My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

Rhubarb gets the gold

Whether one is not watching the Sochi Olympics because boycotting seems the sensible thing to do, or if one just finds it a touch boring, the side effect of this massive event is that it eats up all the news and television programming, leaving entertainment and information alternatives at a disadvantage. Jim Flaherty, one of those clever, esteemed and truly frightening federal Conservatives, has used this opportunity to push through a budget that has scary consequences. Everyone is busy watching curling seems to be his rationale, let's see what we can get away with.

One of the worst examples of Conservative noblesse oblige is the denial of a grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage for Buddies annual Rhubarb Festival. Running concurrent with the Sochi Olympics it is patently obvious that Rhubarb offers more bang for the buck, more entertainment and more relevance to the Canadian experience than the games. Not to fear, Rhubarb is happening and is gleefully celebrating its thirty-fifth year, which has to be a record for a festival so defiantly daring.

Rhubarb was created as a safe space for budding artists to create work that might not otherwise get seen. It may be daring, provocative or experimental. It may be a one shot deal or it might be the launch of something extraordinary. It will certainly be entertaining. Each Rhubarb has left me with memories of the introduction to an artist whose work I have been excited, aroused, perplexed or bowled over by. The pieces are short so if something doesn't work for you, on to the next, there is guaranteed to be one that will rock your world.

Check out the list of performances at and there is guaranteed to be something, somethings, that appeals more than watching downhill skiing. Personal eagerly anticipated early highlights include the return of Birdtown and Swanville as The Vestal Virgins in the Temple of Secrets; the Big Thaw Valentine's opening party hosted by the inimitable Judy Virago with guests Igby Lizzard and Scarlett Bobo (the return of the best of Fuck U Fridays!); and 35 Performances for 35 Years featuring short performances by Buddies alumni and current artists. The list includes must-sees Daniel MacIvorSky GilbertElly Ray HennessyKeith Cole, Il Nana, Jordan Tannahill, Alistair Newton, etc etc. That is a lot of stellar talent. Joining them this year is Patricia Wilson of bar tending/management fame and the mastermind behind Crackpuppy. Be warned: she is bringing her guitar.

Of course there are those, like our not-so-esteemed mayor, who managed to get lots of press despite the Olympics overkill. A manufactured flag crisis - why not? Appealing to homophobes seems to be working for Putin - and an uncanny resemblance to the Sochi Olympics first true celebrity, the equally reviled Sochi Bear, have garnered our mayor lots of his drug of choice: attention. I'll be avoiding it all for several blissful hours of genuine theatre and a glimpse of a better future at the Rhubarb Festival.

The Rhubarb Festival runs from Wed, Feb 12 to Sun, Feb 23 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.