FemFest 2011 Inspired Audiences!

Sarasvàti Productions’ FemFest 2011: Staging Inspiration wrapped up on September 24th with over 1200 people taking in performances, workshops and outreach activities. This year marked the 9th annual festival with artists traveling to Winnipeg from England, Newfoundland and Vancouver.

A huge thank you goes out to all of our artists, volunteers, audience members and supporters!

Although officially ending with its exciting cabaret on September 24th, an extra reading of the new children’s play Bear and Blue’s Adventures Through the Whispering Woods was added on September 25th at the Children’s Museum.

“We’ve heard nothing but positive responses to this year’s line-up,” says Artistic Director Hope McIntyre. “Both the audiences and participating artists were inspired by the work. We are already planning for the festival’s 10th anniversary in 2012.”

Certainly a highlight was hosting over 140 elementary school children for the workshop presentation of TopDog by Janice Salkeld. The festival’s goal is to support and showcase women playwrights; by showing new works in development in front of her target demographic the playwright was truly able to gauge how the piece was working. The children were extremely excited to be there and keen to participate.

Zena Edwards

Zena Edwards, guest artist in residence from London, England also had a profound effect on both audiences and emerging artists. Her lecture was attended by over 100 students from the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Theatre and Film. The overview of her artistic journey both inspired students and opened their eyes to the possibilities of collaboration between artistic disciplines. Edwards also conducted one on one mentorship meetings with emerging artists, providing them with guidance and advice. This was a rare opportunity for Winnipeg artists.

As a result of the festival there is already talk of other theatres in town bringing the artists back and of one show being remounted for the Winnipeg Fringe. The festival has therefore successfully achieved its goal of providing opportunities for women playwrights.

Monologues Celebrating Women’s History!

Amidst all of our FemFest prep, we took a break to head out to Teulon, Manitoba for a performance of a couple of our monologues. We were pleased to be hosted by the Manitoba Association of Women’s Shelters for their annual general meeting. Their meeting was taking place in an amazing heritage home, complete with antique furnishings. Since the two monologues were about historical women, we were able to simply perform them in rooms in the house and have a period set. Nan Fewchuk performed Suffragettes by Jessy Ardern in the dining room and then the audience moved into the parlour to see Jane Burpee in Eleanor Roosevelt by Ginny Collins. It was great to see the work performed in a site specific location but also our pleasure to be there and meet with the wonderful staff from provincial women’s shelters.

Nan Fewchuk in Suffragettes

Both of these pieces will also be performed as part of our Women’s History Month event in partnership with the Council of Women of Winnipeg on October 28th at the Gas Station Arts Centre. Doors open at 7:30pm and the evening will include displays, a line-up of monologues featuring the stories of six historical women and a wine and cheese reception. Tickets are just $25 and available at McNally Robinson.

Jane Burpee in Eleanor Roosevelt

FemFest Still Has Lots to Offer!


FemFest opened with a bang last weekend and there is a lot more to see!

If you haven’t checked it out yet be sure to go to our website for the most up to date info – www.femfest.ca .

We are sorry to announce that due to a serious injury Kelley Jo Burke could not travel to the festival, so her workshop and performances have been canceled. As a result, we have plugged in an extra performance of Magpie on September 21st at 9pm. Since it is a last minute addition we are offering a special 2 for 1 deal to all those on our mailing list, when you purchase tickets at the box office simply say you received this notice.

MonaRita has its final performance tonight at 7pm, but tomorrow we welcome Veenesh Dubois who is returning to town with her Fringe hit Under the Mango Tree. Our guest artist in residence, Zena Edwards, has been in town all week and her new show, Travelling Light, will open on Friday night at 7pm.

Finally we close out the week with workshop presentations of TopDog and Jail Baby plus our ever popular closing cabaret hosted by Hot 103’s Chrissy Troy!

Jessee Havey, featured musical performer FemFest closing cabaret


MonaRita Playing to Rave Reviews

Before heading to Winnipeg, MonaRita has been touring across Canada and creating quite a buzz. We can’t wait to have them join us for next week’s festival. Don’t miss it at FemFest!

Here is the latest review from the Halifax Herald’s Stephen Cooke:

MonaRita melds laughs, challenging relationship

The delicate balance of friendship is sent spinning off the scales in this Newfoundland production of Toronto playwright Shannon Bramer’s dark comedy MonaRita.Its title characters are two very different women, each seeing in the other their own inner desires.

Frumpy housewife Mona craves independence and sexual awakening, while attractive professional Rita is longing for the stability she can’t find in the succession of brooding man-children who are drawn to her in the downtown singles scene.

Their friendship seems unlikely, but each looks to the other for clues for solving their individual identity crises, with Mona’s sublimated physical attraction to Rita acting to muddy the waters.

Sara Tilley’s Mona is a simmering cauldron of rage, boiling over in one jolting psychotic breakdown.

As Rita, Ruth Lawrence is hell-bent on self-improvement and self-control, hissing: “You can’t force yourself to be happy” through clenched teeth.

You know she’s going to pop her cork as well, but how and when is impossible to predict.

Bramer’s script summons reminders of Sam Shepherd’s True West and Ingmar Bergman’s Persona between comic insights into the compulsions triggered by sexual self-help books and home decor magazines.

Sherry White’s direction keeps the interaction sharp and compelling.

Every laugh comes with a bittersweet twist that gives depth to each character and builds understanding of their tenuous, but necessary, relationship.

An interesting fact – the FemFest team has been collecting shoes for weeks for MonaRita. As you can see in the above photo there are a lot of shoes and we wanted to save them from having to bring them from Newfoundland.

You can also check out a recent spotlight on the piece by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.

FemFest Opens in 1 Week!

FemFest 2011: Staging Inspiration will start with a bang with its opening night gala cabaret on Saturday, September 17th. Sarasvàti Productions, the organizers behind the festival which is now in its ninth season, are thrilled to host such an exciting and diverse array of performers and local celebrities. The cabaret will be hosted by popular television personality, Susan Tymofichuk from CTV. It will feature a collection of theatre, art, film and music. Some local artists participating are Anita Lebeau, Caroline Barrientos, Shelley-Lynne Hardinge, and the Fufuchichi choir featuring Michelle Boulet, Sarah Constible and Liz Quesnel. 

Hip Shakin' Mama Shelley Lynne Hardinge

“The evening cabarets are such an important part of the festival, it is a rare opportunity for audiences to mingle with the artists and to enjoy not only theatre but music, art and film as well,” says Artistic Director Hope McIntyre. “We are thrilled to showcase so many talented women as part of our opening night festivities,” she adds.

The content for this year’s opening cabaret includes some of the most recognized women artists in the country with an emphasis placed on Canadian content. SG Lee, a 30 year theatre veteran will be traveling from New Brunswick to perform with Winnipeg actor Dan De Jaeger who you may have seen in Cannibal! The Musical at the Winnipeg Fringe this year. Their piece titled Breathtaking was inspired by asthma – and compiled over the internet. The series of stories and breathing create the feeling of having your breath taken away. Anita Lebeau will also be showing her National Film Board short film titled Big Drive. She is a multiple-award winning film maker, and has freelanced projects in animation for Sesame Street and Sesame Park.

Anita Lebeau's Big Drive

The multi-disciplinary cabaret has been so popular that the festival will once again close with another stellar line-up of female artists at a closing cabaret. This closing event will be hosted by popular radio personality, Chrissy Troy from HOT 103. It will feature Cara Lytwyn performing her stand up comedy routine. She is Rumours Comedy Club’s “Funniest Person with a Day Job” winner from 2009. She also performed at the Winnipeg Comedy festival this year, and was part of Tazzy’s Angels at Winnipeg Fringe Fest 2011. We will also be featuring the Nova Dance Collective, a group of young Winnipeg contemporary dancers. They had a very successful run at this year’s Winnipeg Fringe Festival, receiving rave reviews and sell-out shows.

We are also very excited to announce that both evenings will be followed by a reception, which will be catered by La Trattoria. It is Winnipeg’s only Sicilian restaurant, and has been very successful since it opened earlier this year on Provencher Avenue in Saint Boniface.

The Opening Night Cabaret and Reception take place on Saturday, September 17th at 7pm. The Closing Night Cabaret and Reception take place on Saturday, September 24th at 9 pm. Tickets for each evening are $10 and can be reserved through the website www.femfest.ca or at 586-2236.

All FemFest events take place at the Canwest Centre for Theatre and Film (at the University of Winnipeg, 400 Colony Street).

Fall is Upon Us and Sarasvati is Busy!

Hard to believe that it is already September! Most take their break over the summer, but at Sarasvàti Productions it is our busiest time. We spend the beautiful summer days gearing up for FemFest. Yes, somedays we’d rather be at the beach. Especially after such an amazing summer here in Winnipeg. It’s easy to give that up though when we are so passionate about the work we have lined up for our audiences. This year’s FemFest will be a great one and it is coming up fast – September 17-24.

It isn’t the only thing we have been working on though. We’ve got a full season lined up. Be the first to hear about both our recent events and upcoming activities by check out our September Newsletter. It also includes our special feature, Rising Star, highlighting local actor and musician Adam Charbonneau who will be performing in Magpie at FemFest. If you haven’t already signed up to our mailing list, be sure to do so and you’ll receive the newsletter in your inbox quarterly as well as other updates on events. Even better our twitter feed is a flutter with FemFest news and updates!

We hope to see you all at FemFest!

-Hope McIntyre, Artistic Director