Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to participate in the Hamilton Fringe's Stage Directions event to brainstorm and discuss the future of Hamilton theatre alongside a host of theatre artists and organizations. The event took place at the Players Guild, the oldest community theatre in North America, spread out in various rooms within the historic Guild House. As I walked into one of Hamilton's most unique spaces, I was reminded of the statement on the Guild's website: "theatre is happening in Hamilton and it all happens in the house with the big red doors". It was certainly true for today's event!
In writing about Stage Directions in a previous blog, I think I went into it with some expectations. That didn't last long. Given that it was to be an Open Space event, many of my expectations were swiftly thrown out the window. One of things I didn't expect was just how wide-spread and far-reaching some of the ideas and proposals discussed would be. Ranging from straightforward plans to organize an "arts-vote" initiative for the upcoming municipal election to concrete strategies on how local amateur theatres could work together to help independent troupes in the area, Stage Directions was a flurry of active and engaging dialogues.
It helped that the Guild House had several break-out rooms where discussions could take place. Yes, it was close quarters and rooms were often crammed with participants. But that was part of what got people talking to and listening to each other. And I was pleased to see the Fringe folks had organized a "newsroom" where notes made by participants could be collated and posted for the rest of us to read. But the big thing I took away from Stage Directions? Something I rarely see in the Hamilton theatre community... all of us in one space talking with each other about how to get things done.
Stage Directions was just that: a direction for Hamilton theatre artists to work towards regarding the future. No one left the event believing every issue had been tackled or that every obstacle had been solved. But it was an important first step. And for a theatre community that's seen a lot of change in a short amount of time perhaps that's enough for right now.
Want to find out more about Stage Directions? I encourage you to contact Claire Calnan at the Hamilton Fringe Festival!