About SummerWorks Performance Festival

As a festival that brings together performance nationally and internationally, we wish to acknowledge that SummerWorks takes place on the traditional territory, Tkaronto, “Where the Trees Meet the Water,” “The Gathering Place” of the Mississauga, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat Nations. As we come together we pay our respects to all our relations who have gathered and will continue to gather in this place.

Founded in 1991, SummerWorks is Canada’s largest curated performance festival of theatre, dance, music, and live art. The Festival is widely recognized as one of the most vital platforms for launching new Canadian work – locally, nationally, and internationally. For 11 days every August, SummerWorks hosts over 500 artists, performing in over 60 performance projects.

A Brief History

In 1991, five friends, Benj Gallander, Greg Holmgren, Carol Pauker, Rob Sherwood and Ben Stadelmann came together to put on the first SummerWorks Festival. The decision to mount a new fringe-style festival was a response to what was seen as a growing, under-represented small theatre community.

From the success of the first year, it was apparent that there was a definite need in the community for this type of festival. Since 1991, SummerWorks has continued to explore and respond to the needs and wants of our audience and theatre community. Each year there were improvements and revisions, instigated by the Producers, often inspired by feedback from the artists participating in the Festival.

From 2000-2004, under the direction of Franco Boni, the Festival made significant changes in order to further distinguish itself as a unique and integral part of the Toronto theatre community. The most significant change was the gradual transition from a lottery system to a fully juried Festival.

These changes were instrumental in raising the calibre of work so that SummerWorks is now the Ontario’s premier festival of cutting-edge, exciting, professional theatre. It is the breeding ground for the mainstage shows of the future and the hub for Toronto’s most dynamic, dedicated performance professionals.

In 2005, the Festival came under the leadership of Artistic Producers Keira Loughran & Kimahli Powell. Their focus was to continue to build support for the artistic excellence the Festival had come to be known for and to serve as a meeting ground of Canada’s most exciting and engaging emerging and established artists with the launch of the SummerWorks Canadian Pavilion in 2006. In 2007, Keira took on full responsibility for the festival as sole Artistic Producer.

In January 2008, Michael Rubenfeld became the Artistic Producer of the Festival, bringing with him his great love for music, and his desire to find new ways of exploring theatre as a communal experience. During his eight-year tenure, SummerWorks transitioned from a theatre to a multi-arts festival, emerging as a home for all forms of contemporary performance, boundary-bending pieces and challenging works. Beginning with starting the Music Series, Rubenfeld also established the Live Art Series, Dance Series, Performance Gallery, Performance Bar, SummerWalks and co-created the SummerWorks Leadership Intensive Program (S.L.I.P.) with Jordi Mand, creating a home for emerging arts practitioners to delve into the business of the arts.

In April 2016, Laura Nanni was appointed the Artistic and Managing Director of of the Festival. In this role Nanni will continue to build community and to create an inclusive home for diverse and ground-breaking contemporary performance.