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Hamilton fringe celebrates diversity in accessible way

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Hamilton Fringe Festival patio in 2018. Image: Hamilton Fringe Festival/Tessier/Twitter

July 14th is the official launch of the 18th Hamilton Fringe Festival that runs until July 25th. This year boasts the largest selection of unjuried theatre online as well as live-at-a-distance. Every genre has something for adults, teens and kids.  

As festival director Christopher Stanton relates, "The latest round of pandemic-related restrictions presented a huge challenge to the festival and artists. We're going into this summer's festival with a lot more learning and experience under our collective belt. With over 30 shows on offer live and online this year, we're all very excited to share the work of these Hamilton Fringe artists."

Festival goers can choose from a long list of options. Theatre on Demand is where full-length plays are recorded live and streamed on-demand. Digital Exclusives include 40-minute online offerings that can be streamed on-demand. Skip the Glitches feature the popular 20-minute curbside performances right at your door, so to speak. There's even an online Kids Club Camp and an outdoor Fringe Club Patio for those venturing out.

This year's festival will highlight the artistry and storytelling of Luis Arrojo, winner of the BIPOC artist lottery award and Rex Emerson Jackson winner of the disability justice category.

The Hamilton Fringe Festival will also celebrate diversity with the new Fringe All-Access series culminating in a performance made up of multi-disciplinary arts enthusiasts representing the diversity of Hamilton's artistic and local community. As Heather Kanabe, executive director explains: "We are excited to continue to do the work to break down barriers and provide a platform for diverse and underrepresented voices in Hamilton's performing arts community."

To that end, a number of shows will incorporate American Sign Language interpretation, closed captioning, and/or transcriptions. On-line demand streaming also allows the Fringe to actively invite underserved audiences to experience great theatre.

Tickets are for sale through a pay-what-you-can-afford platform ranging from $5 to $20 per performance along side a variety of multi-show pass options. All festival goers are required to make a one-time $5 button charge to help fund the festival. Ticket sales have begun and as always, 100 per cent of ticket revenue is paid directly to artists.

I've signed up for the official launch on July 14th at 7:30 p.m. where artists have 90 seconds to hook you into their production. It's a fun, fast-paced way to get a feel for productions before signing on.

On my list is The Laughter -- a new play from Steven Elliott Jackson, winner of the 2020 Hamilton Fringe Best New Play. His new play teams up Lucille Ball (Kate McArthur) and Lou Costello (Brandon Knox) of Abbott and Costello fame as they embark on a radio show together.

I've also booked It's a Beautiful Day for Brunch and to Arrest the Cops that Killed Breonna Taylor. This 40-minute play asks non-Black folks to consider what is at stake in the ways we engage racial justice and what more is asked of us in order to imagine a better world.

The Container looked intriguing. What happens when poverty, ecological disaster and a global pandemic motivates three people to smuggle themselves inside a cargo container to the last bastion of safety? The problem? None of them deserve to go.

And of course, when I saw Prairie Odyssey was back for a second year, I had to sign up for it! This old-time radio show follows Becky on her journey through life in the prairie dustbowl and eventually winds its way to present day Hamilton, with an amazing cast of three that compliment each other's talents and really bring the story to life.

Wherever you are in Canada, take time to discover some of this summer's best theatrical offerings at the Hamilton Fringe Festival.

Doreen Nicoll is a freelance writer, teacher, social activist and member of several community organizations working diligently to end poverty, hunger and gendered violence.

Image: Hamilton Fringe Festival/Tessier/Twitter

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