• How to Defeat The Creative Block

    August 10, 2012 by Stephen Near

    How to Defeat The Creative Block

    Posted on August 10, 2012 by Stephen Near

    “Hey Casey, why don’t you do another entry for the blog.”

    “Sure, sounds great!”

    There’s just one small problem. I seem to have all these great ideas, but as soon as I open the document to get started writing my mind goes completely blank. I’m sure this happens to a lot of people, but it is so frustrating trying to work on a project and not being able to get past that first hurdle. Enter, a being so terrifying and imperious only a brave few can take him on, The Creative Block. (This sentence is to be read in the voice of an overly dramatic Saturday morning cartoon narrator.)

    How do you get started when you can’t think of anything? Well I decided to look for some answers. My “research” (aka the first few pages of Google results) turned up quite a few interesting resources from creative minds that have written about overcoming different kinds of blocks.

    7 Types of Creative Blocks (and what to do about them)

    Overcoming Creative Block

    Creative Block – Design Ideas for When You’re out of Ideas

    I’m actually really enjoying going through and refreshing the page on Creative Block. Each time you do you get a great one-liner that will make you stop and think a little differently.

    Typographic Image of complied results from Creative Block

    Typographic Image of complied results from Creative Block

    Maybe some of these will help you through a block of your own. Looking for inspiration, changing tasks, asking for help and so many other ways that you tackle that creative block to the ground and tell him to get lost. And with that last and fatal blow, the notorious Creative Block is defeated.

    Until next time… This is your favourite (if only) summer student, signing off live from the Hamilton Arts Council Office.

    - Casey

    Casey Haughland is a Hamilton student, studying graphic design at Mohawk College. You can follow her on Twitter at @haughland.

  • Summer Posting

    August 3, 2012 by Stephen Near

    “The Hamilton Arts Council is seeking applicants for the position of Arts Outreach Assistant. This is a temporary 7-week position funded through the Canada Summer Jobs Program.”

    Do you remember this post from June? Maybe you’ve been wondering what happened?

    Well, coming to you live from the Hamilton Arts Council office is your summer student Casey, just finishing up my third week of work.

    I honestly can’t believe it’s only been three week since I walked through the doors of theSonic Unyon Records building for my first day. I was so nervous! Though the nerves melted away as the day went on, and by the time the conversation in the office turned to Lightsaber fights I knew it was going to be a good summer.

    Both Stephanie Vegh and Stephen Near have been so helpful in showing me the ropes of what the Arts Council does, and let me tell you there is a lot going on here all the time.

    I’ve gotten my hands dirty in quite a few projects so far. From creating brand guidelines for our new logo & colours, to doing extensive and sometimes exhausting research for the new edition of the Arts Directory, and all the way down to sorting & archiving the Art Beat newsletter from way back in it’s printed days. And now I guess they’ve even got me writing for the blog!

    I’m so excited to have this opportunity. There is a lot of creative freedom in this job, and I wouldn’t expect anything less with both of my superiors being creatives themselves.(Stephanie is a visual artist & Stephen is a playwright)

    I am looking forward to the next four weeks and hoping they don’t go by too fast; I still need to get a proper geek-education here, and of course learn more about our thriving arts scene.


    Casey Haughland is a Hamilton-based student studying graphic design at Mohawk College. You can follow her on Twitter at @haughland.

    Mouse Moves - August 2 Afternoon

    My mouse movements from the afternoon courtesy of I/O Graph

  • Hamilton Fringe Festival Blog: the Second

    July 27, 2012 by Stephen Near

    A Taste of the Artbar

    One of the things I briefly touched upon last blog was the Artword Artbar – the hangout where artists and patrons of the Fringe drink, mingle and connect after shows. Every evening gathering is centered around one hour of standup by comedian Larry Smith, who hosts his own “Fringe-themed” talk show. It’s a chance for artists to pump their shows and receive a gentle ribbing from Larry in a series of “Tonight Show” inspired interviews. Not to mention he’s funny as hell.

    On Wednesday (while eating some delicious, homemade and free food) I was able to meet some of the other artists of the Fringe Festival and talk with them about their experiences, challenges and processes inside the rehearsal hall and out of it. Everyone was super approachable, which made my job as a first-time (and admittedly underprepared) journalist significantly easier. To keep things simple, I asked them all the same question my Torontonian friend asked me when I entered the Fringe: Why Hamilton Fringe?

    Mischa Aravena (Performer – Betrayal – Citadel Studio):

    • Best part of being in the Hamilton FringeMeeting new people and being rewarded for all the hard work we’ve done. We’ve had good audiences and reviews. I couldn’t be more pleased.

    Luis Arrojo (Performer – Paul and Marie – Hamilton Theatre Inc)

    • Why Hamilton Fringe: Easier to get into than the Toronto Fringe.
    • Best Part of being in the Hamilton FringeIt’s Hamilton

     John Bandler (Playwright – So that the Multitude may live – Citadel Studio)

    • Why Hamilton Fringe: The year before my first play I stumbled upon it and loved the concept. The fact that there is no jury system allows each individual to be themselves and to be creative without having to satisfy a reviewer.
    • Best Part of being in the Hamilton Fringe: Great people, creativity, good time.

    James Biss (Performer – Lies, Damn Lies and Magic Tricks – 141 Park Street):

    • Why Hamilton Fringe: I am in Hamilton very often and love the arts         community.
    • Best Part of being in the Hamilton Fringe: I was expecting camaraderie, but I’m really shocked by the level of it here in Hamilton. I’m used to getting no’s for advertising. In Toronto it’s 5 no’s for every yes, but in Hamilton it’s 5 yeses for every no.

    Samuel Chang (Co-writer/Director – The Girl in the Window – Citadel Theatre)

    • Why Hamilton Fringe: It allowed us to showcase our play at a very reasonable price. It is difficult for young aspiring directors to find an affordable venue to display their craft in the Hamilton area.
    • Best part of being in the Hamilton Fringe: The artists are encouraged to view other shows for free, which in turn creates a great friendly environment. Watching the volunteers, artists, and the audience come together really makes this Fringe special to me.

     Jeff Culbert (Actor/Writer – The Donnelly Sideshow – 141 Park Street)

    • Why Hamilton Fringe: People. I started hearing good things from Edmonton’s Fringe.
    • Best Part of being in the Hamilton Fringe: Being in Hamilton. The feel of Hamilton. It’s a really unique place. The venues are good as they’re really close together and accessible.

    Radha Menon (Playwright – Ganga’s Ganja – Citadel Theatre):

    • Why Hamilton FringeWe live here. We’re Hamiltonians who’ve lived here for four years.
    • Best Part of being in the Hamilton Fringe: Not having to travel far.

    Victoria Murdoch (Performer – Dairy Free Love – Citadel Studio):

    • Why Hamilton Fringe: I am from Toronto so it’s close and I have family here. It’s also first come first serve and I’m prompt. (Blogger’s Note: Probably my favourite interview of the night.)
    •  Best Part of being in the Hamilton Fringe: Hamilton is a great town.

    Peter Ormond (Performer/Co-Playwright – Occupy the Musical – Hamilton Theatre Inc)

    • Why Hamilton Fringe: Done it three times. Local theatre. It’s a safe space to be    creative.
    •  Best Part of being in the Hamilton Fringe: Having fun.

     Jim Sands (Performer – Charlie: A Hockey Story – 141 Park Street)

    •  Why Hamilton Fringe: It fit into my schedule. I spoke to Brian on the phone and      it felt like a really warm and friendly space.
    •  Best Part of being in the Hamilton Fringe: I love the arts community. It’s so diverse. There are all kinds of art. It’s a happening place.

     Ahti Tolvi (Director – Wealth Secrets – Citadel Theatre)

    • Why Hamilton Fringe: The expectation that is constantly there to see something   that’s even better.
    • Best Part of being in the Hamilton Fringe: Meeting all of these other people          with all these exciting ideas and the feeling that it can just get better and better.

    So there you have it. After you’re done with a long day of Fringing, head over to the Artword Artbar and be ready for an evening of music, alcohol and laughter.

    See you at the Fringe!


    Aaron Jan is a Hamilton-based theatre playwright, performer, director and the Artistic Director of Fulcrum Theatre. You can catch the company’s entry in the Hamilton Fringe festival, Drafts, at the Citadel Theatre until Sunday, July 29th. You can follow him on Twitter at @afatchineseboy

  • Hamilton Fringe Festival Blog: the First

    July 25, 2012 by Stephen Near

    I’m writing this blog at 1:39 in the morning…fresh after our 4th Show at the Hamilton Fringe. Despite the requests of my mother to “go to bed early”, I have locked myself in my basement, hooked myself on the interwebs and am now scouring the internet for reviews on my play to post on every social media outlet.

    My name is Aaron Jan and this is the first time that my company has participated in the Hamilton Fringe Festival. With the first 4 of our 7 shows complete, I’ve been asked by theHamilton Arts Council to provide some insight about the experience of being a first time participant in the Fringe.

    When I told my Torontonian friend that our company had entered in the Fringe, his response (to quote magician James Biss) was less than fabulous: “Why the HamiltonFringe?” he asked bluntly. I didn’t really have an answer for him at the time. I made up some lie about “giving back to our community” and ended the conversation there – feeling exceptionally stupid and naïve. More on that later.

    Contrary to my friend’s opinion, our experience at the Hamilton Fringe thus far has been nothing short of positive. A big part of this has to do with our venue technician, Adam Archer. Ever since our first meeting, Adam’s been there for us. Every day I see him extensively selling the shows at our venue to patrons. There’s a kind of loyalty and invested interest there that I’ve never experienced before. Needless to say, we’re purchasing him copious amounts of alcohol to show our gratitude.

    I think that’s the thing I really dig about the Hamilton Fringe Festival. In my past dabblings with community theatre, I’ve noticed that other companies don’t necessarily support each other. Every community theatre (ourselves included) in Hamilton seems to have a circle of followers at every performance with maybe 10 strangers or random people. Cliques, if you will. Not so at the Fringe. Because the Fringe is unjuried and advertising is entirely self-motivated, the Festival puts onus on us to sell our show. Even companies with large networks cannot sustain 7 nights of shows with their circles alone.

    Obviously, friendships make sense. Everyone is on equal footing. Everyone paid the same fee to apply to the Fringe. If there’s prejudice or contempt here, I’ve yet to notice it. Not only is the work of the other artists interesting, but partnering with another company to “double promote” shows has proven to be extremely popular and effective for getting bums in seats. There’s a sense of fellowship when you see other “artists of the Fringe” seeing your show, because you’re all alike in some messed up way.

    This really comes together at the Artword Artbar. After shows, companies gather at the Artbar to exchange stories, whispers, rumors and flights of fancy. They get drunk, share marketing strategies. They laugh together, eat soup, and poke each other. It feels like a unified and cohesive community…maybe one that Hamilton’s theatre scene desperately needs.

    Because at the end of the day, we’re all united by one desire: to sell. No one wants anyone to get an empty house. That’s the big struggle…trying to overcome that massive obstacle of not having people see your show. That’s also the fun of Fringe…the tactics of tempting a stranger to take a chance on your show. This is the reason why I’m up at this ungodly hour, advertising the show all over Facebook. Tomorrow I’ll be at the Fringe, communicating with patrons at the Artbar and handing them our postcards in the waiting lines of other shows. It’s obsessive and addictive.

    It’s to these tactics that I credit our audiences. At best we’ve had over 78 people in the house. At worst we’ve had 25. I’ve been told that the first three shows are the hardest and based on our audience size tonight I’m pretty confident that we’ve crossed this hurdle.

    So why Hamilton Fringe then? Simple: It’s a bunch of ragtag artists gathered in one spot with one desire. It’s a chance for both performers and audiences take a risk with potentially huge payoff. It’s a glimpse of the artistic community that Hamilton could and should have.

    See you at the Fringe!


    Aaron Jan is a Hamilton-based theatre playwright, performer, director and the Artistic Director of Fulcrum Theatre. You can catch the company’s entry in the Hamilton Fringe festival, Drafts, at the Citadel Theatre until Sunday, July 29th. You can follow him on Twitter at @afatchineseboy

  • Break-A-Leg Speed Date Theatre Network Event

    July 20, 2012 by Stephen Near

    On Wednesday, July 18th the Hamilton Arts Council in partnership with CoBALT Connectsand Theatre Aquarius held a unique networking event at the Baltimore House in downtown Hamilton. Structured around a “speed-dating” format, this event offered theatre artists of all kinds a chance to connect with each in brief 5 minute intervals before moving on to someone new. Although the event didn’t get many pre-registrations, we had quite a few people who showed up and signed in at the door. We spotted Jason Dick (Hammer Entertainment) alongside Crystal Jonasson and A.J. Haygarth sipping coffee before the event kicked off. Soon we were joined by other local artists Lisa Pijuan-Nomura, Ker Wells,Lori Le Mare, Paula Grove, and Kelly Wolf. Chris Farias from Kitestring also joined us for the night along with Bridget Macintosh from the City of Hamilton

    Before the night got started, Luke Brown (from Theatre Aquarius) suggested the participating “speed daters” keep a few things in mind about their theatre practise:  Who are you? What do you do? Who are your influences? What do you want to do? What are you looking for? What’s your history? Jeremy Frieburger got the evening’s participants moving around with the help of timer clock and very loud buzzer that reminded us all of those agonizing days of gym class in high school. But it actually helped move participants along at a steady pace. It seems when theatre people get together to talk and conspire they plot and plot and cannot stop chatting. Not surprisingly, the first three rounds of speed dates went by in a flash.  After a break for drink and coffee at the awesome Baltimore venue, the event continued with another three rounds of speed date networking.

    “On the Clock” – Photo courtesy of Jeremy Frieburger


    Among the projects I heard discussed by some of the artists was a new solo show, a new play script, a remount of a successful musical, a series of performance-based presentations and an initiative to develop new local work that speaks to what Hamilton audiences want to see.  It struck me that this city’s emerging crop of theatre artists are rooted in a do-it-yourself, entrepreneurial tradition linked with a passion to do new work for and about Hamilton. Luke Brown said that he often felt that producing theatre in Hamilton right now feels like “being a pioneer”. Perhaps such networking events can help give more theatre artists a proverbial wagon train?

    “Coffee Talk” – photo courtesy of Jeremy Frieburger


    It was a terrific event and one of many that we hope we can do in the future for the benefit of other artists across the various disciplines in the city of Hamilton.