SummerWorks, an acclaimed Toronto indie theatre festival that generated controversy last year when it featured a play about a Toronto 18 member, has lost its federal funding.

In a note posted on its blog Monday, the festival said that after a five-year partnership with Canadian Heritage, it just received notice that it won't receive federal funding for the 2011 season, which starts Aug. 4.

"This loss of 20 per cent of our budget just weeks before opening has created a significant shortfall and left us little time to fill it.

And that's why I'm writing to you," wrote Michael Rubenfeld, SummerWorks artistic producer.

"I hope that you will please consider giving a minimum gift of $21.00 to help us celebrate our 21st season of collaborative art. If you are able, a larger gift will make a significant difference."


Toronto indie theatre festival SummerWorks, which featured a play about Toronto 18 member Shareef Abdelhaleem, has lost its federal funding. ((Alex Tavshunsky/CBC))

Last August the festival debuted Catherine Frid's play Homegrown, about Shareef Abdelhaleem, who was a member of the infamous group known as the Toronto 18.

At the time, one newspaper quoted people questioning government funding for the festival, suggesting the play was "sympathetic" to groups such as Abdelhaleem's.

However, Frid told The Canadian Press she wasn't expressing sympathy for the group in the play. Rather, she hoped the story would stir up dialogue about life in the post-Sept. 11 world.

Friends Benj Gallander, Greg Holmgren, Carol Pauker, Rob Sherwood and Ben Stadelmann founded the SummerWorks theatre and arts festival in 1991.

It features predominantly new Canadian plays and bills itself as the largest juried festival in Canada.