Sustaining artistic risk

A group of dancers on a black background placed to form a V
Symphonie of hearts premiers at Danse Danse in April. © Kevin Calixte
A man with a shirt with flowers on black background
Searching for Eastman premiers at Canadian Stage in April. © Shannon Litzenberger
Tom McCamus and Derek Kwan. © Tom Belton

The Creation Fund’s tag line is We fund risk. Artistic creation is inherently risky, conjuring creative and logistical ingredients together in entirely new ways, all driven by the question “What if...?” One of the beautiful/infuriating truths about artistic creation is that there is no guarantee of brilliance or failure, and that this knife edge is where true greatness lies. The creations supported by the Fund live at this knife edge: risking big by going to the full extent of a bold idea. For example…

What if an orchestra, a beat-maker, and contemporary dancers created a new artistic language together and transformed the stage into a beating heart, synthesizing hours of scientific research?

What if a collective of passionate artists honour Black queer minimalist composer Julius Eastman by creating a performance that – like Eastman – refuses disciplinary boundaries and finds its place in the rich complexities of the in-between?

Join me to find out where these big risks lead in April when Searching for Eastman premieres at Canadian Stage and Symphonie de cœurs premieres at Danse Danse, on the same day!

Artistic risk is not something to be mitigated, but something to be sustained. What can artists’ expertise in artistic creation offer our communities and vice versa, as we all navigate uneven risk?  Is artistic risk a civic responsibility? How can we respect risk and see it as a contribution to community resilience, rather than a liability? How can we invite audiences to be co-conspirators in risk?

At the Fund, one of our ongoing experiments is how to sustain risk. Here are a few of the ways we’re doing that:

  1. Producing Fundamentals with Camilla Holland: We just hosted a series of conversations for producers of Fund-supported shows that look at the nuts and bolts (Budgets! Timelines! Contracts!) of producing bold and ambitious work. More to follow (and we’re looking at how to make this information more publicly available in the future!)
  2. Critical Response Process (CRP) with Joyce Rosario: We continue to weave CRP into our entire curatorial process to strengthen how we are meeting artists.
  3. Accessibility: We believe accessibility is a creative practice that makes performance better for everyone. Our awesome team of Disability curators (Shay Erlich, Syrus Marcus Ware, and Erin Clark) participate in all our Phase 1 proposal reviews, and we encourage artists to share in their proposals how they are currently approaching accessibility and offer any questions they may have about incorporating accessibility in their creation process and production. Let’s figure this out together!

And – as always – we’re investing in bold creation processes! We’re so excited to announce our latest investment: Salesman in China

Salesman in China
Stratford Festival

Salesman in China is written by Jovanni Sy and Leanna Brodie and will premiere at the Stratford Festival in August. It tells the true story of a pivotal moment in theatre history and international relations: American playwright Arthur Miller’s historic 1983 visit to Beijing to direct a Mandarin version of Death of a Salesman.

Jovanni: “Salesman in China is a story that demands a large canvas. For most of my thirty-two year career, new Canadian plays reflecting the Asian diaspora were works written for 1-4 actors that premiered in studios and 80-seat black box spaces. Asian Canadian artists were warned to temper their ambition and to ‘think small.’ This perpetual scarcity mindset quashed dreams of ambitious works for larger stages. In August 2024, Salesman in China, a labour of love co-written with Leanna Brodie, will premiere on one of Canada’s largest stages with a bilingual (English-Mandarin) cast of twenty-one actors.

Leanna: “Many times in the creation of this piece, while taking a heart-stopping artistic or financial risk, Jovanni and I told each other: ‘If we don’t bet on ourselves, who else is going to?’ In a time when Canadian artists are being told from all sides that the only way forward is to dream smaller – or not at all – the National Creation Fund has stepped up to support performances of grand scope and towering ambition. Salesman in China has the potential to gather us together, in wonder, in delight, in the teeth of all the forces that seem increasingly to keep us alone and apart.

We’re so proud to support Jovanni and Leanna in this beautiful work, and to offer investment towards the development of new dynamic surtitling technology as well as an expanded development and rehearsal process for the English and Mandarin-speaking cast (a first for Stratford!).

Happy Mois de la Francophonie! Our friends at the NAC Foundation have put together a great story celebrating two incredible Francophone companies we were proud to support – Porte Parole and Le Patin Libre –, and their shows that are touring nationally and internationally.

For a full list of upcoming shows supported by the Fund, visit our Season page.

Related events

Join our email list for the latest updates!