Sarasvàti Productions’ Fen Features local talent!

British-born Jane Burpee featured in British playwright’s masterpiece.

Sarasvàti Productions’ will continue its reputation for supporting local talent when Fen opens in January 2010. With a cast and artistic team from an array of backgrounds, local talent such as actor Jane Burpee will be showcased.

Jane Burpee moved to Canada from Britain in 1967 and is delighted to be part of Fen and the powerful writing of fellow Brit Caryl Churchill. Located in East Anglia the Fens have a rich history but the reality of the residents’ hardship is not known to the rest of England who see it as a pastoral vacation land.  Much of the world of the play is based in the class system.  “I was an English war baby, and in the ensuing years my family spoke little of the conflict, preferring to build a new start” says Burpee. “With the Thatcher regime, there came new hope, and with that, a stronger division of the classes.  I lived in a rural farming area and I soon learned that the class system can divide, demean and de-value.”

As with the rest of the actors, Burpee is playing multiple characters in the production ranging from age 6 to 60.  “Finding the little girl in the character of Shona is very exciting.  This plucky child is blessed with innocent hopes and dreams, taking her out of the domestic “wars” she experiences,” says Burpee. “It is a true challenge to an actor to play such contrasting characters and wonderful to explore such a vast range in a beautifully written play.”  Burpee recently performed in Quite an Undertaking at FemFest 2009 and A Phoenix Too Frequent at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival 2009.  She has also appeared at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Humble Boy and Pride and Prejudice. She continues to perform her one-woman show across the province, which she created to foster better understanding of mental illness.  Burpee though may be most well-known as mother to local radio personality Ace Burpee, who regularly features phone calls to mom on the air.

Fen runs at the Rachel Browne Studio Theatre (at Contemporary Dancers, 211 Bannatyne) from January 23 to February 7, 2010 and will feature an all Winnipeg cast. The show is part of the annual Winnipeg Master Playwright Festival, which is dedicated this year to Caryl Churchill.

The full cast includes Jane Burpee, Livia Dymond, Rhea Fedorchuk, Nan Fewchuk, Lisa Martin, Toni Reimer and Ray Strachan.  Behind the scenes are director Hope McIntyre, musical director Donna Fletcher and dialect coach Shannon Vickers along with set and costume designer Jamie Plummer, sound designer Troy Fontaine and Lighting Designer Ken Perchuk.  

Written in 1983, Fen won Caryl Churchill the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

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Sarasvàti Productions Tackles the Environment

Sarasvàti Productions explores green issues in Fen!

A powerful and timely play to be part of ChurchillFest 2010.

Winnipeg, January 11, 2009 -– Sarasvàti Productions’ will continue its reputation for creating theatre that has an impact when Fen opens on January 23, 2010. This unflinching play about women agricultural workers is a relevant portrayal of exploitation of both the land and humanity in a modern context. 

Fen is set in the British fens, a flat and water-logged region that traps its inhabitants both literally and metaphorically. With a history that dates back to pre-Roman times the region has been drained and dyked over and over again only to have nature fight back with repeated floods; a situation that is none too familiar for Winnipeg.  As the land has exchanged hands over the centuries, oppression of the workers became the norm and now it is both the land and the female workers who are exploited for the sake of profit. 

“It’s a love story, actually, but the play is also about how these people live…” says author Caryl Churchill in an interview in the Village Voice marking the plays premiere. “It’s a complicated world,…incredibly remote and backward in some ways – in the way the workers are very badly paid and yet still feel loyal to the farmers, at the same time that it’s entirely of the present because the land they’re loyal to is owned by multinational corporations. The English have an idea that the real England is the countryside, and that it’s a beautiful retreat, completely separate from the corrupt values of people living in the cities…But it’s a pastoral fantasy.” 

The women tenant farmers of Fen expose family break-ups, domestic abuse, suicide, the back-breaking work of the poor and the indifference of government towards the economically disenfranchised. Despite the changes in land ownership nothing has changed in the lives of the farming community.  They suffer an emotional and material poverty that leaves them desperate.  They depend on the land yet even it fights back. 

Fen runs at the Rachel Browne Studio Theatre (at Contemporary Dancers, 211 Bannatyne) from January 23 to February 7, 2010 and will feature an all Winnipeg cast. The show is part of the annual Winnipeg Master Playwright Festival, which is dedicated this year to Caryl Churchill.

Written in 1983, Fen won Caryl Churchill the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.