension by giving Miss Julie residential-school-educated servants. Canadian Stage’s somewhat less effective Miss Julie: Freedom Summer used American race politics. But British playwright Patrick Marber’s 2003 adaptation, After Miss Julie, zeroes in on sexual politics and baseline class separations, all against the backdrop of a British country home at the close of World War II. Red One Theatre’s Canadian premiere plays up the danger and slow-burning tension expertly, with three experienced cast members: Claire Armstrong in the title role, and Christopher Morris and Amy Keating as Julie’s father’s servants.
Tarragon Theatre presents ten days of innovative onstage creations as part of Play Reading Week. The showcase will debut new works from members of the 2013 Playwrights Unit, and many of the plays will go on to be developed further in Tarragon’s WorkSpace program and mounted as full productions in future seasons. A different burgeoning playwright will find him or herself in the spotlight each night. On the roster are Kate Cayley, Anna Chatterton, Jordi Mand, Amy Lee Lavoie, Maria Milisavljevic, Jessica Anderson, Adam Paolozza, Diane Flacks, Marilo Nuñez, and Gord Rand.
Imagine what it would be like if Einstein and Picasso met in a bar and ended up competing for the affection of the same woman. That’s exactly what Steve Martin did (yeah, that Steve Martin) when he wrote Picasso at the Lapin Agile. This comedy, set in 1904, sees the two masterminds meet for a tête-à-tête in Paris, just before Einstein publishes his Special Theory of Relativity, and before Picasso paints Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Presented by the Trinity College Dramatic Society, the play runs for one week only.
Winners and Losers is a play by Marcus Youssef and James Long based on a game of the same name the two theatre artists sometimes play. They pick a person, place, or thing, and debate whether it’s a “winner” or a “loser.” But it probably wouldn’t be fair to pick their director (and Crow’s Theatre artistic director) Chris Abraham as a topic, particularly since he was recently declared the winner of the Siminovitch Prize, Canadian theatre’s most prestigious (not to mention lucrative) honour.
The plot of Joan MacLeod’s The Valley, on now at Tarragon Theatre, is unfortunately all too familiar: an 18-year-old recent college drop-out experiences his first psychotic episode on Vancouver’s SkyTrain. The exhausted police officer called to the scene arrests him for causing a public disturbance, spurring debate over whether or not he used excessive force in the process. A Toronto audience only has to think of Sammy Yatim’s shooting this August to be reminded how common these situations are. A perceived threat to public safety coupled with the absence of a solid understanding of mental illness can—and often does—lead to violence.
You might expect a show called We Can Be Heroes to be a send-up of superhero films, but Second City’s new mainstage production is actually a celebration of minor, everyday acts of heroism ranging from giving advice to a bullied child to managing not to be a jackass at your friend’s wedding.