Mobilizing Social Innovation to Train the Next Generation of Theatre Entrepreneurs

Community Partner

A Vital Incubator of Theatre Talent

Every July over 150 independent theatre companies and thousands of patrons take over downtown Toronto for the 12-day Fringe Festival. It provides a space for emerging artists to launch their careers and for established practitioners to refine new works. Indeed, Toronto Fringe has a history of developing world class talent such as Irene Sankoff and David Hein (My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish WiccanWedding, Come From Away), Ins Choi (Kim’s Convenience), and Trey Anthony (‘Da Kink in My Hair).

Research Questions


How might we enhance TENT?


How might we improve inclusivity and accessibility?


How might we achieve sustainability?

What is TENT?

The Theatre Entrepreneurs’ Networking and Training (TENT) empowers the next cohort of independent producers. It was created in 2014 because many theatre schools prioritized craft—acting, directing, and writing. TENT filled an important gap by providing emerging artists essential skills that often take years of industry practice to master – this includes fundraising, marketing, managing budgets, and grant-writing. The 12-day program features workshops facilitated by experienced professionals and pairs participants with industry mentors. TENT ensures that the next generation has the skills needed to pursue a successful career in the performing arts as “Artrepreneurs.”

Impact Letter

18 February 2021

The partnership between the Toronto Fringe and Sheridan College with regards to our TENT program has been incredibly useful to our organisation and we are forever grateful to Dr Brandon McFarlane and the Creative Humanities for spearheading the work.

When Brandon approached the organisation back in 2017 it was a welcomed surprise, I had been wanting to focus on the TENT program but I had neither the time or the resources. We have worked with three different TENT program directors since the partnership began, each bringing their own perspectives and unique view points to the program and being able to rely on the continuity of the Sheridan input was crucial to keeping the momentum going of this facet of the Toronto Fringe.

The Sheridan Partnership was essential to us. I am not sure that the TENT program would have continued had it not been for the investment made, both financially and from a time perspective. We are indebted to the energy and insight that we had from the students and the professors and we hope we will be able to find another way to work together in the not too distant future.

Lucy Eveleigh
Executive Director, Toronto Fringe Festival
President, Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF)

Lucy Eveleigh

Community Impact


Building Innovation Capacity

“The opportunity to work with Sheridan students over the course of the three-year partnership was invaluable. Hearing their feedback, listening to their questions and having insight to their processes of creative thinking were tangible tools we could take back into the organisation and implement at TENT. Beyond that we were also able to bring Brandon, Prof. Jennifer Phenix, and Paola Di Barbora to our CAFF conference (back in 2019, in Windsor) where they led a creative problem solving (CPS) workshop with Fringe leaders from across Canada and the US. We received such positive feedback as to how this opportunity opened their eyes to ways of problem solving that they had not considered before.”


Accessibility & Inclusivity

“For the first ever digital version of TENT in 2020, we saw an increase from 20 to almost 100 people applying to the TENT program and we also saw an increase of diverse applicants, resulting in our most diverse cohort since the program began. The online version also gave us an opportunity to bring in folks from outside of Toronto and we had a Deaf participant who we were able to accommodate with full time ASL interpreters. We plan on building on this past successful program and continuing to build our Alumni over the years to come. Covid definitely hindered some of our plans for multiple alumni meetings and workshops but that is still very much part of our upcoming plans as we move forward. We are grateful for the CPS sessions lead by Dr. Michael McNamara and the curriculum development lead by Dr. Glenn Clifton that paved the foundation for these successes.”


CPS Training & Talent

“The CPS workshop was also carried out at a TENT fundraiser/alumni night, as well as part of core team training and during each of our annual TENT programs since it’s inception in 2014—where it consistently remains a favourite workshop from all participants. The tools that we have learnt have been incorporated into many areas of the Toronto Fringe especially when it comes to blue sky brainstorming sessions where we have implemented a lot of the CPS approaches.”