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. The program offers participants an annual minimum financial guarantee from Talk is Free Theatre for three years, which they earn through separate individual contracts. 


But at its core, Artist BIG is more than just a financial guarantee. It is a program designed to provide artists with more authority over the projects with which they engage, opportunities for creative diversification, a space for safe dialogue with creative leadership, and a greater sense of community with other artists. 


It isn’t work just for work’s sake–Artist BIG is a long-term commitment to a person’s value as an artist that seeks to horizontalize the power structure and experiment with a new paradigm of governance of a theatre company and how it produces its art. Artists are more effectively positioned to assert their point of view, affect change and illuminate the world, without having to demonstrate their validity to secure a contract. In other words, artists don’t execute someone else’s vision, they the vision.


This is the second intake of the program after a successful pilot that launched in October, 2020, which saw designers becoming directors, actors taking risks with life-altering roles, experimentation and innovation in new technologies for the stage, skill-sharing, new web applications for the industry and its enthusiasts, development and deployment of new outreach and support programs, lots of new work development–all instigated by program participants. The possibilities are endless; an idea can only be too small.


How does it work?


BIG Artists maintain a high degree of agency, authority, flexibility and freedom with respect to the projects they undertake. 


Successful applicants enter into an agreement that TIFT will offer a minimum financial guarantee each calendar year for three years (beginning January 1, 2024), which the artist earns through separate individual contracts. In collaboration with TIFT Artistic leadership, participants co-curate their artistic endeavours based on their personal needs and creative impulses, rather than by having to serve a more conventional, top-down institutionalized mandate. Guarantees may be earned through various avenues: engagement in TIFT theatre projects, development of new works, education/training, administrative or service projects proposed by BIG members, etc. While Artist BIG exists as a three-year program, there will be a staggered, annual intake of new members.


Offers in the Artist BIG program are a two-way street: it is expected that artists will actively propose their own projects, roles, and activities, while also being open to offers originating from TIFT. While it is mutually understood that an artist ought to be available to earn their guarantees, artists are not obligated to accept every offer they are given, particularly if a project they are offered does not serve their needs or impulses. Artists can also move, forego, or cancel minimum commitments should the circumstances of the Artist change. 


It is also expected and encouraged that artists continue to seek opportunities elsewhere–they are not required to be exclusively available to TIFT. It is a core value of the program to allow artists the freedom and flexibility to grow however and wherever they can, and a benefit when they can bring the practices and programs fostered under the BIG banner out into the community. 


The Artist BIG program helps to ease the financial precarity experienced by theatre artists in Canada by allowing them to plan for some amount of flexible guaranteed income. It hopes to remedy practices in Canadian Theatre that treat artists as disposable. Instead, the Artist BIG program formalizes a long-term commitment to the artists who will bring their creative spirits and skills to the organization and share the artistic process with the greater world. 


Theatre Innovation Stream


Applicants to this stream are visionaries who are entrepreneurial by nature: self-starting, creative, and excited about diversifying their artistic practice and the way the artistic process permeates the theatre ecology and beyond. Their engagements could include creating/developing theatrical experiences that push the boundaries of form, scope, or practice. They can also include projects utilizing the skills and practices of the theatre in the interests of equity, diversity, health and safety, financial resilience, education, and accessibility, to connect the artistic process to improving social fields and practices outside the theatre. (For a list of past and ongoing TIFT Service Projects, please visit tift.ca/service-projects.)


Applicants to this stream are prepared to assume a leadership role (e.g., member of a creative team, project manager, etc.) in their projects, which may include administration, recruiting and managing other artists. The minimum annual guarantee for this stream is $15000.


Theatre Maker Stream


Artists in this stream will earn their Basic Income Guarantee mostly through offers to perform in, direct, write, or design productions and/or workshops that appear in TIFT’s season. This stream is intended for artists who wish to work mostly in their primary disciplines, in which they already have an established history of practice. Some opportunities to train or work in new disciplines may be available if desired, and TIFT will consider these desires when planning its seasons. Artists in this stream are not expected to propose or generate their own projects. The minimum annual guarantee for this stream is $5000. 


The deadline for submissions for the 2024 intake have now closed. Applicants to the 2024 Artist BIG program will be notified in the fall of 2023.

Any questions may be directed to submissions@tift.ca.

We have deliberately chosen to stagger the timing of the new iteration of the Artist BIG program with that of our seasons so that we can better incorporate the visions of the new cohort of participants into TIFT’s planning for future productions and projects. Therefore, while members of the new cohort may still participate in the 2023/24 season in some capacity, we kindly discourage applicants from considering their perceived suitability for those projects when applying.


An information webinar was held on May 8 during which we discussed the program and provided an opportunity to ask questions. The video is below:


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.

Funding for Bigger than BIG generously provided by:
Canada Council for the Arts


Note: ARCS begans as a service project of TIFT, but we are proud to report that it is exclusively available as a program offered by Ground Floor, a group of theatre artists (who all happen to be close friends and colleages of TIFT–the same folks who created ARCS in the first place). You may read below about the project as it was created and go to www.groundfloorteam.com to learn more about their fantastic programs and services.

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. 

Two-way Mentorship

Important note: Two-Way Mentorship began as a service project of TIFT, but we are proud to report that it is exclusively available as a program offered by Ground Floor, a group of theatre artists (who all happen to be close friends and colleages of TIFT–the same folks who created the Two-Way Mentorship in the first place). You may read below about the project as it was created and go to www.groundfloorteam.com to learn more about their fantastic programs and services.

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 2023.

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 accepts childcare subsidy requests annually from eligible contractors and employees. New requests for the Childcare Subsidy are now being accepted.  

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 TIFT productions or 15 weeks of work for TIFT 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: