One of Hamilton’s biggest, most eclectic festivals for live performance of all kinds is back full-force this summer for its first in-person event since the pandemic began.
The Hamilton Fringe Festival runs from July 20th to 31st this year in venues all over the city, with over 350 performances on 14 local stages presented by more than 60 artistic companies ranging from theatre to comedy to music to dance and so, so much more.
One of the most exciting aspects of the festival is that it’s not a juried, curated affair; artists are selected in a random lottery draw each year, and half of the fun is taking a chance on a whole bunch of different shows. Who knows? You might end up seeing one of the best pieces of art you’ve ever experienced!
Though this year’s Hamilton Fringe is chockfull of a wide variety of shows with something for pretty much everyone, we’ve hand-picked 10 shows in the lineup that we’re especially excited to check out. In no particular order, here’s our list of 10 Hamilton Fringe shows you’ve gotta catch this year!
Lovers of horror and storytelling that veers towards the strange are going to be right at home with this year’s first place winner of the Hamilton Fringe’s New Play Contest.
Co-written by Natalia Bushnik and Kathleen Welch, SAMCA promises a contemporary horror folktale with music that follows two sisters as they experience the horrors taking place in the woods late at night.
A cagey summary keeps the plot largely under wraps; but playwright and performer Bushnik was one half of the duo behind 2016’s Fringe hit The Bathtub Girls, so audiences can expect a work of art dripping with atmosphere, dread, and some seriously spooky vibes.
Stephen Near is one of the Hamilton Fringe’s most prolific playwrights, and his latest with Same Boat Theatre may be his most personal, affecting work to date.
A tender tale of father and daughter set against the backdrop of a planet in crisis, Whale Fall brings the formidable talents of local actors Stephanie Hope Lawlor and Raymond Louter to the stage under the direction of Aaron Joel Craig. Near’s script earned him second place in this year’s Hamilton Fringe New Play Contest, further cementing this as a play not to miss.
Locals may know Carly Anna Billings as a trivia night host at popular Hamilton bars like The Argyle; but did you know she’s also an accomplished playwright and performer?
Meat(less) Loaf was one of the projects commissioned by Industry and Porch Light Theatre’s annual Garden Project, which gives seed money and developmental support to new performance projects by Hamilton-based IBPoC artists. Billings’ autobiographical solo show promises to be part storytelling, part culinary adventure, and all kinds of charming, funny, and engaging.
Vancouver-based Taiwanese-Canadian comedian Ed Hill is hitting the Fringe circuit with his latest one-man comedy show.
A follow-up to his acclaimed comedy special Candy & Smiley on Amazon Prime, Stupid Ed promises a show that’s as funny as it is personal and intimate, with Hill diving into his experience as a first-generation immigrant and what he’s learned from living in Canada. Lovers of stand-up comedy with honesty and heart shouldn’t miss this.
This immersive, site-specific piece of theatre is created and performed by a quartet of Hamilton’s up-and-coming IBPoC theatre makers and storytellers.
Directed by Karen Ancheta and Aaron Jan, The House Key Project will take audiences on a dynamic journey – literally – through four secret locations backstage at Hamilton’s regional theatre venue, Theatre Aquarius. Expect a one-of-a-kind live experience with an extremely limited capacity; only 10 tickets are available for each performance!
Juno-nominated folk troubadour Corin Raymond is returning to the Hamilton Fringe with his latest one-man show.
A deeply engaging storyteller with a love of literature, Raymond’s Bookmarks is a follow-up to his 2011 solo piece Bookworm but stands entirely on its own as a live memoir of “books encountered, lost, and found, and the secret paths they travel in the world.” If you’ve seen Raymond onstage as a musician or storyteller before, you’ll know why this show is well worth adding to your list.
Greek mythology fans are going to find lots to love in Medusa, playwright and director Brianna Seferiades’ contemporary take on an iconic monster.
A look at mental illness through a fantasy and horror lens, Medusa stars local actors Claud Spadafora and Mimi Han and promises atmospheric, visceral storytelling through theatrical devices like poetic text and shadow play.
This brand new musical with a book by Margot Greve and music & lyrics by Ben Kopp might just be one of the funniest Fringe shows of the season.
Coming to Hamilton with a critically acclaimed run in Toronto under its belt, Killing Time: A Game Show Musical blends the intrigue of a murder mystery with the sugar-rush energy of a TV game show in this riotously funny show about a detective called in the crack the case when a game show host is murdered during a live taping.
If you love the occasional sappy, formulaic Hallmark movie – and really, who doesn’t? – then this fully improvised show by Hamilton’s new comedy-focused company Red Brick Theatre should be right up your alley.
A cast of hilarious improv performers takes the stage in a 70-minute, unscripted show that will be completely different every night, with a spinning wheel determining the holiday or season and a bunch of audience suggestions to fill out the details as the cast creates a Hallmark movie in the moment live on stage. You can’t tell us this doesn’t sound like a great time.
Following three young children as they take a journey to meet and learn from Hamilton’s four grandmasters of street dance, this show – directed and conceived by Dylan Vandemaele – promises to be a winning, kinetic, energetic blast from start to finish.
A sample of this show was presented last year as one of the commissioned projects for Industry and Porch Light Theatre’s Garden Project, and it quite literally had the audience up on its feet and grinning ear to ear. Don’t skip this one, folks.
The Hamilton Fringe Festival runs from July 20th to 31st in venues all across the city. For show information, tickets, and more, visit the festival’s website.