Play with cool toys at TIFF, geek out at Toronto Comicon and seven more things to do this week
1. Let the kids loose at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Each March Break, the Lightbox hosts DigiPlaySpace, a wonderland of high-tech wizardry filled with dozens of immersive and interactive exhibits. The highlights this year include a mammoth interactive light installation made to resemble a forest; a 3-D virtual reality space-chase game called Headrush; a trippy (and vaguely creepy) animation activated by the viewer’s brainwaves; and a meet-and-greet with hitchBOT, the freeloading robot who just came back from a cross-country tour. To April 19. $10. TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., 416-599-8433, tiff.net.
2. See opera stars in a whole new context
For opera neophytes unwilling to sit through all 15 hours of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, the Canadian Opera Company’s Popera concert at Drake One Fifty is a happy compromise. The performance includes arias from two young singers from the company’s ensemble studio training program: baritone Clarence Frazer and mezzo-soprano Charlotte Burrage (who recently suited up as a fierce valkyrie in Die Walkure). Bonus: after the show, guests get a lavish three-course dinner. Book a spot by emailing email@example.com. March 21. $50; $15 concert only. Drake One Fifty, 150 York St., 416-363-6150, drakeonefifty.ca.
3. Meet a close personal friend of the Doctor
Thousands of costumed marauders descend on the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this weekend for Toronto Comicon, the city’s annual celebration of all things geek culture. Expect hundreds of exhibits devoted to comics, video games, memorabilia and cosplay, as well as celebrity panels featuring stars like Morena Baccarin (who played Brody’s beleaguered wife on Homeland), Karen Gillan (the Doctor Who sidekick turned Guardians of the Galaxy villainess), and, to the delight of ’90s nostalgics everywhere, Shannen Doherty (otherwise known as the vixenish brat Brenda Walsh from Beverly Hills 90210). March 20 to 22. $10–$45. Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 222 Bremner Blvd., 416-585-8000, comicontoronto.com.
4. Attend a sultry revue from a superstar playwright
The New York playwright John Patrick Shanley earned a Pulitzer for Doubt, his sinister play about allegations of abuse in a Bronx Catholic school. Turns out he’s also good for old-fashioned glamour: this week, he presents the world premiere of A Woman Is a Secret, a noirish variety show featuring stories about haunted, mysterious and duplicitous women (and live music from indie crooner Matthew Barber). Of all the cabarets hitting town this spring—and there are a bunch—this is the most unmissable. March 20 to April 5. $30. Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W., 416-538-0988, theatrecentre.org.
5. Go to the beach (really!)
The best way to get Torontonians to the beach in mid-March? Transform the frozen shoreline into an art crawl. At Winter Stations, a number of lifeguard towers on Kew, Scarborough and Balmy beaches form the backdrop for dazzling installations from artists and architects who competed for the opportunity to beautify the frozen tundra. Our favourites are a colourful igloo shaped like a pinecone, a cozy firepit surrounded by a gargantuan wingback chair, and an angular wooden hut that resembles a modernist Mayan pyramid. To March 20. Free. South of Queen St. E., between Woodbine and Victoria Park, winterstations.com.
6. Take in a Weimar-era puppet show
In The Daisy Theatre, master puppeteer Ronnie Burkett pays tribute to the bawdy, boozy marionette shows that swept the underground scene in Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation. His stringed brigade includes the aging showgirl Esmé Massengill, the weary widow Edna Rural and the childlike fairy Schnitzel. March 18 to April 5. $35–$45. Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst St., 416-504-9971, factorytheatre.ca.
7. Watch movies with a famous author
Kazuo Ishiguro, the British novelist known for elegantly restrained fiction, is riding a wave of hot buzz for his latest book, a medieval fairy tale called The Buried Giant. As part of TIFF’s Books on Film program, he takes a break from Arthurian romance to introduce a screening of the 1993 film The Remains of the Day, adapted from Ishiguro’s Booker-winning breakout novel about class, war and unspoken love between an English butler and housekeeper. Both the book and movie are minimalist masterpieces, delivering huge emotional wallops through subtext and stolen moments. To April 19. $28 members, $35 non-members. TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., 416-599-8433, tiff.net.
8. Experience Frozen the way it was meant to be seen
Disney’s girl-power epic is worth seeing one more time in its ideal form: a glittery ice show. In Frozen on Ice, Anna and Elsa glide their way through a land of ice and snow, joined by Olaf the snowman and a phalanx of benevolent trolls. The story is condensed, but the soundtrack remains intact: expect soaring renditions of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” and “Let It Go,” this time with triple salchows and toe loops. March 18 to 22. $35–$115. Rogers Centre, 1 Blue Jays Way, 1-855 985-5000, disneyonice.com.
9. Catch a weird new play from a local theatre star
Ins Choi came out of nowhere in 2012 with Kim’s Convenience, his poignant and uproarious Soulpepper smash about a Korean-Canadian family running a corner store in Regent Park. His new one-man show, Subway Stations of the Cross, is experimental, surreal and shambolic: Choi stars as a prophetic homeless man who riffs on religion, pop culture and politics using slam poetry and song. From March 18. $34. Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Ln., Distillery District, 416-866-8666, soulpepper.ca.