A play with puppets, song, and live baking!

HerewithalTara Travis, actor, writer, designer and puppeteer, shared with us the humorous story behind her FemFest Production, Herewithal: A Paranormal Comedy for this week’s blog post. The Artistic Director of Vancouver-based theatre company, Sticky Fingers Productions is responsible for the creation of a variety of theatre that has been enjoyed in venues across the country. Herewithal is sure to fill audiences with laughter, song and brownies at this year’s FemFest.

Searching-For-Dick_Tara-Travis-1_web-678x1024Herewithal is a play I have felt compelled to write for many years. It was inspired by real-life events that took place over ten years ago. My younger sister, Chay, had gone to see a renowned psychic medium for career advice, and found herself answering a lot of questions posed by a very pushy female spirit. “She says you know Jim.” “Jim my step dad?” “No, she’s saying young Jim.” At the time, Jim, (my now husband and the co-creator/director of this piece) and I had just gotten engaged. His parents had both passed within 5 years prior to our engagement. It was his mother, Louisa, crashing a goodly amount of poor Chay’s reading! She came through with all kinds of details about Jim and his siblings, about details surrounding our wedding, about the doll they buried her with…it was overwhelming. Chay didn’t know anything, she was even feeding wrong information, and yet, Louisa persisted and gave very clear messages. Thus began my obsession with mediumship. The play was originally titled Searching for Dick because at the heart of it is my determination to meet Jim’s dad in the spirit world. Unfortunately, the connotations of his name made it feel like a cheap marketing trick and ultimately did the tale a disservice.

It’s a story about trying to meet the in-laws I never met in life, and all the amazing revelations along the way. My Mennonite grandmother’s messages blow my mind, my maternal grandfather shares life-altering wisdom…but most importantly, Louisa, the mother-in-law I never met, comes through with the secret recipe to her legendary brownies. “If I were there I would teach you to make them,” she says. Well, I try, and I keep trying, and I think I’ve almost got it. I bake a batch during every show. Come witness my bizarre spiritual journey and taste the brownies. Maybe this time I’ll finally get them right.

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THE NAKED WOMAN – writing a play about one word

Many years ago, I had a vivid dream about a play. It was called The Naked Woman. It starred Frances Sternhagen (a formidable Broadway actor and Cliff’s Mom on Cheers) and Richard Kind (a formidable Broadway actor and Paul Lassiter on Spin City). In my dream, it was opening night on Broadway. Sutton Foster was there. Seth Rudetsky was there. Alan Cumming was there. All the cool kids. And in my dream, I wrote the play. And I watched the play. And I really liked it. It was about Helen, an 84-year-old woman who was holed up in her apartment naked, in protest, protecting her assets after her wealthy husband’s sudden passing, and Dennis, the 56-year-old lawyer who had to make her sign some papers or Helen’s late husband’s corporation, and Dennis’job, would be lost. I’m telling you, this dream was specific! Then I woke up. I never have prophetic dreams. I never write what I’ve dreamt. But that morning, several years ago, I thought to myself, hm. Maybe I should write that play.

So here I am, several years later, writing that play. A year ago, I applied for the FemFest Bake-Off, and I was selected as one of the five participants from across Canada —all amazing, inspirational writers. The process involved each of us writing a scene within an eight hour period. The scene had to include three carefully selected words: zombie. dill pickle. maniacal laughter. Well, actually, that’s five words…I decided to use those words to write a scene from The Naked Woman, and ooo boy did that work well! The scenes were presented at last year’s FemFest. The actors were incredible. Cairn Moore, the director, was, as always, masterful. The audience voted. My scene was chosen. My prize was a full production of my full play at FemFest 2014. I was gobsmacked. And exhilarated. And hungry to write this play.

Initial casting has commenced. Oh my word, the incredible, brave, vulnerable, brilliant talent in Winnipeg (which is why I call Winnipeg home after having lived and worked in Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles, and New York). It is difficult to fill these ridiculous roles —a naked 84-year-old woman, who can act like the dickens, and bare her…soul. A 56-year-old man who is…Richard Kind from Spin City.

When The Naked Woman goes up at FemFest 2014: She’s Got the Power, I will have the opportunity to showcase my work. I am humbled by and grateful for this opportunity. I will get to see my work, directed by the madly inspirational Hope McIntyre, and dramaturged by the brilliant Cairn Moore. Performed in by…we shall see.

This play is about freedom. Imagine, a play about freedom called The Naked Woman. I still see opening night on Broadway, and I will fight, with every fibre of my being, to see my dream become a reality. Beyond my wildest dreams is the actuality of seeing my play premiere at FemFest. Thank you, FemFest!


Rebecca Gibson is an Actor, Wtriter, Director and Producer living in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Rebecca Gibson is an Actor, Wtriter, Director and Producer living in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


FemFest 2014 Packs a Poweful Punch!

A tattooed teen, family feuds, Immaculate Conception and a paranormal comedy – this diverse range of plays all explore the theme of power! We are excited to officially announce the FemFest 2014 lineup which includes plays, workshops, and readings that redefine and reimagine the status quo. Stories written by emerging and renowned female playwrights from Winnipeg and across Canada will explore the notion of female empowerment through tragedy, humor, and even a bit of nudity. We’re calling this year’s festival She’s Got The Power and we are certain that this theme will resonate with audiences of all ages (I mean, who doesn’t like theatre that includes free brownie giveaways). The FemFest2014 website will be launched next week but we wanted to give our loyal blog followers the inside scoop before it goes public! Let us know what you are most looking forward to seeing by leaving a comment here or on our Facebook or Twitter accounts.


8 Ways My Mother Was Conceived produced by Mary Beth Productions (Montreal, QC),

directed By Tamara Brown, written and performed By Michaela Di Cesare

Due to her eccentric Italian family’s belief that her mother was conceived à la Jesus Christ (sans sex), a young woman suffers from a Virgin Complex.

Herewithal: A Paranormal Comedy aSticky Fingers Production (Vancouver, B.C.),

written by Jim and Tara Travis with verbatim text from psychic readings, designed and performed by Tara Travis and directed by Jim Travis

Tara Travis talks to dead people. It’s true, she’s experienced a variety of other-worldly encounters and is ready to share her shocking revelations. Witness verbatim reenactments of actual psychic readings, experience some surprising puppetry, and sample fresh baked brownies (secret family recipe provided courtesy of the spirit world!)

River story conceived and performed by Rubena Sinha (Toronto, ON)

In River, a woman must confront the past to overcome the challenges she faces in the present. River weaves music, personal narrative, Hindu mythology and folktales to convey her struggle to come to terms with her child’s assault, its effects on her family and the loss of her life partner.


The Naked Woman by Rebecca Gibson

A comedy about aging, loss, regret and the ability to move forward. Helen is 84 years old and has recently lost her husband. When she decides to stop wearing clothes, everyone thinks she is either overcome with grief or beginning to go senile.

Launched by Tyler White

After the death of their domineering mother, Cathy and her siblings wrestle with an inability to “launch”, even though they are in their late forties. Cathy decides to face her fears and follow her dream, which rocks her family’s world!


Bake-Off coordinated and directed by Cairn Moore

Selected playwrights are given a list of ingredients and have two weeks to mix up a script! The staged readings of the resulting pieces will be like a dessert buffet with tasty treats and plenty of delightful surprises. In partnership with the Manitoba Association of Playwrights

Skin Deep by Alison Mclean

At the age of 19, Joanna considers herself a rebel. She moved out when she was 18 and thinks she’s doing pretty well in the real world. But does her secret weapon give her enough power when it comes time for her mother’s second wedding and a strapless bridesmaid’s gown?

German Silver by Priscilla Yakielashek

The new government is seeking out everyone it perceives as a threat. A group of strangers spend their last hours together and question those they’ve chosen to die with. Have they held onto their humanity as firmly as they expected? What does dignity matter, when the end is the same?

Short-List As fillers throughout the festival, we will offer audiences the chance to hear excerpts from scripts from the FemFest shortlist.

CABARETS Plus our exciting opening and closing cabarets featuring women artists in all disciplines!

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Audiences Blown Away by Fefu

What would playwright Maria Irene Fornes say about Sarasvàti’s production of her masterpiece, Fefu and Her Friends? Would she be blown away by the majestic Ralph Connor House and the sense of realism and authenticity that it gave to her play? Would she be impressed by the diverse cast of local women who brought their own, eccentric interpretations to her characters? And would she find humour and wonder in the unexpected—thunderstorms, rain, and excruciating heat. We think that Ms. Fornes would be pretty amazed by the Sarasvàti rendition of Fefu and Her Friends, and from our conversations with dozens of audience members, so are Winnipeggers:

“The show last night was incredible! Thank you! I am still thinking about it today. . . The whole cast was terrific but Emma, Fefu, and of course Julia were amazing. And what a venue! . . . My friends were blown away. This is the first ‘serious’ show I’ve taken them to and they are hooked!” – Patty Hawkins

Fefu and Her Friends was like nothing I’ve ever seen. Highly recommended.”— Ksenia Broda-Milllan

“This was an amazing play. I went with my friends and it left me thinking for a long time. Congratulation to all involved I thank the director, Hope whom is amazing, and all involved in the play great job !!!!”— Francesca Cotroneo

“It was a phenomenal performance”— Pamela Hadder

“My daughter and I attended Friday night’s performance of Fefu and her Friends. We enjoyed it immensely. The writing, the setting of Ralph Connor House, the acting, the costuming—everything. Congratulations to Hope McIntyre for giving us the pleasure of seeing this very impressive performance. Sarasvati has two new fans. Maria Irene Fornes has two new fans also.”— Gail Halldorson

Thank you so much to everyone who took part in making Fefu and Her Friends such a wonderful success. It’s productions like this that make us realize the demand in Winnipeg for theatre that challenges, provokes and questions the status quo. If you saw Fefu and Her Friends but have yet to leave a comment on our Facebook page, Twitter Feed or blog, please do so as your feedback is integral to future Sarasvàti Productions.

Fefu FOH (1)Esdale thanks (1)Fefu enjoying a delicious delight from our catering sponsor, Double D's Cheescake