Jail Baby guest blog: Nan Fewchuk

Have you picked up your tickets for Jail Baby yet? With less than a month to go before the curtain rises on this amazing production, we invite you to take a behind the scenes look at the process. Jail Baby contributor and assistant director Nan Fewchuk guest blogs for us today!

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Nan Fewchuk

I am presently pinching myself for a reality check.  It’s true.  I have been offered the opportunity to assistant direct Jail Baby under one of Canada’s finest and respected professional directors, the brilliant Ann Hodges!

One might not understand the feeling of euphoria I am experiencing with this opportunity. It stems from the first time I saw Ann’s work in the 1980’s when she directed Romeo and Juliet for Shakespeare in the Ruins. I still remember the incredible effect the show had on me. It was so innovative, imaginative, funny, compelling and powerful. My curiosity was sparked. I wanted to know what she did and how she did it.  I didn’t know who this woman was, but from that moment it was a dream of mine to work with her. Since then, I have continued to admire and respect the work of this talented woman, one of the few who have been invited to play hard ball in what is basically a male dominated force in theatre.

As an Assistant Director, I am looking very forward to experiencing the rehearsal process, especially seeing the actual transition of the text from page to stage. I am curious as to how the actors will take direction, interpret script, and translate the voices of real incarcerated women into characters of their own. I anticipate a great deal of interesting and intellectual dialogue to be exchanged among directors and actors as we work together solving challenging problems with sensitive material.  And of course, I know we will have a whack of fun with the stellar cast through it all!

This spring will bring to light a most incredible journey for me as a theatre artist. What better way to see it to fruition than to grow as a director along side the genius Ann Hodges. Over the past two plus years, the “Jail Baby” project has been an extremely important, exciting and heartfelt one which I am deeply passionate about, and incredibly grateful to be part of. I will cherish the memories of the time spent with so many wonderful women. One special lady that we met at the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge and with whom I am presently corresponding, recently emailed me. I leave you with her words:

Another thing I’m excited about is the play! You’ve probably been super busy. I think it’s pretty awesome that anybody even bothered to shed light on the issue. Incarceration seems to be something that most people in society have the wrong idea about. Everybody has these ideas of what incarceration is supposed to solve…. I’m thankful that there are people out there like yourself that actually care enough to try and make change.

Jail Baby runs from May 16-26 2013 at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are available online via credit card at www.sarasvati.ca or to reserve seats you can call 204-586-2236.

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Jail Baby Sparks Dialogue

Jail Baby has been a long-term project for Sarasvàti Productions. It has meant three years of working with women in correctional institutions, undertaking interviews with those who work in corrections and justice, meeting with families of criminalized women and consulting with numerous groups such as restorative justice providers and victims groups. Our goal is to explore all facets of each story we choose to tell on stage and this means a need to reach out to community groups, individuals and organizations who work with the issues on a daily basis. Winnipeg is an amazing city due to its large number of volunteers, social agencies and organizations that work tirelessly to improve the community in which we live. It is our honour to work alongside them.

As part of our goal to use theatre to increase human understanding, we want Jail Baby to spark an important dialogue about how we balance the need for community safety with the complex factors behind criminal activity. We are very inspired by many of the people we have had the pleasure to talk to thus far and pleased to be hosting a series of post-show panels to allow the audience to participate in a timely and much needed dialogue. Panels will run after performances from May 17 to 25. Each panel will include three speakers who can share information about different topics explored in the play and from different perspectives. We are hoping for a healthy debate. Our panels will cover topics including:

  • What are the connections between being poor and marginalized and ending up incarcerated?
  • How do we find the balance between safety/security and justice in Canada?
  • What are the challenges in finding a stable foster home for children when their parents are incarcerated?
  • Why is there such a high correlation between being aboriginal, incarcerated and having a substance abuse problem?
  • Will building more prisons solve our problems and make our communities safer?
  • What are the needs of women when released and what programs are available?
  • Why do so many women cycle in and out of the system, from foster care, to juvenile detention to adult correctional facilities? Is there a revolving door?
  • What is the focus of the Canadian correctional system?
  • How can we move towards a restorative/healing model in work with criminalized women?

Let us know which question concerns you the most.

We are pleased to have representatives from the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg; Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba; Mediation Services; Sage House; Transition, Education Resources for Females (New Directions) and Voices – Manitoba’s Youth in Care; as well as north end activist Michael Champagne, lawyer Amanda Sansregret and Associate Professor Debra Parkes (University of Manitoba Faculty of Law). Further panelists are still being confirmed.

Tickets are now available for the show and check out our website in early May for full details on the panel schedule. In the meantime, check out the promo video by the fabulous Jordan Popowich:

Jail Baby Biographies: The Creative Team

We may have been a little premature in our previous post, Winnipeggers. It turns out winter is still keeping our hands, cars and roads icy. But, that doesn’t mean that the creative juices aren’t flowing! As you already know, we are just weeks away from the world premiere of Jail Baby, a play that has been close to ours hearts for many years. Based on the true stories of incarcerated women, this play could not have happened without the community interest and input for which we are extremely grateful!  Let’s take a look at the biographies of some of our creative team behind Jail Baby.

We are very lucky to have the incredible talents of Ann Hodges as director. Ann directed a workshop presentation of the play in 2011 and has made huge contributions to the scripts development. She is also one of Winnipeg’s top directors! Ann Hodges is a graduate of the National Theatre School. Ann’s directing credits include Manitoba Theatre Centre, Manitoba Opera, Calgary Opera, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Theatre Projects, Dry Cold, Edmonton Opera, Vancouver Opera, Great Canadian Theatre Company, Blyth, Persephone, Shaw, and Opera Lyra.  Career highlights include a directing workshop with Peter Brook (National Theatre), directing the 2002 North American Indigenous Games Opening Ceremonies, and MTC’s recent production of August: Osage County starring Martha Henry.  Ann has written numerous adaptations of operas for young audiences which have been produced across Canada, including the libretto for Vancouver Opera’s acclaimed production of Naomi’s Road.

Hope McIntyreOur very own artistic director is also co-writer and had the privilege of working with dozens of inspiring women as part of the creation process. Hope McIntyre has a BFA (University of Saskatchewan) and an MFA in directing (University of Victoria). She also completed an apprenticeship in England. Hope is in her fourteenth year as Artistic Director of Sarasvàti Productions. She is an award-winning playwright. Most recently EDEN premiered in May 2012 and Empty premiered at FemFest 2012. In 2006 Hope was awarded the YWCA Women of Distinction Award. She currently teaches at the University of Winnipeg. She is a former President of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. She is excited that Jail Baby will premiere and be published next month.

Cairn MooreAs co-playwright and facilitator over the last three years for drama workshops with incarcerated women, Cairn Moore has been a huge part of this process. Cairn is a director and playwright. She teaches first year performance at the University of Winnipeg and is Associate Artistic Director of FemFest. In 2012, Cairn placed first in the Jewish Canadian Playwrighting competition, which included a workshop and public reading as part of the Chutzpah! Festival in Vancouver. SHIKSA will be produced with the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre in April, 2014. Jail Baby is her most recent work. Cairn is also editor/writer of Generation NeXXt, a scene book anthology for young female actors (SCIRROCCO).

We also need to give a big shout out to Nan Fewchuk and Marsha Knight who facilitated sessions with women and gave valuable script feedback!

Jail Baby runs from May 16-26, 2013 at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony Street). Tickets are $18 or $12 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets and to see show times, please visit www.sarasvati.ca. Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks to learn more about the educational panels and special cameos as part of this amazing show!

Even More ‘Jail Baby’ Biographies

Spring has sprung! Believe it or not Winnipeggers – the melting of the snow, the trees beginning to bud (hopefully soon) and a new play is on the horizon! This change in the weather can only mean that the world premiere of Jail Baby is near! After several years in development, we are excited to finally be bringing this meaningful and timely play to the stage.

If you have been following our blog lately, you know that we have been featuring biographies of some of the Jail Baby cast members. This week we feature the final three actors! In the weeks to come, we’ll get a little more interactive and feature interviews with our cast, plus features on the creative team and the announcement of our cameo appearances by lawyers. Have any questions for the cast that you’re just dying to know the answer to? Send them our way! (info at sarasvati dot ca with the subject “Jail Baby blog questions”)

On with the biographies!

Shannon Guile photoActor, writer, comedian, stunt performer and mime artist, Shannon Guile is a woman of action. Shannon is best known for her comedic stylings with two-time Canadian Comedy Award Nominated troupe, Hot Thespian Action. Shannon has also graced independent and professional stages around Manitoba, including WJT’s Death of A Salesman and MTC’s The History of Manitoba. Always physical, Shannon spends a chunk of her time, toppling over things and getting punched in the face, as seen in Space Network’s Todd and the Book Of Pure Evil and Universal Studio’s Beethoven’s Christmas Adventure.

Croy Wojcik headshotCory Wojcik is thrilled to be a part of this world premiere of Jail Baby. Previous credits include: Bloodless: The Trial of Burke and Hare (White Rabbit); The Big League (MTYP); Miracle on South Division Street (RMTC); Footloose, Peter Pan, The Wizard of OZ, Good News (Rainbow); Strike: The Musical. His next project will be in the summer production of Mary Poppins at Rainbow Stage.

Tracey Nepinak was in the original workshop presentation of Jail Baby at FemFest 2011. She is currently Program Administrator for the Aboriginal Arts Training and Mentorship Program at MTYP.  With a degree from the University of Winnipeg Department of Theatre she has worked extensively on stage and on screen. Most recently she has appeared in the television series Cashing In.

Jail Baby runs from May 16-26, 2013 at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony Street). Tickets are $18 or $12 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets and to see show times, please visit www.sarasvati.ca.