Hamilton Fringe Festival 2014: Jesters Incognito

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

In his one-man play Jesters Incognito, Hamilton’s Harrison Wheeler doesn’t just tell one story. He tells two. Part truth and part fiction, Wheeler juxtaposes his own personal story of coping with Bipolar disorder with his humorous tales about the lives of underground jesters, living, as the title of the play says, incognito, in a make-believe world where jesting isn’t allowed.

“Celebrate the madness, or die. That’s my motto,” said Wheeler, who is a cartoonist, author, comedian, and educator, during his close-to-sold-out performance at Hamilton Theatre, Inc. on Saturday afternoon. Funny and charming, Wheeler commanded the stage from the second he walked out (in full jester garb).

“Creativity can save your life,” boasts the play’s programme, and for Wheeler, it did. For twenty years, he has filled sketchbooks with words and drawings in an attempt to get his stories out of his head. It hasn’t been an easy journey. One week after he finished the draft of Jesters Incognito in novel form, he was in a coma — the result of an autoimmune disease. It took him six months to walk again. Wheeler also has more than eight years under his belt of recovery from substance abuse.

These things aren’t things to laugh about … obviously. Yet, Wheeler finds a way to laugh, and while he’s at it, to make everyone else laugh with him. “Sillyness is serious business,” he says.

Wheeler’s brand of physical comedy, commanding storytelling, and above all, his captivating imagination, are all reasons to go see Jesters Incognito at the Hamilton Fringe Festival. The festival, which is in its 11th year, runs until July 27th. There’s a lot to see this year with 45 shows at 12 different venues across the downtown core.

There are four more chances to check out Jesters Incognito at Hamilton Fringe. I’d definitely recommend it!

Jesters Incognito
Hamilton Theatre Inc.
140 Macnab St N

Show Times:
Thursday, July 24th 9PM

Fri July 25th 4:30PM

Sat July 26th 9:30PM

Sun July 27th 12:30PM



Canada Day at Crawford Lake

Sunday, 13 July 2014

One winter's day, more than 100 years ago, a horse-drawn sleigh plunged into Crawford Lake, dragging the horses into the icy waters with it. At least that’s what a ghost story, told to me more than twenty years ago, said. The horses still lie undisturbed at the bottom of the lake, so the story goes, but sometimes, at sunset, they awaken. Their red eyes glow beneath the clear waters of Crawford Lake.

This story haunted me as a child, and it still hung in the air last week when I spent my first non-Ottawa Canada Day in quite a few years rounding the boardwalk that encircles Crawford Lake.

Crawford Lake is a meromictic lake. According to Conservation Halton’s website, “because the lake’s basin is deeper than it’s surface area, the lowest levels of water are very rarely, if ever, disturbed by wind or temperature changes. Without an annual turnover of water, there is little oxygen present in its depths and minimal bacterial breakdown, which preserves the layers of sediment that have built up over time.” That doesn't mean much to my unscientific brain, but one doesn't need to fully understand why Crawford Lake is unique to enjoy it.


Crawford Lake is home to a reconstructed 15th-century Haudenosaunee village, which is currently undergoing changes called the Crawford Lake Village Improvement Project. 
The updated space will help the conservation area’s education programming which hosts more than 35,000 students every year. Hopefully the project, with its focus on adding a third reconstructed longhouse, will also update some of the outdated terminology and technology around the site. 

There's so much to explore at Crawford Lake, that even on a sunny holiday, it didn't seem crowded. I wish it hadn't taken me two decades to rediscover a favourite place from my childhood.


After our hike (and an unanticipated stop at the slot machines at Mohawk Raceway), we joined what felt like EVERY OTHER HAMILTONIAN at Bayfront Park for the fireworks. Like I said, I've grown used to spending my Canada Days in the thick of things in Ottawa, but the fireworks at Parliament Hill don't have anything on Hamilton's impressive display, which capped off a perfect day.

(A line-up won't stop Hamiltonians from getting their Gorilla Cheese on!)

(My long weekend read of choice was The Stag Head Spoke by Erina Harris, recently released from Hamilton's own publisher Wolsak and Wynn.)


Photo Friday

Friday, 11 July 2014
“But I always liked side-paths, little dark back-alleys behind the main road — there one finds adventures and surprises, and precious metal in the dirt.”
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov


Little Free Libraries

Friday, 27 June 2014
It took me a while, but I finally made my way to one of Hamilton's Little Free Libraries. This one is located at 73 Ferguson Avenue North, and I stumbled upon it, by accident, en route to Hamilton's General Hospital.

The Little Free Library on Ferguson Avenue is not the only one in the city. There are numerous scattered throughout Hamilton. The most recent miniature library opened its tiny doors just this month at the corner of Grosvenor Avenue and Sherbrooke Street. It was welcomed to the neighbourhood through the tiniest of ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

Hamilton's Little Free Libraries aren't alone. They're part of a larger movement created to promote literacy and love of reading, making books of a variety of genres accessible to all.


The Royal Connaught

Sunday, 22 June 2014

If only the walls of Hamilton's Royal Connaught could talk. Grandiose and elegant, the former hotel opened in 1916, and over the years, it hosted politicians and celebrities. For decades, it oozed with glitz and glamour, housing elaborate parties and love affairs, including those of Hamilton's most notorious murderess, Evelyn Dick. However, a decade ago it fell to disrepair, becoming a boarded up eyesore we're all too familiar with in Hamilton.

The doors of the Royal Connaught have once again opened, this time as a condo project that will eventually boast 122 units that range in size from 555 square feet to 1084 square feet. I was lucky enough to be invited to the building's gala grand opening, and I can only imagine it was as glamorous as the Connaught parties of the past. The event, which took place in the Connaught's bright lobby, came complete with bubbly, oysters from Two Black Sheep, a sampling of beer from Nickelbrook breweries, and the music of pianist Scott Whittington. A mix of modernity and classic elegance, the Residences of Royal Connaught are an urbanite's dream. The suites, aptly named for Hamilton streets — the Charlton, the MacNab, the Dundurn, the James, to name only a few — are now on sale. 

Stories hung in the air as we all shared our own memories of the Royal Connaught. For me, the Connaught was a place we stole sips from flasks at high-school semi formals, but for others, it had deeper meaning. Stories began with "My grandmother worked here," and "I remember the time my father first brought me to the Royal Connaught," and they ended with genuine happiness that the building will live to see another day. In a year when we've already lost a number of Hamilton's prominent buildings, it's wonderful to see a landmark with so much history return to its former glory, one suite at a time.   


Quotable: David Foster Wallace

Thursday, 12 June 2014
“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote.”

— David Foster Wallace, Up, Simba!
 
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