My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

Japanese high-tech theatre and dance with Spotlight Japan

Feb 26 - Mar 2

Canadian Stage presents Haptic, Holistic Strata, SayonaraandI, Worker in a one-week festival of Japanese theatre and dance as part of Spotlight Japan. This series is part of a city-wide celebration of classic and contemporary Japanese culture taking place from January through April 2013, programmed by five of Toronto’s leading cultural institutions: TIFF, Canadian Stage, Soundstreams, the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and the Japan Foundation.

Spotlight Japan at Canadian Stage features a selection of work from Japan’s leading playwrights, choreographers and performers, offering a rare opportunity for Toronto audiences to experience exciting and innovative, international work. Presented as two double-bills, Spotlight Japan marks Canadian Stage’s second biennial international festival, following Spotlight Italy, programmed as part of the 2010.11 season. Two pairings, Haptic and Holistic Strata (double bill one), and Sayonara, and I, Worker (double bill two), will be on stage from Tuesday, February 26 to Saturday, March 2 at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley St.). Tickets for each two-show pairing are $54, available online at, by phone at 416.368.3110, or in person at the box office.

“Canadian Stage’s Spotlight Festival series was created from our desire to share work from countries around the world that have a concentrated focus on truly relevant contemporary work, involving artists who are pushing the boundaries of their art forms,” said Matthew Jocelyn, Artistic & General Director. “For the last 40 years, Japan has been a hotbed for artists who continually invent new ways of telling stories, first sweeping Europe and North America twenty years ago with the Butoh movement. The country continues to create ground-breaking performance art, and we can’t wait to share this work by turning our Berkeley Street Theatre into a hub for these touring artists.”

Beginning each evening will be the hypnotic hip-hop video/light extravaganzas created by Hiroaki Umeda and S20, Haptic and Holistic Strata. Choreographed by Umeda, a dancer, choreographer and sound and lighting designer, the pieces are part art installation, part dance performance and part visual light show, combining electronic soundscapes, dramatic strobe lighting, cyber-imagery and frenetic gestures. 

Next on the playbill are two short plays by Japan’s leading contemporary playwright Oriza Hirata called Sayonara and I, Worker. Created as part of The Robot Theatre Project, a collaborative project between Seinendan Theatre Company and Osaka University, both pieces feature human and robot actors exploring the intersection between human and artificial intelligence on stage in an innovative fusion of theatre arts and science.

Additional Spotlight Japan programming at Canadian Stage will feature music, food tastings, robot demonstrations with FIRST Robotics and local high school students, poster art and more. Live music will be performed in the front lobby of the Berkeley Street Theatre each night between shows and after the final performance of the evening. Featured musicians include koto and shamisen artist Linda Caplan (February 26 and 27), flutist Ron Korb (February 28) and Japanese folk music ensemble ten ten (March 1 and 2). Japanese food and drink will be available in the lobby, with a complimentary sake tasting from the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company featuring their Izuma-branded sake (February 26, 28, and March 1 at 7 p.m.).

35th RHUBARB Festival

Feb 20 - Mar 3

The Rhubarb Festival was born one snowy January evening inside The Dream Factory (Queen St. and Sumach St.) in 1979; it was in that same moment that Buddies and Bad Times Theatre entered the world. The festival and company were conceived by three York University grads – Sky Gilbert, Matt Walsh, and Jerry Ciccoritti – but, by 1981, Gilbert was the only remaining founder and it was he who began molding Rhubarb into what it is today.

After teaming up with Cynthia Grant and Nightwood Theatre – an equally young and sexually radical theatre company – the festival morphed into a platform for new and politically charged theatre. Artists from Toronto and across the country were drawn to Rhubarb because they felt free to ask questions, make mistakes, and play with artistic content and form. To this day, Rhubarb has remained a critic-free festival.

In 1986 Nightwood left Rhubarb to pursue their own theatre festival, Groundswell. Gilbert remained as the lead festival director for just under a decade, bringing Rhubarb to the Theatre Centre (666 King St.), the Poor Alex Theatre (296 Brunswick Ave.), and the Annex Theatre (730 Bathurst St.), before finally setting roots in the current home of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street. During that time, Rhubarb nurtured new work from hundreds of artists and was a launching pad for some of Canada’s most celebrated theatre artists, including Daniel MacIvor, Robin Fulford, Darren O’Donnell, and Moynan King.

When Gilbert left Buddies at the end of the 1995/1996 season, the Rhubarb Festival took a year long hiatus in order to readjust to the climate of contemporary theatre both in and outside of Toronto. In 1998 the festival returned with a succession of ambitious and thought-provoking festival directors: Franco Boni, Kelly Thorton, Naomi Campbell, and Moynan King.

In that time Rhubarb introduced us to artists such as Nina Arsenault, Claudia Dey, Evalyn Parry, and Hannah Moscovitch. In 2009, Erika Hennebury became Rhubarb’s lead director and guided the festival in what appeared to be an organic shift from exclusively LGBT themed theatre, to include a wider variety of alternative performance work. Postmodern movement, music, and interdisciplinary art began to fill the festival, with artists from all over the country and world – including Rae Spoon, Jess Dobkin, Neal Medlyn, Taylor Mac, and d’bi.young – showcasing their work.

Laura Nanni – Rhubarb’s current festival director – took hold of the Rhubarb reins in 2011  and it is clear that Nanni has stayed true to the efforts made by the festival directors before her, as she delves deeper into the universe of performance.

Since 1979, The Rhubarb Festival has been pushing limits and pushing buttons, critic-free and unapologetic, which is why it remains one of the world’s most raw and radical performance festivals.