Forty companies, 11 days, 12 venues, over 300 performances: Hamilton Fringe is back for its 11th year. And several local politicians will be playing the fool to kick off the event. 

The unjuried festival runs from July 17 to 27. It starts Wednesday with the festival launch at the Citadel Theatre that will feature Hamilton politicians doing Shakespeare.

Candidates for this fall’s municipal election will take the stage with professional actors to act out scenes from plays to raise money for the festival. Candidates’ dramatic roles are determined by how much money each one raises — playing one of either Shakespeare’s fools ($250), unlucky lovers ($500) or heroes ($1,000).

“If you laugh a little bit when you think of the idea, then it’s probably a good idea,” said festival director Claire Calnan. “This is your chance to see your municipal candidates get up and do something a little bit outside their comfort zone.”

Let’s hope there is enough jester-appropriate wardrobe available, because Councillor Brian McHattie was the only Hats Off to Fringe fundraising participant who as of Tuesday afternoon had raised enough money to play “the hero.”

“I was hoping someone would make it to ‘Loser in Love’ because they have really good scenes, but some people are even short of being a ‘fool,’” Calnan said.

The festival launch will also include two-minute pitches of each of the plays.

The event is at the Citadel Theatre at 28 Rebecca St. at 7:30 p.m.

Festival highlights for first-time Fringers

Fringe Bus TourOn Friday, July 18, participants can board at The Baltimore House (43 King William) and get a tour of Hamilton Fringe. The bus will tour the city to point out Fringe hot spots and venues, include guest performances in costume en route, and drop in to see one of the SHORT Shows in SMALL Spaces.

“Actor Mike Rinaldi will perform as part of the tour,” Calnan said of the actor and writer who moved with his family to Hamilton last summer. “He’s a writer on a Fringe show that became a movie called The F Word that opened up TIFF last year."

Bring Your Own Venue features performances at offsite locations

The festival also features 28 "regular shows" at four venues in Hamilton. 

Evelyn Dick is back in the form of a one-woman play by a 22-year-old Hamilton resident who hopes to use the story for an important moment in her career.

A full Hamilton Fringe lineup is available on their website, with descriptions of each performance, as well as a complete calendar of shows

Ticket information

100 per cent of box office revenue goes back to the artists.

Visit the Hamilton Fringe website for full ticket information

  • Online advance: $12
  • At the Door Tickets: $10
  • Gallery mini-Series: $8

Value/package passes:

Fringe Binge Pass: $48. The pass is good for six “at the door” tickets (tickets cannot be booked in advance). The pass is transferable but can only be used for a maximum of two tickets per play.

The 10-Show Pass: $75. This pass is good for 10 “at the door” tickets (which cannot be booked in advance). The pass is transferable but can only be used for a maximum of two tickets per play.

The Gallery Mini-Pass: $18. This pass lets patrons into three gallery mini-series performances. The pass is transferable but can only be used for a maximum of two tickets per play.

No latecomers are admitted.

Additional fundraising

Before every show, the audience gets the "bucket speech." It's a call for donations that help fund the Fringe each year, and the festival uses an easily identifiable yellow bucket for at-the-door donations.

The Fringe Backer Button: All Fringe patrons require a $4, one-time purchase button that can be pinned to bags or clothes. Attendees cannot get into a Fringe show without one. They are available at all venue box offices during the festival’s run.

Last year, Hamilton Fringe raked in $14,763 through audience donations and button sales.

Calnan said the festival, which is growing every year, is also waiting to find out what funding they will receive from the city’s grant system. 

“With the kind of economic impact the arts are having in this city, I think it would be wise for the city to increase support for festivals that have such a positive impact,” she said.

What’s new

Calnan, in her second year as festival director, said strengthening community outreach in hopes of drawing more people to the festival has been a new component in 2013 and 2014.

Outreach elements include Family Fringe, BackStage Pass, a free program for youth interested in a career in theatre, Youth Access Pass and T-shirt painting.

“We are trying to open it up to the whole community — so that everyone can participate in it,” Calnan said.

Last year, Fringe attendance was up by nearly half, jumping from 5,130 to 7,650 and “this year, we’re hoping to build on that even more,” publicist Denyse Terry said.