rhubarb festival

Toronto festival has transformed an iconic theatre into a four-day art exploration

The 44th annual Rhubarb Festival began it's four-day art festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre this week.

With the works from both local and international artists, Rhubarb Festival aims to challenge the idea of what both producing and witnessing art can be

I was able to catch the first night of the festival on Feb. 8. Artists Davi Pontes and Wallace Ferriera, Julian Higuere Núñez and Henry Adam Svec, and Laura Fisher showcased their work.

I spoke to festival director Clayton Lee about how the festival came to be and what they have in store for the 44th edition. 

rhubarb festival

Audience members were shown three showcases done by carefully selected artists, from performacne art to a short film.

"The focus this year is really around different international artists coming in and bringing their work to Toronto," said Lee. "When you bear witness or encounter with other artists working in new ways, it can potentially unlock something for you in your own practice."

On the festival's first day, I was able to visit Buddies and watch the performances and film screening.

Pontes and Ferriera opened the festival with their performance 'Repertorio N. 2.' The duo's piece experiments with idea of violence and resistance was held in the Chamber at Buddies. 

The night followed with Svec and Higuere Núñez's premier of 'What a peach could have been and might yet become: a conversation about artistic failure and excellence.' A tale of two friend journey through Parkdale, with LSD and a peach.

The night closed with Laura Fisher's piece on the artists experience with chronic pain, illness, objectification to name a few. 

rhubarb festival

Svec and Higuere Núñez brought a comedic and refreshing presence before showing the premier of short film 'What a Peach Is.'

Throughout the night, in between each performance, I and other audience members took to the Cabaret room, where artist Moe Angelos and Rachel Hauck held space. 

With their space called 'Guzzle n' Puzzle,' audience members were able to grab a drink and work on puzzles from the archive of artist Melissa Levin. If they wanted, people were encouraged to take a puzzle of their choosing home.

"One of the big shifts from this year versus pre-pandemic editions of Rhubarb is these one off encounters with these one off events," said Lee. "Previously, folks would perform four times in the festival and you'd be able to catch them multiple times...now it's only [once] each day."

Having Buddies as the setting for Rhubarb Festival was the ideal choice, with the intimate nature of the venue and being able to mingle people experiencing new art for the first time together. 

"Rhubarb has a real history of excellent art audience in the sense of their open for anything and everything," said Lee. 

rhubarb festival

The four-day structure is new to Rhubarb Festival, as they adjust to post-lockdown standards.

Artists Celia Green and Angelos also spoke to me about what excited them most about this year's festival. 

"The last time I performed in Toronto was in 2019 when I had just come out of theatre school," said Green. "I'm excited to perform as myself, as I am right now. 

Green, alongside suits designed by Madeleine LeBlanc, is showcasing 'Jason', a transformative solo movement performance tackling themes of masculinity and identity. 

"I'm drawn by the curiosity to investigate messy things," said Green. "I'm non-binary and sometimes identify with the label trans masculine, I'm really curious about masculinity and how it exists inside me."

Angelos said she hopes people can converse and connect through the art presented. "Enjoy the puzzles, some are really gorgeous, and just talk to each other," said Angelos. "There's a great pleasure in that...that's why Melissa chose [these puzzles] and what she hoped to put forward with it."

rhubarb festival

The closing night is Feb. 11, showcasing the final performances and work by Green, LeBlanc and Keiour Keijaun Thomas.

Rhubarb Festival's last day is Saturday Feb. 11 so be sure to catch the final three performances and works by Green, LeBlanc and Keiour Keijaun Thomas, with Angelos also there throughout the festival. 

Lead photo by

Henry Chan


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