The Battle Between Her Head and Her Heart

Take a look into the mind of a woman. See the intricate and endless sea of thoughts, the swirls of brilliant ideas, the storms of emotion and the boundless inner strength.

mouthpiece2With their play Mouthpiece, creators/performers Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava (Quote Unquote Collective) perfectly encapsulate the beautiful whirlwind that lives inside our heads.

Presenting Mouthpiece at FemFest 2016: Transformation, Amy and Norah take us through their inspiration and the importance of seeing the show.

What were your inspirations for the play?
When we started creating Mouthpiece, we had set out looking for an authentic representation of what it was like to be a woman, right now, today. And, when we couldn’t find one, we decided to make this play. Mouthpiece tries to capture what it’s like inside our heads. The myriad of emotions, the epic canon of things we’ve never said, of things we’ve never done, or things we have done and now look back on and ask – why did I do that? Why did I say that? The inner struggle, the beautiful rage, the ugly truth, the propagation of bullshit, the strength, the cognitive dissonance…Mouthpiece is a deep investigation into our own selves. What is left after we strip away the influences and the lies, the privilege and the pressure?

In the show we play two sides (and by two sides I mean a fraction of the innumerable sides) of one woman’s head. We felt it was necessary to use two performers because, well, one wasn’t enough. There’s too much going on in there. Describing what it’s like to be a woman needs more than one woman as it turns out. Much of the play is sung a cappella because as we also discovered, words are sometimes not enough. Song and melody allow us to harness the muzzled voices of women who came before us. We sing, wail, chant, hum, and scream along with them.

This play leaves us naked, vulnerable, and exposed and it can be terrifying. We are very excited to bring it to Winnipeg.

Why are you excited to be in FemFest this year and why do you think Winnipeg audiences should see the production?
We have been touring with Mouthpiece for almost a year now, and in every tour stop the response is a little different.

Audiences react and respond in diverse ways to different parts of the show depending on their own experience, background or mood at the time. It is a densely layered play, so people pick up different themes or narrative threads. Many audience members return for a second or third viewing and seem to make new discoveries every time.

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Photo Credit: Joel Clifton

We love arriving in a new town and knowing that there is absolutely no guarantee about what kind of response we will get. Raucous laughter, sobbing, or silent attention, we have had it all. Additionally, neither of us have ever visited Winnipeg before so we really have no idea what to expect. Walking into that unknown is equally terrifying and exciting for us.

In the context of FemFest, it is thrilling to know that we will be surrounded by a population of other powerful female artists. This is a rare and special thing, an all-female festival with a mandate to promote social change.  It is a dream to be in the company of a group of people who are all on board to create the kind of change that we aim to work towards every day.

We hope, however, that we won’t just be preaching to the choir, but that those people will invite their friends and family who may not already be a part of the converted. It is important to us that the ideas of gender equality and women’s rights don’t remain siloed inside of a specific community, but can expand to the minds of those people who may not think about it on a regular basis.

We look forward to meeting you all at FemFest!

Catch Mouthpiece at FemFest 2016: Transformation at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film from September 17 to 24. For tickets and information, visit femfest.ca

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Feeling Shattered into a Million Pieces

We think back to our youth and most of us can remember the ups-and-downs and all the emotions.  But what happens when all those emotions go deeper than growing pains? When these problems become overwhelming, start to affect every aspect of a teen’s life or are rooted in darker, more painful pasts? What happens when these problems become too hard to bear and you feel nothing but lost, confused and alone? Where do teens turn to and how can they cope when dealing with mental health? These are the questions explored in Sarasvàti Productions’ high school tour of Shattered.

With the support of The Winnipeg Foundation and Enterprise Foundation, Shattered will be stopping at 40 high schools in Manitoba from October 11 to December 9. Using the format of forum theatre, youth won’t just sit and watch the play, they will take the stage as they work together to explore solutions to the challenges these characters will face:

Meet the cast and crew behind Shattered:

Hailey Charney, assistant director/consultant – Hailey has worked on the Mental Health is Everyone’s Health project from its early stages. She truly believes in the importance and impact Shattered will have on the way youth view mental health. This is not Hailey’s first time working with Sarasvàti as she has had wonderful experiences participating in FemFest for the past two years.

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GeNie in action on our last tour!

Eugene Baffoe aka. GeNie, as Narrator/Joker/Absame – A freestyle battle dancer, local MC, actor, and Hip Hop instructor at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, this will be GeNie’s third Sarasvàti high school tour where he once again plays the narrator. His other roles find him giving comedic relief as the Joker, and a Canadian newcomer’s perspective as Absame.

 

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Kelsey Funk

Kelsey Funk, as Amanda/Dora – A graduate of the University of Winnipeg with a BA Honours degree in Theatre, Kelsey wrote and performed her one-woman play WTF are kale chips?! at this year’s Winnipeg Fringe. Kelsey is no stranger to the Mental Health is Everyone’s Health project also appearing in the staged readings of the project’s general production, Breaking Through.

Lindsay Johnson, as Ms. Andrews/Mom – Lindsay is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Honours Acting Program with credits in The Power of Yes, Enchanted April, and The Cassilis Engagement, other credits include Antigone and Quickies with Chekhov (This Reality Theatre Co.) Most recently she performed and co-produced The Writing on the Stalls at the Winnipeg Fringe through Fill The (W)hole Theatre Company. This is her first time working with Sarasvàti as she takes on the roles of authority figures in the play .

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Thomas Toles

Thomas Toles, as Dad/Eddie/Doug – An actor, director and teacher at the University of Winnipeg and MTYP’s theatre school, this will be Thomas’ first time performing with Sarasvàti. He has recently performed in The Collector, Middletown, and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.

Jacob Elijah Unica, as Les – Our youngest cast member, Jacob just graduated from Fort Richmond Collegiate where he studied drama. He’ll be taking on the role of Les, a teen whose challenges lie in caring for a parent struggling with mental health.

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Erica Wilson

Erica Wilson, as KoKo – Erica performed in Sarasvàti’s 2013 Giving Voice tour – a high school tour about the experiences of youth in care. She has more recently appeared alongside Kelsey Funk in the staged readings of Breaking Through, as the outspoken Two-Spirited character, KoKo. She will be reprising this role in Shattered.

Reena Jolly, as Stacy – Reena is a third year arts student at the University of Manitoba, with this role being her first professional theatre performance. She’ll play Stacy, a young girl coping with anxiety.

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Reena Jolly

Oyindamola (Oyinda) O. Alaka, as Stacy (Stacy understudy) – With her educational background and active experience in social justice and equity advocacy, Oyinda fits right into the message behind Sarasvàti Productions. Theatre as served as a home for Oyinda since childhood and she sees it as a universal way of delivery messages and impacting lives.

Start the conversation about mental health at your school. For more information or to book Shattered please visit our website or call 204-586-2236. There are only 35 spots left so book early!

Teasing out Taboos

Guest Post by Morro and Jasp do Puberty creators/performers Amy Lee and Heather Marie Annis

“I was just going to the bathroom and my whole life changed forever – now every month I am basically dead for a week” – Morro

Why would two clowns put on a show about periods? Well, let’s look at a few situations to answer that:

We are talking to a friend on the street about flow and she says “Eww too much info”; buying tampons at the grocery store, the teenage boy at the checkout counter gives us uncomfortable looks; when we need it the most, there is no sign on the subway that says “Priority seating for those having severe menstrual cramps who may vomit from the pain.”

morro_and_jasp_do_puberty-web-650x650So many people deal with periods. Like half of them (actually 49.5% according to the World Bank estimate in 2015). So what gives?! Get over it. We have blood that comes out of our vaginas every 28 days or so – give or take depending on multiple factors like hormonal imbalances and/or stress or how regular one’s flow is (one time one of us skipped for three months because she was really not sleeping well and another time the other menstruated for a month straight). Basically it’s a pretty sensitive ecosystem and even what you eat can affect it – and it’s biological! Sometimes it sucks and it is a bodily secretion which needs maintenance and care and sometimes it’s freaking painful but that doesn’t mean we should feel ashamed or like it’s something we can’t talk about openly. A history of cultural shifts, perspectives and practices have led us to feeling grossed out by periods and as though it should be a big dirty secret, but it’s time to work on changing that and celebrating the shared experience that really affects the entire global population (in one way or another).

What is theatre for if not to reach into the deep dark corners of our minds and beings and shine a light on the cobwebs that reside there? … Well not cobwebs exactly, but uneasy, queasy, not-so-comfortable feelings.

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Photo credit: Jim Moore

When we first debuted this show at the Winnipeg Fringe in 2008, we were nervous beyond belief. After years of doing kids’ shows featuring our clown alter egos, we were having crisis after crisis about doing something so yucky and intimate. But we were blown away by the response. Of course, there was the odd person who was rather grossed out by it all, but for the most part, the feedback we got was about how relatable it was. This slowly started to peel back the layer of taboo that wrapped the subject of menstruation like an under-ripe banana peel. Then when we performed the show in Toronto in 2009, we still had fear about bringing periods into the spotlight, but were buoyed by the response we’d had in Winnipeg. After that run, an 85-year-old woman thanked us for doing the show and said, “In my day, we couldn’t talk about those things. This was liberating.”

Though it seems strange that talking about such a commonplace experience should be liberating, our experience at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer reminded us that it is still a risque topic for a lot of people. People’s reactions varied: from being so grossed out by the poster that they didn’t even want to see the show; to seeing the show and admitting (sometimes publicly in reviews) that they were still uncomfortable with the subject of the body; to being excited to celebrate periods with us. But the complicated reactions to the subject matter just reminded us how important it is to keep doing this show. And to keep making theatre that confronts all the things we, as artists and members of society, may find yucky or difficult or “off-limits”, because that’s where the juiciest material lives (no pun intended… maybe a little intended).

We are excited to see how Winnipeg reacts to the show today in 2016. Hopefully lots of people come out to celebrate the body with us because it’ll make for a fun party. We also hope, however, that people who feel uncomfortable with menstruation come out and are able to laugh and feel all the feelings surrounding the topic with us – after all, we did write the show out of those conflicting feelings of celebration and unease, grappling with them in ourselves as creators and writers.

“It’s a beautiful time for a woman where womanness is blooming and reaching its fullest womanly potential” – Jasp

Catch this hilarious look at the best period of your life, Morro and Jasp do Puberty 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.

Ten Minutes of Theatrical Treasures

The exploration of big dreams, a secret mission, and a “grim dream-world where women transform into badass anti-heroines,” these are just a few of the exciting stories featured in FemFest 2016 SHORTs from The Short-List.

Shorts Fem15 (8)At 8:15 pm every night from September 19th to the 24th, audiences can treat themselves to a reading of a 10-minute play or excerpts from works by women playwrights from across Canada.

We are proud to present this year’s amazing line-up of SHORTs:

September 19 Vagilantes by Ronit Rubinstein –Vagilantes is the story of women regaining their power against street harassers.

September 20 Dried Flowers by Maryjane Cruise – Award-winning playwright, lyricist and choral composer, Maryjane Cruise explores three women who each find themselves at a crucial turning point in their lives.

September 21Peace We Often Forfeit by Terrie Todd – Terrie Todd’s Peace We Often Forfeit follows Doris and her family. Their family bond and care are tested when a near tragedy takes place.Shorts Fem15 (7)

The Roomie by Emily Muller – In The Roomie, award-winning poet, Emily Muller, presents the kindness, femininity and self-doubt that can be found in all of us, even perpetrators of political violence.

September 22Our Golden Years by Sally Stubbs –What does it mean to build a life together? Our Golden Years is a dark comedy about the evolution of love and marriage.

The Funeral Guest by Tyler Joy White – After the death of her husband, Iris is forced to move to the city with her daughter Amy. The move does not make their lives better.

September 23Solo Journeys by Kirsten Van Ritzen – Actor/playwright Kirsten Van Ritzen lovingly mock clichés found in one-woman shows.

Saudade by Frances Koncan –Inspired by her personal experience, Koncan’s Saudade reflects our society’s perception of mental illness and those in care.

September 24, 8:15pmThe Living Library by Linda McCready – Young, enthusiastic Sylvia, is lost in the endless options of careers. A comedic look at the struggles that almost every 20-something can relate to.Fem12 Jordan Hall reading

September 24, 3pm – Full SHORTs Showcase – With a list of such amazing pieces, it would be hard to pick just one or two to see, but don’t fear! This year we’ve added a special Full SHORTs Showcase. On September 24 at 3pm, audiences can catch all nine plays in one show.

All pieces will be read by our talented ensemble of actors – Johanna Burdon, Melanee Deschambeault, Kim Kakegamic, Kevin Longfield and Cheryl Soluk. SHORTs is directed by recent Harry Rintoul Award winner, Frances Koncan.

Click here for more information and tickets.

 

Not For the Faint of Heart

Five female playwrights; three distinct elements; eight exhilarating hours; only one winning scene – this is the annual FemFest Bake-Off.

On August 19, the FemFest 2016 Bake-Off will challenge a group of emerging and established playwrights with three must-have ‘ingredients’ for a scene. These ingredients can range from the normal (ballroom dancing) to the downright obscure (yellow submarine). With only eight hours from start to finish, Bake-Off writers must use every ounce of their creativity to come up with this year’s Bake-Off audience choice! Up for grabs is a $500 cash prize and a chance to have a reading of their full script at FemFest 2017.

Each scene will have a staged reading before a live audience on September 19 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Based on this viewers vote for their favourite piece. Helping to bring these scenes to the stage, is this year`s team of brave actors:

Ian Bastin – Bastin’s credits include various roles on stage – Lion in the Streets, The Aristocrats (Black Hole Theatre), public reading of Breaking Through (Sarasvàti) – as well as on screen, Steel and Stilettos and The Pinkertons (Buffalo Gal Pictures). Aside from acting, Bastin will bring a list of skills to the Bake-Off cast, like classical guitar, dialects and even stage combat, making him ready for anything the playwrights throw at him.

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Jane in IWW: Cabaret of Monologues – Urban Nun

Jane Burpee –Having performed in several Sarasvàti produced plays like Fen, International Women`s Week Cabaret of Monologues, and Quite an Undertaking, Burpee is no stranger to the Sarasvàti stage. As a performer in FemFest 2012 and 2014’s Bake-Off, she`ll return to this year`s competition ready to take on whatever exciting roles the playwrights throw at her.

Andres Collantes – His first time as part of the Sarasvàti family, we are excited to welcome Collantes to the Bake-Off ensemble. He was discovered by director Cairn Moore in her Intro Performance class at the University of Winnipeg last year.

Nan Fewchuk - HeadshotNan Fewchuk – Always excited about working with Sarasvàti in any capacity she can, Fewchuk has worked both on stage and behind the scenes. Most recently she assistant directed, Jail Baby, and played multiple roles in the public readings of Breaking Through. Other past credits include Fefu and Her Friends and The Naked Woman with Sarasvàti, Beauty and The Beast at Rainbow Stage, The Merry Wives of Windsor at Shakespeare in the Ruins, and she produced and performed in the Winnipeg Fringe Hit, Dog Act.

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Spenser Payne – As Sarasvàti Producitons’ June 2016 Rising Star and one half of clown duo, The Red Nose Diaries, we are excited to have Payne performing in this year`s Bake-off. A graduate of the University of Alberta’s Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program, and a founding member of both Sweet and Salty Collective and The Talentless Lumps, Payne will be bringing her enthusiasm and comedic offerings to the Bake-Off cast.

If you’d like to see these multi-talented actors bring your work to life, there is still time to apply for the FemFest 2016 Bake-Off. Grab the bull by the horns (in this case, the computer by the mouse and click here) and apply. The deadline for applications is August 8.

As challenging as the competition may be, it might just be the motivation and inspiration you need to get that scene out of your head and onto the stage! If that’s not enough to sweeten the pot, the Bake-Off winner will receive the Janet Taylor Bake–Off Award of $500. Need we say more?

Performances of FemFest 2016 Bake-Off takes place September 19 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are available at femfest.ca or by calling 204-586-2236.