Inspiring Season Launched

It was a pleasure to launch our 2011/12 season today. Thank you to all of our artists, Board and Committee members and supporters who turned out to share the news about our upcoming projects and events.


Guests enjoying refreshments after the season launch.


Here is our exciting line-up:

Love Blooms – available all season
We are pleased to announce a new fundraising partnership with Sonya’s Flowers (1459 Main St.), who has created a beautiful bouquet in the Sarasvàti Productions colours which can be purchased for $20, every bouquet sold provides Sarasvàti Productions with $5 to support our artistic work.

FemFest 2011: Staging Inspiration – September 17 to 24, 2011
This year marks FemFest’s 9th annual festival of plays by women, for everyone. The FemFest line-up was chosen due to the powerful impact it will have on audiences. The festival will include fully staged plays, readings of new work in development and four touring shows from around the world, as well as skill development workshops and our cabarets featuring artists from multiple disciplines. Ticket Prices: $10/show; $50 for FemFest Pass

Jail Baby – September 21 & 24, 2011
This collaborative piece has been gestating for over a year and will be presented as a workshop at FemFest. It tells the compelling story of incarcerated women, revealing the chilling realities of the “system”. After FemFest, Jail Baby will continue its development towards becoming a powerful touring piece. “After conducting sessions with incarcerated women in Winnipeg, Portage La Prairie and Edmonton we are excited to share this eye-opening performance with our audiences,” says Artistic Director Hope McIntyre. Admission is by donation.

 Cabaret of Monologues – October 28, 2011 & March 10, 2012
Sarasvàti Productions is presenting two cabarets of monologues this season. In October, in conjunction with the Council of Women of Winnipeg, will be a series honouring Women’s History Month, and, once again, Sarasvàti will be staging monologues to celebrate International Women’s Week in March 2012.Ticket Prices: Women’s History Month – $25 includes a wine and cheese reception International Women’s Week – $10

So You Think You Can Act – February 16, 2012
Sarasvàti Productions will inaugurate its annual fundraiser “So You Think You Can Act” this season. It is an exciting showcase of local celebrities trying their hand at acting. Find out who is ready for Hollywood, and who’s better off sticking with their day job. The real challenge will be between the celebs – who will reign as the best actor, gaining bragging rights – and a fabulous trophy to display? It could be you! Ticket Price: $25 includes a reception

EDEN – April 27 to May 13, 2012
Our season will end with the premiere of this epic new play which has been in development for over five years. This exploration of truth and justice will feature a stellar local cast, live music and video. This ambitious project will be something extraordinary that Winnipeg audiences will be the first to experience!

Magpie at FemFest

Jane Burpee in Magpie; Photo by Janet Shum

“Magpie” is my third play to be produced at FemFest, following “Cowboy Boots and a Corsage” in 2003 and “Abby’s Place” in 2006. These three plays share roots as original radio drama scripts for the CBC, which I later adapted for the stage. An audio clip from the 1995 CBC national broadcast of “Magpie” featuring Valerie Pearson is available on my website ( “Magpie” is about a parolee surveillance officer, code named Magpie, who has her own agenda. She doesn’t like the guys she mentors in her halfway house, but Reggie, the new guy, gets under Magpie’s skin. She’s got to give in, give up or give back.

This play was written after a woman I knew was slain in an Edmonton subway station. She was a young mom, and had just had lunch with her husband downtown, and kissed him goodbye. I wrote this play in memory of her and also to try to understand why anyone would hurt her and what I could do with my own hurt knowing that some people kill other people without intending, without thinking, without cause. I also had to deal with my own feelings of revenge, and that’s when the character of Magpie came to me.

How does a woman work with rapist-murderers? In some research I did with the Edmonton Police Service on another project, I met one particular amazing woman who worked with men like Reggie, and she inspired the character of Magpie. “Magpie” first appeared on stage ten years ago at Jagged Edge Lunchbox Theatre in Edmonton, which makes its appearance at FemFest a tenth anniversary production! I’m travelling from Edmonton to Winnipeg for opening night on Sunday, September 18. Hope to meet you there!

-Katherine Koller

Nan Fewchuk, Karl Thordarson and Adam Charbonneau in Magpie; Photo by Janet Shum

Full details on Magpie performance at FemFest.

Under the Mango Tree at FemFest!

We are extremely excited to announce the addition of Fringe-hit Under the Mango Tree to the festival line-up! Although it is the result of unfortunate circumstances, we are sure that audiences will be pleased to have a chance to see this powerful production by Vancouver’s Veenesh Dubois. Due to an emergency medical situation, Pyaasa will no longer be able to participate in FemFest 2011: Staging Inspiration. The scheduled performances on September 22nd and 23rd will be replaced with Under the Mango Tree

Veenesh Dubois

 “It’s about a daughter’s love and yearning for her father,” Dubois said of her play’s plot line. “The father lives in a small village and wants to find fame, fortune and better opportunities, so he leaves his family behind and emigrates to Canada. The story follows the letters that the daughter and the father exchange between one another.”

This charming semi autobiographical one woman show, written by and starring Ms. Veenesh Dubois has been praised by critics everywhere it has toured:

CBC Winnipeg  – “Theatre at it’s Best” – 5  Stars! –  “A tour-de-force performance that will take your breath away!”

Winnipeg Free Press – “A rich semi-autobiographical drama” – 5 Stars!        

As a young girl Veenesh Dubois grew up in a dirt floor hut in Ba, Fiji.  Her Father in 1971 immigrated to Canada to seek fame and fortune.  In 1973 Veenesh’s father sent for her and the rest of the family and their family’s Canadian story began. Much of the Under The Mango Tree Story comes direct from Veenesh’s experiences, including her arranged marriage at the age of 16 and having had two children before the age of 23. Veenesh has since gone onto to study theatre and has acted professionally in film, TV and on stage for more than 15 years.

For the latest FemFest news and the full line-up check out .

2011/2012 Exciting Season Launch!

Blooming with Inspiration 

We will be officially launching our 2011/2012 season on August 23rd at 10am at the University of Winnipeg Canwest Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony Street). There will be excerpts from some of the work, a chance to meet the artists and complimentary refreshments!

At the event will be details on FemFest 2011: Staging Inspiration, which is just around the corner (September 17-24). As Winnipeg’s annual theatre festival of plays by women for everyone, FemFest continues to be the only festival in Canada dedicated to showcasing the diversity of women’s voices in Canadian theatre. With 8 days of events including plays, readings, cabaret evenings, lectures,and skill-building workshops, FemFest 2011: Staging Inspiration offers something for everyone.

As part of FemFest, we are particularly excited to be sharing a workshop version of Jail Baby, based on drama sessions with incarcerated women in Winnipeg, Portage La Prairie and Edmonton. The play reveals the chilling realities of the “system” and gives incarcerated women a voice, one that has been silenced until now.

This is just one example of how Sarasvàti Productions continues to use theatre to create positive social change in the community. In past projects we have dealt with bullying, human rights, poverty, racism, and domestic violence. We’ve never shied away from controversial issues and our 2011/2012 season is no exception.

To continue our ongoing support of local and emerging talent, and our dedication to social change, we also require the assistance from all those who believe in our work. Our goal of using theatre to bring timely societal issues to the forefront cannot be reached without help!  Please consider making a donation to our programming, supporting the work by attending the performances with lots of friends, or volunteering.

If you choose to go the route of a donation, there are four easy ways to donate:  

1. Make an online donation by credit card through Canada Helps

2. Send a cheque or money order to:  242 Cathedral Avenue, Winnipeg, MB  R2W 0X3 (please include the name and mailing address to be included on the charitable receipt)

3. Call our offices and speak to us directly (we look forward to hearing from you!) @ (204) 586-2236.

4. Contribute to our endowment fund at the Winnipeg Foundation.

Please visit for updates and further information, and stay tuned for more engaging theatre from Sarasvàti Productions!

FemFest Welcomes Ducks on the Moon

Kelley Jo Burke in "Ducks on the Moon"

Hello Winnipeg.I can’t tell you how much this Fort Richmond Collegiate/U of W grad is looking forward to bringing my odd duck of a play home. 

Ducks on the Moon, which is also a book, and a documentary that aired on CBC radio’s Ideas,  is a memoir, about the first five years of my youngest son’s life, and about our family’s coming to terms with his autism. I call the play a stand-up documentary, since it’s non-fiction, and it is about the long journey from first clues and doubts,  to acceptance…but it’s also just theater, and storytelling and sometimes comedy.

When the book came out, and I was touring the show, I thought journalists would ask me about autism, or parenting, or one-person performance. But most often what I got asked about was why on earth I would write a play about the hardest five years of my life, and then go out on the road and perform it as a 75 min. monologue. I suspect they might’ve been questioning my mental health. Or possibly sorting out if I was that sort of crank who needs to go on and on about how hard her life is, and requires an audience for that activity. And all I could say was that I had begun the process because of another question that I was asked very regularly, years before, when we first got our son’s diagnosis.

“When did you first know that your son was different?” people would ask me, often a little anxiously. Some clearly had some other child at the back of their minds, that they were concerned about. And I would sift through my memories–that were tied up in these “funny” stories I used to tell my friends about coping with my at that point undiagnosed son—because when your life is complete chaos, what is there to do but turn it into a funny story and laugh about it?–and I tried to sort out when I did know…and realized that “know” is a really strong word–there were all kinds of clues–the question when did I know, but when could I know….

So I started making a play of those stories. I realized each story reflected a different point in the struggle between my tenacious clinging to who I expected him to be and my recognition of who he really was. I also began to realize the story was not about autism at all, ultimately. It’s about any and every parent who has had to overcome their prejudices, and accept a child as the human being that he or she is.

Now, the other thing people always ask me all the time these days, is, how does your family, particularly your autistic son “Noah”, feel about you performing their lives for others, on stage, and on national radio?

Very good question.

When I first wrote the play, I invited my older children and partner to read it.  And I asked each one of them, am I remembering right? Are you comfortable with me telling this story? So, they have signed off on anything you read in this book.

But what about Noah, who couldn’t read when I first wrote this? Well, I went to him, and said, “Bud, I’m going to do a play where I tell stories about you when you were little. Is that okay?”

“As long as you don’t make people laugh at me.”

And I promised that would never happen.

As we got closer to production, I let him hear sections of the play, on tape, and we talked it through together. I told him that it was really the story of how much I loved him. And he was okay with that.

And that, finally, is how I would ask you to consider Ducks on the Moon, as a love story.

Be good to see you there, 
Kelley Jo Burke, Aug 2 2011.

Things We Were Never Told

It was wonderful to welcome Julie Salverson in Winipeg over the weekend. Her reading at McNally Robinson included portions of her play BOOM, her opera Shelter and her new manuscript Atomic Elegy. Although the long weekend meant a small crowd, it was certainly a thought-provoking event. Julie’s work explores the theme of witnessing. Her manuscript, which was inspired by learning about Canada’s link to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nakasaki, led to a vibrant discussion both with Julie and at least in my case with family and friends afterwards. It was certainly news to me that the uranium ore used to make the atomoic bombs came from Northwest Territories. You can learn more by reading Julie’s article “They Never Told Us These Things” in the summer issue of Maisonneuve. I know I’ll also be waiting to read her full manuscript when it is published.

Board member Andrea Geary with Julie Salverson

One of the things that makes me so passionate about the arts is that they really do allow us to constantly learn more about the world we live in. I’ve been reading a lot of Anne Bogart lately, after participating in a fabulous Viewpoints masterclass in Banff with Michael Greyeyes. In her book and then, you act Bogart says: “Ultimately the role of art is to wake us up. Routine takes the place of life so easily. The senses reign, numbness enters. Our job as artists is to sharpen our perceptual mechanism on a daily basis in order to venture out into the world with curiousity to receive, perceive, and report back.”

This is certainly at the heart of Sarasvàti’s work and what stood out in Julie’s work.
-Hope McIntyre, Artistic Director