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Transforming Stories, Driving Change (TSDC)

Transforming Stories, Driving Change is a research and performance initiative under the leadership of researchers from the McMaster University School of Social Work and the School of the Arts, the Good Shepherd Centres, and the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton, with the collaboration from the Hamilton Community Foundation and funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Development grant.

Led by Principle Investigators Chris Sinding (School of Social Work) and Catherine Graham (School of the Arts), Transforming Stories, Driving Change uses performance to explore, and then show, how social exclusion affects particular communities in Hamilton, and how these communities are responding. TSDC is concerned with the conversation happening in Hamilton about the future of the City, about life in this community, about what’s good for us as a community. We know that many people are excluded from this conversation, not because they have nothing to say, but because only certain speakers are recognized as legitimate — and only certain ways of speaking are heard or recognized as worthy contributions to the conversation. TSDC uses performance to interrupt the value patterns that fail to recognize the contributions of so many people. The idea is that certain kinds of theatre can make visible and ‘play with’ cultural values and norms that underlie communication, and in making them visible, can allow us to talk about them, and challenge them if they need challenging.

In “The world’s a stage — for all,” written by Sara Laux for McMaster University’s “Brighter World” research website, Chris and Catherine discuss how the TSDC project’s interdisciplinary approach “uses the collaborative creation of a play to amplify the voices of people in Hamilton often marginalized in public debate."


“One of the things that’s striking to me about the work is how it plays with questions of standpoint or perspective. There are many different ways that the performance opens up a new way of seeing or knowing, or disrupts an established way of seeing or knowing.”

          — Chris Sinding, Principle Investigator, Transforming Stories Driving Change

Christina Sinding

Christina Sinding

Professor | Director of the School of Social Work, McMaster University



“In this age of populism, when too many media and political figures try to exploit the dissatisfaction of people who are feeling unheard, it is crucially important to create forums where marginalized voices can take their rightful place in public discussion. We are working to create events where people from different social locations can speak to, not for or at, each other, and where nobody feels like they’ve been written out of the discussion before it even starts.”

          — Catherine Graham, Principle Investigator, Transforming Stories Driving Change

Catherine Graham

Catherine Graham

Associate Professor of Theatre & Film Studies | School of the Arts, McMaster University

A community-based performance creation process

Over the past three years the Transforming Stories, Driving Change has worked with a team of what performance studies scholar Jan Cohen-Cruz calls “uncommon partners” (theatre makers, arts and social science educators and scholars, community self-advocates, social service providers and social planners) to create stories and make theatre about how Hamilton can become a better and more inviting place to live. TSDC productions have included performances about living in inhospitable and precarious housing (When My Home Is Your Business), dealing with the narrow mandates and inflexibility of social services (All Of Us Together & We Need To Talk), and navigating life as a young person under surveillance in Hamilton (Choose Your Destination). Produced using performance as a research strategy, and in collaboration with our community partners, Transforming Stories, Driving Change performances work to:

  • Focus attention on norms of public communication that render some stories and speakers legitimate and comprehensible and others not
  • Identify ways to make these unstated norms visible and available for public discussion and contestation
  • Use future-oriented performance creation techniques to engage more and different kinds of people in public talk about visions for their communities, and build solidarity between constituencies

Transforming Stories, Driving Change is generously funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Council Partnership Development Grant.

For frequent updates, please follow our project blog