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An empowerment-driven training incubator culminating in a showcase and conference to address fatphobia in the arts, from March 13-25, 2023.



The "Leading Player Project" will welcome 10 plus-size musical theatre artists (5 GTA locals, 5 from underserved arts communities across Canada) in March 2023, who identify gaps in their post-secondary education which are the result of anti-fat bias in their training. Candidates will attend a two-week intensive program in Toronto, participating in a series of empowerment and artistic development workshops that will prepare them to take on leading roles, instead of the secondary roles (best friend, nurse, aunt etc.) they were trained for at the college level. The purpose of this incubator is to connect artists who feel marginalized due to their bodies, and help them unlearn their internalized fatphobia through a community of personal and professional support. We aim to help these individuals, who deserve to take up space in the audition room, gain the confidence to submit for traditionally "thin roles”, which will ultimately lead to positive representation of fat people on stage for future aspiring artists. In this way, we are contributing to the development and diversification of the Canadian musical theatre industry, making Canada a leader in this type of activism.


Program Overview: 

-Audition songbook mentorship: one-on-one coaching to find roles that are suited to the performers voice instead of just their body type.

-Monologue mentorship: one-on-one coaching to develop artists' current monologue selections and find new ones that are better suited to their skills and personality.

-Dance workshops (Theatre Jazz, Tap, Rhythmic Jazz, Contemporary): catered to address possible mobility restrictions, while raising the bar of excellence in style, character, energy and technique.

-Accessibility in Theatre Workshop to help inform the participants about the intersectionality of fatness and disability.

-Monologue writing mentorship: artists will work with a writer to create a monologue about their experience to be included in the final showcase.  By turning their experience into a monologue, we will help these artists process their lived experience and will create monologues specifically tailored for use by other fat artists.

-Social media coaching and personal branding intensive: reimagining each artists’ personal brand so that it is reflective of their ambitions and talents, and not restricted by body type, to set them up for success in our industry that is influenced by the scope of an actor's social media presence.

-Stage Combat Workshop - artists will be educated about stage combat to give them an additional hireable skillset, and learn the techniques in a way that is accessible and accommodates past injuries, to prevent future injuries in the workplace when attempting stage combat.

-Theatre Business Workshop: providing participants with the fundamentals they need to have a successful career as an artist, including an introduction to producing their own works.

-Artists will participate in a Headshot session with a photographer and make up artist, to provide them with current photos making them more hireable.

-Improv workshop: training with Second City workshop facilitator to develop this skillset.


-Group discussions: Re: industry goals, policy writing and how to move forward as a movement with a focus on community building.

-Devising the conference: Deciding how to share learned discoveries with other industry members

-Prepare Showcase performance: a public display of the true abilities of the 10 artists, designed to showcase their best work for industry members accompanied by a three piece band.


In addition to educational training, participants will engage in individual therapy sessions from a qualified psychologist who specializes in weight-based pathologies to address disordered eating, body dysmorphia, and comorbidities such as depression and anxiety. The artists will also contribute to discussions about how to move the needle forward on the issue of fatphobia in the arts industry towards greater societal understanding of our cause, and strategizing together on creating policy that specifically addresses size-discrimination in our industry, which will be petitioned to the Canadian Actors Equity Association (CAEA) and the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT).


In the second week of the program, the artists will work together to devise a conference geared towards industry professionals (open to the public) to be headlined by an industry showcase that the participants will create. This one day conference will include workshops and panels hosted and curated by the ten performers so they can disseminate the information that they acquired, and the discoveries they made over the previous two weeks. The conference will culminate in a showcase providing a platform for artistic directors and agents to experience the talents of the selected performers. This showcase will act as a re-introduction of these artists to industry gatekeepers, challenging them to rethink their biases, and consider these individuals for roles outside of their traditional casting practices. 


Fat artists are dramatically underrepresented in the arts industry, making up less than 1% of rosters of the top two Canadian talent agencies. We have worked with many fat artists who report blatant discrimination in the workplace based on their body type. In auditions, they have testified to being ignored by panelists, and had fellow artists comment on their bodies with statements like, “Wow, you’re a dancer?” and “I didn’t think your body could move like that”. Others have been told by those in positions of power that, "You are so talented, you just don't fit", or going so far as to suggest they lose weight and return to audition the following season. Similar anecdotal evidence can easily be garnered from artists across the country indicating a need for this project to bolster the careers of these underrepresented and disenfranchised artists.


The impact of this project will be measured by its effect on a society that is slowly moving towards acceptance and celebration of all body types. Fatphobia has been referred to as “the last acceptable prejudice”, and we want to empower fat artists and open up a discussion about our industry's very clear bias towards them. By creating space for this discussion we can begin to address the harm done by eating disorders in our industry and the human toll these societal norms have on artists.

key Dates

March 12, 2023 - Artist fly in

March 13-17, 2023 - Workshops Week 1

March 21-23, 2023 - Workshops Week 2 + Devising the showcase and conference

March 24, 2023 - Theatre Load in, Tech Rehearsal + Conference setup

March 25, 2023 - Conference + Industry Showcase

March 26, 2023 - Artists fly out + theatre strike

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This Project Is Generously Supported By