“Art and culture are hugely important to the games,” says co-programmer Alok Sharma, of the City of Toronto’s Special Events Office (above). “It’s not just about sports and that will help to make this a true cultural celebration. It’s going to be amazing, we’ll have people from North, Central and South America here for the games and it’s really important for us to showcase their cultures and have them mix and mingle with Torontonians.”
Panamania Live takes over three locations: Nathan Phillips Square (co-produced by City of Toronto), Pan Am Park (on the Exhibition grounds) and the Distillery District. With a talent budget derived from all three levels of government there was an imperative to feature artists from across Canada, Ontario and Toronto, as well as from across the Americas. The result is a vast and diverse entertainment roster brimming with familiar and not-so-familiar names.
When asked about the long journey from conception to Saturday night’s lighting of the Prince Edward Viaduct’s Luminous Veil, artist Dereck Revington quotes writer Milan Kundera: “From the sketch to the work, one travels on one’s knees.”
“In the end,” says Revington, “you hope that the work looks absolutely effortless, that people think the solution was obvious.”
Tuesday night’s test of the lighting array proved that the project is so much more than the sum of its parts: as waves of light rolled across the Veil towards spectators on the west side of the bridge, the reaction was emotional not intellectual. Pedestrians and cyclists stopped to question those gathered and a single adjective came up over and over again: “Magnificent!”
Revington’s journey to Saturday night started in 1998 when his concept for the Luminous Veil won a national design competition. The Bloor Viaduct, as it’s colloquially known, had become a magnet for suicides since it was completed in 1918; nearly 500 people had leaped to their deaths from the bridge by the time the Veil was erected in 2003.
For Revington, left, the project was steeped in personal meaning: “I know people who were very close to me who committed suicide, so the subject had a very strong personal meaning for me. Rarely in one’s life does one get the opportunity to work on such a charged, powerful site.”
“The Veil is a life’s work,” adds Revington. “It’s an extraordinary piece and it’s going to break significant ground in terms of interactive art, certainly at this scale. It’s a great first for Toronto.”
Toronto’s Red Sky Productions is one of the most successful touring aboriginal arts companies in the world, possibly THE most successful.
The company has been touring Canada this year and will embark on a 15-state U.S. tour in October and November. This weekend Red Sky is at Fort York National Historic Site as part of the Indigenous Arts Festival, which coincides with National Aboriginal Day on Sunday (June 21).
Red Sky’s latest show is Mistatim, a three-hander for children and families that combines music, dance and theatre augmented by the impressive mask work of Karen Rodd.
“We’ve been touring internationally right from the beginning,” says Red Sky founder, choreographer Sandra Laronde, “it was always part of the plan.”
Canadian and Chinese poets come together Saturday (June 20) at Riverdale Library for a lively afternoon of poetry, music and photography. The event celebrates the life and poetry of ancient Chinese poet, Qu Yuan (340-278 BC), “the father of Chinese poetry” according to organizer Anna Yin, and also the inspiration behind dragon boat racing: it’s not a coincidence that the Toronto International Dragon Boat Festival is also on this weekend.
The Riverdale Library event is the brainchild of Yin (right) and Toronto Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke (left).
“The original story behind dragon boat racing comes from Qu Yuan who drowned himself in a river,” explains Yin. “The people were so upset they threw food in the river to distract the fish so they didn’t eat his body. The people rowed boats and made lots of noise to scare the fish. So I thought this was a wonderful time to celebrate and we chose Qu Yuan’s date.”
After a 10-year absence from the Toronto theatre scene, Theatre Asylum is back in action this weekend thru June 14 with a one-two punch from Cuban-American playwright Maria Irene Fornes, The Successful Life of 3 and Mud.
Staged in a long basement space in Kensington Market, two rooms have been completely transformed for the show: Successful Life of 3, above, is a madcap, cartoon world wrapped in silver insulation foam: Mud, by comparison is a drab, realist room where the same three actors play out a very different kind of drama.
“Linking the two plays is exciting,” says Director Jennifer Capraru, “because I can bring the same three actors on a journey that starts in a completely zany, artificial world where feelings are sneered at and the people are unconscious, to the very realistic world of Mud, where they’re fleshed out, they fight for a better life. It’s like bringing the conscious and unconscious together.”