LivingArts: Welcome to the Junction

Hamilton’s arts scene is booming and our theatre industry is making some big waves. Not only are our homegrown Hamiltonian artists creating more than ever, but new artists from Toronto and other surrounding areas are coming here to be a part of the happenin’ arts scene (as the cool kids call it). With this, however, comes a greater demand for professional training in our own city, and for functional space to be made more available at a reasonable cost so that we may collaborate with other artists. Gone should be the days of always having to travel to Toronto for expensive classes and spaces to create with other young professionals.

As the stand-alone professional theatre in Hamilton, Theatre Aquarius recognizes this need and has taken steps with initiatives like the TA2 Studio Series, Playwrights Unit, and Theatre Aquarius GYM program. Their newest endeavour? The Junction. And Luke Brown (Artistic Associate at Theatre Aquarius) is at the helm. He states, “The aim of the program is to serve people who perform the work that they create, people doing collective creations, movement pieces, monologues etc. A traditional development model isn’t set up to serve their needs.”  

The Junction is designed for performers who create work that traditional development methods may not serve, such as storytelling, movement pieces, collective creations, etc. Meeting once a month, the goal of the Junction is to provide a creative environment for artists to showcase their work and receive constructive feedback in a supportive environment in order to to help move them closer to production. When asked about why this program was created, Brown explained “There was a vacuum for this type of creator. Aquarius wanted to step up and offer a place where they can come and develop these pieces. Every member of the group has a different reason for partaking. For some it’s about deadlines, others about having a quiet place to work, some it’s feedback, others about the community aspect. At the end of the day a support network can be the difference between thinking about a project and actually doing a project.”

Thus, the Junction was born. A general call was put out to artists from Hamilton and surrounding areas and applicants were required to submit a letter of intent, professional resume and bio, and a sample of their work that reflects their particular process or style. Creators from all forms were encouraged to apply. Luke recalls, “We had a great response, far more applicants than we expected. Anna Chatterton (professional playwright and theatre creator) and I sat down, went through the applicants and determined who would best be served by this program.” Nine lucky artists were selected to participate in the launch of the Junction.

So, what were their reasons for applying and partaking exactly? To get a better perspective on the nuts and bolts of the Junction, I talked to some of the other participants.

“I'm always interested in creating new plays, in new ways, with new people.  This [the Junction] felt like an opportunity to do that. It’s provided me with time to write, which is nice,” said Ryan Sero. “I've also enjoyed being able to share bits, pieces, whatever I want to without any pressure. It's just presented, people talk about it a bit, and it's done, and that's nice. I'd like to steal everybody else's best writing habits, techniques, and tricks. I think the ability to chat to other writers, to learn about their preferred creation method, is great, so I'd like to take away some of that, too.”

Esther Huh has similar thoughts. “I'm not good at setting aside time to write, and this has given me dedicated and supported time. Honestly, I heard about the other creators involved, and I wanted to observe their processes more closely.”

For some, it’s even about the sense of community and camaraderie. Rex Jackson explains, “I don’t have a lot of experience in the theatre community yet, so I was really excited to meet other writers and learn from them. I kind of aimed to go in as a sponge, absorb everything, because you never know what might spark something later on. I find that being around other creators and hearing their pieces and their processes really helps to push my own creative process. There’s something inspiring about being around other writers and watching everyone’s projects evolve.”

To sum it all up, Luke Brown describes the Junction’s goal to “bring people together and encourage them to recognize the value of what they have to say and how they want to say it.”

With Aquarius’ help, the arts scene and the Junction have a bright future. The next steps? “To keep working. Figure out how to best help the creators we’re currently working with. Everyone’s needs are different, and not everyone, particularly in the early days of a program like this, know what it is they need to do their best work. We’re all working together to figure that out.”

Want to catch a sneak peak of some of the work in the early stages of development? There will be a public show on Wednesday February 22nd at 7:30pm in the Studio at Theatre Aquarius. Admission is free, and people will see various members of the group sharing excerpts from what they’re working. It’ll be a wide range of things as everyone is at different stages in their process, the audience will see everything from bits that are almost finished to things that are in their infancy. For the creators this is about sharing their work, hearing it aloud.

And we all know you can’t do that without an audience.