HUMANZOO’S 911 Explores the Mind of the Criminal


Jonathan Zagrodnik

Staff Writer

July 17th will mark the beginning of the 11th annual Hamilton Fringe Festival. Over forty companies will be performing over the eleven days of the festival, with pieces ranging from musicals, to dark tragedies. One of these companies is Toronto-based company HUMANZOO, presenting their new piece 911. Helming this project is director and new playwright Jakob Ehman.911 tells the story of two friends who discover a phone that was thrown off a balcony, and quickly get in over their heads when they try to figure out who it belongs to, why it was thrown, and why the last number dialed was 911. “It started one night, when I had found a phone outside of my apartment,” Ehman recalls. “The phone was still working and later that evening, I was on my balcony with the phone, thinking about having found it and the idea came into my mind of what would happen if someone had thrown this phone off the balcony and it still worked. Then the ideas started going crazy in my mind and I thought, ‘Okay, how can I turn up the stakes?’ The idea came that the last number dialed was 911.”

This is not the first time Ehman and HUMANZOO have been to the Hamilton Fringe Festival. Just last year, HUMANZOO took home the Critics Choice Award for their production of Normal, with Ehman directing the piece. Upon being asked about returning to the Fringe after this victory, Ehman said, “I couldn’t be more excited. We had such an awesome time there. We loved the people and where the Fringe is going in Hamilton. I think Claire [Calnan] coming in as the Festival Director has just been an amazing addition. And we’re excited. And now, more than anything, that we’re bringing in an entirely original production. Last year we brought a script that we knew. Last year was excellent and we got the team together that did it. It was a great success and now we’re pushing the limits again, seeing what we can do entirely on our own.”

With experience performing in and directing several productions in the past,911 marks Ehman’s original work as a playwright. “For me it’s very much an experiment for myself as a writer. This is my first original work that I’m producing and writing is definitely one of my main interests. I have a lot of experience as an actor, but we’re building blocks here for the future and for what we want to do as a company. Original work is certainly the direction that we plan to move in. We also want to keep seeing what the reaction is in Hamilton. We do live in Toronto, but the company has talked a lot about moving to Hamilton, getting our own space, and having our own company with a space in which we can produce a season of work and collaborate with other like-minded artists.”

Even if that is still down the road, Ehman is hopeful for Hamilton’s reaction to this new piece. “I hope it will leave them with a sense of curiosity, with a sense of questioning. So often you see on the news all of these crimes that happen and we don’t really know the story of what led up to these crimes. We don’t know what the back story of the criminals are and how they got to the position that they are in. So, thinking about justice and what that means in the 21st century.”


HUMANZOO’s 911 open’s July 17th at the Theatre Aquarius Studio Theatre and runs approximately 90 minutes. Tickets are $10.00 (Fringe Backer Button required). For advanced tickets go