Mississauga may have become a city in 1974 with a stroke of a pen on a document of incorpration, but its soul arrived in October 1997, shaped as three shining storeys of glass and steel. At that moment, baptized by a performance from the Stars of the Kirov Ballet, the Living Arts Centre (LAC) was born.
The city was substantially complete before the LAC showed up next to the Civic Centre: the neighbouring massive Square One Shopping Centre was inaugurated in the year of the city’s incorporation, and as an economic force, a transportation hub and home to hundreds of thousands of proud Mississaugans, the city was well established.
But the arrival of the LAC gave Mississauga a state-of-the-art home for theatre and music, and an incubator for creative expression in all media. If the gods that created Mississauga had toiled from 1974 to build the city, 1997 was the year they decided that it should dream in colour.
The Living Arts Centre celebrates its 10th anniversary on September 29—a day full of free community festivals, artist demonstrations and entertainment, capped by a ticketed performance by Celtic group Leahy. The celebrations kick off a season full of headline performances, fun for the kids and studio work by local artisans.
See the Star of the Show
The heart of the Living Arts Centre is Hammerson Hall—or more specifically, the music, theatre and dance performances that take place in this striking 1,315-seat auditorium, designed in modern curves and waves, dressed in rich reds and warm woods. The performance by Leahy for the 10th anniversary celebration is a rousing kick-off to the 2007–2008 season. The band of eight siblings (of a whopping 11) are multi-instrumentalists, singers and Celtic step dancers, who perform a range of high-energy music. The family was even the subject of an Academy Award-winning short film, Music Most of All.
This season also sees a fascinating premiere: funnyman Dave Thomas (SCTV, Grace Under Fire) and his musician brother Ian (“Painted Ladies”) join forces and talents onstage for the first time ever (October 12).
CBC radio fixture Stuart McLean records an episode of his award-winning “Vinyl Café” on October 29, featuring Dan Hill (“Sometimes When We Touch”) as his musical guest.
The holidays get their share of special curtain calls, too. Holly Cole’s velvety jazz voice fills Hammerson Hall on November 23, while Canadian tenor Richard Margison joins Opera Ontario—Popera! on November 27. Christmas with the Nylons (December 1) has the stellar Canadian a cappella quartet adding seasonal classics in flawless four-part harmony to their repertoire of doo-wop and original hits. Ballet Jörgen Canada makes the season official with a full, traditional production of The Nutcracker (December 7 and 8).
Hammerson Hall is also home to both the Mississauga Choral Society and Orchestras Mississauga, both of which perform here throughout the year.
Take in a Cabaret
Some shows demand a more intimate touch, and for that there’s the RBC Theatre. Designed in the classic shoebox shape of European recital halls, the theatre is arranged with two levels of balcony seating, and floor seating that can be rolled back. That’s the configuration for the Living Arts Centre’s “Relaxed” series: floor-level seating is replaced with candlelit cabaret-style tables, giving the evenings a very special atmosphere. Romanza: The Art of the Tenor (October 12), oldies music revue Good Rockin’ Tonight (November 2) and The Best of Second City (November 9) are some shows that get the Relaxed treatment.
Give the Kids a Treat
Family programming abounds at the Living Arts Centre. DuffleBag Theatre presents the tale of “Sleeping Beauty” on October 28, in its signature interactive-storytelling style. Giggle and Stomp (November 25) fuses fast-paced music with humour in an energetic concert. The crew from TV’s Big Comfy Couch present Molly’s Full Moon Festival (January 5), with Major Bedhead, the Dust Bunnies and other beloved characters from the show.
Buy Beautiful Craftworks
The least heralded yet most unique aspect of the Living Arts Centre is its role in nurturing artistic talent. The LAC features eight studios where developing artists can explore their talents and create beautiful works. The ground-floor glasswork studio is most striking. Its furnaces and workspaces are set up in such a way that visitors can peer through the windows and witness the alchemy of molten goo becoming art through blowing, shaping, colouring and etching. Next door, the wood, textile and ceramics studios also offer a glimpse of artists at work. Elsewhere in the building, the sculpture and photography studios are home to more artists.
The LAC Gift Shop is completely devoted to the works created in these studios. All manner of pieces are available: Britt Olauson’s wooden purses are here, so graceful that the carved pine seems to swish. Furniture from Kelly Couture combines wood, stone and metal in clean designs. Sonya Khan creates one-of-a-kind hand-painted scarves. And then there’s the glass: dramatic, clear sculptures from Cali Balles; intensely coloured vessels by Stopher Christensen; jewel-toned blown glass by Don MacLennan; and much more. The Gift Shop is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and during select evening performances.
For tickets and information on programming at the Living Arts Centre, call 905-306-6000 or visit www.livingartscentre.ca.
Pre-theatre Dining at its Most Convenient
LIVE Cuisine is the Living Arts Centre’s in-house restaurant. In addition to a weekday lunch buffet, it offers a pre-theatre dinner buffet ($29.95; $15.95 for children). Enjoy roast beef, pasta, and about two dozen other dishes before most performances at Hammerson Hall. After the show, stay for dessert and coffee ($10). Call 905-306-6116 for reservations.
In August, free special events take place across the street from the Living Arts Centre, at Mississauga’s striking Civic Centre. Different activities happen each evening. Take a yoga class on the lawn Tuesdays at 7 p.m., check out vintage cars Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m., and view movies outdoors on Thursdays from 8:30 p.m. Featured events include an outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing by Driftwood Theatre on August 11 (7:30 p.m.), and a performance by Peter Appleyard and his Big Band on August 25 (7:30 p.m.). Call 905-615-3200 ext. 2403 for more details.
TIP! The most convenient parking is the free lot underneath the LAC. The entrance is hidden around back, accessible from the west side of the building off Living Arts Drive.