The Hamilton Fringe Festival

Celebrating its 15th anniversary in a big way

The eleven-day performance festival that takes place in Hamilton each summer is introducing a huge expansion to their festivities from July 19th to 29th with a new outdoor Fringe Club. The Fringe Club, presented in partnership with Redchurch Café + Gallery, will be located in the East end of Gore Park and provide new opportunities for artists and culture-lovers to grab a beer on the licensed patio, take in live performances on the open-air stage, visit the craft and community marketplace, take a yoga class, and participate in many other free activities over the course of the festival.

The idea of an outdoor licensed hub is not unique to Hamilton. Fringe Festivals, unjuried festivals that take place all over the world, often feature free-to-access clubs or tents, which can attract visitors beyond the scope of traditional Fringe-goers. Many believe that the new Fringe Club will do the same for Hamilton Fringe.

“Free events are your first point of contact for people who wouldn’t normally attend a theatre show. This could lead to more people having a relationship with theatre in Hamilton,” says Jennie Esdale, Theatre Aquarius’ Outreach, Development and Education Program Director.
Theatre Aquarius’ Summer School students will be performing an original piece of work at the Fringe Club on July 29th. They are just one of the many organizations that are collaborating with the Hamilton Fringe on programming at the Club. Other partners include Supercrawl, Hamilton Downtown Business Improvement Area, and the Hamilton Youth Poets.

“Well-known, established organizations working together can only be good to help build audiences,” says Esdale. “It’s so great to have a central place that can bring the community together.”

The feeling is shared by artists, too. Fringe artist Lisa Pijuan-Nomura looks forward to more possibilities for engagement with people who wouldn’t ordinarily go to the theatre. “I’m cognizant of people not feeling that the theatre is a space for them, for a number of reasons. If you don’t feel comfortable walking through the front door or don’t even have access to that door, you’re cut off,” says Pijuan-Nomura, who is also hosting a talk on gentrification at the Fringe Club. “When something is in the open air, it’s a little more open to the world.”

Lisa’s opinion echoes the sentiment behind an increasing number of conversations about the lack of diversity and inclusion in projects in the theatre community, with issues of access to opportunities at the forefront of these discussions.

It looks like the Hamilton Fringe has taken notice, with programming at the Fringe Club addressing some of these issues and offering programs for people of many different communities. There will be an Arts and Allyship Talking Circle, an evening celebrating women’s writing, and a ‘Love is Love’ drag show, just to name a few.

Erika Reesor, a Fringe artist who is active in the queer community, thinks that including these programs can be helpful for the Hamilton theatre scene. “Visibility is the only way we can promote any kind of inclusion in the community,” she says. “Unless we are visible, there will still be an enormous disparity onstage.”

Marilo Nuñez, who is hosting a talk about theatre in the age of the #MeToo movement, agrees. “The panel talk will be an excellent way to showcase the women’s work in theatre that is happening because a lot of people don’t know about it. And it will bring more awareness to the topics that are important to us as not only women but as humans.”

The Fringe Club will provide many opportunities to discuss these topics over a cold beer, courtesy of Woodhouse Brewing, or take a trip down memory lane while strolling through the exhibit of Fringe memorabilia at Redchurch’s Gallery. For those looking for family fun, each Saturday of the festival will feature all-ages programs from yoga to street performers and more. Regardless of what you’re looking for, there are many ways to get involved in the eleven days of art, food, film, beer, buskers and more at the Fringe Club this summer.

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