Stage Write: Dachshund UN

“It’s a dog eat dog world.” A phrase commonly applied to business or politics, it has never sounded more appropriate than after checking out the North American premiere of Dachshund UN last night. Part of the World Stage programming, this show features a group of dachshunds representing the Commission on Human Rights. 

Dachshund UN was first created by Australian sculptor and installation artist Bennett Miller. Miller’s works regularly feature live animals as performers, such as in last night’s show. Dachshund UN was first developed for Next Wave Festival in Melbourne, Australia. Its run at Harbourfront is the first time it’s being presented indoors and on North American soil. 

We didn’t know quite what to expect when we went over, but it wasn’t hard to sell us on puppies. When the curtain went up, a gasp of delight went through the audience – DACHSCHUNDS WERE EVERYWHERE! Unlike at most theatre shows, Dachshund UN encourages the audience to take photos and share their experience via Twitter/Instagram. We also engaged in a lot of squealing and catcalling to the dachshunds. 

We suppose that there’s some greater meaning that we should’ve gleaned from the show; perhaps a commentary on civics and citizenship? The program notes suggested that the chaos of animal performers in a live theatre environment is about surprise and is an experience worth observing. For us, it was more about self-restraint – do you have any idea how hard it is to resist running up and petting puppies after watching them for 40 minutes??

Some highlights of the night included when Pakistan started to hump Slovenia, the United States would not stop howl-barking the whole time, the Netherlands lazily rested his head on his nameplate and France and the Ukraine were nuzzling besties! Is this a commentary on each of the countries they represent? Perhaps. Or they’re just puppies being puppies. 

Pro tip: Be sure to hang around the stage door following the performance to greet the actors as they head out. If you ask extra nicely, their handlers will even let you pet them. Finally! 

Dachschund UN is on-stage at Harbourfront Centre’s Enwave Theatre with performances tonight at 7 p.m. or Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Admission is free, on a first come first serve basis. 

All images courtesy of Harbourfront Centre. 

Stage Write: Winter Theatre Lineup

We’re feeling dramatic (again) so the lovely Christine Gresham of Theatre Isn’t Dead popped by the Fourth Floor to share her theatre picks for the upcoming chilly months. 

We’re well on our way in 2013 and so far so good. We made it through the end of
the Mayan calendar unscathed, it’s (usually) cold enough that we can adorn our winter
duds without fear of an onslaught of slush from a passing car, and we’re in the
thick of the winter theatre season.

Obviously one of your new year’s
resolutions (the one that you’ll actually keep) is to see more theatre. And like
a good personal trainer, I’m here to help.

Here are some shows that will exercise your theatrical chops; none are too laborious and all will leave you
feeling invigorated and healthy. You may even wipe some sweat from your brow in
the process.

Clybourne Park, a Studio 180 production as part of the Off-Mirvish series. 

Now through Sunday, March 3 at the Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge St.)

Prize-winning theatre started at the Panasonic Theatre on February 12. As part of the Off-Mirvish series, Tony, Olivier, Evening Standard and Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park will undoubtedly knock your socks off. The Studio 180 production is back for a second time after a critically acclaimed run last spring at Canadian Stage. I missed it in NYC and I don’t intend to do so in T.O. The uniformally rave reviews and the stellar word-of-mouth buzz ensure that this play will be the talk of the town.


Cast of Clybourne Park.

Sem Mim & Ímã by Grupo Corpo, part of Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage program.

Now through Saturday, February 23 at The Fleck Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay W.)

Sem MimÍmã features two brilliant dance productions by the Brazillian dance troupe Grupo Corpo. Part of Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage, Sem Mim merges the rhythm of the sea with medieval Portuguese-Galician chants, while Ímã takes inspiration from the law of magnetism. The performances beautifully combine classical ballet technique with a contemporary take on Brazilian world dance.

Brazilian Grupo Corpo dancers perform Ímã. 

Gabriel Prokofiev: From Chamber to Electronica, an Art of Time Ensemble performance. 

Friday, February 22 to Saturday, February 23 at The Enwave Theatre (231 Queens Quay W.)

If you’re like me, you don’t experience
classical music enough – mostly because it can be hard to find an entry point
and can also be a BIT snoozy (just being honest). Cue Art of Time Ensemble’s
latest gig in February. 
London DJ Gabriel Prokofiev (grandson of
Sergei) comes to the Art of Time Ensemble to continue the family tradition of
reinventing modern music. Prokofiev will add some spin to legendary modern
classical composers Gavin Bryars and Jonathan Goldsmith (BAFTA Award-winning
Canadian film composer) instrumentals. Prokofiev performs DJ sets between
performances, the type of classical music I can get into. Plus, the
creative/marketing campaign is amazi


Poster art for Art of Time Ensemble’s Gabriel
Prokofiev, created by Monnet Design.

Spotlight Japan, presented by Canadian Stage. 

Tuesday, February 26 to Saturday, March 2 at the Berkeley St. Theatre (26 Berkeley St.) 

For something completely different, I’m
into Canadian Stage’s Spotlight Japan. The series features a selection of
dance, drama and music from Japan’s leading arts innovators, and to be frank,
the entire line-up sounds unique and exciting. 
You can catch two double-bills: Haptic and Holistic
(double bill one) or Sayanora and I, Worker (double bill two). See one or see them both, because you aren’t likely to
see anything similar around these parts for a very long time.


Hiroaki Umeda in Holistic Strata. Photo by Ryuichi Maruo (YCAM). 

For a dose of classic theatre, check out
Soulpepper’s Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead and for
contemporary Canadian drama, see Tarragon Theatre’s mini-festival of Hannah Moscovitch’s plays (until March 24). If you haven’t heard of her already you will soon, so get on the bandwagon while there’s still room.

With this regime you should be sufficiently
theatrically worked-out until spring, when you can flex your brain for the
summer festivals. A theatre-goer’s work is never done.

Bonne chance!

City Living: Planet IndigenUS at Harbourfront

What’s the best thing about Toronto? There is always
something new to explore! This weekend is no exception. It marks the beginning
of the Planet IndigenUS festival at the Harbourfront Centre in association with
Woodlands Cultural Centre in Brantford. IndigenUS is the largest contemporary
international Indigenous cultural festival in the world and it only occurs once
every three years – so we don’t want to miss out (maybe we should see someone
about our fomo).
The festival celebrates current Indigenous culture.
With almost 300 performers from seven different countries taking part, the
presentation of Indigenous culture varies wildly. The acts range from Pow Wow Step to a Mongolian-folk-punk-rock
blend, to a high-energy technicolour dance performance by an Australian
company and a woman who weaves herself into a basket.
IndigenUS starts today and runs until Sunday, August 19, which means ten days
packed with great music, theatre, food, art and, if you’re willing to make the
trek to Gretzky’s hometown, even comedy. The selection of free fun to
participate in this weekend is overwhelming so we’ve listed our must see events

Image courtesy of Harbourfront Centre.

A Tribe
Called Red (ATCR) and Electric Pow-Wow
DJ Bear Witness, DJ NDN and DJ Shrub of ATCR created
their own blend of traditional drums, Jamaican dub and club beats, which they
call Pow Wow Step (and you thought Moombahton was the new thing). We can’t wait
to bust a move to some new beats. You can catch ATCR at 11 p.m. on Saturday,
August 11 at the Harbourfront Centre,
235 Queens Quay West.
Image courtesy of Harbourfront Centre. 

with Trade Winds
Australian dance-theatre company Polytoxic is known
for big bright performances. Trade Winds,
a story about the cultural exchanges that took place during the exploration of
the Pacific, is certainly a powerful visual experience. Polytoxic’s show starts at 9 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, August 16 to 18 at The Natrel Pond, 235 Queens
Quay West.
Image courtesy of Harbourfront

Ursula A.
Johnson: Basket Weaving Performance Art
Johnson has a theatre background and is able to turn
herself into a living piece of through her basket weaving. She will spend eight
hours creating her cocoon and emerge a butterfly. Just kidding, but we
definitely want to stop by for before and after shots. Ursula will be
performing from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 18 at Harbourfront Centre Site,
Queens Quay West.

Derksen: Electronica Cellist
Derksen is an award-winning Aboriginal cellist from
Alberta. She combines classic, folk and electronic styles to create her own
cross between traditional and contemporary music. We love classic strings with
an electric charge – and the girl’s got chops – she’s performed with Kanye West!
Derksen will be on the Redpath Stage,
235 Queens Quay West at 6 p.m. on Saturday, August 18.

Image courtesy of Harbourfront Centre.

Heck Init
Comedy Night with Don Burnstick and Charlie Hill
Okay, Brantford is a little far (one to two hours from
downtown, depending on traffic) but it does claim rights to Gretzky and Bell,
plus, it boasts a casino. Burnstick and Hill will be there poking fun at
stereotypes and political issues. These guys are talented; Hill has appeared
with Letterman, Leno and other famous funny folk. Burnstick and Hill will be
performing at Woodlands Cultural Centre,
184 Mohawk Street, Brantford.

Image courtesy of Harbourfront Centre.

Mongolian folk/punk ensemble
This group from China preserves tradition in the form
of the horse-head fiddle, tobshuur and throat singing and adds electric guitars
and drums. The resulting sound is an exciting blend. Hanggai can be seen on Redpath Stage Friday, August 10 at 7
235 Queens Quay West,
on WestJet Stage Saturday, August 11
at 3 p.m.,
235 Queens Quay West
and at
Woodlands Cultural
Centre, 184 Mohawk Street, Brantford at
8 p.m.

City Living: Winter fun

Let’s be honest, most of us associate winter with hibernating indoors, making excuses for staying in on weekends, and generally being less adventurous and social than we would be the rest of the year. Yes, winter is cold and snowy, but this season, let’s embrace the snow and brave the cold. Here are a few ideas of winter-friendly activities in and outside of the city. 

Hot child in the city:

As the first and only official Christmas market in Toronto, this Distillery District market offers a variety of activities and entertainment for all ages. There’s great holiday shopping and treats, as well as a beer garden with mulled wine (very popular at European Christmas markets), hot rum beverages, European Christmas cocktails, schnapps and a variety of beer. The Lowes Toronto Christmas Market runs daily from December 2 through 18.

Hours: Monday to Friday 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
We love grown up versions of our favourite childhood activities. When we heard that there would be a live DJ at the Natrel Skating Rink at Harbourfront every Saturday night this winter, we started rummaging through our closets for old skates and started planning our next date night. Every Saturday night has a different DJ and theme, ranging from Soca, to hip hop and R&B, to electro-swing.
Hours: Saturdays, 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Who said patio season was over? Head over to Shack Chaud on Drake Sky Yard, sip on any one of their many amazing cocktails: Whiskey-a-CoCo, Winter Kentucky, Simmering Sangria and lots more. All while sitting by the fire and enjoying the novelty of being outside at a bar in the middle of winter. Yes, please.

Shack Chaud hours: Friday and Saturday, 10 p.m. to close. The Sky Yard is open nightly from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and 6 p.m. to 2.a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Go north, young man:

Bring out your inner child with an afternoon of snow tubing. Great with friends or family, grab a tube, tow up the hill and fly down. Snow Valley in Barrie offers hourly rates or you can go per ride. Trust us, it’s just as much fun when you are an adult as when you were a kid.

Instead of sitting back and enjoying the ride, take the reins of a sled and learn how to become a dog musher. Singing Dogs in Wiarton (near Owen Sound) is a great for a day trip or an overnight adventure. Guests can bond with the pooches and learn how to run a team, taking turns as driver and dog handler. Seriously, how cool is that?

Snowshoeing is a great way to be active outdoors. It’s easy to learn, takes minimal equipment and is a killer work out. Located just outside of Collingwood, Scenic Caves Nature Adventures boasts 22 kilometers of trails through the forest. If you’re brave enough, you can also ‘shoe across the longest suspension bridge in Ontario. After your trek, enjoy a bowl of chilli or hot apple cider in their chalet.  

What are your favourite go-to winter activities? Tweet us #winteractivities.

Fashion-able: Stylish Dates Under $20

There are lots of great potential dates in Hogtown, but they don’t always come cheap. Hop on the TTC, bike or walk to any of these fun spots for a date that’s low on cost and high on awesome.

Fun in the sun: daytime dates

Inside: Beakers and Bunsen burnersOntario Science Centre
Discover your inner science nerd with a trip to the Ontario Science Centre. You’ll be amazed all over again at how electricity makes your hair stand on end. Make a day of it and pack a lunch. There are lots of cool spots to sit, munch and take it all in.
Where: 770 Don Mills Road
When: Seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Cost: $18 for regular admission

Outdoors: Down by the waterHarbourfront Festival
Enjoy the summer sun and some cultural education at the Harbourfront Centre this summer. This gorgeous waterfront event space hosts something great every weekend. Check out their site for complete listings. Here are some favourites:
Love, Saskatchewan (Friday, July 23 to Sunday, July 25): Finally, some love for the “center” of Canada. Experience rodeo, Aboriginal art and cowboy culture. Yee haw!
Hot & Spicy Food Festival (Friday, August 13 to Sunday, August 15): NOW Magazine dishes up hot, spicy, sultry and sweet foods all weekend.
Fortune Cooking Food Festival (Friday, August 20 to Sunday, August 22): Notice a theme? We like food. There’s a Fortune Cooking Iron Chef competition. Amazing.
Where: Harbourfront Center, Queens Quay West 
When: Weekends, until September 6
Cost: FREE (some festivals charge for food)

By the light of the moon: romantic nighttime outings

Inside: Movies In The Mess HallThe Drake Hotel
The Drake Hotel goes retro with their summer-long curated film screenings. Each movie is a fun old-school flick, like Arizona Dream (Tuesday, July 27) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Tuesday, August 24). For a mere $5, you get a Sloppy Joe, beer and popcorn. Deal!
Where: The Drake Hotel, 1150 Queen Street West 
When: Until Tuesday, August 31
Cost: $5

Outdoors: “A thousand times good night” Romeo and Juliet
Canadian Stage’s Dream in High Park once again lures Torontonians to grassy hills to drink in Shakespeare under the stars. This production of Romeo and Juliet is at once modern and classic, and Jeff Irving and Christine Horne have buzzing chemistry on stage. Bring some wine, snacks, a cozy blanket and cuddle up to one of the most romantic plays ever written.
Where: High Park Amphitheatre, just east of the Grenadier Restaurant in High Park 
When: Tuesday to Sunday, July 5 to September 25, 8 p.m. (Gates open at 6 p.m.)
Cost: Pay what you can ($20 suggested donation)