What to see, do, hear and read in Toronto this April

What to see, do, hear and read in Toronto this April

An evening of synth-driven indie rock, a Scottish fashion show, a multimedia exhibition of Indigenous art, and more

Belle and Sebastian
Photo by Roberto Finizio/NurPhoto/Getty Images
A twee pop band’s radiant return

1 Despite keeping a low profile, Scottish band Belle and Sebastian have earned a loyal following and remain beloved by fans after 12 albums and almost 30 years. Their return to the stage has been a long time coming: a planned North American tour was scheduled to stop in Toronto last spring, but the whole thing was cancelled when band member Stuart Murdoch fell ill. Now back in action, the group is passing through the city to promote their surprise 2023 album, Late Developers—an easy-listening mix of Belle and Sebastian’s trademark whimsical synth-pop and indie-rock sound. History, April 29

A survey of the city’s creative landscape

2 Like a rare flower, MOCA’s celebration of local Toronto artists blooms just once every three years. As the only recurring institutional exhibition dedicated to artists from the GTA, it isn’t one to miss. The show will take over three floors of the museum and exhibit a wide array of works from the 1960s to today. It features 25 artists, duos and collectives, including Timothy Yanick Hunter, Sukaina Kubba and Lotus Laurie Kang, across mediums ranging from sculpture to performance. This year’s theme, “difference as a point of understanding and connection,” couldn’t be more on-brand for Toronto. MOCA, March 22 to July 28

Woking Phoenix at Theatre Passe Muraille
A tale of family sacrifice and survival

3 After their mother’s death, three estranged siblings find themselves in charge of her legacy: the Woking Phoenix, a Chinese restaurant in small-town Ontario. Woking Phoenix, a new play at Theatre Passe Muraille, serves up a tale of generational love, family sacrifice and food across two decades. It was created by the Silk Bath Collective, a collaboration between Toronto theatre makers Bessie Cheng, Aaron Jan and Gloria Mok. Theatre Passe Muraille, April 12 to 27

A conversation with a best­selling funny man

4 How does author and humourist David Sedaris spend a pandemic? Vacuuming and wondering how the acupuncturists are doing, it turns out. The writer’s latest book, 2022’s Happy-Go-Lucky, chronicles his experience before, during and after the pandemic—a period that coincided with the death of his father and his travels through a Covid-ravaged America. For one night, Sedaris will visit Massey Hall to share new stories, answer questions and sign books, offering the poignant and hilarious commentary he’s known for on our unprecedented times. Massey Hall, April 7

Mariah the Scientist
Photo by Prince Williams/Getty Images
A rising songwriter tours her latest record

5 Up-and-coming R&B singer Mariah the Scientist seems to have a sweet spot for this city: her 2022 single “Christmas in Toronto” waxes poetic about waking up to a lover here before jetting off to Atlanta. Now touring Europe, the US and Canada for her third album, To Be Eaten Alive, the artist is returning for a show at the Danforth Music Hall. Let’s hope the good feelings are still there. Danforth Music Hall, April 2

A genre-bending show about a visionary artist

6 American composer Julius Eastman was a trailblazer of minimalist and experimental music who injected his identity as a queer Black man into his works—something of a radical act in 1970s New York. After his death in 1990, Eastman left behind a rich artistic legacy, which is now being celebrated in Searching for Eastman, a new four-act show that combines music, poetry, theatre and dance. Created by the Wind in the Leaves Collective and based on the writings of Toronto poet, playwright and performer Charles C. Smith, each act interprets one of Eastman’s compositions, including Prelude to St. Joan, Stay On It and Gay Guerilla. Berkeley Street Theatre, April 4 to 7

Dressed to Kilt, an international Scottish fashion show

A celebratory night of Caledonian culture

7 For the first time, globally acclaimed Scottish fashion show Dressed to Kilt is coming to Canada. Since being founded by Sean Connery and Geoffrey Scott Carroll in 2003, the annual celebration of Caledonian dress has become an international phenomenon, with stars like Mike Myers, Anne Hathaway and Joan Jett gracing its runways. This northern edition will feature fashions inspired by hunting, riding, hiking, skating and skiing, showcased by a slate of A-list models including soccer legend Christine Sinclair and the National Ballet of Canada’s Guillaume Côté. Liberty Grand, April 6

A thrilling novel about choice and destiny

8 How much of who you are is baked into your DNA or inherited through generations of culture clashes, migration and trauma? It’s a question that writers like E. J. Koh and Kyo Maclear have wrestled with in recent books that trace the lives of ancestors and their progeny. To this roster comes Real Americans, a new novel by Goodbye, Vitamin author Rachel Khong. The book follows a Y2K romance between a second-generation immigrant and a privileged East Coaster—and their son’s present-day search for a father he never knew. Out April 30

A multimedia show with an Indigenous lens

9 For over 40 years, Brantford-based Mohawk artist Shelley Niro has been using photography, film, painting and sculpture to portray Indigenous women and girls as they are as opposed to how they’re depicted in mainstream media, touching on themes of matriarchy, history and family relationships. Fresh off the heels of her new anthology, 500 Year Itch, the artist is taking over Dundas West’s Stephen Bulger Gallery in a solo multimedia exhibition called Silent, Waiting, Moving, Loud. We caught up with Niro to talk about her new show, self-representation in art, and how she recasts residential schools through an Indigenous lens. Stephen Bulger Gallery, until April 27

Raven's Hair by Mohawk artist Shelley Niro

Subject: “This is my granddaughter Raven when she was around 13. She was going to cut her long hair, so I made her pose for me first.”

Branches: “I got these branches from a friend who cut her bushes and was about to put them in the garbage. I spread them out on a white background and then inverted the colours.”

Moon: “I come from an ancient tribe that loves the moon, and I’m obsessed with it too. I enjoy taking photos of it, capturing it and almost holding it in my camera.”

Mohawk Chapel by Indigenous artist Shelley Niro

Setting: “This is Mohawk Chapel in Brantford, around 1940. These kids are coming out of the church in their uniforms, and the teacher is looking at them, making sure they’re standing in line. It’s disturbing to see these photographs of residential schools and how the kids are dressed and regimented. It’s a reminder of what Indian kids and families had to go through in that period. It’s like they’re in jail.”

Girls: “We can never get tired of talking about how girls during this period were trained to be domestic help. It’s called a residential ‘school,’ but they didn’t learn anything besides how to make beds. Yet there’s one little girl looking at the camera with a big smile on her face. I think it’s such a strange photograph. Why is she so happy? But, at the same time, you don’t want to paint everyone as being sad, mistreated and abused.”

Beadwork frame: “I wanted the viewer to know they’re looking at this picture through Indigenous eyes. I made the frame really pretty, because what’s going on inside of it isn’t.”

Metal discs: “I go to consignment stores to buy things I can take apart and reuse. These discs came from a belt. They look like silver, which was an important material in Iroquois jewellery from the 1700s onward.”

War by Mohawk artist Shelley Niro

Man: “This is a young man from Six Nations that I photographed about 20 years ago. His name is Chris White.”

Background: “I did an installation called La Pieta that had different images of the Mohawk Valley and landscape. This piece condenses that work into one image: it has the body of a young man and the landscape, two things that are destroyed in times of war.”

River: “This is the Grand River in Ontario. It’s a contentious issue for Six Nations people. We were originally given six miles on both sides of the river, from the source to the mouth, but now we have hardly any of that. The rest has been squatted on, occupied and stolen.”