Hamilton artist wins Best in Fringe in record-setting festival

The Hamilton Fringe Festival reached record ticket sales in 2019. Hamilton native Camille Intson and her cast won Best in Fringe with We All Got Lost.

Camille Intson's We All Got Lost also won Best New Play and Best in Venue

Emily Meadows and Evelyn Barber perform in We All Got Lost at the Hamilton Fringe Festival. The show sold the highest amount of tickets. (Camille Intson)

Dead Poets Society, but make it "women and more queer."

That's how Hamilton native Camille Intson describes her award-winning play from the Hamilton Fringe Festival.

This past weekend marked the end of the 12-day festival of plays, musicals, comedies and more. It also marked the moment that We All Got Lost won Best in Fringe — the award for the most attended show at the festival. The show walked away from their Fringe experience with three awards in total, including Best New Play and Best in Venue.

Intson, the playwright, director and producer, is the second woman to win the new play contest. The only other woman is Lesley Strutt, who won in 2012.

Intson says it was a "roll-the-dice" 4 a.m. decision that prompted her to enter the festival's new play competition. The juried contest runs separate from the usual lottery system used to select what shows will be in the festival. When she won, Intson began searching for cast members. From 55 audition videos, she selected five women.

"We came into this as five strangers that found each other on the internet," she said. "We're all in our twenties. For us to come in [and win] is monumental."

Evelyn Barber, Kaitlin Race, Jessica Pellicciotta, Emily Meadows, and Miranda Cooper on stage at the Westdale. (Camille Intson)

We All Got Lost is about five young women that go into the woods in Northern Ontario to tell sacrilegious stories. The cast includes Jessica Pellicciotta, Kaitlin Race, Emily Meadows, Evelyn Barber, and Miranda Cooper.   

Intson said she was surprised the show surpassed other top sellers, especially those in their shared venue, The Westdale. F--kboys the Musical and You Want it What Way? A Boy Band Tale were big hits with audiences. Intson had actually made her cast fake Best in Fringe awards before the ceremony to soothe their stressed spirits.

But winning the slew of awards goes beyond the accolades for Intson. She said it shows that the city's theatre culture might be shifting toward accepting the unorthodox.

She explained that Hamilton artists tend to migrate toward Toronto because of its acceptance of "weird" stories. She also said that the city has more resources to support diverse stories and artists and different ways of storytelling, like physical theatre. Seeing this support at home gives her hope for other creators.

"You don't have to be a certain kind of artist or a certain kind of show to succeed in the Fringe circuit here," she said. "I think that the horizons are broadening, and that's wonderful."

Festival surpasses last year's record

Though the final numbers aren't in yet, executive director of Hamilton Fringe Festival Claire Calnan says the festival has reached record ticket sales again. She also said that she's excited about the changing tides. Calnan said that artists are both returning to the city and coming from Toronto and internationally.

This year's roster included big names like Jennifer Tarver, who performed her show The Knitting Pilgrim at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church.

Calnan said that the festival is trying to up their game as a platform for artists to experiment.

"I [had] Toronto producers and Stratford script developers coming to watch shows at the Hamilton Fringe," she said. "This is really becoming a place for people to develop work and there are people who are starting to pay attention to that." 

In 2018, the Hamilton Fringe Festival sold more than 12,000 tickets, meaning more than $108,000 for artists. This year's ticket sales have surpassed that amount, says Canlan. (Hamilton Fringe)

This was the festival's 16th year, with 58 productions spread across the city. Calnan says that the venues also stretched farther east and farther west than ever before. Calnan attributes the record numbers to having these new faces in the audiences, the addition of family fringe productions, and the free Fringe Club events that kept up the buzz. 

A full list of award winners is available on Hamilton Fringe's Instagram and Facebook pages. Submissions for Hamilton Fringe Festival 2020 open up in the fall.