Clay & Paper Theatre

Clay & Paper Theatre's mandate is to create, develop and perform multi-disciplinary, community driven theatrical works, using narrative theatre and large-scale puppetry in public spaces for large and diverse audiences.

Our Impact Why We Exist

Clay & Paper Theatre produces plays, pageants and parades with the community, grounded in the idea that performance in public space is an act of cultural transformation.  Our practice of building, rehearsing, and performing in full public view is an attempt on our part to “bring back the commons”, reunite art with the daily life of the community, and to make art accessible to all. 

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

In 1994, Clay & Paper Theatre founder, David Anderson (previously of Whole Loaf Theatre) started producing original theatre in Dufferin Grove Park, engaging the community at all stages of production and holding workshops in puppet- and mask-making, stilt walking and music. Since then, a new Canadian work has been produced each summer. In 1999, the first annual Night of Dread festival was produced, with its companion festival, Day of Delight, starting in 2003. In 2008, the Puppets Without Barriers program was launched to adapt shows for the Deaf and disability community. In 2009, CYCLOPS: Cycling Oriented Puppet Squad, the bicycle-based, mobile theatre project, was created to animate public space and spread awareness about healthy, active living and environmental issues.

Accolades and Accomplishments

David Anderson has been honoured with a Davenport Community Builders Award, a Chalmers Arts Fellowship and was a finalist for the 2011 Premier's Awards for Excellence in the Arts, and the William Kilbourn Award for the Celebration of Toronto's Cultural Life in 2008. He has been named one of Citytv's People You Should Know and in 2011, was also named Liberty Village's Inspirational Bike Commuter by Smart Commute. Clay & Paper Theatre's accomplishments to date include: the establishment of mentorship programs for emerging artists and students (over 130 artists mentored to-date); providing work for over 200 artists, actors and musicians each year; providing accessible art learning opportunities through pay-what-you-can community workshops, forging connections with social agencies serving marginalized populations in other areas of the GTA; and taking a leadership role in the revitalization of Dufferin Grove Park and its surrounding neighbourhood through community-based theatre productions and workshops in the park. Since 1994, over 76,000 Torontonians have taken part in Clay & Paper Theatre's productions. In 2011, Clay & Paper Theatre was named one of BlogTO's Best Theatre Production Companies in Toronto.

Our Programs How We Do It

As defenders of public space with a belief in the importance of art in everyday life, Clay & Paper builds, rehearses, and performs in public space. Performing in public space is radically unlike working in a conventional theatre.

Clay & Paper believes that art should be accessible to all; our presentations in public venues provide unparalleled accessibility to our audiences as does our ‘Pay-What-You-Can’ fee structure. Despite the unique challenges these commitments present, they are deeply rooted our company philosophy and are part of what makes Clay & Paper Theatre so unique.

Clay & Paper Theatre’s annual activities are:

  • Day of Delight - a curated community festival celebrating love, courtship and desire, in which we present 10 to 15 local emerging and professional artistic groups or individual artists totaling about 100 performers each year.
  • Summer Show - an original full-length play in our unique genre of Theatre each summer, built and rehearsed in full public view, running 5 nights/week for five weeks in Dufferin Grove Park.
  • Night of Dread - a community parade and pageant where thousands of revelers join us to parade their private and collective fears through the streets of Toronto, burn their fears in a bonfire, waltz with death, eat the bread of the dead, remember those who have gone from our midst, and enjoy a program of artistic performances in the park.    

Ongoing programs:

  • Puppets Without Barriers - develops theatre that is accessible and engages the Deaf and disability community.
  • Cyclops: Cycling Oriented Puppet Squad - a bicycle-based theatre project that develops new performance venues, animates public space and reaches new audiences.
  • Mentorship Program - trains emerging artists in our particular form of large-scale narrative theatre.
  • Community Arts Education Workshops - Accessible workshops are offered in stilt-walking, music, mask-making, puppetry, shadow puppetry, and theatrical imagery both to the community at-large and to interested organizations.
  • Building Local Stories - focuses on including the local histories of the diverse communities in Toronto in our productions.


Puppets without Barriers

In 2009 Clay & Paper launched our Puppets without Barriers project in the hope of realizing our vision of truly accessible theatre. This program provides performances with theatrical American Sign Language Interpretation and touch tours for the Deaf, deafened and hearing impaired, and integrated descriptive dialogue, Braille and large text programs for blind and low vision audience members.

Puppets without Barriers helps us to reach an under-served population and positions Clay & Paper as one of the few theatre companies in Ontario producing and promoting accessible theatre. Clay & Paper has also developed a toolkit designed to assist other theatre groups who wish to launch similar initiatives, which groups can download for free from our website.

We continue to build accessibility initiatives across our programming; the last three Night of Dread parades have included a ‘Hell on Wheels’ section for wheelchairs and scooters and for the past two years our Day of Delight festival included a BYO-A; ‘Bring Your Own Accessibility’ initiative to encourage artists and artistic companies submitting proposals to our festival to include accessibility initiatives in their work.

Funding and Program Partners

Clay & Paper Theatre partners with a number of organizations to deliver Puppets Without Barriers, including Picasso Pro, Toronto Trailblazers Tandem Cycling Club, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, as well as many consultants in the Deaf and visually impaired communities. 

Puppets Without Barriers has been funded in part through the Canada Council of the Arts,  Department of Canadian Heritage, Toronto Arts Council and Ontario Arts Council.

Program Impact

Finding a lack of accessible theatre in Toronto, Clay & Paper Theatre developed partnership with consultants from the visually impaired, Deaf, and interpreting communities, as well as seventeen organizations within the disability community, to develop Puppets Without Barriers; reaching out to thousands with our performances, and becoming a leader in accessible theatre in Ontario.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

“One quarter (25.5%) are sometimes or often limited from participation in activities by disability or illness.” 

Puppets Without Barriers develops theatre that is accessible and engages the Deaf and disability community.

Participant Vignette

John Rae, vice-president, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, attended an accessible performance of Between Sea and Sky. As a blind audience member, he found the touch tour the highlight of the production. "Theatre-goers rarely get exposed to props. I'm big about tactile access. You can describe things, you can read about them but there is no substitute to tactile access whether in an art gallery, museum or theatre."

What You Can Do

Puppets without Barriers

Activities a donation will support

 Your donation will enable Clay & Paper Theatre with the means to:

  • Hire theatrical ASL interpreters (develop ASL script, rehearse with performers, interpret for 5 shows, develop ASL video trailer)
  • Work with consultants to create Integrated Descriptive Dialogue
  • Provide Braille and Large Text programs and flyers
  • Hire an Accessibility Coordinator to provide services to the disability community (outreach to groups and organizations, coordinate transportation, arrange sighted guides, provide information, etc)
  • Further develop partnerships within the disability community
  • Develop new audiences by providing Toronto's first accessible outdoor theatre

Donation impact

With financial support, Clay & Paper Theatre will be able to continue its Puppets Without Barriers program in its full capacity, providing accessible theatre for all, including American Sign Language interpretation, touch tours and Integrated Descriptive Dialogue and paving the way for other arts companies to be inclusive of the disability community. 


Leanne Eisen
Communications and Outreach
Charitable Number: 899324263RR0001


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