Happy World Theatre Day!

Today is World Theatre Day! In fact it’s the 50th anniversary of World Theatre Day. It’s a time to both celebrate theatre and to recognize its contribution to the cultural fabric of our community, both local and global. Of course the best way to mark the day is by going to see some theatre. There are certainly several options in Winnipeg right now. Or if that’s not in the cards you can take a moment to read the messages written by artists to mark this important date.

John Malkovich, celebrated actor and director was asked to write the official World Theatre Day message. Here are his words to fellow theatre workers:
“May your work be compelling and original. May it be profound, touching, contemplative, and unique. May it help us to reflect on the question of what it means to be human, and may that reflection be blessed with heart, sincerity, candor, and grace. May you overcome adversity, censorship, poverty and nihilism, as many of you will most certainly be obliged to do. May you be blessed with the talent and rigor to teach us about the beating of the human heart in all its complexity, and the humility and curiosity to make it your life’s work. And may the best of you – for it will only be the best of you, and even then only in the rarest and briefest moments – succeed in framing that most basic of questions, “how do we live?” Godspeed.”
John Malkovich 

For more on the international campaign: http://www.world-theatre-day.org/en/index.html

For Canada, read Daniel David Moses inspiring message: http://www.playwrightsguild.ca/news/canadas-message-2012-world-theatre-day

Coincidentally today also marks one month from the world premiere of EDEN, a new play that marks a momentous step forward for Sarasvàti Productions as we undertake our largest project yet. We believe theatre does indeed question how we live and EDEN tackles some of the hardest questions about how we decide what is ‘right’ and ‘just’ in a complex world.

Director, Sharon Bajer has this to share: “I am very excited to be working on EDEN with such a fabulous team of artists. New plays are always wondrous because you are presenting a new work for the public for the very first time. There has been a lot of evolution in this piece and I welcome the challenge to help bring this important and epic story to life.”

Join us from April 27th to May 13th, check out the EDEN webpage for full details and to book tickets.

Show Me the Money – Arts Fundraising

There’s been lots of talk of late about fundraising for the arts. There is no doubt that times are tough, what with the closing of the Vancouver Playhouse and an economic downturn that has reduced funding from foundations and corporations.

Companies are trying new approaches, creative incentives and pretty much anything under the sun to increase revenue. As Sarasvàti Productions embarks on its most ambitious project yet, we too have been trying new initiatives. We launched a new annual fundraiser last month, So You Think You Can Act, we’ve joined the crowdfunding trend with our current RocketHub campaign and our Board has been working hard to attract new sponsors with the incentive of matching funds from the artsVest program (supported by the Winnipeg Arts Council and Business for the Arts).

There is an interesting article on these new financing models in the New York Times –http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/17/arts/kickstarter-and-artspire-as-models-of-arts-financing.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

One of the big questions is whether these new techniques simply have the same donors giving in a different way or if arts groups are attracting new donors. It seemed like a great issue for discussion. What makes for a successful fundraising campaign? What makes you want to donate? Are people just feeling overwhelmed by requests?

These are crucial questions for most arts groups right now, but certainly very timely for us. From April 27 to May 13 Sarasvàti Productions will present the world premiere of EDEN. It is the largest project the company has undertaken in its almost 12 year history in Winnipeg. For an independent theatre it is momentous and will certainly be an important artistic event, showcasing numerous local artists. We know we can pull it off, but poducing art these days does certainly feel like an uphill battle at times.


Monologues a Great Success!

Last week Sarasvàti Productions marked International Women’s Week with performances of their monologues celebrating Winnipeg Women. Selected pieces were performed at Sage House as part of a special dinner for the women there. We participated in a bit of guerilla theatre by staging four of the pieces outside Gallery 1C03 at the University of Winnipeg, people walking by were able to stop and take in the performances. A highlight was certainly participating in the Genesis House fundraising event in Carman, Manitoba. Their sold out crowd of 160 people were there to support the women’s shelter but were also treated to an amazing evening of coffee, deserts and performances. The organizers had thought of everything, even decorated the washrooms! Our monologues were followed by the amazing Heather Bishop. She spoke, sang and inspired. Needless to say, several of us left with her CDs in hand.

Another memorable experience was performing The F Word and Black Little Neechee for the Manitoba Teacher’s Society Women’s Symposium. They had planned the monologues to follow topical panels and really allowed us to realize our goal of using the monologues to inspire thought and dialogue.

Jane Burpee in "The F Word", photo by Janet Shum

Staff Officer of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, Terry Price, had this to say about The F Word:
“This monologue fit perfectly in our program as it followed the Thursday evening presentation by Marilou McPhedran who received the Order of Canada for her work on equality rights in the Canadian Constitution. To then have “Nellie” appear and talk with ‘shock and awe’ about our need to continue to push the envelope on women’s rights to prevent the erosion of hard earned rights was perfectly timed. The applause from the participants was vigorous and sustained.  The actor presented with gusto and brought great credibility to the basic premises of the monologue.”

She added in response to Black Little Neechee:
“Wow! Heather performed this so well it reduced many of us to tears. Again, we had placed this in our program immediately following a presentation by Diane Redsky on the topic of human trafficking in Canada. Unfortunately, many of the victims of trafficking in this country and province are Aboriginal women and children. Heather’s performance and the extremely well-written monologue resonated with everyone in the room.  The spontaneous standing ovation she received said all that needed to be said. A great job on both and thank you so much for your ongoing work in this area!”

Finally, we could not have asked for a better audience for our public performances on March 9 and 10. Cara Lytwyn really warmed things up with her opening stand up routine. The diversity of the seven monologues really appealed to audiences. We are so grateful to our amazing actors, playwrights, volunteers and supporters!

If you have thoughts for stories we should include next year, let us know! Are you interested in seeing more local women celebrated? A more global exploration? Or perhaps there are old favorites we should bring back?

Alissa Watson in "Mrs Colin Inkster", photo by Janet Shum

The Long Journey to Production

EDEN Is Coming – Hope McIntyre

One of the hardest things about being an artist is asking for support. We are about to premiere my new play and it’s a huge undertaking. We have 20 days left to meet our crowdsource fundraising goal through RocketHub and so are asking for your help. Every $10 donation will make an important difference in being able to fully realize a piece of this scope. It is a play that will inspire dialogue about crucial issues, while being artistically engaging and providing an opportunity for a large cast.

The first seed of EDEN was planted seven years ago. It was a piece that I felt the need to write and that I knew would challenge me as a playwright. Since then it has been read in Jakarta at the Women Playwrights International conference, excerpts read at the Carols Shields Festival of New Works and a full reading done at FemFest. It has been supported by the Manitoba Association of Playwrights Colony and had numerous artists involved at various stages including the public workshop presentations in 2009 under the direction of Kayla Gordon.

Here we are less than two months from production and it is hard to believe it is finally happening. Add to that the amazing artistic team that has been assembled, many of whom are returning from the earlier workshop. I’m honoured to have Sharon Bajer at the helm as director and to be working with Rick Chafe as dramaturg.

The cast includes a mix of established actors well-known on Winnipeg stages and new faces. The show features: Kevin Anderson, Andrea Del Campo, Kevin Gabel, Ti Hallas, Marsha Knight, Tracy Penner, Steven Ratzlaff and Tom Soares.

Our amazing designers include:
Set Design by Kim Griffin
Lighting Design by Dean Cowieson
Costume Design by Kelsey Noren
Video by Jordan Popowich
Sound Design by Chris Coyne

Click here to access the Fundraising Campaign and show your support.

Click here for full bios and go to the EDEN event page for performance times and to book tickets on-line.

Happy International Women’s Week!

What International Women’s Week Means to Me
by Hope McIntyre, Artistic Director

As we were doing the dress rehearsal yesterday for our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues, it really hit me what an important contribution women have made to my life. It started with a strong feminist mother, then numerous female mentors and an amazing group of female artists that I have the privilege to work with on a daily basis. Not to mention the women who have fought many a battle to get us to where we are today. I can’t imagine not being allowed to vote because I am a woman or being limited by a narrow field of career options. It seems absolutely absurd that women were not recognized as people until 1929!

That being said, I can also recall many moments in my life when I realized I was at a disadvantage because I was born a certain gender. My first conscious realization of difference was riding my tricycle around the neighbourhood on a hot day at about age 4 and being told that I was a girl and had to wear a top, even though the boys were shirtless. Other little moments, like being in a stagecraft class in university and being called ‘honey’ and having guys take away all the heavy building or power tool jobs, even though I’ve always been better with power tools then many men I know. Of course whenever we go to a hardware store or have construction workers in to the house, my male partner is the one they automatically address even though I am the one who does all the handiwork. These are minor things but they still point to larger systemic issues, the same attitudes that in my mind lead to even more harmful behaviours.

With all the amazing International Women’s Week activities in Winnipeg and the recent run of Fighting Days at MTC, there seems to be great awareness of the progress we have made as well as the battles still needing to be fought. I still think there are many stories untold though and hope to continue to bring new ones to the stage!

I also need to remind myself that many of the privileges we enjoy aren’t available to other women across the world, that there are still many battles to be won. I keep a copy of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn beside my desk. It’s a constant reminder of the fact that women aren’t recognized as people in many parts of the world.

I also look at our political landscape. As the fictional, back from the grave Nellie McClung points out in Cairn Moore’s monologue The F Word our prime minister, premier, mayor…well about 75% of all our politicians are still men. Not quite the progress our foremothers might have hoped for by this stage – reaching 24.7% women MPs in the 2011 election was a record high. So, as I continue to be asked why we need a cabaret of monologues filled with women’s stories and why we need to produce FemFest every year, I try to practice patience.

Most of all, as I watched our fabulous actors perform the monologues yesterday and bring to life a wide array of women, I realized that we have a lot to celebrate and a lot of work to do – but a bit of humour, inspiration and mutiny never hurts!

Check out full details on the event!

Cabaret of Monologues Features Immigrant Experience!

Here at Sarasvàti Productions, we are gearing up for International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: Women of Winnipeg!  As we are very excited about our wonderful line-up, we thought we would take a minute to highlight one of the monologues we know you will be looking forward to watching.

This year, Sarasvàti favourite Elena Anciro is featured in the monologue Immigrant Experience by Hope McIntyre.  In this funny and touching piece, a young Filipino girl named Malou deals with her nerves as she prepares to reunite with her mother in Winnipeg after eight years of separation. We checked in with Elena to get her thoughts on performing such a powerful piece.

Sarasvàti Productions: Elena, how did your own heritage and experiences growing up influence your understanding of Immigrant Experience?

Elena: Growing up as a first generation Canadian, I reaped the benefits of the hardship and sacrifice my parents went through when they immigrated to Winnipeg, but only had a surface understanding of the fears and emotions they felt during that time.

Sarasvàti Productions: How did you relate to the character Malou?

Elena: Although Malou’s and my parents’ stories are different, putting myself in the shoes of a young person traveling alone, her whole life in one suitcase, to join a mother she no longer knows brought a deeper appreciation and respect for my parents’ journey to where they are today.

Sarasvàti Productions: What was your parents reaction to the piece?

Elena: During the first performance of this monologue, my mother was brought to tears as she relived the moments she spent waiting to board her plane to Winnipeg so long ago, which is truly a tribute to Hope’s talent as a playwright.

Immigrant Experience was originally written for Women’s History Month 2011 and was performed in an evening of other monologues entitled Women Through the Ages in October. The goal was to include the important stories of the many Filipino women who came to Winnipeg in the late 1970s as nannies, leaving their own children behind. Elena Anciro performed the piece at the event as well as doing it at the Millennium Library. It was so well received that it was added to the line-up for Sarasvàti Productions International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. The theme for this event is Women of Winnipeg and it is important to pay homage to the amazing contribution made to the city by the Filipino immigrant population.

To see Elena and the rest of our fabulous line-up, come to the Colin Jackson Studio Theatre (3rd Floor Portage Place) March 9th and 10th at 8:00 pm. Tickets are only $10 can can be reserved by calling 586-2236 or bought online at http://sarasvati.ca/season/iww-monologues/