The magic of ‘HYDRA: The Spirit of Water’ beckons at Kingston Mills

A sea monster made of trash threatens the locks at Kingston Mills during a tech rehearsal for HYDRA on Wednesday, Jun. 15, 2023. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

There is something magical about summer evening gatherings by water, with fireflies dancing under the stars and waves lapping against the shore. Calliope Collective will capture that magic this weekend, and you are invited.

HYDRA: The Spirit of Water (HYDRA) takes place this Friday, Jun. 16 and Saturday, Jun. 17, 2023, beginning at 7 p.m. at Kingston Mills Locks.

Staged at the south end of the Rideau Canal, HYDRA is a multimedia art production that takes place mainly on water and melds music, theatre arts, and visual arts. Floating art pieces, giant puppets, and circus performers will delight audiences. The massive event is free of charge, though donations are welcome — And there are even free shuttles arranged to help people get to the show!

More than 30 professional and community artists have come together to create a dozen performative-based art installations that tell a moving story about the spirit of water, using the shores and the waters of Kingston Mills Locks as an interactive stage.

“HYDRA is a cavalcade of contemporary artworks, visualizations, and soundscapes inspired by our connection to water,” said Tricia Knowles, Calliope’s Artistic Director and the lead creator of HYDRA. “The show tells a story of how the spirit of water has become trapped (quite literally in plastic) by greed, pollution, and destruction, and offers hope by showing how coming together to honour her can help her to reclaim her power. It is our goal that folks are inspired to truly connect with the land that we’re on and to give energy back to the water that has healed and held us.”

“We’ve tried to curate an experience. It’s not just about making theatre and presenting it where you sit and you come in and watch the show. We’ve incorporated sponsorships with the Kingston Trolley and Kingston Transit with shuttle buses,” Knowles explained, noting the shuttle buses will run both evenings, free of charge to riders. “Pay what you can, if you want to make a donation; we appreciate it, but it’s free.”

Knowles further explained that Calliope Collective has “curated this experience where you can get together with friends and family, or just come by yourself, jump on the trolley, and come out to the show!”

“There’s an interactive art piece being built with our collective member Emberley Doherty… a textile art piece,” she continued. “And we are encouraging people to contribute their wishes to the water or to think about memories they’ve had on or beside the the water that [have] strengthened their connection to it.”

A giant crane “slumbers” on shore, waiting for her puppet master. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Space has been provided in the performance for “environmental partners,” Knowles said, “to come and share messages of what people do to help strengthen our connection to the waterways. Because the more we nurture our relationship with water, the more we’re going to honour and hopefully contribute to some of the healing that needs to take place.”

Like other Calliope productions, HYDRA aims to transform a familiar space and the ways in which people interact in relation to each other and within that space, said Knowles. The collective began exploring producing shows on the water last May with a special circus show, Water on Fire, presented in the St. Lawrence River at Douglas Fluhrer Park.

Knowles and creative partner Josh Lyon recently completed an artistic producer residency in the Netherlands with Bosch Parade, the event that inspired HYDRA. Much like Bosch, this show isn’t a typical theatre production. 

“There is no dialogue,” Knowles explained. “The story is told through the artwork itself and the performative nature of its creators interacting with it and the audience, in conjunction with original music and sounds from the landscape around us.”

“I think it’s going be really cool, and I’ve had fun creating the story,” she expressed. “It’s been so process driven… as artists came forward with their ideas for pieces in the show, this story started to unfold about freeing the spirit of water. And then before she could be free, she needed to be found. We’ll consider our own personal connection to the spirit of water… and then we’ll be exposed to pollution and destruction, and we eventually need to come together to see [HYDRA] freed and witness her reclaiming her power.”

“But that story wasn’t the same story even a month ago,” Knowles went on, “because every installation in the show shifted, and the order of the pieces coming out and being presented… moved around changed the overarching storyline. The final product is incredibly process driven. I think it’s the first time I’ve created like that.”

Spectators are encouraged to participate in creating a visual art installation and connect with the community before spreading out a blanket or setting up camp chairs to watch the show, which will begin between 7 and 7:30 p.m. each evening with a special ‘Song for the Waters.’

Details for travel and itinerary

The organizers have arranged multiple ways for people to get to the event.

Coming from downtown: Book a seat on the Kingston Tour Trolley. This is free (or pay what you can), but registration is encouraged to guarantee a seat. Reserve Trolley tickets here through Eventbrite.

Coming from Highway 401: Park at the Montreal Street Park and Ride (at Montreal Street and Highway 401) and take a free shuttle to the event site.

Coming from elsewhere within the city: Kingston Transit will provide free transportation to the Montreal Street Park and Ride; event-goers can get the free shuttle from there.

  • 6:30 – 7:45 p.m.: Trolleys from Visitor Information Centre in downtown Kingston
  • 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.: Shuttles from Montreal Street/401 Park and Ride
  • 7 p.m.: Interactive displays, pre-show activities
  • 7:45 p.m.: HYDRA: The Spirit of Water performance, and songs for the waters
  • 9:15 – 9:45 p.m.: Trolleys and shuttles depart from Kingston Mills

HYDRA: The Spirit of Water is funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Canadian Heritage, Kingston Arts Council, and the City of Kingston. 

The Calliope Collective is a local multi-disciplinary arts collective. Members Tricia Knowles, Josh Lyon, and Emberly Doherty have been hosting Winter and Summer Solstice gatherings since 2017. In 2022, they took their summer spectacle of circus, music, and dance to the water and added fire for a special Beltane performance, Water on Fire, on the Cataraqui River.

To find out more about Calliope (and about HYDRA), you can follow them on Facebook or visit their website.

Leave a Reply

You cannot copy content from this page, please share the link instead!