About The Lab

Founded by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino in 2013, the Laboratory is the Stratford Festival’s research and development wing: a suite of experiments and investigations that drive our artistic and organizational evolution in an era of exciting cultural change.

Advancing inclusive and innovative practice, the Lab…

  • INCUBATES NEW WORKS for our stages by supporting long-term and unconventional development processes.
  • CONDUCTS EXPERIMENTS through our resident Lab Ensemble, to build our capacity to support other forms and cultural protocols, and to create new relationships with artists from across Canada and beyond.
  • BUILDS CONNECTIONS with the national artistic community by hosting and supporting gatherings of makers to share practices, questions, challenges and strategies.
  • FOSTERS ENSEMBLE by offering full-company sessions to encourage horizontal learning and build a shared spirit among the huge group of artists who come together at the Festival every season.
  • OPENS DIALOGUE, internally and externally, by creating spaces to reflect on the Festival’s role as a heritage institution and the growth and change necessary to ensure that it remains a vital asset to Canada’s cultural ecology.

Like any successful R&D wing, the Lab will be agile and flexible in its response to the changing landscape. The scope of its activities will expand and shift as we identify new challenges and opportunities to serve our community of artists and audiences, locally, nationally and beyond.

Support for the Laboratory is generously provided by the Dalio Foundation and an anonymous donor.
Special thank you to Canadian Actors’ Equity Association for making the Lab Ensemble possible.

The services of Sadie Berlin were made possible through Theatre Ontario's Professional Theatre Training Program, funded by the Ontario Arts Council.


Thank you to everyone who submitted an application for our R+D Residencies. Please expect a response to your submission by mid-November! For inquires, email Rachel at rwormsbecher@stratfordfestival.ca



What we're offering: 

  • Each residency has an in-kind value between $6K-$10K, including artist fees, accommodations, travel to and from Stratford, and additional support as needed. 
  • Additionally, the Lab will offer a rehearsal studio, dramaturgical + producing support for the residency, and video documentation of your work. 
  • If your submission is successful, the Lab team will work with you to design and budget an incubation residency that best serves your artistic inquiry.
  • Public presentations are not required, but open showings can be facilitated if artists feel they would benefit from an audience (bear in mind that winter isn't exactly peak season in Stratford). 

Why we're doing this: 

  • The Lab is looking to build relationships with artists who are thinking differently about creation, and would benefit from space and time to evolve a theatrical idea. 
  • We are curious how the Festival can participate in the development of projects that are not necessarily destined for our mainstage season. 
  • We're interested in how other folks are approaching R+D, and how the Festival's resources can support artistic inquiry. 

What we are looking for: 

  • In-development theatre projects, but please interpret the word "theatre" as broadly as possible. 
  • Aside from that, there are no specific criteria for form or content of the projects.
  • They don't have to riff on Shakespeare (but they could).
  • They don't have to have words in them (but they could). 
  • They don't have to exist yet (but they could). 
  • Et cetera.


Who can apply?

Professional Canadian Artists working in the field of theatre + performance (Canadian citizens or permanent residents who have developed skills through training or practice, are recognized by artists working in the same artistic tradition, has a history of public presentation or publication, seeks payment for their work, and actively practices their art.)

Collectives comprising a majority of Professional Canadian Artists.

How many residencies are being offered?

Likely 2-4.  It will depend on the proposals we get.  We want to make sure that these residencies are meaningful investments in creative explorations and are prioritizing quality of the residency over quantity. 

How will you select the successful applicants?   

The Lab team (Assistant Creative Producer ted witzel, Head of New Plays Bob White, Laboratory Coordinator Rachel Wormsbecher, Dramaturgy and Curatorial Intern Sadie Berlin, and Dramaturgy & New Plays Intern Hannah Rittner will create a shortlist of proposals, and contact shortlisted artists for a conversation before making final recommendations to Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino.)


Submissions will be assessed on the following criteria: 

  • Artistic Interest (of project and process)
  • Diversity (of form, content, and creative voice)
  • Potential Impact (of our resources and support on the project's development)

How many people could we bring?

We're assuming an average group size of 3-6, but this may not be equally distributed.  One project may be a team of 7, while another could be a team of 2.  

What can we do for $6K-$10K?

The simplest answer is that we want to put artists in a room to explore an idea.  Which artists will depend on your idea.  

For example: 

  • You could be a group of performers who want to get into a room to do character-based improvisation.
  • You could be a director and design team who want to begin brainstorming a design-driven creation.
  • You could be a choreographer who wants to bring together professional movers with community members to develop a shared vocabulary.
  • You could have a first draft of a performance that you felt pretty good about at the time but that you nevertheless think would be useful to dismantle, so you can put all the pieces of it on the floor and then gape blankly into the harrowing abyss that a radical rethink always opens up.
  • You could be a writer with a text who wants to spend a week with 2 actors, a hospital clowning consultant, a tuba player, a Franco-Prussian war historian, and a bundle of pool noodles, to test out your new script for both accuracy and dramatic mileage.
  • Et cetera.

Ok maybe it's better to ask what CAN'T we do for $6K-$10K?

Yes, that's a bit easier to answer.  We want to support your curiosity wherever it leads, but we can't help with everything.  

A few things we regret the residency cannot provide: 

  • Building design elements.  All the artisans in our shops will be hard at work building our 2020 season and they won't be able to add anything to their workflow.
  • Playing with lighting and other things that hang from the ceiling. Our rehearsal halls aren't ideal for experimenting with lighting, and aren't generally built to support ceiling rigging.
  • Complex video mapping. 
  • Sourcing trained wildlife.  Our facilities team definitely has some opinions about this, not to mention PETA.  It's probably an expensive IATSE call as well.

So what will the $6K-$10K cover?   

Bringing a team of collaborators into a room to ask some questions and explore a theatrical idea.  

It's maybe useful to think about the expenses as a balance between people, distance, and stuff.  

PEOPLE: Paying artists fairly is of the utmost importance to us.  We will be engaging artists under the terms of the Workshops and Readings Section of the Stratford Festival Addendum to the CTA at 2020 rates.  [embed link] It is our intention that artist fees and accommodations will account for the majority of your budget.  

DISTANCE: Stratford is located in Southwestern Ontario and travelling around this big country is expensive.  If your team is coming from further away, it might mean that you're working with a smaller team and less stuff. 

STUFF: We can provide equipment for simple audio and video playback which you may operate yourselves (a single speaker or a decently-sized TV).  Working in our spaces with any additional technical equipment requires an IA technician call.  This is not to say that you cannot work with sound or video if it is integral to your process, but be aware that those costs will likely reduce the number of artists and/or travel expenses we can cover.   

What else is included in the residency?

Rehearsal Space: residency groups will be given use of one of the Festival's rehearsal halls for a week.  

Producing support: the Lab team will take care of contracting your team, helping with travel arrangements, processing expenses, and booking accommodations. 

Limited props/costume pull from the Stratford stock: this would count as a crew call and be at the discretion of the props department. 

Dramaturgical support: If an outside-eye/idea-jammer/co-conspirator would be useful to your process, Asst. Creative Producer ted witzel will be happy to offer dramaturgical input on your work.   (Though if you wish to bring your own dramaturg you may absolutely list them among your team and ted won't be offended). 

Video documentation of the process: The Lab is keen to offer a window into the artistic processes we are supporting.  Our communications department will work with your team to create a short video of your exploration process.  This video will remain the intellectual property of the Stratford Festival, but you will be free to use it for non-commercial purposes, for example in future funding applications for the project.  

Does getting a residency mean Stratford owns my project?

No.  We will expect to be credited as having supported the project's development in future iterations, but the work you do here will remain yours.  

Does getting a residency mean Stratford will produce my project?

No.  This residency is only a commitment to support the current phase of a work's development.  We expect some of the projects will be at a "too early to even know what it is" stage.  We are looking to build relationships, support curiosity, and offer focused incubation time. 

Does it have to be a week?  Can it be more/less?   

We're aiming for a week, but we know that creative processes are not one-size-fits-all.  Depending on the size of your team, the length of the work period may be flexible.  If you are shortlisted, we'll have a chance to chat about your project's needs and how we can accommodate them.


Please apply by emailing your full application package to lab@stratfordfestival.ca

To download a Word version of the application package, click here.  

(Remember that questions 14 and 15 are separate documents that need to be submitted *with* your application form.)  

If you require an alternative submission method, please contact Rachel Wormsbecher at rwormsbecher@stratfordfestival.ca or 519.271.4040 x2456.


Please direct any other questions about this application to Lab Co-ordinator Rachel Wormsbecher at rwormsbecher@stratfordfestival.ca.

If you require an alternative submission method, please contact Rachel Wormsbecher at rwormsbecher@stratfordfestival.ca or 519.271.4040 x2456.



Image of people in a classroom


2019: Beyond the Western Canon

The Lab Ensemble is a group of Festival company members who work with guest artists to help the Stratford Festival expand its horizons.  We look at different creation models, bodies of work, and intercultural collaborations.  This year the Lab Ensemble’s mission is to break through the boundaries of what we think of as ‘canonical.’ From June to October, the Festival will welcome actors, directors, and creators from across Turtle Island and beyond to help us explore a selection of plays and stories from a range of cultures and communities. Working in mixed company with a wide array of visiting creators and performers, we are looking to meet new stories and performance methods by exploring works from around the world and throughout the ages.

Please see below for more information about each of the units we will be exploring. Follow our journey on Twitter @stratfestLAB as the Laboratory experiments with the alchemy of combining disparate artists, cultures, and canons from around the world.

Approaching New Dramaturgies with Guillermo Verdecchia
Guillermo Verdecchia is a playwright, director, and dramaturge with a long history of creating dynamic new work.  Currently the Head of New Plays at Soulpepper Theatre, Guillermo will lead a deep dive into one of his favourite challenging texts to help the Ensemble develop some common vocabulary and techniques to interpret and discuss new plays and unconventional dramaturgy.

Indigenous Body of Work with Keith Barker
Keith Barker is an Algonquin Métis playwright, actor, and director, and is currently the Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts. His 2018 play This Is How We Got Here was shortlisted for the Governor-General's Award.  Keith will be bringing forward some large-scale Indigenous work from Turtle Island, both from Native Earth's past works and new texts by Indigenous writers. 

Wole Soyinka with Tawiah M’Carthy
Tawiah M'Carthy is a Ghanian-Canadian director, creator, and performer, and currently a resident director at Canadian Stage. Tawiah will lead the group through a selection of works by Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka, the Nobel-prize-winning writer often referred to as "The African Shakespeare."   

Toward A Trans Canon with Emma Frankland
Emma Frankland is an award-winning British theatre-maker and performer, and the Artistic Director of an internationally touring company focusing on gender and the politics of transition. Emma will be leading a unit exploring a selection of plays that "trans the canon," joined by a team of Trans and Non-Binary artists.

East Asian Plays with Jovanni Sy
Jovanni Sy is a Chinese/Filipino Canadian playwright and director from British Columbia, and the outgoing Artistic Director of the Gateway Theatre in Richmond B.C. Jovanni will lead a unit of plays from East Asia proper, as well as the East Asian-Canadian Diaspora.

Post-Colonial Latinx Perspectives with Carmen Aguirre and Barbara Fuchs
Carmen Aguirre, a Chilean-Canadian writer, director, and performer, and UCLA scholar and translator Barbara Fuchs will explore a Latinx perspectives on classic texts, including contemporary adaptations of classical themes, and Barbara's new feminist translations of Spanish Golden Age plays.

Black Canadian Voices with Mel Hague
Mel Hague, Artistic Associate at Buddies in Bad Times and in-demand dramaturge, will lead the Ensemble through a unit exploring large-scale works from Black Canadian playwrights and theatre makers.