18 artists to watch in 2018

It’s go­ing to be hard to compete with the off­stage drama that opened the year and whose ef­fects will be felt for years to come. But the fol­low­ing artists – listed here in al­pha­bet­i­cal order – could re­store your faith in the magic of theatre, dance and com


Nina Lee Aquino

What: Di­rect­ing a re­mount of Michael Healey’s play The Drawer Boy, at the theatre where it de­buted 19 years ago, Theatre Passe Mu­raille (16 Ry­er­son), Fe­bru­ary 28 to March 25. 416-504-7529. Why: Healey’s play about how a young ac­tor’s theatre ex­per­i­ment shakes up the lives of two older farm­ers is con­sid­ered a Cana­dian clas­sic. And what bet­ter way to test its en­durance than with a non-tra­di­tion­ally cast pro­duc­tion? Aquino, who as artis­tic direc­tor of Fac­tory has over­seen suc­cess­ful, di­verse re­mounts of other CanCon clas­sics, should find lay­ers of new mean­ing in this pro­duc­tion, which stars Craig Lau­zon as the mem­ory-chal­lenged An­gus, Andrew Moodie as his tough­minded friend Mor­gan and Graham Con­way as the ide­al­is­tic ac­tor Miles. Not only are Lau­zon and Moodie In­dige­nous and Black, re­spec­tively, but they’re younger than those char­ac­ters are usu­ally cast. To get you in the mood, TPM hosts an ad­vance screen­ing of the new Drawer Boy film on Fe­bru­ary 12, and a spe­cial gala per­for­mance mark­ing the com­pany’s 50th an­niver­sary hap­pens on March 8.

Nova Bhat­tacharya

What: Un­pack­ing clas­si­cal In­dian dance for a pro­gram called Decoding Bharatanatyam (Fe­bru­ary 14 to 17; The Ci­tadel: Ross Cen­tre for Dance, no­vadance.ca). She’s also pro­grammed the Dis­cover Dance free lunchtime se­ries, which con­tin­ues through April at the Sony Cen­tre and Toronto Cen­tre for the Arts, and will par­tic­i­pate in Kaeja d’Dance’s Solo Dance Xchange (Fe­bru­ary 1 to 3; Street­car Crowsnest, kaeja. org). And watch for a se­ries of pop-up in­stal­la­tion per­for­mances by Bhat­tacharya start­ing in March as part of her new col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Theatre Cen­tre. Why: Bhat­tacharya’s per­for­mance and chore­o­graphic prac­tice has im­pec­ca­ble roots in clas­si­cal In­dian dance, but she’s ded­i­cated a ca­reer to re­fram­ing its in­tri­cate ges­tu­ral lan­guage in an ef­fort to in­crease ac­ces­si­bil­ity. In ad­di­tion to mak­ing work and per­form­ing, Bhat­tacharya is cur­rently pres­i­dent of the Toronto Arts Coun­cil and ac­tive in lo­cal arts ad­vo­cacy, es­pe­cially con­ver­sa­tions around di­ver­sity in dance.

Evan Buli­ung

What: Ac­tor in Jea­nine Te­sori and Lisa Kron’s Fun Home, at the CAA Theatre (651 Yonge), April 13 to May 6. mirvish.com. Why: Strat­ford veteran Buli­ung is an ex­pert at play­ing char­ac­ters whose tough ex­te­rior hides lots be­neath it. So he should be su­perb as a dad with se­crets in this com­plex, time-shift­ing mu­si­cal adap­ta­tion of Ali­son Bechdel’s graphic novel about a les­bian car­toon­ist try­ing to un­der­stand her late fa­ther. Robert Mc­Queen, who did such great work on Mu­si­cal Stage Com­pany’s last show, Life Af­ter, di­rects a strong cast that in­cludes Cyn­thia Dale, Sara Farb, Laura Condlln and the pre­co­cious Hannah Levin­son, who was ex­tra­or­di­nary as Matilda.

Tan­too Car­di­nal

What: Ac­tor in the world pre­miere of a new rock ’n’ roll re­work­ing of Ham­let, on now at the Tar­ragon (30 Bridg­man), to Fe­bru­ary 11. 416-531-1827. Why: The fierce In­dige­nous ac­tor does so much film and TV – most re­cently in the ex­cel­lent Net­flix se­ries God­less – that the­atre­go­ers should jump at the op­por­tu­nity to see her live. In this reimag­ined take on the Bard’s tragedy, she plays Gertrude to Nigel Shawn Wil­liams’s Claudius and Noah Reid’s Ham­let. Directed by Richard Rose, this is be­ing called a “rock and roll con­cert” of Shakespeare’s play, with com­po­si­tions by Thomas Ry­der Payne. So whether Car­di­nal and co. are singing or speak­ing their lines re­mains to be seen, but count on the in­tense, grounded Car­di­nal to soar ei­ther way.

Sarah Chase

What: Chore­og­ra­pher of a new solo for the iconic Peggy Baker as part of the Map By Years pro­gram at the Theatre Cen­tre (Fe­bru­ary 21 to 25). the­atre­cen­tre.org. Why: Both Chase and Baker work in the in­ter­sec­tions of sto­ry­telling, math­e­mat­ics and move­ment in sur­pris­ing and pro­found ways. A former Toronto res­i­dent now liv­ing on Hornby Is­land, BC, where she also does restora­tive body work, the elu­sive, much-revered Chase doesn’t send dances our way of­ten, so don’t miss her. This new work (called un­moored) is a con­tin­u­a­tion of her and Baker’s 2004 col­lab­o­ra­tion The Dis­ap­pear­ance Of Right And Left. It shares the bill with sev­eral of Baker’s own land­mark so­los danced by some of this city’s most ra­di­ant artists.

Kim Coates

What: Ac­tor in Jez But­ter­worth’s Jerusalem, Crowsnest Theatre (345 Car­law), Fe­bru­ary 13 to March 10. crow­sthe­atre.com. Why: Rooster, the lead in But­ter­worth’s play, is an un­pre­dictable, mod­ern-day Pied Piper who’s at­tracted a ragged co­terie of lost souls to his strange car­a­van in the mid­dle an English for­est. The in­tense Coates, best known for play­ing Tig, one of the most vi­o­lent char­ac­ters on the FX se­ries Sons Of An­ar­chy, fits the bill per­fectly. Re­turn­ing to the stage af­ter nearly 30 years, Coates, who’s played ev­ery­one from Stan­ley Kowal­ski to Mac­beth, is sur­rounded by lots of theatre tal­ent, in­clud­ing Philip Ric­cio, Diana Don­nelly, Nicholas Campbell, Daniel Kash and ris­ing stars Shakura Dick­son and Peter Fer­nan­des plus Out­side the March’s Mitchell Cush­man di­rect­ing. Look for a lim­ited num­ber of front row seats that’ll make you feel like you’re part of Rooster’s crew.

Au­drey Dwyer

What: Writer and direc­tor of Calpur­nia, at Bud­dies in Bad Times, Jan­uary 14 to Fe­bru­ary 4. night­woodthe­atre.net. Why: Count on Dwyer to turn a clas­sic novel – To Kill A Mock­ing­bird – on its head. The triple threat writer, direc­tor and ac­tor has cre­ated a play about a screen­writer who wants to look at Harper Lee’s beloved book through the eyes of the Finch’s maid. Set dur­ing a din­ner at the home of a wealthy Ja­maican-Cana­dian fam­ily, the play stars Andrew Moodie, Meghan Swaby, Natasha Green­blatt, Car­lyn Fe and oth­ers, and ex­am­ines hot-but­ton is­sues like class, race and gen­der.

Flo & Joan

What: Sketch duo re­turn­ing to Canada for The Toronto Sketch Com­edy Fes­ti­val, Theatre Cen­tre (1115 Queen West), March 1 to 11. toron­tos­ketch­fest.com. Why: The full lineup of this year’s SketchFest is still to be re­leased, but we’ve learned it in­cludes lo­cal troupes Tall Boyz II Men and the Lusty Man­nequins, Pic­nic­face alumni Mark Lit­tle and Andy Bush as a duo, and a re­mount of the 2017 Fringe hit 32 Short Sketches About Bees. The act we’re most ex­cited for, though, has al­ready been re­vealed. Last year’s Au­di­ence Choice Award winners Flo & Joan (aka Ni­cola & Rosie Dempsey) will be re­turn­ing from their na­tive Eng­land for at least two shows. The mu­si­cally ta­lented sis­ter act were vi­ral sen­sa­tions last win­ter with The 2016 Song; they re­cently re­leased a 2017 sum-up ditty, Have A Cup Of Tea.

Court­ney Gilmour

What: Stand-up, host­ing Sun­day Night Live, at Com­edy Bar (945 Bloor West), Jan­uary 28. sketch­er­sons.com. Why: Gilmour had a break­through 2017 as a stand-up, win­ning the Just For Laughs Home­grown com­pe­ti­tion, but it was a lousy year for the comic’s mo­bil­ity. On her way to per­form at a show last fall, she fell and broke her leg – the ar­ti­fi­cial one. See­ing her frus­tra­tion with a se­ries of flawed pros­thet­ics, her fam­ily and friends started the #DreamLeg cam­paign to buy her a state-of-the-art ar­ti­fi­cial limb and sur­prised her with a kick-off party. Gilmour has since made the me­dia rounds and fel­low comics have or­ga­nized a se­ries of fundrais­ing shows. The big­gest this month will fea­ture Gilmour host­ing the Sketch­er­sons’ weekly show; all door pro­ceeds will be do­nated to the #DreamLeg cam­paign.

Sébastien Heins

What: Ac­tor in Kat San­dler’s Bang Bang, at Fac­tory Theatre (125 Bathurst), Jan­uary 27 to Fe­bru­ary 18. fac­to­rythe­atre.ca. Why: Ris­ing tal­ent Heins has an open, spon­ta­neous af­fa­bil­ity, which he showed to great ef­fect last year in Strat­ford’s School For Scan­dal as well as in his break­through solo show, Brother­hood: The Hip Hopera, which he con­tin­ues to tour. In San­dler’s new play, he plays a Jackie Sav­age, a Black ac­tor hired to play a re­al­life Black man shot by a po­lice of­fi­cer (Khadi­jah Roberts-Ab­dul­lah). The twist? The play’s writ­ten by a white man (Jeff Lil­lico). With San­dler taking on this timely topic and a cast that in­cludes Karen Robin­son and Richard Zep­pieri, ex­pect some ex­plo­sive drama.

Hanna Kiel

What: Kiel con­trib­utes a duet for the Na­tional Bal­let of Canada’s Jenna Savella Stalzer and Kota Sato as part of the com­pany’s an­nual Chore­o­graphic Work­shop (Jan­uary 18-19; Betty Oliphant, bal­let.ca). She fol­lows up with Chas­ing The Path for her own com­pany, Hu­man Body Ex­pres­sion, at Dance­works (March 15-17; Har­bourfront Cen­tre), and has chore­ographed a new piece for Toronto Dance Theatre’s 50th An­niver­sary pro­gram Glass Fields (March 20-24; Har­bourfront Cen­tre, har­bourfront­cen­tre.com). Why: Con­tem­po­rary dance in Toronto is rife with min­i­mal­ism and con­cep­tual ex­per­i­ments, so Kiel’s gift for craft­ing dense and emo­tion­ally res­o­nant en­sem­ble work re­ally stands out. Dancers and au­di­ences alike get ex­cited by her ease in mix­ing clas­si­cal and con­tem­po­rary styles to cre­ate big ki­netic washes of move­ment – hence Kiel’s jam­packed sched­ule.

Colin Mochrie

What: Ac­tor in Lear, the Groundlings Theatre Com­pany’s pro­duc­tion of the Shakespeare tragedy, to Jan­uary 28 at Har­bourfront Cen­tre Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). 416-973-4000. Why: The Se­cond City veteran and Whose Line Is It Any­way? star is com­edy roy­alty, of course. But un­like many of his Lear co-stars (Deb­o­rah Hay, Jim

Me­zon, Diana Don­nelly and, in the ti­tle role, Seana McKenna) he doesn’t reg­u­larly tread the boards at our clas­si­cal rep com­pa­nies. Still, Mochrie’s dra­matic in­stincts are finely honed, and a few years ago he even penned a hu­mour book about the clas­sics, so he ob­vi­ously knows how they’re sup­posed to sound. So look for him to make a fas­ci­nat­ing Fool next to McKenna’s Lear, un­der Graham Abbey’s sen­si­tive di­rec­tion. And if Mochrie for­gets his lines, I’m sure he’ll know how to im­pro­vise – even in iambic pen­tame­ter.

Wa­jdi Mouawad

What: Di­rect­ing Mozart’s prob­lem­atic opera The Ab­duc­tion From The Seraglio for the Cana­dian Opera Com­pany at the Four Sea­sons Cen­tre (145 Queen West). Fe­bru­ary 7 to 24. coc.ca. Why: Best known as the play­wright of the pow­er­ful Scorched, which was adapted into the Os­car-nom­i­nated film In­cendies, the Le­banese-Cana­dian Mouawad switches gen­res this win­ter. Mozart’s comic opera has of­ten been crit­i­cized for its cul­tur­ally in­sen­si­tive plot in­volv­ing a Ger­man wo­man ab­ducted and im­pris­oned by a Turk­ish pasha and his lech­er­ous guard. Mouawad has added a pro­logue and new di­a­logue to the li­bretto, es­sen­tially re­fram­ing it and point­ing out the cul­tural in­sen­si­tiv­ity of the Euro­pean char­ac­ters. The pro­duc­tion was a hit at Lyon Opera in 2016, where its Kon­stanze (one of the most de­mand­ing so­prano roles in all opera) was played by Cana­dian Jane Archibald, who reprises the role here.

Theatre Smith-Gilmour

What: An adap­ta­tion of Vic­tor Hugo’s Les Misérables at the Theatre Cen­tre (1115 Queen West), March 16 to April 1. the­atre­smithgilmour.com. Why: Over more than three decades, the phys­i­cal and clown-in­spired com­pany has brought many lit­er­ary works to the stage, from the short sto­ries of Chekhov, Lu Xun and Kather­ine Mans­field to Wil­liam Faulkner’s epic As I Lay Dy­ing. Now they’re taking on Hugo’s mas­sive, multi­gen­er­a­tional novel about a man fol­low­ing his con­science – some­thing that’s pretty rel­e­vant these days. With Michele Smith di­rect­ing ac­tors Dean Gilmour (a nat­u­ral as Jean Val­jean, no?), Nina Gilmour, Diana Tso and oth­ers, count on this show to bring out themes and ideas not found in the mega-mu­si­cal.

Jor­dan Tan­nahill

What: Writer and direc­tor of Dec­la­ra­tions, at Berke­ley Street Theatre (26 Berke­ley), Jan­uary 23 to Fe­bru­ary 11. cana­di­anstage.com. Why: Tan­nahill, no stranger to ac­claim and lists like these, is hav­ing a mo­ment this sea­son. First comes this mul­ti­me­dia piece that uses text, chore­og­ra­phy and im­agery to evoke a wo­man’s mor­tal­ity. This per­sonal piece is in­spired by his mother, who’s liv­ing with stage four can­cer. His first novel, Lim­i­nal, also comes out that week from House of Anansi and deals with a sim­i­lar theme. And in Fe­bru­ary, Xenos, his col­lab­o­ra­tion with dance leg­end Akram Khan, pre­mieres in Athens. Seems like a nat­u­ral fit for Lu­mi­nato pro­gram­ming, no?

Pat Thorn­ton and Jackie Pirico

What: Stand-ups de­but­ing a new se­ries, Pat Af­ter Jackie, at Com­edy Bar (945 Bloor West), Jan­uary 27. com­e­dy­bar.ca Why: This is Thorn­ton’s favourite time of the year – known to Toronto co­me­di­ans as #JanuGary. He’s so keen on the event, which sees his best friend (and Com­edy Bar owner) Gary Ride­out Jr. pho­to­shopped and meme-ified by the lo­cal com­edy com­mu­nity, that this year, Thorn­ton even com­mis­sioned a se­ries of pro­mo­tional videos. (Ride­out Jr., for his part, seems re­signed to the an­nual on­line trib­ute/ roast.) Still, Thorn­ton’s find­ing time to work up new ma­te­rial to de­but at Com­edy Bar, where he and Pirico, a Laugh Sab­bath stal­wart, will split the stage time. Thorn­ton and Pirico also share a comic sen­si­bil­ity of be­ing play­ful with­out be­ing im­ma­ture.

K. Trevor Wilson and Mark For­ward

What: Tour­ing Let­terkenny Live across Canada, with a stop at the Queen El­iz­a­beth Theatre (190 Princes’), March 10, let­terkenny.tv. Why: The phe­nom­e­nally pop­u­lar Let­terkenny TV show has al­ready proven there’s an ap­petite for their con­tent on­stage; a ta­ble read of an episode with mem­bers of the cast sold out dur­ing last fall’s JFL42. The Let­terkenny Live tour will fea­ture se­ries stars Jared Keeso and Nathan Dales, as well as Wilson and For­ward per­form­ing orig­i­nal sketches and fan favourite scenes from the show. But per­haps the best part is that Wilson and For­ward will be the open­ing acts, per­form­ing stand-up sets as them­selves. Wilson is one of Canada’s best stand-up sto­ry­tellers, and For­ward is one of our most re­fined comedic odd­balls – qual­i­ties per­haps hinted at on TV, but best ex­pe­ri­enced live.

David Yee

What: Writer and co-cre­ator, No For­eign­ers, at the Theatre Cen­tre (1115 Queen West), Fe­bru­ary 21 to 25. 416-538-0988. Why: Play­wright Yee, cur­rently artis­tic direc­tor at fu-GEN, is hard to pin down; his scripts range from genre send-ups (lady in the red dress) to style-shift­ing vi­gnettes (his Gover­nor Gen­eral’s Award-win­ning car­ried away on the crest of the wave) to in­ter­gen­er­a­tional dra­mas (ac­qui­esce). Now he and fuGEN col­lab­o­rate with Van­cou­ver’s Hong Kong Ex­ile in this mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary look at how shop­ping malls pro­vide a way to tell sto­ries of the Chi­nese di­as­pora. Fea­tur­ing ideas about con­sumerism, cul­ture and what “Chi­ne­se­ness” means, we’re sold.

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