“So hard to apply for grants. You spend tons of time on them and get rejected,” I told other people in the theatre community.

“Yup,” they all answered, and gave me pep talk that boiled down to “Get used to it.”

Sadly, since our society don’t support the arts as much as, say, big oil, arts grants fill the gap. They make sure the performers, director, playwright, and behind the scenes technicians get paid and can continue to make more art.

The arts are good for you. For example, the 2018 Seattle ArtsFund study concluded, “low-income neighborhoods with cultural resources have 14% fewer cases of child abuse and neglect, and 18% less serious crime than low-income neighborhoods without cultural resources.” Who wouldn’t want to lower child abuse and crime? They also found that “71% of at-risk students with high arts involvement attend college whereas 47% of at risk-students with low arts involvement attend college.” Education for the win!

On the economic side, in Ontario alone, arts and culture contribute “$28.7 billion or 3.5% of the province’s GDP and 301,495 jobs” in a 2019 study by Statistics Canada.

Still, the arts land on the chopping block every budget. So grants for a new production, say of my play, Terminally Ill? Hard sell. Lots of no’s.

Fortunately, the City of Ottawa awarded the Hope Rises collective $4000 in 2021.

Engage Ottawa | Homepage

The Ottawa Community Foundation awarded us $10,000. We’ll spend the first portion on workshops with the indigenous community and the second portion on the production in 2024.

Ottawa Community Foundation Logo

TACTICS selected us for the workshop series in 2021 ($3000) and, on Friday the 13th, awarded us a production grant for spring 2023 ($4000).

undercurrents, run by the Ottawa Fringe, invited us to New Play Tuesday 2022 and undercurrents in 2024.

So now I’m actively searching for indigenous teachers and reaching out to the community to see if we can do a cultural exchange, including a one-day workshop in Akwesasne.

L to R: Melissa Yi (playwright), Ray Besharah (Archer), Shirley Manh (Hope Sze), Melissa Landry (Elvis), holding tomato seeds from the Playwrights Guild of Canada, in honour of PGC’s 50th anniversary while reading Terminally Ill at New Play Tuesday 2022 #pgc50 #yearoftheplaywright #canadianstories

In addition to Shirley Manh as Hope Sze, Melissa Landry as Elvis, Ray Besharah as Archer, and myself as the playwright, we can now add talent like Glenys Marshall as Lucia and dramaturg, and Adam Sakauye as Ryan. And we won’t stop there.

Instead of having everyone play up to 2 or 3 roles, more talent can join and elevate the show. The latest two stars, Adam and Glenys, I found through the Youth Infringement Festival. I love adding more of the 18-25 demographic to our team, although we’ll miss John Koensgen, who was called to Stratford, and Sheldon Parathundyi, now studying law at UBC.

Of course the grants require more work. It’s more like running a small business than writing. But with this investment, we can highlight the aerial (vertical theatre) component and get it right. We can invest in lighting and sound. We can experiment with the immersive element (hey, I wrote a new scene to highlight our newest performers).

Can’t wait. Thank you to the community, for believing in us, to the government for keeping arts funding alive, and to you, for paying your taxes and making art possible.