Go behind the scenes of Jail Baby

For the past few months, we have had Heba Abdel-hamid, a Masters student at the University of Manitoba, working behind the scenes for us here at Sarasvàti Productions. Completing her practicum in the faculty of Peace and Conflict studies, Heba has been our community outreach liaison for our new play Jail Baby (premiering in just a couple of weeks). Recently, Heba interviewed some of the Jail Baby team to learn more about what it’s like to work on a project of such importance. She’s even asked some of your questions! Read on to learn more about a play that is generating lots of great buzz!

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We are officially less than three weeks away from our world premiere of Jail Baby! Earlier this week the cast and crew met for the first time! Deep in the recesses of the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, we did our first table read and looked at designs of the set and costumes!

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After featuring the actors’ biographies, we decided to ask them some specific questions so audiences can get to know them better. It’s clear that our cast is not only talented, but insightful and passionate about the play!

Is there an actor you would like to get to know more, or feel a connection with? We look forward to hearing your responses! Read below the cut to learn about these talented actors!

Shannon Guile:

How are you preparing for your role(s)?

“Dancing around my living room, getting my silly on, miming up a storm. I am lucky enough to be the voice of ‘satire’. I get to be energetic and bring the ‘real world’ of the play into a comedic land. I am researching all the different styles and satires we hit in the play. It’s a tough job, to sit on my couch and watch old TV shows.”

 In your opinion what is the biggest issue that the play addresses?

“The biggest issue I feel is “the cycle”. This is something that I find is a big issue in the world around us (not just in the lives of those who end up in jail). People making the same mistakes as their elders because they don’t know or aren’t given any better option, because they feel ‘stuck’. The idea that ‘survival’ is your day to day goal and you do what you can to get by, but all you know is what you see. It is tragic.”

If I could grant you a single wish, what would it be?

“The easy and obvious answer would be world peace or equality amongst races, sexes, and classes… but that’s too predictable. SO, I wish I could eat anything and everything with no consequences… especially chocolate, in fact, let’s just dip everything in chocolate!”

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Cory Wojcik:

Do you have an acting inspiration?

“It changes all the time. Sometimes my kids are my inspiration. Sometimes it’s music. It really depends on the piece I am working on.”

If you weren’t an actor what would your dream job be?

“Well, I do have another job as a teacher. At least I went to school to officially call myself that. But, I love many aspects of the performing world: like writing or directing. It would have to be something creative, for sure.” 

What is your favourite pass time?

“Hanging with buddies and jamming on the guitar. Heaven.”

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Melanie Dean:

In your opinion what is the biggest issue that the play addresses? 

“Aboriginal incarceration in Canada is getting worse. It was stated in a recent article that the Aboriginal prison population has increased 43% in the past 5 yrs.  As for Aboriginal women incarcerated in Canada, this has been noted as a “Crisis” in recent reports.  Numbers are soaring, with little attention to the root cause.  The play addresses this and creates a glimpse of a root cause.”

What are you most looking forward to in terms of your role(s)?

“Working with my mini me Ashley Chartrand hee hee, she’s an exciting young talent.  Ashley plays the younger version of my character.  I’m excited to explore our scenes together.”

If you weren’t an actor what would your dream job be?

“Oh my gosh…a dream job would be to travel to all the biggest and best powwows all across turtle island with my family and friends…I kinda know someone who does that for a job too…that’s so dreamy (sigh)”

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Ashley Chartrand:

Before being cast in Jail Baby what were your impressions of incarcerated women?

“I once caught a TV documentary featuring female young offenders in a juvenile prison, and that is when my impressions of incarcerated women were first founded. My impression was that the jail environment further encouraged the hardened, tough behavior that the women, wherever they came from, had learned to use in their day-to-day lives, the behavior that very likely led to their incarceration. I believe that their negative behaviors are exacerbated because the social environment within the jail is made up of a community of equally troubled women and as a result the women continue to exhibit negative behavior in order to survive in the jail environment. I don’t see where rehabilitation begins. I don’t see how prisons protect society when each woman is passed from the dysfunctional environment they came from to a jail filled with dysfunctional individuals and is suddenly expected to become a functioning contributor to society upon their release.”

What are you most looking forward to in terms of your role(s)?

“My character ages from three to fourteen years of age throughout the play. As an actor, I am looking forward to this as a challenge. I will not only have to progress mentally and emotionally throughout the play, but also physically in body language and movement- in order to present myself as a young child to the audience. It’s very much like playing multiple roles, which I think is very exciting as it gives me a chance to test my abilities as an actor.”

If I could grant you a single wish, what would it be?

“I would wish to never have the need for sleep, I could be doubly productive and play twice as much!”

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Daina Leitold

 How are you preparing for your role(s)?

“A ton of reading, watching, thinking and feeling.  and then some trying not to feel, because every time I try to speak about the play, I get a little angry and sad and my eyes turn red.  And then I work physically. I’m the sort of performer who makes many choices through the body, and so much of my prep is determining the physiques and physicalities of these characters.”

 If you weren’t an actor what would your dream job be?

“I might already have it – I get to run a little theatre company called Green Kids Inc., where I get to create and produce theatrical, environmental programming for youth.  …and I also really love directing and designing.”

If you could be anywhere in the world where would you be, and why?

“So long as we’re talking fantasy, let us imagine there is a big city just like New York, but it is situated on something like the turks and caicos islands.  I thrive in tropical weather and rain forests, but also need the concrete and culture.”
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Megan McArton:

 Before being cast in Jail Baby what were your impressions of incarcerated women?

“I have a background in Social Work and my mother was very involved with The Elizabeth Fry Society and so I have always been sympathetic to the difficulties of incarcerated women.” 

In your opinion what is the biggest issue that the play addresses?

“The effects of incarceration on families.”

 What are you most looking forward to in terms of your role(s)?

“The opportunity to play many characters and finding a physical life for each one.”

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Tracey Nepinak:

Before being cast in Jail Baby what were your impressions of incarcerated women?

“My impressions are pretty much the same, I have always believed that circumstance and poverty tend to define our actions, and the majority of incarcerated women commit crimes out of desperation. Who am I to judge when I don’t know what I would do in the same circumstance?”

Do you have an acting inspiration?

“I had the opportunity to work with one of my inspirations, Tantoo Cardinal a few years ago. It was amazing to work with her, watch her process and turn that into magic every night! She has an amazing work ethic and if anything I am even more inspired.”

If you weren’t an actor what would your dream job be?

“My dream job would be teaching at risk youth in a community supported and funded empowerment through the arts building. I am so tired of begging for our kids to have opportunities!”

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