Plum Viewing

Welcome to the latest edition of Plum Viewing, my weekly round-up of arts and culture to enjoy online.

Hello lovely readers and Happy New Year!

I do hope everyone had a restful and healthy holiday break, in spite of the current situation. Here’s one of the things I did: Mr Fairs and I drove to Toronto for approx. 28 hours, and for those of you reading outside of Canada, the drive from Montreal to Toronto is six hours. So, we drove six hours each way, to spend a total of 28 hours in Toronto. And, let me tell you, it was glorious. This is the stage of the pandemic we are currently experiencing. A boring, monotonous drive is now considered a treat. Yep, folks, welcome to 2022!!

As we are all once again getting acquainted with our living rooms and whipping through our respective streaming services, mercifully, we still have art! So, let’s put Netflix on pause, and once again enjoy our virtual theatres (think of it as making tequila flavoured lemonade out of lemons!)

With that, here are this week’s picks:

Our friends at Jazz at Lincoln Center are back with a series of virtual and in-person events. And, this weekend, we are in for a real treat. Streaming live tomorrow and Sunday, Jan 15 and 16, we have the pleasure of three rising stars taking us on a journey through some of the most iconic songs of early blues and jazz. We’ll hear from Vuyo Sotashe, finalist of the 2015 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition; Brianna Thomas, whom The Wall Street Journal says “may be the best young straight-ahead jazz singer of her generation”; and Shenel Johns, who most recently performed with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The repertoire will include hits made famous by Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Washington, and Sarah Vaughan. The performances are 7:30 pm ET and 9:30 pm ET. Tickets are $10 and you can purchase yours here.

The Toronto Fringe Festival’s Next Stage is once again digital only. Running from Jan 19–30, they are serving up a full line-up of Canadian talent to be enjoyed. Each show is presented both live and on demand, making it very easy to watch at your own convenience and support these talented artists. Here is a link to the full schedule of shows. Tickets are $15 for single tickets and $50 for a full pass. Enjoy!

Here’s a recommendation from Globe and Mail theatre critic Kelly Nestruck — PlayME, a podcast produced by Expect Theatre in collaboration with the CBC. Up first is Siminovitch Prize-winning playwright Daniel MacIvor’s New Magic Valley Fun Town, a tragicomedy Newstruck raved about in its original 2019 production, calling it a “moving portrait of difficult, traumatized humans trying to live and love as best they can.” So, as we all once again resume our covid walks (heaven help us!), at least we can be entertained.

I suspect many of you indulged in a lot of reading for pleasure over the holiday break. I truly like nothing more than curling up with a nice book, a blanket and a coffee (or glass of wine — there NO judgment here!). And, during my holiday break I did just that and one of the books I devoured was Both/And, the memoir by Huma Abedin, who is known to most of us as the silent person standing next to Hillary Clinton for the past 25 years. Until of course, Huma found herself very much at the centre of attention courtesy of her former husband Anthony Weiner (I will not link to him).

This memoir is a fascinating account of recent history from someone who had a birds eye view of so much of it: starting with Hillary Clinton as First Lady; then Senator Hillary Clinton; followed by Secretary of State Clinton; and of course unsuccessful presidential candidate Clinton. In reading Abedin’s memoir, and her telling of this time, I couldn’t quite decide if she is remarkably loyal or remarkably naive, or perhaps a healthy combination of both. Regardless, one thing that is undeniable is the bond she shares with Hillary Clinton. In November of last year, both women came together for their first and only joint interview at New York’s 92Y and the conversation is fascinating. And, lucky for us, it is now available to watch for free. You can find it here.

And, continuing on the topic of books, our favourite online book club, Get Lit, is kicking off 2022 in true style. The January book selection features the ever entertaining Gary Shteyngart and his ‘pandemic’ book Our Country Friends. Here’s the premise: “In the rolling hills of upstate New York, a group of friends gather to sit out the pandemic. Over the next six months, new friendships and romances take hold, while old betrayals emerge, forcing everyone to evaluate whom they love and what matters most to them.” I am about halfway through and it is brilliant. If you’re not familiar with Shteyngart, trust me when I say you will love him. His writing is witty, funny and self-deprecating (my favourite qualities in a person!) The Get Lit session will feature an interview with Shteyngart, who is just as entertaining in person as he is on the page. This will be fun indeed. Mark your calendars for Jan 31 at 7 pm ET and learn more about Get Lit here.

And, if you haven’t already watched the British Arrow Awards, fear not — you still have time. Due to very popular demand, The Walker has extended this broadcast to Jan 16 and I honestly can not recommend it enough. For those of you who missed the original promotion, here’s what you need to know: Every year for the past 35 years, the Walker has hosted the British Arrow Awards, which celebrates the bold, eclectic and ever-changing world of British advertising. Ranging from adverts that advocate for social change to laugh out loud comedy moments, this event is a hoot! The running time is 74 minutes and tickets are $15. Pour yourself a pint of whatever takes your fancy and settle in. You can reserve your ticket here.

And, I will leave you with this new discovery Window Swap, a website that describes itself as “ here to fill that deep void in our wanderlust hearts by allowing us to look through someone else’s window, somewhere in the world.” Given our current circumstances, this is an absolute lifesaver!

And, finally, today is Mr Fairs’ birthday and as we are forbidden from doing anything close to fun, I suspect there will be cocktails and perhaps this soundtrack in our future.

Enjoy and see you next week!

And, an ask: While we’re enjoying these wonderful performances, let’s remember that for the arts organizations producing this incredible content, this is their livelihood; not a hobby. If we can, now is our time to continue to support our incredible arts community!

And, if you’d like to receive Plum Viewing weekly, send me a note at maggiefairs@gmail.com and I will add you to my mailing list.

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