The best festivals, concerts, movies and free events in Toronto this summer

Let our Hot Summer Guide help you plan your best summer yet!

The days of summer are long, but the season passes all too quickly. Before we all start complaining about heat and humidity, let us not forget that it snowed in April this year. As we do every year, we’ve found over 60 of the best events in and around Toronto – food festivals, movies in the park, big-ticket concerts and outdoor markets – to help you make the most of June, July and August. Slap on that sunscreen and get outside.



Bells on Danforth, June 16

Ride along at Bells on Danforth 

As a cyclist, there’s no stronger feeling of empowerment and freedom than riding alongside hundreds of other cyclists on the streets where cars usually reign supreme, which is why Bells on Danforth is such a massive event every summer. This year, riders will meet at Withrow Park and cycle eight kilometres east to Danforth Road before continuing onto the Oakridge Community Recreation Centre for a barbecue lunch, carnival games, bicycle rodeo and face painting. 

June 16, starts at Withrow Park (725 Logan). Free.

Bounce onto the waterfront

Hot on the heels of last year’s immensely popular giant rubber duck exhibit/installation/selfie magnet, another art installation rolls into the Redpath Waterfront Festival this summer – HTO Pendulum Wave, featuring two-metre tall beach balls suspended from a large truss at HTO Park. An H20-themed circus show, artisan market, wine festival and family fun zone round out the programming.

June 22-24 at HTO Park (339 Queens Quay West). Free.


Decolonize at National Indigenous Peoples Day

The biggest names and rising stars in Indigenous music and television take centre stage as part of National Indigenous Peoples Day (formerly National Aboriginal Day) festivities. The free showcase of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples’ talents includes pow-wows, performances and activities across the country, and will be part of the Indigenous Arts Festival at Fort York from June 21-24 ( The celebration culminates with Indigenous Day Live 2018, with simultaneous live concerts taking place in three host cities – Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa – which will be broadcast live on APTN, participating radio stations and online.

June 23 at Fort York National Historic Site (250 Fort York Blvd). Free.

Kick back at Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington

The annual festival dedicated to community, culture, ecology and car-free streets celebrates its 15th year in 2018. The event, which include artists, musicians and performers, takes place between noon and 7 pm on the last Sunday of every month until October. Noteworthy: the Kensington Market Art Fair, a curated outdoor art fair focusing on two and three dimensional works. See you in the streets. 

June 24, July 29 and August 26 at Kensington Market. Free.

Cheer on athletes at the Masters Indigenous Games

Traditional Indigenous sports such as archery, lacrosse, teepee building and tug of war join contemporary events in this inaugural gathering of Indigenous athletes (20 years and older) from across Turtle Island. More than just a sports competition, it’s a celebration of Indigenous cultures from around the world. The cultural village features workshops, storytelling and interactive performances, including a set from Moyo Rainos Mutamba on the mbira, an African instrument associated with Zimbabwe’s Shona people. Five-time Canadian Aboriginal Music Award winner David R. Maracle plays the opening gala at the ROM and the Embody the Spirit Powwow at Downsview Park on July 15 will be followed by a community feast.

July 12-15 at Downsview Park (35 Carl Hall) and other venues. Various prices.


Ride the wave of nostalgia at the CNE

Is there anything that defines Toronto summer more than a trip to the Ex? Sure, it’s crowded, you have to line up for everything and you feel too old for roller coasters, but that’s kind of the point. The perfect place for a first date or a weekend outing with the kids, the Ex brings the entire city together. Play games, listen to a cover band and get your annual fill of mini donuts. Concerts will be announced closer to the date.

August 17-September 3 at Exhibition Place (210 Princes’). $TBA.


Dundas West Fest.jpg

Do it all at Dundas West Fest

The popularity of Dundas West can’t be contained. This free street festival now spans 12 city blocks across two days. Chill on 40 licensed patios between sampling food trucks, browsing more than 200 area vendors, dancing samba and rocking out to live music from local bands. In addition to the hood’s historical and omnipresent Portuguese fare, this year’s street food takes inspiration from Brazil, Colombia and New Orleans. The party continues long after sunset, with live music at both the Garrison and Bambi’s.

June 1-2 on Dundas West between Ossington and Lansdowne. Free.



Let your queer flag fly at Pride Weekend

Pride organizers are asking revellers to wear black to mourn the victims of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur. But while the parade will be toned down, Pride Toronto has upped their music game by booking queer pop star Kehlani and R&B icon Brandy as headliners. The early lineup also includes some choice underground names, like DJ/producer Elysia Crampton, who headlines Catalyst, the Indigenous music stage, and Tennessee rapper BbyMutha, who performs at Sweat: Yes Yes Y’All’s Block Party. Pride events will be happening all month leading up  to the big weekend, including Buddies in Bad Times’ Queer Pride Festival and the 519’s Green Space Festival.

June 22-24, various venues and prices.


Get cultured at Afrofest

In celebration of its 30th birthday, North America’s largest free African festival is expanding from two days to 10 and taking its act across Ontario. Events will be held in Ottawa, London, Ajax, Kitchener and Hamilton, leading up to local festivities at Woodbine Park, featuring a bustling African marketplace, music from international and up-and-coming artists and an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the highest number of djembe drummers playing simultaneously.

July 7-8 at Woodbine Park (1695 Queen East). Free.

Jam out at Rastafest

Rastafest has crisscrossed not only the city but also the globe in its rich, 20-year-long history. The reggae music and arts festival has touched down in Ottawa, Montreal and Jamaica as well as York University, Harbourfront and Jane Finch Mall. It found a permanent home last year at Black Creek Pioneer Village, where its mission of showcasing Rastafarian heritage and culture is still going strong. The family-friendly festival features Nyabinghi drumming, music from national and international reggae artists, a health and wellness community fair, arts and crafts marketplace and more.

August 18 at Black Creek Pioneer Village (7060 Jane), $10-$20 (kids under 12 free).

Share a roti at Tamil Fest

In just four years, Tamil Fest has racked up a few notables. It’s the largest street festival celebrating Tamil culture outside of the Indian subcontinent, and it drew Prime Minister Justin Trudeau out last year where he gushed about the Kothu roti. With over 20 food vendors, there will be a wide array of Tamil cuisine to keep you fed while taking in modern and traditional street performers, interactive exhibits and midway rides.

August 25-26 on Markham Road, from McNicoll to Passmore. Free.

food & drink


Angela Dawson

Canada’s biggest all ladies Beer Festival, June 2

Get hoppy at craft beer festivals

Toronto is a beer town through and through, so it’s no surprise we have several craft beer festivals over summer. Female-identified hops lovers can head to Canada’s largest beer festival for women hosted by Society of Beer Drinking Ladies on June 2. The event includes food vendors, a market and lots of samples. Next up is the Toronto Craft Beer Festival, featuring dozens of local brews like Ace Hill, Left Field and Side Launch from June 22 to 24. Round out your summer with the Toronto Festival of Beer, four full days of sudsy samplers. This year’s edition comes with musical headliners including Ludacris, I Mother Earth, Finger Eleven and T.O.’s favourite party cover band, Dwayne Gretzky

Canada’s Biggest All Ladies Beer Festival, June 2 at Artscape Wychwood Barns (601 Christie). $30-$35.

Toronto Craft Beer Festival, June 22-24 at Ontario Place (955 Lake Shore West). $15-$50.

Toronto Festival of Beer, July 26-29 at Bandshell Park, Exhibition Place (100 Princes’). $30-$70.

Get cheesy at this un-brie-lievable market

If you’re the kind of person who orders cheese plates as a main course, this is the party for you: The Artisan Cheese Market makes its debut this year at St. Lawrence Market. Organized by the Canadian Cheese Awards, this bash packs 80 vendors featuring cheese-makers from coast to coast – plus brewers, wineries, spirit-makers and charcutiers – under one roof.

June 7 at the Market’s Temporary North Hall (125 the Esplanade). $35-$100.


Natalia Manzocco

The Stop’s Night Market, June 12 to 13

Sample T.O.’s best at the Stop’s Night Market

What happens when 65 of Toronto’s best restaurants set up shop in a vacant lot? Magic. The Stop’s Night Market is back for another all-you-can-eat benefit for the community food centre, with this year’s participants set to include Richmond Station, Big Crow, Roselle Desserts, Boralia, Farmhouse Tavern and more. While you stroll, be sure to check out the restaurant booths – local design firms contribute some truly eye-popping designs.

June 12-13 at 181 Sterling. $100.


Take Dad to Thrill Of The Grill

Celebrate Father’s Day early at this the ninth annual Thrill Of The Grill, which brings together 10 Danforth restaurants in a food competition. Food Network celebrity chef Lynn Crawford co-hosts with HGTV star Sebastian Clovis, while judges include Ruby Watchco chef Lora Kirk and NOW’s Norman Wilner. Stop by for some grub, prizes and a performance by band Fat Head Hazel. Ticket sales benefit kidney cancer research at Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre.

June 16 on Danforth between Broadview and Jackman. $10-$20.

Dine in Scarborough at Taste Of Lawrence

Scarborough’s largest street food and culture festival has come a long way since its humble origins in a parking lot 15 years ago. Back then it attracted 1,000 people, whereas now it boasts over 200,000. Chalk those numbers up to the sheer array of cuisines representing “every cultural community in the GTA.” In between ingesting (and digesting) Scarborough’s rich food heritage, take in acts on the all-day music stage.

July 6-8 on Lawrence East, from Warden to Birchmount. Free.

Hail Caesars at a one-day-only cocktail fest

Canada’s national cocktail/fave hangover cure gets star status at Caesar Fest, the ultimate Caesar Sunday. Expect three floors of Clamato-splashed goodness, plus fun eats (and non-Caesar cocktails, for the unconverted). Which bartender will put the most ridiculous garnish on top? Start making your bets now.

July 22 at Fifth Social Club (225 Richmond West). $45-$60.

Taste the Middle East in Y-D Square

Raise a glass of Arak to Middle Eastern cuisine at this one-day-only event to benefit Second Harvest. The lineup of vendors is TBD, but expect some killer shawarma, grilled halloumi and baklava, as well as live music and dance.

August 4 at Yonge-Dundas Square (1 Dundas East). Free admission.

Spice things up at Jerkfest

The (literally) hottest summer food event in the GTA is back for another year, with Jamaican food lovers and spice fiends descending on Etobicoke to crush a few thousand chickens and up their personal Scoville consumption records. New this year is a boat cruise featuring R&B singer Freddie Jackson, as well as a mainstage featuring long-running Jamaican band Fab 5 and musical duo Chaka Demus & Pliers.

August 9-12 at Centennial Park (256 Centennial Park). $10-$200.


Cheol Joon Baek

Celebrate 25 years of Taste Of The Danforth

It’s not just tzatziki and souvlaki – Greektown’s biggest summer bash, features eats and drinks from a global selection of restaurants, as well as music, dance, family activities and celeb appearances. With the festival ringing in its 25th anniversary, this year’s is sure to be the biggest one yet.

August 10-12, on Danforth, from Broad-view to Jones. Free.


Veg out at Vegandale

The people behind Doomie’s and Mythology Diner have taken over the Toronto Vegan Food & Drink Festival, bringing it under their Vegandale banner. Expect to find them at Garrison Common, along with dozens of other purveyors of animal-free eats, drinks and desserts.

August 11-12 at Fort York (250 Fort York). $10-20.



Sip away the day at Toronto Cider Festival

Do you love apples? Have a gluten intolerance? Quench your thirst at Toronto Cider Festival, where over 100 kinds of cider are on offer. Like all good festivals, live music and prizes are part of the deal. This year, put on your cowboy boots for a country-themed dance party – complete with line dancing and a mechanical bull – and a cider cocktail competition. 

August 24-25 at Sherbourne Common (61 Dockside). $35-$70.


Dance like no one’s watching at Home Brew

Returning for one night only, this inclusive dance party puts racialized, queer and female-identifying artists up front. Home Brew founder, hey! dw, who’s known for her high-energy drum solos overtop EDM hits, headlines the fourth annual edition. DJs Dre Ngozi and Frustra, who spin everything from Afro-house to experimental techno, open the show. Shake off the doldrums of spring by getting your feet loose with this diverse lineup.

June 2 at the Baby G (1608 Dundas West). $10-$15.


Get crafty at Maker Fest

Marvel at some of the city’s most creative people and projects at the Toronto Maker Festival, which takes over the Reference Library for an entire weekend. Help test out homemade robots, take selfies with larger-than-life winged dragons and build miniature figurines and other cool projects. 

July 7-8 at Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge). Free.

Shop with a social mission at the Black Owned Summer Market

Created to support economic growth in the Black community, the Black Owned Summer Market is a one-stop shop for specialized products and services from Black businesses. The market was created by social enterprise Black Owned Unity with the goal of boosting entrepreneurship and helping to reduce the high rates of unemployment and underemployment amongst Black youth in the GTA. Shop from a variety of vendors while enjoying food, music, culture, art and live performances. You can also donate to help fund business development programs to support Black youth entrepreneurs.

June 17 at Artscape Wychwood Barns (601 Christie). Free.

Show off your moves at Salsa On St. Clair

For one weekend in July, a stretch of St. Clair West transforms into a massive Latin party. Dance on the street and feast on pupusas, tacos and empanadas. If you’ve got two left feet, fear not: dance schools will be leading free salsa and bachata lessons all weekend long. 

July 7-8 on St. Clair West, between Winona and Christie. Free.


Mike Ford

Cosplay at Fan Expo Canada

Labour Day weekend is generally a time when Torontonians bolt for a last gasp of cottage country air before September hits. But for thousands of genre movie, anime, cosplay and comic fans, it’s Fan Expo weekend. This year’s edition is going all out with 80s nostalgia: the casts of The Princess Bride and Back To The Future are among the celebrity guests, as are The Fly’s Jeff Goldblum, Stranger Things’ Joe Keery, The Hobbit’s Evangeline Lilly and Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.

August 30-September 2 at Metro Toronto Convention Centre (255 Front West). Passes $25-$569.



Zach Slootsky

Catch rays at Field Trip

It’s a lighter festival season this year, with big events like WayHome taking the year off, but Field Trip has become the most reliable concert of the summer. You know there will be good vibes, good food, plenty of places for kids to play and jam out in their comically oversized headphones, and old favourites providing indie rock nostalgia. This year that’s Metric and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Also catch Alvvays’s sunny melancholy, rapper Noname, stoner rockers Partner and many others. 

June 2-3 at Fort York Garrison Common (250 Fort York). $80-$200.

Take in Drake and Kendrick’s mirror image variety shows

It seems like Drake and Kendrick Lamar have been moving along parallel paths their whole careers, and this year’s summer concert season adds another layer to that. Kendrick has his own version of OVO Fest – TDE: The Championship Tour. Coming to the spiritual home of OVO on June 12, the concert features basically the whole label roster, which is packed with talent: SZA, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and more. Drake, meanwhile, seems to have supplanted his usual variety show blowout with three Toronto stops of his Aubrey And The Three Migos tour at the Air Canada Centre, from August 10-12. Even if it’s not OVO Fest proper, it’s Drake’s big Toronto summer concert, so expect some special guests.

TDE: The Championship tour on June 12 at Budweiser Stage (909 Lake Shore West). $39.50-$175.

Drake and Migos on August 10-12 at Air Canada Centre (40 Bay). $122-$600.


Samuel Engelking

Toronto Jazz Festival, June 22 to July 1

Get specific at genre festivals unbeholden to genres

The big one-size-fits-all destination fests might be dwindling, but there are still a number of nichey genre festivals, and they have more to offer fans of all persuasions than their siloed styles. Toronto Jazz Festival, in addition to bigs like Herbie Hancock, Gregory Porter and Bela Fleck, also features Seal as a headliner and acts like weirdo Toronto indie rockers Weaves and Juno-nominated rapper Clairmont The Second. The purported EDM festival Veld – with headliners DJ Snake, Marshmello and Martin Garrix – meanwhile, is also a snapshot of the most popular rap acts of the moment: Migos, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Lil Yachty, A$AP Ferg and Nav, among others. Then there’s TONE, a festival of avant-garde music that defies all classification. There you can see artists like ambient saxophonist Joseph Shabason, Godspeed You! Black Emperor member-gone-solo Efrim Manuel Menuck and local kraut rock band Fresh Snow. Choices!

TONE runs from June 3-22 at various venues. $10-$18, passes $55-$95.

Toronto Jazz Festival runs from June 22-July 1. Various venues and prices, some shows free.

Veld runs August 4-5 at Downsview Park (70 Canuck). Single-day $110-$120 two-day pass $179.50-$199.50.


Zach Slootsky

NXNE, June 8 to 17

Rock out at NXNE’s return to Yonge-Dundas Square

The festival tried to refashion itself as a destination event at the Port Lands, but after sparse crowds and social media mockery (which it cleverly worked into its marketing) it has returned to its tried-and-true identity: shows at venues throughout the city (June 8-17), and free programming at Yonge-Dundas Square. And it’s going large on the latter – closing off Yonge and building a new stage as part of its Festival Village, then filling it with big-names like Azealia Banks, Jazz Cartier, Chvrches, Big Freedia, Lights and U.S. Girls, to name a few. 

June 15-17 at Yonge-Dundas Square. Free.

Say goodbye to Massey Hall

Don’t panic, it’s not going away forever, it’s just getting a two-year, very expensive makeover. Still, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to send off one of the true legendary concert halls in the city before its slumber. You’ve got a few chances. There will be a big adieu on June 14 with some major Canadian names. And who better to send the venue into hibernation than a Canadian legend who’s played there more times than any other artist? Gordon Lightfoot has graced the stage 166 times, and after June 29, 30 and July 1, it’ll be 169. Hard to think of a more authentic way to spend Canada Day.

June 29-July 1 at Massey Hall (178 Victoria). $37.50-$124.50.


Ded Agency

Get your rave on at Electric Island

The summer music series is back at Hanlan’s Point Beach after a washed-out 2017 season that forced the long-weekend dance parties to relocate to the mainland due to flooding on the Toronto Islands. The events have historically happened on holiday Mondays, but most of the remaining gigs are on weekends, which should be good news for anyone who abhors going back to work hungover. Green Velvet, Sydney Blu, Justin Martin, Jackmaster and Shiba San are among the DJs on this year’s lineup.

July 1, August 11 and September 2-3 at Toronto Islands. Season pass $159.99-$239.99 single tickets $39.99-$59.99.,


Get Pynk at Janelle Monáe

R&B Afrofuturist Janelle Monáe used to be known for her no-nonsense, black-and-white suits. These days, she’s shaking pop culture out of complacency with the pink pussy pants she wore in her Pynk video. This is Monáe’s year. With the release of critically acclaimed third album Dirty Computer, she scored her first number one on Billboard’s top R&B albums and her North American tour is quickly selling out, including her date at Rebel. Resale tickets will run you between $100-$300, but Monáe’s electric live show is worth the investment.

July 16 at Rebel (11 Polson). $110-$338.


Toast the final Warped Tour

The travelling punk festival has a checkered history that’s been unravelling since before #MeToo. It’s also where many teen music fans experienced their first concerts. Before calling it quits, it’s coming to Toronto one more time with a lineup that blends past and present. Older bands include Sum 41, Simple Plan, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake and Silverstein. There are also bands with names that sound like the end of sentences (Every Time I Die, Assuming We Survive, In Hearts Wake) playing sub-genres that you didn’t know were still popular (but have intensely dedicated groups of young fans). It’s a bittersweet end, sure, but don’t pretend you don’t have some nostalgia.

July 17 at Budweiser Stage (909 Lake Shore West). All ages. $59.50-$69.50.


Get educated with Lauryn Hill

The hip-hop/R&B legend is being sampled left and right by the likes of Drake and Cardi B, and though she’s not one for nostalgia – her songs are often totally rearranged when she performs live – she’s getting in on the act. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of her classic/only solo album The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, she’ll be playing it in its entirety. You never know what that might look or sound like, but it’s too tempting to miss.

July 18 at Budweiser Stage (909 Lake Shore West). All ages. $37-$199.


Sing along at Radiohead’s return

They haven’t been here in almost a decade, and for tragic reasons – the last time Radiohead were scheduled to play, in 2012 at Downsview Park, a stage collapse killed their drum tech, Scott Johnson. As a lawsuit against Live Nation crawls through the courts, the veteran British art rock band – maybe the biggest cult band in the world – has stayed away from Toronto. But they’re finally returning, with two shows at Air Canada Centre. It’ll have the air of occasion, for better or for worse. Just be cool and don’t shout a request for Creep. Maybe next time. 

July 19-20 at Air Canada Centre (40 Bay). $79.50-$99.50.


Witness a true legend in David Byrne

It’s not like David Byrne has been hibernating – he’s played in Toronto in recent years in collaboration with St. Vincent and with his Contemporary Color project, which came as part of Luminato in 2015 and in documentary form at Hot Docs 2016. But this year’s American Utopia is the legendary songwriter’s first proper solo album in nearly 15 years, and he’s calling the tour his most ambitious since the Talking Heads’ 1984 Stop Making Sense tour – widely considered one of the best and most inventively staged concerts of all time. And you know when Byrne – one of the most constantly innovating musicians ever – says that, he means it.

August 3-4 at Sony Centre (1 Front East). $61-$402.

Camp WL Stage.jpg

Kyle Laurin

Dance outside at Camp Wavelength 

When flooding kicked Camp Wavelength off the island last summer, the music festival rejigged for the mainland. This year, they’re sticking to dryer pastures and holding the music festival at the intimate, tree-lined park space of Garrison Common. Along with music from Suuns, Chad Vangaalen, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan and Tops, the festival will also feature comedy sets for the first time and grandiose art installations that will conjure the spirit of summer camps. On Saturday night, the festival will stay open for two hours after the last band plays so festival-goers can take in the art after dark. 

August 18-19 at Fort York Garrison Common (250 Fort York). $24-$38 early- bird.

Get out of town at Rasberry Farm

Royal Mountain – the indie rock label started by Hollerado – has been on a major hot streak lately, and so it makes sense they’d want their own version of Arts & Crafts’ Field Trip. The one-day festival actually happens in Hamilton, in an idyllic new venue in the Royal Botanical Garden called Rasberry (no p) Farm, but it’s worth the trip (especially with fewer Toronto options this year). Catch sets by Mac DeMarco, U.S. Girls, Calpurnia (the new band from Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard), plus Ought, Dizzy, Tuns and more. 

September 2 at Rasberry Farm (20 Old Guelph Rd, Hamilton). $52.50.



Fiona Morgan

Have a RIOT at Luminato.

Get arty at Luminato 

The Luminato Festival keeps getting bigger and bolder. Expanding from 10 to 19 days and spread out at venues across downtown, events run the gamut from Irish drag performers in RIOT and Amal Clooney in conversation with veteran journalist (and father-in-law) Nick Clooney, to a contemporary interpretation of Swan Lake and the Canadian debut of Burning Doors, a play from Belarus Free Theatre and Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina. If free events are more your thing – and who doesn’t like free art? – head to Nathan Phillips Square for Le Grand Continental, a dance performance choreographed by Montreal’s Sylvain Émard that features hundreds of Torontonians of varying ages, cultural backgrounds and dance experience. 

June 6-24, various venues and prices, some events free.

Learn how to be Brave

In an age of posting pretty pictures on Instagram and humble-bragging on Twitter, it’s easy to think that everyone’s more successful than you. Now a festival critiques that notion. Brave: The Festival Of Risk And Failure (July 12 to 29), looks at how taking risks, and failing, is important in the creative process. 

Harbourfront Centre presents a lineup of courageous artists, writers, musicians and thinkers who proudly admit to failing and learning from those experiences. Filmmaker John Waters (July 12), singer/songwriter and actor Bif Naked (July 20) and comedian/writer/surgeon Bassem Youssef (July 26) take part in the three week festival. Tickets for these talks go on sale June 8, and many other events during the fest are free.

Brave is in addition to Harbourfront’s many festivals, which include a special Canada Day: One Land, Many Nations weekend (June 29 to July 2), Barbados On The Water (July 7 to 8) and Island Soul (August 3 to 6).

Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W.


See André Sills as Coriolanus at Stratford 

Who knew that the most anticipated production at Stratford would be Shakespeare’s late Roman tragedy about a warrior who’s rejected by the people when he becomes a politician?

But with stage wizard Robert Lepage at the helm and Dora Award–winner Sills – so good at suggesting fury and inner conflict – in the title role, the show is getting huge buzz. The company released a promotional video in the spring, giving viewers a good sense of the raw energy and propulsion of the modern dress production. Previews from June 9, opens June 22 and runs to October 20.

Other anticipated shows at the festival include Martha Henry’s leading turn as Prospero in The Tempest (through October 26) star turns by Dan Chameroy and Daren A. Herbert, respectively, in revivals of The Rocky Horror Show (through October 31) and The Music Man (through November 3) and Seana McKenna and Scott Wentworth leading a production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night (through October 13), considered the greatest American play of the 20th century.


David Cooper

Vanessa Sears as Frieda Flamm (Flaemmchen) with the cast of Grand Hotel, The Musical.

Catch Stephen Fry at Shaw 

If you’ve noticed actor, writer and well-known wit Fry around town (he was recently on a panel about political correctness with none other than Jordan Peterson), it’s probably because he’s kicking off the season at Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Shaw Festival.

Based on his upcoming book, Mythos: A Trilogy – Gods. Heroes. Men. (through July 15) retells the Greek myths and legends to show how they resonate in today’s world. Fry stars in each of them, and apparently will use audience suggestions to decide which tales to tell at any particular show.

The works are self-contained, but completists will want to see them all, and it’s possible to do a Mythos marathon in two days. 

Other festival highlights include Eda Holmes’s production of the lavish musical Grand Hotel (through October 14) Damien Atkins donning the tweed cap as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound Of The Baskervilles (August 1 to October 27) Sarah Ruhl’s postmodern backstage romantic comedy Stage Kiss (through September 1) and the Ravi Jain-directed play The Orchard (After Chekhov) (June 7 to September 1), Sarena Parmar’s version of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard in which a Punjabi-Sikh family try to hold on to their Okanagan Valley orchard.


Morro and Jasp clown around again at the Fringe this July.

Find hidden gems at Fringe 

The Fringe of Toronto turns 30 this year, and like anyone entering a new decade, they’re going through some changes.

For one, they’ve finally upped the ticket price – only by $1. So, with service charges, each show is now $13. But new this year are $8 preview tickets. And, like last year, there are some day-of discounts for shows at $8. 

And a handful of their shows are happening outside the downtown core. 

There are too many exciting shows and artists to mention – check out NOW’s Fringe coverage starting in late June. 

But in the meantime keep in mind that shows by or starring the following are sure to be hits: Morro And Jasp, Kevin Wong and Julie Tepperman, SOULO Theatre, Ashley Botting, Paula Wolfson, Steven Gallagher and Nicky Phillips, Ryan G. Hinds, Tom McGee and Theatre Brouhaha, Danny Pagett, Briana Brown and Janelle Hanna, Jason DeRosse and Stacey McGunnigle, Barbara Johnston and Anika Johnson, Gillian Bartolucci, Pete Johansson and Katharine Ferns.

Finally, one of the ballsiest acts at the Fringe (literally) is the all-male sketch troupe TallBoyz II Men, co-starring last year’s Fringe sensation Franco Nguyen. They’ve called their show A 6ix NNNNNN Revue. Let’s hope they all are, folks.

July 4-15.

Take in Shakespeare outdoors 

It’s not summer unless you’ve taken in a play by the Bard under the stars and moon. 

Canadian Stage’s offerings this summer should make great use of the comfy High Park Amphitheatre. 

Tanja Jacobs, who helmed a witty Twelfth Night last summer, directs what is surely the most produced al fresco offering of all time: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And Frank Cox-O’Connell, who played Hamlet in 2016, directs Romeo And Juliet

It’ll be fun to see David Patrick Flemming (What A Young Wife Ought To Know) and Rachel Cairns (Bunny) play both the title characters in Romeo And Juliet and two of the Dream’s young lovers, Lysander and Helena.

Rising star Peter Fernandes (Jerusalem, Onegin) was born to play Dream’s Puck, and Jason Cadieux, who’s done some great comic work recently (The Wedding Party) should shine as Bottom.

Meanwhile, the intense Mac Fyfe, best known for his work with VideoCabaret, is perfect for the chatty Mercutio. His scenes with Tybalt (the gifted Jakob Ehman) should be electric.

June 28-September 2, running in rep. Pwyc-$25 (for reserved seats).

At the opposite side of the city in Withrow Park, Shakespeare in the Ruff presents a unique take on one of the Bard’s Roman plays.

Titled Portia’s Julius Caesar and featuring new writing (about 50 per cent) by SitR’s artistic director, Kaitlyn Riordan (so good recently in Maggie & Pierre), this outdoor production examines the story from the perspective of its women.

Eva Barrie directs what’s sure to be a Caesar unlike any you’ve ever seen. 

August 16-September 3. 



Artistic director Laura Nanni has waived the SummerWorks entrance fee for artists this year, which should result in a more diverse program.

Find surprises at SummerWorks

The SummerWorks Performance Festival has always been a great launching pad for innovative work. The fact that it’s curated usually results in a fest with a definite point of view and certain level of polish.

This year, artistic director Laura Nanni has decided to waive the $700 entrance fee for artists. That should open the fest up to a wider range of people who have talent but fewer financial resources.

According to a festival insider, that decision will likely affect the number of shows in the festival. But there will be lots of experimental works, including many that fuse technology and live performance. And the Lab series will be beefed up.

One of the more intriguing shows is called 4inXchange, created by Jordan Campbell, Maddie Bautista and Katherine Walker-Jones. A sort of social experiment, the show examines what four audience members would do with $1,000. Invest it? Give it back? Donate somewhere?

Other highlights include a new work by site-specific legends bluemouth inc., a dance piece by Alyssa Martin and Rock Bottom Movement, a new work by ace storyteller Graham Isador and two intriguing collaborations: novelist Brian Francis (Natural Order) and writer/director Rob Kempson (Maggie & Pierre, Mockingbird) are paired up for a show, and so are actor/writer Shira Leuchter (The Tin Drum) and actor Michaela Washburn (VideoCab’s Confederation).

Since they’re not using the Factory Theatre this season, the fest will shift further westward, and the hub will likely be the Theatre Centre.

August 9-19. The full program will be announced in June.

art & books


Expand your mind at the Herpen/Beesley exhibitions

Canadian architect Philip Beesley and Dutch fashion designer Iris Van Herpen are frequent collaborators and this summer they have parallel exhibitions going up at the Royal Ontario Museum. After the Dior show earlier this year, the ROM returns to the world of couture with Herpen, the first designer to use 3D printing tech for a fashion collection. Transforming Fashion revisits her 2008-2015 collections with an emphasis on the tech she uses to push feminine forms in new directions.

Meanwhile, Beesley’s complementary exhibition Transforming Space includes web-like “responsive” installations – or living architecture – that pulse and breathe thanks to artificial intelligence.

June 2-October 8 at the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen’s Park). $19-$30.


Take selfies with the art of Banksy, unauthorized

It’s the year of art stars. After the AGO’s sold-out Yayoi Kusama exhibition, another art-world craze is a-coming: a Banksy retrospective organized by the mysterious British street artist’s ex-dealer without his blessing. The Art Of Banksy, which has been touring the world, makes its North American debut in a “raw space” on Sterling for four weeks and is billed as the largest Banksy exhibit ever assembled. The artist might be anti-establishment, but this is probably the most commercial art show – and certainly the biggest – happening in town this summer.

June 13-July 11 at 213 Sterling. $35.


Ian Lefebvre

Experience the north through art at Tunirrusiangit

Two generations of Canadian Inuit artists will exhibit together in the AGO’s major summer exhibition, Tunirrusiangit, which translates to “what they gave us” in Inuktitut. Known as the “grandmother of Inuit art”, Kenojuak Ashevak’s vivid prints and drawings will show alongside her nephew, Tim Pitsiulak’s large-scale, pencil-coloured images of northern wildlife. As well as being the first major gallery retrospective of Pitsiulak’s work, it’s also the first exhibition from the AGO’s newly formed department of Canadian and Indigenous Art. 

June 16-August 12 at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West). $11-$19.50.

Get schooled on disaster capitalism with Naomi Klein

Canadian journo and activist Naomi Klein continues reporting on the ways governments and corporations exploit disasters and wars to push through radical right-wing policies, like privatizing New Orleans’s public school system in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Klein anticipated “disaster capitalists” would flock to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria last September – and she was right. The resulting book, The Battle For Paradise, is out June 15 and on June 27 she’ll launch the book in Toronto with a panel discussion featuring journalist Anwar Knight and writer/academic Rinaldo Walcott.

June 27, at Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West). $10 suggested donation.

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Support local artists at the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair

The country’s longest-running juried outdoor art fair returns rebranded with a new logo and name (it was the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition). The 57th year will showcase 350 contemporary artists, who will be selling work from booths at the foot of city hall. Food trucks and a beer garden will be on hand throughout the event. 

July 6-8 at Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen West). Free.



Red Desert

Cool down with classics at the TIFF Bell Lightbox

A touring version of the Museum of Modern Art’s 2017 retrospective of Michelangelo Antonioni is one of two film programs that stand out among TIFF Cinematheque’s summer season. The art house hasn’t done a retro of the influential Italian filmmaker since before it moved to TIFF Bell Lightbox in 2010, so if you haven’t seen classics like Red Desert, L’Eclisse or Zabriskie Point on the big screen, prioritize this series.

Elaine May’s directorial career has yielded only four films, but the comedy legend maintains a devout following among critics and film students. With many reassessing the ways Hollywood has failed to foster female directorial talent, this nine-film retro of May’s directing, acting and screenwriting career couldn’t be better timed. Key films to check out include May’s 1971 cringe comedy classic A New Leaf and her 1987 musical masterpiece Ishtar.

Modernist Master: Michelangelo Antonioni, June 6-July 21 and Funny Girl: The Films Of Elaine May, June 8-30, both at TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King West).


Ladies first at Ocean’s 8

Sandra Bullock is Debbie Ocean, an ex-con who’s out to pull off the greatest robbery of her career: a raid on the priceless jewellery sported by celebrities at the Met Gala. But first she’ll have to assemble a crew of experts to plan the job, avoid detection and get away clean.

If this sounds familiar, it’s supposed to: Ocean’s 8 is a female flip on Steven Soderbergh’s all-star Ocean’s movies, with Bullock in the Clooney role of ringmaster and Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina and Rihanna – yes, fricking Rihanna – as her crew.

Will anyone from the previous trilogy turn up? Who knows? Maybe Don Cheadle will drop by to annoy everyone with that accent.

Opens June 8

Get your superhero kick at Incredibles 2

It’s been 14 years since Brad Bird’s The Incredibles blasted its way onto the list of superhero delights, and demonstrated that Pixar Animation is utterly without equal in its chosen field.

But no time at all has passed for the characters, and so Incredibles 2 picks up with Craig T. Nelson’s Mr. Incredible tending to super-baby Jack-Jack while Holly Hunter’s Elastigirl is out saving the world for a change. Samuel L. Jackson and Sarah Vowell return as Frozone and Violet, and Better Call Saul besties Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks join the voice cast along with Catherine Keener and Isabella Rossellini.

Let’s see if anyone is dumb enough to wear a cape this time around.

Opens June 15

Dance, queen, at the Mamma Mia sequel

It probably says something about pop culture eating itself that one of this summer’s most anticipated movies is a sequel to the big-screen adaptation of an ABBA jukebox musical.

Do we need to spend two hours finding out what happened to Donna as a young woman? Are there enough recognizable ABBA songs for a second film? Does Baby Driver’s Lily James look even the slightest bit like a young Meryl Streep? Does any of it matter?

Based on the way audiences responded to Cher’s appearance in the trailer the three times I’ve seen it, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is going to be massive. 

Opens July 20

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Christie Pits Film Festival, June to August

Get outside for a free flick

Every year around this time, the city lights up with free outdoor screening – and there’s something for everyone. Depending on your mood and how far you’re willing to travel, you can lose yourself in crowd-pleasers or disappear into something deeper and more thoughtful. Here’s a quick rundown of the biggest programs. (And yes, we usually include Harbourfront Centre’s Wednesday-night Free Flicks series, but no information was available at press time.)

Yonge-Dundas Square’s Tuesday evening City Cinema program is dedicated to rockumentaries this year, so wear your favourite band tee and try to keep the smell of pot to a minimum.

Get rolling June 26 with Festival Express, the 2003 celebration of 60s folk rock other highlights include the tribute concert Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (July 10), the exhilarating Funk Brothers doc of Standing In The Shadows Of Motown (July 17) and Morgan Neville’s Oscar-winning examination of backup singers 20 Feet From Stardom (July 31). It wraps up August 28 with last year’s Tragically Hip curtain call Long Time 

The St. Lawrence Market BIA has lined up three screenings in St. James Park: a Pride Week screening of Kissing Jessica Stein (June 21) preceded by a drag show on the Gazebo Stage Coco (July 26) and Breaking Away (August 23).

The Aga Khan Museum brings back its Dancing In The Park series, with Saturday night outdoor screenings of La La Land (July 7) and The Wiz (August 4). 

Christie Pits Film Festival’s theme for this year is Cinematic Cities, spotlighting a different metropolis every Sunday night.

First up is Baltimore, as seen in John Waters’s Hairspray (June 24) then it’s Toronto via Sarah Goodman’s Porch Stories on Canada Day (July 1). Other destinations include Hong Kong in In The Mood For Love (July 15), Paris in Amélie (August 5) and Vienna in Before Sunrise (August 12).

Every film will be preceded by at least one short, and the whole thing closes with a surprise screening on August 19. As always, this series is free/pwyc, with donations welcome. 

Coast into Sail-in Cinema 

Start making friends with Torontonians who own sail boats: this August, Sail-In Cinema is back on Lake Ontario. Movies will be shown on a massive two-sided screen set atop a barge in Toronto Harbour. You have until July 12 to vote for the two movies that will be screened. (As of our publishing deadline, Space Jam and Guardians Of The Galaxy are leading the pack, which are two good picks to watch under the stars). If your mission to find a friend with a boat fails, you can watch from Sugar Beach. 

August 10-11 at Sugar Beach (25 Dockside). Free. | @nowtoronto

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