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A box of Now magazine can be seen across City Hall on Queen St., in Toronto on March 31, 2011. Two decades ago, the free weekly magazine played a crucial role in helping me navigate an unfamiliar city as a young person.Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

How did you first find out what was going on in theatre – or the arts, in general – in your community?

When I moved to Toronto two decades ago, the free weekly magazine NOW played a crucial role in helping me navigate an unfamiliar city as a young person. I read the articles and reviews, but it was the thorough event listings that made me always keep a copy on hand.

I consulted them to make weekend plans – and often ended up at a concert or festival I wouldn’t have otherwise.

This was an extension of a habit I’d fallen into growing up in others cities, where I was guided to art, films and plays by similar publications such as Uptown in Winnipeg, or the Mirror and the Hour in Montreal.

Those so-called alt-weeklies disappeared many years ago. NOW, meanwhile, stopped publishing in print in September. After a period of uncertainty, new owners announced this week that the publication will soon be relaunched – in a digital-only version.

Maybe listings will be a part of NOW’s new site, but, the fact is, the online realm has not done a great job in replacing this function of weekly print magazines. It can, perversely, be much harder to find out “what’s on” these days than it used to be.

The best thing about the Internet is that it makes it easy to find information about things you’re looking for. The worst thing about the Internet is that it isn’t very good at helping you find out about things that you don’t yet know about but might be interested in.

Social-media algorithms rarely feed you anything surprising – just what advertisers pay to pop up on your feed.

Searches, meanwhile, can lead you astray. A curious visitor or newcomer to town Googling, “theatre in Toronto,” is likely to find Toronto Theatre at or near the top of the results. That site bills itself as “your independent guide to the best shows in Toronto.”

What it really is, however, is a site that aims to resell tickets for big commercial shows at a significant markup to untutored theatregoers. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tickets, for example, were going for two to four times what similar ones were through mirvish.com for the same performance on Jan. 28 when I last checked.

While I don’t really like the idea of people who don’t usually go to the theatre overspending on tickets, I really dislike that some folks surely land on these sites and think theatre is just too expensive for them – or that there’s nothing on in the city beyond commercial theatre.

So, I’m glad to see that a new top sponsored result for the keywords “Toronto” and “theatre” is a site called Now Playing Toronto, which the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts has partnered with Destination Toronto on. This inter-arts listings site is off to a solid start, though its functionality still needs work. When I clicked on its theatre page, I got a list that included dance and comedy shows – and in many cases plays now on stage were listed below shows that aren’t yet open.

To be honest, I find simple text-based lists the easiest to peruse. Too many pictures, too many pop-ups or click-throughs, and I get lost.

For Ontario theatre, I find Christopher Hoile’s independent site Stage Door has the most complete monthly listings with basic information organized in a simple, neat fashion, similar to the listings you use to find in NOW (or Eye magazine where Hoile once worked).

Likewise, Vancouver Plays is my favourite resource to find out what’s on in that city. It too is run by a veteran critic, Jerry Wasserman, and is largely text-based.

For Montreal theatre, I sometimes consult La Vitrine, a strong site covering many different art forms. But, as I was just reminded, it is not as comprehensive as it looks.

In town visiting family, I reached out to local theatre critic Christian Saint-Pierre (who used to work at alt-weekly Voir and now writes for Le Devoir) to ask him whether it was indeed the case – as it seemed according to La Vitrine – that nothing new was on stage.

Saint-Pierre pointed me to Féministe pour Homme, a hit French solo show adapted for Quebec starring the great Sophie Cadieux, which is at Usine C from Jan. 11 to 21 ahead of a provincial tour. I’ve booked tickets for Wednesday. Sometimes you just need a human guide.

Féministe pour Homme, a hit French solo show adapted for Quebec starring the great Sophie Cadieux, is at Usine C from Jan. 11 to 21 ahead of a provincial tour.Handout

On to my weekly guide to what’s opening across Canada...

Into the Woods, Winnipeg: This moving musical mash-up of fairytales, one of Stephen Sondheim’s most popular (and best) shows, opens in a big new production at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, directed by artistic director Kelly Thornton (Jan. 10 to Feb. 4). MTC veteran Jennifer Lyon is playing the Witch, and the sets and costumes are by Siminovitch Prize-winning designer Gillian Gallow.

Little Willy, Vancouver: Ronnie Burkett, another Siminovitch winner for design, and his Daisy Theatre ensemble of marionettes are back on the West Coast. Having just perverted the story of A Christmas Carol in Little Dickens at Canadian Stage in Toronto, they now move on to nightly travestying Romeo and Juliet in this semi-improvised show at the Cultch. For adults, from January 10 to 29.

Martyr, Toronto: ARC, a company that focuses on international works, is producing the Canadian premiere of this controversial 2012 play by German playwright Marius von Mayenburg. It’s about a boy who starts refusing to swim in mixed-gender lessons at school after discovering God. Rob Kempson, ARC’s co-leader, directs this production at the Aki Studio from Jan. 13 to 29. (For more on Mayenburg, here’s my interview with him in Berlin in 2014.)

Freaky Green Eyes, Edmonton: It is a time of Joyce Carol Oates adaptations, apparently. Following hot on the heels of a big-screen adaptation of Blonde, Oates’ young-adult novel Freaky Green Eyes gets a small, solo stage version in Alberta. Written and adapted by Emma Houghton, directed by Chantelle Han and presented by Punctuate Theatre! and Fringe Theatre, it runs from Jan. 10-21 at the Backstage Theatre.

What the Globe and Mail is reviewing this week

Fifteen Dogs, André Alexis’s Giller Prize-winning novel about a group of canines granted consciousness by a pair of mischievous gods, hits Crow’s Theatre in Toronto from January 10 to February 5. Marie Farsi (Ghost Quartet) is both adapter and director, and the cast includes such hot-dog performers as Laura Condlln, Peter Fernandes and Tom Rooney.

Look for my review early next week.