Hamilton is getting its act together with a program to support its emerging theatre-makers.
ALERT, which stands for Artistic Leadership and Entrepreneurial Training, is a no-cost educational initiative of The Hamilton Fringe Festival. The focus is on helping performing artists aged 19 to 30 develop their artistic and production skills. “We want to give a boost to the next generation,” says Claire Calnan, director of The Fringe. “We want them to take their skills to the next level.”
The Hamilton Fringe is a perfect home for ALERT. Like Fringe Festivals around the world, Hamilton’s group showcases the original work of emerging artists and companies of all sizes through its summer festival. ALERT takes this support a step further.
Monthly workshops are bringing in big names from across Canada to teach the 18 participants practical skills such as budgeting, marketing, fundraising and the intricacies of producing work at non-traditional locations. Participants will also collaborate on a winter theatre festival and mentor local youth with an interest in the arts. But a key element of the program is creating a strong sense of community among emerging artists in the city. “We want them to inspire and push each other,” Claire says.
It’s working already. Aaron Jan is a 22-year-old Hamilton native who has produced several successful Fringe shows. After only one workshop, he has plans to collaborate with three other young theatre companies to ensure a year-round lineup of independent theatre in the city.
The Player’s Guild is providing rehearsal space, while support from the Hamilton Community Foundation covers workshop costs and program coordination.
Claire says there is a real need in Hamilton. “We have Theatre Aquarius and community theatre groups but there’s a middle ground that’s missing—professional theatres where artists can develop their voices and skills while producing new work,” says Claire. “HCF can take credit for helping to create the next generation of theatre-makers in the city.”
“ALERT gives young artists a reason to stay in Hamilton,” Aaron says. “It offers us infrastructure and support. It’s not just about performing our work, but improving it.”
Excerpt from 2015 Annual Report