The RISER Project

From independent to interdependent theatre.

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What is Riser?

T he RISER Project is a new collaborative producing model for theatre artists and companies to create and present new work. It was developed by Ravi Jain, Owais Lightwala and Kelly Read of Why Not Theatre in order to address some of the challenges of producing independent theatre in Toronto, including the high cost of production, difficulty of building audiences and inefficient use of resources and infrastructure. The first three years of testing the model have been made possible with the generous support of the Toronto Arts Council’s Open Door Program and the Government of Canada.

F or the 2019 round of RISER, we will be supporting 4 productions at The Theatre Centre, and once again bring together a community of Senior Partners, established theatre companies that have larger capacity than independent artists. The Senior Partners contribute in kind resources, cash and mentorship support to the model, and over the course of the year we will facilitate long-term relationships between them and the RISER artists.

Find out more about how RISER works in this feature Canadian Theatre Review Article. RISER was also included with Generator in a research paper on sector developers for independent theatre, commissioned by The Metcalf Foundation and Toronto Arts Foundation, which you can read in full here.


Artists Employed


New Canadian productions


Award Nominations


Total Attendance

RISER productions

In the first year of the collaborative producing model (2014), we presented 3 shows in rep over six weeks. In 2015 we began calling it the RISER Project, and presented a further 4 shows in rep over five weeks, which we repeated every year since. Here all the shows that have been part of RISER thus far:

What people are saying about RISER

How does it work?

We bring together a group of artists/collectives/companies that are each creating a production. We then create a repertory performance schedule, which allows all the companies to share a single space, taking turns to perform their showss. The model covers the shared umbrella costs of venue, technical production and publicity, and the individual companies are responsible for their own artist fees and other costs, such as individual show marketing.

RISER provides

  • 3 weeks of rehearsal space (spaces will be assigned on the basis of area needs and availability)
  • A shared Lighting Designer (selected and paid for by RISER)
  • A shared Production Manager and Technical Director (selected and paid for by RISER). Note: You will still need your own PM and TD for managing your show’s specific technical and building needs; the RISER PM/TD focuses on coordination and management of the RISER model itself. A venue technician will execute all technical elements once they are in the space, including running the show, alongside your stage manager.
  • A shared Publicist (selected and paid for by RISER)
  • 2-3 full days of tech time in the performance space (actual schedule and hours TBC)
  • Technicians and crew for load-in, load-out and run of shows (selected and paid for by RISER)
  • Between 6 and 10 public performances in a repertory schedule at the Theatre Centre BMO Incubator
  • The Theatre Centre Box Office ticketing system and Front-of-House staff (ticket prices and policies will be set by RISER, in consultation with the Producers)
  • 100% of Net Box Office Revenues
  • Ongoing coaching, assistance and consultation with Why Not Theatre staff in all areas of producing and management at individual meetings, and 3 to 4 All-RISER meetings between August 2018 and May 2019.

You provide

  • All other Artist Fees
  • Designers and Build Costs
  • Additional Marketing
  • Additional Publicity
  • A Producer, TD and/or PM for your show depending on need

Apply for RISER

Participants in RISER are selected by a jury comprised of former participants, overseen by Why Not Theatre, who collectively evaluate all applications we receive. RISER is intended to provide more opportunity for artists to take on risks in producing their work, therefore we are not focusing on the artistic merit of the production itself. We are focused on the artist themselves, who they are and why they need a chance to show their work. The evaluation criteria are Need (as perceived by the jury), Diversity (of culture, language, form, content, etc), Feasibility (financial, logistical, and technical), and Experience (what you have done before this).

Is RISER for you?

  • Looking to produce a full production of a show that is already under development, or has plans for development over the next year
  • Don’t receive operating funding, and work on a project-based basis
  • Are completely available for tech and performances sometime in April/May next year. The complete schedule will be announced in the fall. Due to the shared nature of the model, we cannot accommodate any availability conflicts.
  • Are willing to work in a generous and collaborative way
  • Able to commit to several technical production and producing meetings between August and May, exact times TBC

To apply you need

  • A 2 page application including the following
  • A brief overview of what your production is, who is involved (confirmed and expected), where it is in the development process, what you anticipate the budget will be, what your current funding plans are?
  • What have you done prior to this- please provide name of show, venue and how it was produced (independently, at festival, as part of a development program)?
  • Who you are as an artist and why you should be a part of RISER?
  • You may include a one-page resume of the lead artist/producer (optional).
  • Please do not include scripts, multimedia samples of the show, or any other supplementary materials.

RISER is funded by

Past supporters

Contact Us

For more info or any other questions, comments or concerns, please contact us.

sandra Henderson, Associate Producer

+1 647 866 7432

Toronto, ON, Canada