Toronto’s Luminato Festival announces 2018 full program

Luminato (June 6-24, 2018), the festival that brings one-of-a-kind cultural stunners each year to Toronto, announced this year’s full lineup.

It’s mid-April and Toronto is covered in snow, but we know that will be gone and we’ll all be smiling in June. So why not checking what’s coming at Luminato, which this year extends its run to almost three weeks!

Cabaret, dance, film, ideas, illusion, music, opera, talks, theatre – free and paid, these are the filters available on the 2018 events page: multifarious and innovative.

Here’s the scoop:

Swan Lake reimagined by Michael Keegan-Dolan, one of Ireland’s foremost dance and theatre-makers

Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina joins the revolutionary Belarus Free Theatre for a scorching work crying out for human rights

Amal Clooney adds her voice and the weight of her experience as an international human rights lawyer

Extraordinary writer and actor Yolanda Bonnell gives us the story of a young Indigenous girl and the addictions spawned by inter-generational trauma

Cuba’s beloved Malpaso Dance Company returns to Luminato with Grammy-award winner Arturo O’Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble presenting a stunning mixed bill

An intimate evening of fine dining, whisky-storytelling and illusions with Scott Silven’s At the Illusionist’s Table;

100 electric guitarists and hundreds of children playing ukuleles pay homage to George Harrison with a joyful free event,Instruments of Happiness

Indie rock anti-hero Stephin Merritt leads The Magnetic Fields through his two-night auto-biographical magnum opus 50 Song Memoir

Toronto, ON – Following initial programming announcements made in late 2017, Luminato  unveiled the full 2018 festival with a line-up that amplifies the festival’s commitment to be both locally engaged and globally connected and includes critically-acclaimed, globe-spanning, and expansive theatre, dance and music, coming to Toronto this June to animate the city for nineteen days from June 6 to 24.

Of the 29 events in the festival, eight are born of collaborations and partnerships between Luminato and Toronto-based arts companies; a further seven are presentations by Luminato of works by local artists; four Luminato-commissioned projects will have their world premieres; and there are two joyous, large-scale free events for which festival organizers reached deep into the community to attract participants who love to dance and to play music.

A new initiative called Illuminating works will ensure that, in addition to putting the spotlight on Toronto’s creativity, Luminato is also helping these and other artists living in this city take their work to the world.

Global issues find local resonance in work by both local and international artists alike, and Luminato’s role in providing a platform for ideas and discussion is given increased emphasis in a year that has seen public engagement with pressing issues ignited.

Human rights, equality, the status of women, inclusion and the justice system all find their places within a range of works and associated events that remind us of the power of the arts and of artists to expose injustice and to promote change. And then, a cabaret show called RIOT proves that comedy and laughter can tackle even the most serious issues in the most unexpected ways.

In addition to the previously announced RIOT, Le Grand Continental®, and Olafur Arnalds’s All Strings Attached, this second program from Artistic Director Josephine Ridge, complements innovative, must-see international work with the inspiration and vision of Canadian artists, both well-known and newly discovered, creating a program that reflects critical issues of our time.

“Over the course of the past year vital discussions have erupted around the world. As a festival of ideas and creativity, I believe it’s important for Luminato to engage with those discussions and to offer a program that connects the voice of the artist with the conversations that are taking place all around us,” said Ridge. “In doing so, we hope to reflect and to respond to our place and time and also to engage energetically with the specifics of our city, Toronto. There are an infinite number of ways to achieve this and it’s true that a valuable point can be made as effectively with a wink, a smile and a sprinkle of magic as it can be with confrontation.”

Early in the festival, audiences can discover one of the most globally admired dance theatre pieces of 2017, Swan Lake/Loch na hEala, the creation of leading Irish dance and theatre-maker Michael Keegan-Dolan. Storytelling, song and movement come together in this raw re-interpretation rooted in the midlands of Ireland where ancient mythology and the complexities of the modern world collide. A thoroughly innovative movement theatre re-imagining of Ballet’s best-known classic, Swan Lake/Loch na hEala finds contemporary resonance in this familiar story.

The festival is bookended with another work that has had huge success on the world stages,Burning Doors. One of the New York Times Top Ten theatre pieces last year, Burning Doors is the creation of the only theatre company in Europe currently banned by its own government on political grounds – Belarus Free Theatre – joining forces with Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina. Drawn from the stories of Alyokhina, Russian performance artist Petr Pavlensky, and incarcerated Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, Burning Doors uses Belarus Free Theatre’s own experience of political oppression and supports their campaign for artistic freedom and human rights around the globe. A ferocious display of art as political demonstration, Burning Doors tells the stories of three persecuted artists who refuse to be silenced.

Drawing together many themes found throughout the festival program, Luminato will host one of its most significant and powerful conversation events to date, when renowned international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney appears in conversation with her father-in-law, American journalist Nick Clooney on stage at Roy Thomson Hall on June 22nd. A specialist in international criminal law and human rights, Clooney has represented world leaders, advised former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the plight of Syria, acted as counsel for The Republic of Armenia before the European Court of Human Rights, and she currently represents Yazidi women who have been kidnapped, raped, and enslaved at the hands of ISIS.

Barrier-breaking women stay in the spotlight in Game Changers: Inspiring Women, a series of documentaries co-presented by Luminato and the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. Honouring women who have changed the world in a moment when women are standing up and demanding change, this series celebrates revolutionary women in art, politics, civil rights and beyond including Anita Hill (Anita), Wilma Mankiller (Mankiller), andZulfikar Bhutto (Bhutto).

While celebrating iconic women on film, Luminato will also give voice to the next generation of game-changers with a provocative town hall meeting, NO GOING BACK, Future Feminism. Selected by an inspiring group of entrepreneurs, policymakers, and executive leaders between the ages of 16 to 27, the panellists leading this discussion include artistVivek Shraya, political empowerment advocate Arezoo Najibzadeh, Native Youth Sexual Health Network advocacy and outreach coordinator Krysta Williams, and filmmaker and advocate Tessa Hill.

Social issues stay in focus through much of this year’s fiercely topical festival. In Out the Window, the justice system comes under the microscope in a powerful piece of documentary theatre charting playwright Liza Balkan’s multi-year journey through the justice system and beyond after witnessing a man die during an altercation with Toronto Police. Produced by Luminato, Out the Window is the inaugural production under The Resident’s Project, a Luminato / Theatre Centre partnership that sees Luminato providing an artist from Theatre Centre’s Residency Program with the opportunity to further develop a past work and then have it presented within the context of an international arts festival. The next Resident’s Project will be announced during the 2018 festival.

Out the Window is complemented by Same as it ever was: Thoughts beyond Out the Window. Three essential conversations, grounded in the lived experience of Torontonians that are relevant far beyond the city’s limits. These post-performance panels, Black Lives Matter, Policing People: Society and the Justice System, and Mentally Speaking: A Toronto Conversation, are free to both ticket holders for Out the Window and members of the public.

From Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, creator of the international sensation White Rabbit Red Rabbit, comes NASSIM, a daring theatrical experiment that explores the power of language to unite us in uncertain times, featuring a different performer nightly. Counting Sheep and Lemon Bucket Orkestra creators Mark and Marichka Marczyk meld folk music with electronic dance music and hip-hop in their latest project Balaklava Blues, a pointed exploration of today’s game of war in eastern Ukraine. Experimental New York theatre company 600 HIGHWAYMEN tests the limits of individual and collective responsibility and our willingness to be there for one another in The Fever. And Yolanda Bonnell‘s solo-performance piece bug is a powerful exploration of a young Indigenous girl’s journey, trapped in the crushing cycle of abuse and addiction experienced by too many Indigenous women in contemporary Canada.

A distinctive menu of local and international contemporary music, the return of a 2015 festival dance favourite, and a world-renowned illusionist, round out the newly announced programme.

Following their stellar sold-out appearance at Luminato in 2015, Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company returns to Toronto (along with Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble) to present a mixed-bill of works that show off the superb artistry, technical skill and dynamic energy of these exciting dancers. Six-time Grammy Award-winner Arturo O’Farrill and his 18-piece Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra will then electrify the Pheonix Concert Hall for one night only with their irresistible groovin’ Afro-Cuban jazz.

Throughout the festival, acclaimed Scottish illusionist Scott Silven hosts At the Illusionists Table, an intimate evening of fine dining and whisky-tasting unforgettably interwoven with illusion, mentalism, and storytelling in a private dining room at Toronto’s historic Casa Loma.

50 Song Memoir is a two-night multi-media performance by legendary folk-rock band The Magnetic Fields, fronted by modern-day troubadour Stephin Merritt. A live performance of fifty autobiographical songs (songs 1-25 in the first concert and songs 26-50 in the second concert) recounting Merritt’s first half-century, 50 Song Memoir is a rare opportunity to commune with one of North America’s most gifted songwriters.

Along with the previously announced Le Grand Continental®, Luminato once again invites the audience right into the action with Instruments of Happiness. A two-part event, which is free to the public, Instruments of Happiness includes the world premiere Luminato commissionWhile 100 Guitars Gently Weep – Concerto for George from Montréal based composer/guitarist Tim Brady to celebrate George Harrison’s 75th birthday. Kicking off the event, hundreds of young ukulele players from Melanie Doane’s Uschool will perform some of Harrison’s biggest hits and other tunes.

Additional music offerings include the world premiere of Eve Egoyan’s startling, playful, and poetic Solo for Duet: works for augmented piano & images, a deeply integrated virtuosic mix of sound, image, and unspoken narrative challenging traditional conceptions of piano and pianist. Tapestry Opera presents the return of the acclaimed Tables Turned, composed by Juno-nominated Nicole Lizée offering a fresh take on what opera can be in the 21st century, fusing film, hip-hop, and projections in a startling and exciting way. Hell’s Fury, The Hollywood Songbook is an exciting new production-in-the-making that follows the arc of exiled composer Hanns Eisler’s life through song. And with another work-in-progress presentation – Dr. Silver: A Celebration of Life – audiences will be among the first to experience a new experiment in immersive musical theatre from Britta and Anika Johnson, the virtuoso, widely praised musical minds behind the recent hits Life After and Brantwood.

Returning to Luminato after her contribution to Tributaries last year, Cris Derksen curates a special one-night concert, Ally and Kinship, featuring a hand-picked band of strings, horns, and drums and some very special guests, promising a night of unique and profoundly stirring music. JUNO Award-winning musician and composer David Buchbinder, is joined by a collaborative team of musicians, singers, and actors, to present a musical event based on the songs and sounds of Toronto’s first cross-cultural community in The Ward Cabaret. And exceptional Toronto talents Justin Nozuka and TiKA both present one-night performances in the Festival Cabaret Room.

Illuminating Works

Luminato is also pleased to announce that as part of its commitment to helping artists realize their creative and professional ambitions, the festival will, for the first time, produceIlluminating works – a strategically focused platform for national and international presenters to experience Canadian work. This new program will include world premieres of tour-ready pieces, work-in-progress presentations, networking events across Toronto’s arts scene to spark new conversations and collaborations, a pitching event for invited artists to present future projects, and tailored opportunities for artists and companies to discuss and pitch projects for co-production, future presentation and touring. The 2018 Illuminating Works include Balaklava Blues, bug, Cris Derksen: Ally and Kinship, Dr. Silver: A Celebration of Life, Hell’s Fury, The Hollywood Songbook, Out the Window, Solo for Duet: works for augmented piano & images, Tables Turned, The Ward Cabaret, Instruments of Happiness, and Le Grand Continental®.

The 2018 season of Illuminating works has been made possible by Hal Jackman Foundation, and David and Robin Young, with additional support from Sandra Pitblado and Jim Pitblado, C.M.

Accessibility at Luminato 2018

At Luminato, we and our artistic and venue partners are committed to offering a festival that is accessible to everyone, including people living with disabilities. We strive to present our work in the most physically accessible venues possible, and offer information about the potential barriers of less accessible spaces. At the heart of Luminato’s accessibility commitment is the provision of specialized performances: Relaxed Performances for patrons who benefit from a more informal environment, including those with sensory or communication disorders or learning disabilities; American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreted Performances; and Audio Described Performances for patrons who are blind or have vision loss.

For more information on festival accessibility and specific venue information, visit our website at or contact Stephen Barber at 416 368 3100 x254. We welcome feedback as we strive to expand our accessibility offerings with every festival.

Luminato is happy and proud to welcome The Daniels Corporation as its new Accessibility Partner.

Tickets and box-office

Luminato runs June 6 to 24, 2018 in venues across downtown Toronto. To purchase tickets and for more information, pricing, times, venues, and more, visit or call the Box Office 416 368 4849. Luminato packages are available in addition to single tickets, to make it easier and more affordable to enjoy more of the festival. Audiences save 15% on three shows, 20% on four shows, and 25% of five shows. Some exclusions may apply.

From March 28 through June 5, the Box Office is open Monday through Friday, 12 – 5 pm. From June 6 through 24, the Box Office will be open from Tuesday through Sunday, 12 – 8 pm and Monday, 12 – 5 pm. There will be an on-site Box Office at each venue during the festival, opening one hour before the show.


This year Luminato has programming all over downtown Toronto, including: Elgin Theatre; Case Loma; Mod Club; The Theatre Centre; The Great Hall; Canadian Opera Company’s Joey & Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre; Isabel Bader Theatre; Arts & Letters Club; Roy Thomson Hall; Berkeley Street Theatre; Phoenix Concert Theatre; Nathan Phillips Square; Harbourfront Centre Theatre; Bluma Appel Theatre; Brookfield Place; The Ernest Balmer Studio; MacMillan Theatre; and Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.

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