About the Study | About the Website | About the Partners

About the Study

Means of Production is the short-hand name for a two-year research and evaluation study of emergent collaborative organizational models and knowledge co-creation initiatives in Toronto’s theatre sector — specifically, a community residency Riser Project developed by Why Not Theatre and a constellation of capacity-building programs for independent theatre producers by Generator (formerly STAF – the Small Theatre Administrative Facility).

The methods in this study are borrowed and adapted from Participatory Action Research and Logic Model processes. In other words — words from Jane Marsland, in her Shared Platforms and Charitable Venture Organizations report (also available from our Resources page) — we are aiming to “undertake this work as a community learning process and find in our collective intelligence something genuinely new and useful for the creation and production of artistic works” (p. 34).

The final year of this research and evaluation study will be conducted by Helen Yung; the initial iteration was evaluated by Sherri Helwig of S.L. Helwig & Associates. The evaluation is administered through the Toronto Arts Foundation, and generously supported by the Metcalf Foundation and Toronto Arts Foundation.

About the Website

This website was created by Owais Lightwala (of Why Not Theatre) and Sherri Helwig (of S.L. Helwig & Associates).

Copyright for any text belongs to the author of each post or comment, and copyright for all media (images, video, audio) belongs to S.L. Helwig & Associates, unless otherwise noted.

About the Partners

The following organizations are directly involved in the Means of Production research and evaluation study:

Why Not Theatre (the RISER Project)

In order to create more access and opportunity for artists, Why Not Theatre is looking at new ways of producing theatre in Toronto for Independent artists. The RISER Project brings together a community of senior leadership and emerging artists, to support the artistic risk that independent artists must take in order to create and innovate art. The model is designed to maximize existing infrastructures by sharing resources, risk and energy to reduce the producing burden on artists. The senior partners of the 2015 round of productions were Necessary Angel, Nightwood Theatre, fuGEN Theatre and Theatre Centre. RISER is made possible with the generous support of the Toronto Art Council’s Open Door Program and the Government of Canada.

Founded in 2007, Why Not Theatre is a Toronto-based theatre company with an international scope.  Under Artistic Director Ravi Jain, Why Not has established a reputation as a company synonymous with inventive, experimental, cross-cultural collaborations resulting in shows featuring new Canadian writing, company-devised and site specific shows alongside revitalized interpretations of classics. In recent years, the company has also become known for its presentation of international productions and workshops from diverse cultures and artistic practices, along with support for the development of local emerging artists and companies.


For the past two decades, under the name STAF (Small Theatre Administrative Facility) until 2016, Generator has played an important role assisting artists to develop the means to create and produce work. When Generator (STAF) was founded in the fall of 1992 — around the same time the Blue Jays won their first World Series — the theatre ecology operated in a very different manner than it does today.

Cumulatively more artists are creating more work, with fewer formal tools. In this environment of self-starters, Generator has the opportunity to be an incubator for the entrepreneurial generation of creators who over the next decade will shape performance in Toronto. This current wave of artists runs lean operations that are often project-based. Without a subscriber base, they make work they hope will connect with new and frequently younger and more diverse audiences. They require a specific set of tools for a set period of time, without being saddled with the demands of a large organizational structure.

By adapting to meet these needs, and transforming into a mentoring, teaching, and innovation incubator, Generator can play a key role in a sustainable indie sector driven by the next generation of independent producers, artists and leaders.

Metcalf Foundation

The goal of the George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation is to enhance the effectiveness of people and organizations working together to help Canadians imagine and build a just, healthy, and creative society. The Foundation works by supporting dynamic leaders who are contributing to positive change, nurturing innovative approaches to tackling tough problems and seizing opportunities, and encouraging dialogue and learning to build knowledge and to inform action.

Toronto Arts Foundation

The Toronto Arts Foundation is a charitable organization that encourages artistic excellence and increases access to the arts throughout the City of Toronto through private sector investment. Our vision Creative City: Block by Block is to connect every Toronto neighbourhood with the transformative social and economic benefits of the arts. Toronto is a dynamic centre of artistic excellence, and TAF believes that a great city demands great art. By supporting, celebrating, financing and advocating for Toronto’s artists, the Toronto Arts Foundation can improve the quality of life for all Torontonians.

Toronto Arts Foundation Strategic Plan 2013-2016 sets out three strategies that reflect the vision, purpose and goals of the organization: connecting communities to the arts by leveraging Toronto Arts Foundation knowledge to direct artistic resources to priority areas of the city; turning up the spotlight on investment in the arts by developing Toronto Arts Foundation awards programs to draw attention to artistic excellence and engage private donors in focused financial support of the sector; and giving a voice to the arts by strengthening the knowledge base of Toronto Arts Foundation and sharing knowledge with the broader community.

Helen Yung

Helen Yung is conducting the second year of the two-year Means of Production study.

Helen is an artist, researcher, and cultural consultant. She is artist-researcher with the Culture of Cities Centre and a Board Director of the new Social Innovation Institute (a charity at arms-length from the Centre for Social Innovation). She is also engaged as an advisory committee member for the sector-wide Evaluation Strategy led by the Ontario Nonprofit Network. Helen has played an active role in many consultations, multi-stakeholder committees and lab/incubator initiatives convened around research, knowledge mobilization, city, arts and culture, advocacy, and community organizing. She was previously Board President for hub14, a 100% self-sustaining artist-run space for art and performance. She is currently working with multi-sectoral partners on a creative approach to generating decent work opportunities for newcomers.

S.L. Helwig & Associates

S.L. Helwig & Associates (SLH&A) conducted the first year of the two-year Means of Production study.

SLH&A has been a leading arts consultancy since 1996, offering an array of integrated research, evaluation, planning and management services to the arts, culture and heritage communities.

Sherri Helwig, the President and Principal Consultant, brought to this initiative more than twenty-five years of progressive and broad-based arts experience (including within the Canadian theatre community), and more than fifteen years developing curriculum and teaching (for Arts Management programs at the University of Toronto Scarborough and American University, among others), assessing learning outcomes, and conducting research and program evaluation studies for arts organizations, government departments and arts funders.