Hamilton Fringe Festival (Frost Bites)

By Regan Katerenchuk
Photos by Kristin Archer

Have you ever watched the movie Night at the Museum? If not, it’s a movie about museum masterpieces coming to life in the middle of the night when no one is (supposed to be) watching. This is what the Frost Bites event held at the Art Gallery of Hamilton reminded me of. From February 16-19, artwork at the gallery seemed to come to life. In quiet, eerie stairwells; in empty hollow showrooms…. Local actors from diverse artistic backgrounds brought their talent to the AGH, putting on unique and captivating theatrical performances in 20 minutes or less.

Frost Bites 2017 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton

Frost Bites is based off of Hamilton’s Fringe Festival, a similar theatrical event that occurs over the course of 10 days in July. Frost Bites allows audiences to observe various acting companies perform “bites”. This allows guests to witness the creative work that is theatre, in a faster environment.

Allison Warwick, the publicist for Hamilton Fringe, explains, “We wanted to extend Hamilton Fringe’s presence throughout the full year, as well create programming that was curated – that we had more of a hand in choosing – to cultivate new work by local theatre artists.”


Frost Bites 2017 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton
Regan and Kristin

Each performance had a different message to interpret, and a different category of acting involved. In “Other Worlds” by Make Art Theatre, there was a humorous performance which started off like an ordinary (yet still meaningful) play, to then be “rudely interrupted” by a couple arguing loudly. This turned out to be just an act, of course. But the entertainment level was certainly high.

Frost Bites 2017 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton

Then there was a genius play “Shame, Itself” performed by two talented women of Tough Love Collective, portraying what would-be the afterlives of two of Shakespeare’s most famous female leads – Lady Macbeth and Ophelia. This performance was tragic and consuming, forcing the observers to wonder what truly happened to the undeserving damsels that Shakespeare wrote about so long ago.

Other plays also caused the audience to reflect on matters not often pondered upon, such as what it would be like to suffer from a stroke in Open Heart’s piece “In Sight.” All performances were extremely fascinating and thought-provoking.

Frost Bites 2017 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton
Tough Love Collective at Frost Bites 2017 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton

This event does a great job to shed light on not only important messages, but also the local talent in Hamilton. Frost Bites also creates opportunities for theatre artists through the ALERT program, which according to Warwick, “trains artists-producers in areas of sponsorship, fundraising, publicity, and fundraising. We want them to gain skills that will allow them to sustain careers here. Frost Bites gives Hamilton-based creators a chance to experiment with the theatrical form.”

Open Heart at Frost Bites 2017 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton
Open Heart at Frost Bites 2017 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton

Local comedian and Frost Bites performer Dave Brennan describes his first experience at this event. “I was super excited to hop on board, because my piece involves a guy and a girl who are in a fight and are late to an exhibit at the art gallery over a parking ticket.” Brennan explains, “I love this piece because it is so relatable. Everyone’s been there. I don’t claim myself to be an art enthusiast, but I do know what it’s like to be on that side of an argument…and I think that’s a great thing about Frost Bites. You get that vibe.”


Contributing to Hamilton’s art scene, using creative expression, and embracing one’s original uniqueness are all a part of this event. It is definitely one worth experiencing.

Frost Bites is a new winter tradition that will be held yearly. Warwick says an important message to gain from this event is, “That you don’t need to travel to Toronto to see one-of-a-kind, daring theatre! We have incredible talent and creative energy in this city,” says Warwick. “It’s waiting to be discovered.”

Guest contribution to I Heart Hamilton Get in touch: connect@ihearthamilton.ca

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