Toronto Fringe Presents the T.E.N.T. Program


For the duration of the Toronto Fringe Festival, I have had the opportunity to participate in the T.E.N.T. (Theatre Entrepreneurs’ Network and Training) program.  Now in its second year, T.E.N.T. is a free training program initiated by the Toronto Fringe, largely supported by RBC’s Emerging Artists Project.

According to Emma Cuddy (youth outreach coordinator at Toronto Fringe), “The T.E.N.T. Program was created last year in hopes of bridging the gap between theatre school and the working world”.

Indeed, the primary focus of the program revolves around the business of being a theatre artist. T.E.N.T. covers topics not generally covered in the context of a theatre conservatory or technical training program, and without the constraints of going through an arts administration program.

Lana Bayram, one of my T.E.N.T. colleagues notes: “from my perspective, entering as an actor where I am so used to basically having the job as creating a character… [this program has] opened my eyes to another aspect of this industry. Everything has changed for me. I am no longer worried about the possibilities of the transition — I’m enjoying the process!”

On the other hand, Johnny Salib found that the program was a professionally affirming experience: “the mentorships helped me realize that I am in a good place in my practice and have given me devices to polish the tools I already have in my toolbox.”

Topics that we cover in workshops include: producing, budgeting, building a brand, marketing and PR (and so many more), facilitated by industry experts like Julie Tepperman and Aaron Willis (Convergence Theatre), Lucy Eveleigh, and Sue Edworthy.

I found that all of the workshops were characterized by accessibility of material, along with a low-pressure learning environment. It also helped that my group of peers was particularly engaged with the subject matter, and all the workshops generated a lot of great discussion.

I noticed a recurring theme come up in many of the workshops – namely, that we should do away with the assumption that the business of theatre is a non-creative endeavour.

What came up again and again is that being effective theatre administrator or producer requires a great deal of creativity.

Another really positive feature was that all the workshop facilitators framed their material in a way that didn’t assume we all had the same goals.

We’re taught about all the aforementioned disciplines with enough caveats and examples to cater to those of us who want to make money with our projects, to those who just want to make art with their friends (and everyone in between).

Absorbing all the immensely helpful information that this program had to offer was an exhilarating challenge.

It really helped to have such a great community of peers, in addition to Emma as our resilient organizational leader, alongside our guiding mentors Michelle Tracey and Amy Keating. One of the highlights of this program is certainly the incredible support system.

Justine Christensen sums up the experience quite aptly: “The TENT Program has lived up to what I hoped it would be– a delve into the logistical side of making theatre in Toronto…What has exceeded my expectation has been the open-heartedness of all involved”.

Rose Hopkins echoes a similar sentiment: “the most surprising benefit of T.E.N.T. – and the thing I am the most grateful for – is the support and friendship I’ve found within this diverse group of talented emerging artists.”

Photo courtesy of the Toronto Fringe