It’s hard to believe that Beyond James has been in existence for only six months. As we’ve worked to become a steady and reliable source for year-round information on Hamilton’s live performing arts scene, we would define this period as a success. What started as a small blog where we hoped for occasional readership exploded almost immediately to a local favourite with some articles receiving thousands of views. We are so grateful for your support and readership and look forward to continuing to provide you with information throughout 2020. 

As 2019 draws to a close, we’re reflecting on some of the themes and successes in the arts community over the past twelve months. Our first article in this series examined the trends that shaped conversations in the arts community over the past twelve months. This article, the second of a two-part series, looks back on some of our favourite performances from Hamilton-based artists and organizations in 2019 (in chronological order):

Carlyn Rhamey Performances (Squirrel Suit Productions)- February/March/April

Carlyn Rhamey has established herself as a sought-after performer in Hamilton, and in the first half of 2019, she could do no wrong. From a site specific work Anamnesis in Frost Bites (February) alongside Alan Alizadeh where they showcased their separate family histories using just a projector and paper, to The ADHD Project (March) where she charmingly shared her ongoing challenges in a relatable way, to the epic quest of Dale the Unicorn (and friends) in the HamilTEN Festival (April), Rhamey consistently proves herself to be an enchanting and creative storyteller that strikes just the right balance between vulnerability and hilarity. We aren’t sure what 2020 will hold for Rhamey and Squirrel Suit Productions, but if 2019 is any indication, the ride is likely worth it.

I Send You This Cadmium Red (The Socrates Project/Art of Time Ensemble)- March

The Art of Time Ensemble‘s I Send You This Cadmium Red has been a staple of the company’s repertoire since 2011. While not a Hamilton-based organization, the company’s innovative use of imagery and theatrics alongside an emotional musical score made it a notable performance worthy of inclusion on this list. Even more notable is the continued work of their presenter, The Socrates Project. Based at McMaster University, the Project works tirelessly to present remarkable Canadian productions and individuals that Hamilton may not otherwise be able to program in the city. Through this important work, The Socrates Project is not just delivering on its mandate to illuminate ideas, spark debate, challenge assumptions and inspire hope; they are also filling a gap in the artistic community and demonstrating that Hamilton has the ability to be a presenter of leading Canadian performing arts.

The Understudies Birthday Show (The Understudies)- June

Sitting through a bad improv show is a fate worse than death. However, a great one has the ability to stay with audience members and find renewed relevancy long after the show is over. While The Understudies (Adriana Alfano, Kristi Boulton, Michael Divinski and Andrew Hopps) are frequent faces in the comedy community, their Birthday Show in June was easily the best improv show Hamilton saw this year. The troupe shone in creativity and ability as they found original ways to twist classic party activities into clever games and showcased each member’s contributions to the group in subtle and hilarious ways. Of course, no birthday party is complete without a cake, and the celebration afterwards was just as fun as the entertainment they provided during the show.

Hamilton Blues All-Stars (Supercrawl)- September

While the Supercrawl of 2019 is vastly different than the festival it was in its earlier years, the Hamilton Blues All-Stars (an ad-hoc group that forms for the event) has made a regular appearance in its programming- and with good reason. This year’s offering, curated by Steve Strongman appeared at the very end of the festival in a Sunday evening slot, but was still greeted by a large and eager crowd who danced and clapped from beginning to end. The set itself offered familiar faces to the music community (like Jack de Keyzer and Hailee Rose), and also welcomed new talents as well. Expertly moving between originals and standards, the Hamilton Blues All-Stars showcased some of the best musical talent in the city, proving that sometimes, simple is best and that Supercrawl doesn’t need to look too far in order to have great music programming.

Collapsing the Night (Aeris Körper Dance Theatre)- November

What do you get when you mix live music, projections, collaging, dance performance and movement artists in the Gage Park Greenhouse? We’re still not entirely sure, but the two-night run of Collapsing the Night was ambitious, interesting, collaborative and innovative; in short, everything that the Hamilton arts community needs. Best known as a dance company, Aeris Körper ensured that their art was at the centre of the evening- and the high quality of the dance artists and integration of music, setting and performance art came together to elevate each individual collaborator. Aeris Körper pushed a lot of boundaries with Collapsing the Night, and although some elements were more successful than others, the concept, risk-taking and execution of this site-specific work has us ready to sign up for Aeris Körper’s next initiative.   

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