Eight must-sees: a procrastinator’s guide to Luminato’s last days

Eight must-sees: a procrastinator’s guide to Luminato’s last days

If you’ve noticed a buzzing noise hovering over the city this past week, don’t be alarmed—it’s just the sound of concentrated creative activity (and those vuvuzela horns). Luminato is in full swing, with a diverse roster that includes an opera by Rufus Wainwright and an installation involving a displaced, bizarrely outfitted ship. Missed the boat so far? Here, eight must-see events of the final weekend.

PRIMA DONNA
Rufus Wainwright’s debut opera may be kind of meta (it’s about opera), but don’t expect a modern artist’s self-conscious winks and nudges. This is the genre in all its unabashed, melodramatic glory—red roses, shabby grandeur and underdeveloped plot elements. The portrait of a suffering diva is also an undeniable homage to Wainwright’s mother, folk musician Kate McGarrigle, who died earlier this year. Though the story meanders, it comes together somewhat at one climactic moment when the whole cast sings in harmony. June 18 and 19. $50–$200. Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge St.

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller's Ship o' Fools (Image: Luminato)  

SHIP O’ FOOLS (FREE!)
If the sight of a 30-foot Chinese junk perched in Trinity Bellwoods is disorienting, wait until you climb inside. Canadian experimentalists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have imagined the allegorical vessel as a misty maze, with slapdash contraptions clanking and whirring on all sides; it’s like a nutty professor’s room of rejects. Flickering bulbs and looped sounds create the illusion that the boat is pitching aimlessly to and fro, but you’ll be too charmed to toss up lunch. June 18 to 20. Trinity Bellwoods Park, Queen St. W. and Strachan Ave.

SOLAR BREATH (NORTHERN CARYATIDS)/LIGHT AIR (FREE!)
Curated by Atom Egoyan as a tribute to his late friend, Luminato founder David Pecaut, this two-part video installation is a quiet experience. Michael Snow’s Solar Breath doesn’t waver in its focus on billowing curtains, which occasionally lift to reveal a lush Newfoundland yard. It inspired a response video by Mani Mazinani, projected onto a falling screen of fog in an adjoining room. Though the two pieces aren’t exactly action packed, their hushed sense of reverence is magnetic. June 18 to 20. Brookfield Place, 181 Bay St. (Wellington St. entrance).

HOMAGE
In 1974, then-up-and-coming sculptor Hadyn Davies created an imposing cedar structure to grace the entrance of a Sarnia college. Just over 30 years later, the college razed the piece to the ground; school officials called it a safety hazard, but community members cried vandalism. What happens when a public work of art ages faster than its creator? Halifax’s 2b theatre company reopens the controversy with a play centred on a sculptural installation of its own. June 18 and 19. $35. The Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre, 227 Front St. E.

Best Before combines gaming, theatre and audience participation (Image: Milan Radovanovic) 

BEST BEFORE
At a time when the spectator experience feels increasingly like a video game (thank you, Avatar), German avant-garde theatre troupe Rimini Protokoll takes the concept further by giving each audience member a controller to manipulate onscreen avatars that age throughout the performance. Confused? See it for clarity. June 18 and 19. $35. Berkeley Street Theatre (Downstairs), 26 Berkeley St.

JULIA DOMNA
As the wife of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus, Syrian beauty Julia Domna became an influential political thinker and philosopher; it was rumoured that she wore the toga in the family. For its first North American performance, Syria’s acclaimed Enana Dance Theatre has turned her life and death into a musical spectacle with glitzy costumes and traditional Syrian dance. June 18 and 19. $35. MacMillan Theatre, 80 Queen’s Park.

THE AFRICA TRILOGY
Born out of Stephen Lewis’s 2005 Massey Lectures, these three plays dramatize the complexities of the African-Western bond. In one, four white doctors discuss Africa over dinner; another follows a Kenyan writer to the U.S.; and the third spotlights a young Nigerian computer hacker. The commission from Toronto’s Volcano Theatre is the star attraction of this year’s East/West program. June 18 to 20. $35–$45. Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W.

FICTION IN THE AGE OF E-BOOKS
The iPad-Kindle-eReader-Vook battles are raging, but it’s still unclear what effect the rise of these devices will have on content. Apart from changing the way we read literature, will e-books actually change how it’s written? The Atlantic (which is publishing short stories exclusively for the digital realm) co-produces this discussion between Indigo president Joel Silver, House of Anansi Press president Sarah MacLachlan, and authors Paul Theroux and Richard Bausch. Atlantic deputy editor Scott Stossel moderates. June 19. $15. Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. W.

Luminato runs until June 19. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster (416-872-1111) and at luminato.com.