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Dark and alluring

The fall arts calendar is rife with evil forces and glittering talents

Break out the Zoloft… and your credit card for one exciting fall arts season. Of course, the biggest event is the Toronto International Film Festival, but navigating TIFF is its own breed of beast. (See page 28 for our interview with Xavier Dolan and other festival highlights). Here, instead, are the (non-film) essential tickets and cultural events of the season.

New work from Christopher House
Choreographer Christopher House marks an astonishing 20 years at the helm of Toronto Dance Theatre with a new full-length work for 10 dancers set to Music for 18 Musicians by influential US composer Steve Reich. Expect something special. “I first heard Music for 18 Musicians in 1979,” says House, “and it is fair to say that its buoyant harmonies and rhythms made me want be a choreographer. One of my earliest works for TDT, created in 1980, used a short section of this music… in returning to Music for 18 Musicians in its entirety so many years later, I am coming home after a long journey of growth and discovery, bringing new tools and new sensibilities to this fresh and exhilarating encounter.” Runs Wed, Nov 6 to 9 at Fleck Dance Theatre. tdt.org.

Innovation at the National Ballet
The National Ballet of Canada continues its amazing run of mixed short programs with world premieres by three choreographers: the unrivalled Canadian master James Kudelka, up-and-coming Torontonian Robert Binet and emerging powerhouse José Navas, Venezuelan-born founder of Montreal’s Compagnie Flak. “Our second Innovation series brings together three really brilliant and very different Canadian choreographers,” says artistic director Karen Kain. “James Kudelka is familiar to our audiences, but the other two, Robert Binet and José Navas, are less well known. All three though, judging by their work to date, promise to give us world premieres that, taken together, should make for an extraordinary evening of new and cutting-edge dance.” Runs Fri, Nov 22 to 28 at the Four Seasons Centre. national.ballet.ca.

David Bowie at the AGO
Now for something brightly life-affirming, the critically acclaimed attendance-busting David Bowie Is exhibition from the Victoria and Albert Museum, coming to the AGO this September on the tour’s first stop following London. “David Bowie is a profoundly visual performer,” states Art Gallery of Ontario director Matthew Teitelbaum, “and the identities he has created for himself over the last five decades have had an enormous impact on contemporary art and culture…. Bowie has consistently collaborated with the most significant personalities in fashion, design, theatre and art. His willingness to defy genres has made his career a barometer for cutting-edge performance art.” Runs Wed, Sep 25 to Nov 27 at the AGO. ago.net.

Wael Shawky at AGYU
Philip Monk curates the first full-scale exhibition in Canada of Egyptian artist Wael Shawky. The Cabaret Crusades features two films that tell the story of the Crusades from the Arab perspective—lush, gorgeous films featuring highly expressive marionettes—based in part on the work of Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf. Simultaneously seductive and subversive. Runs Wed, Sep 11 to Dec 1 at AGYU. yorku.ca/agyu.

Ghost Dance at Ryerson Image Centre
Mohawk-Jewish curator Steve Loft has pulled together a ground-breaking international survey of indigenous art characterized by what he calls “articulate resistance.” Featuring Jackson 2bears, Cheryl l’Hirondelle, Alan Michelson, Vernon Ah Kee, Sonny Assu, Scott Benesiinaabandan, Dana Claxton, Theo Sims and Skawennati. “Ghost Dance examines the role of the artist as activist, as chronicler and as provocateur,” states Loft, “in the ongoing struggle for indigenous rights and self-empowerment.” Runs Wed, Sep 18 to Dec 15 at the Ryerson Image Centre. ryerson.ca/ric.

Micah lexier at the power plant
A survey of significant work by Toronto-based artist Micah Lexier, featuring four solo pieces, three collaborations, and one new, ambitious curatorial project. This is Lexier at all levels of his practice. (For more on One, Two, and More Than Two, see page 30.)

Anthony De Sa’s Kicking the Sky
Anthony De Sa was short-listed for a Giller in 2008 for the story collection Barnacle Love. This September, Random House publishes De Sa’s daring debut novel, Kicking the Sky, a provocative exploration of a tragic event from Toronto history, the 1977 rape and murder of Emanuel Jaques, the 12-year-old “shoeshine boy.” The arrest of four men spawned mass protests fuelled in large part by homophobia; Portuguese gangs roamed downtown bashing gays. De Sa uses these awful events to tell the story of three boys coming of age in Little Portugal. The novel is a gothic depiction of the sinister forces at work in the boys’ insular, impoverished community. Secrecy, violence and fear, argues De Sa, were never the exclusive domain of the gays. Treacherous material deftly handled. Releases Tue, Sep 10 from Random House. randomhouse.ca.

Greg Kearney’s The Desperates
No one does black comedy as black and as off-kilter as Greg Kearney, the 2012 ReLit-winner for the story collection Pretty. His debut novel looks at three lost souls creating havoc in Toronto: a dying mother, a coddled wannabe artist and an HIV-positive man with a new lease on life… and lust. “Greg Kearney’s short fiction has been vicious, tender, hilarious and wise,” says Glad Day Bookshop general manager Scott Dagostino. “The Desperates is one of the titles we’re most excited about.” Set to release in October from Cormorant Books. cormorantbooks.com.

Lorraine Segato returns
With her 1983 hit “Rise Up” set to be the soundtrack of World Pride next year, Lorraine Segato releases Invincible Decency—her first CD since 1998! Backed by a stellar band and produced by David Gray, Segato resurrects the Parachute Club’s world-beat-pop exuberance and righteous politics. Guest vocalists include d’bi.young, Liz Rodriguez and Stephen Lewis (whose words and work inspire the title track). The funky “All Went Wrong (At the Right Time)” finds Segato—and that sexy, oaken voice of hers—hitting an infectious groove. Out this fall from Get Off My Dress Productions.

Rufus Wainwright with the TSO
You know we’re in a moody jag when Rufus Wainwright is one of the lighter highlights of the season. But this mix of classical and pop—including excerpts from Wainwright’s lovely opera Prima Donna sung by soprano Melody Moore, orchestral settings of his Shakespeare Sonnets and Wainwright singing everything from Arlen to Berlioz backed by the TSO—is sure to be a rich and fascinating evening of music. Fri, Oct 11 at Roy Thomson Hall with Jayce Ogren conducting. tso.ca

Ben Heppner as Peter Grimes
Expectations are through the roof when superstar Canadian tenor Ben Heppner takes to the Four Seasons’ stage this fall in Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, a brooding, monumental masterpiece about a fisherman accused of abusing and murdering his young male apprentices. “Heppner is a powerful dramatic tenor who can express great vulnerability,” says COC general manager Alexander Neef. “He really digs into a role to give the music true meaning. I expect his Grimes will build on the multifaceted depictions of the character he’s sung in the past. In the aftermath of World War II, Britten [who was gay] was fascinated by how society treats people who are different. The fact that the opera is open-ended, that it makes no judgment, is a stroke of genius. It’s up to you to make up your own mind about Grimes. Is he a victim of society or is it the other way around?” The 2009 co-production with Houston Grand Opera and Opera Australia, directed by Neil Armfield, opens Sat, Oct 5 at the Four Seasons Centre with Johannes Debus conducting. coc.ca.

Needles and Opium at CanStage
Theatrical genius Robert Lepage creates a new production of Needles and Opium, his acclaimed one-man-show from 1991. Creativity and addiction are refracted through the lives and works of jazz great Miles Davis and French writer and filmmaker Jean Cocteau. Whether it’s with Cirque du Soleil, the Met Opera or his actors’ own bodies, no one can bend theatre craft like Lepage. Using new technology, this production should take audiences on a wild, surreal trip. Opens Fri, Nov 22 at Bluma Appel Theatre, starring longtime Lepage interpreter Marc Labrèche. canstage.com.

Pig at Buddies in Bad Times
From Jane Austen to bug chasers? UK writer/director Tim Luscombe has a string of hit stage adaptations of Austen novels, including Mansfield Park last year at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. But Buddies in Bad Times Theatre opens its season with something altogether different, the world premiere of Pig, Luscombe’s searing look at romantic love, addiction and obsession. Expect a work as sophisticated as it is upsetting. “It’s one of the most visceral and honest pieces about gay male sexuality and identity that I’ve ever encountered,” artistic director Brendan Healy wrote recently on a blog posting. The Buddies production will star Bruce Dow, Paul Dunn and Blair Williams with Healy directing. Opens Thu, Sep 19. buddiesinbadtimes.com.

The Best Brothers at Tarragon
A woman dies in a freak accident at Toronto’s Pride Parade—she’s crushed by a drunk drag queen—and her two sons are left to pick up the pieces. This two-hander from perennial favourite Daniel MacIvor played to raves last year at Stratford. One reviewer went so far as to write that it is “perhaps his most heartwarming and crowd-pleasing comedy to date.” Opens Tue, Sep 17 at Tarragon Theatre, again starring MacIvor and John Beale with Dean Gabourie directing. tarragontheatre.com.