A Summer of Action

It always feels like the start of summer when our two students join the team, even though the weather might not make it feel like summer. Through funding from Canada Summer Jobs we are pleased to welcome Stacie Gagnon as Production Assistant and Ava Jerao as Marketing and Community Outreach Assistant. Although their primary focus will be on FemFest 2012, they’ll also be working on our plans for next season.

Ava is a full-time Business and Administration student at the University of Winnipeg with a focus on Marketing. She served as Vice President Internal from 2010-2011 on the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association where she acted as Staff Relations Officer, Sustainability Officer and Volunteer Coordinator. She is currently Vice President External for the Business and Administration Students’ Association.

Stacie is in her second year at the University of Manitoba doing a double major in Linguistics and Asian Studies. In her free time though her focus is on theatre. At the Church of the Rock she is the head set designer for theatre productions as well as stage manager and properties manager. Last summer she was an interpreter at Ross House Museum.

We have an exciting year in the works. From September 15-22 FemFest will be celebrating 10 years and we plan to make a big splash. The festival started on a small scale with small scale productions by a local team and a couple hundred in the audience. Ten years later we are welcoming international and national guests as well as continuing to offer important development opportunities for local female playwrights. The festival now averages audiences over 1,200. There are lots of opportunities to get involved! For playwrights check out the Bake-Off Call for Submissions. For actors our general auditions are on June 15/16. We’re also still finalizing our production team if you are someone who works behind the scenes. If you just want to pitch in we always welcome new volunteers to help with promotions and at the actual festival. We will be announcing the full line-up in mid-June!

Sonofabitch Stew by Shameless Hussy Productions part of FemFest 2012

Our season launch will take place in August and we’ll have exciting news about another school tour, our annual cabaret of monologues and our plans for another world premiere in the spring of 2013. Plus our So You Think You Can Act fundraiser was such a hit this past year it will be returning again in February.

It will be a busy summer for us at Sarasvàti Productions!

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Playwright’s Blog – In Closing

Playwright Hope McIntyre’s Final EDEN Blog

Closings are always interesting in the theatre. You work so hard and intensely on a show with a group of people over an extended period of time and then it just ends.  Some suffer from post-show withdrawal. You don’t get to see the people you have spent all of your time with for the past few weeks. You don’t know what to do with your evenings and you have to let go of the work. Some move right on to the next project so there is no void. In the theatre you learn how to create quick bonds as your co-workers are always changing. For me in particular it will be odd as I feel the play still has work to be done on it but I’ll certainly need time to process all I’ve seen and heard.

The EDEN team has been such a great group to work with that it does feel like a family, more than a group of colleagues. We’ve celebrated birthdays together. We’ve laughed at some mishaps and consoled each other about others. There have been pre-show naps in the dressing room and post-show drinks. Lots of snack food, it seems the chocolate and sugar of the rehearsal room has been replaced by salty and savory with several varieties of chips and nuts. There is teasing, but also a great deal of respect.

Generally the playwright wouldn’t be around to experience it all, but as Artistic Director of an independent company I’m still there every night to help our volunteers set up and make sure things are running smoothly. This has allowed me to see the show with various audiences, from the completely engaged high school students to Kevin P. Gabel’s fan club.

As our first large scale show outside of a festival, we’ve learned a lot – from the temperamental wireless microphones and cameras to the fact that M&M cookies are the most popular to sell at intermission. We are certainly keen to hear feedback from our audiences though on the play, the process of booking tickets, the theatre set-up… We are always eager for input so we can continue to learn and grow both as artists and as a company.

We have accomplished something huge, which was a big risk. EDEN already has interest elsewhere but it likely won’t be seen in Winnipeg again so we encourage everyone to take advantage of the last two performances!

The end of the run usually means high energy performances as the actors and crew take their final shot at delivering every line or realizing every cue with the knowledge that it will all be over soon. It’s bittersweet but everyone rises to the occasion.

Check out the EDEN webpage or call 586-2236 to book tickets for the final shows on Saturday, May 12th at 8pm or Sunday, May 13th at 2pm.

EDEN Playwright’s Log – After Opening

Producing a new play is a very risky business. It is untested material and not known to audiences. It also feels like a shot in the dark, not knowing how it will play before an audience until it is actually in front of the audience. After the countless hours of work leading up to opening, it feels odd to settle in to a run. The work doesn’t stop on opening night though. The show keeps growing as the actors discover new moments and different audiences bring different energies. As a playwright, you learn something new about the piece at every performance. You get lots of feedback from the audience and from watching moments played over and over again.

And then there are the reviews! One of the most difficult parts of the business. Very necessary but can be very difficult. Many theatre artists, particularly actors, choose not to read them until after the run. A good review can make you over confident and as a result you stop working at it. A poor review can make you second guess everything and begin to hesitate in performance. In the long run they can be informative, but also need to be taken alongside the larger feedback of audiences. I’m grateful that Winnipeg allows for a diversity of responses to produced plays. Many of my colleagues in New York have found a single review from the New York Times can make or break their play. A scary thought as I’m sure everyone has had the experience of seeing a show that was poorly reviewed and loving it. Good theatre is certainly not an objective thing. I’ve always loved discussing plays in class with my students and finding widely different responses. That is the beauty of art.

Kevin P. Gabel as Adam; photo by Janet Shum

Last week I went with a couple of actors to talk to youth in a drama club at IRCOM (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba). They are coming to see the show next week and we wanted to introduce them to the play first. They had such great questions about theatre, both the profession and the behind the scenes magic. They were shocked to hear how long I’d been working on the play. To date they said the theatre they had seen was boring. We certainly don’t think they will be bored by EDEN, so I challenged them to let me know afterwards what they think. One young man replied that it would be horrible if it was boring after all the years of work I put in. Others jumped in by echoing something I had said earlier, as artists we learn from all experiences and the only way to develop our craft is to take risks and learn from them. In fact, I just read an interesting article by Nicholas Kazan (Elia Kazan’s son). Apparently Arthur Miller was told to make many changes to Death of a Salesman because it was unproducable with the flashbacks. He decided to go ahead as written and if it failed at least it would fail as he intended it rather than making changes and never knowing if his initial impulses were right. Such is the leap of faith we make as playwrights!

Many have been asking what the next steps are with a new play after the world premiere. In most cases, the playwright learns a lot from that first production and makes changes afterwards. This new version of the script is then sent out to other theatres in hopes of a second production. Something that is rare in Canadian theatre. A world premiere has a certain cache but second productions are very difficult to secure. Ideally after the premiere you can also get the script published, which opens it up to other markets including the possibilities of it being studied in classrooms and read by theatre lovers who may never have the opportunity to see the show. With a piece as large as EDEN, a second production in Winnipeg or a tour of this production are not likely to happen. That means that the odds are this will be the only chance for Winnipeg audiences to experience the show!

With 11 more shows, I hope to continue to learn from the piece, the audiences and the beautiful work the actors are doing! I would certainly love thoughts from anyone in the audience!

Full details on the EDEN web page including a photo gallery with new images from our dress rehearsal.

Tom Soares and Marsha Knight in EDEN; photo by Janet Shum