“You’re pretty entertaining” my coworker comments in response to a somewhat successful attempt to find humour the sometimes mundane, but necessary, tasks to prepare for this year’s Hamilton Fringe Festival. “That’s because I am actually an actor playing an administrator” I reply. She laughs but I find myself thinking that there is more truth to those words than fiction. This year the Hamilton Fringe Festival celebrates its 12th year and I am proud to be one the ever growing team of arts administrators and volunteers that make the festival possible, but my mind often wanders back to the festival’s first year when I found myself onstage in an experimental piece of theatre and I wonder ‘how did I end up here?’ It’s a place that I know many artists find themselves, excited to create opportunities for artists but also looking for opportunities to create their own art. I had a chance to chat with Marilo Nunez, the Fringe’s General Manager, about her journey from artist to administrator and back again.
Nunez tells me that her career as an actor started out smoothly; after graduating from Ryerson University she secured an agent and began working regularly in television and film. Unfortunately, she found herself cast very often in stereotypical minority roles that were predictable, sometimes negative, and not artistically fulfilling. Where she truly wanted to be was on a professional stage but there were no parts that fit. Rather than waiting for these opportunities to appear, Nunez decided to produce a show that offered a place for Latin American actors herself. She tells me with passion in her voice that she could see a gap in the Toronto theatre community, and that she wanted to fill that space with untold stories. After working on some successful and rewarding projects focused on that aim she founded a Latin American theatre company called ‘Alameda Theatre’ in 2006. Since then, this company has developed more than 30 professional plays focused around Latino artists and stories Nunez tells me with a broad smile. Here our conversation pauses and I reflect on the immense impact such a company must have had on not only its artists but its community as a whole. Also in this pause as we sip our coffees, I cannot help but imagine the immense amount of effort, tireless attention to detail and long hours that must represent. ‘It started to consume my life’ she admits. With little time to pursue her own artistic endeavours burnout started to loom its ugly head. Nunez tells me she decided to re-evaluate her focus, find more balance between art and administration and a smile returns to her face. She tells me she has plans to write and I can’t help but wonder what amazing stories she will tell, her own story is already quite an adventure.