The Weekender: Don Quixote, Canadian Music Week and six other events on our to-do list

The Weekender: Don Quixote, Canadian Music Week and six other events on our to-do list

Janelle Monáe, Jessica Greenberg in The Middle Place, and Piotr Stanczyk as Don Quixote 

1. THE MIDDLE PLACE
Based on interviews with workers and residents at one of the city’s many youth shelters, this moving piece was written by young playwright Andrew Kushnir and drew significant acclaim at last year’s SummerWorks Theatre Festival. An exploration of what it means to be young and homeless, Kushnir tempers the heavier moments with the generous addition of humour. Directed by Alan Dilworth. To March 12. $29–$49. Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley St., 416-368-3110, canadianstage.com.

2. CANADIAN MUSIC WEEK
Music lovers have been eagerly counting down the days until Canadian Music Week, and for good reason. The mind-blowing lineup is 800-plus musicians strong and includes some of the biggest names in music (think Janet Jackson, Good Charlotte, Melissa Etheridge and Janelle Monáe), as well as more than a few next-big-things (Zeus, Down with Webster and Hollerado). Oh, yeah, and there’s also the film festival, conference and awards show portions of the fest. March 9­–13. Wristbands $35–$150. Various locations, cmw.net.

3. THE WHOLE SHEBANG 2011: THE VILLAGE
This annual Dreamwalker Dance Company production brings over 40 artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, poets and dancers together in one surprisingly cohesive evening of entertainment. The diverse cast of performers includes indie filmmaker Joyce Wong, singer-songwriter Doug Paisley, dancer Sarah Chase and playwright Judith Thompson, who star in a show that explores what happens when you bring together diverse communities and audiences. March 11–12. $38. Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, 231 Queens Quay W., 416-973-4000, harbourfrontcentre.com.

4. SYRUP IN THE CITY, PARTY IN THE PARK (FREE!)
The DIY spirit is all over the Toronto food scene these days (think: pickles, canning and homemade cheese), but until we heard about this event, we’d never considered making maple syrup all by ourselves. Enter Not Far From the Tree, a Toronto-based group that helps homeowners harvest and share the fruit from their yards. This weekend, they’ll be helping the city’s maple syrup lovers collect sap from the maple trees on their properties. Since maple syrup season is finally here, they’re hosting a “sugarin’ off party” to celebrate. Go for the how-to on collecting sap; stay for the pancakes, syrup tasting and family-friendly vibe. March 13. Dufferin Grove Park, 875 Dufferin St., 647-774-7425, notfarfromthetree.org.

5. SPRING FLING
March Break is imminent and, unless you’re very lucky or very organized, the kids are probably already driving you a bit mad. Not to worry: the annual carnival is back at the Rogers Centre and, with a midway, exotic animals and performances from musicians and storytellers, there will be plenty to tire the little darlings out. March 11–18. $10–20. Rogers Centre, 1 Blue Jays Way, 416-341-3000, rogerscentre.com.

6. BREAKING POINT
A new addition to the repertoire of the Collective of Black Artists, this contemporary program features the group’s first Canadian commission, On a Clear Day…, by Franco-Congolese choreographer Zab Maboungou, as well as three other pieces: BaKari E. Lindsay’s Mandé Variations, Charmaine Headley’s Legacy and company dancer Julia Morris’s Hightal. The entire program is inspired by traditional dance, but as usual with COBA, is thoroughly modern and innovative at the same time. March 11–13. $35. Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W., cobainc.com.

7. DON QUIXOTE
Cervantes’s classic novel is more than a little heartbreaking: the profoundly confused titular character goes on a quest in search of the half-imaginary true love he has dubbed Dulcinea. How could it possibly end well? But the National Ballet’s take on Nicolas Beriozoff’s staging amps up the comedy. We’re also swooning for Desmond Heeley’s sumptuous, Spanish-influenced sets. To March 13. $24–$227. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W., 416-345-9595, national.ballet.ca.

8. THIS PARTY’S A RIOT!
The Second City is probably the oldest (52 this year), largest (there are outposts in Chicago, Hollywood and, of course, Toronto) and most prestigious (alumni: Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Tina Fey, Bill Murray) improv troupe in the world. How they stay fresh after so many laughs? Do as the jokesters who created this latest production do: snark on current events and always include zombies. Ongoing. $24–$29. The Second City, 51 Mercer St., 416-343-0011, secondcity.com.

(Images: Monáe, Nastassia A. Davis; Greenberg, Aviva Armour Ostroff; Stanczyk, Cylla von Tiedemann)