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Head to the homecoming of Soulpepper’s Kim’s Convenience

(Image: Bruce Monk)

(Image: Bruce Monk)

When Kim’s Convenience premiered at Soulpepper almost three years ago, it broke box office records in spectacular fashion—playwright Ins Choi created an instant Canadian classic, packing a powerful family drama under a comfortable exterior of sitcom-style humour. The play is set in a convenience store in Toronto’s rapidly gentrifying Regent Park neighbourhood, and it spins the tale of a Korean-Canadian family’s struggles with fractured love, intergenerational differences, immigrant identity and the beckoning of real estate developers. The compelling story, workaday setting and remarkably believable characters will be familiar to many Torontonians—and seeing them played out onstage is what makes the production so refreshing and resonant. This week, Kim’s Convenience returns to its hometown under the direction of local stage star Weyni Mengesha, the sensitive director best known for her work with Da Kink in My Hair. After two years of condo construction and cultural change in Regent Park, the neighbourhood has taken on a whole new character. No doubt the play has, too.

Nov. 27–Dec. 28. $57–$89. Young Centre for the Performing Arts. 50 Tank House Ln., 416-866-8666, soulpepper.ca.

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Catch up with Caribou at the Danforth Music Hall

(Image: Thomas Neukum)

(Image: Thomas Neukum)

Whether Dan Snaith is creating retro-pop, shoegaze or dance music, the Ontario-bred, England-based DJ and producer—who at various times has gone by Caribou, Manitoba and Daphni—does it well. Caribou’s Andorra won the Polaris Prize in 2007, and its follow-up, Swim, won a Juno for best electronic album. It’s not hard to imagine Snaith’s latest release, Our Love, bringing in the same sort of accolades. Referencing early house music and featuring Owen Pallett and Jessy Lanza , the record is packed with sonic subtlety. Hear it when Snaith, as Caribou, stops at the Danforth Music Hall for a show alongside Lanza. Regular tickets are sold out, but anyone willing to cough up a couple extra bucks should have no trouble getting in.

Mon. Nov. 24. $30–$32.75. Danforth Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave., 416-778-8163, ticketmaster.com.

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Find your winter soundtrack at Ryan Hemsworth’s Opera House show

(Image: Conrad McGee)

(Image: Conrad McGee)

Ryan Hemsworth seemingly came out of nowhere. Though the Halifax-bred producer has been incredibly busy for the past four years releasing a steady stream of singles, remixes and EPs, he only became a part of Canada’s collective musical consciousness after the release of his solo debut, 2013’s Guilt Trips, and its subsequent Juno win earlier this year. No more than 12 gig-packed months later, Hemsworth is releasing Alone for the First Time, a seven-track LP that proves that the DJ has a subtler, more intimate charm than his everything-all-the-time electro contemporaries. As its title implies, the new album is introspective, melancholic and lethargic. It draws on 8-bit inspirations and underground artists like Dawn Golden, who sings on the record’s lead single, “Snow In Newark.” Welcome in the cold weather—or momentarily escape it—when Hemsworth brings the rest of his wintry new tunes, along with his old hits, to the Opera House this week.

Nov. 15. $17.50. Opera House, 735 Queen St. E., 416-466-0313, ticketweb.ca.

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Learn to distrust your eyes at an exhibition of Charles Bierk’s impeccably photorealistic paintings

Learn to distrust your eyes at an exhibition of Charles Bierk's impeccably photorealistic paintings

(Images: photo of Bierk: Evaan Kheraj; paintings: Charles Bierk)

The portraitist Charles Bierk is a professional trickster: what look like black-and-white photographic portraits are actually impeccably rendered paintings. In his Niagara Street studio, Bierk photographs his friends, blows up the images and uses them as references for large-scale oil paintings on canvas. He studied painting under his father, the landscape artist David Bierk, who taught him to divide his canvas into a grid and paint square by square, millimeter by millimeter. In his debut solo exhibition, which starts today at Metivier Gallery on King West, he shows a series of images that transform depending on where you’re standing. From 20 feet away, they’re stark, striking portraits, coated in an eerie gloss of perfection. The closer you get, the more fascinating and flawed they become, as the stubble, pores and freckles take on gritty, abstract texture. We asked Bierk for a preview of some of his most arresting shots—and to tell us the stories behind them. Click through the image gallery to read what he had to say.

Nov. 13–Dec. 13. FREE. Nicholas Metivier Gallery, 451 King St. W., 416-205-9000, metiviergallery.com.

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Spend an afternoon with Margaret Atwood and William Gibson at Toronto’s new book fair

(Image: Atwood: George Whiteside; Gibson: Michael O'Shea)

(Images: Atwood: George Whiteside; Gibson: Michael O’Shea)

After a disastrous year for this city’s quickly vanishing bookstores, Toronto bibliophiles have at least one thing to be optimistic about: a new literary festival. Filling the void left by the defunct BookExpo Canada, the weekend-long Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair has a packed inaugural schedule. Apart from an array of writers’ workshops and events, the fest offers readings and appearances from 400 Canadian and international authors, including Diary of a Wimpy Kid creator Jeff Kinney, Saskatchewan Métis writer Lisa Bird-Wilson and local food writer David Sax. One of the main attractions, though, is a Saturday appearance by CanLit hero Margaret Atwood. She’ll be presenting her short story collection Stone Mattress for the first time in Canada. Appearing earlier in the day will be cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson, supporting The Peripheral. Also on the main stage on Saturday: romance writer Sylvia Day, with the New York Times bestseller Bared to You. For those who believe the author is dead, there will also be dozens of exhibitors selling actual books.

Sat. Nov. 15. $15. Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building. 255 Front Street W., 647-775-8181, torontobookfair.ca.

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Watch a former Bolshoi dancer stretch her boundaries with the National Ballet

From Russia, With Love

(Image: Karolina Kuras)

Until last year, the doe-eyed ballerina Svetlana Lunkina was a principal dancer at Moscow’s world-famous Bolshoi Ballet, where she performed lead roles in Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. She was renowned not only for her fluid physicality and extraordinary flexibility but also for her dramatic prowess. After a series of scandals at the ­Bolshoi—memorably, the acid attacks on its artistic director—Lunkina, her husband and their two children decided to make a permanent home of the house they’d kept in Kleinberg for the past three years (Lunkina’s husband is a Canadian citizen). The National Ballet came calling almost immediately. Today, she’s the company’s newest principal dancer, but rather than relying on her previous repertoire, Karen Kain and co. have offered Lunkina something new. Currently, she’s dancing the title character in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon—one of modern ballet’s most psychologically demanding roles, a part that requires earthy sensuality, avarice, elation, anguish and misery. Manon is a character Lunkina has always wanted to perform, one outside her traditional wheelhouse. It’s the right time, here in Toronto, to reveal something new—and we’re lucky enough to bear witness to that moment when a great artist begins to explore and evolve.

Nov. 8–16. $26–$249. Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W., 416-345-9595, national.ballet.ca.

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Go see a haunting new musical by John Mellencamp and Stephen King

Best Bet: American Horror Story

(Image: Harry Sandler)

Like all great ghost stories, this one begins with a haunted house. In 1996, John Mellencamp, the singer-songwriter known for twangy ’80s power rock, bought a lake house in Indiana. When the owners mentioned the place happened to be haunted, Mellencamp was curious. He did some digging and discovered the story of two feuding brothers who’d lived there back in the ’30s; after fighting over the same girl, one brother crushed the other’s skull with a fire poker. As Mellencamp got used to the creepy rhythms of the house—mysterious cigar smells, flickering lights, strange noises—he started imagining a spooky, sinister musical inspired by the tale.

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is as mythic as its source material, a theatrical pipe dream that took 13 years to come to fruition. In 2000, Mellencamp called up horror maestro Stephen King to write the libretto. They agonized over the songs and script for a decade, then brought in T-Bone Burnett, the roots-rock titan responsible for O Brother, Where Art Thou and Crazy Heart, as musical director. In 2012, the triumvirate released an album featuring stars like Elvis Costello, Neko Case, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Sheryl Crow—a parade of shadowy honky-tonk melodies and goosebump-inducing sound effects.

In the stage version, which hits town for one night only next week, the action has been transplanted to a family cabin in Mississippi. It’s less a play than a live rendition of an old-timey radio show, one that blends King’s atmospheric terror, Mellencamp’s hummable tunes and Burnett’s southern Gothic patina into a theatrical experience that’s as haunting as the ghosts onstage.

Tues. Nov. 11. $42.50–$85. Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St., 416-872-4255, masseyhall.com.

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Join a high-concept dance party with A Tribe Called Red

(Image: Pat Bolduc)

(Image: Pat Bolduc)

Toronto’s infamously apathetic live-music crowds are no match for the relentless energy of A Tribe Called Red. The Ottawa-based indigenous DJ trio doesn’t tolerate still bodies at its shows; throughout the group’s non-stop sets, revellers are either wrapped up in a round dance or shaking from bone-rumbling bass. Unlike sweaty EDM festivals and King West clubs, though, Tribe shows are more than just dance parties. Subverting stereotypes and blending contemporary electronic music with traditional First Nations chanting and drumming (try “Electric Pow Wow Drum” for a taste), the emcees inject their bass drops and powerful beats with lessons in cultural sensitivity. This week, at the Danforth Music Hall, concertgoers will have an opportunity to see why the group has earned two Polaris nods—one for its self-titled debut, the other for 2013’s Nation II Nation. Tickets are scarce, but they can still be found on the resale market. We dare you not to dance.

Fri. Nov. 7. $23.50–$33.50. Danforth Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave., 416-778-8163, ticketmaster.com.

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Introduce yourself to Canadian photographer Suzy Lake at the AGO

(Image: Suzy Lake, courtesy of the AGO)

(Image: Suzy Lake, courtesy of the AGO)

The title of Suzy Lake’s AGO retrospective, Introducing Suzy Lake, is a peculiar one, because the revered Toronto-based artist should require no introduction. After moving to Montreal from Detroit in the 1960s, Lake began using photography, video and performance art to explore themes of gender, identity and body politics. Her iconic, poignant work—much of it self-portraiture—has since been featured in hundreds of exhibitions. This past spring, the Globe and Mail called her a “national treasure.” Introducing Suzy Lake will trace Lake’s career in images, “from age six to 66,” through Detroit’s civil rights movement, her early work in Montreal and her success in Toronto. The exhibition will feature 50-odd previously shown works, as well as a handful of new pieces.

Wed. Nov. 5–March 22. Nov. 12 public opening. Included with general admission. The Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas St. W., 416-979-6648, ago.net.

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Pretend Weezer only ever made two albums at Sheezer’s Halloween show

(Image: Serena McCarroll)

(Image: Serena McCarroll)

Twenty years ago, Weezer released its self-titled debut, perhaps better known as the Blue Album. “Say It Ain’t So,” “My Name Is Jonas,” “Undone (The Sweater Song)” and practically every other track on the album have since become alt-rock anthems and karaoke classics. Going to a Weezer show in 2014, however, would involve relatively few of those hits and a whole lot of songs from albums called things like Raditude. That’s where Sheezer comes in. Toronto’s all-female Weezer cover band—a sort of supergroup consisting of musicians who perform with Our Lady Peace, The Hidden Cameras and The Bicycles—plays only the Blue Album and its fantastic follow-up, Pinkerton. To cap off a four-show mini-tour, the group is playing its fifth-annual Halloween show at Lee’s Palace, with opening sets from Peterborough power trio The Lonely Parade and psych-pop siren Petra Glynt. The band is bound to be dressed for the season—past years’ getups have included KISS outfits and superhero suits—so grab a ticket, and a costume. May we suggest Buddy Holly?

Thurs. Oct. 30. $13.50. Lee’s Palace, 529 Bloor St. W., 416-532-1598, facebook.com.

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Spend an evening with a legendary literary agent who goes by “the jackal”

(Image: courtesy of the International Festival of Authors)

(Image: courtesy of the International Festival of Authors)

Seventies party boy turned all-powerful literary agent Andrew Wylie is perhaps the most despised and admired player in international book publishing. On Monday, Torontonians will have an opportunity to take his measure when he gives a free keynote speech as part of the this year’s International Festival of Authors. Known by insiders as “the jackal,” Wylie’s reputation for ruthlessly poaching clients is nearly as famous as the six-figure deals he negotiates for his lucrative list of authors, who famously include Martin Amis, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, Diane von Furstenberg, Al Gore and Bob Dylan. (Even his deceased clients are impressive: Wylie manages literary estates for Hunter S. Thompson, Allen Ginsberg, Vladimir Nabokov, Susan Sontag and old pals Lou Reed and Andy Warhol.) An outspoken critic of mass-market fiction, his open disdain for Amazon’s “megalomaniac” business strategy and the “Walmartizing” of bookselling makes this talk an event not to miss. Follwing Wylie’s keynote, he’ll sit for a short interview with CBC’s Carol Off.

Mon. Oct. 27, FREE. Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W., 416-973-4000, ifoa.org

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Discover Afghanistan through the lens of Larry Towell

Kunar Valley, Afghanistan, 2010. (Image: © Larry Towell/Magnum Photos)

Kunar Valley, Afghanistan, 2010. (Image: © Larry Towell/Magnum Photos)

Two decades ago, photographer Larry Towell became the first Canadian member of Magnum Photos, the world’s most prestigious photography agency. A quick glance at his work reveals why: in hundreds of award-winning exhibitions worldwide, the rural Ontarian has tirelessly documented those left dispossessed in the wake of conflict. Shooting almost exclusively on film, he has captured everything from Vietnam War veterans and Alaskan oil spills to Israeli-Palestinian tensions and Independence Square revolutionaries in Kiev. From 2008 to 2011, he trained his lens on Afghanistan, the setting and namesake of his latest book. The 192-page tome—and its accompanying exhibition, which runs until November 22 at the Stephen Bulger Gallery—depicts people and places that, for 30 years, have grappled with war. “It’s mostly experiential,” Towell told J-Source earlier this year. “But it’s also analysis of this disastrous war, through my eyes, which I’m sure I’ll be drawn and quartered for.”

Sat. Oct. 25 until Nov. 22.; artist talk and book launch on Nov. 1. FREE. Stephen Bulger Gallery, 1026 Queen St. W., 416-504-0575, bulgergallery.com.

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Take your tyke to see Yo Gabba Gabba!—a kids’ show you’ll love too

(Image: courtesy of Yo Gabba Gabba! Live!)

(Image: courtesy of Yo Gabba Gabba! Live!)

Barney, Kermit the Frog and Big Bird were once gods to children, but it’s hard to say whether the parents of yesteryear shared the excitement. Yo Gabba Gabba!, meanwhile, definitely appeals to oldsters at least as much as it appeals to the young. Created by Scott Schultz and Christian Jacobs—the former a producer and the latter a member of California rock band The Aquabats—the music-centric show is like the Austin City Limits of children’s programming: In its four seasons, it’s seen The Shins sing about trying again, The Roots host a fam-jam and Weezer perform as insects. (Other notable cameos: Fred Armisen, Jack Black and Elijah Wood.) When Music is Awesome, the show’s touring production, hits the Sony Centre this Thursday, the majestically sideburned DJ Lance Rock, rapper-entertainer Leslie Hall, hip-hop OG Biz Markie and a flock of fluorescent puppets will recreate the magic with live performances, an onstage dance party and a beat-boxing lesson. Hey, the kids might even like it, too.

Thurs. Oct. 23. $33.15–$55.40. Sony Centre, 1 Front St. E., 416-368-6161, yogabbagabbalive.com.

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Welcome The Wooden Sky home at Lee’s Palace

(Image: Sarah Creskey)

(Image: Sarah Creskey)

There’s a lot on Let’s Be Ready, the fourth album from Toronto folk-rock outfit The Wooden Sky, that could convince a listener that the band looks forward to coming home. On the brilliant record, which was released in early September, frontman Gavin Gardiner sings about the nomadic lifestyle of a touring band, long bus rides and separated lovers—the sorts of things he and his bandmates have been grappling with since departing on a cross-Canada tour last month. In other words, the group is likely to be in high spirits when it hits Lee’s Palace for a pair of proper hometown gigs. Expect some high-voltage indie rock mixed with the atmospheric folk the band built its name on. Add opening performances from local experimental art rockers Absolutely Free, who released their debut album mere days ago, and the shows promise to be two massive, memorable homecoming parties.

Fri. Oct. 17–18. $17.50. Lee’s Palace, 529 Bloor St. W., 416-532-1598, chelsea-records.com.

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See The Book of Mormon, no Broadway pilgrimmage required

(Image: Joan Marcus)

(Image: Joan Marcus)

The Book of Mormon has had its fair share of hype: it has collected a whack of Tonys and won accolades from countless critics. All we’ll say is that there’s more than enough reason to grab a ticket for the show’s new Toronto run. The musical tells the satirical story of two teenage Mormon missionaries (played by Gavin Creel and Christopher John O’Neill) who, after being posted in a small, disease-plagued Ugandan village, begin to question their faith. The show was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the minds behind South Park, and scored by Avenue Q composer Robert Lopez—so it’s not quite as heavy as it may sound in summary. Regular tickets are still available, though the discounted pre-show ticket lottery might be worth the wait (details here).

Until Nov. 30. $49–$200. Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. W., 416-872-1212, mirvish.com.