Blueprint Infographic

A Blueprint for the Continuance of Contemporary Live Performance

“We have closely listened to the needs of artists, consulted with our audience and engaged members of our local community to help us determine our organizational priorities for the upcoming year. We have heard the clarion call for artistic innovation and institutional transformation. This plan brings support to artists, inspiration to audiences, solace to communities, and new ideas to the sector.”

– Artistic Director, Brendan Healy

In response to the challenges, impacts, and opportunities of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian Stage has established three streams of activities for its 20.21 season. Each of these streams are driven by three organizational priorities:

  1. Foster artistic INNOVATION through the embracing of new technologies and performance modalities.
  2. Advance access and INCLUSION through the dismantling of colonial practices and oppressive structures that perpetuate racism within Canadian Stage and our sector and create barriers to BIPOC artists and audiences.
  3. Increase the social IMPACT of our work through the deepening of our community partnerships, the centering of artists in our decision-making (with emphasis on members from equity-seeking communities), and the welcoming of more co-creative models of collaboration.


The first stream – INVEST – has seen Canadian Stage direct a significant amount of funds towards helping theatre and dance makers pivot their artistic practice during the pandemic and beyond. This stream involves microgrants to support artist-led investigations into digital technologies, paid training for technicians and designers wishing to upgrade their digital skills, the acquisition of new technology, and the commissioning of new works.

The demand for these programs exceeded our expectations. Since September, Canadian Stage has processed over 550 submissions from individual artists across the country applying to initiatives such as the Microgrant and Scholarship Programs. This need within the sector during these challenging times is great. Although we could not meet the entirety of this demand, we are pleased to have been able to disburse funds to 45 different artists and projects. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks on the innovative ideas and creators that Canadian Stage is supporting.

This stream was partially funded through the generosity of our supporters who contributed through Canadian Stage’s Artist Voucher Program.


The second stream - EXPLORE – provides more extensive support to rigorous investigations into new forms of live performance. Much like a laboratory, it sees artists putting new ideas into practice inside our institution. Among the initiatives are two robust Artist Residency Programs that place artists at the forefront of AI, augmented reality, virtual reality, and lengthy workshops of new works that push the experience of live performance into new realms.

In September, we announced our two BMO Lab Artists-in-Residence, in partnership with the University of Toronto: Sébastien Heins and Ryan Cunningham. Since the fall, Sébastien and Ryan have been working closely with the researchers and students at the BMO Lab to investigate how emergent technologies intersect with live performance. They will be sharing some of their discoveries this spring at the Festival of Ideas and Creation.

Stay tuned for more announcements within this stream in the coming weeks, including the cohort of our first-ever Virtual Reality Residency, led by award-winning artist Beth Kates.


The third stream - ENGAGE – brings unique live experiences to audiences. This stream involves outdoor performances, digital experiences, productions, online festivals, and public think tanks about the future of the performing arts.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have produced and/or presented 15 performance works, ranging from online events, outdoor performances, and even performances that occur over the phone! Artists are finding ingenious ways to continue to connect with audiences, and we are committed to providing safe and innovative opportunities for audiences and artists to interact over the course of the season.

To find out more about our overall approach to our programming and operations during the pandemic, please read our Guiding Principles.

To learn more about the steps Canadian Stage is taking to address systemic racism and inequity within the organization, please see our updated Black Lives Matter statement.