A Michelle Obama book tour, a city-wide photography spectacular and seven other things to see, hear, read and do in Toronto this week
A former First Lady’s book tour
1Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, sold 1.4 million copies in its first week and was the best-selling book of 2018. It offers a poignant glimpse into Michelle and Barack’s inner lives, detailing their struggles to conceive, their venture into couples therapy, the trials of raising two daughters and the pressure of being the first black family to live in the White House. She also dishes on the quirkier aspects of Obama’s presidential term, including the go-to snack of cheese on toast and the time their dog Sunny pooped on the Treaty Room rug. In person, Obama is effortlessly funny, warm and charismatic. Even in front of a crowd of 20,000, she manages to make the room feel intimate. Saturday, May 4. Scotiabank Arena.
A super-short film fest
2Even the most devoted film buff would have a hard time packing in 80 films during TIFF, but it’s entirely possible at the 300 Seconds Film Festival. The two-and-a-half-hour screening, featuring nearly 80 super shorts by both award-winning directors and camera newbies, celebrates the art of micro-length cinema. As the festival’s title suggests, no film exceeds 300 seconds (or five minutes) and some are as short as 15 seconds (Like Andrew J.D. Robinson’s And What Are You Supposed To Be?, an eerie short about children going missing on Halloween). Monday, April 29. Free. 639 Queen Street West.
A look inside the life of a nonagenarian sex guru
3At 90 years old, pint-sized German-Jewish sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer is nowhere close to slowing down. In the past year, she’s been the subject of a documentary that premiered at Sundance, she released two books (the autobiographical graphic novel Roller Coaster Grandma and Stay or Go: Dr. Ruth’s Rules for Real Relationships), and now she’s being celebrated in a one-woman show starring Linda Kash (pictured above). Becoming Dr. Ruth follows the peculiar path that led Dr. Ruth to become America’s favourite sex guru, rewinding all the way back to her childhood escape from the Nazis and her brief stint as an Israeli sniper. Tuesday, April 30 to Thursday, May 16. Toronto Centre for the Arts.
A city-wide photography spectacular
4Contact, the world’s largest annual photography extravaganza returns, to Toronto this month to transform the city into a sprawling gallery of contemporary art, featuring work by more than 200 artists from around the world. This year’s highlights include Soviet landscapes, evocative self-portraits and vintage shots of artistic icons. Wednesday, May 1 to Friday, May 31. Various locations.
A feminist comedy revamp
5When Second City’s She The People premiered last year, it received glowing reviews for its ability to hilariously address the wage gap, Mike Pence and gender stereotypes. Now, its back for a sequel with The Resistance Continues. Written, performed, directed, scored, styled and lit entirely by women, the show features the same six comedians from the original, but with brand new sassy commentary on queer life, body image and what it means to be a renaissance woman in 2019. Saturday, May 4 to Sunday, September 15. $27–$42. Second City Theatre.
A pre-Moonlight play
6African-American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney wrote the drama In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue in 2003 as part of his application to Yale’s School of Drama. Thirteen years later, he shot to fame when Barry Jenkins adapted the play as Moonlight, which went on to win McCraney an Academy Award. But long before he was an Oscar winner, he wrote The Brothers Size, a drama with music inspired by West African Yoruba mythology. Set in Louisiana, it tells the story of straitlaced Ogun and his fun-loving ex-con brother Oshoosi, who end up roommates in the impoverished South. The script flips between a dream world and reality, and each character is based on traditional Yoruba deities—Ogun is named after the god of hard work, and Oshoosi for the divine hunter who represents survival. Saturday, May 4 to Sunday, May 26. $36–$64. Young Centre for the Performing Arts.
A gender-swapped Lolita
7Edmonton-based author Todd Babiak weaves unexpected humour and compassion into The Empress of Idaho, a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale. The novel unfolds through the perspective of Adam Lisinki, an ordinary 14-year-old who spends his time playing high school football, working at a local gas station and hanging out with his new girlfriend. But his life changes when a mysterious older woman named Beatrice comes to town. For reasons he can’t quite understand, he’s captivated by her. Things begin to unravel when Adam starts neglecting everything he cares about to be around her, exposing the emotional complexities of adolescence. Tuesday, April 30. $24.95. Penguin Random House Canada.
A queer Québécois romance
8Michel Marc Bouchard’s steamy gay romance Lilies; or, the Revival of a Romantic Drama follows two Catholic schoolboys in 1912 Roberval, Quebec—one of them an exiled French aristocrat, the other a closeted Québécois—who fall in love while performing a play about the martyrdom of St. Sebastian. They’re torn apart when one boy is convicted of a murder he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Their story unfolds as a play, acted out decades later by a gang of convicts. For this revival, Toronto’s LemonTree Creations enlists a cast of mainly Indigenous and black actors to draw attention to the high incarceration rates within these communities. Saturday, May 4 to Sunday, May 26. $20. Buddies in Bad Times.
A gender-swapped crime thriller
9Beautiful Man is a wicked satire from the Governor General’s Award–winning playwright Erin Shields about a hard-nosed policewoman chasing down a sociopathic female serial killer. (The story’s lone man is a beautiful, passive victim who spends the majority of the play waiting to be rescued.) The show skewers sexism in pop culture and offers blistering commentary on mainstream misogyny. Saturday, May 4 to Sunday, May 26. $20. Factory Theatre.