Contracting in Unprecedented Times

FOLDA 2021

Date —

June 2, 2021

Time —

6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Contracting in Unprecedented Times

ASL Interpretation provided by Deaf Spectrum

June 2nd, 2021 from 6:00pm-8:00pm EST

As the live arts sector continues to create and present work in digital spaces, how do we make agreements that are transparent, realistic, and meaningfully consensual? How do we consider the traditional ephemerality of live events alongside the realities of digital platforms, and be intentional about recording, distribution, archiving and posterity? What are the opportunities, limitations, and barriers are posed by working in digital spaces, in general but also specifically for artists and others used to the conditions of live work? How can arts organizations host spaces for performance and performance conversation that are online, and still experimental, iterative, emergent, and honest? How can performing artists and arts workers best protect themselves when entering into agreements for work in digital space? How can all involved collaborate to create agreements that are responsive to changing circumstances? 

Undercurrent Creations hosts “Contracting in Unprecedented Times”, a panel exploring how the performing arts sector can navigate agreements, consent, and contracting, in healthy and anti-oppressive ways, as we work to digital spaces. 

Moderator Rachel Penny guides a conversation with panelists Donna Michelle St. Bernard (Artistic Director, New Harlem Productions), Owais Lightwala (Assistant Professor, Ryerson University School of Performance), and Kim Sənklip Harvey (Indigenous Theorist and Cultural Evolutionist), and  Nico Elliott-Armstrong (Lawyer, Artists’ Legal Advice Services). 

The conversation will be geared towards … 

  • Producers, managers, and leaders at performing arts organizations of all sizes
  • Artists who are creating performance work in/for digital space
  • Artists and cultural workers who are sitting on panels, delivering keynotes, or otherwise offering intellectual/creative work in digital spaces
  • Artists and arts workers who make and sign contracts 

“Contracting in Unprecedented Times” is curated by Rachel Penny and Nikki Shaffeeullah as part of Undercurrent Creations’ Parallel Tracks 2021, a training, knowledge-sharing, and activist initiative exploring the intersections between performing arts, digital spaces, and anti-oppressive practice.

Tech Requirements: This panel discussion will be convened as a Zoom webinar. You will not need to appear on camera or be heard. You will have the opportunity to ask questions using the Q&A chat. 

Access: This workshop will take place on Zoom as a Zoom Webinar, and will have ASL Interpretation provided by Deaf Spectrum. Rev Captioning auto-generated captions will also be available for participants. 

For more information on FoLDA’s accessible services and events, visit or contact

About the Artists: 

Panelist: Kim Sənklip Harvey

Kim Senklip Harvey is a proud Indigenous woman from the Syilx, Tsilhqot’in, Ktunaxa, and Dakelh Nations and is a director, playwright, and actor. In 2017 Kim was shortlisted for the Gina Wilkinson Prize for her work as an emerging director. In 2018 she was a participant in the Banff Playwrights Lab as well as the Rumbles Directors Lab mentored by Weyni Mengesha. Kim was a participant in the 2017 Banff Residency “Writing in a Racialized Canada”, and took part in the National Theatre School’s inaugural Artistic Leadership Program, which aims to steward in the next generation of artists to lead the major artistic institutions in this country. In September of 2018, Kim had the world premiere for her new play, Kamloopa, which she wrote and directed. Her next play, Break Horizons, is a commission with the Citadel and Arts Club Theatre which explores the multifaceted laws of the many Indigenous worlds. Kim is a tenacious leader committed to excellence and the equitable opportunity of her people, women, minorities, and the historically disenfranchised and believes storytelling is the most compelling way to provide every community member the opportunity to live peacefully.

Panelist: Owais Lightwala

Owais Lightwala is an arts leader and creative producer. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Performance, Faculty of Communication and Design at Ryerson University, where his teaching and research focused on creative producing and arts management. Prior to that, he spent 8 years as the Managing Director for Why Not Theatre, where he produced sold-out runs of award-winning new works, national and international tours, presentations from around the world, and co-helmed the creation of innovative new producing models like the RISER Project. He advises many arts organizations (including theatre and dance companies, music presenters, film festivals and more) as a strategic consultant, particularly on finding better ways of doing things, changing who’s on stage and in the audience, and anything to do with numbers.  He also dabbles in theatre making as an artist, and is a prolific web and graphic designer. Owais is a graduate of York University’s Theatre program, and currently pursuing his MBA at Ryerson University.

Panelist: Donna-Michelle St. Bernard 

Donna-Michelle St. Bernard aka Belladonna the Blest is an emcee, playwright and agitator. Her main body of work, the 54ology, includes: Cake, Sound of the Beast, A Man A Fish, Salome’s Clothes, Gas Girls, Give It Up, The Smell of Horses, and The First Stone. Works for young audiences include the META-nominated Reaching For Starlight, The Chariot, and Rabbit King of Kenya. Opera libretti include Forbidden (Afarin Mansouri/Tapestry Opera) and Oubliette (Ivan Barbotin/Tapestry Opera). DM is currently the emcee in residence at Theatre Passe Muraille, associate artist at lemonTree Creations, artistic director of New Harlem Productions, coordinator of the AD HOC Assembly, and of Nightwood Theatre’s Write From the Hip play development program. She’s so cool.

Panelist: Nico Elliott

Nico Elliott (she/her) is an associate in the Entertainment Law practice group at the law firm Cassels in Toronto.  Nico routinely works with artists and performers using a variety of forms of contractual agreements to protect ownership of artists’ works and facilitate collaborations and opportunities.  Before becoming a lawyer Nico worked in the music industry at a prominent independent record label, music publisher and music festival, and in film post-production. 

Co-Curator: Nikki Shaffeeullah

Nikki Shaffeeullah (she/her) is a theatre & film artist, facilitator, writer, equity worker, and community organizer. Her work has included serving as Artistic Director of The AMY Project; and Editor-in-Chief of cultural diversity and the stage. Nikki produces sector-change projects through her organization Undercurrent Creations, and is a founding member of Confluence Arts Collective, a group of artists-activists who believe in transformative justice and a world without prisons. An award-winning theatre-maker, Nikki works as a director, writer, performer and producer, and collaborates with companies and artists from across Canada. She has held residencies and fellowships with organizations including Canadian Stage Company, Why Not Theatre, The Theatre Centre, SummerWorks and others. As a facilitator, Nikki supports grassroots groups, non-profits, and public institutions to uphold equity and accountability in all aspects of their work. A queer Indo-Caribbean settler born and living in Toronto, Nikki believes that art should disrupt the status quo, centre the margins, engage with the ancient, dream of the future, and be for everyone.

Moderator & Co-Curator: Rachel Penny

Rachel is a creative producer working in dance, theatre and community-engaged arts. Rachel supports new work creation and centres relationships in her work.  Rachel has worked with a diverse range of organizations including Harbourfront Centre, The Luminato Festival, Young People’s Theatre, Volcano Theatre, Peggy Baker Dance Projects, and The AMY Project. Rachel has been mentored in producing through Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program (with Aislinn Rose) and the Metcalf Foundation Performing Arts Internship Program (with Meredith Potter). Currently, Rachel works as the Artistic Producer for adelheid dance projects, as a Creative Producer with The Theatre Centre, and on freelance projects.