2019 is set to be an incredible year for the Hamilton Fringe Festival, and the Players’ Guild of Hamilton is one of the best venues it has to offer. With a local history dating back to 1875, it is the best place to host one of the most important events in the city. The Guild promises to deliver a varied assortment of plays and performances, with creative and original premises.
Out of the seven plays being shown at the Players’ Guild, four of them are musicals. The first of these is A Time of Future Tales, where the survivors of an apocalypse share stories and songs in a junkyard. In the words of show’s creator, “it’s a post-apocalyptic kitchen party, with all its deserving urgency and its family drama.”
Diamond in the Rough is another family-friendly musical, featuring the character of Neil Diamond and the various regulars of a local Hamilton bar. It is self-described as a “heartfelt, feel-good musical comedy set in Hamilton”, where a group of misfits struggles to find a place to belong.
Also featuring a Canadian bar is One Last Toast to the Schafer Street Queen, where the residents of Red Creek, Alberta are forced to cope with the closure of their local watering hole. The play features live music, and promises to deliver “mind-bending” mystery and horror.
The Guild’s presentation – titled Bushtits, Shihtzus & Private Dicks: All’s Fur in Love & Noir
has two actors and 14 crazy characters take you through a mad-cap caper of stylistic fantasy with bust-a-knee-cap laughs. Deemed a “must see” show loved by audiences from Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton in 2018!
For those who might not be interested in lighthearted productions, Back Home provides a more serious option. It tells the story of the drunken Mr. Forbes, his complex relationship with his daughter, and his struggle to maintain custody of her.
Bad Ideas is a unique production with a clever premise: it brings four actors together to play thirty-three different characters, telling nine different stories in all.
We’ve Come From Away brings to Hamilton the award-winning sketch comedy of Not Oasis, who previously won Patron’s Pick and NOW Magazine Critic’s Pick at the Toronto Fringe.
St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church Just ten minutes away from the Players’ Guild is St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, where Knitting Pilgrim explores an artistic and spiritual journey through “stitched glass” tapestries. Anyone interested in performances at the Players’ Guild should remember to check this out as well.
Staircase Bright Room
Katie Hood lets the cat out of the bag about life at an animal rescue in Animal Show. A comedy featuring enough critter characters to fill Noah’s ark, Hood says this is a show “for those who love animals, may feel like they don’t belong, but are driven to make a difference.”
Fringe veteran Jimmy Hogg’s award-winning one man show, Like a Virgin, offers a hilarious look at the universal experiences of love, youthful awkwardness, and, of course, losing your virginity. “Imagine if Dickens, Eric Idle, Eddie Izzard, and Rik Mayall had a baby and that baby could talk quickly and dance,” says Hogg. “I am that baby. Only grown.”
They say knowledge is power, but in BlackJar Productions’ new scientific thriller, The Greatest Minds, knowledge can also be a dangerous thing. A tale of mind control, madness, and love.
Staircase Elaine Mae Award–winning comedian David Brennan digs deep for his latest solo offering, David Brennan Exhumed. Brennan brings the eccentric Gravedigger to life to tell his cemetery-centric tales.
Sometimes sharing your space is enough to make you feel a little feral, a little like baring your teeth and fighting for your territory. For the roommates at the centre of Me as Well as Also, that feeling results in tension and competition as both struggle toy claim their home for their own.
What’s the best way to make online dating fun? According to Hamilton improv troupe The Understudies, just add songs and comedy. Swipe Right for Love tackles Tinder woes through improvised skits and romantic ballads.
Staircase Main Space
Performed in the Main Space to make it easier to find, Clit Wit! is the latest offering by Fringe veteran, storyteller, and comedian Colette Kendall. From middle age to Bill Cosby, Kendall offers a wide array of amusing anecdotes as a “shoddy” feminist.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a city in possession of a Fringe Festival must be in want of a musical comedy parody of a Jane Austen classic, featuring ukuleles. Enter Promise and Promiscuity, all the way from New Zealand.
“We get lost sometimes,” says Squeeze My Cans writer and performer Cathy Schenkleberg, “and when we find our way back it teaches us a greater lesson of forgiveness, redemption and the ability to write a new chapter.” Shenkleberg’s new chapter involves recounting her time as a member of Scientology through humour and earnest vulnerability.
At the Artword Artbar, three seasoned theatrical voices bring new tales to our ears:
Fresh off the debut of his newest show Seven Songs, Tor Lukasik-Foss returns with Tiny Bill Cody Sees the Devil, a story and song cycle recounting his true tale of meeting The Man Downstairs on a Hamilton street in the 1980s, “to talk about how sometimes a very brief, ineffable moment can affect your life in a potentially huge way.”
In Bungalow, Sky Gilbert presents a play “you might find happening in your front yard”, as two Hamiltonians face off against the reality of gentrification. “For me, it’s fascinating to watch the interplay between working class and middle class,” says Gilbert. “I have learned a lot from working class life. In my view, it’s what makes Hamilton valuable.”
Charly Chiarelli brings us a true life tale in the autobiographical one-man show Charly’s Piano. Charly, a young hippie in 1972, gets a job in a psychiatric hospital, and organizes a fundraising concert to buy a piano for the patients’ lounge.
ADCID (Aiding Dramatic Change In Development), a group composed of performers with physical disabilities like Cerebral Palsy, invites you to “reimagine what is possible” with Come to the Edge!, an interactive performance piece which has toured from Toronto to Belgium.
The Hamilton Aerial Group presents La Nuit du Vagabond, which follows a group of beings seeking their freedom from an oppressive force. Says director Lori Le Mare: “For those who missed us at this year’s Winterfest, our acrobatic and puppetry antics will astound you.”
Gritty City Theatre Company offers David Auburn’s Lost Lake, which sees an African–American single mother of two renting a cabin in a predominantly white town in the Catskills, forming an unlikely bond with a local ne’er–do– well in the process.
Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology
On the site–specific side of things: Babel–o–Drome, from Collectif BUS 1.2.3. and the Element choir, offers an immersive multimedia/multilingual walking tour of the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology. “The piece explores the relationship between language, identity and communication,” says artistic director Dominique Banoun. “In a world where fiction and reality collide, what is our own reality?”
New Visions United Church
“From the balcony of the New Visions United Church, you’re looking down below you into the chalk mines of World War One — it’s definitely a unique theatre experience!” So says performer/composer Zach Parsons of Tottering Biped Theatre’s Journey to the East, loosely based on the Herman Hesse novella, which debuted earlier this year in the same venue.
The Westdale may be one of the most far–flung of the 2019 Fringe venues, but it’s diverse and intriguing line–up should make it well worth the trip.
This year’s offerings run the gamut, from A Two Piece, a thought provoking double bill filled with captivating dancing to possibly it’s polar opposite You Want It What Way: A Boy Band Tale, a sketch comedy dance show all about boy bands.
The Westdale is also the venue for two provocative works reflecting on gender: the unapologetic not_ALL.? filetype: Unknown, which promises to reveal the horror and beauty in both radical feminism and men’s activist political movements, and We All Got Lost, which examines girlhood and its myths, and the stories we choose to tell or re–tell, while sounding like a radical re–imagining of Are You Afraid of The Dark.
Equally women–centred, but likely far more irreverent is Fuckboys The Musical. In this hilarious one–act musical, four women will teach you the skills you need to take down the post dangerous predators in today’s modern dating scene.
Music continues to be a low-key theme with the esoteric–sounding Infinite Sequels a two–hander featuring characters called The Poet and The Violin, which promises to lead a riveted audience through a life of love, ecstasy, longing, joy, sorrow and forgiveness.
The bill is rounded out by The Promised Land, a comedic homage to 1940s film noir, filled with fast–talking fellas and femme fatales, an ingenue, or two, and a wisecracking former hobo; all inhabiting a world of loose morals and suspicious intentions.
Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts
The HCA Teen Creation Collective is a two–week devised theatre intensive for 13–18 year–olds led by theatre artists Erica May–Wood and Stephanie Hope Lawlor. There’s no way to know what these young artists and their mentors will create until it premieres, but a loose theme of the history of the building which now houses the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts will guide the creation of a site–specific work.
With a rich and storied history dating back to 1897 the building has housed arts activities, served as a housing facility for troubled youth, been abandoned and has now been returned to a hive of creative activity. Rich subject matter for creative minds to draw on and a chance to see original theatre in one of Hamilton’s most iconic spaces.
The Fringe is the perfect way to connect with friends or date and have something to talk about after. I want to draw your attention to the particularly adult content.
The Cotton Factory
Leila Live! is hard to resist. This real–life Persian Princess is seeking a real guy who is trusting, healthy and has his Canadian citizenship. Must enjoy authentic middle eastern cuisine, hypnotic dance moves, and a little bit of fluff and scruff. Swipe right for acting, singing, dancing, rapping, rapping, comedy, impressions, sound effects, and puppetry. Indulge yourself the first weekend of the Fringe as Leila will only be the house from the 18th to the 21st.
(Sex) Cult: A Musical (S)explosion created by Beka Jay and Leete Stetson is about Lexi and Brandon, a couple of friends who decide to escape dating by forming their own cult with the intention to avoid getting hurt by serving their new god, The Protector. It is for those who don’t mind laughing about sex, mental health, and religion.
Another good couple to go on a date with are Izzy and the Nas. Izzy Fergusen is a four–time CBC Literary prize finalist and his storied partner Briane Nasimok was a Gemini award finalist and Canadian Comedy award recipient. Join them as they share their stories of romance, adventure and more.
Fairytale Femdom has a few warnings including strong language and nudity. It is the tale of professional dominatrix Mistress Winter. She has long been content to forgo the husband, dog, house etc. for the work she loves. After all, there’s no prince charming to live happily ever after with…is there?
Planet Texas. This otherworldly gem from Baltimore by Brandy Baker is a meeting between Danielle from earth and Twila. Twila is from a planet without fat shaming or heels with sparkly outfits, guns, and tequila. Be prepared for mature content and gunshots.
For a timely theme you could try How to Confront a Rhinoceros. An offensive flag at City Hall? Polarizing municipal debate? Escape reality with this Orwellian dark comedy. Be prepared for strong language and strobe lights. Tyler and Jocelyn Graham take us to the dark side of city politics.
Looking for mature content with a bloody twist? Monster, by Daniel MacIvor, combines murder with Burt Baccharach. Curious? Don’t miss the big brown eyes and bloody hands of Colin Bruce Anthes. Finally, consider Final Log, an homage to H.P. Lovecraft with a riveting tale of a shipwrecked attempt at humanity’s rebirth. Join writer and performer Jim McCaskill on this terrifying voyage.
Theatre Aquarius: Family Fringe
Theatre Aquarius has a very special collection of shows this year designated as family friendly. Times and themes are all child approved.
Dungee The Dragon And the Just-Okay Juggler tells the story of a lonely juggler who defeats the dragon and saves the day. Audience participation is encouraged and no puppets were harmed during the making of this production: brought to you by Stories by Dan from Toronto.
The Butler: A Superhero Detective Story is a homegrown creation produced by Red Pants Productions. It gives the heads up to all those people who work behind the scenes in different ways. It’s also an interactive mystery that calls on the audience for help.
TiBert in Hamilton is created by and stars Robert Milo. He’s an author, poet, educator and storyteller and he’ll expect the audience to play just as many roles. The production encourages full on participation. An audience member may play any number of roles: a woodworker, a blacksmith, or maybe even a mouse. Be on your toes.
Tourism Hamilton Visitors Centre
This venue offers a collection of short productions with high impact. Each one runs under 30 minutes so it’s great for a quick stop or to see a few at a time.
From Theatre Erbus in Hamilton comes the Governor General’s award winning play by Jason Sherman, Equity Rules. Auditions and the rules of engagement regarding nudity in the theatre are touched upon and resonate in our #metoo world: Mature Content.
Purple Poet Productions from Toronto brings Diamonds on Plastic. A one woman show which chronicles a shopaholics arrival in Scarborough and her discovery of love: described as “funny, erotic and uplifting”. Parental Guidance is suggested and here tell that 30 pairs of shoes might be involved.
Hamilton for Beginners is brought to you by Mark McNeil, who promises to illuminate the quirks and secret corners of the Hammer with the use of his mighty ukulele. It sounds like a breath of fresh air on a hot day of Fringing.
My Breast Self is a Creative Health project starring Emanuela Hall. It demystifies the procedure of breast feeding and tells the story of one woman’s struggle with the process: Parental Guidance
The Bottom of the Cup is presented by Lago di Lupi and involves mysteries of this world and of the paranormal. Embroils the police and a gypsy…. what could go wrong? Is the answer at the bottom of the tea cup?
Under Where? Yes, it’s about your underpants and it’s fashioned you by Flint&Steel Productions. It’s a historical look at undergarments and how they shaped not only our bodies but also our culture: self–described as “cheeky”.
ALLISON M. JONES
Mills Hardware features (mostly) hour long solo shows with a (mostly!) comedic flair (mostly!!) from Toronto. There’s a hearty helping of realism, a pinch of poignancy, an ensemble piece, & a wild card that may rattle the psyche.
A Woman of a Certain Age tells Calgary writer/performer Wendy Froberg’s stories of six women of middle age and beyond, grappling with conflicting demands of career and private life within a society that increasingly sees them as beyond their ‘best before’ date. She asks, “how women can age gracefully in our youth-obsessed culture? Are wine and Botox the answer? Can we fix what’s inside by changing the outside?” Promising to be humorous yet touching and authentic, it sounds like a good group outing for those curious about relationships, identity, mortality and gender in the second half of this mortal coil.
Performed by Tamlynn Bryson, Bedwetter is written by Tamlynn Bryson and Kyle Kimmerly. On trend for this venue, there’s some mature content and strong language, but the premise sounds endearingly unique: What’s it like to be a bedwetter when you’re trying to make the already awkward transition from childhood to adulthood? Critics have called it well-crafted, funny, touching, and a ‘must-see.’
Natalie Frijia’s Black Wool Jacket is a collection of ‘true tales’ from the wilds of The Six’s club district. Grad student Nat needed extra income, but she didn’t expect it would be a coat check job in a nightclub. Things get interesting when she tunes into the stories the clubgoers share when they’re drunk and oblivious. Called ‘intense’ & ‘comic,’ it’s a great premise for some ‘slice of life’ storytelling.
Gemini nominated and Canadian Comedy Award winner Briane Nasimok brings the intriguingly titled comedy Confessions of an Operatic Mute. It’s been critically acclaimed by reviewers across Canada, from CBC to NOW Magazine to the Victoria Fringe. CBC Manitoba lauds its ‘well written script’ and calls Nasimok a ‘seasoned writer’ capable of holding his audience in thrall. But, don’t be alarmed: “No tenors are harmed during the performance.”
A four member cast presents the 90 minute Mercury Man: The Last Performance of Orson Welles (Thornhill). It’s Winnipeg Fringe run earned an impressive four and a half stars, the Winnipeg Free Press dubbing it ‘fun,’ ‘smart’ and ‘nostalgic.’ It sees Welles reflecting on his career and sacrifices made along the way. Writer/director Joel Pettigrew exhorts ‘Cinephiles, Welles Fans, Nostalgia Buffs!’ to check out the play, adding, “We’ve stage magic, animation, live radio sounds, painted black and white movie characters... and Orson Welles!”
Slow Dancing With Mediocre Boys, by Canadian Comedy Award nominee Grace Smith, has one of my favourite show titles this Fringe! Its focus may be on the growing pains of young adulthood in the ‘early 2000’s,’ but as she says, “If you’ve ever looked back at your dating history and thought ‘WHYYYY??’ you will love this solo comedy.” My teens ended in 1994, but ‘cringeworthy romantic yearning’? Sounds like Smith read my diary! Adolescence is no fairytale, people; of course there’s a mature content and strong language warning!
The Easter Bunny promises an unsettling, even disturbing experience. While no actual nudity or physical violence is shown, this monologue style performance will take viewers into “the inner thoughts of a serial sexual predator.” Don’t be fooled by the name; this is definitely not a kids’ show! Marbles Theatre Group beckons: “You could see a show tonight featuring the best of Canada's emerging young comedy talent, but this isn't one of them. Catch The Easter Bunny.” V
All showtimes can be found at hamiltonfringe.ca