About SummerWorks

SummerWorks is widely recognized as one of the most important platforms for launching new work in Canada. We are interested in continuously re-imagining and innovating the possibilities of performance- how it is created, presented and experienced. SummerWorks present two Festivals annually, Progress International Festival of performance and ideas, and SummerWorks Performance Festival.

As an organization 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 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.


SummerWorks Performance Festival is committed to the following:

To ensure a high standard of quality productions in a Festival that has elements which intrigue, excite, attract and entertain an audience.

To produce a curated Festival in which the participants feel supported by a strong technical, administrative and artistic team, and feel proud of the other high calibre work being produced alongside their own.

To produce a Festival that provides an environment that cultivates and stimulates artistic growth, with the focus on artistic and professional development for our participants, our audience and our staff.

To support the work and participation of the next generation of performance-makers.


SummerWorks supports work that has a clear artistic vision and explores a specific theatrical aesthetic. It encourages risk, questions, and creative exploration while insisting on accessibility, integrity and professionalism. SummerWorks is the place where dedicated, professional artists are free to explore new territory and take artistic risks. Rather than getting larger, we strive to get better. We look to introduce professional artists from diverse communities to each other and be inspired by our similarities and differences.


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 2015, Rubenfeld also initiated Progress, an International Festival of Performance and Ideas. Operating under the umbrella of a unique collaborative curatorial model, a rotating group of Toronto-based arts organizations present groundbreaking work from around the world that responds to considerations of what “progress” can mean to Canada’s performance ecology. The Festival is presented each February in partnership with The Theatre Centre.

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

During her tenure, Laura has increased the organization’s accessibility practices and re-defined Summerworks’ programming structure to reflect Canada’s ever-changing performance ecology. This includes: SummerWorks Presentations- fully developed works offering a snapshot of contemporary performance; SummerWorks Lab- a place for exploration, experimentation and process where audiences experience works at a critical juncture and also play an essential role in the development of the work; and the SummerWorks Exchange- a new initiative encapsulating the Festival’s professional development and industry activities.

Another key shift, beginning with the 2018 Festival, is the waiving of all artist participation fees, as part of SummerWorks’ deep commitment to removing barriers to participation for artists.