Feeling Shattered into a Million Pieces

We think back to our youth and most of us can remember the ups-and-downs and all the emotions.  But what happens when all those emotions go deeper than growing pains? When these problems become overwhelming, start to affect every aspect of a teen’s life or are rooted in darker, more painful pasts? What happens when these problems become too hard to bear and you feel nothing but lost, confused and alone? Where do teens turn to and how can they cope when dealing with mental health? These are the questions explored in Sarasvàti Productions’ high school tour of Shattered.

With the support of The Winnipeg Foundation and Enterprise Foundation, Shattered will be stopping at 40 high schools in Manitoba from October 11 to December 9. Using the format of forum theatre, youth won’t just sit and watch the play, they will take the stage as they work together to explore solutions to the challenges these characters will face:

Meet the cast and crew behind Shattered:

Hailey Charney, assistant director/consultant – Hailey has worked on the Mental Health is Everyone’s Health project from its early stages. She truly believes in the importance and impact Shattered will have on the way youth view mental health. This is not Hailey’s first time working with Sarasvàti as she has had wonderful experiences participating in FemFest for the past two years.

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GeNie in action on our last tour!

Eugene Baffoe aka. GeNie, as Narrator/Joker/Absame – A freestyle battle dancer, local MC, actor, and Hip Hop instructor at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, this will be GeNie’s third Sarasvàti high school tour where he once again plays the narrator. His other roles find him giving comedic relief as the Joker, and a Canadian newcomer’s perspective as Absame.

 

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Kelsey Funk

Kelsey Funk, as Amanda/Dora – A graduate of the University of Winnipeg with a BA Honours degree in Theatre, Kelsey wrote and performed her one-woman play WTF are kale chips?! at this year’s Winnipeg Fringe. Kelsey is no stranger to the Mental Health is Everyone’s Health project also appearing in the staged readings of the project’s general production, Breaking Through.

Lindsay Johnson, as Ms. Andrews/Mom – Lindsay is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Honours Acting Program with credits in The Power of Yes, Enchanted April, and The Cassilis Engagement, other credits include Antigone and Quickies with Chekhov (This Reality Theatre Co.) Most recently she performed and co-produced The Writing on the Stalls at the Winnipeg Fringe through Fill The (W)hole Theatre Company. This is her first time working with Sarasvàti as she takes on the roles of authority figures in the play .

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Thomas Toles

Thomas Toles, as Dad/Eddie/Doug – An actor, director and teacher at the University of Winnipeg and MTYP’s theatre school, this will be Thomas’ first time performing with Sarasvàti. He has recently performed in The Collector, Middletown, and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.

Jacob Elijah Unica, as Les – Our youngest cast member, Jacob just graduated from Fort Richmond Collegiate where he studied drama. He’ll be taking on the role of Les, a teen whose challenges lie in caring for a parent struggling with mental health.

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Erica Wilson

Erica Wilson, as KoKo – Erica performed in Sarasvàti’s 2013 Giving Voice tour – a high school tour about the experiences of youth in care. She has more recently appeared alongside Kelsey Funk in the staged readings of Breaking Through, as the outspoken Two-Spirited character, KoKo. She will be reprising this role in Shattered.

Reena Jolly, as Stacy – Reena is a third year arts student at the University of Manitoba, with this role being her first professional theatre performance. She’ll play Stacy, a young girl coping with anxiety.

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Reena Jolly

Oyindamola (Oyinda) O. Alaka, as Stacy (Stacy understudy) – With her educational background and active experience in social justice and equity advocacy, Oyinda fits right into the message behind Sarasvàti Productions. Theatre as served as a home for Oyinda since childhood and she sees it as a universal way of delivery messages and impacting lives.

Start the conversation about mental health at your school. For more information or to book Shattered please visit our website or call 204-586-2236. There are only 35 spots left so book early!

Teasing out Taboos

Guest Post by Morro and Jasp do Puberty creators/performers Amy Lee and Heather Marie Annis

“I was just going to the bathroom and my whole life changed forever – now every month I am basically dead for a week” – Morro

Why would two clowns put on a show about periods? Well, let’s look at a few situations to answer that:

We are talking to a friend on the street about flow and she says “Eww too much info”; buying tampons at the grocery store, the teenage boy at the checkout counter gives us uncomfortable looks; when we need it the most, there is no sign on the subway that says “Priority seating for those having severe menstrual cramps who may vomit from the pain.”

morro_and_jasp_do_puberty-web-650x650So many people deal with periods. Like half of them (actually 49.5% according to the World Bank estimate in 2015). So what gives?! Get over it. We have blood that comes out of our vaginas every 28 days or so – give or take depending on multiple factors like hormonal imbalances and/or stress or how regular one’s flow is (one time one of us skipped for three months because she was really not sleeping well and another time the other menstruated for a month straight). Basically it’s a pretty sensitive ecosystem and even what you eat can affect it – and it’s biological! Sometimes it sucks and it is a bodily secretion which needs maintenance and care and sometimes it’s freaking painful but that doesn’t mean we should feel ashamed or like it’s something we can’t talk about openly. A history of cultural shifts, perspectives and practices have led us to feeling grossed out by periods and as though it should be a big dirty secret, but it’s time to work on changing that and celebrating the shared experience that really affects the entire global population (in one way or another).

What is theatre for if not to reach into the deep dark corners of our minds and beings and shine a light on the cobwebs that reside there? … Well not cobwebs exactly, but uneasy, queasy, not-so-comfortable feelings.

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Photo credit: Jim Moore

When we first debuted this show at the Winnipeg Fringe in 2008, we were nervous beyond belief. After years of doing kids’ shows featuring our clown alter egos, we were having crisis after crisis about doing something so yucky and intimate. But we were blown away by the response. Of course, there was the odd person who was rather grossed out by it all, but for the most part, the feedback we got was about how relatable it was. This slowly started to peel back the layer of taboo that wrapped the subject of menstruation like an under-ripe banana peel. Then when we performed the show in Toronto in 2009, we still had fear about bringing periods into the spotlight, but were buoyed by the response we’d had in Winnipeg. After that run, an 85-year-old woman thanked us for doing the show and said, “In my day, we couldn’t talk about those things. This was liberating.”

Though it seems strange that talking about such a commonplace experience should be liberating, our experience at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer reminded us that it is still a risque topic for a lot of people. People’s reactions varied: from being so grossed out by the poster that they didn’t even want to see the show; to seeing the show and admitting (sometimes publicly in reviews) that they were still uncomfortable with the subject of the body; to being excited to celebrate periods with us. But the complicated reactions to the subject matter just reminded us how important it is to keep doing this show. And to keep making theatre that confronts all the things we, as artists and members of society, may find yucky or difficult or “off-limits”, because that’s where the juiciest material lives (no pun intended… maybe a little intended).

We are excited to see how Winnipeg reacts to the show today in 2016. Hopefully lots of people come out to celebrate the body with us because it’ll make for a fun party. We also hope, however, that people who feel uncomfortable with menstruation come out and are able to laugh and feel all the feelings surrounding the topic with us – after all, we did write the show out of those conflicting feelings of celebration and unease, grappling with them in ourselves as creators and writers.

“It’s a beautiful time for a woman where womanness is blooming and reaching its fullest womanly potential” – Jasp

Catch this hilarious look at the best period of your life, Morro and Jasp do Puberty at FemFest 2016, September 17 – 24, 2016 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. For tickets visit femfest.ca or call 205-586-2336.

Ten Minutes of Theatrical Treasures

The exploration of big dreams, a secret mission, and a “grim dream-world where women transform into badass anti-heroines,” these are just a few of the exciting stories featured in FemFest 2016 SHORTs from The Short-List.

Shorts Fem15 (8)At 8:15 pm every night from September 19th to the 24th, audiences can treat themselves to a reading of a 10-minute play or excerpts from works by women playwrights from across Canada.

We are proud to present this year’s amazing line-up of SHORTs:

September 19 Vagilantes by Ronit Rubinstein –Vagilantes is the story of women regaining their power against street harassers.

September 20 Dried Flowers by Maryjane Cruise – Award-winning playwright, lyricist and choral composer, Maryjane Cruise explores three women who each find themselves at a crucial turning point in their lives.

September 21Peace We Often Forfeit by Terrie Todd – Terrie Todd’s Peace We Often Forfeit follows Doris and her family. Their family bond and care are tested when a near tragedy takes place.Shorts Fem15 (7)

The Roomie by Emily Muller – In The Roomie, award-winning poet, Emily Muller, presents the kindness, femininity and self-doubt that can be found in all of us, even perpetrators of political violence.

September 22Our Golden Years by Sally Stubbs –What does it mean to build a life together? Our Golden Years is a dark comedy about the evolution of love and marriage.

The Funeral Guest by Tyler Joy White – After the death of her husband, Iris is forced to move to the city with her daughter Amy. The move does not make their lives better.

September 23Solo Journeys by Kirsten Van Ritzen – Actor/playwright Kirsten Van Ritzen lovingly mock clichés found in one-woman shows.

Saudade by Frances Koncan –Inspired by her personal experience, Koncan’s Saudade reflects our society’s perception of mental illness and those in care.

September 24, 8:15pmThe Living Library by Linda McCready – Young, enthusiastic Sylvia, is lost in the endless options of careers. A comedic look at the struggles that almost every 20-something can relate to.Fem12 Jordan Hall reading

September 24, 3pm – Full SHORTs Showcase – With a list of such amazing pieces, it would be hard to pick just one or two to see, but don’t fear! This year we’ve added a special Full SHORTs Showcase. On September 24 at 3pm, audiences can catch all nine plays in one show.

All pieces will be read by our talented ensemble of actors – Johanna Burdon, Melanee Deschambeault, Kim Kakegamic, Kevin Longfield and Cheryl Soluk. SHORTs is directed by recent Harry Rintoul Award winner, Frances Koncan.

Click here for more information and tickets.

 

Not For the Faint of Heart

Five female playwrights; three distinct elements; eight exhilarating hours; only one winning scene – this is the annual FemFest Bake-Off.

On August 19, the FemFest 2016 Bake-Off will challenge a group of emerging and established playwrights with three must-have ‘ingredients’ for a scene. These ingredients can range from the normal (ballroom dancing) to the downright obscure (yellow submarine). With only eight hours from start to finish, Bake-Off writers must use every ounce of their creativity to come up with this year’s Bake-Off audience choice! Up for grabs is a $500 cash prize and a chance to have a reading of their full script at FemFest 2017.

Each scene will have a staged reading before a live audience on September 19 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Based on this viewers vote for their favourite piece. Helping to bring these scenes to the stage, is this year`s team of brave actors:

Ian Bastin – Bastin’s credits include various roles on stage – Lion in the Streets, The Aristocrats (Black Hole Theatre), public reading of Breaking Through (Sarasvàti) – as well as on screen, Steel and Stilettos and The Pinkertons (Buffalo Gal Pictures). Aside from acting, Bastin will bring a list of skills to the Bake-Off cast, like classical guitar, dialects and even stage combat, making him ready for anything the playwrights throw at him.

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Jane in IWW: Cabaret of Monologues – Urban Nun

Jane Burpee –Having performed in several Sarasvàti produced plays like Fen, International Women`s Week Cabaret of Monologues, and Quite an Undertaking, Burpee is no stranger to the Sarasvàti stage. As a performer in FemFest 2012 and 2014’s Bake-Off, she`ll return to this year`s competition ready to take on whatever exciting roles the playwrights throw at her.

Andres Collantes – His first time as part of the Sarasvàti family, we are excited to welcome Collantes to the Bake-Off ensemble. He was discovered by director Cairn Moore in her Intro Performance class at the University of Winnipeg last year.

Nan Fewchuk - HeadshotNan Fewchuk – Always excited about working with Sarasvàti in any capacity she can, Fewchuk has worked both on stage and behind the scenes. Most recently she assistant directed, Jail Baby, and played multiple roles in the public readings of Breaking Through. Other past credits include Fefu and Her Friends and The Naked Woman with Sarasvàti, Beauty and The Beast at Rainbow Stage, The Merry Wives of Windsor at Shakespeare in the Ruins, and she produced and performed in the Winnipeg Fringe Hit, Dog Act.

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Spenser Payne – As Sarasvàti Producitons’ June 2016 Rising Star and one half of clown duo, The Red Nose Diaries, we are excited to have Payne performing in this year`s Bake-off. A graduate of the University of Alberta’s Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program, and a founding member of both Sweet and Salty Collective and The Talentless Lumps, Payne will be bringing her enthusiasm and comedic offerings to the Bake-Off cast.

If you’d like to see these multi-talented actors bring your work to life, there is still time to apply for the FemFest 2016 Bake-Off. Grab the bull by the horns (in this case, the computer by the mouse and click here) and apply. The deadline for applications is August 8.

As challenging as the competition may be, it might just be the motivation and inspiration you need to get that scene out of your head and onto the stage! If that’s not enough to sweeten the pot, the Bake-Off winner will receive the Janet Taylor Bake–Off Award of $500. Need we say more?

Performances of FemFest 2016 Bake-Off takes place September 19 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are available at femfest.ca or by calling 204-586-2236.

Opening with a Bang!

With aerial acrobatics, high-energy contemporary dance, and the side-splitting comedic offerings of Winnipeg’s funniest performers, it’s no doubt Sarasvàti knows how to throw a party!

FemFest 2016: Transformation kicks off with the FemFest Opening Night Cabaret. The annual variety show is jam-packed with some of the most talented entertainers this city has to offer; everything from music, dance, comedy, theatre and film. Now, feast your eyes and ears on the incredibly entertaining line-up of the FemFest 2016 Opening Night Cabaret!

Lara Rae, Comedian/Host – Guiding you through the evening’s festivities will be stand-up comedian and Winnipeg Comedy Fest Artistic Director, Lara Rae.

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Comedian Lara Rae, Photo:Ruth Bonneville

Lara Rae is the founding Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. She was the Just For Laughs National Champion at the Homegrown Comedy Competition in Montreal in 2000 and won a Gemini Award and Prix Roma Prize from Italy for her work on Little Mosque on the Prairie. She is a regular instructor at the McNally Robinson Community classroom on opera, comedy and various genres of literature. She’ll be bringing the cabaret a taste of her signature wit and we couldn’t be happier to have her.

Robyn Slade & co., 50/50  – Serving up a delightful dash of improv-theatre fusion is Robyn Slade & co. With 50/50, one actor memorizes lines from a unique play and is paired with an improviser who has no idea what their partner has rehearsed. This combo is sure to bring hilarious and unexpected entertainment.

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Crash Site by Sonya Ballantyne

Sonya Ballantyne, Filmmaker, Crash Site – Originally from Misipawistik Cree Nation, Ballantyne is a self-proclaimed nerd whose work is infused with iconic comic book colours and feel. A graduate of the National Screen Institute New Voices program, Ballantyne uses her films to address issues facing aboriginal women and girls. She’ll be presenting a screening of her new animated film, Crash Site, about a young girl who meets a superhero.

Raye Anderson, Pearl in the Egg- Enjoy a solo performance by theatre artist and former theatre educator, Raye Anderson. She’ll present her new piece, Pearl in the Egg. The work combines storytelling, spoken word and visual arts to reclaim the power of older women storytellers and their stories.

Alissa Watson and Spenser Payne, Buzzkill and Tattletale in: You Win Some, You Lose Most – The Winnipeg clown duo behind The Red Nose Diaries is spending the summer entertaining the masses at the Winnipeg and Edmonton Fringe Fests with THE POLKA DOTS OF DEATH: The Making of the Supervillain. The duo makes their triumph return at the opening cabaret with Buzzkill and Tattletale in: You Win Some, You Lose Most.

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Lost, Dancer: Jillian Groening Photo: Bruce Monk

Gearshifting, Lost – Contemporary dance company Gearshifting will be storming the stage with their intricately moving piece, Lost. Featuring dancers Jillian Groening, Elise Page and Carol-Ann Bohrn with choreography by Jolene Bailie, the audience will surely be mesmerized by the poetry hidden in human movement.

Jennifer Genest, Break the Silence – Genest will light up the night with her famous LED glow poi dance. Genest creates dramatic, colourful images in darkened spaces through her use of rhythmical movements and geometric patterns. Infusing her routine with contemporary dance, Break the Silence, will be an awe-inspiring show.

Ruth Baines, Wolf Woman – Bringing a different exploration of physical storytelling, is aerial artist Ruth Baines. Baines is known for her beloved blend of theatrical aerial dance and monologue. Presenting her latest gravity-defying act, Wolf Woman, Baines will be treating the audience to sky-high entertainment.

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Wolf Woman, Ruth Baines. Photo: Leif Norman

The entertainment doesn’t stop there. Throughout the evening, the lobby will be packed with amazing artwork from local visual artists, Teresa-Lee Cooke, Debbie Machula and Susan Aydan Abbott. We’ll also have work by graphic artist Autumn Crossman-Serb, whose comics feature Muslims and women of colour as protagonists.

And lastly, it wouldn’t be a party without treats and the chance to mingle and meet the artists, so of course we have that too. We’ll have delectable dainties and delicious food with an array of fun-filled raffle prizes from vendors across the city.

Stay tuned for more artists and news to be announced.

FemFest 2016 Opening Night Cabaret takes place September 17, 2016 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (University of Winnipeg). Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at femfest.ca or by calling 204-586-2336.

Shame, Blame and What Almost Became a Def Leppard Play

Guest Post by The Seduction Theory playwright Sherry MacDonald

Hysteria. Red line. Yellow submarine. For last year’s FemFest Bake-Off competition my fellow playwrights and I were given eight hours to incorporate these three ingredients into a scene. Upon hearing the word ‘hysteria’ I became very excited (no pun intended) and quickly delved into online research fueled by the prospect of writing a scene set in Freud’s time about his theories for treating the ‘disease’ then known as hysteria. Great!

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Vancouver playwright, Sherry MacDonald

The problem that immediately became apparent to me was this: While there were all kinds of possibilities for folding ‘red line’ into the mix, what was I going to do with ‘yellow submarine’?

Yes, there were submarines during Freud’s time, but ‘yellow submarine’ is an unavoidably iconic term that would necessarily place the scene in an era post Beatlemania. I briefly toyed with riffing on the term, abandoning Freud, along with John, Paul et al, to set the scene in a place called The Yellow Submarine Sandwich Shop whereby a couple of rock star wannabes rehearse a karaoke version of Def Leppard’s Hysteria. Funny? Maybe. It could be fun . . .

But what if I won? I’d have to spend a year writing a play that revolves around a 1980s ‘hair band’ karaoke contest. No, back to Freud and his theories.

Fortunately for me, I went with my original gut feeling. The writing of the one act play The Seduction Theory which is being produced by Sarasvàti  at this year’s FemFest, has been a rewarding and challenging ride for me as a playwright. The necessity of having to deal with ‘yellow submarine’ actually turned out to be a blessing. Through my original ‘Wiki-mania’ research for the Bake-Off, madly keying in terms like ‘Freud’, ‘hysteria’ and eventually ‘seduction theory’, I came across an entry having to do with girls’ training schools —a then term for reformatories—in Canada and the U.S. during the middle part of the last century. Bingo! Or should I say, Ringo!

Setting the Bake-Off scene in the 60s allowed for that all important third ingredient. And because I now was setting the play in a girls’ reformatory school, I had my first two characters, Cass and Rebecca, girls whom in the process of writing their story I have come to love.

Expanding the Bake-Off scene to a one-act, I set the play back ten years to the mid-50s, a time before social movements began to take hold in North America, an era that saw the beginning of the consumer society, a ripe breeding ground for Freud’s theories to thrive. It was a time not too distant from our own, but distant enough to help frame atrocities committed at the fictional Westview Training School, as a product of ‘the times’.

Unfortunately, this restriction of time and place, ultimately is faulty. For while some of what Cass and Rebecca endure at Westview would not take place today (at least not in North America), the central theme of The Seduction Theory, subverting the female voice through victim blaming, is very much alive and well in 2016. One only has to glance at the latest headlines for verification. The play then is an examination of the current state of affairs for women and girls.

I recently received, courtesy of Theatre BC, a public reading of the script in its present form, which sparked a heated debate. “Would a learned man such as Dr. Branford, ‘the baddie’ in the play, really say the things he does?” “How much has changed since then?” “Has anything changed?” Witnessing firsthand the passion audience members displayed during this exchange, told me I just might be on to something.

Writing a play that explores topical issues that have the potential for impassioned discourse is extremely satisfying to me. And it’s all thanks to the Sarasvàti Bake-Off initiative. I may have been right in choosing Freud over Def Leppard after all. Then again, emotional debate over hair extensions and spandex pants could also be interesting.

 

Catch the world premiere of The Seduction Theory at FemFest 2016, September 17 – 24, 2016 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. For tickets visit femfest.ca or call 205-586-2336.

Trauma and Transformation – Meet the Cast of The Seduction Theory

What happens to a teen girl when she starts to mature and attracts the attention of men? She’s blamed for her attractiveness, labeled an attention-seeking problem-child and is sent away to be “fixed.” This societal routine is put centre-stage in FemFest 2016’s world premiere of The Seduction Theory.

Written by Vancouver playwright Sherry MacDonald and set in the 1950s, the play brings to life a cast of characters who all believe they are doing what is right. We follow 15-year-old Cass as she transforms from naiveté to a loss of innocence. She is guided on this path by jaded-beyond-her-years Rebecca. Marg runs the home for at risk girls, trying to be a replacement mother but unable to protect them from the likes of Dr. Branford.

Meet the actors that will bring this eye-opening story to life. With FemFest 2016’s theme of Transformation, we asked about their growing careers and their personal transformations over the years.

Hailley Rhoda Headshot.jpgHailley Rhoda As Cass. Rhoda has already been in a handful of productions throughout Winnipeg including our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues and Ripple Effect School Tour. With eclectic tastes, her time travelling choices would be to go to either 500BC to observe Spartan society or 1953 to watch the birth of the Stratford Festival.  Her biggest change is her growing dependence on coffee: “I drink far more coffee and have glasses. Mainly it’s the steady increase in caffeine that’s noticeable.”

hannah.pngHannah Wigglesworth – As Rebecca. Wigglesworth is a self-proclaimed animal lover, food enthusiast and a musical theatre nerd. She is currently working on her Bachelor of Music – Classical Voice at the University of Manitoba. Her biggest personal change:  “I have become much more confident and focused. I’ve always known what I wanted to do but now I am focused on working hard and making it happen. I’ve also become much more independent and sure of myself.”

merri-louMerri-Lou Paterson – As Marg.  Paterson has loved and been involved in the theatre since forever. Not just an actor, she indulges in art, photography and travel. If she wasn’t doing theatre she would be traveling as a food writer. Her biggest personal change: “I’ve always been very conscious the role of fear has played in my life and have worked very hard at feeling it but not allowing it to make the final decisions.  I would say that, being the age I am, I have learned a few more ways to put fear in its place and not in the driver’s seat.  This has allowed me to enjoy a multitude of new experiences personally and professionally.”

GRANT BURR - HEADSHOTGrant Burr – As Dr. Branford.  Burr is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg honours acting program and a FemFest alumni having past roles in The Naked Woman and Flood Control and FemFest 2015’s Bake-Off.  How Burr has changed from the person he was 5 years ago:The older I get the more I find that it is important to focus and fight for the things that are really important in your life. You never know when you won’t be able to enjoy those things you love anymore, so enjoy them while they last. In other words, put me on that stage!”

Catch these talented actors in The Seduction Theory at FemFest 2016: Transformation. The show runs from September 17 – 24, 2016 at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film (University of Winnipeg). Visit femfest.ca for tickets and show times.

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