Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Five queer happenings at Luminato 2015

We scoured the best of the Toronto arts fest so you don’t have to

At eight years old, Luminato is a relative newcomer on the international festival circuit. But what Toronto’s flagship cultural event lacks in history, it makes up for in scale. With several thousand artists presenting over 250 events to nearly a million people, it’s a mega-festival appropriate for the mega-city that hosts it. While it’s overwhelming in scope, we’ve scoured the schedule to find the queer things you definitely don’t want to miss.

Who Killed Spalding Gray?

Saturday, June 20–Sunday, 21
Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W

Daniel MacIvor has forged a career on semi-autobiographical solo shows. But the Canadian theatrical powerhouse rarely gets compared to American actor Spalding Gray (who essentially invented the form). That doesn’t mean MacIvor can’t see the similarities himself however. His latest venture tells parallel stories of visiting a California psychic to remove a mysterious “entity” from his mind, the same day Gray took his life nose-diving off the Staten Island Ferry. Delivered in MacIvor’s trademark high-paced style, it provides an unlikely resolution to the theatre world’s most mysterious death.

Bridget Everett

Monday, June 22
Luminato Festival Shed, 55 John St

“In Your Face” is an over-used epithet for high-energy performers. But in alt-cabaret sensation Bridget Everett’s case, it’s literally appropriate. Her monthly show at the bar of New York’s Public Theatre has seen her shower the visages of her front row with spit-up Chardonnay and forcibly nestle the heads of unsuspecting audience members between her bodacious bazooms. Exactly what craziness Torontonians can expect when she brings her schtick north is unknown. But attendees should either snag back row seats or wear something that doesn’t stain easily.

Joey Arias: A Centennial Tribute to Billie Holiday

Thursday, June 25
Luminato Festival Shed, 55 John St

He’s appeared in films with Pee Wee Herman and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, shared the stage with David Bowie and Klaus Nomi, and cofounded the influential art/fashion magazine Paper. But the thing Joey Arias is most famous for is impersonating Billie Holiday. Fresh off a turn at the Lincoln Center, the 65-year-old club legend brings his unmatched ability to capture Lady Day’s quirky vocal stylings to Toronto for the first time. Alternating between frisky chanteuse and tragic diva, Arias incomparably captures the essence of one of the 20th century’s most enigmatic performers.

Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music: The 20th Century Abridged

Friday, June 26–Saturday, June 27
Luminato Festival Shed, 55 John St

Despite the deceptively long title, the NYC performer Taylor Mac’s offering is actually a tiny piece of a much longer work. The full version (to be presented in 2016) will see Mac perform selections from the last 240 years over 24 hours (audiences will be encouraged to bring pillows and sleeping bags). But his Luminato turn will be limited to 20th-century tunes. Covering everything from “Songs for the Speakeasy to Songs to Snort Coke To,” the show takes on famous and unknown jams from the last 100 years, with a healthy dose of Mylar and rhinestones. Part drag queen, part stand-up comedian, part social critic, Mac’s gender-bending act is something every queer should see at least once in their life.

Apocalypsis

Friday, June 26–Sunday, June 28
Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 1 Front St E

Canadian composer R Murray Schafer’s work based on the Book of Revelation hasn’t been performed since its 1980 premiere. This might have something to do with the fact it takes roughly a thousand people to stage. But festival director Jörn Weisbrodt was determined to present it, introducing Schafer to New Zealand director Lemi Ponifasio who would helm the project. Featuring Polaris Prize-winner Tanya Tagaq as the Old Woman, Tony-winner Brent Carver as the Antichrist, and local hero Nina Arsenault as the Whore of Babylon, Apocalypsis is destined to be a theatrical experience for the history books.

Luminato Festival 2015
Friday, June 19–Sunday, June 28, 2015
Various locations in Toronto
luminatofestival.com