Hamilton Fringe

A 12-day unjuried theatre festival that happens every summer in downtown Hamilton

Theatre Workout: Theatre Aquarius GYM

Posted by on May 23, 2014

Written By Laura Ellis

Laura Ellis

Laura Ellis

I recently attended the first session of the new Theatre Aquarius GYM program. It was a huge success, and we are getting tons of positive feedback, as you’ll see throughout this story. The GYM program was created after “Stage Directions”, an open space meeting held back in March at the Player’s Guild. That meeting facilitated discussion amongst the members of the theatre community in Hamilton. It sparked conversation about building a better, stronger theatre community within our amazing city.

A topic that specifically caught my interest was: Local Training –What is the need? What resources are missing? As someone who has lived in Hamilton the majority of my life, but has also lived and trained in Toronto, I realized how little professional theatre training we have available in our own community. Professional performing artists, emerging artists, theatre students, and anyone interested in pursuing a career in the performing arts have traditionally been obligated to travel to Toronto to receive quality instruction (and usually for a hefty price for us poor starving artists). So what could we do to move forward and change this?

“Actors, directors, writers, or anybody else in theatre, need a place like this where they are both taught and given time to explore new ideas and refine old ones.” 

-GYM Participant

This is when I met Luke Brown, the Artistic Associate for Theatre Aquarius. It was exciting to hear that someone who has the knowledge, the tools, and a strong influence on Hamilton theatre was just as interested in making something happen. Through the group discussion, I noticed we had a lot of similar viewpoints and shared a great passion for the subject. I approached him afterward and volunteered myself if he was ever serious about investing the time to put this into action. I received an email four days later. I guess he was serious!

Over numerous coffee-filled meetings, we decided we wanted to focus on providing a creative space that is accessible and affordable to all artists in the community so that they can give their creative muscles a workout (hence calling it the GYM). Our mission would be to support artists by providing monthly mentorship and training led by skilled instructors and experienced working professionals. We would offer workshops, panels, and keynote speakers as part of our program. Better yet, session fees would only be $10 (hooray for not breaking the bank!) and 100% of the fees would go directly to the instructor.


“I enjoyed the workshop and it was nice that everyone got a chance to get up and do something. I think the GYM nights will be a great way to stay involved and feel active in theatre even if you don’t have a role in an upcoming production.”

-GYM Participant

In addition to having a monthly session in place, we would provide an hour of “open floor” discussion and creation. Artists would be invited to work on personal artistic endeavours including artistic experimentation, developing new work, scenes, monologues, etc. With the constant influx of new artists deciding to make Hamilton home, this open floor portion is designed to infuse the new artists with the existing. If all goes according to plan, it will encourage theatrical communication and instigate collaborative relationships among peers in our community.

The Theatre Aquarius GYM plans to include workshops that focus on: Acting Techniques, Improvisation, Text/Scene Study, Shakespeare Analysis, Vocal Training, Movement , Playwriting, Dramaturgy, Grant writing, Producing, and more.

Our first session, “Intro to Meisner” with Cadence Allen (Neighborhood Playhouse, NYC), took place on May 12th.  Meisner is an acting technique which includes a series of exercises to enhance the ability to improvise, access an emotional life, and bring the spontaneity of improvisation and the richness of personal response to textual work. We had a fantastic group of dedicated theatre artists from the community participate, which made the evening a great success.

“I feel this opportunity has been sorely lacking in Hamilton, and I was thrilled to see so many people in attendance.   $10 well spent for me.”

-GYM Participant

We are so thrilled with the response to the first session and can’t wait to start the next. What will it be? Stay tuned to our website and Facebook page to find out. See you at the Studio!

Session Info:
When: 7:00pm to 9:00 class followed by 1 hour of open floor.
Where: Theatre Aquarius Studio Theatre at 190 King William St.
Contact: Luke Brown [email protected]
Website: http://theatreaquarius.org/CommunityEvents/GYM.html

Laura Ellis is an active member of Hamilton’s theatre community and can often be found performing in, directing and teaching theatre. She is a member of the Hamilton Fringe Board of Directors and can be seen  in this year’s Fringe Festival in, “Romeo and Juliet: An Escapist Comedy” at Theatre Aquarius Studio.