Thursday, 26 July 2018

Emerging in the Industry: A Resource for New and Emerging Artists

You’ve graduated from high school/college/university, or maybe you are changing your career path for one in theatre. Either way, entering the industry is something that requires patience, perseverance and hard work!

Getting your first gig in theatre isn’t easy, but you can certainly make it a lot easier for yourself through hard work, dedication, and understanding a few things. Every person tackles the industry from a different background. Some find that formalized training institutions are for them; others not so much. Some come into working right out of high school, while others have experience working in another field. Either way, there are similar entry points and things to consider when starting out your career.

Making Contacts

Knowing people within the theatre industry is one way to start gigging and getting work. A lot of times, you will be referred to a job or even asked to work on a gig (not always, but it does happen). How do you begin making contacts? Do your research. In Ontario, there are so many theatre organizations doing great and different things. Figure out what you like, what you don’t, where you want to be working, and how you want to impact the industry. Then—reach out! Send a quick and specific email to the artistic director, or managing director to ask if you can chat with them over coffee. If the organization is larger, speak with someone in a role that you might be interested in working in. A lot of times, people are willing to answer some questions and give their advice.


Volunteering is great way to connect with people and start getting experience. If you work a full-time or part-time job (‘cause let’s face it, we all have to), and can only commit a few hours a week to volunteer, that’s better than nothing! If you treat a volunteer position like a paid position, then the organization is more likely to hire you, be a reference for another paid job, refer you to different positions, or at the very least, give you an insight to what is going on within the industry. Be conscious! Respect your personal boundaries, and don’t exert yourself with volunteer tasks.

Watch shows

Good shows, not-so-good shows, shows that makes you excited, and shows that makes you cringe. One of my mentors told me: in order to get good at what I do, I have to know what kind of work is out there. You won’t become the next biggest director or performer overnight by watching many shows, but there are many benefits in attending live performances often. You get to know the theatre companies that exist and create art within your city, which helps you decide if you fit into their mandate and the work that they do or if you don’t. It also opens opportunities to meet people—going to opening night especially, as the cast and crew of the show are usually there. It helps you stay connected, and talk to people about what’s relevant. If your budget is tight to pay for all these tickets, many theatre companies offer Pay-What-You-Can performance, discounted tickets for youth (under 30), and rush tickets. All it takes is a few clicks on their websites. Folks sometimes offer free tickets on Bunz Theatre Zone, too.

Now I have done the volunteer thing, watched some shows, how do I get a mentor?

Getting a mentor always seemed like an arbitrary concept to me. People around me would say “my mentor told me this…” and “my mentor told me that…” I just couldn’t grasp the concept of getting a mentor. Until one day, it just sort of happened. I had committed myself to a volunteer position with a theatre company in Toronto. The General Manager of the company was my direct supervisor and that opened opportunities up for me to shadow her, assist her outside of my volunteer commitment and ask her questions. A bit later on down the road, I needed a job reference and she was more than happy to provide that for me. I continued to maintain a relationship with her and then she wound up calling ME for an assistant position to work with her again. The relationship continued on after that and I owe much of my theatre career to her. But it is interesting to see how that relationship formed and how I never asked her to be my mentor, but the relationship sort of flourished.


We all want, and ultimately need to find work that pays us. We can’t keep volunteering forever. But a job isn’t going to fall in your lap. There are different ways to find work, but one key way is to have patience and do your research. Yes, sites like WorkInCulture and Indeed post opportunities, but some smaller organizations may not use those sites and therefore you can be missing out on some cool opportunities.

If you are a recent college/university grad, or even someone stating post-secondary studies, you can seek opportunities to work as an intern or summer student. Regularly check company websites and social media pages, as many of them post great paid opportunities online.

Other things to help you out!

Here are some super cool organizations that help support youth and young artists, In Toronto and beyond the GTA. Many of their missions are to foster the next generation of artists and provide them with tools and resources to succeed!

Theatre Ontario - - Theatre Ontario offers programs for young artists who want to train in Stratford through their Summer Theatre Intensive Program. They also offer PTTP grants for artists and some emerging artists may qualify. Lastly, the YAC is an excellent opportunity for an eager group of young theatre artists to get in a room and develop programming that they want to put out.

Paprika Festival (Toronto) - - Paprika Festival offers excellent opportunities for emerging artists to create work (through performance, direction, playwriting and more). They also offer excellent opportunities to gain mentorship. They really helped kick-start the careers of many Toronto artists.

Generator (Toronto) - - Generator offers so much support in various different ways. For artists emerging into the field of producing, they run a year long program for artist producers to train. They are also great supporters in giving artists the tools and resources needed to succeed. Check out their!

Fringe TENT program (Toronto) - - the TENT program at Fringe is a great way for emerging producers (and artists in general) to gain experience and knowledge in producing and various other performance related topics. It also provides opportunities for networking (meeting new people!) and watching a bunch of theatre! 

Soulpepper (Toronto) - - Soulpepper has an entire program dedicated to supporting youth and young artists wanting to make a career out of the arts! Check out their various programming.

York Region Arts Council (Toronto) - - for artists living just north of the city, there are opportunities available with the York Region Arts Council to gain mentorship and/or experience. They offer mentorship for artists, a business accelerator for artists as well as other opportunities that may be of interest to emerging artists who live and/or want to work in York Region.

Magnus Theatre (Thunder Bay) - - Magnus Theatre in education is the premiere theatre training facility in the Thunder Bay area. Their classes and masterclasses are taught by professional actors, directors and educators. There are new classes starting every quarter.

The Hive@GCTC (Ottawa) - - The Hive @ GCTC introduces high school and university students to the inner workings of GCTC and the Ottawa theatre community.

The MT Space (Waterloo Region) - - Aside from their regular season productions, The MT Space offers educational programs and professional development workshops, and provides mentoring and assistance to local artists. The MT Space continues to promote the cultural richness of their community by providing a space for meaningful interaction.

Blue Canoe (Kingston) - - Blue Canoe hires and works with young artists (aged 13-30) in various capacities, including as actors, producers, directors, etc. They provide a unique platform for creation and working in the Kingston area.

Blyth Festival Young Company - - For emerging theatre makers aged 14-19, the Blyth Festival in Blyth, Ontario offers a summer workshop to gain skills in playwrighting, directing and creation.

There are also many other opportunities for emerging artists to gain mentorship and experience! 

These are just a select few suggestions. Do your research to find out what might be best for you.

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