Making Their Mark: ‘Diss’ Actor Bios Part 1

Our high school and community group tour of Diss is underway! We are excited to perform for a variety of audiences and to encourage students to make positive choices in their communities. The actors in Diss are excited to see the reactions from the students and to work with them to creative meaningful interventions. So far the show has received rave reviews, enthusiastic participation and allowed youth to find solutions to peer pressure and gang violence.

Speaking of our actors, here’s a chance to get to know more about these talented artists! They come from a variety of backgrounds and levels of experience and have truly brought Diss to life. Today we feature part 1 of our actor biographies!

  • Eugene “GeNie” Baffoe plays EmJay the DJ, narrator and facilitator of the show. GeNie is an established hip hop dancer/choreographer in Winnipeg originally from Montreal, Quebec.  In the artistic world acting is his second passion. It has taught him how to play and/or create diverse characters and personalities. GeNie has yet to take a professional acting course of any kind but has managed to land a few high profile roles in stage productions such of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and RENT. Every year he hosts a non-profit charity dance showcase called “Dance 4 MS” which he began in 2009. Audiences have been amazed by his energy, ability to tackle a variety of characters and his confidence in guiding audiences through the interventions.
  • John Echanoplays Tyrone, a teen who quickly becomes embroiled in the gang lifestyle.John appeared in many school plays when he was a student at Tec Voc. Recently he appeared in an episode of the television program Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. He has taken classes at the Prairie Theatre Exchange for the past year. In his spare time he likes to ride his unicycle or play fetch with his dog Frodo. John has one of the biggest challenges in Diss as he plays a character who resorts to violence to solve his problems. When John comes out after the show audiences are amazed to find he is a really sweet guy. He even brings cake for the cast road trips!
  • Braiden Houle  plays the ringleader Jesse.Braiden was inspired to become an actor after learning of his relation to Adam Beach at the age of 12. After 2 weeks, he got his first audition for feature film Juliana and the Medicine Fish. After this experience, Braiden studied theatre at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People (MTYP). Braiden loves theatre and continued on with productions such as Will Work 4 Home (2009), Jumping Mouse (2010), The Moving Gallery (2010), and Fringe shows Little Red Riding Hood (2011) and Wings Of Darkness (2012). He was previously cast in Sarasvàti Productions forum theatre piece No Offense. We are excited to have Braiden back as he often has the challenge of improvising throughout multiple interventions.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars! Our free, public show of Diss is taking place on November 7th at 630pm at the Millennium Library. Reserve your spot today (204-586-2236) as seating is limited.

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A Time to Give Thanks, A Time to Give

We have been overwhelmed and overjoyed with the positive responses we have received from students, teachers and the community with our world premiere of Empty at FemFest 2012, followed by a short community tour.  Here are just a few responses from students:
The play was very effective because it moved me so much that I went to talk with someone about volunteering at Winnipeg Harvest.
-I learned so much from this play.  I didn’t realize just how many people have to use food banks and have to make decisions like whether to feed their families or pay rent.
-The play made me respect volunteers more and realize just how many volunteers places like that need.
-I would tell the writer/director/actors that they did an amazing job and that it was really moving and heartbreaking.
-It felt real, like I had actually walked into and viewed the lives of people who visit food banks.

photo by Janet Shum  photo by Janet Shum

Sarasvàti Productions offers the combined benefit of contributing to artistic achievement while also supporting important social and community issues (such as poverty and food banks, as seen in Empty). Long term financial stability is essential to achieving our mandate. What better way to nurture growth in your community and maximize available funding than by supporting our endowment fund. An endowment fund is where gifts are pooled and permanently invested as capital and only the income earned is used for charitable purposes. An endowment creates a stable form of future income. A donation to the endowment fund assures the legacy of the donor is respected in perpetuity.

Sarasvàti Production’s endowment fund operates through the Winnipeg Foundation. There are matching programs available from both the Winnipeg Foundation and the federal government with the intention of encouraging private donors to contribute and provide future funding to charities. A donor’s gift may be doubled and the next deadline for the federal matching program is November 30th. If you are considering a gift to the company now is the time!

1. Contribute to our endowment fund at the Winnipeg Foundation.
2. Or to make a gift by cheque, please send to: The Winnipeg Foundation RE: Sarasvàti Productions Endowment Fund 1350-One Lombard Place Winnipeg, MB   R3B 0X3

‘Diss’ Guest Blogger: Lorraine James

Lorraine James is a Winnipeg-based actor, who has made appearances on stage and on screen. Lorraine is part of our cast for Diss, which is presently touring Winnipeg area high schools and community groups. Read on to find out more about Lorraine’s experiences on the set of Diss and what stands out most for her. You can also read more of Lorraine’s musings at her blog.

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I’m privileged to be working with a young cast such as those in the play, “DISS”. I’m usually part of a hodgepodge of actors and this one is no exception. I scan all of them and wonder what my child would be like had I given birth twenty six years ago? Well, maybe just twenty. I have to remind myself that I’m the adult, but that doesn’t help when I have to romp around yet, doing a fake slap= loads of fun! All these young’uns come from all walks of life with their own experiences and I could learn from them. With the knowledge I’ve gleaned these forty-something years, I’m sure I’ll never know everything and anything about acting and the entertainment industry. I always look forward to projects like this when I wake up in the morning. If only it were a full-time job, I think to myself. That won’t happen in Winnipeg, but for the time being, I’m paying my dues here and there, wherever I can.

Continue reading

Introducing Sam Walters, our Emerging Artist in Residence!

Sarasvàti Productions is thrilled to introduce Samantha Walters as our new Emerging Artist in Residence! Samantha will be working closely with our Artistic Director Hope McIntyre through ACI Manitoba’s youth mentorship program. ACI Manitoba’s mentorship programs provide opportunities for youth to be exposed to careers in arts and culture. Participants are mentored by a member of Winnipeg’s arts and culture scene through group workshops, individual consultation, volunteer work experience and participation in career development workshops.

“Be confident. Be fearless. Be unapologetic.”

Graduating high school wasn’t half as scary as my teachers made it out to be. After all I knew, more or less, what I wanted to do. And so I began my first year at the University of Winnipeg which is where I met Hope McIntyre and where my journey as an artist began.

Do you remember watching plays in your school gym as a kid? I do (quite vividly actually). I don’t really remember what the plays were about, but I remember being in awe of the actors. I remember at the end of every show they would always come out to take some questions from the audience. Some kid always asked “How did you memorize all of those lines?” and I would sit there and wonder the same thing. It makes me laugh now. Continue reading

‘Diss’ Is Almost Here!

The time is almost here… presented by yours truly, Diss will be making its Manitoba debut tomorrow at the Manitoba Student Leadership Conference in Shilo!

Diss tells the story of a brother and sister, newcomers to a big Canadian city, as they search for belonging and a sense of status. The male is lured into dangerous behaviour by so-called friends who are actually recruiting for a gang. Their mother is a single mom working long hours at menial jobs to make ends meet. As the play unfolds the audience sees the changes in this family as they struggle to adjust to their new home and are affected by discrimination.

What makes Diss so unique, is that it allows students to share their thoughts and suggestions about situations that are played out in front them on stage. Performed in Forum Theatre style with hip-hop elements infused into it, audiences will have the opportunity to interact with the characters by telling them what they should do next. How cool is that? This gives the audience the chance to influence the characters’ decisions, but it also allows for self-reflection and an assessment of how they can make better decisions in their own lives.

The play was originally written by Rex Deverell, in partnership with the Toronto Police Service and youth with gang experience. As a result of including youth with gang experience in the development, the show is a realistic portrayal of family relationships, friendship, peer pressure, theft, gun violence and many other issues that affect young people living with gang presence in their communities.

Spots are still available for the fall 2012 tour! To book yours today, send us an email or give us a call (204.586.2236)! If you know a youth group that should catch the show, we will be offering a public performance in partnership with Winnipeg Public Libraries at the Millennium Library on November 7th at 6:30pm. It is a free performance for youth groups and agencies. Please call us to register for this performance as space is limited.

‘Diss’ Makes its Winnipeg Debut!

Sarasvàti Productions is pleased to be presenting the Winnipeg tour of Diss later this month! Written by Toronto playwright Rex Deverell, Diss tells the stories of immigrant and newcomer youth as they navigate through the complicated world of youth gangs, gun violence and the desire to fit in. Wanting to have the play truly reflect the realities of immigrant and newcomer youth in Winnipeg, Deverell came to Winnipeg in June to meet with youth from the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) and talked with them about their experiences since arriving in Winnipeg.

One of the amazing aspects of this production is the connections to the community. It seemed like a natural fit when the folks (and kids!) at Art City got together and created these incredibly colourful set pieces for us! It really is terrific to see so many people working together on this project. We look forward to bringing this art and the forum theatre performance (another great way for community input and participation) to schools and groups this season!

Diss will be touring Winnipeg area high schools and community group spaces from October 15-December 14, 2012. For more information on how your school, community or corporate group can book a show, please visit www.sarasvati.ca or call 204.586.2236!