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Digging In: Research Projects at TPM

By: Marjorie Chan

Research Projects

Screenshot – Student proposal from TMU (Sabrina, Taeyeon, Piper, Georgia, Gary)

It has been thrilling to be able to welcome you to TPM with our new lobby, and as we continue to support new art for our stages. Hoping that you will be joining us sometime this season through the red doors!

As much as we are excited to share the art in our theatre, there is so much that happens behind the scenes here as well. In addition to the work that happens in our offices to keep the art going, we also welcome collaborations or initiatives that unpack theatre and the industry in new and different ways. It’s important to us at TPM that we continue to push boundaries and explore our practices so that we create more space for creativity and ultimately innovation.

For example, in the past we have engaged with exploration and research through specifically designed projects starting with a question or curiosity and an open-ended approach to the outcome. These are different than perhaps our development process (BUZZ) or rehearsal for a particular show as it may not have a clear show or production as the ultimate goal, but rather  focus on a particular aspect of creating or producing theatre. You may have already seen the short documentaries from the Accessibility Labs (Toronto Arts Council Open Door) which investigated creative approaches to embed and apply accessibility in theatre, as well as the Digital Creators Lab (Canada Council) which gave artists new to digital technologies the chance to be mentored by amazing digital creators as a part of building their capacity as artists. Both of these projects exemplified a spirit of discovery and fun through exploration.

TPM commits time and resources to these kinds of projects because we believe in an ever-evolving art form. To continue to thrive, we feel it critical to contribute to the industry in examining, innovating, and considering our processes.

With many of our staff contributing and participating, as well as with collaborations from the community, TPM is engaged a myriad of research and exploratory projects. Check out the projects currently happening behind the scenes this season:

Designs Solutions Supercourse (A course by Toronto Metropolitan University) | TPM participation funded by the Toronto Arts Foundation 

Think tank is comprised of interdisciplinary student teams, focused on creating client solutions. TPM approached the students specifically with the question, “Are there digital solutions for making accessibility initiatives in theatre available for every performance?”. Two separate student teams of 5 will consult with TPM, as well as conduct their own research, and ultimately offer prototypes by the semester end. Then, TPM has the option to continue exploring that prototype with subsequent student groups.

Digital Partnerships (led by The CULTCH, Vancouver with TPM, Eastern Front Theatre, Dartmouth, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Winnipeg, Urban Ink, Vancouver) 

Funded by Canada Council

Industry participants from across Canada in discussions around better creation methodologies and dissemination processes of digital creation. There are working sessions around different areas of digital theatre creation/production and various team members participate.  (Note: CULTCH was a Digital Partner last year with TPM for The Year of the Cello).

Accessibility Survey (Building Capacity) (led by Leslie Ting

Funded by the Canada Council for the Arts 

Artist Leslie Ting is investigating and researching the most optimal ways to invite all collaborators towards integrating access in all stages of artistic development. As a part of her research, some TPM teams will be asked to fill out the accessibility survey for discussion and to collect data on the process.

Staging Better Futures (led by Brock University, plus many theatres, and theatre schools across the country) | Funded by SSHRCC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada)

A 7 year(!) funded project across Canada, examining and researching harmful theatre school practices and looking towards reform to create more inclusive, creative and healthy spaces for theatre school students.

Balancing Act (led by Theatre Direct Canada)

As a participant of this initiative to provide better support for theatre artists, TPM will be attending meetings along with the national group. Balancing Act provides us with funds to support artists with their transportation costs.