Some Theatre Recommendations for Toronto’s Next Mayor

For those blissfully unaware, there’s an election for the next mayor of Toronto in just one week.

It’s an important election for a number of reasons. There’s no incumbent, meaning the electoral field is wide open, and the scale is huge compared to past elections: there are seven or so front-runners on a ballot of over 102 candidates (including a dog). 

Whoever next steps into the city’s top job has their work cut out for them — the last mayor left in disgrace at the height of a scandal, and the guy before… well, you remember.

At Intermission, we’re obviously concerned about Toronto’s arts and culture scene. We care about how theatre and other performing arts in this city are funded, and how they’re supported by our elected officials. We care about arriving at opening nights on time without wasting hours in traffic or on the TTC. As an all-female team, we care about being able to walk home safely.

We understand, perhaps better than most, that live theatre has the capacity to change minds, shape narratives, and alter the world around us. Toronto’s next mayor needs to be empathetic to a huge, diverse community — they also need to be able to bear witness to the sorts of ground-breaking stories, real and imagined, that routinely take place on this city’s stages.

So, Toronto’s next mayor, we at Intermission have some viewing recommendations. Who knows? You might be a better leader having seen them.

The Master Plan — Crow’s Theatre

What’s fun about this one is the number of mayoral candidates who might have actually inspired its source material. The Master Plan is adapted from journalist Josh O’Kane’s book, Sideways: The City Google Couldn’t Buy. Remember when the partnership between Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto was almost a thing? Well, this fall you’ll get to see that fiasco dramatized at one of Canada’s leading theatre companies, in a promising adaptation by Michael Healey.

Rent — Stratford Festival

Every mayoral candidate should take a day to go see Rent at the Stratford Festival. Though its setting is downtown Manhattan circa 1996, the themes of lack of affordable housing, gentrification, and an impossibly high cost of living resonate deeply in today’s Toronto. Keeping the city an affordable and humane place to live needs to be the top of our next mayor’s agenda.

Wildwoman — Soulpepper

Wildwoman follows Catherine de Medici and two other strong women in the 16th century court of King Henry II as they navigate survival in a patriarchal world. This and the fact that it’s written and directed by the same badass woman, Kat Sandler, reflects the enduring strength and resilience of  female voices. Maybe if we say “Kat Sandler” and “mayor” enough in the same breath, she’ll get the hint and run next time. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream — Dream in High Park

The last several months at City Hall have been spent bickering about High Park, from its traffic to its speed cameras to the recent rash of random and extreme TTC violence at its subway station. Mayoral candidates should come and be reminded of one of the things that makes High Park wonderful: Canadian Stage’s annual summertime Shakespeare production, recently rebranded as Dream in High Park. 

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the park’s theatrical programming, Dream presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the same play that launched the event in 1983. Year after year, Dream in High Park has brought communities from across Toronto and the GTA together to enjoy exceptional storytelling and an idyllic escape from the clamour of city life.

Universal Child Care — Canadian Stage

The cost of childcare — never mind access to childcare in general — remains a huge issue for Toronto.  A society that doesn’t support accessible and affordable childcare creates impediments to full participation in society for women, along with a waterfall of financial, professional, and psychological issues for women and families.

From the brilliant team who created Mouthpiece – now both mothers themselves – this new piece takes a deeply personal look at an issue that’s dogged every level of politics in this country. 

Richard Three — Shakespeare in the Ruff

Disability takes centre stage in this year’s summer offering from Shakespeare in the Ruff, staged at the heart of one of Toronto’s largest multi-purpose outdoor spaces, Withrow Park. The show challenges tropes and analyzes alternative perspectives as two ideologically opposing Richards must learn to work together to secure the crown in Ruff’s reimagining of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Perhaps our candidates could learn a thing or two about the quest for power. Either way, it’s grassroots campaigning at its finest!

Election Day is June 26. You can find out more about the Toronto mayoral election here.

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