Opening with a Bang!

With aerial acrobatics, high-energy contemporary dance, and the side-splitting comedic offerings of Winnipeg’s funniest performers, it’s no doubt Sarasvàti knows how to throw a party!

FemFest 2016: Transformation kicks off with the FemFest Opening Night Cabaret. The annual variety show is jam-packed with some of the most talented entertainers this city has to offer; everything from music, dance, comedy, theatre and film. Now, feast your eyes and ears on the incredibly entertaining line-up of the FemFest 2016 Opening Night Cabaret!

Lara Rae, Comedian/Host – Guiding you through the evening’s festivities will be stand-up comedian and Winnipeg Comedy Fest Artistic Director, Lara Rae.

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Comedian Lara Rae, Photo:Ruth Bonneville

Lara Rae is the founding Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. She was the Just For Laughs National Champion at the Homegrown Comedy Competition in Montreal in 2000 and won a Gemini Award and Prix Roma Prize from Italy for her work on Little Mosque on the Prairie. She is a regular instructor at the McNally Robinson Community classroom on opera, comedy and various genres of literature. She’ll be bringing the cabaret a taste of her signature wit and we couldn’t be happier to have her.

Robyn Slade & co., 50/50  – Serving up a delightful dash of improv-theatre fusion is Robyn Slade & co. With 50/50, one actor memorizes lines from a unique play and is paired with an improviser who has no idea what their partner has rehearsed. This combo is sure to bring hilarious and unexpected entertainment.

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Crash Site by Sonya Ballantyne

Sonya Ballantyne, Filmmaker, Crash Site – Originally from Misipawistik Cree Nation, Ballantyne is a self-proclaimed nerd whose work is infused with iconic comic book colours and feel. A graduate of the National Screen Institute New Voices program, Ballantyne uses her films to address issues facing aboriginal women and girls. She’ll be presenting a screening of her new animated film, Crash Site, about a young girl who meets a superhero.

Raye Anderson, Pearl in the Egg- Enjoy a solo performance by theatre artist and former theatre educator, Raye Anderson. She’ll present her new piece, Pearl in the Egg. The work combines storytelling, spoken word and visual arts to reclaim the power of older women storytellers and their stories.

Alissa Watson and Spenser Payne, Buzzkill and Tattletale in: You Win Some, You Lose Most – The Winnipeg clown duo behind The Red Nose Diaries is spending the summer entertaining the masses at the Winnipeg and Edmonton Fringe Fests with THE POLKA DOTS OF DEATH: The Making of the Supervillain. The duo makes their triumph return at the opening cabaret with Buzzkill and Tattletale in: You Win Some, You Lose Most.

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Lost, Dancer: Jillian Groening Photo: Bruce Monk

Gearshifting, Lost – Contemporary dance company Gearshifting will be storming the stage with their intricately moving piece, Lost. Featuring dancers Jillian Groening, Elise Page and Carol-Ann Bohrn with choreography by Jolene Bailie, the audience will surely be mesmerized by the poetry hidden in human movement.

Jennifer Genest, Break the Silence – Genest will light up the night with her famous LED glow poi dance. Genest creates dramatic, colourful images in darkened spaces through her use of rhythmical movements and geometric patterns. Infusing her routine with contemporary dance, Break the Silence, will be an awe-inspiring show.

Ruth Baines, Wolf Woman – Bringing a different exploration of physical storytelling, is aerial artist Ruth Baines. Baines is known for her beloved blend of theatrical aerial dance and monologue. Presenting her latest gravity-defying act, Wolf Woman, Baines will be treating the audience to sky-high entertainment.

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Wolf Woman, Ruth Baines. Photo: Leif Norman

The entertainment doesn’t stop there. Throughout the evening, the lobby will be packed with amazing artwork from local visual artists, Teresa-Lee Cooke, Debbie Machula and Susan Aydan Abbott. We’ll also have work by graphic artist Autumn Crossman-Serb, whose comics feature Muslims and women of colour as protagonists.

And lastly, it wouldn’t be a party without treats and the chance to mingle and meet the artists, so of course we have that too. We’ll have delectable dainties and delicious food with an array of fun-filled raffle prizes from vendors across the city.

Stay tuned for more artists and news to be announced.

FemFest 2016 Opening Night Cabaret takes place September 17, 2016 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (University of Winnipeg). Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at femfest.ca or by calling 204-586-2336.

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Shame, Blame and What Almost Became a Def Leppard Play

14231787_10209977296810336_1027723112982667808_oGuest Post by The Seduction Theory playwright Sherry MacDonald

Hysteria. Red line. Yellow submarine. For last year’s FemFest Bake-Off competition my fellow playwrights and I were given eight hours to incorporate these three ingredients into a scene. Upon hearing the word ‘hysteria’ I became very excited (no pun intended) and quickly delved into online research fueled by the prospect of writing a scene set in Freud’s time about his theories for treating the ‘disease’ then known as hysteria. Great!

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Vancouver playwright, Sherry MacDonald

The problem that immediately became apparent to me was this: While there were all kinds of possibilities for folding ‘red line’ into the mix, what was I going to do with ‘yellow submarine’?

Yes, there were submarines during Freud’s time, but ‘yellow submarine’ is an unavoidably iconic term that would necessarily place the scene in an era post Beatlemania. I briefly toyed with riffing on the term, abandoning Freud, along with John, Paul et al, to set the scene in a place called The Yellow Submarine Sandwich Shop whereby a couple of rock star wannabes rehearse a karaoke version of Def Leppard’s Hysteria. Funny? Maybe. It could be fun . . .

But what if I won? I’d have to spend a year writing a play that revolves around a 1980s ‘hair band’ karaoke contest. No, back to Freud and his theories.

Fortunately for me, I went with my original gut feeling. The writing of the one act play The Seduction Theory which is being produced by Sarasvàti  at this year’s FemFest, has been a rewarding and challenging ride for me as a playwright. The necessity of having to deal with ‘yellow submarine’ actually turned out to be a blessing. Through my original ‘Wiki-mania’ research for the Bake-Off, madly keying in terms like ‘Freud’, ‘hysteria’ and eventually ‘seduction theory’, I came across an entry having to do with girls’ training schools —a then term for reformatories—in Canada and the U.S. during the middle part of the last century. Bingo! Or should I say, Ringo!

Setting the Bake-Off scene in the 60s allowed for that all important third ingredient. And because I now was setting the play in a girls’ reformatory school, I had my first two characters, Cass and Rebecca, girls whom in the process of writing their story I have come to love.

Expanding the Bake-Off scene to a one-act, I set the play back ten years to the mid-50s, a time before social movements began to take hold in North America, an era that saw the beginning of the consumer society, a ripe breeding ground for Freud’s theories to thrive. It was a time not too distant from our own, but distant enough to help frame atrocities committed at the fictional Westview Training School, as a product of ‘the times’.

Unfortunately, this restriction of time and place, ultimately is faulty. For while some of what Cass and Rebecca endure at Westview would not take place today (at least not in North America), the central theme of The Seduction Theory, subverting the female voice through victim blaming, is very much alive and well in 2016. One only has to glance at the latest headlines for verification. The play then is an examination of the current state of affairs for women and girls.

I recently received, courtesy of Theatre BC, a public reading of the script in its present form, which sparked a heated debate. “Would a learned man such as Dr. Branford, ‘the baddie’ in the play, really say the things he does?” “How much has changed since then?” “Has anything changed?” Witnessing firsthand the passion audience members displayed during this exchange, told me I just might be on to something.

Writing a play that explores topical issues that have the potential for impassioned discourse is extremely satisfying to me. And it’s all thanks to the Sarasvàti Bake-Off initiative. I may have been right in choosing Freud over Def Leppard after all. Then again, emotional debate over hair extensions and spandex pants could also be interesting.

 

Catch the world premiere of The Seduction Theory at FemFest 2016, September 17 – 24, 2016 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. For tickets visit femfest.ca or call 205-586-2336.

Trauma and Transformation – Meet the Cast of The Seduction Theory

What happens to a teen girl when she starts to mature and attracts the attention of men? She’s blamed for her attractiveness, labeled an attention-seeking problem-child and is sent away to be “fixed.” This societal routine is put centre-stage in FemFest 2016’s world premiere of The Seduction Theory.

Written by Vancouver playwright Sherry MacDonald and set in the 1950s, the play brings to life a cast of characters who all believe they are doing what is right. We follow 15-year-old Cass as she transforms from naiveté to a loss of innocence. She is guided on this path by jaded-beyond-her-years Rebecca. Marg runs the home for at risk girls, trying to be a replacement mother but unable to protect them from the likes of Dr. Branford.

Meet the actors that will bring this eye-opening story to life. With FemFest 2016’s theme of Transformation, we asked about their growing careers and their personal transformations over the years.

Hailley Rhoda Headshot.jpgHailley Rhoda As Cass. Rhoda has already been in a handful of productions throughout Winnipeg including our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues and Ripple Effect School Tour. With eclectic tastes, her time travelling choices would be to go to either 500BC to observe Spartan society or 1953 to watch the birth of the Stratford Festival.  Her biggest change is her growing dependence on coffee: “I drink far more coffee and have glasses. Mainly it’s the steady increase in caffeine that’s noticeable.”

hannah.pngHannah Wigglesworth – As Rebecca. Wigglesworth is a self-proclaimed animal lover, food enthusiast and a musical theatre nerd. She is currently working on her Bachelor of Music – Classical Voice at the University of Manitoba. Her biggest personal change:  “I have become much more confident and focused. I’ve always known what I wanted to do but now I am focused on working hard and making it happen. I’ve also become much more independent and sure of myself.”

merri-louMerri-Lou Paterson – As Marg.  Paterson has loved and been involved in the theatre since forever. Not just an actor, she indulges in art, photography and travel. If she wasn’t doing theatre she would be traveling as a food writer. Her biggest personal change: “I’ve always been very conscious the role of fear has played in my life and have worked very hard at feeling it but not allowing it to make the final decisions.  I would say that, being the age I am, I have learned a few more ways to put fear in its place and not in the driver’s seat.  This has allowed me to enjoy a multitude of new experiences personally and professionally.”

GRANT BURR - HEADSHOTGrant Burr – As Dr. Branford.  Burr is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg honours acting program and a FemFest alumni having past roles in The Naked Woman and Flood Control and FemFest 2015’s Bake-Off.  How Burr has changed from the person he was 5 years ago:The older I get the more I find that it is important to focus and fight for the things that are really important in your life. You never know when you won’t be able to enjoy those things you love anymore, so enjoy them while they last. In other words, put me on that stage!”

Catch these talented actors in The Seduction Theory at FemFest 2016: Transformation. The show runs from September 17 – 24, 2016 at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film (University of Winnipeg). Visit femfest.ca for tickets and show times.

Stories of Metamorphosis and the Art of Starting Over

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Cotton candy liquid nitrogen cocktails and a cupcake making station! Transformative theatre, sugar and science! Sounds amazing doesn’t it? We are excited to present Transformation: Sarasvàti Productions 2016/17 Season Launch. There is so much going on in the world of Sarasvàti Productions for us to talk about. From our annual theatre festival of life-changing plays by women for everyone, to an eye-opening project featuring Canadian newcomers and their inspiring stories. Join us at The List – Winnipeg’s newest supper club, on Friday, August 5, 2016. We’ll be taking over the restaurant to give you a sneak peek of our enthralling new season of transformative theatre. Plus it’s part of First Fridays in the Exchange so you can check out an array of offerings before and after!

If you need more convincing, our Associate Producer Angie St. Mars gives you Top 6 reasons to support Sarasvàti this season.

  • Celebrate personal growth – This season’s theme is ‘transformation’ and highlights the beauty in change and starting over. 2016/17 focuses on personal growth and both the joy and pain that comes with it. Kicking off the season is FemFest 2016 featuring the emotional story of one woman’s journey from a husband and father, to becoming a powerful transgender spoken-word poet.
  • See the world through a new perspective – We’ll be announcing a new initiative that will be launched as part of our 2017 Cabaret of Monologues.
  • Help end stigma – After two years of gathering stories from the community we will be announcing the culmination of our mental health project.
  • Support local emerging artists – One of the most rewarding parts of this job is designing workshops for emerging theatre artists. As someone who fits into this category, I appreciate Sarasvàti’s desire to provide opportunities for artists to develop both artistic and business skills for low to no cost. I am especially excited to announce what we’ll be offering this year for emerging artists in all areas of theatre!
  • Promote diversity in theatre – Sarasvàti is dedicated to creating opportunities for diverse theatre artists and promoting equity in Canadian theatre. This season will provide various performance, showcase and training opportunities for diverse emerging and established artists.
  • Make theatre accessible – As part of Sarasvàti’s mission to make theatre accessible for all, we will be presenting plays at a number of new and unique venues. I am looking forward to taking transformative theatre into the community and engaging with new faces. It is pure joy to be able to collaborate with amazing people and community groups to promote human understanding. It is humbling and inspiring to be part of the drive to make Winnipeg an increasingly inclusive, vibrant city.

To learn more about Sarasvàti Productions 2016/17 Season, join us on August 5, 2016 at 7 pm at The List – 216 McDermot Ave. The event will feature more information on our upcoming projects, a free Cupcake Decorating Station sponsored by Cake-ology, and a special Transformation themed cocktail (that’s where the cotton candy liquid nitrogen comes in) created by the fantastic mixologists of The List. The event is free so be sure to pop in and show your support for Sarasvàti Productions.