hamilton fringe

Why Card Tricks are Important at the Hamilton Fringe

I went to go see magician Chris Bruce at the Hamilton Fringe Festival last night. His show, Why Card Tricks Are Important, is part of the Fringe's "Gallery Series". It's an unusual collection of short shows — this one runs about twenty minutes — performed for much smaller audiences. The show contains — spoiler alert — card tricks. In fact it contains nothing which could not be called a card trick. They are spiffy and well-executed card tricks and fiercely interactive.

The burning question is whether or not the show could succeed in convincing someone that card tricks are, in fact, important. A more interesting question might be could anything convince you that card tricks were important. The answer is, unless you are slightly deranged, no... Unless you accept a perverse artistic meta-definition of important which allows that frivolous pursuits are important as a celebration of their own right to exist. After all, if we have a species have evolved to the point where we have so thoroughly beaten back the threats of disease, malnutrition, predators and war that we have the free time to wonder what exactly Justin Bieber is up to, isn't that a triumph worth celebrating?

For a magic show, or even a theatre presentation, it's an awkward time frame. At twenty minutes it's difficult to say hello and get through two substantive pieces before you're taking your bows. You're also spending more time getting your ticket and sitting in the theatre waiting for the show to start then you are watching the show. it would be better if someone could sit down and curate an hour or 90 minutes of complementary material so it feels like you got a little bang for your buck.

But if you're heading to the Hamilton Fringe festival, engage in something frivolously important and pick a card.

Why Card Tricks are Important has five performances left at Hamilton Artists Inc at the Hamilton Fringe Festival. Tickets ($8 with a $5 Hamilton Fringe backer button) are available at the door or online.

Death and Dating at the Hamilton Fringe

First I'll begin by saying I appreciate any production which allows me to walk up to the box office and say "One for Death please".  I first saw Death And Dating last fall under its original title, The Mom's House Factor, as a recital piece when I did the Soulo Theatre class in Toronto. What began as a 10-minute piece has grown into a forty-five minute extravaganza which mourns breakups and celebrates karaoke and funny hats. I suppose it falls under the category of tragicomedy, which I'm surprised my iPad recognizes as a legitimate word. It's the story, told as a set of reminiscences and flashbacks of a woman subjected to a cruel and in humane break up... At his mom's house. This takes quite a while to get over, as each flash forward in time shows that the pain hasn't really gone away.

Death and Dating is a project to help make light of and put in perspective those unfortunate events which occupy an unhealthy space in our consciousness.  

The venue, which has been confusingly named a hardware store... Is not one. Although somewhat confusingly it contains a bar and the beer is clearly visible in the fridge. Given that large portions of the show take place in a karaoke bar inside the protagonist's imagination, one would have hoped that for added realism, the bar could be open.

Death And Dating has 5 shows left at Mills Hardware (95 King Street East, Hamilton) Tickets $10 plus a Fringe backer button.

Written by Magdelana BB, Directed by Mark Kalzer

All the fun fact-shaped things at www.HamiltonFringe.ca. 

Fringe Follow Up

Speaking of Friends from the Fringe, this Friday (apologies for an altogether artless alliteration) Victoria Murdoch is celebrating her birthday this Friday night and the world is invited. She caught everyone's attention in Hamilton as she promoted her show making all of her appearances in costume as Dawn, the 50s housewife with a naughty secret... or twelve.

Victoria is a modern renaissance woman - actress, comedienne, playwright, gluten & dairy free chef extraordinaire (try the chocolate mousse, I dare you). In celebration of her birthday, there will be a Cabaret Birthday Bash at the Winchester. Dinner & mingling starts at about 8pm with a stage show starting at about 10. If you're available to drop in, it's a PWYC event.

I'll be performing later on along with some other very talented and funny people.

Fringe Friends

I spent a good chunk of last weekend in Hamilton at the Hamilton Fringe Festival. Having participated in the Hamilton Fringe last year, I was hoping to bump into old friends... and I did! One of the productions that made a hit last year was Harold Pinter's Betrayal. It's a wonderful story which was so appealing to me because it took place backwards in time (Like a love story version of Memento, written thirty years earlier.) It was also a very large ensemble that went all out in terms of set and lighting design (compared with some productions, like mine, which consist of only a performer, a stage manager and a technician.) It was also one of the festival's longer productions at ninety minutes.

This year, the same company took another shot at an even larger production: Death and a Maiden. This a seriously dark and chilling play, definitely not intended for children. I loved it and the almost-two-hours flew by. While the Hamilton Fringe is over, Death and a Maiden is appearing this weekend in Toronto at the "One More Night Festival" at The Box Friday and Sunday night. If you have the chance, go check them out:

Death and the Maiden Friday, August 2 @ 9:00 PM Sunday, August 4 @ 7:00 PM Tickets $10 - limited seating

My only regret is that because of the late shows, I missed the official Fringe Talk-Show at the Baltimore House and the presentation of the coveted Larry Awards. Oh well... there's always next year.

Praise for Lies, Damn Lies & Magic Tricks

It's been a fantastic summer that I won't soon forget. Between the Hamilton Fringe Festival and the Summerworks Performance Festival, I completed thirteen performances of Lies, Damn Lies & Magic Tricks. Here are some highlights of what people had to say:

Truly Entertaining NOW Magazine

Remarkable... This magician is one talented fellow. The Hamilton Spectator

Thought-provoking, funny, astonishing and thoroughly entertaining. It's a great magic display and that's all anyone needs to know. Ontario Arts Review

I promise you will be thinking about how it's done - during and after the show and probably the rest of the month. Thoroughly entertaining. Artword

Brimming with wicked wit and calculated comedy. The VIEW Magazine

To my eyes, James Alan is every bit as good as any magician I have seen on TV... Alan is very personable, he makes you laugh between the lies and tricks... It is very engaging and entertaining. An hour will fly by before you know it. Mooney on Theatre

James Biss Interviewed On the Larry Smith Show

The Hamilton Fringe Festival creates a wonderful sense of family and camaraderie. In particular, we have a performers club house at the Artword Artbar (which the public is welcome to crash). Every night, comedian Larry Smith hosts an avant garde talk show (meaning there are no cameras) on stage at Artword interviewing the players in the twenty eight Fringe productions. See my director, James Biss' interview in all its absurdity: