All stories by Emily Landau

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Play pinball, drink beer for charity and eight other things to do this week

(Images, clockwise from top left: still from Delicatessen, courtesy of the TIFF Film Reference Library; David Sedaris, by Anne Fishbein; Untitled, by Frank Johnston, courtesy of the Huronia Museum; Iris Apfel)

(Images, clockwise from top left: still from Delicatessen, courtesy of the TIFF Film Reference Library; David Sedaris, by Anne Fishbein; Untitled, by Frank Johnston, courtesy of the Huronia Museum; Iris Apfel)

Dive into Iris Apfel’s closet
Iris Apfel is a 94-year-old fashion starlet, with a flash of dove-white hair, scarlet lipstick and harlequin outfits cobbled together from haute couture and flea market finds. Her Park Avenue closet was dazzling enough to merit its own costume exhibit at the Met in 2006. And now she’s the subject of Iris, an affectionate, stylish new documentary from Grey Gardens maestro Albert Maysles, who died last year. It’s best watched through Frisbee-size glasses. Friday May 15 to Sunday May 31. $12. 506 Bloor St. W., 416-637-3123, bloorcinema.com.

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Comic Book Special: Toronto graphic novelists sketch themselves


sketch-comics-intro

Hundreds of graphic novelists will squeeze into the Reference Library on May 9 and 10 for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. We picked the seven local stars to catch—and asked each for a self-portrait.

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Comic Book Special: inside Toronto’s best-connected comics workshop


Click to see a larger version. (Image: Photograph of RAID by Dave Gillespie)

Click to see a larger version. (Image: Photograph of RAID by Dave Gillespie)

In 2004, a group of illustrators founded RAID Studio in a tiny workshop above a GoodLife Fitness Club on College Street. Now it’s a veritable hub of the geek world, where artists write, storyboard and illustrate comics for DC and Marvel. Here, a who’s who of the city’s hottest collective.

1
Marcus To was the artist on Red Robin, DC Comics’ high-octane series about a renegade Boy Wonder.

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Go to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, see a Simpsons-inspired play and eight other things to do this week

(Images, clockwise from top left: courtesy of the Toronto Flower Market; Toro y Moi, by Andrew Paynter; Bluebeard's Castle, by Michael Cooper; Pancakes no. 5, by Chloe Wise)

(Images, clockwise from top left: courtesy of the Toronto Flower Market; Toro y Moi, by Andrew Paynter; Bluebeard’s Castle, by Michael Cooper; Pancakes no. 5, by Chloe Wise)

Go crazy for comics at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival
Toronto has always been a comics town—Joe Shuster even modelled Superman’s Metropolis after our skyline. Our glorious geekery hits its zenith this weekend at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, a cartoon blowout featuring panels, readings and meet-and-greets from hundreds of doodlers. Highlights include the YA graphic novelist Jillian Tamaki; local satirist and Marvel writer Chip Zdarsky; and Scott McCloud, an American comics superstar whose dazzling new graphic novel, The Sculptor, is easily the most exciting release of the year. Saturday May 9 and Sunday May 10. FREE. Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St., 416-395-5577, torontocomics.com.

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Rock out with Metz, lose yourself in the Contact Photography Festival and eight other things to do this week

(Image, clockwise from top left: Metz, by David Waldman; Marc Labrèche in Needles and Opium, by Nicola Frank Vachon; Fog, Port Aux Basques, NL, 2009, by Scott Conarroe; Trudeau and Levesque, by Michael Cooper)

(Image, clockwise from top left: Metz, by David Waldman; Marc Labrèche in Needles and Opium, by Nicola Frank Vachon; Fog, Port Aux Basques, NL, 2009, by Scott Conarroe; Trudeau and Levesque, by Michael Cooper)

Gorge on a smorgasbord of photographic eye candy
Pretty much every gallery in Toronto is surrendering to the swell of the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, a month-long snapshot spectacular that features work from more than 1,500 artists. Check out the festival’s dazzling public installations: Jihyun Hong’s glowing rendition of a Chinese demolition site in the MOCCA courtyard, romantic colour-stained landscapes by Sarah Anne Johnson at the Westin Harbour Castle and, at Art Metropole, archival Polaroids of 1970s Toronto by Edouard LeBouthillier, which were discovered a decade ago, discarded on a curb. May 1 to 31. Free. Various locations, scotiabankcontactphoto.com.

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Drink lots of beer, see a bunch of documentaries and eight other things to do this week

(Image, clockwise from top left: early Saturday Night Live cast members, by Edie Baskin; Twiggy in Toronto, by Bob Olsen/Toronto Star; George Ezra, by Robert Blackham; Auditorium, by Stephen Andrews, courtesy of the AGO)

(Image, clockwise from top left: early Saturday Night Live cast members, by Edie Baskin; Twiggy in Toronto, by Bob Olsen/Toronto Star; George Ezra, by Robert Blackham; Auditorium, by Stephen Andrews, courtesy of the AGO)

Drink and dance at spring’s hottest beer festival
Toronto’s Festival of Beer combines two summer traditions: outdoor booze bacchanals and music festivals. Each ticket includes five free samples from breweries like Creemore, Junction Craft Brewing, Flying Monkeys and Beau’s (plus cideries like Brickworks and Thornbury). Performances from the synthpop starlet Lowell and the indie band JJ and the Pillars will entice non-drinkers to tag along. April 24 and 25. $30. Sherbourne Common, 61 Dockside Dr., beerfestival.ca.

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See a play in an abandoned high school, bid farewell to Dame Edna and seven other things to do this week

(Images, clockwise from top left: "Squirrel, Oh Happy Day," by Marjorie Campbell, courtesy of Love Art Fair; Dame Edna Everage, courtesy of Mirvish Productions; Herbie Hancock, courtesy of Massey Hall; "Indian War Canoes," by Emily Carr, courtesy of the AGO)

(Images, clockwise from top left: “Squirrel, Oh Happy Day,” by Marjorie Campbell, courtesy of Love Art Fair; Dame Edna Everage, courtesy of Mirvish Productions; Herbie Hancock, courtesy of Massey Hall; “Indian War Canoes,” by Emily Carr, courtesy of the AGO)

See a play in an abandoned high school
One of the season’s most ambitious theatre creations is Sheridan College’s Brantwood 1920–2020, an imaginative lark that takes place in the abandoned Brantwood School in Oakville. The cast will play out scenes and songs from the school’s fictional history in different classrooms. Ticket-holders arrive at Sheridan College, where, appropriately, a school bus will transport them to the Brantwood campus. April 11 to May 3. $35. Sheridan College, 1430 Trafalgar Rd., Oakville, 905-815-4049, sheridancollege.ca.

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Attend a pancake party, see Kacey Musgraves and eight other things to do this week

(Image, clockwise from top left: a still from Safety Last!; Orpheus and Eurydice, by Bruce Zinger; Ubu and the Truth Commission, by Luke Younge; Twin Shadow, by Milan Zrnic)

(Images, clockwise from top left: a still from Safety Last!; Orpheus and Eurydice, by Bruce Zinger; Ubu and the Truth Commission, by Luke Younge; Twin Shadow, by Milan Zrnic)

Check out a South African puppet show for grown-ups
The latest feat from Canadian Stage is a three-week extravaganza of South African song, dance and drama. The absolute must-see is Jane Taylor’s Ubu and the Truth Commission. Set during the post-apartheid truth commission, the play follows a government death agent trying to scrub away his guilt. Like Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, Ubu combines grave subject matter and fantastical execution: it’s a theatrical smoothie of animation, documentary footage and wooden marionettes from the Handspring Puppet Company, the troupe behind War Horse. April 8 to 25. $20–$99. Various locations, canadianstage.com.

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See a play in a pizza parlour’s basement, party with Belle and Sebastian and seven other things to do this week

(Images, clockwise from top left: sculpture by Hora Zardof, courtesy of the artist; Jessie Ware, by Tim Zaragoza; Belle and Sebastien, by Søren Solkær)

(Images, clockwise from top left: sculpture by Hoda Zarbaf, courtesy of the artist; Jessie Ware, by Tim Zaragoza; Belle and Sebastian, by Søren Solkær)

Check out the next big Britpop star
While you endure the interminable wait for Adele’s next album, check out Jessie Ware this week at the Danforth Music Hall. Last fall, the British singer-songwriter with the raspy alto released her sophomore album, Tough Love. It’s a collection of infectious soul songs tinged with gospel and R&B, all anchored by Ware’s rich vocals. April 4. $40.50–$50.75. Danforth Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave., 416-778-8163, ticketmaster.com.

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See Shad before he becomes a CBC star, hang out with Laverne Cox and eight other things to do this week

(Image, clockwise from top left: Laverne Cox, by Luke Fontana; Disabled Theatre, by Michael Bause; Will Butler, self portrait; painting by Gertrude Kearns)

(Images, clockwise from top left: Laverne Cox, by Luke Fontana; Disabled Theatre, by Michael Bause; Will Butler, self portrait; painting by Gertrude Kearns)

Watch the new host of CBC’s Q in his natural element
Two weeks ago, Shad was selected as the new host of Q on CBC Radio. Before he takes over, he’s finishing a victory-lap concert tour for his 2013 album, Flying Colours, which earned a Juno nomination and a spot on the Polaris Prize short list. It’s a collection of freewheeling, retro rap tracks about the immigrant experience, race and colonialism under a cloak of fast rhymes and electro beats. March 27. $19. Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St., 416-872-4255, masseyhall.com.

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Play with cool toys at TIFF, geek out at Toronto Comicon and seven more things to do this week

(Images, clockwise from top left: The Daisy Theatre, by Alejandro Santiago; still from The Remains of the Day, courtesy of TIFF; Subway Stations of the Cross, by Alex Filipe; a Winter Stations installation, by Rémi Carreiro)

(Images, clockwise from top left: The Daisy Theatre, by Alejandro Santiago; still from The Remains of the Day, courtesy of TIFF; Subway Stations of the Cross, by Alex Filipe; a Winter Stations installation, by Rémi Carreiro)

1. Let the kids loose at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Each March Break, the Lightbox hosts DigiPlaySpace, a wonderland of high-tech wizardry filled with dozens of immersive and interactive exhibits. The highlights this year include a mammoth interactive light installation made to resemble a forest; a 3-D virtual reality space-chase game called Headrush; a trippy (and vaguely creepy) animation activated by the viewer’s brainwaves; and a meet-and-greet with hitchBOT, the freeloading robot who just came back from a cross-country tour. To April 19. $10. TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., 416-599-8433, tiff.net.

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See the National Ballet’s biggest hit, catch Molly Parker onstage and eight more things to do this week

(Images, clockwise from top left: Matt Bahen's Once it’s Gone, You’ll Know You’ve Heard It All Your Life, courtesy of Le Gallery; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Cylla von Tiedemann; Spoon River Anthology, by Cylla von Tiedemann; Junko Mizuno's Noodles, courtesy of Narwhal Contemporary)

(Images, clockwise from top left: Matt Bahen’s Once it’s Gone, You’ll Know You’ve Heard It All Your Life, courtesy of Le Gallery; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Cylla von Tiedemann; Spoon River Anthology, by Cylla von Tiedemann; Junko Mizuno’s Noodles, courtesy of Narwhal Contemporary)

1. Revisit the National Ballet’s exhilarating Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Karen Kain’s supreme achievement in her tenure as the National Ballet’s artistic director was this extravagant full-length production from the superstar British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, originally staged in 2011. The ballet is a jewel-toned Victorian fantasy that blends classical romantic steps with futuristic multimedia installations—it never gets old. March 14 to 29. From $26. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W., 416-345-9595, national.ballet.ca.

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The naked ambition of National Ballet artistic director Karen Kain

Beneath her poised veneer is an exacting perfectionist, a tenacious fundraiser and a total control freak. Which explains how she turned the floundering National Ballet of Canada into one of the world’s premiere arts organizations

(Image: Photograph by Evaan Kheraj)

(Image: Evaan Kheraj)

The best seats at the Four Seasons Centre are on the right side of the grand ring, a few boxes back from the stage. From there, Karen Kain, the 63-year-old artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada, surveys her dancers, assessing every arabesque, wincing at every shaky landing.

On the slushy evening of December 13, Kain took her spot for the opening-night performance of The Nutcracker, the twinkling Christmas bauble whose annual three-week run pads the company’s pockets for the rest of the year. Kain is willowy and austere, favouring a gallery owner’s uniform of tailored leather pencil skirts and expensive slouchy knits. She resembles a lovely alien, her pale face framed with wide-set eyes and lofty cheekbones, her black pixie cut pointing into blades. Everything about her appearance seems manicured, a costume of controlled rigidity. As the curtain rose, she sat upright, tapping her chin to the beat of Tchaikovsky’s opening allegro.

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See a strange, secretive, practically silent opera

The Whisper Opera

(Image: Armen Elliot)

It doesn’t feel like an opera at all. Instead of a palatial hall, The Whisper Opera is performed in the Theatre Centre for an audience of 52 people. The stage juts out into the crowd, draped in boudoirish ­curtains. The musicians ply their instruments gingerly, making faint melodies that sound like they’re coming from another room: the percussionist, for example, rubs two cowbells together and hits a glockenspiel with his fingers, and the cellist plays with a toothed mute stilling the strings. The soprano Tony Arnold doesn’t sing her words so much as breathe them. If you’re sitting more than five feet from the stage, you might not hear anything.

The Pulitzer-winning ­American composer David Lang has made a career of minimalist mischief. He conceived The Whisper Opera as a kind of unrecordable, sacrosanct event—something that could only be experienced live, in a theatre, in person. For the libretto, he cobbled together Internet secrets, googling phrases like “When I’m alone, I…” and “I wish I wasn’t so….” There’s no plot, just an impressionistic collection of ghostly phrases too private to be spoken at full volume.

The effect is as much performance art as it is music: the performers sit cross-legged on the stage, so close you can touch their shoelaces; the hushed music requires active listening to pick up; the singer practically murmurs secrets in your ear. It’s gimmicky, but it works. The piece is strange, singular and jarringly intimate. That’s something you can’t get on YouTube.

Feb. 26 to Mar. 1. $67.50. The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W., 416-534-9261, tickets.rcmusic.ca.

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A Winter Hater’s Guide to Loving Winter: how to survive the season in style

The Winter Hater's Guide To Loving Winter

This is the era of the polar vortex. Winters are colder, storms are icier and the frost sticks around till May. You could hibernate for six months. Or move. Or stop whining and fall in love with winter in the city. There are dozens of ways to outfox, and even take pleasure in, the cold. Like getting drunk in a yurt, for instance. That, and 14 other secrets to having a ­deliriously happy winter, in the pages that follow.

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