Canada’s longest-running new works festival returns for its 39th year this February. For two weeks, The Rhubarb Festival transforms Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre into a hotbed of experimentation, exploring new possibilities in theatre, dance, comedy, music, installation, and performance art. Rhubarb is the place to experience the most adventurous ideas in performance and catch your favourite artists venturing into uncharted territory.

Rhubarb Festival Director Mel Hague comments, “For our 39th festival I am so pleased to present this strange and beautiful assortment of offerings. We bring these works together to create Rhubarb – an intersection point at the very edge of the artistic; a space that is brimming with energy, questions, laughter, music, challenge, and fun.”

Festival highlights include

  •  A community-engaged “concert” by legendary New York performance artist, activist, and writer Lois Weaver, in partnership withFADO and the Progress Festival
  • A new play directed by Audrey Dwyer (also directing Nightwood & Sulong Theatre’s Calpurnia this season at Buddies) and written by Teneile Warren
  • A cabaret highlighting the lived experiences of three d/Deaf artists (Tamyka Bullen, Ralista Rodriguez, and Sage Willow), in partnership with Edmonton’s Sound Off: A Deaf Theatre Festival
  • A special Rhubarb edition of Katie Sly’s Too Queer: A Bi Visibility Cabaret
  • A new movement piece by Waawaate Fobister (creator of the Buddies hit Agokwe) inspired by the resilience of the Anishinaabe people of Grassy Narrows in the face of displacement, clear-cutting, and mercury poisoning  
  • A re-imagining of some of the most popular pro-war rallying songs by drag bombshell Pearle Harbour
  • New short works from Chala Hunter, Kanika Ambrose, Esie Mensah, Diana Lopez Soto, Femmes du Feu’s Holly Tredennick,and more


This year’s festival features music prominently, including Curtis te Brinke’s Midnight, Toronto, a quarter-life crisis set to a live score of original indie music; Erum Khan’s Noor, with music by LAL and Anwar Khurshid; and the launch of a new album, Angry, by sibling duo Too Attached (Vivek Shraya and Shamik Bigli). Empty Orchestra Dreamland bring their apocalyptic karaoke to the opening night party,and latinx drag kings Boiband the Boy Band help us kick off week two.


For years, Buddies and Rhubarb have nurtured queer artists and their work. The 39th Rhubarb Festival continues this tradition, with projects led by queer, trans, and two-spirit artists such as Elena Belyea, lo bil, Yolanda Bonnell, Lorene Bouboushian, Tamyka Bullen, Jill Connell, Brian Cope, Monica Garrido, Bruce Gibbons Fell, Jill Flanagan, Waawaate Fobister, Charles Hayter, Justin Miller, Alexis O’Hara, Ralista Rodriguez, Vivek Shraya, Curtis te Brinke, Teneile Warren, Lois Weaver, JL Whitecrow, Sage Willow, andJessica Zepeda.


The 39th Rhubarb Festival features works from older artists exploring topics of age and aging. Brian Cope and Charles Hayter (‘elder’ participants in last season’s Youth/Elders Project) take on the roles of their own mothers in MotherLoad, while Alexis O’Hara contemplates aging in a youth-obsessed culture, and Lois Weaver shares gathered stories about aging and sex in a musical exploration of the subjects.

On the other end of the age spectrum, Buddies’ Emerging Creators Unit, now in its 12th year, continues to showcase the voices of emerging queer talents, featuring the work of Rhiannon Collett, Erum Khan, Kwaku Okyere, and Heath V. Salazar, led by ECU directorSunny Drake and company dramaturg Mel Hague. 

THE 39TH RHUBARB FESTIVAL February 14-25, 2018

Wed-Sun – $20 Evening/Day Pass – Emerging Creators Unit Presentations – PWYC

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street, Toronto ON

Click here for more info and tickets, or call the Box Office 416-975-8555.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment, and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors, and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats. Reach out -