Life-Changing and Award-Winning Theatre

Congratulations are in order! Since its inception in 2003, we’ve seen FemFest continue to grow, reach wider audiences and showcase some of Canada’s best works in theatre. This year is no exception as we are excited to announce and give our utmost congratulations to Sherry MacDonald and Antonette Rea for their recent recognition in two Canadian theatre awards. These women are paving the way for female artists as they continue to excel in the Canadian theatre industry. We are happy to have both women be a part of FemFest 2016.

Sherry MacDonald recently won the 2016 BC Playwriting Competition Special Merit Award for her play, The Seduction Theory. The BC Playwriting Competition is put on every year by Theatre BC and is created to award the outstanding work of playwrights from British Columbia. With The Seduction Theory, MacDonald brings to light the harm that comes from our society’s archaic outlook on female sexuality. Although set in 1950s the story of 15-year-old Cassandra still rings true in our modern society. As Cassandra is deemed too unruly to live at home and is sent to reform school, we get the shocking truth about the on-going criminalization and sexual exploitation of young underprivileged girls – an issue especially prevalent with Canada’s on-going struggle to solve the issue of our Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, and the justice system’s continued failures in protecting young female victims.

Not surprising, the drama was the audience choice at the FemFest 2015 Bake Off. Her participation in the 2015 Bake Off set the groundwork for this awarding-winning play and we are very honoured to be presenting the world premiere of The Seduction Theory at FemFest 2016: Transformation.

Miss Undertood MuscleBringing FemFest another powerful perspective on female and gender issues is Antonette Rea. The transgender spoken-word poet was recently nominated for The Jessie Award for Outstanding Original Script for her theatrical poem, Miss Understood. From a suburban married father of two, to a drug-addicted sex worker, the play takes you through the real-life story of Rea’s struggles as a transgender person in Vancouver. After enduring years of unspeakable abuse, it was through poetry and creative writing that Rea found her solace and it has proved to be the starting point of an exciting career and new way of life. The Jessies were created by the Jessie Richardson Theatre Award Society to celebrate and promote the achievements in Vancouver’s theatre community. FemFest 2016: Transformation will be the first year we’ll be featuring the work of a transgender artist and we are more than excited to be expanding our line-up to include all women.

Make sure to save the dates and catch both The Seduction Theory and Miss Understood at FemFest 2016: Transformation at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (University of Winnipeg) from September 17-24.

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit femfest.ca

 

 

Connecting to Culture – Celebrating National Aboriginal Day

By Janet Adamana, Marketing & Community Outreach Assistant

One of the highlights of being the Marketing & Community Outreach summer student is having the opportunity to get out into the community, explore this great city and connect with my fellow Manitobans.

As June 21st marked the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal Day, crowds of Winnipeggers came together to celebrate. This National day gives Canadians the opportunity to learn about and celebrate the country’s rich heritage and traditions.  I was out and about at the North Centennial Recreation Centre to take in all their National Aboriginal Day festivities.
IMG_20160621_125524There was everything from traditional drums and pow-wows, to kids’ crafts and an Aboriginal crafter’s market. At the crafter’s market I met Sylvia, who creates beautiful handmade and hand-carved beaded jewelry. Many of her pieces were made from hematite, a.k.a. the Stone for the Mind or Blood Stone. Sylvia has been making these pieces for several years now and informed me that these stones were used for healing by Indigenous peoples. Make sure to stop by and say hi to Sylvia at the APTN Aboriginal Day Live vendor market this weekend.

I also got a sample of Manitoban Aboriginal writers and their stories through Winnipeg-based publishing company,IMG_20160621_124952 Indian Life Ministries, and learned about local organizations like the Aboriginal Senior Resources Centre – a non-profit organization supporting the health of Aboriginal seniors and Elders. All-in-all it was a great afternoon with back-to-back performances, educational booths and kid-friendly fun.

For anyone who didn’t get a chance to celebrate on Tuesday, it’s not too late! The city will be jam-packed with a variety of celebrations taking place all weekend. Here’s just a few to check out.

Summer Solstice Ceremony at St. Amant – Thursday, June 23 | 2 pm
All week the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has been hosting events around town as part of their Indigenous Cultures Awareness Week. Today they’ll be at St. Amant hosting a Summer Solstice Ceremony.

National Aboriginal Day Celebrations at Mount Carmel ClinicFriday, June 24 |12:30pm – 4pm
You can start off the weekend with Mount Carmel’s community feast, and take a stroll through the Indigenous art and craft market. The event also features performances by Tom Dutiaume, Inuit throat singer, Nikki Komaksiutiksak and a keynote presentation by Dr. Niigaanwewidam Sinclair, Professor and Native Studies Department Head at the University of Manitoba. Stay for the closing Prayer and Round Dance at 4.

APTN’s Aboriginal Day Live at The ForksSaturday, June 25 | 11am – 11pm
This is Winnipeg’s biggest National Aboriginal Day event, and one you definitely don’t want to miss. It’s an entire day full of free family-friendly activities including APTN’s Kids’ Zone, Aboriginal Day Live Pow Wow and a Skateboard Competition for teens. The evening kicks off at 7 pm with live entertainment. Catch acts like A Tribe Called Red, folk singer Kristi Lane Sinclair and a spectacular close out show by Buffy Sainte-Marie with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. The celebrations end with a sparkling fireworks show.

To find out more about National Aboriginal Day and celebrations going on across the country visit, the National Aboriginal Day webpage.

Communing with Theatre – Magnetic North Reflections by Artistic Director Hope McIntyre

Theatre in the bush, in a school, in an old railway station where a trolley now runs and rising out of the magical Yukon River. I’ve experienced that and more in the last five days. Now I’m sitting in the Calgary airport. It seems Whitehorse didn’t want to let us go as our departing flight was delayed meaning missed connections in terms of flights, but greater connections with colleagues as we sat at the gate discussing the shows and what it all means in the larger theatrical picture.

 

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For those who don’t know Magnetic North Theatre Festival is a national showcase of touring works produced in partnership with the National Arts Centre. Every second year it takes place in Ottawa, but in other years it travels to different regions in the country. As part of the festival, an Industry Series is offered so that those who present touring work can see all the offerings, in addition to panels, keynotes, one to one meetings and pitches. Over the years it has allowed me to explore shows and partnerships for FemFest in Halifax, St. Johns, Calgary, Vancouver and now Whitehorse.

As welcoming keynote speaker, Louise Profeit-Leblanc, wisely pointed out the festival has truly earned its name in finally coming to the real north! She also set the tone by using her storytelling skills to highlight the notion that art is about spirit, about healing and about humanity. Artistic practice is living and that was exemplified one evening as over a hundred artists, presenters and theatre lovers boarded buses in to the bush for Ramshackle Theatre’s immersive experience. We were welcomed onto Brian Fiddler’s property to see ten minute works by an array of artists. Six days earlier each had been given their location in the bush and had to create a work to take place there. We played a guitar tree, as the forage station blended tasty treats and were offered the most romantic outhouse we’d ever seen. It was magic and despite the midnight start and a wrap up at 2am, I felt energized. The sun setting as we began and hovering in a permanent state of dusk without twilight ever coming was part of this unique Whitehorse experience.

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After producing work by Artistic Director Patti Flather in one of our first FemFests, it was a real treat to finally see the work of her company Gwaandak Theatre in the flesh. Map of The Land, Map of the Stars had the actors enter from the river as the drum beat. It truly felt like we were connecting to the history of the land. It was a crucial reminder that stories go back to a very ancient time and it left me with a feeling of gratitude to be hosted on the land of the Taa’an Kwächän and the Kwanlin Dün.

The second keynote by Laurel Parry harkened back to the beginning of local theatre in Whitehorse when they weren’t allowed to flush the toilets backstage. She echoed the powerful message at the end of Jordan Tannahill’s Concord Floral – 10% of people are cruel, 10% merciful and the other 80% can be moved either way. Parry, and likely most of us working in theatre, believes theatre has a lot to do with moving that 80% towards mercy.

This also picked up on an important dialogue that was underlining this year’s festival. For the first time Magnetic North was offering a Pay What You Decide option for 20 of the 50 performances. It is part of a new model to make theatre accessible. I had really interesting discussions with Fusebox Festival’s Brad Carlin about this concept. It was also tackled in a panel with three other international presenters. Brad argues that since ticket prices don’t come close to covering the cost of producing a performance piece, why should we pretend that it does? Fusebox has made their art and events free to view and attend but has clarified that it is not free to make. Artists have been subsidizing work for centuries. They have switched their focus from marketing and making art a transaction to engagement. People do still pay for the art just not at the door, allowing those who can pay more to do so through donations and sponsorship, while having the actual presentation fully open to one and all. They have seen their attendance increase, along with revenue from other sources. I was left wondering how we make this work in Winnipeg? How do we create a real conversation about the value of art?

A few other highlights:

  • Live dogs on stage always steal the show, but audiences love it!
  • Tomboy Survival Guide – wow!
  • When you bring a ten-year-old on stage as part of audience participation, you have to be prepared for anything.
  • Offering food as part of a performance creates a sense of communion.
  • Jani Lauzon is a fabulous storyteller.
  • Unfortunately it is hard to take risks unless an audience is willing to also take risks.
  • There are so many amazing works I wish I could bring to Winnipeg.
  • There are fabulous companies doing important work across the country.
  • Borealis Soul aka BoSo blew me away.
  • Having a Jacuzzi in your hotel room isn’t such a big deal when you are in panels and shows from 9am to midnight every day!

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There is so much more I could speak about after seeing multiple shows, meeting so many fabulous artists and presenters and getting to experience the beauty of the Yukon. I’ve been able to start some great conversations and I expect our audiences will see the results in the FemFests to come.

A huge thank you to the amazing team at Magnetic North and in Whitehorse. Most shows I attended sold out and it was clear that this is a community that truly believes in the arts.

If you are in the area, the Magnetic North Theatre Festival goes until June 18!

Poetry, Clowns and Dance, oh my!

Fem-Fest-Logo-4c-Pink_2016From the kooky and embarrassing teen years to the life-altering challenges that force us to grow up, this year’s FemFest is guaranteed to make you laugh, cry and hug your mom!

Highlighting the changes we make within ourselves and the much-needed changes in society, FemFest 2016: Transformation takes inspiring stories of hope, healing and ultimate transformation to centre stage.  Featuring the works of both emerging and award-winning female playwrights from all over the country, we have everything from the real-life struggles of a transgender poet, the hilarious ups and downs of puberty, through to a young girl’s fight for freedom from society’s hold.

We are very excited to give you a sneak peek and announce the FemFest 2016 lineup featuring plays and readings that celebrate the leaps and bounds women make. Check out the brand new FemFest 2016 website to get the full scoop and snag your tickets.

Touring Shows

Miss Understood – Written by Antonette Rea. Produced by the frank theatre company (Vancouver, BC). Jessie Award Nominee for “Outstanding Original Script,” Miss Understood is a moving theatrical poem based on the life of writer and spoken word poet, Antonette Rea. Rea has lived through horrific abuse as a transgender person and rises above this personal pain to piece together an emotional and eye-opening play filled with beautiful poetry and raw, unfiltered truth. Hear excerpts from Miss Understood and get to know Antonette Rea before FemFest with PuSh Festival’s latest TELUS Optik Local Documentary, Antonette. The documentary is a behind the scenes look at the writer and the experiences that inspired Miss Understood. Be sure to grab some tissues.

Morro and Jasp do Puberty – Produced by U.N.I.T Productions (Toronto, ON).”Perfectly hilarious, perfectly poignant, perfectly gross, and perfectly adorable Morro and Jasp Do Puberty is the MUST SEE Show” – TWISI Blog

“A charming, hilarious and superb piece of theatre…positively captivating” – VUE Weekly

Now don’t you want to feel the way these reviewers (and so many others) felt after seeing Morro and Jasp do Puberty?  Then catch clown sisters Morro and Jasp as they hilariously deal with the most awkward years of their lives. –  when the hormones are always flaring, the telephone keeps ringing, and the punk rock can never be too loud. Morro and Jasp Do Puberty takes you on a comedic trip through the trials and tribulations of growing up.

mouthpieceMouthpiece – Produced by Quote Unquote Collective (Toronto, ON). “My mother always told me, you could cure almost anything with a hot bath,” and so starts the journey. In the wake of her mother’s death, Mouthpiece follows one woman, for one day, as she tries to find her voice. Interweaving a cappella harmonies, dissonance, text and physicality, performers Norah Sadava  and Amy Nostbakken express the inner conflict that exists within a modern woman’s head: the push and the pull, the past and the present, the progress and the regression.

In-House Production: The Seduction Theory “They jumped the gates of the fortress . . . Once inside, they smashed every mirror so the girls could all be set free…” We are also very proud to present the world premiere of The Seduction Theory by Vancouver playwright, Sherry MacDonald. Winner of the FemFest 2015 Bake-Off and the 2016 Special Merit Award from the Theatre BC Playwriting competition, The Seduction Theory delves into society’s criminalization and sexual exploitation of young underprivileged girls.

Bake-OffCoordinated and directed by Cairn Moore in partnership with the Manitoba Association of Playwrights.  A festival favourite! We challenge selected playwrights with a list of ingredients and eight hours to cook up their own fantastic theatrical feasts! The results are a whole lot of laughs and entertaining surprises.

Short-List – Programmed and directed by Frances Koncan. Get a taste of the wonderful work of women playwrights from all over the country with excerpts from the FemFest shortlist.

Cabaret – Join us for our opening cabaret. Comedian Lara Rae will host the evening’s festivities, including music by Ali Fontaine and improv & theatre fusion act 50/50 with Robyn Slade. The opening cabaret features a wide array of fantastic female artists in music, theatre, film and dance!

Catch FemFest 2016: Transformation at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (at the University of Winnipeg, 400 Colony Street) from September 17-24. Tickets for single shows or the cabaret are $15, but see the entire festival with a festival pass for $50.

For more information and tickets visit www.femfest.ca

 

Shattering Stigma

Shattered video graphic

“Why are we taught all about physical health but never given any information on mental health” was the question posed by an astute grade ten student at one of our mental health workshops. With the high rate of suicide and depression among teens this is an important question. Although we worked with seniors, newcomers, patients and caregivers over the last year and a half of the mental health project, some of the most powerful sessions were with youth. We worked with over fifty youth at Rainbow Resource Centre, St. John’s High School and Resource Assistance for Youth. Some youth returned to join the public open sessions we also held. What we heard over and over was how important it was to get what we were doing in to schools. With last week’s staged readings of Breaking Through we gathered amazing feedback from a wide array of audiences. This will shape the final script for our May 2017 world premiere. In the meantime, we have gone back to the original stories and source material to explore mental health  through the eyes of youth.

As we believe mental health is everyone’s health, we know it is equally as important to spread the message of hope and understanding to Manitoba’s youth. We are excited to announce the next phase of the Mental Health Project – Shattered – for and about youth. Thanks to the support of the Winnipeg Foundation and Enterprise Foundation, it will tour to schools in Winnipeg and surrounding areas in the fall of 2016!

With Shattered, teens won’t just hear these adapted stories but will have a chance to become completely emerged in them as they explore solutions to the challenges characters face. Youth will get a chance to stop the action and work together to come up with their own endings for the characters; making Shattered a truly interactive and thought-provoking experience.

Hear more about the Mental Health Project including Breaking Through and Shattered and catch a glimpse of what Sarasvàti Productions high school tours are like:

The high school tour of Shattered starts October 10, 2016 and is already booking up. If you’d like to book a show and help engage students in an important discussion about mental health, please visit Sarasvati.ca or e-mail associate@sarasvati.ca.