Hamilton Fringe Festival

An 11-day unjuried theatre festival that happens every summer in downtown Hamilton

The Fringe Blog!

SKY GILBERT: Gentrification and Hamilton Artists

SKY GILBERT: Gentrification and Hamilton Artists

by Sky Gilbert Gentrification is a very complicated process to understand, especially as it relates to artists. We are now experiencing gentrification in Hamilton. Gentrification can be defined as the revitalization of the downtown core of a city that was long presumed dead. The unfortunate side effect of that revitalization is that often the poorest and most marginalized citizens not only come to feel unwelcome in what were originally their neighbourhoods, but are often pushed out of their homes in various subtle and not so subtle ways. For instance, I know of a large apartment complex in downtown Hamilton, which has recently transformed itself from a rental property for the poorest of the poor into a plush condo. A ritzy corporation bought the building and subsequently paid the most marginalized of the tenants $2000 apiece to vacate their apartments. The corporation will make much more than that from renovating these apartments and selling them to hipsters! Sure, the neighbourhood is cleared of what some consider to be it’s ‘sketchiest’ inhabitants. But others like me object to the less fortunate being hoodwinked by capitalists who pressure them to leave their homes. Well you can’t stop capitalism. But what you can do is fight for low-rent and mixed housing in Hamilton’s downtown core. Now what does all this have to do with art? Well I, for one, have written several plays about gentrification. Naked Hamilton was a play about a sex trade worker and her drunken boyfriend being kicked out of their favourite bar by the new hipster owner. Another, Commercials for Hamilton, was about two young Toronto salesman trying to sell Hamilton to millennials – but one of the salesman has a dirty secret – he is actually from Hamilton! Next year I’m doing a play about a Toronto hipster and a Hamilton hardcore grifter who meet on a Hamilton front porch. It’s called Bungalow. However, at this year’s Fringe I’m doing a play that is not about gentrification at all. Cheri is about an older woman’s obsession with a younger man. Cheri covers a topic which is rarely discussed – it’s kind of a play about a ‘cougar’ who was once a sex trader worker. It’s hopefully going to be pretty entertaining. It’s a musical, and mostly funny. But when I do art in Hamilton not about gentrification, I worry about becoming part of the problem. You see, innocent artists are often the very first players in the gentrification game. Unwittingly, they move into poor neighbourhoods to start galleries and theatres because the rent is cheap. They upgrade the neighbourhood without capitalist intent. But when not-so-innocent artists produce contentless plays to satisfy the rich gentrifiers (Beauty and the Beast anyone?) in government subsidized spaces, one may rightfully ask, are these so-called ‘artists’ not encouraging these privileged ‘patrons of the arts’ not to challenge themselves and thus contributing to the gentrification problem? My little rebellion is this. My play Cheri, though hopefully entertaining, also has something quite out of the ordinary to say. And that’s all I can say in my defense. Sky Gilbert is a writer, actor, director and drag performer extraordinaire. He is the former artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times theatre and the founder of hammer theatre. Sky has been living in Hamilton since 2004 with his partner, artist Ian...

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Staff Picks of Fringe: Canadian Edition!

Staff Picks of Fringe: Canadian Edition!

Need a little help navigating the Fringe this year? This is the fourth in our series of themed Fringe programming picks by our summer staff. This time, we’ve got a Fringe Binge: Canadian Edition! with selections from Rose Hopkins, our Associate Festival Producer. Whether you’re throwing on all your red and white today, or are feeling a little less than enthused about ‘Canada 150’, we’ve rounded up a countdown of the Fringe shows that celebrate what it means to be Canadian, eh! We’re starting off our Canadian countdown out East with, Swingin’ in St. John’s, the perfect pick if you’re looking for a Martimes vibe with a 60s twist. A little further West brings us to Coal From Hades: The Story of Les Mouches Fantastique, the story of the first queer magazine in North America, published in 1938.  And finally, we hear the former Premiere of Saskatchewan’s story, In This Corner: Eight Rounds with Tommy Douglas, who was voted The Greatest Canadian in 2004.   All of these shows remind us of the rich and varied history of Canada across the country. But, Canada wouldn’t be what it is without the complex and diverse culture that it is now. So, let’s turn our attention to a few shows that are true embodiments of Canada today.   First of is Someone Between, an autobiographical piece created and performed by Chantria Tram that investigates her own Canadian-Cambodian identity. Next is We Are Not The Others a collaborative creation workshopped by McMaster’s Social Work program that looks at the real-life stories of women immigrants to Canada. And finally, how can we celebrate Canada without focusing on the very city we call home with Tales from the Hamilton 7, a storytelling group with anecdotes all about the steel city itself. These six shows will fill up your binge pass, but if you’re looking for something a little extra, check out Your Own Sons written by Hamilton’s own Stephen Near, which takes on the political landscape of our country with a story about a Canadian man who has left to join ISIS. As always, you can see all six shows, and save money with a Fringe Binge Pass – that’s six shows for only $48! Rose Hopkins is an actor, creator, and producer who is thrilled to be joining the Fringe team as this years Associate Festival Producer. She is the founder of Hamilton’s Mooncalf Theatre, the recipient of the 2016 City of Hamilton Arts Award for Emerging Theatre Artist. When she’s not creating theatre or playing with excel spreadsheets, you can find Rose cuddling her puppy, Charro, or looking for retro furniture on Ottawa...

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STEPHEN NEAR: Top 5 Trends of the Fringe

STEPHEN NEAR: Top 5 Trends of the Fringe

By Stephen Near The weather’s getting warmer and the days are getting longer. And all around the city there’s scant space left to rehearse. We must be getting close to another Fringe season. This year, my company is back at the fest so I’ll be performing while trying to catch other shows. Which is why I enjoy looking over what the Fringe has to offer. In the last few years, I’ve written a few blogs for the Fringe about the Top 5 Trends of the Hamilton Fringe. This exercise always informs my choices on what to see so, once again, here’s my take on the top five trends for #HamFringe   1) Dramedy It’s a little bit drama. It’s a little bit laugh out loud. It takes a skillful playwright to straddle the line between silly and serious. And any good director will tell you the best way for an audience to listen to the weighty things you have to say is to let them know it’s okay to smile, too. If you’re looking something not too heavy, and not too light, perhaps these shows will be just right: The Lost Years is an intimate two-hander by Hamilton theatre veterans Peter Gruner and Deb Dagenais, while Toronto’s rejzndkliv stages a Queer coming-of-age parody of Charlie Brown with DOG SEES GOD. Hamilton’s Young Divas are mashing Chekhov with Monty Python in Two Sisters, but you’ll also want to see Vicktoria Adam mixing marriage with witchcraft in Midnight Circle. Fringe performers Liz Buchanan and Jamie Taylor premiere Grandfather’s Secret and playwright Steve Hartwell with director Kelly Wolf present Normal Shmormal. And don’t miss Andrew Lee’s Subway Extension to the Mariana Trench which took home this year’s Best New Play Award.       2) Solo Class The one-person show is an essential part of the Fringe circuit. Often written by the performer themselves (but not all the time), one-person shows give audiences a chance to see a raw theatre performance in action. No matter if they’re dramatic monologues or stand-up romps of comedy, one-person shows engage audiences in ways no other theatre can. Some solo shows are found in other categories, so be on the look-out for some of this year’s highlights: Playwright/performer Chantria Tram asks questions of culture and identity in Someone Between while Helena Cosentino pays tribute to Gilda Radner in Gilda. Melissa D’Agostino directs Mark Peacock in a Flightmare of alternative facts while award-winning Carlyn Rhamey returns with The ADHD Project. Margo MacDonald brings her hit The Elephant Girls back to the Staircase alongside Hamilton’s own Colette Kendall with Over 50 and Other Nightmares. Jennifer Walton directs Marianne Daly in the Open the Lace Curtains and Christel Bartelse talks motherhood in All KIDding Aside while Toronto Fringe veteran Paul Hutcheson performs in Stupefied.   3) Trip the Light Fantastic Fringe is the place to risk. And often the best shows skew away from the so-called well-made play into genres or performances that spiral madly off in all directions. From magic shows to clown to science fiction and kids plays, this year’s Fringe offers a plethora of work that defies expectations while charting bold new directions: Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Blue Bird offers magic to family audiences alongside The Secret of Castle Alphabet by Calgary’s HeARTbeat Theatre. Science...

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Staff Picks of Fringe: Pride Edition!

Staff Picks of Fringe: Pride Edition!

Need a little help navigating the Fringe this year? This is the third in our series of themed Fringe programming picks by our summer staff! This time out we’ve got Fringe Binge: Pride Edition, with selections from Kristina Kuhnert, our Assistant Community Outreach and Volunteer Coorindinator! This weekend was Toronto’s Pride Festival weekend and today marks the last week of Canada’s second annual Pride month. We want to share with you all the Fringe 2017 shows that feature queer artists and content. Pride is a time to unite and empower the LGBTQ2SIA+ community. It is a time not only to celebrate where we are now, but to remember and commemorate those who have come before us, and to join together in the ongoing struggle for acceptance and equality. With its equal opportunity application process, the Fringe Festival features artists who might not otherwise have the opportunity to have their voices heard. Fringe 2017 includes many shows that feature queer content and artists. Here are the top six that I am eager to see: Embracing queer history, I am excited about digging into the roots of Canada’s (and North America’s) first queer magazine. Canton/Peterson Productions’ Coal from Hades: Les Mouches Fantastiques takes us back to 1920s Montreal and the passionate characters who published at the risk of perishing! Looking overseas, I cannot wait to take in the lives and adventures of the bloody-knuckled, badass women who terrorized London in Parry Riposte Productions’ award-winning one-woman show, The Elephant Girls. DOG SEES GOD: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead (rejzndkliv) features LGBTQ actors of colour telling stories of the realities of navigating sexual identity, loss and bullying. Serious subject matter, but told through the eyes of a Charlie Brown-like character. Featuring complex female characters and queer couples, I am interested in see how PKP’s Perfect Couples takes on the intricacies of millennial communities and mental illness. Featuring his own story, queer artist Mark Peacock recounts tales of his relationship with his mother in Peacock Blue Production’s Flightmare. Lastly, I cannot wait to see Brine (Sage for the Stage) as young queer artists delve into the ways that ‘women’s work’ is transformed through immigration. As always, you can see all six shows, and save money with a Fringe Binge Pass – that’s six shows for only $48! Kristina Kuhnert is a McMaster University Student studying for a double major in Cultural Studies & Critical Thinking and Theatre & Film. She is passionate about people, supporting artists and artwork, and working with children through camps and other event...

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Staff Picks of Fringe: Musicals!

Staff Picks of Fringe: Musicals!

Need a little help navigating the Fringe this year? This is the second in our series of themed Fringe programming picks by our summer staff! This time out we’ve got Fringe Binge on Musicals!, with selections from Kristina Kuhnert, our Assistant Community Outreach and Volunteer Coorindinator! When words fail, music speaks! There is something special about a musical. A good musical manipulates theatre with clever, cheeky rhyming schemes, and songs that get stuck in your head for days. There is truly nothing so spectacular as a cast bursting into a perfectly synchronised song and dance number, except maybe a really heart wrenching, soul searching ballad. This year’s Fringe Festival hosts seven musicals! Taking the emotion of the theatre one step further, they use music and dance to celebrate the joys of human life and love, and then, moments later, to explore the depths of pain and sorrow. A good musical will take you on a roller coaster ride of human emotion and give you an experience that you won’t ever want to look away from. There are many different approaches to creating a musical. Here is why I am excited to see these six musicals in this years Fringe Festival.     Some musicals embrace the joyful, silly side of life. This Is Not A Musical: The Musical (Maxie Liberman) explores what would happen if people really did randomly break out into song and dance. Swingin’ in St John’s (Will Gillespie) shows us how zany the status quo can get when a stranger comes to town. Not always fun and games, musicals can also delve into the darkness of the human psyche. Requiem Aeternam (Maya Ziemann) ponders the complexities of death, goodness and evil. And Acts of Fiction (Francesca Brugnano) asks, in a darkly humorous way, what it takes for a “character” to survive.   Often, musicals help us to explore the powerful feelings of love and heartbreak. Cheri (Sky Gilbert, Dustin Peters) allows us to reminisce about long lost loves and years gone by, while Jilted (Adam Bryan) keeps alive the fiery passion and intensity of young love and the crazy things people do for it. If these shows have caught your eye and you’re ready to learn some new choreography, you can purchase a Fringe Binge Pass and see all six shows for only $48! (Save $12!) “Because who doesn’t want a world where everyone bursts into song and dance?” -Anonymous Kristina Kuhnert is a McMaster University Student studying for a double major in Cultural Studies & Critical Thinking and Theatre & Film. She is passionate about people, supporting artists and artwork, and working with children through camps and other event planning.  ...

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Staff Picks of Fringe: The Rom-Com Edition

Staff Picks of Fringe: The Rom-Com Edition

Need a little help navigating the Fringe this year? Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some themed Fringe programming picks by our summer staff! We kick off the series with A Day of Fringe: Rom-Com Edition, with selections from Natalie Stravens, our Community Outreach and Volunteer Coorindinator!   The value of the romantic comedy genre is often overlooked. It is a style that is always entertaining, no matter how stereotypical and predictable it may seem. It’s just so relatable. Granted, the characters can come off as more caricatures than real people. I personally do not plan to tie some poor guy up in a restaurant as shown in Jilted (Red Pants Productions) or turn to witchcraft to save a relationship like in Midnight Circle (Epiphany Theatre). However, I can’t deny that their motivation is all that foreign. These stories take our craziest insecurities and put them to life on stage, making us laugh along the way. They make us feel just a little bit better about our ridiculous blunders and thoughts when it comes to love. The improv comedy in Swipe Right for Love (The Understudies) allows us to laugh at ourselves by re-examining the very real problems we run into with online dating. No Dick Pics Please (Borderline Production) allows us a view into the life of a real person’s story in the context of romance, reminding us of the rants discussions we might have with a friend. Heart Strings the Musical: Ireland 1908 (Mole Productions 2016) shows us these dilemmas are not new to the modern era. Finally, The Lost Years, helps remind us that life continues to be just as unpredictable even after the ‘happy ending’. These shows are perfect to enjoy with a friend (or ten) and just have a light-hearted day experiencing great art. What’s even better, you can grab a Fringe Binge Pass and do almost all of them in one day!       Natalie Stravens is a third year student at McMaster, taking a double major in Anthropology and Multimedia. She is also a childcare worker at the Hamilton YMCA. She is passionate about volunteering and has traveled to many different countries in her (relatively) short...

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Frost Bites FourCast Episode #2

Podcast #2 is here! Jesse Horvath and Claudia Spadafora from our ALERT Program sat down to chat with Adam Bryan (also of ALERT) to discuss Frost Bites 2017 and how this program has changed them! Listen to POCAST here!...

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Frost Bites FourCast Episode #1

Frost Bites FourCast Episode #1

Debuting our new podcast!  The Frost Bites FourCast is a four part podcast series giving you an inside scoop on Hamilton’s only site-specific winter theatre festival! Episode 1 brought us ALERT members Carlyn Rhamey and Adam Bryan as they talk about the ALERT program, the Frost Bites Festival and the best things they’ve learned as they prepare for Frost Bites...

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Final Broadcast: A Late Fringe Addition

Written By: Robert K. Brown This has all been a bit surreal. My cell rang on Friday, July 8th while I was on the bus. The caller introduced herself as Jessica from the Hamilton Fringe, told me I was next on the waiting list and that there had been a last-minute drop from the festival…and that while she realized it was only about 6 days or so until opening, she was wondering if I was still interested in the slot. I remember somehow expressing interest, but that I needed to make some phone calls before I could confirm. I don’t really remember getting off the bus. I called Carissa and asked her how crazy she was feeling. We’ve worked together before a number of times, and she was one of my cast for On The Rocks at Hamilton Fringe 2014, the first production by my company Windmills Theatre. She wondered if I could be more specific, since she was away for the weekend. “Oh, not today,” I assured her, “but, like…six days from now? Fringe just called me.” She immediately agreed to the role. My phone buzzed almost as soon as I hung up. David could stage manage all show dates except one, and thought it sounded like fun. David is one of the best I’ve ever worked with – I guess we might really do this. My phone buzzed again. Krista (who has been attached to this script for some time) could just make it work, despite also being cast in The Tragedy of Othella Moore (which you should definitely also go see). I called Greg, another frequent collaborator and author of On The Rocks, and he was free for some but not all of the performance dates. I walked into work early, and somehow they agreed to give me time off to do the show and not to fire me. I called Jessica back and confirmed our acceptance. This was still Friday. Since then, it has continued to be a surreal and amazing ride. We embraced the timeline and decided to stage it as a reading and work-in-progress. Following each performance, the audience will be invited to ask any questions they might have and to give feedback on the script. The script will be changing throughout the run, and I will be incorporating the best notes as we go. As a thank you for being part of our process, we will be marking ticket stubs at each performance, and anyone who brings that marked ticket stub to a later show will get free entry to see how the script has developed and if we used any of your notes. Then we had an amazing first rehearsal, which was also our tech, and I re-wrote the script. It’s Wednesday, and it looks like we have a show. This has been the most amazing (and terrifying) way to workshop a script that I could have ever dreamed of, and I am extremely grateful to the Hamilton Fringe for their last-minute phone call, and to my fearless cast and crew who were feeling just as crazy as I was, and who made this possible. We hope to see you there. Warning: there is quite a bit of strong language throughout. Don’t let that throw you off! But maybe don’t bring the wee kids to this one. Final Broadcast – A Staged...

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A Scavenger Hunt for Theatre

  Written By: Aaron Jan I do the Fringe because it’s an experiment. I do the Fringe because it’s a chance for companies/theatre artists with little to no money to present their work at a heavily subsidized cost in a festival environment. Unlike independently producing, festivals provide an equal playing ground for companies to garner media and audience attention.  It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt for theatre, where everyone’s super excited and optimistic for what they’re about to see. Independent companies can also bank on favourable reviews and turnout to pull audiences into their fall seasons and follow their work as they expand beyond the festival circuit. Simply put, it’s a summer party and a chance for an emerging artist to get their feet wet in a community they don’t belong to yet. Fringes can also allow the theatre and audience community to come together for two weeks and be inspired by each other’s work. Finding an artist whose ideals align with yours can build future partnerships, audiences and working relationships. Some of my favourite companies in Toronto and Hamilton were people whose work I discovered at the Fringe (and would never have discovered elsewhere). I know Artistic Directors who cast their seasons and artists off of the Fringe rather than general auditions. The Fringe has an energy to it that no other theatre gathering has. It’s unjuried, which means plays run the gamut of being brilliant or…not. For this reason, the very idea of participating on a Fringe is useful for a young artist. You get to understand who likes your work, who hates your work, who’s offended by your work and most importantly, who engages you in conversation after your work.  At the Fringe, people from all walks of life go and see your show (if you market it correctly!) and you can find your demographic or (perhaps more importantly) find out who is not your demographic. For an audience, the Fringe is a great opportunity to not only take a chance on new work, but also to see stuff that isn’t programmed by other theatres in the city. To use an analogy, it’s kind of like going to a buffet where the majority of dishes change every year. I mean, yeah I want to watch the guy who keeps winning awards every year (I see you, Michael Kras), but a part of me wants to see a movement show about sibling matricide (a real case from 2003! WHAT!), or an improvised magic card show from Brazil. As an audience member, I Fringe because I want to see something new – a new story, a new diverse perspective, an experience that I don’t know and that can’t be provided by my current community. I encourage you to do the same! See that dance show that you think you may not understand! See that show where the entire cast is of a different skin colour than you! And who knows! You may even learn something. Aaron Jan is a Hamilton-born, Toronto based playwright and director. In 2012, Aaron became the youngest person to ever win Best of Hamilton Fringe with his play Drafts. Aaron is a core member of Filament Incubator, a collective devoted to producing 8 original plays in 8 months. His play, Swan will premiere in November...

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