Hamilton Fringe Festival

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

KELLY WOLF: Design and Performance in Small Spaces

Posted by on Jul 10, 2017

by Kelly Wolf

Normal Shmormal

You can do anything in Hamilton. I really believe that. Several years ago, I decided that if I wanted to be a part of a vibrant theatre community in Hamilton I had to get involved. I volunteered as a Venue Captain in 2014 and was thrilled and amazed by the audiences that showed up and the sense of community that was created. So, some people around the Fringe know me as a Venue Captain. Other people may know me as a set and costume designer. This year, I am producing a new play, Normal Shmormal, that is part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival’s Gallery Series in the Evergreen Cityworks space.

Two years ago, I attended the Prague Quadrennial, an exhibition of design for theatre performance from around the world. It changed the way I approach my work; my theatre making. I saw designers crossing over into an area of performativity that really inspired me. In this context, the designers were the instigators. This was so exciting to me and I could hardly wait to get back home to find opportunities to create new work. As a result, I created two site-specific works with other collaborators for the Frost Bites Festival. One Small Drop told three stories of women who might have worked in the Imperial Cotton Factory, and was created to play within the women’s washroom. A second project, In Sight, was inspired by my father’s stroke and process of recovery. Presented in the Art Gallery of Hamilton, performers responded to the existing installation to piece together parts of the story of a life lived. It was fantastic to have the organizational support of the Frost Bites Festival and this year I felt I was ready to take the next step.

Evergreen Cityworks

Fringe Gallery Series performances are no more than 20 minutes long and use the existing spaces as they are, with limited stage set up. As a designer, this kind of a project really appeals to me. I love to listen to what the space provides and to work with that information. We will make full use of the existing storefront gallery configuration. As an organization, the Evergreen Cityworks is committed to making a direct impact upon the way we interact with each other. As we use their space, I see our project as an extension of that mandate on an intimate scale. At the level of family relationships, we are looking for ways that transform the way we live with and understand each other.

Normal Shmormal is a sometimes humorous, sometimes serious response to a father/son relationship. The wrinkle in this relationship is that this father and son both have ADHD. When your children are born you check them out; 10 fingers, 10 toes, yes everything is there, great, now moving on. Little do we know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. What do we know about the mental health of this child? Parents want to try and raise their children to be as normal as possible, so that they may lead happy lives. It may take a bit of time, but eventually you may start to ask yourself, is this a normal kid? With this project we also want the audience to ask themselves, why are we so hung up on normal – just what is a normal kid, anyway?


Kelly Wolf is a Set and Costume designer who is interested in exploring ways that design can augment the theatrical experience and has designed for many theatres across Canada ranging from small independent companies to the major festivals. You can see her show, Normal Shmormal, at the Hamilton Fringe Festival this summer.