The 8th annual Luminato Festival is only three weeks away and we want to make sure you hit all the best events this year. In the first of a two-part “Best Bets” series, we’re highlighting some of the don’t-miss ticketed events. Check out Part 2, which features the must-see free events at this year’s festival.
Luminato Festival takes place over 10 days each June and is one of Toronto’s most inclusive and wide-ranging festivals. Spanning across disciplines, Luminato transforms Toronto’s theatres, parks and public spaces with performing arts, music, literature, food, visual arts, magic, film, and more. This year’s festival takes place June 6-15 all over the city with the Festival Hub occupying David Pecaut Square.
Here are some of the best bets for ticketed events. Tell us what event excites you in the comment section below.
Jason Collett’s Basement Revue | June 6-15 | Edward Day Gallery
Back by popular demand, again hosted by Jason Collett, Basement Revue unfolds nightly at the festival, with each evening’s program remaining a mystery right up until show time. Impromptu appearances and unscripted performances are all part of the fun. And since The Revue serves as the official, nightly after-party for all festival artists, there’s no telling who you’ll be rubbing elbows with at the bar or who’ll decide to leap onstage.
The Roots | June 7 | Festival Hub at David Pecaut Square
Philly Funk Sandwich with Adrian X
At the crossroads of hip-hop, neo-soul and jazz are The Roots. Ranked among the 10 greatest rap groups of all time by Rolling Stone, the Grammy Award-winning band was formed in Philadelphia more than a quarter-century ago by Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. They’ve since released ten albums and two EPs and collaborated with a spectrum of equally innovative musicians, including Jill Scott, John Legend, J Dilla, Elvis Costello and Erykah Badu. The Roots have been the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon since the show’s inception in 2009 and recently migrated with Fallon to The Tonight Show in New York City.
Green Porno, Live on Stage | June 6-8 | Winter Garden Theatre
Imagine the art of seduction on an arthropodan or elephantine scale. Such is the orgasmic, orgiastic and occasionally acrobatic bent of internationally acclaimed actress Isabella Rossellini’s vibrant invasion of zoological boudoirs, based on her short Green Porno films for the Sundance Channel. A lifelong lover of animals, Rossellini dons costume versions of their fur, skins, scales and wings for this delightfully insightful, Day-Glo examination of the quirks, curiosities and frequently fatal risks of sexuality and reproduction across a spectrum of species.
Kid Koala’s Nufonia Must Fall | June 7-9 | TIFF Bell Lightbox
Montreal-based scratch DJ and music producer Kid Koala presents a magical, multi-disciplinary adaptation of his graphic novel Nufonia Must Fall. The story centres around a headphones-sporting robot on the verge of obsolescence and infatuated with a winsome office drone. Directed by K.K. Barrett, recently Oscar-nominated for Her, this live adaptation unfolds via real-time filming of more than a dozen miniature stages and a cast of puppets. Koala and the dynamic Afiara Quartet provide live scoring on piano, strings and turntables.
Cineastas | June 7-9 | MacMillan Theatre
Four years ago, Argentinean author and director Mariano Pensotti began a series of interviews with various filmmakers in Buenos Aires. He was particularly interested in the ties between their private lives and their films. From those discussions, Cineastas was born. Pensotti followed four filmmakers as each completed a movie while concurrently capturing their day-to-day activities on film. Designer Mariana Tirantte has created a stage with a split screen, allowing parallel interplay of the filmmakers’ lives and the films they shot. As it unspools, five actors, each filling multiple roles, narrate and contrast the multiple stories. Spanish with English subtitles.
TimesTalks Luminato – Daniel Lanois along with Hal Willner & The Handsome Family | June 8 | MaRS Discovery District
Two days prior to the Luminato Festival’s star-studded salute to his seismic career, singer, songwriter and producer extraordinaire Daniel Lanois is joined by producer Hal Willner and others participating in the June 10 celebration for a lively, roundtable confab with New York Times. The conversation will focus on Lanois’ tremendous impact on contemporary music both within Canada and internationally, including his work with U2, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, the power and poetry of his compositions and the evolving role of the producer within the rapidly changing music industry.
Sleeping in the Devil’s Bed: the Music of Daniel Lanois, Daniel Lanois, Rocco DeLuca, Kevin Drew, Bill Frisell, The Handsome Family, Emmylou Harris, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Alisdair Roberts, Martha Wainwright & Trixie Whitley | June 10 | Massey Hall
Making music has been Daniel Lanois’ lifelong passion. As a performer, he has recorded eight bestselling albums and contributed to several film soundtracks. As a producer, his groundbreaking collaborations with U2, including The Joshua Tree, elevated him to legendary status. He has since produced albums for such varied superstars as Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel and Emmylou Harris. Producer Hal Willner’s celebrations of Thelonious Monk, Leonard Cohen and Kurt Weill, among many others, are considered landmark. His salute to Lanois, celebrating five decades of artistic brilliance, is sure to be as dazzlingly unforgettable.
The Lost Train | June 10-12 | Fairmont Royal York Hotel
Composer/Turntablist Kid Koala and Fred Morin, co-founder of Montreal’s famous restaurant Joe Beef, both discovered their passion for trains. Does time stop when you are on a train? Do you enjoy the journey for the adventure of it or for the otherworldliness and the thrill of train travel? The Lost Train is not really about travel, or about food, or about music – rather, about leaving all of that behind and paying attention to the moment, to the childhood memories and to where a journey might lead you, without it ever ending.
Kontakthof |June 11-14 | Bluma Apple Theatre
Making its Toronto premiere and marking the 40th anniversary of choreographer Pina Bausch’s legendary Tanztheater Wuppertal, Kontakthof is the crowning achievement of her too-brief career. First staged in 1978, it has earned global praise as a masterful examination of the eternal battle of the sexes; wherein whatever harmony is achieved is ultimately scuttled because male and female forces are inevitably opposed. The setting is a drab dance hall, as separated groups of women and men slowly interact. The need, and quest, for not just intimacy but love ignites a spectrum of actions and reactions, sometimes angrily, often comically, always brilliantly.
Stones In Her Mouth | June 12-14 | MacMillan Theatre
New Zealand choreographer Lemi Ponifasio is as profound a visionary as Pina Bausch or Robert Wilson, transcending genres to redefine the universal power of art. Ponifasio’s courageous Stones In Her Mouth brings together ten Maori women. Their eloquence is immense. Through chants, songs, oratory and dance, they unite in protest and rage while also conveying resilience and adaptivity. Though all is voiced in the Maori language, the emotive power of their message is universal, reflecting and refracting societal ills and turmoil felt in all corners of the world and at all strata.
TV On The Radio | June 13 | Festival Hub at David Pecaut Square
In 2001, Brooklyn guitarist and keyboardist David Sitek— named one of the world’s 50 most forward-thinking musicians by New Music Express—began experimenting with vocalist Tunde Adebimpe. Their art-rock band grew to include vocalist/guitarist Kyp Malone, drummer Jaleel Bunton and the late bassist Gerard Smith, and made its full-length recording debut with Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes in 2004. Three more albums have followed, including 2008’s groundbreaking Dear Science, a dazzling testament to the group’s keen intelligence and take-no-prisoners gutsiness, and 2011’s multimedia masterpiece Nine Types of Light.
So Blue | June 13-15 | Fleck Dance Theatre
Louise Lecavalier seems an arresting composite of David Bowie and Tilda Swinton and is, in the world of contemporary dance, as iconic as both. So Blue marks her volcanic emergence as a choreographer. Describing the piece, Lecavalier says, “I wanted to allow the body to say everything it wants to say without censoring it, so that out of this profusion of spontaneous movements, something true and beyond our control emerges.”
Card Table Artifice | June 13-14 | Jane Mallet Theatre – St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts
In 1902, card cheat S.W. Erdnase’s published the seminal sleight-of-hand text The Expert at the Card Table. Nine decades later, inspired by Erdnase’s work, Gavin Bryars and poet Juan Muñoz created ten string quartet pieces with accompanying narration. Now, David Ben brings fresh perspective to their collaboration, performed by Art of Time Ensemble and accompanied by Bryars, narrated by R.H. Thomson, with card table artistry by Ben. Setting the stage for Card Table Artifice is Rob Zabrecky’s TURN ON THE DARK!, 45 minutes of comically macabre illusion.
Ziggy Marley: The Fly Rasta Tour | June 14 | Festival Hub at David Pecaut Square
Six-time Grammy winner, Emmy winner, humanitarian, singer, songwriter and producer, Ziggy Marley has released twelve albums to critical acclaim. His early immersion in music came at age ten when he sat in on recording sessions with his father, Bob Marley. As front man of Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers, he released eight best-selling albums garnering three Grammys, with chart-topping hits like “Tomorrow People”. His much anticipated fifth solo studio album Fly Rasta was released earlier this year.
Bullet Catch | June 14-15 | Berkeley Street Theatre
Performer, director, playwright and magician Rob Drummond becomes William Wonder to tell the incredible story of William Henderson, who died on stage while attempting to catch a bullet, a stunt so dangerous even Houdini refused to attempt it. A feast of theatrical magic, Bullet Catch combines storytelling, mindreading, levitation, games of chance and, for those brave enough to stay, the most notorious finale in show business.
Literary Walks | June 15 | Trinity Bellwoods Park
Novelists and storytellers occupy the middle space between the world as it is and as it is represented in art. They are seers through which all the stories and memories of a landscape, a city or a neighbourhood are gathered and revealed. Join critically acclaimed and bestselling novelists Cary Fagan, Andrew Pyper and Alissa York as they share the secrets, inspiration and third places along walks through neighbourhoods of Toronto that have been critical to their work and the literature of others. Luminato’s Literary Walks are unique and exclusive opportunities to partake of Unseen Toronto and of the vibrant imaginations of writers revealing these places to us through unforgettable characters and lasting stories that shine a light upon other times but also our own.
TimesTalks Luminato – Rufus Wainwright, Josh Groban | June 15 | MaRS Discovery District
From Show Boat to Rent, no Broadway musical would be complete without a love duet. Cornerstones of the Great American Songbook, these numbers have been endlessly reinterpreted, but never as cannily as by Rufus Wainwright and his all-star compatriots in the Luminato Festival’s If I Loved You: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway – An Evening of Love Duets. In a spirited discussion led by New York Times music critic Jon Pareles, Wainwright and company examine both their take of these classic songs and the lyricists who crafted them, including such esteemed gay tunesmiths as Lorenz Hart and Jerry Herman.
TimesTalks Luminato – David Byrne | June 15 | MaRS Discovery District
If you know him solely for his 17 years with the Talking Heads and subsequent solo albums, then you’ve barely skimmed the surface of David Byrne’s artistic genius. Bryne’s kaleidoscopic career has included film and TV scores, filmmaking, theatre, journalism, visual arts, choreography, and, in keeping with his passion for cycling, the design of location-inspired bike racks. His collaborations extend from Twyla Tharp to Arcade Fire. Bryne’s keen interest in the evolution of music and listening in the digital age will take centre stage in his wide-ranging interview with New York Times pop and jazz critic Ben Ratliff.