Sixteen things to see, do, read and hear in Toronto this April

Sixteen things to see, do, read and hear in Toronto this April

Including an exploration of the roots of reggae, a theatrical portrayal of immigrant life and a deep dive into string theory

Photo by Debi Del Grande
A feminist band’s riotous return

1 Formed in 1990 by singer-songwriter Kathleen Hanna, guitarist Billy Karren, bassist Kathi Wilcox and drummer Tobi Vail, Bikini Kill ushered in a new era of female rockers. With their feminist lyrics, abrasive melodies and hardcore performances, the band is credited with inciting the riot grrrl movement—a subculture at the intersection of feminism and punk. Much to the chagrin of their fans, they disbanded in 1997, but the group has now reunited for this 29-show tour, hitting 23 cities in Australia and North America. April 13, The Danforth Music Hall

An exploration of reggae’s origin story

2 Since reggae’s beginnings in Jamaica in the 1960s, its sweet sounds have reverberated across the globe. Jamaican Canadian singer Jah’Mila and orchestral conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser explore the evolution of the island’s iconic sound with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Reggae Roots. This is the duo’s first tour together since Jah’Mila released her debut LP, Roots Girl, in 2022. Bartholomew-­Poyser has conducted shows with a myriad of orchestras across North America, including the TSO’s Thorgy Thor and the Thorchestra, starring drag performer Thorgy Thor. April 16, Roy Thomson Hall

Photo by Lorne Bridgman
A play about fathers and family legacies

3 Ghanaian-born, Toronto-based theatre artist Tawiah M’Carthy is a serious triple threat. Last year, he directed a spectacular Stratford Festival production of the African classic Death and the King’s Horseman. This spring, he takes on the roles of playwright and performer for an intimate new drama co-produced by Blue Bird Theatre Collective and Canadian Stage. In Maanomaa, My Brother, M’Carthy and his co-creator and co-star, Brad Cook, portray Kwame and Will, two childhood friends who reunite in Ghana for a funeral. As they attempt to reconnect, the pair are forced to confront the legacies of their fathers and the events that tore their families apart 25 years earlier. April 11 to 30, Berkeley Street Theatre

A meditation on racism and belonging

4 In Bones of Belonging: Finding Wholeness in a White World, the witty and poignant follow-up to Dashtgard’s debut memoir, Breaking the Ocean, the author uses interlocking essays and vignettes to share stories of racial exclusion while asking readers to imagine what a complete self would look like in a culture centred around whiteness. Bones of Belonging combines Dashtgard’s sharp writing and humour with powerful insights drawn from her personal experiences as a brown woman. Out April 18

Photo by Getty Images
A fluffed-up fight on the square

5 Fluff your pillows and don your comfiest jammies, because Inter­national Pillow Fight Day is upon us. Nathan Phillips Square will morph into a pillow fort to host Toronto’s very own slumber-party-esque celebration. From 3 to 6 p.m., participants are free to run wild and do (soft) battle with light, featherless pillows (so as not to poke any eyes out). The joyful event is part of a 100-year-old tradition that’s still celebrated in numerous city squares around the world, including in London, Milan and Berlin. April 1, Nathan Phillips Square

A dystopian tale about class and climate

6 In a near-future world, the wealthy global elite seek refuge from the intoler­able summer heat by relocating to floating cities while the rest of the population remains on the mainland. When Rose, the protagonist of Sterling’s captivating debut, Camp Zero, is offered a job as a sex worker at an American building project in northern Canada, she finds herself contending with high emotions and tensions as a handful of climate crisis survivors navigate their fates. Camp Zero is both chilling and seductive, asking readers to examine the underside of utopia and the sustaining power of love. Out April 4

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An unflinching study of colliding cultures

7 Creation mythology gets flipped on its head in The Hooves Belonged to the Deer, an epic coming-of-age story from Lebanese Canadian playwright Makram Ayache. When an Arab Muslim boy moves to the Prairies, he becomes the focus of a pastor bent on converting him to Christianity. As religions and cultures collide, the boy discovers his budding queerness through fantasies about the Garden of Eden. Until April 23, Tarragon Theatre

A beloved author’s last dispatch

8 The final short story collection from celebrated author Steven Heighton invites us to explore love, fear and all the ways we try to care for one another. As Instructions for the Drowning pulls readers into life’s most vulnerable moments, the power and depth of Heighton’s talents shine through each page. Out April 18

Photo by Black Artists' Networks in Dialogue
A sculptural ode to Black youth

9 Frantz Brent-Harris, a Jamaican artist based in Toronto, has created a love letter to Blackness. His new installation, Afrophilia, is a series of busts rendered in vibrant oranges and reds, inspired by the generation of young Black people who are rejecting the politics of respectability, refusing narratives of oppression and practising Black love as a revolutionary act. The pieces are also a reclamation of the sculptural bust—an art form historically reserved for rich, white, European men—using it to reframe Black youth as cultural heroes. Until August 21, Toronto Sculpture Garden

A festival favourite’s solo tour

10 Boston-based act Ripe was born at the Berklee College of Music, where the bandmates would jam together at parties. Their joyful melodies and funky grooves earned their EPs—Produce the Juice and Hey Hello—critical acclaim. The group’s latest album, Bright Blues, is a mix of head-bopping tunes that combines funk, jazz and R&B into one delicious 12-song collection. April 7, The Danforth Music Hall

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A contemporary spin on a timeless classic

11 After a three-year pandemic postponement, director Daniel Brooks finally brings his vision of Anton Chekhov’s masterpiece The Seagull to the Soul­pepper Theatre stage. On a quiet lakeside estate, Nina, a young aspiring actor, finds herself torn between her idealistic boyfriend, Konstanin, and the cynical, older Boris. Chekhov’s tragicomedy about love, art and the clash of generations has been speaking to audiences since its 1898 triumph at the Moscow Art Theatre. Brooks’s production uses British playwright Simon Stephens’s new adaptation, which transports Chekhov’s classic to modern times. April 6 to 30, Young Centre for the Performing Arts

An OG wellness influencer dishes on creativity

12 The time to eat, pray and love is upon us—bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert is coming to Toronto. In 2006, Gilbert’s globe-spanning memoir captured the world’s attention. Now, she’s heading to the city for a talk on creativity. It’s the perfect event for anyone seeking wisdom on the nature of inspiration. April 22, Metro Toronto Convention Centre

Photo by Getty Images
A synth-pop legend’s comeback tour

13 Nothing calls the ’80s to mind like the sound of synth pop, and we have a handful of leather-clad trailblazers to thank for that. Depeche Mode launched in Essex, England, in 1980 and went on to produce 14 studio albums and more than 50 music videos over the next four decades. In 2020, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This March, their global fanbase—which includes artists like Shakira, The Killers and Coldplay—hailed yet another iconic record with the release of Memento Mori. April 7, Scotiabank Arena

A deeper look at the theory of everything

14 When Stephen Hawking was working at Cambridge, he struck up a long-term friendship and collaboration with Belgian cosmologist Thomas Hertog. They used string theory to study the big bang, which led to a startling conclusion about the unique quality of our universe. Hertog’s new book, On the Origin of Time: Stephen Hawking’s Final Theory, provides a fascinating perspective on Hawking’s ultimate achievement. Out April 11

Photo by Necessary Angel
A fresh portrayal of immigrant life

15 South asian tradition clashes with Western social upheaval in Pamela Mala Sinha’s comedy New, set in 1970s Winnipeg. When a Bengali bride arrives in the prairie city for an arranged marriage, she causes turmoil among her husband’s circle of westernized immigrants. Sinha, an actor and playwright best known for her gut-wrenching solo show, Crash, taps into her comedic side for this story. The play, produced by Toronto company Necessary Angel, premiered to rave reviews earlier this season at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. April 25 to May 14, Berkeley Street Theatre

An expanded sartorial spectacle

16 Get caught up on the hottest trends of the season at Fashion Art Toronto—the city’s longest-­running fashion week, with a reputation for spotlighting emerging Canadian designers and artists. This year’s event promises to be the biggest yet, featuring over 40 classic runway shows and multimedia presentations, including performances, photography and art exhibits. Previous shows have featured Toronto-based talents like Lesley Hampton and House of Etoile. The four-day affair at Black Creek Assembly also includes a fashion-and-beauty retail pop-up shop, lounge spaces, interactive displays, and after-parties galore. New York, eat your heart out. April 27 to 30, Black Creek Assembly

What Torontonians are loving right now

Photo courtesy of the Art Gallery of Hamilton
Radical Stitch

Recommended by Devyani Saltzman, writer and cultural programmer

“I loved this show at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. It’s one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary Indigenous stitching and beadwork from across Turtle Island, and the work is remarkable, including a beaded depiction of the brain scans of people suffering from depression.”

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Recommended by Jean Paul, stand-up comedian

“I love music, comic books and art, so Entergalactic indulged all of my creative interests. It’s a multi-sensory journey through an age-old plot: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl reunite. The film is the companion piece to Kid Cudi’s album of the same name, so the music is amazing too.”

Photo courtesy of the CBC
Love, Janessa

Recommended by Layla Ahmad, producer at CTV’s Your Morning

“This podcast by the CBC and the BBC is wild. It’s about romance scammers who have conned victims out of a ton of money, all using photos of the same woman—Janessa Brazil. The host is trying to find both the real Janessa and the person behind the scams. I can’t get enough!”