LuminaTO, Toronto's Festival of Arts + Creativity, runs from June 5-14, 2009, animating downtown venues and locales with a veritable plethora of events and happenings in visual arts, literature, theatre, film, music and dance. It's only the third year for what has grown into a much hyped and touted arts event, the recipient of millions of dollars in government funding. That funding includes a long term provincial commitment said to be about $15 million - a fact that has many of this country's smaller arts organizations griping - the pie is only so big, after all. As an artist who's never benfitted from government help, (I did try, more than once!) I hesitate to get into what I find an annoyingly Canadian debate, although I will digress for a moment to say, for the record, that I'm forever indebted to our separatist Bloc Quebecois Party for making funding for the arts a national issue in the last federal election - God love the French! It's hard to argue, however, with the Festival's success and popularity with the masses, or with people who've brought Laurie Anderson and Philip Glass to town. And some of that cash actually goes towards commissioning original works, among them Not the Messiah, a spoof cooked up by Eric Idle and his cousin, (and here's a nice "did you know that" moment,) Peter Oundjian, who happens to be conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The show toured Australia and the U.S. after its premiere here in TO, and that's Eric singing the Galaxy Song from the finale at a California performance below. (btw - TO is short for Toronto for the uninitiated).
Anyway, the program is naturally vast, wide ranging and way too much to cover in a blog post, so here is some of what I really like about the line-up:
- Under Music - The Guitar Festival, with highlights Three Girls and Their buddy (with Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin & Buddy Miller), and Taj Mahal, a legendary old school blues player as part of The Traveling Blues
- Under literature, a public Q&A with scifi writer Neil Gaiman, a Newberry Award winner. His new book is The Graveyard Book - but he's probably better known for Coraline (Harper Collins) - he also writes for comics! It's part of this year's gothy theme.
- Under theatre, Lipsynch, a 9 hour (not a typo!) multimedia performance by Robert Lepage (image above) - sounds like something only for theatre diehards, I know, but Lepage's stuff is quite haunting, usually (see the trailer for 2003's Far Side of the Moon), and after playing in London, The Independent called it "Mind-blowing, heart-breaking, hilarious and beautiful beyond words." It looks at voices in various permutations, some lipsynched, some live, including singers, voice actors, radio broadcasts, sound engineers in stories with themes of parenthood, adoption, and, naturally, the search for a voice
- Lots of free stuff, including many of the films (at the cool high tech National Film Board Mediatheque facility, a fave stop of mine downtown)
- Lots of stuff for kids so the parental types don't have to sit it out
- The way they've tied themes together, like showing the kiddies animated Poe films, and staging A Poe Cabaret: A Dream Within A Dream by Buddies in Bad Times Theatre an alternative theatre group notorious for raunchy offerings and "work that challenges the boundaries of theatrical and social convention".
- Also of note - the first in a multi-year collaboration with noted U.S. based The Atlantic Magazine, bringing a panel discussion on "Why Fiction Matters", along with 25,000 free copies of their 2009 Summer Fiction issue.
Me? I'll be dancing at Light On Your Feet, which turns a downtown square into a dancehall with live music and dance lessons early in the night.