Photo C/O Kaz Ehara/Verity Creative Inc.

Four days, seven shows and one location. For the past five years, the Frost Bites theatre festival has created a space for non-traditional theatre in Hamilton. Frost Bites focuses on site-specific theatre, which means that the shows are created for a particular venue. Therefore, shows can only be performed in one space and at one time. 

This year the festival is taking place in and drawing inspiration from the Hamilton Waterfront Trust. Claire Calnan, the Executive Director of Hamilton Fringe, explains that before they begin writing, artists are taken on a tour of this venue and asked to write shows inspired by the space, challenging the typical process of writing the script first and finding the venue second. The festival is run by Hamilton Fringe and was created to add a dash of fun, bite-sized theatre to the cold winter months, and to challenge local artists to create something that transforms a space.

“Site-specific work is really interesting for me because it can transform a location for you, so that whenever you go by that location in the future you will think about it differently, because you’ve seen something happen there, or you’ve thought about it in a different way. It kind of transforms a landscape, and it can transform the landscape of a city,” said Calnan.

The festival also works with the Artistic Leadership and Entrepreneurial Training Program, a program run by Hamilton Fringe to develop new artistic leaders in the city. The youth that participate in the program assist with running Frost Bites, whether that be by helping to design the space or running the box office. In this way, Frost Bites not only fosters new theatre in the community, but paves the way for the future of the artistic community in the city.

One of the companies performing is DeVision, a collective of six McMaster Film and Theatre alumni: Adeline Okoyo, Maddie Krusto, Claudia Spadafora, Jamie Milay Kasiama, Brianna Seferiades and Yvonne Lu. Their show, Key Words Include, explores the complicated concept of femme bodies as marginalized and marginalizing. Krusto, now a Master of Arts student at McMaster in the gender studies and feminist program, says that the site-specific nature of the festival creates a unique opportunity to exercise their creativity.

“As an artist, it’s really interesting to not only have this mandate of ‘Make a show,’ but to be able to come in and be inspired by things in the room. For example, when we came in for the venue tour and came into the room, there’s a big glass case, and we walked in and we immediately were like, ‘We could put people in there!’ and, ‘What can we put in there?’ and we were climbing into it, and it’s just really fun to explore what that space offers . . . in some ways it’s very liberating to get to explore first, and to play in this space, and think about what we can do,” said Krusto.

“As an artist, it’s really interesting to not only have this mandate of ‘Make a show,’ but to be able to come in and be inspired by things in the room. For example, when we came in for the venue tour and came into the room, there’s a big glass case, and we walked in and we immediately were like, ‘We could put people in there!’ and, ‘What can we put in there?’ and we were climbing into it, and it’s just really fun to explore what that space offers . . . in some ways it’s very liberating to get to explore first, and to play in this space, and think about what we can do,” said Krusto.

Each group brings their own unique focus and ideas to their performances. DeVision knew that they wanted their work to examine ideas of subjection and consumption, but working in the building helped to mold and shape their ideas, evolving to fit the space that they are performing in.

“We already knew we wanted to do a show that was something about the consumption of femme bodies, and the way that we’re being consumed, and so now the show has evolved into what is our relationship to the land, both when us as subjects and bodies being consumed, but we’re also settlers and consuming the land and contributing to settler colonialism. So what is that relationship when you’re both marginalized, but also marginalizing,” said Krusto. 

Photo C/O Kaz Ehara/Verity Creative Inc.

Every show in the festival is performed in or around the same building, the Hamilton Waterfront Trust. But each show is dramatically different, offering different perspectives on the same building. Another performer is Annalee Flint, the creator of Flint and Steel Productions. She says that her show was entirely inspired by the venue.

“I specifically didn’t want to have anything in mind already, I really wanted to take advantage of the site-specific nature of it. So once I found out what the venue was I had kind of a little lightbulb about something that inspired me, and then once I actually got into the space I had that go further . . .  So it really has been created solely with Frost Bites in mind and solely with this particular venue in mind,” said Flint.

Flint’s show is entitled amo, amas, amat, and it examines the meaning of love. 

“It’s kind of an exploration of love, but using words and language, and maybe almost looking at what happens when you can have all of these beautiful, poetic words and declarations or statements about love, but you maybe can’t actually feel it or realize it for yourself . . . You spend your time focused on the beauty of language and the beauty of how love has been expressed by other people, but then you sort of neglect to figure out how to express it in your own world,” said Flint.

In order to fit multiple pieces into the same evening, shows are capped at 20 minutes, and are performed several times over the course of the evening. Amo, amas, amat has a run time of just 12 minutes. The multi-layered, complex meanings of the show are condensed down into bite-sized pieces, leaving the audience to construct interpretations of their own.

“[The show is] going to have all of [the meaning] behind it, but what actually is presented to the audience I think is something that everybody is going to take away a different meaning, or a different bit of wisdom, or a different emotion,” said Flint.

Frost Bites focuses on fostering relationships between different artists, encouraging artists to collaborate. Each night, audience members will be led into the main space, where there will be a special performance by Indigenous artist Rod Nettagog. On Saturday Feb. 1, choreographer Kyra Jean Green will be doing a dance collaboration with Nettagog. Audience members will not be the only ones seeing this for the first time, however; neither performer has ever met or worked with the other before — it will be an entirely unique and one-of-a-kind performance.

“It’s hard enough to create traditional theatre in the city and make it be successful, so then if you decide to create something a little bit off the beaten track, or a little bit unusual, or you want to put things in unusual places, it gets really hard to find an audience for that. I think that what I like about Frost Bites is that’s exactly what everybody that’s going to Frost Bites wants. They want something that’s a little bit different, a little bit weird perhaps, a little bit non-traditional; they know that that’s what the festival is about,” said Flint.

The Frost Bites festival happens in a new building every year, meaning that each performance is specific to its environment. The unique nature of the festival means that the artists have the opportunity to experiment and explore with different forms of theatre. Like the Hamilton Fringe Festival, artists that participate in Frost Bites are paid for their work. In this way, artists are able to hone their craft while still being supported by the community. 

Frost Bites runs from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 at the Hamilton Waterfront Trust (57 Discovery Drive). Adult tickets are $25 and grant you admission to as many shows as you can manage in one night. If that does not work with your budget, it is possible to see a 1-3 of the shows on Jan. 29 as part of the preview, for free. For more information or to pre-book, email info@hamiltonfringe.ca with “preview night RSVP” in the subject line.

 

[thesil_related_posts_sc]Related Posts[/thesil_related_posts_sc]

Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.