Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for August 2018:
Many top touring acts are headlining various Montreal concert venues this month. Highlights include The Smashing Pumpkins (August 7), Colombian pop icon Shakira (August 8) and the massive Deep Purple and Judas Priest double-header (August 29) at the Bell centre, while ZZ Top rocks Place Bell on August 17.
Other legends headed to Montreal this month include The Flaming Lips at MTELUS (August 20) and roots-reggae pioneer Toots and The Maytals for what promises to be a memorable concert at the Corona Theatre on August 11. The soul-and-gospel drenched vocals of Toots Hibbert remain as vital today as they were 50 years ago. A must-see for reggaephiles desperate for a hit in this reggae-starved city.
Boy George and Culture Club (pictured at top) will headline the 14th annual Strangers in the Night Gourmet Charity Gala on August 25. I recently asked Boy George about his lost peers from the 1980s: Michael Jackson, George Michael, Prince and Whitney Houston. How does he feel about being a survivor and elder statesman of the ’80s?
George, who has had drug problems of his own in the past, replied, “I try to not make other people’s lives about me, do you know what I mean? Everybody has their own journey. It’s a strange question because I never really think about it from my point of view. (I think my surviving) is good luck.”
The 14th annual Strangers in the Night Gourmet Charity Gala at the Pierrefonds-Roxboro Borough Hall on August 25 will benefit the Miriam Foundation, Lymphoma Canada and The West Island Woman’s Shelter.
Meanwhile, Osheaga returns to Parc Jean-Drapeau from August 3 to 5. Headliners this year are Travis Scott (August 3), Arctic Monkeys (August 4) and Florence + The Machine (August 5). My money is on 1970s New Wave and punk pioneers Blondie, featuring iconic lead singer Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein, who hit the stage at 5:30 pm on the Saturday (August 4).
The following weekend at Parc Jean-Drapeau, on August 11 and 12, it’s the turn of the îleSoniq electronic music festival, who are bringing in such favourites as The Chainsmokers, Diplo and DJ Snake.
Local show of note: Montreal singer-songwriter Paul Cargnello will be joined by a who’s who of Montreal’s RnB scene to perform songs from his superb new funk-and-soul album MTL RNB, at a free outdoor concert at Parc Notre-Dame-de-Grace on August 4 at 7 pm, part of the excellent Concerts Campbell summer series. I think it’s safe to say Paul will be joined by such local heavyweights as Christopher Cargnello, AIZA, Fredy V. and Sarah MK who sings lead vocals on Between Us, my favourite track from the LP and already my fave dance track of 2018.
For the seventh year running, the OSM Classical Spree (better known by its French-language moniker La Virée Classique) will bring classical music to the masses via more than 30 affordable concerts – each lasting between 45 and 60 minutes – as well as an assortment of free activities, from August 29 to September 2.
It all gets underway with Grammy-winning Maestro Kent Nagano and the OSM’s annual free concert on the Esplanade of Olympic Stadium on August 29 beginning at 8 pm. The orchestra will be joined by the Cirque Éloize to present The Thousand and One Nights with Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous symphonic suite Scheherazade.
ART AND MUSEUMS
Visitors can reflect on the ‘decolonization of the colonial gaze’ and perceptions of identity, aesthetics and culture through two exhibitions presented side-by-side in a continuous layout at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: From Africa to the Americas: Face-to-Face Picasso, Past and Present and Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art
The Pablo Picasso exhibition explores changing views of the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas from the end of the 19th century to the present day via the life and work of Picasso (1881-1973). Throughout the show, works by contemporary artists of African descent provide a counterpoint. The exhibition features 300 works and documents, including some 100 works by Picasso (30 of them being exhibited in Canada for the first time) – paintings, sculptures, ceramics and works on paper.
In a complementary layout, the Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art exhibition (included in the entrance fee) challenges preconceived notions of Blackness in Canada through the work of 11 contemporary artists: Sandra Brewster, Sylvia D. Hamilton, Chantal Gibson, Bushra Junaid, Charmaine Lurch, Esmaa Mohamoud, Michèle Pearson Clarke and Gordon Shadrach, as well as Montrealers Eddy Firmin a.k.a. Ano, Manuel Mathieu and Shanna Strauss. The artists express a multitude of viewpoints on the place of Canadians of African descent.
Both exhibitions continue at the MMFA until September 16.
Since 1955, the World Press Photo Foundation has recognized the world’s best photographers and producers in its annual World Press Photo Contest that drew 73,044 submitted images from 4,548 photographers from 125 countries for their 2018 edition. A group of internationally recognized professionals in the fields of photojournalism and documentary photography convened in Amsterdam to judge all entries. The prize-winning photographs and the best of the rest are assembled into an exhibition that travels to 100 locations in 45 countries, including at World Press Photo Montréal at Bonsecours Market from August 29 to September 30. The Montreal stop will also exhibit Alexandre Champagne’s photographs of the aftermath of the January 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting.
Over at the McCord Museum, Cristóbal Balenciaga – legendary Spanish fashion designer and founder of the Balenciaga fashion house – gets the career retrospective treatment in the North American premiere of Balenciaga, Master of Couture, a major fashion exhibition organized by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Over 100 haute-couture garments and hats are on display, plus sketches, photographs and fabric samples contextualize the garments and patterns, and x-rays, toiles and film reveal details in their construction and making. Balenciaga, Master of Couture continues at the McCord to October 14.
Then at the Reginald Dawson Gallery in TMR, check out artist Roger Guetta‘s Interpretography retrospective of his iPhone generated images printed in various sizes and on different materials, including canvas, metal and traditional frames. Guetta embraces current technologies to create ethereal, painterly images across different themes from portraiture to flower studies to inviting beach interpretations. Each blended and reconstructed to breath new life onto familiar subjects. Runs from August 2 to September 2.
Over at Cinema du Parc, take in a little history at the Quebec Gay Archives AIDS Posters exhibition in the theatre lobby. The Quebec Gay Archives has over 600 posters on AIDS produced around the world. From this collection, 15 classic posters will be on display at Cinéma du Parc daily from noon to 8:30 pm, August 1 to 31. Free admission.
For its 30th anniversary season, Repercussion Theatre presents Romeo & Juliet: Love is Love in Montreal parks to August 8, including Parc Jeanne-Mance on August 7 and Olympic Park in HoMa on August 8.
As usual, the troupe draw lots to decide who plays which roles and as luck would have it this time, Romeo and Juliet will be portrayed by women – Michelle Rambharose as Juliet and Shauna Thompson as Romeo – among other chance gender-bent character assignations.
Says director Amanda Kellock, “This play in particular has often had a ‘queer’ element to it, whether it was the Elizabethan custom of men portraying all of the female roles or the Cushman sisters in the 1800s, who took the world by storm with their interpretation of the play. It’s been such a joy to explore the various ways that identity and desire are experienced and expressed in our production. Wouldn’t it be great if the play finally taught us to let people love who they want to love?”
All shows begin at 7pm. For park details and maps, visit repercussiontheatre.com.
August is Pride month in Montreal, so there are many Off-Pride theatre productions being mounted in theatres throughout the city, including playwright / director Dane Stewart’s 2017 play The History of Sexuality at Cinquieme Salle at Place des Arts from August 9 to 12. The play and its nine-person cast offer an intimate and radically honest examination of sex and power from a queer perspective. The characters expose the complexities of sexuality as it collides with kink, BDSM, disability, race, gender, and sex work.
Brave New Productions presents the Canadian premiere of Tony-nominated playwright Martin Sherman’s 2017 Off-Broadway play Gently Down The Stream, a love story about the triumphs and heartbreaks of the entire length of the gay rights movement, celebrating and mourning the ghosts of the men and women who led the way for equality, marriage and the right to dream. The play runs at MainLine Theatre from August 2 to 11.
Toronto theatre company lemonTree presents MSM [men seeking men], their critically-acclaimed dance/theatre piece inspired by transcripts of online conversations between men who seek other men, playing at the MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels) in the Plateau, August 16 and 17 at 8 pm.
The vibrant Montréal kiki ballroom community will stomp and vogue down the runway at Fierté Montréal Pride’s POP Kiki Ball with the “Mother of Montreal” Gerard X Reyes and three special guests from the New York and Philadelphia kiki scenes: Juss Precious, MikeQ and the legendary Mother Chi Chi Mizrahi. It all happens August 12 from 5 to 11 pm at Parc des Faubourgs. Free admission.
Every summer for the last 13 years, Place de la Paix has drawn cinephiles to watch movies outdoors at Cinéma Urbain, which takes place each Tuesday at 9 pm to September 4. Taking its cues from international film festivals, the Société des arts technologiques (SAT) has programmed everything from Hollywood classics to acclaimed documentaries. Films being screened include Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing (August 7), Syrian film-maker Ziad Kalthoum’s doc Taste of Cement (August 28) and Martin Scorcese’s The Last Waltz (September 4). Click here for the whole line-up.
Do not miss the one-night-only screening of director John Trengove’s award-winning 2017 South African drama The Wound (Inxeba) which tells the story of two gay men who put their lives on the line for love, and criticizes a tribal ritual called Ukwaluka in which boys are circumcised and initiated into manhood. Despite accolades at the Sundance Film Festival and being short-listed for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category, the film was so controversial in South Africa that the film’s openly-gay star, South African writer, actor and singer Nakhané Touré, had to move to London.
The film screens in The Salon in the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on August 15 at 7 pm. Free admission, but you must reserve a ticket online for which there is a $5 service charge.
Meanwhile, Nakhané – also an acclaimed live performer whose stunning falsetto reminds me of Terence Trent D’Arby – will perform a much-anticipated set at the Mile Ex End Montréal music festival on September 1.
Renowned Montreal writers H. Nigel Thomas, Horace Goddard and Maguy Métellus co-host Lectures Logos Readings, the monthly bilingual reading series of poetry, fiction and spoken word at the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A. Hall at 2741 Notre Dame St. W.) in Little Burgundy, August 13 from 7 to 9 pm. The guest readers this month are Phyllis Aronoff, Howard Scott, Garbette Garraway, Aparna sanya, and Karine Constant-Dejean, followed by an open mic. The event is free, but a small donation is welcome.
On Saturday, August 11, the Grande Bibliothèque’s Espace Jeunes hosts an hour of storytelling for kids aged three to five with Montreal drag queen Barbada de Barbades, from 10:30 to 11:30 am. Free admission.
The following day, at 10:45 am on Sunday, August 12, The Queerest Little Ledo and La Petite Librairie D&Q present the second edition of the bi-monthly Rainbow Story Hour – a queer Montreal twist on Drag Queen Story Hours in other cities – featuring local LGBTQ drag queens, comedians, advocates, performers and celebrities, at the Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore in Mile End. This edition features comedian Tranna Wintour, nine-year-old drag sensation Lactatia, as well as transgender creator and popular YouTuber Aaron Ansuini. Children of all ages welcome. Free admission.
Montreal’s The Violet Hour queer reading series welcomes, among others, writer Rachel Giese who’ll be reading from Boys: What It Means to Become a Man, at gay male strip joint Stock Bar on August 14 beginning at 6 pm. Admission: $5 PWYC.
Montreal playwright and screenwriter Steve Galluccio will sit down for a public Q&A with author Denis-Martin Chabot, at Bar le Cocktail, August 16 from 7 to 9 pm. Free admission.
Incidentally, this past May, I snapped a photo of (full disclosure: my old friend) Steve with Quebecois literary icon Michel Tremblay who helped launch Steve’s career into the stratosphere when he translated Steve’s signature play Mambo Italiano into French when it was staged at Théâtre Jean-Duceppe in 2001. Many years later, when I asked Michel about translating Steve’s play, he replied, “I’m really not that generous, but when you see an exceptional talent, why not bow to it and help them? I’ve never been threatened by talent.”
I attended opening night of Cavalia’s acclaimed show Odysseo under the world’s largest big-top tent on St-Catherine Street near the Jacques Cartier bridge. And I liked it a lot, especially the jaw-dropping multi-media set. Blending equestrian arts with imaginative stagecraft, acrobatic feats and cutting-edge technical effects, this multi-million dollar extravaganza truly expands the concept of the theatrical experience. Odysseo runs to September 3.
A choice summertime destination, the Jardins Gamelin returns to Place Émilie-Gamelin at the western end of the Gay Village, just outside the Berri-UQAM metro station, to September 30. Les Jardins Gamelin is essentially an oversize patio (or “terrasse” as locals call them) covered by a spectacular suspended sculpture that forms a luminous canopy. The site opens daily at 7 am and features bar services at its snack bar, which opens weekdays from 11 am to 11 pm and from 9 am to 11 pm on weekends. Click here to check out the daily cultural programming, including renowned DJs and live performances. Free admission.
Fierté Montréal Pride is the largest LGBTQ Pride in all of Canada and will take place at the Parc des Faubourgs from August 9 to 19. In 2017, some 2.7 million visitors attended their historic Canada Pride edition, and this year hundreds of thousands of partygoers are expected to attend more than 150 events – including free outdoor concerts, literary readings, theatre performances and great parties – during the 11-day-long festival, notably Fierté Montréal Pride’s three flagship events: Community Day on August 18, along Saint Catherine Street East in the Village; the ever-popular Pride Parade on August 19 at 1 pm; and the iconic Mega T-Dance at the Parc des Faubourgs beginning at 3 pm.
The August 19 parade begins at 1 pm and runs east along René-Lévesque Boulevard from downtown Metcalfe to Alexandre-de-Seve streets. The crowds lining the 2.7 kilometre parade route are thinner at the beginning of the parade and get extremely crowded near the end. So pick a good spot to watch the parade – such as around Bleury Street where spectators can sit on the grassy hill at the SNC Lavalin Park – and go early.
This year’s six grand marshals include out Olympian Gus Kenworthy and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a trans veteran of the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
Do not forgot to observe the Moment of Silence at 2:30 pm, to honour LGBTQ pioneers and those we have lost to violence and AIDS.