A group of people in dingy costumes seated at a table and pretending to eat
Cast of Sweeney Todd (2018). Photo by Claudia Brookes


basic income guarantee for artists

Artist BIG is the first Basic Income Guarantee program for independent artists in Canada.

In 2020, forty artists were selected through an application process to receive an annual financial guarantee from TIFT for three years, which they earn through separate individual contracts. Guided by the TIFT Artistic leadership, participants co-curate their artistic assignments based on their personal creative needs and beliefs, rather than having to serve a more conventional institutionalized mandate.

In essence, Artist BIG seeks to flatten the traditional power structure of a theatre company--to experiment with governance and with a new producing paradigm. It is an endeavour which ventures to liberate and empower the artist to choose work that they believe in, work from which they may derive personal growth and validity, rather than having to choose work simply for work's sake.

Participants have been writing new plays and undergoing professional development. The program has brought in experts in mental health, real estate and financial planning for basic master classes, and has allowed for participants with their own special skills to offer classes to others in areas like digital sound recording and writing for the solo performer.

Artist BIG also remunerates its members for attending monthly meetings where they debate issues impacting the theatre ecology as a whole and offer transformative ideas to build a better support system based on lived experience. As such, members have been researching and piloting independent arts service projects, such as our Two-Way Mentorship program, the ARCS initiative for safe rehearsal hall practice, and other arts-specific mental health endeavours. Many of these initiatives are now available for participation by members of the broader theatre community.

The next intake of Artist BIG participants will be in the fall of 2023.


Bigger than Big is a consortium training and professional development project for seven emerging artistic directors and curators, as no formal curatorial training exists in Canada.

Under the program, each participant develops their own artistic vision and individualized plans relative to their specific goals, such as starting their own company or training to lead an existing organization. Together, program leadership and participants will look to experiment with the existing governance structures of theatre companies. TIFT pays participants salaries for the next two years and provides financial support for some start-up costs.

For more information on the inaugural participants, please see our program announcement.


Read a discussion with Artist BIG member Amelia Sargisson about ARCS (formerly spelled ARKS) in Psychology Today magazine.

ARCS (The Authentic and Radically Curious Support) is a toolbox for communication. It offers techniques for leaning into the discomfort that arises in difficult moments when people would typically avoid, ignore, or suppress their feelings--for reframing these moments as portholes to deeper understanding and connection with one another inside the theatre-making process.

Conceived and created by Artist BIG members Alexis Gordon, Amelia Sargisson, Dave Ball, Tahirih Vejdani and Richard Lam, the program includes:

  • a pre-briefing with the producers and artistic leadership of the project to discuss program implementation;
  • hands-on training by program facilitators with the entire team--from designers to administrators to actors to stage managers to directors--on the first day of rehearsal and on the first day in the theatre;
  • a template for a self-governed, daily practice which the entire team can integrate into the work of putting up a show; and
  • a post-mortem during which all team members are invited to share their reflections on the process so that theatre practitioners nationwide can begin to harness experiential learning and carry it forward from production to production.  


The hands-on training consists of three main components: 

  1. guidance in co-creating and maintaining a Community Agreement, including a discussion of values that are important to the self and the group, and instruction in a daily, embodied, energetic practice which helps prioritize these values in word and deed;
  2. an overview of the anatomy of conflict, with the idea that anyone with insight into how conflict generates and escalates can redirect energies to the fertile, generative ground of creative disagreement; and 
  3. an opportunity to personalize and practise basic principles of conflict management and self-regulation in a safe context, so that these tools can be applied in real-life scenarios. 


TIFT is proud to offer ARCS for free to qualified theatre producers across the country.

Please contact arcs@tift.ca to discuss how this program can be integrated into your next production. 

Two-way Mentorship

The Two-Way Mentorship program connects theatre practitioners of different generations and different disciplines from different regions across the country to lay the groundwork for a more communicative, inclusive, and compassionate professional milieu. Each person wears the hat of both “mentee” and “mentor” in this mutual or bilateral exchange of wisdom.

Participants are remunerated for engaging in guided conversations about mental health and well-being, and grass-roots, community-driven reform in the arts sector. The program aims to unify two solitudes at a time when we are all grappling with isolation and increasing polarization, and to empower individuals to communicate across time (so to speak) to carve a new way forward together.

Conceived and created by Artist BIG members Alexis Gordon, Amelia Sargisson, Dave Ball and Tahirih Vejdani, the Two-Way mentorship was piloted internally within TIFT and then opened up to the broader community. The program has been described by participants as "a light in these dark times."


“The greatest joy was definitely having the opportunity to speak to someone who is in the industry, whom I don’t know, and being able to share experiences and opinions and ask for advice. It’s been a particularly isolating time lately and it was very nice to feel that sense of camaraderie with someone else while getting to know a cool person.

One of my biggest take-aways is that I have more things to unlearn than I thought I did, in terms of how much space I take up (or more likely, don’t) when I’m in a room or situation when I’m surrounded by folks who have been working in the industry much longer than I have.” -Andrea Handal Rivera
“The act of applying for this program and being chosen for it as an emerging artist was one of the strongest sources of validation I’ve received in my field this year. It was a positive reinforcement that came at a really crucial time for me and made me feel like a worthwhile presence in the industry. The experience of being a part of the program is one that reinforced my belief in myself as an artist, and gave me a friendship with my partner that I see continuing for a long time. This has been one of my favourite things to have happened to me in the past year, and getting to meet with my partner has been beyond a delight.”
-Joshua Kilimnik
“It’s always beneficial to have the opportunity to learn about different perspectives, and this certainly was a great way to do that. There’s a saying in the business world that you must have a mentor under 40 (to not lose touch) and I did feel that. Reflecting on how I’ve changed, adapted, grown, internalized (in both good and bad ways) and how I want to envision what we do, it was wonderful to also get feedback, challenge, and validation from someone with such different lived experience and perspective.” - Derek Kwan
“Meeting any new person is a learning experience for me. [My partner’s] successes and challenges taught me a lot about contemporary theatre issues, being a newcomer, work possibilities and difficulties, and finding ways to share [one’s] voice. I feel that my comfort in the biz in general stems from my 54 years of ups and downs, and different positions I have had in the theatre, but I guess I have a lot of stories to share, which I have done. Many of them have been related to being an immigrant or "outsider" when I began in the theatre, and how I tried to find the community that I would fit best into as a young feminist female with strong leftist views and a passion to question authority.” - Maja Ardal

Canadian musical theatre database

In 2020 Talk is Free Theatre, with the support of Patrick Street Productions, was awarded a Canada Council grant to research, develop and create an interactive website to support and promote Canadian musical theatre; specifically, to encourage increased production of existing works, and connect works in development with more producers, creatives, and enthusiasts throughout the country.

The idea began simply as a catalogue of existing Canadian works that could be a resource for producing organizations of any kind (professional, community, educational). However, through our work, we realized we could potentially address other needs such as information sharing, facilitating or spearheading professional development initiatives, and promoting works in development to potential producers.

Launched March 1, 2022, www.cmtdb.ca is ready to welcome producers and artists alike to have a look and see what an exciting tool this can be for the future of Canadian musicals. We look forward to receiving many more submissions from artists across the country in the months to come so that this can be as comprehensive a catalogue of Canadian musical theatre the internet has ever seen.

For more information, please contact:
Michael Torontow, Project Manager/Developer

Canadian Musical Theatre Database


A man wearing smart glasses and a floral mask on the left; a screen shot of a computer screen displaying ARIA technology.
Left: Michael Torontow wears ARIA glasses. Right: a screenshot of the technology used during a trial live translation from Marathi to English.

Augmented Reality for Immersive Accessibility (ARIA) is a language translation tool which will soon be available for immersive and interactive productions, as well as for traditional performance.

Translations appear in each patron’s personal view by using small binocular screens embedded in smart glasses. Self-detecting over ninety-six different source languages, ARIA technology can discreetly translate into one of over forty languages chosen by the audience on their device. As close to a personal translator in a pocket can be, ARIA offers simultaneous and different translations at the same performance, suited to each individual.

Engaging audiences to connect beyond the language boundary and engaging artists to communicate using their own language is a revolutionary tool for immersive theatre makers and traditional producers alike. The project, managed by Artist BIG member Joe Pagnan and developed by Igor Chernukhin, will launch in the Fall of 2022.

mental health in the workplace

In addition to ARCS as a production-specific mental health support initiative, TIFT has assembled a working committee of artists and theatre workers to research, develop and pilot a more comprehensive mental health support program for all theatre creation workspaces.

The committee has been reviewing diverse, emerging and successful practices in discussion with a colleages and licensed mental health practitioners in Canada and around the world, and has facilitated workshops in trauma-informed theatre practice, power dynamics and imposter syndrome, and consent in the rehearsal room.

Some of the recommendations have already begun to be piloted in TIFT’s rehearsal rooms and beyond, with a prototype program that could be duplicated by other theatre companies to be finalized in the fall of 2022.


TIFT is accepting childcare subsidy requests from eligible contractors and employees.  Applicants must be financially responsible for the child, who must be under 15 years of age.

Payments can be requested through one of the following three eligibility options: 

  1. Contractors and employees engaged in a minimum of 3 productions or 15 weeks of work over the last 6 years at the time of request can request a payment of up to $1,500 per child per year. Any revival, transfer or tour is eligible to be counted as a separate production. Applicants under this option do not need to be engaged in the current season to qualify for support, as long as the 6-year benchmark is met.  
  2. Contractors and employees who do not meet the first criterion may request childcare support for up to $500 per child while working on a TIFT contract.
  3. Those who have other needs related to childcare but do not meet the other criteria may still qualify for support under this program. Please speak with Arkady Spivak prior to making a request.

Confidentiality is assured with any request for a TIFT Childcare Subsidy.

When making a request, please indicate the full name of the child, their age, your full mailing address and the amount requested. Please note that the amount approved may be less than requested, based on anticipated demand.

THEAtre artist training program

Over the course of the Pandemic, most theatre artists and companies have pivoted to digital platforms in an effort to maintain work opportunities or maintain/increase their audiences. It was revealed that digital creation and performing from home is a vastly and logistically different way of working requiring training in additional skills. For example, whereas different positions were responsible for costuming, lighting and sound in traditional live theatre, in digital work every professional actor had to learn how to do it on their own from their home, to be able to be hired to work in this way.

This project is to teach artists who work in live theatre new skills, adapt their current skills, and provide new work experience in digital mediums. This will include experiential learning to rehearse and perform traditional material virtually; and to develop original content designed for digital media. These skills will be crucial as the industry incorporates digital as a standard.

TATP - Adapting Skills & Experience in Digital Platforms is comprised of three programs:

  • 9 Specialty Online Workshops culminating in 2 Online Master Classes
  • Extended Phase - Script Adaptation
  • Digital Theatre Creation

Successful applicants will attend skills workshops virtually; and receive on the job training and mentorship from dedicated trainers during their work.

For more information, go to www.tifttatp.com.

This project was made possible with generous funding from: