HamilTEN is like Hamilton: an attractive, affordable opportunity to have a great experience.
By Kevin Somers
Published April 12, 2013
"Here's Hoping", a romantic comedy I've written, is part of the lineup. Combining a true altruist's altruistic altruism with self-serving, self-promoting shamelessness, I met with Darren Stewart, the man behind HamilTEN, to discuss this unique opportunity for theatre creatures to rise and strut.
The world is small. Darren, it turns out, is a friend and colleague of my wife and sister and he has recently moved to Hamilton, so there was much to discuss.
There are three shows: Friday evening, Saturday evening, and a Sunday matinee. This is the second annual HamilTEN Festival. Last year, every performance was sold out and Stewart is optimistic about this year, as well.
All the writers and performers are local, so it was apt we met at Homegrown Hamilton to thrash out HamilTEN and homegrown opportunities.
Born in England, Stewart grew up and lived mostly in Toronto. He attended Toronto High School For Performing Arts and has been involved in theatre "forever." In his travels, Stewart observed ten-minute plays, and festivals featuring them, were increasingly popular, so he started one in Hamilton, his new hometown, where he saw an opportunity.
Stewart, who has been living in Hamilton for less than two years, sees a city that is attractive, affordable, and attractively affordable. He also talked about the "buzz" around Hamilton, which has a growing reputation for being welcoming and workable for artists.
"I think," he said, "it started with visual arts and music, but, now, more and more writers and actors are coming here, which is creating a bubbling undercurrent of activity. There's a lot of good talent in Hamilton, so it's a nice mix of locals and Toronto ex pats.
"Hamilton allows artists and others of modest income an opportunity to buy a house or condo and establish roots; to live that dream, as well."
The Pearl Company, home of HamilTEN, lives in a grand, old, downtown building. Originally a coffin factory, The Pearl is now helping breathe life into its neighbourhood as an Arts and Performance Center.
Stewart was familiar with The Pearl Company from a show he had done earlier in his career. "It's a great venue for HamilTEN," he said. "Gary and Barbara (who run The Pearl) are so supportive of all artistic ventures, it's a pleasure to deal with them. They're amazing." He added, "You should write about them in Raise the Hammer."
"I will," I said.
Ryan Sero is back at HamilTEN with a new piece. His play, "The Cheese," was voted audience favourite, last year. Stewart said, "Almost everyone who attended last year filled out a ballot, which is a good sign. People are much more likely to participate if they've enjoyed themselves."
Sara Weber's, "Things Unsaid," is being directed by Stephen Near and is starring Peter Gruner and Jaclyn Scoger.
Sara said, "I went to the first rehearsal and didn't expect to be as moved as I was. It's the first time I've ever seen my work on stage, and I feel so grateful to Luke Brown and the Theatre Aquarius Playwright's circle for giving me the confidence to write such a personal story."
Stephen Near, Program Director at The Hamilton Arts Council, is participating for the second year as well.
"HamilTEN is a good example of grassroots theatre," he said. "It's a quick, but quality, opportunity for local theatre artists to showcase. Ten-minute plays are a big trend, right now. It's an exhilarating, dynamic opportunity for audiences to access theatre; there's a flash element to it, which is exciting."
Luke Brown, Artistic Associate at Theatre Aquarius, directed Near's play, "Plainspeak," in last year's HamilTEN.
He said, "The best thing for a playwright is to get your work out there. A ten-minute play, in a festival like this, is a good goal to shoot for because you can have it performed, in front of an audience, for free. It's a perfect opportunity."
There's that word, again.
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