A symphony at City Hall, a Trump-mocking comedy show and eight other things to do to celebrate Canada 150
This month, you won’t be able to step outside without running into a sesquicentennial shebang. Here, the best of the bunch
A symphonic Ron Sexsmith show at City Hall
A sunset, a symphony and a whole lot of sad songs—it may not be the city’s most boisterous Canada Day bash, but it’s likely to be the most beautiful. Backed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, troubadour Ron Sexsmith will strum his way through an orchestral set of his best tunes, with help from Halifax-based singer-songwriter Rose Cousins. Saturday, July 1. Nathan Phillips Square.
A boosterish birthday comedy
Look, every improv comedy show in 2017 is bound to include a few jabs at Donald Trump. The Second City’s new revue, Canada: The Thinking Man’s America, is just putting a finer point on it. This batch of birthday sketches salutes Canada’s sunny ways, pokes fun at Canuck clichés and lampoons our neighbours to the south. To Monday, October 16. The Second City.
The AGO’s revisionist art show
The AGO’s sesquicentennial show, Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood, isn’t exactly celebratory—across various media, more than 40 artists seek to rewrite and reclaim Canada’s checkered history. Expect portraits of historical Ojibwa dancers by Robert Houle, haunting photography from Meryl McMaster, panels by graphic novelist Seth and work by Ed Pien, who combines reflective Mylar with text written in crystal gems. Open now. AGO.
A restaging of a Canuck classic
Soulpepper salutes the sesquicentennial with the return of Billy Bishop Goes to War, the soaring classic about the plucky kid from Owen Sound who became a legendary WWI flying ace. Creators Eric Peterson and John MacLachlan Gray, who debuted the original two-man musical in 1978 before taking it to Broadway and London’s West End, are back onstage in this swan song, a smart, funny and poignant tale of a can-do Canadian hero. Saturday, July 1 to Saturday, August 5. Young Centre for the Performing Arts.
The Aha Khan’s museum-wide 150 exhibition
Here: Locating Contemporary Canadian Artists turns the Aga Khan into a giant canvas. Three abstract works inspired by Islamic tiling and north African carpets are painted directly on the gallery walls, a shimmering video installation is projected by the parking ramp, and a large textile work hangs in the courtyard café. Other pieces include a Lebanese flag inscribed into a Canadian cedar log and a time capsule inside a taxidermied fox. Saturday, July 22 to Monday, January 1, 2018. Aga Khan Museum.
The Breathing Hole, a polar bear’s epic journey
Colleen Murphy’s visionary tale about the Arctic is told through a polar bear who, over 500 years, witnesses first contact, befriends a lonely Inuk widow, braves a brush with the starving crew of the Franklin expedition and becomes endangered in a climate change–stricken near-future. Sunday, July 30 to Friday, September 22. Studio Theatre, Stratford.
Three weekends of sesquicentennial celebrations
It’s impossible to do Canadian culture justice with just one event. So Harbourfront has three, divided by region: Prairies to Pacific (July 7 to 9) features a concert from jazz singer Dione Taylor (above), Shield to Shore (July 14 to 16) showcases the folksy music of the St. Lawrence River basin, and Northern Passages (July 21 to 23) highlights the storytellers and throat singers of Canada’s North. Friday, July 7 to Sunday, July 23. Harbourfront Centre.
A devastating before-and-after view of Canada
It’s All Happening So Fast chronicles 150 years of industry, pollution and resource exploitation through archival and contemporary landscape photography, as well as Douglas Coupland’s cheeky Slogans for the Twenty-First Century (sample: “I miss my pre-Internet brain”). To Saturday, July 15. Art Museum at the University of Toronto.
A pretty little classical music fest
This month, the town of Elora offers a cornucopia of classical concerts. There are performances by famed Canadian tenor Richard Margison, actress Martha Henry and the Cecelia Quartet (above); odes to the music of Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and more; and a richly textured multimedia show by historian Hugh Brewster, which tracks our history from Confederation on. Friday, July 14 to Sunday, July 30. Various venues, Elora.
An ode to our national symbol
No symbol—not even the Tim Hortons logo—is more distinctly Canadian than the maple leaf. The Market Gallery explores the history of the humble icon with photos and other items that revisit the first official royal visit to Toronto and the birth of the Canadian flag. Saturday, July 22 to Saturday, November 18. Market Gallery.