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TDF Passport: Toronto Your guide to this summer’s theatre in the Big Smoke

By MARK BLANKENSHIP

Welcome to TDF Passport, your guide to seeing theatre (and finding tickets) in cities around the world.

This week, we’re heading north to Toronto, which is especially fruitful for theatre lovers in the summer. Despite the fact that many of the city’s 175 professional theatre, dance, and opera companies are dark during the warmest months, it still bursts with live performances, offering everything from Shakespeare under the stars to inventive new work by Canadian artists.

If you’re looking for shows in the Big Smoke, then here are five things you need to know:

(1) T.O. Tix can help you get a ticket. Whether it’s online or at the booth in Yonge-Dundas square, T.O. Tix offers same-day discount, week-of-discount, and full-price advance sale tickets. That means you can see a show on the spur of the moment or plan several days in advance, and you are still likely to find a good deal.

T.O. Tix, which is owned and operated by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, also sells discounted tickets for companies like the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and the Shaw Festival, which are located outside the city. This can be especially convenient for travelers who are staying in Toronto but want to plan a day trip to one of these popular venues.

And no matter what you’re looking for, it’s good to keep tabs on the T.O. Tix website, since tickets and availability frequently change.

(2) There are plenty of special deals and packages available for students, diners, and more.

If you are between the ages of 15 and 29 and have a valid student ID from any school in the world, then you are eligible to buy tickets through T.O. Tix’s hipTIX program. hipTIX tickets are available for a wide range of performances, and they only cost $5 each.

If you’d like to add dinner to your show, then you can take advantage of the 5 Star Experience. Roughly $50.00 will get you tickets to a performance and dinner at a local restaurant. 5 Star Experience packages change based on what’s playing at the moment, but one of the most consistent (and popular) options is Barrel of Laughs, which includes a three-course meal, a tasting tour at a local brewery, and a show at Toronto’s famed Second City.

Additionally, many theatres in Toronto offer pay-what-you-can performances on Sundays.

(3) If you like festivals, then you’re in luck.

“Toronto is often referred to as a city of festivals,” says Jacoba Knaapen, TAPA’s executive director, and it’s easy to see why. From now until June 20, the city’s hosting the Luminato Festival of Arts and Creativity, which features everything from theatre to classical music to dance. From June 30-July 11, the Toronto Fringe festival will present new and audacious theatre, and then it’s just a few short weeks until SummerWorks, which offers cutting edge artists from August 5-15.

“They’re huge festivals,” Knaapen says. “They bring together hundreds of artists, and they’re extremely affordable. They’re lots of fun.”

Meanwhile, the city will host a jazz and blues festival (June 25-July 4), Toronto Pride (June 25-July 4), a Caribbean festival (July 15-August 2), and even a fireworks festival (July 1-3). And that’s just the tip of the celebratory iceberg.

(4) Toronto has Shakespeare in the Park

New Yorkers love Shakespeare in the Park, presented every summer by the Public Theater, and Toronto natives are similarly smitten with Canadian Stage’s long-running Dream in High Park productions. This year, from June 25-September 10, the company will present Romeo and Juliet in the city’s High Park Amphitheatre. Tickets are pay-what-you-can at the door (and free for children age fourteen and under). Patrons are encouraged to bring a picnic, relax on the grass, and enjoy the show.

(5) Toronto puts its own spin blockbuster musicals

Along with homegrown shows, Toronto’s also hosting productions of big hits from London and New York. This summer, you can see excellent Canadian performers in blockbuster musicals like Legally Blonde, Mamma Mia!, and Rock of Ages, and the city’s long-running production of Jersey Boys is about to sell its millionth ticket.

“It’s the production that they send actors from other cities to see when they’ve been cast in the show,” says Knaapen. “We’re proud of that.”

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Mark Blankenship is TDF’s online content editor.