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Innovative Canadian Mentorship Program Launched to Support New Generation of Lighting Designers

Design Incubator and the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) partner to bring unique program to top Toronto theatres

Toronto, ON, July 21, 2020 – Design Incubator and The Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) announced the launch of a unique and innovative lighting design mentorship program – the first of its kind in Canada. The Design Incubator Pilot Project will provide hands-on training and mentorship at top Canadian theatre companies for emerging lighting designers and recent graduates as they prepare for a successful career in the performing arts.

Design Incubator is a leading-edge training program based in Toronto founded by lighting designer Lesley Wilkinson, one of Canada’s first female lighting designers. Its mandate is to provide opportunities to bridge the academic and theatre worlds for young lighting designers and offer valuable experience for mentees. A pilot project this year, the expectation is that this program will become permanent and provide ongoing annual mentorships to emerging lighting designers.

TAPA provides key administrative support for the recruitment and selection of candidates for the program.

The inaugural candidate, selected by an esteemed industry jury, is Nathan Bruce, a Toronto-based 2020 graduate of York University (BFA, Theatre Production & Design).

Three TAPA-member theatre companies will host the training, including Soulpepper Theatre Company, Young People’s Theatre and Studio 180 Theatre.  As the inaugural candidate, Nathan Bruce will benefit from involvement as an assistant lighting designer in three different productions with the companies.

“This is an important initiative to provide trainees with experience and exposure to professional theatre productions and to gain professionally and personally from the insight and experience of the full range of theatre production,” said Jacoba Knaapen, TAPA Executive Director. 

Design Incubator founder and lighting designer Lesley Wilkinson said, “Mentorship is a key ingredient in ensuring that lighting design continues to develop and thrive among a new generation of theatre professionals. It complements creative and academic training that is critical in preparing for the future of theatre in this country.”

The selection jury was made up of Pat Bradley, Jury Chairperson (Theatre Officer, Compass and Major Organizations Officer, Ontario Arts Council (Retired December 2019), Jim Brett (former Production Electrician), Kevin Lamotte, (Director of Lighting Design, Shaw Festival, freelance lighting designer), Jennifer Lennon (freelance lighting designer), Jareth Li (freelance lighting designer) and Andrea Lundy (Director, Production Design & Technical Arts Program, National Theatre School, freelance lighting designer).

“We were delighted with the quality of candidates for this important mentorship program. All of them demonstrated the passion, drive and motivation that is so important to the work of a lighting designer. The successful candidate, Nathan Bruce, gave jurors the confidence that he would be able to make the most of the opportunity offered by the program, and become the lighting designer he aspires to be,” said Pat Bradley, Jury Chairperson.

Design Incubator looks forward to helping to build on Toronto’s strong reputation for professional theatre by cultivating talent in all aspects of lighting design. For more information, please refer to this link to the TAPA website:

Media Refer:

Jacoba Knaapen, TAPA,

Lesley Wilkinson, Design Incubator, 

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Quotes from Host Theatre Companies

"Soulpepper is firmly of the opinion that education is a vital component of professional theatre. By hosting Design Incubator’s Pilot Project during the 2021/2022 Season Soulpepper is confirming the belief in innovative, real-world training that includes active participation. This strong foundation in which to learn is what Design Incubator delivers to Assistant Lighting Designers as they fulfill their lighting design training. Soulpepper thoroughly supports the Pilot Project under Lesley Wilkinson’s leadership and direction."

Emma Stenning, Executive Director, Soulpepper Theatre

“Young People’s Theatre is thrilled to host the Design Incubator Pilot Project during our 2021/2022 Season. In partnership with Lesley Wilkinson and Design Incubator, we will fully support the Pilot Project training goals: to encourage the Assistant Lighting Designer to become boldly original in the knowledge requirements of their profession.”

Allen MacInnis, Artistic Director, Young People’s Theatre

“Studio 180 Theatre was founded with educational outreach as a primary focus. Lesley Wilkinson's vision of bringing aspiring lighting designers into the profession is a perfect complement to our philosophy. What makes this all the more exciting is the direct link to the professional theatre world. Studio180 Theatre is wholly on-board to participate in the 2021/2022 season, and wherever else we can be helpful.”

Joel Greenberg, Artistic Director, Studio 180 Theatre

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