Hamilton Fringe Festival

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

The Fringe Blog!

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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A Story That Must Be Told: The Ties That Bind

http://hamiltonfringe.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/The-Ties-That-Bind-2016-trailer-smaller-2-1.mp4   The Hamilton Fringe talked to James Ince, writer and actor of the solo show The Ties That Bind. Here’s what he had to say about his writing process, coming to Hamilton, and ending the stigma of mental illness.  Can you describe a little bit of how this play came together, and why theatre felt like the right medium to communicate this story? The Ties That Bind is a story that must be told, but it is the type of story that is not told nearly often enough — the story of the survivor; the story of the person who lives with Mental Illness, not the sufferer.  Sam Ward’s story began to emerge about eight years ago.  I was painting images of emotions (if you will) and despair.  I found myself painting the same image over and over, just able to convey what I was trying to say and I thought to myself, “Perhaps this is just not the right medium.” I began first with writing just words, or lists, some of which still exist in the final piece. Then, seemingly otherworldly, “Sam Ward” seemed to be writing the words of “his story” himself.  It was as though he was working through me, through another dimension, or time, or — dare I say — another past.  That was many years ago and I have been a happy prisoner ever since!  Through several years of work, slowly, carefully but always methodically forward, Sam Ward’s story was finally told.  It is an honour to continue telling it here at the Hamilton Fringe. You describe your play as a “brutally dark comedy about mental illness.” How does humour fit into this piece and help tell and humanize a tale of living with depression? I honestly feel that laughter is, maybe not “the best medicine,” but certainly an important, healing and powerful tool.  I think it is more Sam’s perspective in which he views the world we live in as having a lot of humour in it — even absurd at times.  Sam has a lot of heart; I think that even when it is at his very darkest moments, he is always searching and reaching for the light. And that light is hope. Your show description mentions that the main character has “spent most of his life trying to deal with the fact that he is not normal, which is normal to him.” How is this idea of normality destructive? How does the show treat the idea of “normality”? I think everyone, at one time or another, has probably felt “apart from” or out of place whether they care to admit it or not.  I think people are terribly afraid to admit that.  The danger of “normal” I think, is that it is a misconception, a lie.  So even if people try to “fit in,” what we’re all really just trying to do is hide — both from ourselves and to those around us.  I don’t mean with clothing, hairstyles or the music we choose to listen to, but at the very core of our beings.  As Sam Ward says, “If we’re all different, if we’re all individuals, then what exactly is “normal?” What do you want Hamilton audiences to take away from this work? I would like the audience to take away an idea, a...

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Top 5 #HamFringe Trends

Written By: Stephen Near Here we are for another Fringe Festival in Hamilton, and the roster of shows just seems to be getting better and better with each passing year. For the first time since 2012, however, this will be a Festival where I will not be featured as a playwright or performer. Now, you might think this has caused me a bit of ‘buyer’s remorse’. A nagging feeling, if you will, that I should have taken my chances and entered the lottery. But honestly, I’m looking forward to getting out to the Festival simply as an audience member to see what’s in store. But like any audience member, the wide variety of shows presents me with the age old question: what should I see? Last year, I wrote a blog entry on the Top 5 Trends of the Hamilton Fringe which really informed my choices on what to see over the eleven days of the festival. So, why not do it a second time? Here’s my take on the top five trends for #HamFringe #FemmeFringeHamOnt Once again, this year sees many provocative stories written, produced and/or starring women. Ranging from one-person monologues to gallery shows to full length plays, these works shine a spotlight on just a handful of women making their mark in Canadian theatre.   Award-winning Hamiltonian Colette Kendall brings Tippi Seagram’s Happy Hour to her home at the Staircase along with Canadian theatre legend Nonnie Griffin in Sister Annunciata’s Secret. Christel Bartelse also returns to Hamilton with the comedy All KIDding Aside, while Fringe alum Rose Hopkins brings her short play What Happens in the Backroom to the Gallery Series along with the drama Rosemary by Erin Burley and the satire Ashes to Ashes by Rye & Ginger Productions. Toronto’s Rosemary Doyle is back with August Strindberg’s The Stronger featuring Tracey Rankin and Julia Sgarlata, while writer/director Olivia Fasullo navigates the circles of Hell in Devil in the Details, and Pardon My French by Iris Gardet-Hadengue and Anne Marie Scheffler tells the Tales of a Parisian Mom in Canada. Going Solo A staple of every Fringe, one-person shows are an opportunity to witness a raw theatre performance in action. Whether they’re dramatic monologues, comedic romps bordering on stand-up, or incorporating aspects of physical theatre or storytelling, solo shows are often unfiltered and a chance to be part of a powerful voice onstage. Some solo shows are found in other categories, so check out some other of this year’s highlights: Brazil’s Ewerton Martins mashes card tricks and clowning in El Diablo of the Cards, while Irredeemable sees Fringe veteran Michael Nabert promise tales of climate apocalypse, and Erik Helle explores the stark contrast between shadow and light in Chiaroscuro. At Mills Hardware, Carlyn Rhamey takes audiences on a personal journey through Ireland and Scotland in Saor (Free), while Ottawa-born multi-disciplinary artist Nicholas Dave Amott tells the haunting take of Awoken, and Phil Rickaby of Keystone Theatre fame returns to Hamilton to tell us about the pitfalls of taking a crap beside the Almighty in The Commandment. Off the Wall Fringe shows break all sorts of boundaries especially when they move away from the script and embrace other aspects of theatre like clown, movement and dance to give audiences an altogether different experience. Often the hidden gems...

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The Work in Progress: Part 2

Written by: Ryan M. Sero Where were we? We were exploring process and marketing of the different companies of Frost Bites. Last time, you read about Alyssa Nedich and Jeremy Freibuger, using video, blogs, and images to reach out and make connections. If you didn’t, maybe go read that. They had interesting things to say about process. I know you’ll love what Anna Chatterton and Rose Hopkins have to say about their processes. Normally, says Anna Chatterton, she would document her process, and she would absolutely use that documentation in a marketing campaign. Her Frostbites experience, though, isn’t “normally”, given that her play Within the Glass is opening at Tarragon Theatre – she’s a little busy right now.   The time frame she has been working with for her show at Frost Bites, Liatorp, hasn’t allowed those luxuries, so the process has been different. She does indicate, however, that with devised work – site specific projects included – she is very focused on documentation and the sharing of those documents. She says that she is “…always including audiences into my development process along the way to production. But these are pieces that take years to create.” Years, are you paying attention? The normal process that Chatterton goes through had to be truncated and catered to the specific needs and possibilities of Liatorp, and so audience feedback and years of development has been confined to the director and actors, who Chatterton (the playwright) says she got feedback from during the creation process. The main takeaway here is Chatterton’s dedication to the process. If she has the time, she refines for years, using documentation as a way to build the piece – both through marketing and intrinsically, as part of the creation process. If she doesn’t have the time, she still puts in the work, it just takes a necessarily different form.   It’s important to learn this, as an artist or an audience member, that art is work and toil. Whether a (relatively) short gestation period, like with Frost Bites, or with a longer process taking place over years (sometimes decades), it is important to maintain dedication and discipline. If you are an artist, appreciate this and learn. If you are an audience member, give it a thought the next time you are in a theatre; the thought about how much effort went into the work of the performers on stage. Every production from the smallest amateur ten-minute play festival to the largest theatres on Broadway are filled with artists taking time and, through a process of refinement (as Chatterton is describing for us) creating these productions. Give a thought to that; I don’t think you’ll see theatre quite the same ever again. What has the dedication yielded? A piece built to grow Chatterton’s affiliation with Hamilton and other artists residing here. “I wanted to do it for purely creative reasons, I wanted to do more work in Hamilton, I love the Cotton Factory, love site specific work, and I wanted to work with these three artists (Chris Stanton-director, Mike and Juno Rinaldi- actors) …so it’s a great opportunity to try out a new collaboration.” “Process is very important to me.” I’m talking with Rose Hopkins, co-creator of The Distance Between Us and the Sun. She explains that she uses...

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The Work in Progress: Part 1

The Work in Progress: Part 1

Written by: Ryan M. Sero “You have to come and see my show,” is the mating cry of the artist. You can hear this yelled on street corners during every Art Crawl and every line-up at the Fringe Festival. This is the basic element of the indie theatre beat, artists who need you, the audience, to stay still for an hour (or more or less) and take in the thing they have made. The most basic elements are word of mouth, press releases, previews, reviews, flyers, and posters, and that foghorn blast, “You have to come and see my show,” spoken as a plea, both for the welfare of the performer and for the welfare of the audience member; the artist knows that you might miss something special. There’s another way to let people “in” on a show’s merits, to show them more directly that something special is going on. Many artists document their process – they record (somehow) their behind-the-scenes work – and use this document to show patrons (you – yes: you!) what they stand to miss out on. Over the past few days, I’ve been speaking with some of the companies involved in the Frost Bites about their documentation and marketing and what that means for their process. This is “part one” of a two-part blog where I talk with four of the Frost Bites performers. In this instalment, I talk with Alyssa Nedich and Jeremy Freiburger about their process documentation and how they market their shows. I spoke first with Alyssa Nedich, choreographer for the show Deva. She has been using social media to disseminate videos of her team at work. As useful as this is for marketing, the clips are originally created during rehearsals for another reason. “We always document so the dancers can look back at videos for references outside of rehearsal. Also I keep all videos I film of rehearsals in case I ever want to bring a piece back for something in the future.” second Deva rehearsal was a blast today. These girls are seriously blowing me away! @sdowhun @liz_dance8 @lgiovinazzo #dance #frostbites #hamont A post shared by Alyssa Nedich (@anedich) on Dec 28, 2015 at 3:19pm PST Nedich is focused on using these clips to improve the work – that comes first. Any marketing acquired through this documentation is the cherry on top. “If someone sees one of my 15 second clips that we share and sees how talented the dancers are and it inspires them to come and see us, that’s excellent!” The clips themselves are short, usually fifteen seconds long. That might not seem like a lot, but after watching a bunch, the information conveyed is massive. Even though a full sense of the piece’s arc cannot be gleaned, a viewer can quickly see the talent and effort being put in here. These women are working hard and creating something very interesting. They’re well worth watching and really show some intriguing work. Nedich tells me the clips are used to fine tune the piece moreso than completely reshape it. It’s rare, she says, that she re-choreographs the work based on these videos, but says that the video clips do affect the work, allowing her and the dancers to hone and fine-tune their piece. One more because these girls...

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Beating the post-Fringe Blues

Written by Annalee Flint With another Hamilton Fringe Festival recently finished, many members of the theatre community have the “Post-Fringe Blues”. Something about working so hard on something and spending so much time with like-minded people make it a bit of a let down once it is all over. Yet we also think about how lucky we are to have such an event in this city. A place where a variety of genres and styles of independent theatre can flourish. A place where theatre artists and patrons (and artists who are also patrons) can mingle while discussing, debating, and inspiring one another. A place that brings together people from every corner of the theatre community with such an incredible sense of camaraderie. It would be wonderful if we could keep that feeling going all year round. Of course it is unrealistic to think that it’s possible but wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to wait a whole year for another event like that?   That’s what the participants of the Artistic Leadership and Entrepreneurial Training (ALERT) program, which is run by the Hamilton Fringe Festival, were thinking about when given the task of producing a winter theatre festival. And thus, The Frost Bites Festival was born. With the tremendous success and growth of the Hamilton Fringe Festival in recent years there is obviously a strong desire in this city for unique and independent theatre offerings. As the Fringe has expanded its audience size, number of performances and venues it uses, it would also be great to be able to expand the amount of independent theatre that occurs year-round. Many Fringe Festivals across Canada have associated winter festivals, the Next Stage Theatre Festival in Toronto and the Undercurrents Festival in Ottawa to name a couple, so creating a winter festival associated with the Hamilton Fringe seems to be the next logical step in its expansion. The ALERT team, under Hamilton Fringe Festival guidance, was given the duty to figure out what we wanted out of a winter festival. What we came up with is an incredibly exciting event that will have people hyped up about the future of theatre in Hamilton. Frost Bites was created to energize and strengthen independent theatre in Hamilton. There has been a real push in the past few years to give a platform to new works by local artists and playwrights. The HamilTen Festival and the Player’s Guild First Stage Series are two excellent examples of that. The Frost Bites Festival aims to be another place where artists will go to innovate and develop their original work to showcase what homegrown talent has to offer.   “THINK OF IT AS A BUFFET.” We wanted to foster a unique and innovative theatre event while appealing to a broad audience that includes both theatregoers as well as people who may otherwise shy away from the theatre. The result is a site-specific performance event. Site-specific theatre has many definitions, depending on who you talk to, but the simplest description of it is theatre that is created for and/or informed by the particular space the work will be performed in. The idea of Frost Bites being a site-specific festival is to demystify the world of theatre and perhaps even make it more casual. Some people can be intimidated...

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