City Living: Ashkenaz Festival

Here on the fourth floor, we love a good festival. This summer, we’ve rocked all kinds of fests, including those featuring filmmusic, beer and more, and we can’t wait for the Ashkenaz Festival (kicking off tomorrow), a huge celebration of Jewish music and culture. With more than a dozen countries represented, 200 individual artists and 80 performances featuring music, theatre, film, visual art, literature and dance, it’s no wonder this is the largest festival of its kind in North America. With so many amazing events to choose from (and a ton are FREE!), it can be hard to know where to start, so today we’re sharing some of our top picks!

Workshop: Sunday, September 2, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., HarbourKids Tent, FREE
Parade: Monday, September 3, 4 p.m., Redpath Stage, FREE

My daughter loves arts and crafts so we’ll definitely hit Workshop Day with Shadowland Theatre. At the workshop, we’ll get to create an oversized character/puppet (back-to-school bonus: each character reflects a historical character) to appear in the Parade. Such a fun family activity, and the best part: on Labour Day we’ll see our masked creation walk in the parade with hundreds of musicians, artists and other festival-goers!
Ashley’s Pick: The Corpse Bride
Thursday, August 30, 8 p.m; Saturday, September 1, 5
p.m.; Sunday, September 2, 1 p.m.
EnWave Theatre, $25 in advance, $30 day-of

I love theatre (and jump at any chance for a bit of a drama) and can’t wait to see Theatre Panik’s production of The Corpse Bride. In this physical theatre piece, a young groom on the way to his bride’s village accidentally weds himself to a corpse (shooooot, hate when that happens). Based on the same Yiddish folk tale as Tim Burton’s movie The Corpse Bride, the performance features former prima ballerina Evelyn Hart, a talented local cast and a live musical score. Epic combo.

Sunday, September 2, 3 p.m., Redpath Stage, FREE 

I can’t be the only 80s baby who gets excited by
Sharon, Lois and Bram. Can you say childhood favourite? Skinnamarink was basically
my playground anthem back in the day. Two members of the Juno Award-winning trio will
perform much-loved classics like Five Little Monkeys, She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the
and of course, Skinnamarink. They’ll also perform some Yiddish songs
like Oy Vey, Oy Vey and I’m a Little Latke. Their performance is recommended
for ages 12 and younger, but you’ll spot me in the crowd too.
Christie’s Pick: Anthony Russell
Monday, September 3, 6 p.m., Lakeside Terrace, FREE

Who could resist an operatic bass who sings contemporary
Yiddish music? Anthony (Mordechai Tzvi) Russell is African-American by birth and Jewish by choice, and has a beautiful voice that’s rich with expression (I should know, I’ve been listening to his tracks on repeat). Definitely looking
forward to this one!

Monday, September 3, 6 to 7 p.m., EnWave Theatre, $20 in
advance, $25 day-of

I’d heard of Leo Spellman’s cousin Vladislaw Szilman, the
subject of Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning film The Pianist, before I knew of
Leo, but what an amazing man. Rhapsody 1939 – 1945 marks the Canadian premiere of the 99-year-old
Toronto composer and Holocaust survivor’s composition (which had been locked away and forgotten for almost 50 years). With Leo attending, this performance is sure to captivate
audiences of all ages.

Andie’s Pick: Lemon Bucket Orkestra
Sunday, September 2, 11 p.m., Brigantine Room, FREE

If you haven’t seen their impromptu performance on YouTube, watch it now (then come back to the fourth floor). This awesome Toronto group describe themselves as a “Balkan-klezmer-Gypsy-party-punk super-band”. The 13-piece ensemble has been gaining a reputation as Toronto’s liveliest party band. Expect this show to turn into a sweaty, Eastern European dance party that goes into the wee hours of the night.

What parts of the Ashkenaz Festival are you most excited about? Tweet us @rockitpromo and let us know!