Toronto SpecFic Colloquium Celebrates the Wonderfully Strange
Speculative fiction, or “SpecFic”—a term that encompasses many imaginative genres of art, such as science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, and horror—is often marginalized from the larger creative writing community in genre. While literary realism tends to be perceived as “serious,” SpecFic is often dismissed as juvenile, escapist, or simply not as substantial as other kinds of writing.
The quality of the writing produced by Canadian creators of SpecFic, however, has consistently flown in the face of such misconceptions—and alongside Toronto’s traditional literary community, a rich and diverse creative ecosystem of speculative fiction writers and publishers has flourished. It is this community and the work that has come out of it that will be celebrated on March 1, 2014, at the fourth annual Toronto SpecFic Colloquium.
Sarah Anne Johnson: “Wonderlust”
Artist Sarah Anne Johnson delves into life’s most intimate moments in “Wonderlust.” Using photography and visual arts, she explores the emotional attachment, romance, and self-consciousness that come with sex.
Roller Derby Double Header: Chicks, Betties, Gores, and Dolls!
What’s the best way to start off a new month? Spending time with a bunch of lovely ladies in spandex and booty shorts, naturally. Though the girls of Toronto Roller Derby have some sweetheart names, you wouldn’t want to get on their bad sides. You’ll see why, during the double header bout between four of our city’s toughest flat track teams. The Smoke City Betties open things up against Chicks Ahoy!, and then the Death Track Dolls take on the Gore Gore Roller Girls.
Here’s something to give a hoot about—the High Park Nature Centre’s Owl Prowl. Bring the family out for a lesson and slideshow about the screech and hoot owls living in our midst. Then, take to the outdoors to explore their natural habitat, and try to coax some of these nocturnal creatures out using owl calls. Participants are asked to bring their own flashlights.
It’s Prohibition time, when Toronto’s Kensington Market was more of a trouble-filled ghetto than hipster hotspot. Michael Ross Albert’s Tough Jews follows the exploits of a family of Jewish bootleggers who, while struggling to survive, unwittingly get themselves deep into the crime world.
You can be taken out of a war, but can you truly remove the war from within you? This question is posed in Kawa Ada’s The Wanderers, a Buddies in Bad Times production about a father and son who flee a battle-worn Afghanistan. Though they start a new life in Canada, the horrors from their homeland refuse to be left behind.
The Guggenheim Comes to the AGO
Virginia Woolf once remarked that “on or about December 1910, human character changed.” Whether it actually did is debatable, but the curators of “The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection 1910–1918” use that year to start their exhibition of works from a tumultuous decade of innovation in European fine art.
Life Is Good, When it’s This Cabaret
It’s 1931 in Berlin, and the Nazis are on the brink of supremacy. But there remains another side to the city—one that’s decadent, permissive, and artistic. And that’s the world we meet when we’re beckoned into the extravagant and sleazy Kit Kat Klub by eccentric Emcee and his troupe of saucy dancers, performing “Willkommen.”
Cabaret’s primary plotline begins with the arrival of American writer Cliff Bradshaw (David Light). Without a real agenda, he’s come to Berlin to work on his novel and teach English. A patron of the Kit Kat Klub, he catches the eye of the star performer Sally Bowles (Kylie McMahon). A natural stunner, Sally is a bubbly young Brit with a powerhouse voice, a dancer’s grace, and a reputation for flitting from man to man like a bumblebee in a flowerbed. It’s not long before she and Cliff fall in love—though the question of whether he’ll be able to satisfy her wild side constantly hangs over their heads. The sweetness lacking in their relationship can be found in the romantic pairing of the boarding house landlord Fraulein Schneider (Adeen Ashton Fogle) and Jewish shop owner Herr Schultz (Don Berns). As appealing as they are, though, these middle-aged lovebirds are just as susceptible to trouble and heartbreak as their younger counterparts.
Toronto International Bicycle Show
The world’s largest bicycle consumer show, the Toronto International Bike Show will feature over 150 exhibitors, BMX and stunt riding exhibitions, and the Great Lakes Winter Classic—a bike polo tournament featuring 20 teams from all across North America.
This post originally stated that this event would be taking place at the Convention Centre. It is, in fact, being held at the Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place.
From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru
Ichimaru—once one of Japan’s most famous geishas—left the profession in the 1930s to pursue a career in entertainment. Never really leaving her past life, she became known for adorning herself in the traditional geisha garb when performing in concert or on television. “From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru” exhibits several decades’ worth of outfits and personal effects, shedding light on the woman behind the makeup.
Heartbeat of Home
The producers of Riverdance have spawned yet another on-stage extravaganza. With a talented cast of 38, Heartbeat of Home is a high-energy show, combining Irish, Latin, and Afro-Cuban music and dance. Torontonians get the honour of seeing the production’s North American debut—take it in before it’s gone!
What would happen if two characters from different books were to meet up outside their narratives? This is the basis of Brian Friel’s Afterplay, which explores the hypothetical relationship between two Anton Chekhov creations—Sonya from Uncle Vanya and Andrey from Three Sisters. For the price of admission, you’ll also get to indulge in authentic Russian tea during the performance, courtesy of the Campbell House.
Same Same But Different
Bollywood is the force that brings two stories of self-exploration together in Same Same But Different. After her mother’s life is changed by a run-in with the world of Indian cinema, Aisha—a Canadian-born actress—realizes that she must face her prejudices about nationality and skin colour in order to rise to stardom.
Idiot’s Delight: Not Exactly Theatre for Dummies
The word “idiot” was originally used in ancient Greece to describe a person unconcerned with public affairs like politics, but dedicated to following private pursuits. The setting of Robert E. Sherwood’s 1936 romantic comedy Idiot’s Delight, a failing luxury hotel in the Italian Alps called the Hotel Monte Gabriele, initially seems to be full of idiots: newlyweds on their honeymoon, a group of burlesque singers and their manager, a blissfully genial waiter, and a couple of ornery managers sour over the lack of business. And when a spark flies between a beautiful and mysterious Russian and a smooth-talking American showbusinessman, while the other guests dance, drink, eat, and sing, there’s another piece of juicy plot that can be used to distract themselves, and the audience, from the war that’s literally raging outside the hotel windows.
Forgiveness: a theatrical poem Is Not One to Forget
Okay, okay: hear us out. Yes, the term “theatrical poem” might not appeal to everyone at first. Yes, it sounds a little pretentious. And sure, that might play into some people’s unfounded opinions about theatre. But it also aptly describes this unique work by Modern Times Stage Company in association with several dance companies: Bora Bora, Don*Gnu, Laboratoriet, and Dreamwalker Dance Company.
At the very beginning of Forgiveness: a theatrical poem, on stage at the Great Hall’s Black Box Theatre for a limited time, the show’s five performers, three male and two female, end up in an all-out brawl—the traumatic event or argument that makes forgiveness necessary. What ensues is an in-depth exploration of all the messy things that come with it: the role played by time, the nature of the people being forgiven and doing the forgiving, the fact that some can forgive and others cannot, and the question of whether true forgiveness is even possible at all. Director Soheil Parsa, writers Peter Farbridge and Barbara Simonsen, and the choreographing team of Don*Gnu use various physical and spoken sequences to explore the many dimensions of forgiveness—indeed, an attempt to capture this layered perspective without the poetry would fail.
Mrs. Warren’s Profession
Sterling Studio Theatre calls issues of morality into question with its production of George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession. When Kitty Warren’s daughter Vivie finds out just how her mother has been supporting their family, she must re-evaluate her views on sex, money, and power.
The Metamorphosis Is a Topsy-Turvy Spectacle
The image most commonly associated with Franz Kafka’s most famous work, the 1915 novella The Metamorphosis, is that of a giant insect trapped inside a bare, dirty room with a rotting apple lodged in his back—the bug was formerly a man named Gregor Samsa, and the room was formerly his bedroom. As we all know, this distressing and inexplicable transformation from man to bug happened in an instant, although its emotional and literary after-effects have been haunting English students ever since.
The stage adaptation of The Metamorphosis by the Icelandic company Vesturport Theatre and London’s Lyric Hammersmith, on now at the Royal Alexandra Theatre with Mirvish Productions, is much more watchable than this introduction would suggest. The only bug you’ll see in this version is a trick of light and shadow. And that’s not the only trick up this show’s sleeve (or perhaps antenna?).
Told through South American music and dance, Arrabal is the story of a young girl desperate to find out what happened to her father after the Argentine military made him disappear when she was just a baby. Her search leads her to the Tango clubs of Buenos Aires, where she discovers both the truth, and herself.
Even though Billy was born deaf, his family strived to raise him the same way they would have a hearing-able child. Tribes sees him learn what it is to hear and be heard when he meets Sylvia, a young woman who is gradually becoming deaf herself. Presented by A Theatrefront Production, Canadian Stage, and Theatre Aquarius, this emotional play stars Stephen Drabicki and Holly Lewis.
Major Tom Is a Major Joy
Believe what you will about love at first sight, but that’s apparently what happened when Brighton, England, artist Victoria Melody met a basset hound puppy she soon named Major Tom. He was twice the size of his littermates and the last one to find a home; she was in a committed relationship and wanted to see if she and her partner Mitch could handle the responsibilities of parenthood. But the two instantly clicked over their shared stubbornness, among other things. He not only found an owner in Victoria—he found a collaborator.
Melody and Tom’s epic stubbornness is now on stage—we said stubborn, not shy—in the show Major Tom, on now with World Stage for a limited run at the Enwave Theatre. (Major Tom does seem to prefer limited runs, sometimes refusing to walk even a few paces to get his favourite treat.) Melody’s stubborn streak comes out in her storytelling: in this one-woman, one-dog show, Melody explains how it was that she and Tom became immersed in the world of dog shows and beauty pageants, and persevered despite the odds stacked against them.
Recently, the Storefront Theatre (which received an honourable mention in our 2013 Heroes section) found itself literally underwater when a water main break dumped seven feet of water in its basement. A campaign to help the indie venue recover from the flood is ongoing, but in the meantime, the show must (and will) go on: its production of SHREW, a witty adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy of the sexes using puppets and a Klondike Gold Rush setting, will close out its run at Theatre Passe Muraille.
DJ Skate Night
It’s time to lace up! Harbourfront Centre has brought back its weekly DJ Skate Nights at Natrel Rink, overlooking the lake. Make the best of winter, and get your skate on to the sounds of some of Toronto’s premiere DJs and party-makers, like Skratch Bastid (Dec 14), Cherry Bomb (Feb 1), and DJ Starting from Scratch (Feb 22).