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NOW critics pick the best comedy, art, stage shows and, of course, parties happening during Pride Month
It’s not a Pride without Dawn Whitwell’s annual showcase of queer comedy, music and drag. The veteran stand-up and Baroness Von Sketch Show writer/story editor hosts a smorgasbord of talent that includes She’s the Man, Zoe Whittall, Elvira Kurt, Fay Slift, Hoodo Hersi and others.
Saturday (June 15) at Buddies in Bad Times Chamber, 8 pm. $20-$25. buddiesinbadtimes.com
Jonathan Wilson’s eclectic career includes a stint at Second City, the seminal queer coming-of-age solo show My Own Private Oshawa and a Dora for The Lion King. Now his play Kilt, about a dancer at a strip club who performs in his grandfather’s kilt, gets a 20th anniversary staged reading as part of the We’re Funny That Way festival. The cast includes Tracey Hoyt, Jordan Shore, Jeff Miller and Wilson himself.
Saturday (June 15) at Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 7 pm. $5-$20. werefunnythatway.org
Dubbed “Toronto’s saddest comedic drag queen,” Vyle (the drag alter ego of Nicky Nasrallah, of Panacea) presents a completely improvised musical cabaret as part of We’re Funny That Way. Accompanied by musical director Scott Christian, Vyle will take audience suggestions and sing songs about romantic ups and downs – all created on the spot. Expect to tear up… laughing.
Saturday (June 15) at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space, 9 pm. $5-$20. werefunnythatway.org
Now that the village is no longer the centre of the city’s queer activity, this examination of the neighbourhood and its storied history ought to be fascinating viewing. The walkabout show, featuring a bunch of emerging talents, begins at the Alexander Street Parkette at Buddies and includes projections, songs, poetry, shadow puppetry and dance.
Tuesday to Thursday (June 18-20) at the Alexander Street Parkette (at Buddies in Bad Times), 9 pm. $21. buddiesinbadtimes.com
The inaugural four-day, party-oriented parallel Pride fest is promising after hours and sex-positive vibes – and no corporate sponsors. Highlights include a villa party at a secret location, Los Angeles party Bears In Space at Stackt Market, a DIY dance garden-themed party in a gallery and a Pride Sunday blow-out at the Baby G.
Thursday to Sunday (June 20-23). Various venues and prices. pride.leisure.events
The west-end boutique hotel gets Pride Weekend started with two queer art shows: one featuring work about protest and struggle (curated by Syrus Marcus Ware) and another featuring portraits of 100 LGBTQ Canadians in the arts shot by 10 queer Canadian photographers (curated by James Fowler). Afterward, queer country music jam Steers & Queers throws its annual Night of 1000 Dollys party in the ballroom.
Opens June 20 at Gladstone Hotel, 7-10 pm. Free. gladstonehotel.com
The 519’s multi-day fundraiser is switching things up this year. The Treehouse circuit party (June 23) relocates to the CNE Bandshell, but if you’re balking at the trek west, they’ve booked some heavy hitters to lure you: The Black Madonna and Danny Tenaglia. As usual, latest Drag Race stars get the party in Barbara Hall Park started at Starry Night (June 20). Expect the loudest cheers for fan favourite Vanessa Vanjie Mateo.
June 20-23 at Barbara Hall Park and CNE Bandshell. Various times. Most events free. greenspaceto.org
Musician Pierre Kwenders and streetwear designer Hervé Kalongo’s bassy, Afro-futuristic party for Montreal’s African diaspora touches down in T.O. to kick off the official Pride Weekend lineup. The headliner is an absolute must-see: dusky-voiced South African singer Nakhane, whose theatrical and anthemic balladry is full of Kate Bush-ian drama.
June 21 at Pride Main Stage, 7-11 pm. Free. pridetoronto.com
A new addition to Toronto’s stable of alt-Pride parties, this event is a collaboration between New York City’s queer Latinx party Maricón (the name reclaims the Spanish slur) and local promoters Rude Collective. The show marks the Toronto debut of DJ/producer Joey LaBeija (aka Hood Sensation), who is also performing songs off his recent Tears In My Hennessy album live for the first time. NOW faves Myst Milano and Chippy Nonstop are also on the bill.
June 21 at Northern Contemporary Gallery, 10 pm. $15-$30. eventbrite.ca
There’s never a shortage of drag at Pride, but the 50th anniversary of Stonewall is dovetailing with the massive popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It also happens to be the year the first Canadian queen, Brook Lynn Hytes, competed on the show. She’s headlining Pride’s official drag party, and if there’s one thing Toronto loves more than a hometown queen, it’s a hometown queen who’s big in Amurrica.
June 22 at Pride Main Stage, 6-11 pm Free. pridetoronto.com
Online club culture broadcaster Boiler Room is bringing its System party series, which explores the influence of migration on music, to Pride. The local hosts are monthly hip-hop/dancehall party Yes Yes Y’All, whose residents Nino Brown and Sammy Rawal will spin alongside DJ Blackcat, 12-year-old DJ Brandon Duke, NYC’s Tygapaw and Los Angeles’ Foreigner, among others. YYY is also hosting a Pride block party the night before with Venus X.
June 22 at Assembly Chef’s Hall. 11 pm. $10-$15. eventbrite.ca.
The beloved queer rock ’n’ roll party returns to raise money for the Will Munro Fund for queer and trans people living with cancer. Two of the city’s most dynamic and galvanizing solo performers are on the bill: Nyssa, whose power balladry recalls the 80s anthems played at Vaz back in the day, and drag queen Regina Gently, whose hooky house-pop is sure to get the crowd moving.
June 22 at Velvet Underground, doors 10 pm. $10.50. ticketweb.ca
Pride is typically a maximal affair, but this year minimalists have a reason to come out of the closet. Pride Toronto is teaming with Montreal electronic festival Mutek to host a satellite edition at the MOCA. The lineup includes Canadian deep house duo Mutually Feeling, Montreal downtempo techno producer Debbie Døe, and Japan-born Toronto techno producer Masayuki Tomita, among others.
June 22 at Museum of Contemporary Art, doors 10 pm. $25-$35. universe.com
Update (June 19): Pride has cancelled Nano Mutek after MOCA withdrew from hosting, according to a statement posted on the Facebook event page. Pride might reschedule the event, but is processing full refunds for ticket holders.
Blackness Yes!’s Sunday blowout enters its 21st year with headlining sets by bounce queen Big Freedia and R&B act Mýa, plus a host of local spinners, dancers and drag artists. This year’s theme pays tribute to queer Black trailblazers with the theme Black As Stonewall. If you’re planning on catching Freedia after the parade, go early – there is always a long line.
June 23 at Pride Wellesley Stage, noon-2 am. Free. pridetoronto.com
Since launching just over a year ago, the party/collective for queer Asians has quickly become an LGBTQ nightlife staple known for eclectic music and artful production. This year, they close out one of the official stages with DJ sets by Valeroo, Discography, Lulu Wei and Diego Armand and drag performances by Miss Jade and the House of Magnifique.
June 23 at Pride South Stage, 8-11 pm. Free. pridetoronto.com
@kevinritchie | @glennsumi