It’s back, live and in person, for the first time since July of 2019! The 2022 Hamilton Fringe Festival opens today, with 60 productions

July 20 - 31, 2022, at twelve venues in the city

Reach the Box Office at or 289-698-2234.

Tickets will be available for walk-up sales at all in-person venues 60
minutes before the scheduled start time.

Direct weblink to buy tickets online

Nicholas Wallace
BYOV #4 - The Staircase — Bright Room

Will Gillespie
BYOV #7 - The Westdale Theatre

Lisa Pezik
The Players' Guild of Hamilton

Written by: Michael Moss
The Players' Guild of Hamilton


Justin Shaw
BYOV #8 - Mosaic - 431 Barton.

Theatre Erebus Inc.
Zoetic Theatre

It’s back, live and in person, for the first time since July of 2019!   The 2022 Hamilton Fringe Festival opens today, with 60 productions in twelve different venues across Hamilton.

In 2022 audiences can attend productions, on the mountain at the Zoetic Theatre, as far west as the Westdale Theatre close to McMaster, and as far north as Mosaic, on Barton Street.   This is a wonderful achievement.

There was a time in the first decade of the Hamilton Fringe, when it was centered on a small 12 block area of the downtown core, in those days the downtown BIA, was a major sponsor.  But no more!   The festival now spans much of the city.

As always the strength of the festival is simply the variety of artists that it offers. You will find artists of many different levels of experience, from first timers to veterans.  People keep coming back because the festival offers something that cannot be found anywhere else in the community.

The most important thing is to get involved, and one of the things that I appreciate about the Hamilton Fringe, is the fact that it is so accessible. The reality in our city, is that there is huge income inequality.   When one struggles for shelter and to feed yourself, attending theatrical productions is obviously a low priority.     There are barriers to participation, and one of the things the fringe does, is to open the doors to access the arts.

One example of this is the free offer of tickets to underrepresented communities. As an example, young people below the age of eighteen, upon request, will be given a free YOUTH ACCESS PASS to see productions on the festival’s dime.   Details of this offer are on the Fringe’s website.

So here are some suggestions in finding a good production!

1). Talk to fellow patrons.   Standing in line, to get into the venue is one of the best places to hear about the buzz around a particular show. Word of mouth, is key. My favourite question is, “what did you see, what did you like?”   Very quickly, a show with artistic merit, develops a following, and connecting into that experience is as simple as having a conversation.  Also the artist themselves, in such a competitive environment, are more than willing to talk about what they are doing. In fact that's a key element of the Fringe Festival movement, is the accessibility of artists with their audience. It's rare that you get that connection anywhere else.

2) Go to your friend's show!    The arts community in Hamilton is still relatively small, although it is growing every year.  Therefore almost always, you know somebody that's working on a show in the festival. Lots of artists in the community return almost every year, not that it's possible to always win a slot in the lottery, just that often there are combinations of artists that get together, work on something, and then when somebody else's project comes along they all rally to it and support each other.

So as I say if you go through the program listing of all the actors, playwrights, and directors, the dancers and choreographers, the stage managers, and the wardrobe and costume people, I guarantee you you'll know somebody! The best way to support your friends is to buy a ticket, and even better to bring someone with you who has never ever been to the Fringe before.  Over the years the audience for the Fringe has steadily grown, and what's most important is that there is always somebody new, checking out the festival and then discovering that this is something worth supporting.

3) Read the reviews!   VIEW is one of the media outlets that works very hard to publish reviews of the plays in the festival.   Over the first weekend, a group of seven reviewers does it's very best to see every single show in the festival, and then to publish something that allows us to discover what occurred on the stage the first weekend of the festival. There are no preview performances at the Fringe; there's a short technical rehearsal and then you're on in front of an audience. Often the audiences at the beginning of the run, are very very small, which isn't surprising given the number of shows in the festival. But as the shows get better in performance, typically the audiences grow.  It is not uncommon in the final weekend for shows to sell out. The venues are typically not large, ranging from 50 to 300 seats.    

4). Take a chance!    Life is a risk. So is buying a ticket for a show that you know absolutely nothing about. And yet over the years some of the most wonderfully rewarding experiences I have had at the Fringe have been checking out something that based on the blurb probably didn't interest me at all. Not all artists are good at describing what they do!  And sometimes you find something really unique different and fun, by choosing to attend something that is not typically in your ballpark.   The Fringe is like an all-you-can-eat theatrical buffet! And in order to experience the widest range of things, it's great to sample lots of different offerings.

Last week I talked about the work of eight playwrights who are premiering new plays in the fringe this year.  Here now follows a short listing of a number of other plays that caught my attention, that I think are worthy of checking out.  As always it reflects my own interests and biases, and I'll acknowledge that other people might create a different list, but I think that's precisely the point.    It’s up to you to create your own list of what you want to see.

First up is Nicholas Wallace, with his new production A WORK OF FICTION, which is directed by Luke Brown, and is being performed in the Bright Room of the Staircase on Dundurn Street.    Nick is back once again for the first time in 10 years with a brand new piece of magic and theatre and audience participation. There is no one else who does anything like this, and he is an artist who has come back, to try out new material which he incorporates into his career.

According to Wallace, “I wanted to create a show that explored the dangers of unchecked certainty. Performing a mind blowing magic trick is great, but it is only the first layer. I think magic can be a powerful metaphor for not believing everything you think. There is a saying that magic only exists in the mind of the spectator. Without a live audience, performing magic is impossible. Most of this show has never been in front of an audience, so I am very eager for this Hamilton audience to become part of the process, and be part of the show."

If you go back to 2009, Wallace had the highest grossing show in the festival every year for three years running.  Back then, he was the artist in the festival most likely to sell out, also when Theatre Aquarius used to hold over a Fringe show every fall to be produced in the Aquarius Studio, Wallace had that opportunity at least twice, to remount his show in front of a very different audience of Theatre Aquarius subscribers.

Another veteran artist, is Will Gillespie, with his partner Susan Robinson, who this year are using the wonderful Westdale theatre, as a bring your own venue.  The Fringe itself used this wonderful old 1930s era movie house, as a regular venue in 2019, and I saw a number of productions that summer that worked well in its art deco auditorium.

Will and Susan's production this year is  MINE! TRUE STORIES AND LEGENDS OF THE PORCUPINE GOLD RUSH.  It's a 60-minute solo folk musical written and performed by Will Gillespie, featuring original backdrop paintings by producer/stage manager Susan Robinson and historical photos from the Timmins Museum National Exhibition Centre of the real people, events and locations Will is singing about.  it's a story set specifically in the small gold mining town of South Porcupine, Northern Ontario. His Scottish immigrant grandfather spent his career in the gold mines there in the 1940's, 50's and 60's. This play also pays homage to that heritage.

Will tells me that he’s excited to debut his brand-new play in the festival;  "MINE! TRUE STORIES AND LEGENDS OF THE PORCUPINE GOLD RUSH is an homage to my hometown of South Porcupine, ON, where my Scottish immigrant grandfather worked as a gold miner. I'm glad to have the opportunity to share this fascinating, yet lesser-known chapter of Canadian history. I will be taking the audience on an adventure back in time to the beginning of the 20th century. 12 new, original Folk songs transport you to a moonshine still in the backwoods of Drinkwater Pit, a hot-air balloon-crash rescue, by dogsled, a Manhattan socialite's transformation into a pistol-wielding "Lady Prospector," to the chaos and heartbreak of the raging inferno known as the Great Fire of 1911, and many other adventures.”

A first time participant in the Hamilton Fringe is Lisa Pezik.   She is performing her show, after coming directly from the Hollywood Fringe Festival, in Los Angeles, where her one-woman musical, TOO BIG FOR HER BRITCHES, did very well, earning some wonderful reviews.  The show features original music by  Drew Lawrence, and filters her own experiences surviving mental health and family trauma.

Pezik, plays more than 25 characters in the play, which is being performed out of the Player's Guild studio on Queen Street.   "As a first time fringer and first time playwright, actor, composer, I decided to base the story about my own life about being a cycle breaker. Sometimes we don't come from the family that helps us thrive, but that doesn't mean we can't create that for ourselves. We can look at what has been handed down to us and say this stops with me, I don't want to parent like that. I don't want to have a family like that."

Obviously, this is personal source material, which I think often makes the best theatre.

According to Lisa; "My one woman musical is about breaking generational trauma and learning to love yourself, though all the good and the bad choices as we find our way in life. Loving ourselves is an act of rebellion it seems lately, and this story is for anyone who's been told they are too big, too small, too loud, too bossy, or not enough."

Another interesting looking show at the Guild is THE TRILLIONAIRE, by playwright Michael Moss.  It's a comedic take on the uber-wealthy, privileged one percent, who seem to dominate the world of politics, media attention, and the consolidation of wealth and power, in the political discourse of the moment.    The recent race of billionaires to be first into space, is very timely, and Moss's play, speaks specifically to the issue of the wealthy trying to buy their way off the planet before ecological disaster.

Playwright Michael Moss tells me that “Leon Zobes, the protagonist, in my play is richer than Musk and Bezos combined and wants to move his family to the moon in order to escape climate change. As Scott Fitzgerald famously said, the rich are different!   While THE TRILLIONAIRE amply demonstrates this, the play also takes the opposite view that they’re exactly the same. That is, just as self-centered, and prone to looking out for number one, as regular people.”

Director Alan Kinsella was drawn to the play for the way it handles contrasts, "It's a multi year epic, that's also very intimate, it's factual but also a fantasy, and very accessible but has esoteric elements. And the play embraces these paradoxes in a really exciting way.”

Also of interest is maritime born Justin Shaw, an actor, and stand-up comedian, who I recently encountered as part of 9M Theatre's production of MR BURNS, which was independently mounted, a few weeks back.   His new show is TALES FROM ISLAND BOY PUBLIC JOURNAL,

Shaw moved to Hamilton last year, and he has quickly become known on the local arts scene, and his latest production, based upon a story from his native Prince Edward Island, is one that he is developing into a full length work. But he is testing the waters with this hour-long Fringe version, to see what works, and to get an honest reaction from an audience.

Justin Shaw tells me that  "TALES FROM ISLAND BOY PUBLIC JOURNAL is a show I'm presenting at the Hamilton Fringe that is basically six (six!) progress showings of a new one person show I'm working on called 'THE 70 MILE YARD SALE.'  It's a fantastical story about Prince Edward Island, and finding more than you bargained for. I love making folks laugh, and am grateful for all the opportunities I've had this past year in my new home!"

It's being performed at Mosaic, at 541 Barton Street, which was previously used as the hub for the winter Frostbites Festival a year before the pandemic.

Finally, the production that is at the centre of my life is THE NIGHT THEY RAIDED MCMASTER.   It’s an original play by a local Hamilton company Theatre Erebus Inc., which has performed in the festival seven times before.   It tells the story of a film, COLUMBUS OF SEX, that was shot on the campus of McMaster University fifty three years ago, using students as cast and crew.   After it was shown on August 8, 1969 in a lecture hall in Chester New Hall, the movie was seized by the Vice Squad, and the filmmakers, John Hofsess, Dan Goldberg, and Ivan Reitman were charged.

A trial in the Wentworth County Courthouse in 1970, led to the only convictions for film obscenity in Canadian legal history.   This production is certainly the most Hamilton specific production in the festival, that has a record number of Hamilton based performers this year.

Local actor and musician Chris Cracknell, who plays Ivan Reitman, tells me that, “it is great to be back performing at the Zoetic!    It is important to create art that is controversial, and that pushes the boundaries a bit.    We have about twenty minutes of the film, which has survived, so seeing the play, means getting to see parts of the film as well.   Who knows, perhaps you will recognize your grandmother in it!”

These few shows are just a small sample of what you might choose to see.  I wish I had the space to tell you about at least ten more productions, but I will leave you to peruse the Hamilton Fringe program, or to go to the Festival website, and make those discoveries for yourself.

I'm looking forward to experiencing the Hamilton Fringe, as people wonder from venue to venue, discovering something, that is personal and unique and never to be repeated. It is live performance that has been sorely missed over the last two years. That sense of immediacy, the ephemeral nature, the shared collective experience as audience and artists come together to create wonderful memories.

A wonderful wealth of its performance, is on offer over the next two weeks, until the final performances on the evening of Sunday July 31st. Then the venues all go dark, and we have a year before it all happens again, and we can reacquaint ourselves with the artists whose work we came to love, with the volunteers who are friendly and helpful, and without whom the festival could not exist, and with the energy, and positivity, and the “do it yourself attitude”, that the festival celebrates.

So I urge you to participate, and to discover something wonderful, that will stay with you, until next year when, fingers crossed, we will gather to do it all again.

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