Our Cities On Our Stages

Our Cities on Our Stages Symposium

On May 28th and 29th, 2016 the Bad Dog Theatre Company will host the first edition of a conference which will enable the further development of diversity and inclusivity initiatives in Toronto improv companies. Bad Dog will curate a series of workshops, presentations and discussion panels led by diversity and inclusivity thought-leaders - from within the unscripted comedy sector as well as neighbouring artforms facing similar challenges - to advise and engage participants on industry-specific issues.

Over the last three years Bad Dog’s core administrative team and board members have taken steps to increase the company’s internal diversity. The result is a team of decision-makers who are eager to see a multitude of voices on the Bad Dog stage. Under the company’s mandate to “elevate the artform”, Bad Dog looks not only to increase the accessibility of its own programming, but to share its findings to increase sectoral growth. The Bad Dog Comedy Theatre acts as a hub for thousands of improv performers, students and audience members each year, and as such the company is uniquely positioned to host this monumental conference.

The Symposium focuses on two major outcomes:

  • address issues specific to the comedy community and art form of unscripted theatre in Toronto by sharing resources & knowledge with like organizations from other cities

  • development of innovative inclusivity models that will result in increased representation of minority voices on comedy stages and artistic environments


Are you an improviser? A student of improv? A teacher of improv? A fan of improv? A person? Our Cities on Our Stages is for you.

The overarching goal of this symposium is - ultimately - for our improv/comedy stages & communities to better reflect the cities we live in. We see this inaugural gathering as a starting point for a sustained dialogue and ongoing institutional commitment to change and improved standards of inclusion. We’re very aware of how broad this is as a heading - and how many marginalized voices have yet to find a place of comfort and sense of belonging  in our classes, our shows, our audiences. Obviously, that won’t be solved in two days… but our hope is that all of our core collaborators will walk away with actionable ideas, expanded support networks (that reach between cities) and a schedule to reconvene and share our progress.

Day 1 of Our Cities on Our Stages is open to the general public. Come listen to our assembled guests, ask questions, share stories. Stick around on Saturday for an evening of improv featuring our conference guests & local favourites.

Day 2 is primarily aimed at educators and facilitators (directors, producers, administrators). We will revisit and expand on questions and items raised during our Day 1 sessions - breaking into work-groups focusing on the educational/training side of improvised theatre as well as the institutional/performance side of producing improvised comedy and fostering an inclusive environment. To inquire about participating in Day 2, please e-mail Ify Chiwetelu at ourstages@baddogtheatre.com


9:30am-10:30am - Breakfast Mixer - meet our guests and collaborators over a cup of coffee, share your experiences

10:30am-12pm - Session 1: PERFORMERS & PERFORMANCE

Ify Chiwetelu (Bad Dog Featured Players, host of YAS KWEEN) moderates this opening panel discussion with topics including “What got you in the door to improvisation?” “What is preventing you from going through the next door?” “How do you feel about your path as a performer?”. Guests include: Keisha Zollar (New York - Doppelganger Improv, Orange is the New Black on Netflix), Alsa Bruno (Minneapolis - Blackout improv, co-director Black and Funny Improv Festival), Kris Siddiqi (Second City Toronto mainstage alumni), Sheila Neysmith (Bad Dog improv student & retired professor of women's studies with an academic focus on aging & ageism), Dawn Whitwell (creator of the Comedy Girl stand-up comedy class series), Courtney Gilmour (Canadian Comedy Award nominated co-star of “Bill & Sons Towing” & writer featured in xoJane) & more!

12pm-1pm - LUNCH BREAK


An interactive & demo-based session offering tools & resources for improv educators (also great for students!)

2:30pm-4pm - Session 3: INSTITUTIONS & INITIATIVES

Julie Dumais Osborne (Artistic Director - Bad Dog Theatre) hosts our invited guests as they share snapshots of where their theatres are today in their inclusion & diversity efforts - their experiences, approaches, successes & failures so far. Guests include: Marina Mastros (Sidestage Improv, Co-Founder & Inclusion Initiative Director / iO West), David Donnella (Diversity Coordinator at the Philly Improv Theater), John Gebretatose (founder of Minneapolis’ Black and Funny Improv Festival / HUGE Theater), Meagan Gray (Artistic Director of the Magnet Theater, New York), Keisha Zollar (former Diversity coordinator at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York) as well as representatives from the Second City (Toronto) and the Social Capital Theatre.

4pm-4:30pm - Debrief & recap, Day 1 closing remarks

9:30pm-10:30pm - The Curator (monthly longform show inspired by art with special guest curator Anand Rajaram, free for Symposium attendees)

Early bird Pricing on now until May 15 at 11:45pm!

After May 5, Bad Dog student tickets are $7 & general tickets are $10. Please note that no one will be turned away for lack of funds. If you are in need of a subsidized ticket, please email lisa@baddogtheatre.com

 Sunday, MAY 29: educators & facilitators

10:30am-11am: Coffee / Day 1 recap / Day 2 goal-setting

11am-12:30pm: BEST PRACTISES

GROUP A* - Educational

GROUP B* - Institutional

*note: these sessions run simultaneously

12:30pm-1pm: BREAK

1pm-2:15pm: PRACTICAL WORKSHOPS (subject to change)


An interactive round table & discussion, presenting real life challenges faced & their eventual solutions en route to the development of an effective inclusion program at San Diego’s Side Stage Theater.


An active workshop where attendees discuss how to bring "others" onto the stage with them and to respect them on that stage as well.

2:30pm-3:45pm: STRATEGY & TOOLKIT

Collaborators reassemble to synthesize the day’s work into actionable tools to bring home to their home theatres


Please contact us regarding any specific accessibility needs and requests for participation in Our Cities on Our Stages. Regretfully, the Bad Dog Theatre space is not fully accessible for people with physical disabilities. We are located on the second-story of a building with frontage on Bloor, reached by a 20-step staircase. The washrooms on site are not wheelchair accessible. Alternate spaces were explored for the Our Cities Our Stages Symposium however we were unable to secure an appropriate secondary location for this year's gathering. There will be volunteers and staff on-site available to assist those who may require assistance. We acknowledge the challenges this presents and are open to additional suggestions on how we can facilitate broader participation in this event (including offering a live-streaming option for some panels & discussions and inviting people to interact in real-time with social media). We are committed to working to have increased accessibility at our future symposiums. Please contact ourcities@baddogtheatre.com if you have any additional questions or concerns about accessibility at the Our Cities on Our Stages symposium.


Please contact us should you require any specific accommodations in order to be able to participate. We are keen to explore all available avenues to welcome interested participants.