Q&A with Immigration Stories

Sarasvàti Productions had the incredible opportunity over the past several months to collaborate on a project with the Immigrant Women’s Association of Manitoba (IWAM). Members of IWAM were asked to write their stories of immigration to Canada and to collaborate with our Artistic Director Hope McIntyre to turn their stories into an original play. The result: Immigration Stories – a funny and sensitive portrayal of the triumphs, trials and tribulations of women’s journeys to and in Winnipeg. The best part? Six of the women involved in creating the story will actually be in the play! Yep – these lovely ladies will be playing themselves (and each other’s family members) at FemFest 2012: Staging Identity. For more information about the festival check out www.femfest.ca ! Here is some information on all the fabulous women appearing in Immigration Stories.


Name and Area of Winnipeg you reside:
– Hien Tran, Pembina
– Francesca Cotroneo, St. Vital
– Clara Orallo, St. James
– Helma Rogge Rehders, Winnipeg Beach
– Beatrice Watson, Fort Rouge
– Barbara Guia, West Kildonan
– Reena Shah, Garden City
– Samantha Walters, West Kildonan
* Lynn Langdon, River Heights born, North End presently (added in on July 25, 2012)

In addition to IWAM, what other community groups are you involved in?
– HT: I’ve been a member of the Vietnamese Seniors Association of Manitoba since 1990!
– FC: I am a member of the Winnipeg-Italia community, and a proud member of the Holy Rosary Church.
– CO: I am a classically trained singer and a member of the Harmonic Symphony Choir.
– HRR: I am a practicing visual artist and poet; I am a member of tthe Lake Winnipeg Writers Group, The Winnipeg Beach Art and Culture Co-Op and CARFAC Manitoba.
– BW: I have been a member of LEAF and the Congress of Black Women for years!
– BG: I am a cross-culture counsellor with the Immigration Women’s Counselling Services and focus on domestic violence and other women’s issues. I also set up, coordinated and administered the Settlement Language Program at the Portguese Centre. This is only the beginning! I like to keep busy.
– SW: I have been a member of the Girl Guides of Canada in the past as a leader, camp counsellor and as a girl guide! I also worked for the Manitoba Children’s Museum and for Sarasvàti Productions (of course)

How would you introduce yourself to a stranger?
– HT: We’d be strangers at the beginning, but friends later!
– FC: A Graduate Social Worker from the U of M who worked in psychiatry as a mental health worker and a Cross Cultural Counsellor.
– CO: Hello, I am Clara.
– HRR: I am an artist and performer (print with acrylics), a print maker, entertainer, storyteller and singer.
– BW: I am Beatrice Watson.
– BG: Hi! My name is Barbara, and you are?
– RS: I am a life enthusiast who is passionae about the creation of art. I have a background in film acting – this is actually my first stage performance! I also own Expression Film Studio where I work with very talented young actors all the time who inspire me with their love for acting and their enthusiasm to learn.
– SW: I work part-time as a server so I do this on a nightly basis. “Hi there, my name is Sam!” followed by a big, warm and inviting smile.
* LL: By my real given names (and let her/him find out the rest in conversatio, if it were to go that far.

What do you want audiences to take away after viewing Immigration Stories? What is the most important issue you’d like to see addressed with the performance of the play?
– HT: I want audiences to gain some insight and understanding on immigration issues, and be inspired to support newcomers.
– FC: I hope the audience will get a better understanding of the difficult sacrifices that the first generation of immigrant women gave. I would like the audience to see the difficulties of a teenager trying to adopt to another culture. Often parents are too busy trying to adjust and forget their children also struggle with their feelings.
– CO: I want audiences to see us as role models; immigrants should be telling their stories and passing them down through generations.
– HRR: We are dedicated Canadians no matter where we come from; we are committed to being Canadian.
– BW: That the decision to immigrate is often difficult and immigrants face many challenges. The frustration of wanting a Canadian experience while staying true to your roots can be quite difficult.
– BG: I want the audience to gain an understanding about the hard times newcomers face as they arrive in a new country and the barriers they face in all sectors of life. Be kind to them!
– RS: The myraid of emotions one feels leaving their country and embracing a new one to call home is captivated by the talent of this cast. The chance to work with an all-female cast of such diversity and unique backgrounds is a rare opportunity. Not only are the women powerful on stage, but their stories are profound and moving.
– SW: I love theatre that inspires, creates change and promotes thinking. I hope people leave thinking about the stories they have just heard/seen and realize that those who immigrate to Canada are enduring far more hardships then we could ever know. It’s not as easy as people may think to “get a good life” upon arrival in Canada. Above anything, I would like to know what people get from the stories the women tell in the piece.
* LL: Despite emerging from a lifestyle of disfunction and woundedness, there is still laughter… at oneself, too.

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