7 must-see performances at Luminato 2013

The Luminato Festival is certainly coming into its own under Artistic Director Jorn Weisbrodt. This year's programme features a diverse mix of internationally recognized artists alongside projects that seek to blur the boundaries between art and audience. The collection of shows below — from the world of theatre, performance art, dance, magic, and visual art — are a representation of the contemporary flavour continuing to be carved out by the seven year-old festival.

The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic / Bluma Appel Theatre / 7:30pm/2:00pm / $55-$125
After decades of toiling away at groundbreaking, transgression performance art, Marina Abramovic is now being celebrated as one of the leading artistic minds of her generation. The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, featuring Abramovic and Willem Dafoe, is a portrait of the artist that documents her tumultuous upbringing in Serbia all the way to the realization of her performance legacy. It's directed by visionary Robert Wilson with music by Antony of Antony and the Johnsons.

The Daisy Theatre / Berkeley Street Theatre / 9:30pm / $25-$35
Puppetmaster Ronnie Burkett premieres an ambitious new play inspired by Czechoslovakia's underground "daisy" puppet displays during Nazi occupation. A collection of monologues, variety acts, and playlets from ten Canadian scribes, The Daisy Theatre features Burkett's inventive marionettes in a daring cabaret. With a number of improvised acts, it's sure to make for an enjoyable night under the lights and under the strings.

Feng Yi Ting / MacMillan Theatre / 8:00pm / $25-$65
Atom Egoyan's recent remount of Salome at the COC proves he's just as adept at opera as he is behind the camera. For Luminato, Egoyan interprets Feng Yi Ting, from composer Guo Wenjing. The opera considers one of Four Beauties of ancient China, Diao Chan, who is the catalyst that sparks an epic rivalry between two warring factions. The production features Shen Tiemei and Jiang Qihuand and is presented at the MacMillan Theatre on the University of Toronto campus.

MAI - Prototype / Trinity Bellwoods Park / Various Times / $25
The most intriguing event on the Luminato calendar is MAI - Prototype, a performance arts laboratory in Trinity Bellwoods that serves as a model of the institute Marina Abramovic will open in Hudson, New York. The mission of the new centre will be "to cultivate new kinds of performance while functioning as a living archive, preserving and hosting performances of historic pieces." Lucky Torontonians will be the first to participate in durational exercises and experiences in interlocking pavilions during two hour sessions.

Mark Morris Dance Group / Sony Centre for the Performing Arts / 7:30pm/3:00pm / $45-$95
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Mark Morris' L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, an internationally lauded dance performance that has, amazingly, never been performed in Canada. There's a reason this piece has been so successful — Morris showcases the artistic genius of Handel, John Milton, and William Blake. It takes a dedicated company of two-dozen dancers, a 26-member chorus, four vocal soloists and an orchestra to bring this vibrant work to life.

Chamber Magic / George Brown House / 7:00pm/9:30pm / $60-$75
As far as upscale magic goes, if such a label can be applied, magician Steve Cohen is at the top of the game. Cohen sets his shows in intimate spaces, modeled after the practice of performing at the affluent parties of society's elite, transforming a small salon into a place of illusion. The setting provides an opportunity to watch the masterful moves up close. Cohen has been a "society performer" for more than ten years at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.

Stockpile / Brookfield Place - Allen Lambert Galleria / Various Times / Free to watch, $2 to play
It's always encouraging when an artistic experiment offers an option to "play." In Stockpile, a project presented by nine Canadian artists, audience members have the opportunity to control a life-sized arcade style claw machine. With the artists playing the role of the mechanic claw, the objective for participants is to have them deliver the object of their desires. A meditation on commodity, value, and exchange, the project takes place at Brookfield Place in the financial district.

The Luminato Festival runs from June 14-June 23. For additional listings, including music, visual arts, literary and education, visit the Luminato website.

Photo provided by Luminato

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