Stage Door News

Stratford: The Stratford Festival introduces an new award for theatre-makers at SummerWorks

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

As the Stratford Festival expands the activities of its Laboratory for the exploration of new work and theatre craft, it is excited to introduce an award for theatre-makers at this year’s SummerWorks Performance Festival, one of Canada’s most important platforms for launching new works.

The Stratford Festival Lab Award for Research & Development will be awarded to a company or collective that creatively uses the SummerWorks Lab platform to pursue artistic inquiry. The award will be adjudicated by an independent jury of artists and leaders in Toronto’s performing arts industry, selected by SummerWorks for their diversity in practice and viewpoints.

The winners will receive a one-week residency at the Stratford Festival Laboratory, when they will have access to rehearsal space, artists, coaches and dramaturges to take their work through a crucial stage of development. Accommodations and travel expenses are also included. The award has an in-kind value of approximately $10,000.

“The activities of the Laboratory are critical to encouraging innovation and to ensuring the theatre’s future success, both in attracting high-calibre artists and in engaging future audiences,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, who created the Lab in 2013 as a means of opening Stratford up to new ideas, new artists and new artistic approaches. “This award will bring fresh talent to Stratford, which is essential in building the climate of exchange and collaboration central to the Lab.”

As the Festival’s research and development arm, the Lab is a space to explore and innovate. It includes both the examination of diverse theatre practices and the development of new and non-traditional theatrical approaches. It explores design-driven creation, the telling of Indigenous stories, and the study of classics from other cultures, as well as other new forms and content. Since its inception, the Lab has been a valuable means of driving innovation and equitable practice at the Festival by engaging with a broad range of artistic perspectives. Led by Assistant Creative Producer ted witzel, this season’s work is looking beyond the Western canon through explorations with the resident Lab ensemble, a range of accomplished guest artists and exciting new commissions.

“This is a very exciting new collaboration,” says witzel.  “SummerWorks is one of the nation’s richest incubators for new work: projects piloted at SummerWorks go on to be performed across the country and beyond.  This is a fantastic opportunity to connect the two Festivals through a joint commitment to supporting artistic inquiry, and for us to connect with boundary-pushing artists earlier on in their process.  I’m looking forward to working with the winners to brainstorm how we can support the next phase of their project’s evolution.”

SummerWorks introduced its own Lab stream in 2018, formalizing and deepening the festival’s role in supporting new work at crucial stages of development. The SummerWorks Lab is a place for exploration and experimentation, incorporating audiences into the process within a festival context.

“This opportunity to align our Lab initiatives, and extend development for SummerWorks artists with an outstanding organization like the Stratford Festival is incredibly exciting,” says Laura Nanni, Artistic and Managing Director of SummerWorks. “We are thrilled to enter into this partnership with them, and grateful for this generous and forward-thinking contribution to the performance community.”

This year SummerWorks runs from August 8 to 18 in Toronto. The winner of the Stratford Festival Lab Award will be announced at the awards ceremony on August. 17. For details of this and other awards, visit