Today Talk Is Free Theatre announced an Action Research Project to examine issues faced by mid-career theatre professionals when they choose to become parents. As part of the project, the company will test a number of solutions to ensure that mid-career artists and other workers remain in the profession for as long as possible while being able to enjoy a full lifestyle similar to workers of other industries.  The approximate cost of the project is $550,000 over the next three years.

No support system currently exists for theatre professionals approaching mid-career. Many will leave the industry at the peak of their careers, in favour of having a family and a more predictable income that such a change would require.  This, of course, limits the transfer of skills to the next generation of theatre-makers, requiring a strategic and immediate solution to the problem.

Some of the initiatives of this project will include:

  • At least 8 mid-career artists will receive annual work financial guarantee from Talk Is Free Theatre over the next 3 years. This guarantee will allow artists to develop a fuller lifestyle, such as becoming parents, without the concern of losing key career advancement opportunities. Some of the work may include new work creation, professional development and contracts for non-location specific tasks, such as audio-based work as part of the Digital Theatre venue, all scheduled relative to the artists’ new lifestyle parameters.

  • Cross-discipline training and development for approximately 50 mid-career artists per year to ensure greater income from non-location based work

  • The company will cover childcare expenses. Artists with seniority in the company can request up to $1,500 per year per child, if they worked at TIFT for at least 15 weeks in the last 5 years. These artists do not need to be currently employed by the company to qualify for this payment. All other artists employed by the company can request up to $500.

  • Most productions will rehearse 5 days a week (rather than over a traditional 6-day week) and between 10am to 4pm rather than the conventional 8 hour workday. This is designed to help artists with childcare matters as well as to spend more time at home.

“After an extensive research and consultation with various stakeholders, we are all truly inspired to begin this important work,” says Artistic Producer Arkady Spivak. “Theatre professionals have very little in the way of work or lifestyle rights or benefits. Therefore, quite ironically, the industry that is called upon to lead the thought, itself operates under a draconian system.  We would like to do everything possible to protect and to improve the working environment for artists and theatre professionals. And we also hope that our work, especially as it aligns with a goal for greater gender balance in the workplace, may influence other industries as well, especially since workforces everywhere are becoming increasingly contract-driven.”

The project was planned by an Advisory Panel comprised of TIFT long-term artists. The project is funded in part by the Canada Council for the Arts and Simcoe County Tourism Development Fund.