As the Hamilton Fringe Festival comes to a close, an opportunity to reflect arose within me. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am very new to the festival; and it’s true, I didn’t get out to nearly as many shows as I had intended to this year—but nevertheless, I have already noticed trends and features within Hamilton’s growing artistic community. In the half-a-dozen or so years that I’ve called this city home, I’ve come to these conclusions:
1. We’re Willing to Take the Wildest Risks
While other cities (I’m looking at you Toronto) have a clear objective—that is, to push their careers forward and be noticed by casting agents—Hamilton is far more free to express themselves without the harrowing egos and demands of The Industy. This results in some of the most hilarious risk-takers taking to the stage (or the parking lot near a stage) to be foolish and wild. These performances are truly of the moment, connecting with their audiences as the actors grin to one another and improvise; they are open to fail, and thus, far more outside of the box and anti-traditional than the theatre born outside of this city.
Shout-outs: Waaaay Off Broadway, Sheer Criminal Genius™—A Cartoon, Awkward Stories for Adults
2. We Want to Have Something Worth Saying
Hamilton, as a growing city, is in constant flux. Conversations are always being had about authentic casting and storytelling, visible representation on stage, and saying something fresh or otherwise untold. Even the lighthearted comedies take a moment to ground themselves with a message or a deeper meaning. So many of the shows this year added to the conversation of diversity, and raised voices that are often left silent.
Shout-outs: Heatwave, Through the Woods, Emergency Monologues, Hermana Time
3. We Support the Heck out of Each Other
Between “sister shows” and companies plugging one another, shout-outs in programmes and playbills, and word-of-mouth shouting from the Hamilton Fringe tent, one thing is very clear: Hamiltonians love one another. Sure, there are feuds and rivalries, and not everyone is going to get along (we are dramatic people after all), but all artists band together throughout the Fringe to create a supportive community. Artists share each other’s event pages and media campaigns, and even reviewers find the joy in things that they’re otherwise critiquing. This is vital to the Fringe Festival if we are to continue to grow as a community, and only enriches the art that we can all collaborate on in the future.
Shout-Outs: The Director’s Cut, Eli & Pearl, Amanda Cosby-Nesbitt’s and Luis Arrojo’s online conversations and reviews
4. We’re a Force to be Reckoned With
I cannot say it enough: Hamilton is strong. We have been growing through each of the 15 past Fringes, pushing one another, pushing the envelope, pushing out and touring across Canada. Every year, the Fringe grows; it becomes more competitive, more complicated; it adds venues as it adds in number of shows. Hamilton is a destination for CAFF lottery winners and international performances, and we learn from these outside artists and create more complex works because of them. With each passing year, Hamilton solidifies its place on the map of theatrical destinations, and through the Fringe, we can watch as individual performers and companies grow in strength alongside the city.
Shout-Outs: 25, Scaredy Cat, and The Zoetic Theatre
It was no coincidence that Notapom found its roots in this amazing city; as it is no coincidence that the Fringe has had 15 successful festivals here. I’d like to take a moment to thank the many volunteers and coordinators who ensure each Fringe’s success, as well as the many theatre-goers who get out to the Fringe shows and show their support through their attendance; but it is the artists—the crazy, risk-taking, loud and proud artists, who I must applaud. This year, Hamilton boasted 53 different shows, next year, who can even imagine the heights we’ll reach together.