Real people, real stories, on loan for discussion

Is it possible to challenge prejudice through one conversation with a stranger?

If you ask the creators of the Human Library™ they’ll tell you that it is in fact one of the most effective ways.

FemFest2017 and the Winnipeg Public Library are proud to present The Human Library™ right here in Winnipeg.

“We need a space for dialogue about tough issues that we wouldn’t address in the supermarket”, says Ronni Abergel, a Human Library creator.

“We’re navigating through diversity by putting people in boxes. We don’t go back to the box and check if what’s in the box is in accordance with the label we put on that box,” he continued, “I do it also. I do it every day. I do it with the speakers, I do it with people I meet. I gather a little bit of information and I use that information to put them in a box.”

Abergel spoke in Groningen at a Tedx talk, “You can go to the Human Library and challenge your own stereotypes, challenge your prejudices. You have to be a little brave because you have to fess up. You have to admit to yourself that you’re thinking things about other people-probably things that you shouldn’t be thinking, but you’re doing that for your own comfort.”

The local Human Books come from all backgrounds and ways of life, but they all have one thing in common, for different reasons they are often subjected to stereotyping or prejudice. Imagine getting to sit down with some of these amazing human books:

 

Nigel Bart

Book Title: Whale Calling and the Purpose of a Rabbit

Nigel Bart - HeadshotNigel tells his story from early childhood to present about living with schizophrenia, dealing with the additional issues that come with mental illness, and recovering as the successful founder of Artbeat Studio.

 

Sadie Phoenix Lavoie

Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie - HeadshotBook Title: Resilience through art and literature

Resilience. Decolonization. Matriarchy. How do we bring matriarchal principles back to the Indigenous world?

 

Razak Iyal

Book Title: The Struggle of Refugees

Refugees are stranded around the world, struggling to maintain hope. Razak arrived in Canada as a refugee, lost his fingers to frostbite, and has overcome one of the biggest challenges of his life. This is a story about human rights.

 

Lara Rae - Headshot_smallerLara Rae

Book Title: Becoming Lara

A Life in Progress. Lara Rae is a proud transgender woman and a writer and comedian. She is an artistic director who uses creativity and life experiences to promote understanding not just for herself, but for other marginalized people.

 

 

 

RACHEL SMITH headshot cropped for blogRachel Smith

Book Title: Finding the Gift: How to Face Life’s Challenges

Most people do not expect to be a caregiver when they are in their mid-twenties. Rachel’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease then later, Lewy Body Dementia. Rachel’s hope is that by sharing her story she can help others with their own challenges.

 

The Human Library takes place on the second floor of the Millennium Library during these times:
    Thursday, September 21: 4-8 pm

    Friday, September 22: 1-4 pm

    Saturday, September 23: 1-4 pm

This is just a sample of what will be available to readers. Click here for more information, updates on additional books and details on how to reserve a Human Book visit.

 

Up Close and Personal with Judith Thompson

Not only is legendary Canadian playwright Judith Thompson coming all the way to Winnipeg  to celebrate 15 years of FemFest, she is fully embracing all that the festival has to offer!

Two-time recipient of the Governor General’s Literary Awards for Drama and an Officer in the Order of Canada, Thompson was awarded the prestigious Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts in 2007. In 2008 she was honoured with the Susan Smith Blackburn Award and the Dora Mavor Moore Outstanding New Play Award for Palace of the End, which was also awarded the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award. Thompson has written a number of classic Canadian plays, including White Biting Dog, Lion in the Streets, I Am Yours, Such Creatures, The Thrill, and Watching Glory Die.

Despite her well-earned recognition as a playwright, Judith attributes her ability to continue writing to the stability offered by a teaching position at the University of Guelph. Were it not for this stability, she says she would have gone into social work, which won’t come as a surprise to avid Thompson fans. Thompson has made an impact on audiences around the world by amplifying voices of those who are not often heard. Her work in the arts is driven by her desire to see beyond the surface of an issue and her recent play Watching Glory Die is no exception.

Judith Thomspson_FemFest2017Most recently, Thompson has focused on working with people of exceptionality, including those who are differently abled.  Experiences with her daughter, who lives with auto-immune deficiency, lead Thompson to work with youth living with chronic disorders.  Her focus now is on how to use any clout she has to give life to stories from those who may not otherwise be heard. When asked what her title would be if she were a book, Thompson said, ‘Nothing about us without us – using my art to amplify voices’.

Thompson brings a unique perspective to playwriting, and perhaps that is why she’s been able to write plays that leave such an impact. In an interview with the Georgia Straight, Thompson said, “I haven’t suffered the way that many people have, but I think that it [the epilepsy] gave me some kind of lens. And it’s the combination: I have enough sense of entitlement as a person, with the privileges I’ve had, to write a play, and to think that anybody would listen; but then I also was—I think I would say lucky enough to go through the epilepsy, and a couple of rough years in school, to have an understanding.” Multiple award-winning playwright, mother of 5 now in the 60’s, she feels she has proven, despite naysayers, that she can have everything and do it all as a woman.

This September, FemFest brings you many opportunities to get to know Judith Thompson. Throughout Sept 16-23 you can learn from her at a free public lecture, study with her in a playwriting masterclass, hear her read from new work in development, sit down across from her for a one-on-one conversation and of course, see the FemFest production of Thompson’s recent play Watching Glory Die.

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REAL THING LECTURE (free)

Judith Thompson speaks as part of this series of exciting and informative lectures by guest speakers from the ‘real world’ of theatre and film. An important opportunity to hear about the reality of having a career in the arts.

PLAYWRITING MASTERCLASS

An opportunity to work with one of Canada’s most studied playwrights. The focus will be on writing by impulse, discovering moments of transformation that are worthy of the theatrical medium and digging deep in to conflict and character. This masterclass is intended for playwrights who are actively writing.

WATCHING GLORY DIE by Judith Thompson
Produced by Mulgrave Road Theatre
Watching Glory Die (3)
“Politically charged and some of Thompson’s best story-telling”
-HALIFAX BLOGGERS

Watching Glory Die is inspired by the true story of New Brunswick teen Ashley Smith. Deliberately fictionalized, a riveting and deeply compassionate portrait of three women – Glory, incarcerated for minor offences at age 14; Rosellen, the girl’s adoptive mother desperately trying to remain connected to her daughter; Gail, a prison guard, walking the line between her ‘orders’ and her conscience.

HUMAN LIBRARY (free)

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Readers will be able to borrow from an amazing line-up of Human Books for up to 30 minutes of one-on-one conversation.  Thompson looks forward to sharing how arts can be used by all to increase understanding. Check-out details for reserving books.

ONE NIGHT STAND AND A TOAST TO 15 YEARS!

Judith Thompson joins five of Winnipeg’s own most celebrated playwrights to toast 15 years with readings of new work in development. Do not miss this closing night event!

More than Meets the Eye at FemFest 2017

FemFest is for theatre lovers, theatre newbies and theatre-makers alike.

Along with feature plays, FemFest celebrates female playwrights with readings, workshops and a roster full of fun events. Check out what we have going on from SEPT 16-23!

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Ivan Coyote (photo by Jourdan Tymkow)

IVAN COYOTE READING

Join Ivan Coyote, natural born storyteller and LGBT advocate for an intimate reading of their award-winning writing. This event is absolutely free and open to youth!

ARTIST WORKSHOP

Are You ‘Technically’ Prepared?

Esteemed Theatre Technician Allison Loat shares her expertise with emerging theatre artists in this new workshop. If you’re an independent theatre maker who is new to working with technicians this workshop is for you. Register by emailing associate@sarasvati.ca.

BAKE-OFF

Cairn Moore headshot cropped

Cairn Moore

8 hours, 5 playwrights, 3 ingredients. The Bake-Off is back with a new line-up of playwrights. What will they cook up? There’s only one way to find out. Scenes will be directed by Bake-Off coordinator Cairn Moore and performed by an awesome ensemble cast of Ian Bastin, Lorraine James, Christina Heather, Josh Ranville and Danielle Savage.

KIT AND JOE

Jessy Ardern left us with a cliffhanger at last year’s Bake-Off. The scene she wrote in just 8 hours had us all captivated. Now, Jessy returns with a reading of the play that resulted from that scene. Kit and Joe is a one-night-only reading directed by the fabulous Krista Jackson.

WebGROUNDED HEROES

FemFest is thrilled to present a play reading for kids!
Local theatre artists Carrie Costello, Frances Koncan and Cherissa Richards join forces as Castlemoon Theatre to bring you a reading of a new play for audiences age 6 and up.

 

 

Judith Thomspson_FemFest2017

Judith Thompson

ARTIST TALK

Award-winning playwright Judith Thompson speaks as part of the University of Winnipeg Theatre & Film Department’s Real Thing Lecture Series. This lecture is free and open to all.

PLAYWRITING WORKSHOP

Judith Thompson leads a three-day Masterclass for local playwrights from Sept 20-22. If you are a playwright interested in learning from one of Canada’s most respected modern playwrights this workshop is for you. Register by emailing associate@sarasvati.ca. This is a small workshop that will fill up fast.

NEW BEGINNINGS

FemFest offers a teaser of Sarasvàti Productions’ new community-based work-in-progress. New Beginnings is a cross-cultural, multi-media performance created by a team of local artists and new arrivals to Canada.  Stay tuned for exciting news about One Trunk Theatre’s production running alongside New Beginnings.

ONE NIGHT STAND AND A TOAST TO 15 YEARS!

Join us as we celebrate FemFest’s 15th birthday with readings from some of our most celebrated local playwrights! Sarasvàti Productions’ One Night Stand series gives playwrights the opportunity to test their work, while providing audiences a chance to take part in the developmental process. Enjoy a sampling of some of Winnipeg’s finest playwrights and be a part of their process. With a special reading by guest playwright Judith Thompson thanks to the Playwrights Guild of Canada and Canada Council. What better way to celebrate 15 years of FemFest?Play Connect transparent

All these amazing events take place at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony Street)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Locals Shine in FemFest 2017 Two Indians by Falen Johnson

Winnipeg is a city bursting at the seams with talented artists. This FemFest we are ecstatic to pair the powerful writing of Toronto playwright Falen Johnson with this incredible team of Winnipeg artists to bring Two Indians to life. Get to know them in this week’s blog.

Sonya
Sonya Ballantyne, Director
Self-described as “nerdy with a smart remark for anything”, Sonya is a filmmaker/writer originally from Misipawistik Cree Nation. Her work focuses on Aboriginal girls and women in non-traditional film genres such as fantasy, horror and superhero films.
*Some things you didn’t know about Sonya…
– once played Ocarina of Time for 15 hours when she was a kid
– she also has a podcast about re-watching television show Hannibal while discussing true crime cases
– she was planning to go to law school before “the seductive world of art got its claws in me”

Two Indians Melanee Deschambeault NowMelanee Deschambeault, Performer
Melanee Deschambeault is French and Anishinaabe from Dauphin, Manitoba. She is a student at the University of Manitoba. Melanee can currently be seen in the Winnipeg Fringe Festival in Riot Revolt Resist Repeat, a Vault Projects production.
*What you might not know about Melanee is…
– if she wasn’t doing theatre she would be found somewhere in Winnipeg trying to fill the void
– Her go-to karaoke songs are anything from Madonna, Jewel (the older stuff!) and Alanis Morissett!
– “When I close my eyes, and see myself as a child, I can see myself outside my grandparent’s house, wondering the back trails by their property. I can see myself occasionally climbing a tree and taunting my dogs who would walk with me through the trails. I can see myself watching my grandfather garden and wondering what my grandmother would be cooking for supper but never venturing inside to see because I would rather be outside in nature.”
– In terms of her part in Two Indians Melanee promises that Roe will unveil a new part of herself that has never been seen by the public!

Two Indians Erica Wilson Now.jpgErica Wilson, Performer
Erica is from Winnipeg’s North End “born and raised.” Erica has worked with Urban Indigenous Theatre Company, Sarasvàti Productions, Merlyn Productions and most recently with Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre as Assistant Director on Sarah Ballenden.
*Did you know…
– For the first time all year Erica has only one occupation
-as a child her best friend was a full-sized cardboard cut-out of herself that she would drag around by a string
– She’s not a fan of karaoke. “I don’t like singing at bars, I was never a fan of myself going up there, picking a song and pretending like I have the energy to do both. I have to be in a mood and most bars never carry songs I want to sing.”

TwoIndians featuring EricaWilson and Melanee Deschambeault (1)

Joseph Abetria, Designer
Recently returned from Stratford Festival where he worked as costume design assistant under Christina Poddubiuk for the 2017 production of Romeo & Juliet, Joseph identifies as “a sassy individual with a fondness for graphic floral.” This is Joseph’s second time with FemFest, after his work on last year’s FemFest premiere of The Seduction Theory.
*Some things you might not know about Joseph…
– His go-to karaoke song is crowd-favourite Dance with Somebody by Whitney Houston
– If he wasn’t working in theatre he might like to be “that person that designs and names nail polish colours”
– As a kid he really enjoyed watching cartoons and then drawing them after

Colin Wiens, Sound Designer
Colin is in his final year of Production and Stage Management studies at the University of Winnipeg. He hopes to have his own sound design company one day.
*Some things you should know about Colin…
– he also works for the Winnipeg Folk Festival as a Production Assistant
– he goes to competitive Super Smash Brothers tournaments
– if it wasn’t for theatre, he would have liked to try his hand at professional wrestling

There are four chances to see Two Indians at FemFest 2017. See here for tickets and a full schedule of performances. Stay tuned for details on our amazing production team!

Getting to know the Band behind Tomboy Survival Guide

Tomboy Survival Guide RobinToma

photo by Robin Toma

On stage Ivan Coyote, Sal Zori, Pebbles Willekes and Alison Gorman are known for rousing audiences from their seats with a high-energy story-driven performance that will leave you breathless. Off stage this fantastic four have a lot of interesting hobbies and strong feelings about fishing. Get to know the talented collaborators of Tomboy Survival Guide in this week’s blog. As a special feature we’ve been asking all FemFest artists about their childhood after all our theme this year is Coming of Age!

Ivan Coyote
Writer/Lead Vocals

  • third generation Yukoner now based in Vancouver
  • author of eleven books, creator of four short films, six full-length live shows, and three albums
  • will be given a Honorary Doctorate of Laws at Simon Fraser University for their writing and activism
  • if Ivan wasn’t doing this they would be an electrician
  • as a child they would play the saxophone and write stories and go fishing

Sal Zori
Drummer/Percussionist

  • born in Iraq and grew up moving back and forth between the United Arab Emirates and Canada
  • for a brief time was the percussionist for Aretha Franklin
  • DIY-er, tennis player, videographer, barista
  • playing tennis was a favourite past-time as a child
  • hates karaoke
  • If you could go back in time, where would you go and why? “1920’s. The music.”

Pebbles Willekes
Bass

  • born and raised in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Graphic designer, WordPress nerd, avid gardener & cook of vegetarian food
  • has fantasized about running a small farm
  • “I spend most of my childhood outside, in the West side of Amsterdam, riding my bike, building huts in the dense butterfly bushes. Roasting potatoes over a campfire.  Making up stories about how me and my best friend were stranded on an island and had to survive.  Started playing music (punk rock) when I was 14, then most time was spent inside.”
  • go-to karaoke song? Rebel Rebel – David Bowie
  • If you could go back in time, where would you go and why? “I’d probably go back to the late 60’s, early 70’s, to see a young Bowie in concert”

Alison Gorman
Trumpet

  • “ I eat a troubling amount of olives.”
  • go-to Karaoke song – Runaround Sue
  • “My brother used to take me fishing at the crack of dawn every weekend. I hated fishing, but liked hanging out with him. (He still thinks I like fishing).”
  • “If I weren’t in music. Jeez. I had a brief, failed attempt at an air traffic control career. Packing groceries in bins, I suppose.”
  • If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why? “Vancouver 1990’s? I’d buy up all that real estate, yo.”
  • Alison directs the band Queer As Funk [link], Vancouver’s own LGBTQ Motown, soul and funk band – they play weddings!

See Tomboy Survival Guide at FemFest 2017 one-night-only SEPT 17 at the West End Cultural Centre. Tickets on sale now.

Mulgrave Road Theatre brings harrowing Thompson play to FemFest

“Judith Thompson’s Watching Glory Die is a call to action and a cri de coeur.”
-THE CHRONICLE HERALD

Watching Glory Die (3)

Watching Glory Die

In her recent play, Judith Thompson turns our attention to the flaws within the Canadian prison system. Inspired by the true story of New Brunswick teenager Ashley Smith who died while under suicide watch in an Ontario prison in 2007, Watching Glory Die is a deliberately fictionalized portrait of three women intertwined by systemic abandonment.

“Politically charged and some of Thompson’s best story-telling”
-HALIFAX BLOGGERS

Watching Glory Die emmy headshot (artistic director)

Emmy Alcorn

After a successful run in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Mulgrave Road Theatre has been touring this powerful production across the country. We are excited to welcome them to Winnipeg to deliver this incredible piece of theatre at FemFest 2017. Director Emmy Alcorn (Artistic Director of Mulgrave Road Theatre, Nova Scotia Established Artist Award) brings this powerful play to the stage with perfect balance. “I believe there is a way to lift everyone up in society. We live in an abundant world and must ensure that everyone is treated fairly, that they have food and shelter; that they are loved”, says Alcorn.

Watching Glory Die Stephanie MacDonald Headshot (cast) now

Stephanie MacDonald

Award-winning actor Stephanie MacDonald brings these three women to life in a performance that is described in a review by the Chronicle Herald as “masterful, intense, deeply focused and totally convincing.”  In Watching Glory Die MacDonald plays all three characters: Glory, a fictionalized version of Ashley Smith; Rosellen, Glory’s mother and Gail, a guard at the prison where Glory is incarcerated. “It’s not just the precision between roles that is captivating, but how honestly and instantly MacDonald apparates from one woman’s deep emotional state to the next” –HALIFAX BLOGGERS

“Thompsons powerful writing skills are on display” – TORONTO STAR

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Watching Glory Die

The play does not shy away from the harrowing moments of this story. Chief among questions raised throughout the play is, “What would I do?” “The impossible is happening in our country,” Thompson said in an interview about Watching Glory Die with the Toronto Star. “The system destroyed Smith. And it happened where least expected.”

Judith Thompson is a multiple award-winning playwright and is highly regarded as one

Watching Glory Die (1)

Watching Glory Die

of Canada’s most prolific playwrights. She is the author of such notable plays as The Crackwalker, White Biting Dog and Lion in the Streets. Her work is a staple of theatre programs in Universities across Canada. There are three chances to see Watching Glory Die at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film: September 21 at 2:30pm and again at 9pm, September 22 at 7pm.

“Watching Glory Die shocks, clarifies and engages.” —Evan Andrew Mackay, Post City Toronto

Stay tuned for more FemFest news!
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ENVISION – Sarasvàti Productions 2017/18 Season Launch

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Sarasvàti Productions invites you to envision a season of life-changing theatre that is inclusive, full of possibility and absolutely thrilling!

From FemFest 2017: Coming of Age to the 2018 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable, to a formidable season of workshops geared to supporting youth and emerging artists: we are so excited to get started! Join us on August 4th at the Saddlery on Market (114 Market Ave)–a beautiful new spot in the Exchange District. This party is absolutely free. Show up by 7pm to enjoy the entire evening, or pop in throughout your First Friday adventures.

We’ll be celebrating FemFest’s 15th birthday by having some of our staff and artists share things they wrote as a child.

Let us entertain you with a Cabaret-style line-up featuring artists from our season to come. RobYn Slade presents a sampling of 50/50 theatre-improv fusion from the FemFest 2017 Cabaret. Reena Jolly performs a monologue devised from interviews with young newcomer women as part of New Beginnings development. Melanee Deschambeault and Erica Wilson perform a teaser  from FemFest featured show Two Indians and much, much more!

See what you envision at our awesome build-your-own kaleidoscope station courtesy of ArtsJunktion mb.

And as always we’ll have plenty of decadent cupcakes supplied generously by Cake-ology.

So join us on Friday August 4th as we envision an incredible season of Winnipeg theatre.
See more event details here.