“I like the aesthetic of it — it’s kind of got the Latino-goth aesthetic and all of the skeletons and skulls, but skeletons and skulls often in many colours and made of sugar,” says Benjamin Paley of the upcoming third annual Dia de los Muertos Festival of the Arts, which will try to capture the spirit (so to speak) of this Mexican version of All Souls' Day. In the afternoon there will be a craft fair and other amusements, and in the evening Sketchy the Clown will host a cabaret/variety show. “Sketchy the Clown is great — probably my favourite clown around town. He brings to life all of your dreams for the dirtiest, sketchiest clown,” Paley says.
It is perhaps appropriate that this unusual, dark and festive event is taking place in The Great Hall, at Queen Street and Dovercourt Road. The building is a spacious 30,000 square feet and has a grand historic atmosphere about it; it was built in 1889, was bought by the Royal Templars of Temperance in 1912, and sheltered Polish refugees during the Second World War. It was later restored and is now an important part of Toronto's arts community. “It has that old feel to it, and they’ve preserved that while renovating it and turning it into a modern and usable space,” Paley says.
Also known as James and the Giant Pasty, Paley is the founder of BoylesqueTO and will present one of the show's many burlesque acts. However, he was eager to discuss another performance: “There is a boy named Percy Katt, and first, he is a gorgeous man, but second, he is performing this act — one of the best, if not the
best, burlesque acts I’ve seen in this last year.”
Many people may know Katt from his modelling work. “I modelled couture in New York and Europe for several years, but after a while, especially because I’m a creative person, I got sick of being a living clothes hanger,” Katt says. In order to take greater control over his career, and express his creativity, he transitioned to burlesque. “When I do a shoot now, it’s my concept, styling, post-production, casting, et cetera,” he says.
Katt describes his Dia de los Muertos performance: “I’m doing my famous banana act from this year’s International Burlesque Festival. It’s just pure ridiculousness, from the song choices to the outfit to the dancing. I have a shit-eating grin the whole time, very high energy. I start the act inside a life-size banana and get peeled out by my lovely assistant, my banana Vanna [White]. That’s all I’m going to say.” -- Jeremy Willard
Dia de los Muertos Festival of the Arts is Sun, Oct 21. The craft fair runs noon-6pm, and the cabaret is at 8pm. The Great Hall, 1087 Queen St W. diadelosmuertosfestival.ca, Percy Katt: glitterlust.com, Benjamin Paley: boylesqueto.com
Lead photo on apple: Greg Wong
Rolling pin: Ian Compton