Town & Country

26 August 2014 — Country comes first. On Saturday my partner Nigel & I drive a couple of hours N/E of Toronto to a farm outside the community of Millbrook. More specifically, to the 4th Line Theatre, which since 1992 has developed & presented Canadian historical dramas in open-air productions on that site each summer.

Show starts at 6, we arrive in good time to collect & enjoy our picnic-basket dinners & still have time for a walk on the property.

trail on 4th Line Theatre property

Howling wolf points the way, and we not only get to see & sniff nature’s late-season splendour, we have our first glimpse, albeit it sideways, of the barn-cum-stage.

4th Line Theatre, from field

Friends have given good reports of both the theatre set-up and its productions, we’re eager for both. Tonight’s show, Wounded Soldiers, is the second of the two plays being offered this season —  a vignette set in England in 1915, when increasing numbers of asylums (“lunatic asylums,” in the language of the day) were being converted for military use as war wounded began to overwhelm the country’s other facilities.

main stage, 4th Line Theatre

No photography during the performance, so here’s the audience arriving. Perhaps half — including us — find seats in the covered seating section, the rest take their weather chances along with the cast. (If a performance absolutely must be cancelled, it is at the last minute, and only those present can claim a seat for a future performance. No refunds, and no make-good seats for those who looked at the sky & decided not to show up.)

One big advantage to staging a World War I drama in a rural, open-air setting: your trenches set is seriously authentic! Real turf, real soil, and — in this season of frequent showers — plenty of real mud.

trenches side stage, 4th Line Theatre

Good show, good logistics, comfy chairs (with added cushions), good experience.  Followed by, a pleasant drive home as dusk turns to night.

And now for … Something Completely Different

Say good-bye to the country, say hello to town.

Say hello to Bikini Blonde!

bikini'ed onlooker, Victoria St.

It’s now Sunday, I’m walking over to Yonge St. for Buskerfest, my mind is already on theatrics & performance artists, and for a moment I think BB must be one of them. Except I’m not yet at Yonge — though close — and she’s not, well, she’s not exactly projecting theatrical performance, is she? So I don’t know why she’s here, but here she is.

And it does prepare me for theatrics to come.

One more image to snag my attention before I quite make it to Yonge Street — I look down O’Keefe Lane just east of Yonge, and see this cheerful whack of street art.

O'Keefe Lane, south of Dundas E.

Like Bikini Blonde, it’s a bit confusing. Is it painted on an overpass of some kind? Is that a black cloth draped over the top half? Why?

Then I decide, who knows, so what, it’s all fun. And I finally make it to Yonge St.

Which is chock-a-block with tents and banners and food traffic — that “fooD traffic,” my friends, is a genuine typo. I meant to type “foot traffic” but decide to leave the typo, because it too is accurate. As on Danforth during Taste of Danforth, there is a whole lot of food on offer, in many of those tents, and a lot of the foot (that’s with a “t”) traffic is scarfing back various kinds of exotic food.

All this activity organized by, and in aid of, Epilepsy Toronto — a fundraiser that has grown bigger and better-attended every year since its founding in 1999.

Oh, I forgot to mention buskers, didn’t I. There are buskers.

Buskerfest performer

Wind-Up Lady, for one, whose jerky poses perfectly mimic the wind-up dancers to be found on old-fashioned music boxes.

Also, chance of pace, pouty mermaids.

Buskerfest performers

My favourite is Ghost Lady, though my delight is not so much for her (despite her skill) as it is for her mesmerized little fan.

Ghost Lady & fan

The child tries to copy her moves, and stops between each hop to check again her idol’s latest pose. What did she just do??? Can I do that??? Finally, her laughing mother scoops her up, and proud daddy takes a picture of mother, daughter and Ghost Lady in a tight trio of mutual admiration.

There’s music, too. I follow my ears down a stub of street just west of Yonge, and spend a moment listening to this ensemble jammin’ away like crazy.

Buskefest musi in a café

I think of settling in at a table for a glass of something myself… but no, I walk on.

And am rewarded with some fine solo-performance blues, just east of Yonge this time.

Buskerfest performer

Soon I’ve  walked the Buskerfest stretch, from Dundas Square north to College Street.

I have no particular plan at this point. Eastward? Westward? Northward ho?

Then my ears pick up … Something Completely Different

Boom-boom! Clash-rattle! It’s a marching band, somewhere, all brass & drums.

Then I see it, and can hardly believe it: the start of what seems to be an enormous long parade, marching down the west side of Queen’s Park Crescent, curving around Queen’s Park legislative buildings (the provincial parliament), and making a whole glorious ka-boom of noise as it goes.

Falun Dafa parade, in  Queen's Park Cres.

I cross into Queen’s Park to watch, and am handed a Falun Dafa (Falun Gong) pamphlet as I settle myself curb-side. A lot of people are watching, accepting pamphlets and often the small flowers that are also on offer.

Falun Dafa parade, in Queen's Park Cres

The marching band segments are intercut with groups of women, flowing rather than marching, but equally focused on the event’s political, social & spiritual messages.

This is indeed one enormous parade. I can see that the tail end is still opposite me, on the far side of Queen’s Park, waiting to come around the curve, while the front end has already turned west on College St.

south from Queen's Park to S/W College & University

Multiple layers of imagery, as I look south from Queen’s Park to the west side of the intersection of University Av. & College. First, the peaceful man on his bench in the shade; then the parade on College St.; then the great mirrored façade of Ontario Power, reflecting  the Queen’s Park legislative building on one face (on the right) and the MaRS Discovery District (public/private sector innovation hub) in the curved face to the left.

Later, at home, I tell Nigel about the contrasting events, busker theatrics followed by spiritual/political messaging. In return, he tells me that he and our visiting flautist friend Grėgoire spent the afternoon in Little India — where yet another street fair was underway.

Toronto in the summer. So swell.


Leave a comment


  1. What a fantastic day you had,, and took us on! The variety you grabbed up within that period of time is astonishing. That street art is colorful, and a bit puzzling as you said, and I love the street performers!!! ~SueBee

  2. The country theatre sounds like a perfect summer event. At the risk of sounding neurotic I must ask…were mosquitoes a problem?
    Toronto does have an exciting variety of festivals or just extraordinary happenings and I really enjoy your fun reports on them. Thanks.

    • I laughed, because your question reminded me that friends who’d already been to the show stressed the need for insect repellant — & I forgot to take any. Thank goodness, no bus at all. So we were lucky. Glad you’re enjoying my comments about street fairs, etc; yes we’re lucky, Toronto has a lot.

  3. Great photos too!

  1. Town & Country | Tinseltown Times

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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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