The Hamilton 7 storytelling collective is back at The Staircase this weekend after a bit of a hiatus. “After two years of telling stories every month, we took a season off,” says one of its founding members, multidisciplinary artist Lisa Pijuan–Nomura.
They’ve regrouped and fine tuned their approach. On a more sustainable quarterly schedule of shows, each core member “will curate a show that features storytellers they are interested in hearing and working with. We’ll continue to be an incubator for working on new stories, and welcome new guest tellers each show,” Pijuan–Nomura explains.
“I think in order to continue to create good work, artists sometimes need a rest in between busy times so that they can ‘refill the creative well,’” she says. “Heck, I think that everyone needs a rest!”
The founding members of The Hamilton 7 include Karen Ancheta, Darla Biccum, Sheldon Davis, Tor Lukasik Foss, Hitoko Okada, Lisa Pijuan–Nomura, Corin Raymond, and Josh Taylor. It’s a group that spans visual art, dance, music, and songwriting.
Lisa explains that members of the group get together, schedules permitting, to “workshop our stories in a way that theatre artists would in a dramaturgical group as opposed to working alone. The other members say what worked and what they didn’t understand, or had questions about.” Sometimes events are developed around availability, while other times there’s a particular theme.
“At almost every show, we have guest tellers featured. We believe it's important to support local community tellers who have stories... and also [include] professional tellers from other communities who push the boundaries of the form,” Pijuan–Nomura says. This time, “we are inviting Diana Tso and SUPERfluous because we are inspired by their work and want to share with the local community.”
One of the four core Hamilton 7 members onstage June 9th will be Hitoko Okada, who worked as a theatre costumer for a decade, and is a fibre artist who has exhibited work across Canada. She enjoys stitching together ‘biographical’ and ‘pre–colonial cultural’ stories to “challenge socially dominant singular narratives.”
Karen Ancheta grew up in Hamilton, and is a graduate of Ryerson Theatre School. Her acting credits include roles with Hamilton’s Red Betty Theatre at Frost Bites Festival, the Hamilton Fringe as well as Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille, fu–GEN Theatre, and Young Peoples Theatre. She’s worked with initiatives mentoring caregivers and young people in the craft of storytelling. In July she’s part of the world premiere of a production called Through The Bamboo at the Toronto Fringe, and has Hilot Means Healer with Cahoots Theatre coming up in the Fall.
Ancheta lists a number of benefits of being part of The Hamilton 7, ranging from a general sense of friendship and support to insights gained from having an “outside eye to my creative process... from different artists of different disciplines.”
Besides, Ancheta jokes, “It’s like being in a gang: a nerdy, awesome gang.”
The aforementioned Lisa Pijuan–Nomura is a creativity coach as well as a performer of theatre, dance, comedy, song, and puppetry; she’s worked in Canada and internationally for nearly three decades. She’s fascinated by the dynamic potential of storytelling fused with dance, sound and visual art, and has written and performed a number of solo shows, including Small, Sweet, and Quiet, Stories My Body Told Me, and She Said Saffron. Later this month, she’ll perform an evolving piece, PityFace, on a double bill with Tor Lukasik Foss’ Seven Songs.
Lukasik Foss is a storyteller, musician, and visual artist who “writes songs and tells stories about anxiety [and] social awkwardness; He has exhibited work throughout Canada as well as the U.S., and performs music as ‘tiny bill cody.’ Lukasik–Foss says that the interplay with his varied Hamilton 7 peers has been valuable in ‘achieving honesty’ in his stories.
“A teller with a background in theatre can be honest but ground and amplify their delivery with a range of theatrical techniques. A musician may want to couch a story as a kind of pre-song stage banter, which gives it an intimacy and informality,” Tor muses. “A comedian tells with an ear to the beats and rhythm of the language. An artist with no affection for the stage may want to let their vulnerability and nervousness hang out like a shirt tail in order to legitimize and problematize the telling. A writer may want to fictionalize a story to bump it up to a higher level of truth.”
“In the end, finding a means to be ‘honest’ is a super personal negotiation between you, your background, your strengths, your weaknesses,” he says. “The moments where you feel an honesty in what you do, are amazing.” V
The Hamilton 7:
A Night of Storytelling
Sunday, June 9, 7 PM
The Staircase Cafe Theatre
27 Dundurn St N., Hamilton
Tickets: $12 in advance, or at the door
Reserve seats by contacting: