Bend it like Beckett
Winnie, the central character in Samuel Beckett 's Happy Days , spends the entire show buried in sand. Nonetheless, it's considered the philosophical Beckett's most cheerful play, since Winnie - an irrepressible optimist - keeps up her daily routines and goes on about how good life is. It's a tour-de-force role, and the Soulpepper production, with direction and set design by Vikki Anderson , features founding member Martha Burns as Winnie and Michael Simpson as her husband. Previews from July 7, opens July 16 at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen's Quay West). 416-973-4000.
Toronto's Fringe Festival turns 15 and celebrates with the biggest fest ever, featuring 125 local, national and international shows. Starting July 2 and continuing for 12 busy, get-your-running-shoes-on days, catch cutting-edge works at 10 indoor festival theatres and 11 bring-your-own-venue sites around town. Royal St. George (120 Howland), St. Vladimir's (620 Spadina), Glen Morris Studio (4 Glen Morris), Artword (75 Portland), Factory Theatre Studio and Mainspace (125 Bathurst), Robert Gill (214 College), George Ignatieff (15 Devonshire), Helen Gardiner Playhouse (79A St. George) and Palmerston Library (560 Palmerston). 416-966-1062.
When it's bad, it's terrible, but when it works, improv comedy puts every other kind of performance to shame with its in-the-moment brilliance and invention. Last year's Jamboree Improv Festival introduced the city to great comics from all over North America, including Chicago's fishing-buddy improvisers BassProv and Andrew Eninger , whose solo on-the-spot pieces resemble plays more than anything from Whose Line Is It Anyway? Both return to this year's fest, which is bigger than before and performed on two stages. Local lights include Slap Happy , the Second City , TheatreSports , Alumni Café , the Impatients and Tonto's Nephews . August 11 to 17 at the Poor Alex (296 Brunswick), lunchtime performance at the TD Centre (66 Wellington West). www.torontoimprovfest.com
If you like your art al fresco, there's no better event than Dusk Dances, which brings dance to two of the city's most popular parks just as the sun sets. Clown-trained host David Danzon leads audiences through the ups and downs of the program of five 10-minute pieces at both Dufferin Grove Park and Withrow Park. This year's lineup of 10 choreographers includes Yvonne Ng , Matjash Mrozewski and Nova Bhattacharya , and novelties include Montreal's hiphop and breakdance Rubberbandance Group , a duet choreographed by the National Ballet's Rebekah Rimsay , a mixed-ability piece by Eryn Dace Trudell and something by two-time world champion North American Indian hoop dancer Lisa Odjig . Sounds cool - and you'll be, too, not stuck inside a hot theatre. July 8 to 13 (Dufferin) and July 15 to 20 (Withrow). 416-516-4025.
The best way to find out what's happening on the cutting edges of the dance scene is to check out the fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists , better known as fFIDA . This year's crop of choreographers hail from around the world, including Japan, Australia, Nigeria and even Beamsville, Ontario. As for Toronto dance artists, well-known vets like Christopher House , Viv Moore and D.A. Hoskins rub shoulders and shins with should-be-better-known artists like Lucy Rupert , Samara Thompson and Kate Story . August 5 to 17 at the Winchester Street Theatre (80 Winchester), the new Dancemakers Studio (55 Mill) and Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). 416-410-4291. http://ffida.edionysus.com