A Farewell to Fringe

Hamilton Fringe 2014 is almost over and it had been incredible to see the work of so many talented artists. As an enthusiast myself, I am so happy that each year the audiences seem to be a little bit bigger and awareness seems to reach a little bit farther. It has certainly been a whirlwind two weeks trying to attend as many performances as we could– we are a modest-sized staff here at Happening Hamilton :)

Though the festival has reached its conclusion, we still wanted to provide critique for the shows we attended.

A final congratulations to all artists, organizers, sponsors, volunteers, and everyone involved for making this festival such a memorable and rewarding experience for so many people. Until next year!

*Be sure to check out our reviews on Life Through Fire and Bootlegger’s Wife.  

Romeo & Juliet: An Escapist Comedy

If you are aiming to understand all of the humour crammed into this performance, ensure you are a university graduate with: general to specific knowledge of (or interest in) philosophy, literature, and drama; a knack for Shakespeare; and a deep-seated love for Woody Allen. Of course, that is what is perfect about this quirky adaptation of Romeo & Juliet—everyone will not “get” all of it, but will laugh their butts off regardless. Jokes are well-timed and whip-smart. The Fourth Wall is appropriately broken as Romeo questions life, death, and escapist notions. Normative theatrical functions are challenged and upheaved. This young company should be proud of a piece that is well-acted and unique. Theatre like this reminds me why I love the art.


The Yellow Wallpaper

Though The Yellow Wallpaper is one of the longer shows in the festival, I was enthralled for the entire performance. That being said, condensing minor scenes and interactions would have improved pacing. In this way the piece was not necessarily gripping or thrilling, but still beautiful and interesting. Mise-en-scene elements worked well together to pull the audience down with Charlotte (Hanah Itner) as she slowly loses her mind. For example, the gobo choice signifying night was perfect and the repetitive use of it mimicked the character’s inner turmoil. Every day is truly the same in Charlotte’s isolated room and the only sources of inspiration are the lovely creatures in the wallpaper. Sarah Granger is a mesmerizing force as Wallpaper Woman and makes us wish we could go to her yellow realm. I was constantly craning to spy movement in the patterns of the wallpaper.

Some big themes were aptly presented by the company: gender relations, scepticism versus faith, and ethical medical practice. Director/Writer Kristi Boulton did a great job adapting the original short story (a series of diary entries told in a singular voice) into a captivating plot with well-developed characters.


Prince Charming: Missing Person

Most of my enjoyment of the humour in Prince Charming: Missing Person came from the medieval puns that were snuck into the dialogue. The company made a commendable effort in bridging the gap between fairly-tale conventions and topical issues. It reminded me of an adult version of the Shrek films. The aptly-named Princess (Laura Kyswaty) is a typical fairy-tale princess, looking for true love with her boyfriend Prince Charming of Ikea (Matthew Krist). When she is suddenly dumped by her beloved, the quest begins to either get him back, scorn true love, or become a “slut” like her handmaiden Maid Mary of Whatnot (Jennifer Wren). The Princess makes a fairly moral decision at the show’s conclusion and there is a feel-good message in respecting yourself and your choices. However, the “correct” way to respect yourself seems to be dictated by the cast’s treatment of Maid Mary and her attitude towards relationships. Though proud of her own open relationship and sexual prowess, it seems Maid Mary is only truly redeemed when she finally gets married (in an presumably monogamous union). This is a tough theme to tackle in a 60-minute comedy, but kudos to Prince Charming: Missing Person for taking some risks in a difficult genre (comedy).

 XOXO: The Relationship Show

Meghan Chalmers and Franny McCabe-Bennett have certainly had their share of heartbreak and hilarity on their way to finding love. XOXO: The Relationship Show is a series of eccentric and brutally-honest vignettes that highlight the Millennial dating experience. What is endearing about the show is that a normative depiction of men, women, and dating is replaced with stories and advice that are more inclusive. In her “first kiss story”, McCabe-Bennett tells us of her confusing, passionate, feminist, drunken, and awesome kiss with a girl she liked in university. The laundry list of things women do to get ready for a “first date” are not for men—they are for an individual we respect and admire regardless of sex or gender. Ultimately, though the show highlights the female experience in dating, it was refreshing that these artists are sincere in their depictions of themselves and of their desires.

A Language for Dogs

A Language for Dogs
Reviewed by Krista Schwab

A Language for Dogs is about the power of staying true to your roots. It begins as a quirky walk through James Street North with one of four tour guides. I was accompanied by Bessie Cheng, an insecure real estate agent who is belittled by the other more confident real estate agents.  The show quickly takes a dark turn when we arrived at the true venue – an abandoned storefront on James Street North. Although elements of comedy were present, the show is bleak and the real estate agents spend the majority of the performance literally battling over the space. Suddenly, it became a battle over which city is better – Hamilton or Toronto. As someone with no theatre background, I was a bit lost trying to find the meaning at this point. This was partly because my group was late arriving at the venue and I missed the first appearance of the Hamilton character (Hayley Pace), who is apparently shoved down the stairs into the basement and locked away.

Meaning became apparent when the character representing Hamilton emerged – a clumsy and unlucky girl dressed in rough clothing. Pace gives an amazing and convincing performance. We are captivated by her struggles and interesting story, and our hearts are warmed by the ability for her to stay true to her roots. The first half of the show is entertaining but the meaning is overshadowed by dramatic fighting. Most importantly, the second half of the show make us Hamiltonians proud of our strength and perseverance.


Love with Leila

My absolute best friend is from Tehran, Iran. I remember her telling me stories of what it was like to grow up there: she wore her hijab outside of the house; she had to be careful not to be seen out with any of her male friends; and she knew a lot of girls who had received plastic surgery. Now that she is in Canada, she has found a good balance between embracing new customs and hanging on to some from home. I have always admired her gumption and sincerity.

Through the entirety of Love with Leila, I kept thinking how alike this character was to my best friend. A spunky girl from Tehran, Leila (played by creator Izad Etemadi) is looking to make her parents proud by finding love with an ideal man. She is confident in her choices but every so often needs help from the audience. In fact, I was surprised how involved we actually were. From passing out candy to calling audience members on-stage to hosting an impromptu dance party, Leila had us hooked. Etemadi is bang-on in his stylized rendition of a young Persian woman. However, Leila’s painfully earnest moments of clarity are what make the show. Ultimately, it is the coming-of-age story of a girl who learns to love herself. Warning: This show did contain nuts ^-^

For details on the shows and where to find out more information about the companies, a good place to start is the Fringe website.  

7 Events Happening in Hamilton this Weekend ( July 25, 26, 27)

1. Hamilton Fringe Festival
All weekend
(Check out our Fringe review here)
Cost: $10

2. Wild Night
With the Royal Streets, DB Cooper and Xprime
Friday, July 25
9 pm @ Casbah Hamilton
Cost: $10

3. Bump, Set, Raise!
Fuse is a group of young professionals that fundraises for Hamilton Health Sciences.
Saturday, July 26
10:00 am @ Wave Sports Centre (Burlington)
Cost: $25

4. Food for Thought Summer Cooking Class
Saturday July 26
2 pm @ Hamilton Farmers’ Market
Cost: Free!

5. Edible Weekend Cooking Demonstration
Sunday, July 27
2 pm @ Royal Botanical Gardens
Cost: Rbg admission

6. AGH Centennial Family Picnic
Sunday July 27
11 – 4 @ AGH
Cost: Free!

7. Sunday Slam Fest
7 bands, a DJ and more!
Sunday July 27
3 pm @ This Ain’t Hollywood
Cost: $6

Did we miss you? Tweet us @happinghamilton

Impressive and Exciting Work for First Week of Hamilton Fringe

For the first week of Fringe, I was volunteering at Theatre Aquarius. It was great to meet some of the artists, greet enthusiastic audience members, and see some of the performances. For those I was unable to see, the enthusiastic banter from audiences as they left the theatre said it all. 911, a self-described “whodunit” comedy, had some audience members exclaiming it “felt like a movie!” while others commended the talents of the young actors involved.  Love With Leila, a performance I am looking forward to seeing tomorrow (with great anticipation!) leaves audiences in stitches. I have heard rumours of an impromptu audience-dance-party and distribution of personal hygiene products before the performance. Romeo & Juliet: An Escapist Comedy is a modern (and funny!) take on the well-known Shakespeare play. After seeing Bridezilla vs. The Apocalyse at last year’s Fringe, I am excited to see Laura Ellis in this new production. Make Art Theatre has also churned out some impressive pieces in the past so it will be great to see what they do to add humour to the bleak tale of star-crossed lovers .

I was able to attend the other two performances completing the roster at Theatre Aquarius: Life Through Fire and Bootlegger’s Wife. Both are beautiful interpretations of incredibly strong women that thrived in some of the most defining eras of Canadian history. In Life Through Fire, Camilla MacIntosh (Heather Baer) relives painful memories through extended interaction with the ghost of her deceased husband. For Camilla and her husband Henry (Dan Sanderson), the bombing of Dresden was the bittersweet moment that brought them together— Henry is a patient in Camilla’s hospital ward. For Camilla, this interaction blazes in her memory as a tender moment that changed the course of her life. For Henry, the dark secrets of his past resurface in an homage to the bombings that destroys the life the couple later builds together in Kitchener—what he does is heartbreaking and serves as an unexpected revelation for the audience.

 lifethroughfireSet of Life Through Fire

Baer demands attentive silence from the audience as she transforms the small studio space into her personal place of reflection. A handful of props combined with emotive acting appropriately serve the challenging script. While Baer’s interior monologues are the foundation of the show, Sanderson’s depiction of Henry gives depth and dimension to the supporting character. Baer’s solo interactions with an imaginary-Henry conceive him as angry and impatient—Sanderson’s earnestness stirs empathy for the pain he has gone through.

The reveal of Camilla’s most painful memory—what Henry does to destroy their family—was underwhelming on stage and did not stir as much emotion as was probably intended. A floor spotlight and red gobo characterized the reveal but did not support the intensity of the scene. The choice of technique was understandable under the perceived constraints of the small performance space. Fortunately, Baer and Sanderson give performances that, in and of themselves, carry the heavy material of the script with reverence and authenticity.

Paying homage to another strong woman in unusual and painful circumstances, Bootlegger’s Wife delivers a particularly enthralling depiction of Bessie Starkman (Victoria Murdoch)—the common-law wife of rumrunner Rocco Perri (voiced by Luis Fernandes). As conceiver, creator, and performer, Victoria Murdoch creates complexity out of a figure from the pages of history. It seems that Bessie Starkman had quite the life: elegant parties, high-end shopping sprees, bootlegging, infidelity, and murder. Murdoch’s portrayal is a unique reminder of how the devastating highs and lows of being in love never really change.

imageHappening Hamilton with Victoria Murdoch of Bootlegger’s Wife

Bootlegger’s Wife helpfully fills in the historical details of the performance with well-placed audio clips. A radio announcer provides accurate dates and general plot points that give structure to the more abstract interior monologues that Murdoch delivers. The depiction of Starkman’s husband Rocco is also contained in voice-over interactions with Murdoch on stage. In this way, Rocco is rather static as a character and does not seem to develop beyond being charming, aggressive, and stereotypically-Italian-American.

Given Murdoch is the sole performer with a script full of descriptive material, the elements of mise-en-scene and sound had to fill in a lot of blanks for the audience. For example, Murdoch’s costume changes throughout the performance accurately correspond to her growth as a character from a simple girl in a modest dress to a heavenly vision in a white nightgown. Similarly, lighting changes signify the majority of the transitions and are perfectly placed— Starkman’s confessions in court are appropriately top-lit to cast menacing shadows. The use of music during the performance thoughtfully complements the story rather than only signifying the time period to the audience. For example, at a low-point in Starkman’s life, as she orders the murder of her husband’s mistress, Billie Holiday’s “Tain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do” plays in the background. For the man she loves, Starkman is willing to do anything—and it “tain’t” no one else’s concern what that might be.

While lighting serves to signify some of the transitions during the performance, the remaining transitions are blunt as Murdoch weaves in-and-out from behind an on-stage partition. Some transitions are not marked with either signifier and it is confusing when Starkman is suddenly in a new setting speaking to new characters. A uniform transition choice, or even a motif to join differing transitions, would have served the story well. Overall, Murdoch gives an honest and versatile performance and audiences will enjoy dabbling into a neat bit of Southern Ontarian history.

There is still plenty of time to see many of the impressive performances Fringe is offering this year. All shows at Theatre Aquarius (as well as most shows at other venues) continue into this upcoming weekend. Visit the Hamilton Fringe website for detailed show schedules and synopses.

Make sure to let us know which shows you have seen so far, or which ones you are looking forward to!

7 Events Happening in Hamilton this Weekend! (July 18, 19, & 20, 2014)


1. Hamilton Fringe Festival

There’s something for everyone at fringe! Many different performances of comedy, mystery, tragedy, musicals and more throughout the week
July 17 – 27
Cost: $4 + $10/show

2. Amy Hawthorne at Homegrown Hamiltonhh
Amy has brought her blues and soul sound all the way from Scotland.
Friday, July 18, 2014
7- 9 @ Homegrown Hamilton
27 King William St.
Cost: $5

3. ConBravo!
The annual festival of everything geek. A celebration ofconb
indie media, music, gaming, cosplay and everything in between.
July 18, 19, & 20
Friday: 5 pm – 1 am
Saturday: 10 am – 1 pm
Sunday: 10 am to 6 pm
Hamilton convention Centre
Cost: $45

4. Farm Crawlfarm 
At the July Crawl learn about sheep shearing, permaculture, growing raspberries, lavender, and hostas, beekeeping, sustainable farming, organic farming, pigs, chickens, sheep, ducks, cows, ponies, jam making, and more.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
9:30 – 4 @ various locations
Cost: Adult $15, Children (5-16) $7.50, under 5 free

5. Mad Hatters Tea Partymp 
A celebration of mad pride. Open mic, support group, mad market, community meetings.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
10:30 am – 5 pm @ The Perkins Centre (1429 Main Street East)
Cost: Free!

6. Pilates in the Park for City Kidz
All donations to City Kidz
Saturday, July 19, 2014
9 – 10 am @ Dundurn Park
Cost: $5 donation

7. Edible Weekends: Herb and Pestoedible
Educational programming all day (10-4) and cooking demonstration on Sunday at 2 pm.
Saturday, July 19, 2014, 10 am – 4 pm
Sunday, July 20, 2014, 10 am – 4 pm, cooking demonstration at 2 pm

6 Events Happening in Hamilton this Weekend! (July 11, 12, & 13)


Check out these events happening in Hamilton this weekend! Did we miss one? Tweet us @HappingHamiltonhamiltonworldmusicfest

1. Hamilton World Music Festival 
July 11, 6 – 11 pm
July 12, 12 – 11 pm
July 13, 12 – 11 pm
Cost: Free!

2. Art Crawlartcrawl2
Friday Evening
James St. North
Summer Days at Nathaniel Hughson
Vibrant Journey in Harmony
Shedding Skin
Makers’ Market

3. Opening Reception: Spirit of the Red Pinewolflakeperal
100% of profits go to Wolf Lake Coalition
19 artists depict the beauty of Wolf Lake in the Temagami area
Friday, July 11, 2014
7-9 pm @ Pearl Company
View the artwork here
Cost: Free!

4. Dr. Disc ‘Raise the Roof’ Concertraiseroof
Jaunt, Allegories, TTWWRRSS, Pet Sun, Black Rhino Riot – local, independent musicians
Friday, July 11, 2014
6 pm @ Dr. Disc
Cost: Free!

5. Because Beer
Many different breweries, music frombecausebeer
Dinner Belles, Ginger St. James and Harlan Pepper
Saturday, July 11, 2014
Sunday, July 12, 2014
Pier 4 Park
Cost $25/day, or $40 2 day pass (Extra samples for $1 each)

6. Historic Gardens Toursdundurn
Friday, July 13
12:30 – 1:30, 2 – 3 pm.
Dundurn National Historic Site
Cost: Free!

5 Events Happening in Hamilton this Weekend (July 4, 5, & 6, 2014)

1. Cooking Demonstration with Kate Parkerhamfamers
Ages 18+. Recipes, free samples, and a chance to speak to a registered dietitian.
Friday, July 4
12:30 – 1 @ Hamilton Farmers’ Market
Cost: Free
(Pre-register at 905-667-4862 x309 or Nutrition.Groups@HamiltonFHT.ca)


2. Down by the Baydownbythebay
Food trucks and vendors!
Proceeds to the Navy League of Canada
Friday, July 4, 2014
4:30 – 8:00 @ 595 Catharine St.


3. Historic Garden Tours dundurn
12:30 – 1:30 @ Dundurn National Historic Site
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Sunday, July 6, 2014
Cost: Free!


4. Brott Music Festivalbrottmusic
Spectacular string music!
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Sunday, July 6, 2014
Burlington Performing Arts Centre
Cost: $32 adults/$27 seniors/$15 students


5. Downtown Abby Garden Party whitehern
Sunday, July 6, 2014
12 – 8 @ Whitehern Historic Site
Cost: Free outdoor event, regular admission price applies to the museum



& MORE events happening this weekend:

Hamilton Firefit – Battle on the Bay (July 4 – 6)

Seven Sundays in Gage Park (July 6)