Helping independent theatre help itself in Toronto

New report looks at how RISER Project and Generator help indie companies and artists get their work seen.

Clockwise from left, Andrea Scott, Rose Hopkins, Kevin Matthew Wong, Katie Leamen, Sherri Helwig, Sehar Bhojani, Sabrina A. Bandali, Taliesin McEnaney and Troy De Four play "Producer's Pursuit" in 2016, a Trivial Pursuit-style game, as part of the artist producer training program. (GENERATOR)

How about a good news story for a change?

That’s the spirit behind a new report commissioned by the Toronto Arts and Metcalf foundations about two successful initiatives in the city’s independent theatre sector that share a spirit of innovation and generosity.

One, the RISER Project, supports indie companies and artists by redirecting resources from more established organizations. Its founder, Why Not Theatre’s artistic director Ravi Jain, rather gleefully calls RISER “Robin Hooding.”

The other, Generator, is an organization helping indie companies and artists through producer training, shared office space and resources, mentorship and workshops.

The goal of the report, says Margo Charlton, research and impact manager of the Toronto Arts Council and Foundation, is to offer positive models for “sectoral change” in the performing arts.

What needs changing? “Independent theatre is where the new energy comes in and where things are tested out,” says Charlton, “but it’s the most precarious area of the sector. People come in, but they can’t sustain their practice.” RISER and Generator have “looked at what’s needed and have provided it.”