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The List: 10 things Stratford’s new artistic director Antoni Cimolino can’t live without

The List: Antoni Cimolino

1. My heroes
In 1992 I played Romeo opposite Megan Follows. I love this photo from opening night. I really admire the other three men in the picture— Bruno Gerusi, Richard Monette and Colm Feore—who all played Romeo at Stratford before me.

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Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 30, because Christopher Plummer at 82 is sexy

Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 30, Because 82 is Sexy

Christopher Plummer is an impossibly jocular old rascal. He dances jigs in his one-man shows. He guzzles stiff martinis. And even though he’s the best classical actor this country has produced, he loves to play the ham. In short, the octogenarian is having a blast. In last year’s movie Beginners, he played Ewan McGregor’s newly out dad with the winsome exuberance of a delighted child, partying at gay clubs and smooching Goran ­Visnjic with abandon. In February, he accepted his Oscar for the role with a mix of leonine majesty and avuncular charm. (He memorably thanked his “band of agents provocateurs,” including Toronto’s Perry Zimel, for keeping him out of jail.) This summer, he returns to his Stratford stomping grounds to star in A Word or Two, an autobiographical one-man show directed by Des McAnuff. We’re thrilled, because as much as we love him in his various roles—his dementia-afflicted Lear, Star Trek’s villainous General Chang, a reclusive Swedish tycoon in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—the character we most love to see Plummer play is himself.

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556 theatres in New York will play the same Christopher Plummer performance for one night only 

In 2010, Christopher Plummer portrayed Prospero in a Stratford performance of The Tempest. Now New York cinemas have picked up a recording of the show and will play it in 556 theatres tonight at 7 p.m. New York’s David Edelstein is absolutely gaga for both the performances and Des McAnuff of the Stratford Festival, who co-directed the filming. Since showing old performances in cinemas has hit New York now, we expect it to become as trendy as food trucks or shrub cocktails in two to three years. Read the entire story [Vulture] »

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The Conversation: Steven Page and Johannes Debus on making music—both popular and avant garde

The place: the Cameron House on Queen West | The people: singer-songwriter Steven Page and COC music director Johannes Debus | The subject: playing the hits versus sowing your musical oats

The Conversation: A Fine Balance

Steven Page has charted new musical waters since leaving the Barenaked Ladies following his notorious drug bust in 2008. He’s been performing and recording with the adventurous classical musicians of the Art of Time Ensemble, composing music for Stratford productions (including Cymbeline, opening in May) as well as for film (including Kevin Tierney’s French Immersion) and performing as a solo act with a hand-picked backing band, as he does this month at the Winter Garden. Johannes Debus, the youngest music director in the Canadian Opera Company’s history, is big on keeping things fresh, too, and often collaborates with auteurs like Robert Carsens and Atom Egoyan on audacious reimaginings of old favourites. This month, he conducts Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman, a rare opera classic that hasn’t been done to death.

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This is what happens when 12 culinary students get to cook with Paolo Lopriore, the world’s 39th best chef

Chef Paolo Lopriore having a short meeting in the Prune’s kitchen (Image: Renée Suen)

During the second year of their apprenticeship at the Stratford Chefs School—considered one of the most prestigious in the country—students are given the opportunity to learn from seriously talented guest chefs, including many with Michelin stars to their name and not a few regular patrons of the illustrious San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant list. Past chefs have included Alexandre Gauthier (La Grenouillere, France), Riccardo Camanini (Villa Fiordaliso, Italy) and, most recently, Paolo Lopriore, head chef of Il Canto in Siena, Italy, the 39th best restaurant according to the 2011 list. We stopped by to see what he had to teach and scope out his creations.

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Justin Bieber: patron saint of Stratford and skater boys

Saint Bieber signs a car to make money for a skate park (Image: Adam Sundana)

If Stratford is looking for a patron saint, they could do worse than Justin Bieber. The city is already working the Bieber angle pretty hard (exhibit A: this map from the Stratford Tourism Alliance), and now the newly brunet pop star is helping to clean up and update a local skate park. When he was home for the holidays, Bieber autographed a red Hyundai Genesis Coupe at a local dealership, whose owner wanted to auction the car off for charity, and the Biebz (who is a bit of a skating enthusiast) was more than willing to lend a hand. The car will be up on eBay for 10 days beginning tomorrow, but we’re wondering who will buy it when the majority of Beliebers aren’t old enough to drive.

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Spotlight: Actress Blythe Wilson brings brassiness and a big voice to Mary Poppins at the Princess of Wales Theatre

Blythe Wilson

In a world of instant stars and stunt casting, Blythe Wilson is a throwback to the brassy belters and hoofers of theatre’s golden era. Behind her polished, aristocratic veneer—all long limbs and stately grace—lies a big, show-stopping voice and an astonishing versatility. Wilson has been a stalwart in the Toronto scene for the better part of two decades, lending her substantial stage presence to several of the Broadway bel canto roles. She stole the show (from Colm Feore, no less) as hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Nancy in Stratford’s 2006 production of Oliver! The following season, she brought a rare depth to lovestruck farm girl Laurey Williams—a part not known for its complexity—in Oklahoma! She even vetoed a stand-in dancer for the show’s famous dream ballet, performing it herself.

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In a bid to stop the “mega-quarry,” Michael Stadtländer rallies (nearly) every chef we’ve ever heard of for Foodstock


Michael Stadtländer has rallied 100 of the best chefs from across Canada to participate in Foodstock, an epic, pay-what-you-can public food event on October 16 to raise money to fight the construction of a huge limestone quarry in the town of Honeywood, Ontario. The Highland Companies’ plan aims to span 2,316 acres of land and run 189 feet deep (deeper than Niagara Falls), and will have to pump 600 million litres of groundwater out of the pit each day (about the same amount used by 2.7 million Ontarians), all to extract crushed stone known as amabel dolostone.

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Christopher Plummer receives the inaugural Stratford Shakespeare Festival lifetime achievement award—for a lifetime of being awesome

Christopher Plummer (Image: Courtney)

Earlier this year we learned that Christopher Plummer was to be the recipient of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s inaugural lifetime achievement award, and last night Plummer received the accolade at a gala with Cynthia Dale, Brian Dennehy, Gordon Pinsent and TIFF Rising Star Katie Boland in attendance. Plummer told guests that he was honoured, since he considers Stratford a second home; as well as winning Emmy and Tony awards and playing the iconic Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Plummer has more than 10 seasons of Stratford performances under his belt (he started at the festival in a 1956 production of Henry V). We weren’t surprised to hear that Pinsent, who presented Plummer with the award on stage, was as charming as ever, calling Plummer a “masterful actor who creates magic onstage.” The lifetime award was not a push for Plummer’s retirement, as he’s set to star in next season’s one-man show, A Word or Two—a play by Plummer himself that explores his personal work, his love for literature and how books have shaped his life. We expect references to Stephen Leacock, George Bernard Shaw and, of course, the original bard, William Shakespeare.

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North York’s Cara Ricketts’s inner strength ignites Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming this summer at Stratford

Cara RickettsIt took an old chestnut—a raisin, actually—for Toronto theatregoers to appreciate Cara Ricketts’ ability to breathe new life into familiar roles. In Soulpepper’s A Raisin in the Sun (2008), she embodied both the all-American youthful ambition and sexuality of Beneatha, a young medical school–bound woman in 1950s Chicago, and the aching realities of the mid-century black middle class. It was a breakthrough performance for the North York native, who had already made an impression on the fringe. In 2005, after graduating from the theatre performance program at Humber College, she brought poetry to the role of Peggy Sue, an embattled woman caught between two men in Joseph Jomo Pierre’s Born Ready, a lyrical look at Toronto ghetto life. This summer, after two years in essential-to-the-plot but non-leading roles at Stratford, the 28-year-old takes centre stage alongside such heavyweights as Stephen Ouimette and Brian Dennehy in Jennifer Tarver’s production of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming. She plays Ruth, the American wife of a British academic, whose visit to her husband’s male-dominated homestead awakens the horny beast among siblings and father alike. Though Ruth switches emotional and sexual alliances throughout the play, the balance of power remains firmly in her hands—she is both an object of desire and, in a characteristically Pinteresque gesture, a mythical female figure in a world of men. It’s ideal material for the wide-ranging Ricketts, whose emotional intelligence as a performer conjures up so much more than the physical world of her characters.

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Stratford star Seana McKenna is trading in her corsets to play Richard III. Can audiences handle a female portrayal of true evil?

Tricky Dick

At this point in our cultural history, cross-dressing is subversive only to the most sheltered among us. Drag now is the kind of thing that Grade 9 kids from the suburbs find daring their first time alone downtown. Post–gay pride, post–Internet porn, post–Lady Gaga, it’s hard to imagine who would be shocked by men dressed as women or women dressed as men. This summer, however, there’s a possible exception courtesy of Seana McKenna, who is tackling the title role in Richard III at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. It’s a performance that asks a very peculiar, unexpected question: are audiences willing to believe a woman portraying a master of political murder?

The original Shakespeare productions were, of course, rife with cross-dressing. In a sense, any modern performance of Shakespeare automatically involves gender reversal, because all the actors at the time the plays were composed were men and boys. Shakespeare himself fooled around with the gender identities of his characters, playing off the transvestite nature of his theatre. In early productions of Twelfth Night (which Stratford is also mounting this summer), a boy playing a woman pretends to be a man who falls in love with a man who thinks she (really he) is a boy. Follow? The gender reversals, and the reversals within those reversals, are part sex farce, part elaborate meta-theatre.

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Monday’s Luminato picks: Beatniks, Broadway and Denis Gagnon’s take on Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland as filtered through the mind of Denis Gagnon (Image: Kira Crugnale)

The fifth edition of Luminato, the city’s annual everything-culture fest, kicked off last Friday and goes all through the week. Here, three events to check out today.

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New summer food truck event fuels hopes for a Toronto street food revolution

Niagara’s El Gastrónomo Vagabundo will be one of the trucks on site at the July 2 event (Image: Suresh Doss)

Steeltown might have beaten us to the food truck race, but three special events starting this summer are laying the groundwork for a decent street food culture in Toronto. Starting this July, Food Truck Eats will host food trucks and street food stalls featuring some top Toronto chefs in a bid to free up chefs from the substantial legal and health concerns associated with street-side operations. We caught up with Suresh Doss, the event’s organizer and the publisher of Spotlight Toronto, for the details.

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Today in Toronto: An Evening with Al Pacino and Richard III

An Evening with Al Pacino With a career spanning over 40 years, Pacino is a true Hollywood great, best known for playing not-so-great characters—this is a chance for his fans to get the inside track on his legendary life and career. Find out more »

Richard III Even purists can’t deny the brilliance of Stratford’s recent casting. Case in point: festival star Seana McKenna as Shakespeare’s power-hungry protagonist, Richard III. Find out  more »

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Justin Bieber named one of Time’s 100 most influential people

Bieber in doll form, sits on a kitchen counter (Image: Gareth Simpson)

Apparently purple high-tops, wind-swept mop tops and songs about babies are pretty influential these days—or at least that’s what the folks at Time seem to think. The newsweekly has just named Justin Bieber, Stratford’s pop prince, one of its 100 most influential people in the world, an honour bestowed upon those whose “ideas spark dialogue and dissent and sometimes even revolution.” And who better to justify the selection in those august pages than Bieber’s mentor, Usher?

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