Building Bridges

We have kicked off our next long-term initiative and it has us busting at the seams – both with excitement and literally needing a bigger office space for our staff team! Our new collaborative project focused on reconciliation through storytelling is bringing together a team of Indigenous artists to work with Indigenous youth. Thanks to the generous support of the Winnipeg Foundation, we’re welcoming Nova Courchene to the team as our Project Coordinator for this exciting artistic community-based creation! Sarasvàti Productions joins twenty community organizations who have received funding from the Winnipeg Foundation for projects that work towards reconciliation.

 Nova Courchene Headshot
Nova Courchene is Anishinaabe-kwe from Sagkeeng First Nation and Rolling River both located in Manitoba. Nova has been involved in music and theatre for five years, working with musicians and in theatre organizations out of Toronto and Winnipeg. Currently situating herself in Winnipeg, she is actively working as the Assistant Program Director at the Native Youth Theatre program, run out of Manitoba Theatre for Young people. With experience in her past as an Arts Administrator Intern at Native Earth Performing Arts, and two intern positions at Manitoba Music including a Music Administrator Internship for 3 local Winnipeg Recording Music Artists.

Nova has a deep understanding of the challenges Indigenous people face in their daily lives and the conflict that colonization brings to everyday life. She is excited to dig into the reconciliation project. After meeting with Marsha Knight, our Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator, she will be moving forward with coordinating the logistics of the project.  Discussions continue with various organizations as we welcome sponsors, partners, and participants. She hopes to bring her administration and coordination skills to the project to provide a safe and accommodating space for all involved in the project.

Nova has been surrounded by various Indigenous creatives including emerging playwrights, songwriters, and theatre professionals. She is excited to participate in Sarasvàti’s on-going pledge dedicated to using theatre to promote human understanding and the presentation of evolving experiences on stage. She holds strongly to the ideas of developing young Indigenous voices, experiences and representation within the theatre industry. 


The full project will include consultation circles in the
spring of 2019 leading to an initial public gathering in May 2019. Here artistic means will be used to share what has been captured to date, while also allowing for public dialogue around next steps in the project. From there we will continue to work with partner organizations to structure workshops with Indigenous youth at seven different locations. These sessions will allow arts skills to be transferred to participants, while also having them collaborate on a large-scale public performance in May 2020. The results and lessons learned from the project will be explored and methodologies built in to Sarasvàti’s practices moving forward. We are excited to continue to work with new partner organizations and artists with whom relationships are built as part of this process. Through long-term relationship building, collaboration, and welcoming amazing new team members like Nova we hope to continue the on-going commitment to true reconciliation.


Visit our website to keep tabs as the project develops or feel free to contact ncourchene@sarasvati.ca for information or to get involved.

Advertisements

Embracing Identity with Humour

There’s more than one way to be confident in who you are! Our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues features all types of stories about embracing one’s identity with pride – and with a sense of humour. For these pieces, playwrights share the funny side of learning how to be comfortable in your own skin.

Ivy Charles

Ivy Charles

Ivy Charles is a twenty-two-year-old actor from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is currently furthering her acting studies at Studio 58 in Vancouver. She enjoys spaghetti, wine and having a good chuckle with her friends. Ivy is excited to dip her toe into the world of writing. In her piece Sunday Morning Brunch, Josephine is a spunky seventeen-year-old girl, confident her sexuality. This confidence is put to the test when she introduces her girlfriend to her religious family (and of course Father Henry) at Sunday brunch.

“Being someone who is always striving for equality, I thought why not use a platform that I’m not used to: writing. I knew I wanted to write about female empowerment and this was one of the first topics to come to mind,” says Ivy. “Josephine is the epitome of Here I Am. She is proud of who she is.”

 

Brooklyns Headshot.JPG

Brooklyn Alice Lee

Playing Josephine is Brooklyn Alice Lee. Brooklyn is currently a student in her final year with the University of Winnipeg, graduating with a degree in Acting. Despite having performed on-screen, she has a soft spot for theatre as she loves the raw truth and thrill of a live performance. She is looking forward to 2019 where she will debut her first self-written Fringe show with 803 Productions.

“I like the complete honesty of the piece,” says Brooklyn. “It’s unique, raunchy, and relatable even if you haven’t been in the character’s situation. I also feel connected to the dry, blunt humour of Josephine. She and I are very alike in that way.”

 

Makrenna Sterdan

Makrenna Sterdan

Next in the lineup is Who’s Driving? by Makrenna Sterdan. Janet is a fast-talking car saleswoman looking to get you into your next vehicle, all based off current global issues. The biggest problem with these cars isn’t the millennial-scapegoating, or the toxic chemicals, or the Neo-Nazis… it’s the auto-pilot feature.

Makrenna Rose Sterdan is a writer born and raised in Winnipeg, who has lived in South Korea since 2015. Sterdan has written several short films such as Speaking Test, which premiered at the Korean International Expat Film Festival. Sterdan has also written several ten-minute plays that have been produced across North America, such as The Geese and Last Chance. Her monologue Doing It for the Fame was featured in Sarasvàti Productions’ 2016 Cabaret of Monologues.

Who’s Driving came from Makrenna’s own feelings of helplessness she experienced while watching the news. “I wanted to personify my feelings of helplessness and make them relatable to an audience,” she says. “This is where I am right now: reading the news and not wanting to be on auto-pilot while the world takes its course.”

 

KimK_headshot

Kim Kakegamic

Kim Kakegamic is thrilled to be a part of the Cabaret of Monologues once again! Trained at Providence University College (BFA), Kim has appeared in over thirteen Fringe Festivals in Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Winnipeg. She most recently performed in RMTC’s 2018 Master Playwright Festival with Broken Record Productions. By day Kim works as a writer for 6P Marketing, and spends far too much time binge watching shows on Netflix.

This is Kim’s second time performing one of Makrenna’s pieces after Doing It for the Fame. “I LOVE her work,” says Kim. “This piece, like that one, is dynamic and energetic. It takes some very intense topics and adds humour and cheekiness to create, what I believe, is a very memorable moment. It’s a lot of fun to perform.”

You can check out our full line-up of monologues on Saturday, March 9th! Don’t miss out – get your tickets today!
 

Queering Theatre Wrap-Up

This past Sunday, we took to the community to begin a conversation about the representation and practice of queer stories on stage. Local performing artists Elissa Kixen, Davis Plett, Lara Rae, and Liam Zarrillo spoke to their experiences of performing, creating, or working as a queer artist. Members of the circle were given the floor to share their stories and thoughts as well, creating a thought-provoking dialogue about how the LGBT+ community is reflected in the work produced both on stage and in popular culture.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Important points raised during the discussion centered on themes of how one’s identity is reflected in the work we create. Even subconsciously, it’s possible to have a queer perspective to one’s work before folks were ready to come out publicly with their identities. Folks found themselves identifying with different themes presented in works that don’t present as being queer, but still reflect ideas and experiences that mirror those of the LGBT community – however unintentionally!

Representation was also a common theme: contrasting the need to discuss the history and harsher realities of the LGBT+ community with the desire for queer youth to see a positive future for themselves. Members of Rainbow Resource Centre mentioned the generational divide in this conversation. For many people, these discussions weren’t around when they were growing up. The representation they saw on screen was that of corrective violence, discrimination, or misinformation. As one speaker mentioned, it’s important to talk about when a character or show “misses the mark” while also acknowledging what they may have been trying to say about a queer experience. As well, including a variety of queer experiences in different characters avoids putting the responsibility of any one character to be all things to all people.

Currently in the theatre world, there is a larger discussion at work surrounding content warnings: what to include, how to include it, and when an artist would prefer not to give warnings for their work. Folks at the discussion offered up the different viewpoints to this topic: contrasting the desire to be surprised by the story with the need to be appropriately prepared to receive triggering content. Content warnings may take different forms: from a simple list of triggering themes available through a production’s website or offering more information through box office staff. One idea was also to allow folks to decide for themselves if they wanted to receive warnings through envelopes available at the theatre. Audience members could then open and check the envelopes for particular warnings before heading into the show. The main idea was that anyone who may be at risk can make an informed decision about whether or not to see a show while other audience members can experience the plot twists as the artist intended.

As well, the discussion delved into how it’s possible to apply a queer perspective to more than just the content on stage, but the process as well. This may include a more devised process than following a set script, an open dialogue about safe spaces in rehearsals, and getting rid of ticket prices to open the event up to people of all income levels. Attendees also discussed how to reshape the relationships between collaborators to ensure all voices on a project were given equal value. An important point was also raised about how to make events more accessible: including information clearly and publicly about whether or not the venue is wheelchair-friendly, if there are gender-inclusive washrooms on-site, and making events by donation instead of a fixed admission. The idea was to make all of this information part of common practice to put the onus on the producers to anticipate the needs of their audience.

While the discussion of “Queering Theatre” could easily have lasted longer than two hours, that was all the time we had! There is also much more that was tackled in the two hours that we can encapsulate in a single blog entry. A big thank-you to Rainbow Resource Centre for hosting us, to our incredible line-up of speakers, our fantastic facilitator Erin Meagan Schwartz, and everyone who came out to join the conversation. For more on the other workshops we have in store for this season, be sure to visit our website!

Overcoming Obstacles at IWW 2019

Women’s stories are in the spotlight during our 2019 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues! This year’s pieces cover a wide range of issues from a cancer scare to coming out to one’s family. This week, we’re featuring two more pieces from the event, The LightFishers and Oracle Jane.

In Leslea Kroll’s The LightFishers, Chris is a patient in the psychiatric ward of St. Andrew’s Hospital. After experiencing a traumatic event, Chris has begun recovery from an addiction to painkillers.

Leslea KrollLeslea’s first play Domesticatrix was nominated for a Sterling Award for Outstanding Fringe Script. An excerpt of Domesticatrix was featured in The Martha Stewart Projects perfomed at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto. Her play ZedBC: Genus Lemus won the Alberta Playwrights’ Network annual script competition. Her other plays include Swallow, Auksenberg: Trial by Fury, Stains, The Catalogue of Bones, BonePeddlers, Queen of the AnthroScene, The LightFishers, and WellSpring. Her play White Count Up aired nationally on CBC’s Radio One.

 

amelia warkentin headshot

Amelia Warkentin

Bringing the piece to life is Amelia Warkentin. Amelia is currently completing a general arts degree at Canadian Mennonite University with the hope of beginning an after-degree program in education in the fall. She studies theatre at the University of Manitoba and was recently involved in a student-written piece entitled A Grave Story. Amelia’s passions include running, singing, and spending time with friends and family. She strives to make someone smile at least once a day and is trying to clone herself to be in more than one place at a time.

 

In Oracle Jane, playwright Vicki Zhang asks, “how do you confront the destructive power of your own creation?” When a data scientist meets a single mother in need, she questions and reflects on her life’s work.

Vicki Zhang

Vicki Zhang

Vicki Zhang’s ten-minute play The Male Root won the 8th InspiraTO Festival’s juried playwriting competition. Her play Oracle Jane was selected for production at Alumnae Theatre’s 30th New Ideas Festival. Her plays have also received staged readings at FemFest, InspiraTO Festival, Toronto’s Festival of Original Theatre (FOOT), and the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama. She is the author of Uncalculated Risks (Canadian Scholar’s Press, 2014), which was nominated for a Myrdal Prize. She has also written essays and short fiction about the Chinese diaspora for Rookie Magazine and Theread.

 

renee-hill-headshot.jpg

Renee Hill

Playing data scientist Ying is local performer Renée Hill. Renée graduated from the University of Winnipeg theatre program and is a gifted musician and singer.  She performs annually in the JP Hoe Hoe Hoe Holiday Show and enjoys doing voice over and commercial work.  Renée also has had the opportunity to participate in Sarasvati’s One Night Stand 2017. Renée is passionate about her community and working to help others, completing her Masters in Social Work while raising her three children in her beloved neighborhood of Wolseley.

 

You can check out all the incredible pieces in this year’s line-up on Saturday, March 9th at 4PM and 8PM. Tickets are on sale now!

Check out a first look at The LightFishers at rehearsal!

Queering Theatre: A Community Discussion

“Queer theatre boldly says: No, we are not all the same. Actually, we are kind of different from one another. And, not only is that okay, but it’s a good thing.” – Buddies in Bad Times

On Sunday, January 27th, join us for a community discussion on the practice of including more queer stories on Winnipeg stages. Local performing artists will speak to the representation and practice of queer stories in Winnipeg theatre, including the differing approaches to queering theatre in one’s own work.

Meet the amazing artists who will be speaking at the round-table!

ElissaElissa Black Wolf Kixen is an Anishinaabe Two Spirit Comedian whose roots lay in Couchiching First Nation, Ontario. They have travelled across Canada and the USA as a Comedian and improviser. They use comedy as a tool in dealing with racism, homophobia and sexism. They are the Co-founder/producer of WOKE Comedy Hour and have been featured on APTN’s The Laughing Drum. Elissa is also the Manitoba Ambassador for Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians and the co-produces Queer and Present Danger with Chanty Morastica.

 

davis-plett_headshot.jpg

Davis Plett

Davis Plett is a Winnipeg-based artist working in the spaces between media, writing, and performance. Their work has been shown by Nuit Blanche, Young Lungs Dance Exchange, the Winnipeg Underground Film Festival, the Carol Shields Festival, and MonkeySparrow with the support of the Manitoba and Winnipeg arts councils. As a sound artist Davis has worked with Theatre Projects Manitoba, OneTrunk Theatre, Frances Koncan, Mia van Leeuwen, Alexandra Elliot, Simon Miron, Happy Accidents, and 2boys.tv. They will be premiering new performance work at the 2019 Cluster Integrated Arts Festival and Art Holm 4.

 

 

lara-rae_headshot.jpg

Lara Rae

Lara Rae is a prize-winning writer for radio and television, a public speaker, an emcee, a radio host and a thirty-year veteran of stand-up comedy. She is the co-founding A.D of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.  Lara was the Just for Laughs Homegrown Comedy Competition National Champion, 2000.  She has contributed dozens of items both comedic and informative to CBC Radio, hosted numerous radio programs on CBC Radio, and had her own call in show on CFRB in Toronto. She is the only transgender person to host the CBC Radio flagship program The Current.  She teaches at the University of Winnipeg in the Women and Gender Studies Department and is the opera reviewer for CBC Manitoba.  She has been in involved in several Mosaic productions including Delma and Marta and was a consultant on the program Tiny Plastic Men. Her autobiographical play Dragonfly has its world premiere at Theatre Projects Manitoba in March 2019.

 

liam zarrillo headshot

Liam Zarrillo

Liam Zarrillo is a theatre artist, poet and educator, always inspired by the compelling art and agitators found in his hometown of Winnipeg, MB. He is a show builder, storyteller, sometimes performer and often over-exaggerator. He works with all of Winnipeg’s professional theatres, is a member of PTE’s Emerging Playwrights Unit and develops new work/plays as a member of Make/Shift Theatre. He loves to investigate, experiment and uncover. Using all of this as a vehicle, Liam is a persistent and dedicated advocate for representation of the LGBT2SQ+ community and the brilliantly diverse communities with which it intersects.

 

erin schwartz_headshot

Erin Meagan Schwartz

Facilitating the event is our Emerging Theatre Artist representative Erin Meagan Schwartz. Erin is an interdisciplinary artist, improviser, organizer, and queer Jewish femme living in the prairies of Treaty 1 Territory. Schwartz has been performing and teaching improv in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Edmonton for over ten years and currently works with the Canadian Improv Games as a co-producer. Schwartz is currently the Emerging Artist Representative with Sarasvati. She is fascinated with the art of utilizing skills from different disciplines and combining them to create something new and exciting. Their priority as an artist is to cultivate a slow process that delves into nuance while also making room for discovery and fun.  Schwartz holds an honours bachelor’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies with a focus on theatre and cultural production.

The discussion will take place from 1-3PM on Sunday, January 27th at The Qube at Rainbow Resource Centre (170 Scott St). Admission is by donation with gender-neutral washrooms on site. For more information, visit our event page!

Poetry and Playwrights at IWW 2019!

We’re excited to share more about the fabulous artists behind this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues! This year’s theme is Here I Am, exploring themes of reclaiming identity and coming into one’s own.

Appearing in this year’s Cabaret are a number of artists writing and performing their own work, including long-time Sarasvàti collaborator Nan Fewchuk performing her piece, Thelma and Louise. While waiting in Cancer Care, Maggie reflects back on her life, her resentment towards her large breasts, and how the thought of losing one of them changes her perspective.

Nan Fewchuk

Nan Fewchuk

Nan is grateful to be a performer, director, and facilitator with Sarasvàti Productions, working on such favorites as Fefu and Her Friends, Fen, Jail Baby and Empty. Nan has performed with Rainbow Stage, Shakespeare in the Ruins, and Green Kids Inc. She produced and acted in the Fringe hits Dog Act and Or as well as working with the Manitoba Drama Youth Festival, Villa Rosa, The Peaceful Village, and the West Central Women’s Resource Centre. Nan co-founded the Indigenous youth group Neechisan at Garden City Collegiate where she taught drama for over twenty-five years.

Thelma and Louise was originally Nan’s final performance piece while studying at One Yellow Rabbit in Calgary. “Ten years later I’m finding it super interesting to further explore, dive deeper, and rework things, especially because I feel differently now than I did when I first wrote it,” says Nan. “As I grow older, I think so much more about my own mortality and have come to fully realize what really matters in life. I am so grateful for all of the good times and the wacky times, and for all of my family, friends, teachers, mentors,  coaches, and kind strangers who have taught me so much about life: how to  love, forgive, and journey forward.”

 

Shereen Ramprashad

Shereen Ramprashad

Also performing a work of her own creation is local spoken word artist Shereen Ramprashad. Shereen’s piece I am NOT a Victim is a charismatic, satirical poem challenging the media’s perception that women are – and always will be – a victim of something. Shereen is a colourful, witty and lively Canadian writer based out of Winnipeg. Her writings are a creative blend of intelligent metaphor and philosophy with undercurrents of subtext and observation. Shereen started her creative journey in her early forties with the intent of creating waves with poetry. Ten years later she’s doing just that with her interdisciplinary performance poetry and storytelling.

“Writing and performing is my way of presenting alternative perspectives on mainstream ideas and norms,” says Shereen. “I encourage critical thought of who we are as a society, where we are going, and how we want to see ourselves in the future. I think it’s important to find humour in hard times; satire is a powerful tool when it is used in the right context.”

You can see Nan and Shereen perform alongside seven other talented artists during the full Cabaret line-up on March 9th! Performances are at 4PM and 8PM at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W). Get your tickets today!

What’s Up Next in 2019

2019
Join us for another incredible year of life-changing theatre! We have some exciting events in store for 2019 and can’t wait to get started. Here’s our Top 4 Things we’re looking forward to in the New Year.

        1. COMMUNITY DIALOGUE – Queering Theatre Round-Table

We’ll be kicking off 2019 with our Queering Theatre round-table, facilitated by Erin Meagan Schwartz! Representatives from Winnipeg’s performing arts and LGBT community will speak to their experiences of incorporating their identities into their work, as well as their experiences as a queer artist in the community. Keep your eyes peeled on social media as we announce more on the exciting workshops and opportunities we have coming up for emerging artists!

2. STANDING PROUD 

Here I am banner draft Dec 25_18Up and running since 2003, this event shares the stories of incredible women! This year’s theme is Here I Am, focused on stories of embracing identity and coming into one’s own. Our line-up will feature stories like an aspiring astronaut fighting to be taken seriously, a teenager coming out to her family (and the local priest!) over brunch, and the “elephant in the room” of life with a chronic illness. Check out our website for the full line-up!

3. MORE COMMUNITY COLLABORATION

Starting in January, we’ll begin work on our next full production focused on the theme of reconciliation. Indigenous artists will work with youth, Knowledge Keepers, and Elders. This year will see the first phase of the project as we begin workshops and interviews, gathering stories and feedback from the community that will shape the production. Check out this post for more info!

4. FEMFEST SHAKES THINGS UP FOR ITS 17TH YEAR!

This September will mark our 17th annual festival of life-changing theatre for everyone! Our theme is All the World’s a Stage, focusing on global stories of powerful women. We’ll be focusing on making the festival more accessible to the community with exciting new programming. Stay tuned for full details in the spring.

With so much in store, you won’t want to miss a thing! Be sure to sign up for our mailing list to stay up-to-date on all the great events we have coming up in 2019.