Looking Back at an Incredible Year

Champions were crowned, all too real stories were told, new plays launched and we even shared lots of laughs. Can you believe the year is coming to an end?

Our 2016-17 Season was a whirlwind of exciting challenges and new endeavors. From a bold exploration of stories of Stolen Sisters to launching our largest high school tour ever, we’re proud of the work we produced in 2016. Here are our top six!

1.SO YOU THINK YOU CAN ACT

12764418_10208315103376539_5385040998690966715_o

Al Simmons – SYTYCA Champion

The year began with an all-star champion ensemble for the fifth annual So You Think You Can Act. Hosted by the incredible and hilarious Lara Rae, The Rage on the Stage featured local celeb favourites Al Simmons, Big Daddy Tazz, Jenna Khan, Tracy Koga, Troy Westwood and Kerri Salki. We rang in our fifth year with our most outrageous panel of judges yet – Ari Weinberg, Pablo Felices-Luna and Andrea Del Campo. We were happy to close out five years of this entertaining fundraiser with a bang.

2.INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S WEEK
cast-with-buffalo-gals

Last March ten amazing women took to the stage in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. The theme was Stolen Sisters. We traveled to new community venues like Thunderbird House and worked with amazing organizations breaking records with attendance. We were so honoured to facilitate the sharing of these crucial perspectives which are all too often silenced.

“As a Manitoba women’s shelter director, I know that our staff hear many stories from women escaping abuse and violence – our work is very challenging.  Today’s monologues were outstanding and I found the theme very relevant to the clients we support. Equally important to me was the ability of the actors to perform such emotionally difficult work.  I further enjoyed an opportunity to chat briefly with the actors, to ask a few questions about the work and their methodologies.  I think I hoped to take away some strategies for the shelter staff – helpers and healers often suffer from vicarious trauma. Thank you for making the Cabaret available to rural audiences – the messages are so important.” – Pam Hadder, Executive Director Agape House-Eastman Crisis Centre

3.BREAKING THROUGH

breakingthrough-kokoanddoctor

Staged reading of Breaking Through

 

In May we watched two years of research and community story-sharing come together in a staged reading of Breaking Through. We shared laughs and shone light into the darkness.

“I saw it this afternoon and as a person living with mental illness I could absolutely relate. It made me feel less alone.” – Audience member

“I absolutely loved it. It was uncomfortably real and in your face. A story that needs to be told.”-Audience member

I honestly loved the play! And I’m so glad you all are putting so much time and effort into it to help educate people and promote social awareness on mental illness. Both as someone working in the mental health field, and as someone with OCD and bi-polar disorder it really means a lot when people actively put hard work into making a difference.” – Audience member

We learned so much from our audience and we can’t wait to mount the full production of Breaking Through in May of 2017!

4.FEMFEST

Seduction Theory (6).jpg

The Seduction Theory

What an unforgettable FemFest! This year we opened with an amazing Cabaret packed with wonderful supporters. We were proud to present such provocative touring shows as Miss Understood, Mouthpiece, as well as clown favorites Morro & Jasp Do Puberty. The world premiere of the previous year’s Bake-Off winner Sherry MacDonald’s The Seduction Theory made a huge impact as audiences discussed the ways we continue to victim-blame.  Believe it or not planning has already begun for FemFest 2017: Coming of Age.

fem16-tweets

fem16-tweets2

testimonial

5.WOMEN’S COMEDY NIGHT

15032696_10153905973161175_2557633172626739937_nWe took a leap and tried something brand new with our comedy fundraiser. We teamed up with Winnipeg’s explosive women comedians to produce the Women’s Comedy Night. The event saw unprecedented success—selling out and packing the venue with an incredible mix of Sarasvàti supporters and comedy fans. We had a blast and you better believe we’ll be doing this again next year.

tweets-womens-comedytweets-women

6. SHATTERED

Cast around Xmas tree.JPGWe are ready for a holiday rest, after finishing off our fall with Shattered. We broke pervious records by performing to 6,161 youth and educators in Manitoba. Shattered has received overwhelming praise from teachers and students alike.

“I discussed the play with both my theatre classes and the overall consensus was that it was fantastic. I even had a colleague stop me in the hall to tell me how moved she was by the performance and the interaction with the kids. This was, bar none, the absolute most engaging piece I have witnessed at our school. Our students really became involved with the piece and I think it resonated powerfully with them all, particularly the message that they are not alone.” – Kim Dudek, Teacher at Murdock MacKay

We want to thank our amazing cast and crew for bringing years of hard work to life.

Of course there were also emerging artist workshops, workshops for youth and story gathering with new communities for future projects! It has truly been a transformative year for us as we continue to challenge artists, audiences and society while promoting and reflecting diversity. Thank you all for helping to make this such a great year. From all of us at Sarasvàti, we wish you and yours an amazing start to 2017!

Advertisements

Hands Up for the Cast & Crew of Shattered!

6,161 is the number of people who saw Shattered this tour. Incredible!

After performing the show a total of 60 times 47 different locations, including 39 high schools in Winnipeg and surrounding areas, what are the moments that stood out to this formidable cast and crew the most?

“My biggest highlight is watching the students who are brave enough to come up and share their own personal stories”, said Erin Cunningham, who was at every performance as Stage Manager. “It’s nice to see not only them feeling brave enough to share their stories, but that the students in the audience are understanding enough to listen and they don’t get judgemental about it.” Erin also put an incredible amount of work into coordinating this year’s tour– a gargantuan task that calls for a standing ovation in itself.

“There have been a few girls that have come up to me after and talked to me about how they have already been to a treatment centre just like I had gone to for my eating disorder” said Kelsey Funk, who has shared her lived experience with the project. Kelsey plays Amanda, a high school student who struggles with an eating disorder unbeknownst to her family and friends. “They tell me that it has been a powerful experience to watch the show and you can kind of see hope in their eyes, so that’s been really great for me.”

photos-from-children-of-the-earth-school-001-17

Performance at Children of the Earth High School

The cast and crew of Shattered set out to make an impact on schools; to engage students in open discussion of mental health, to reach out to those who have experience with mental health issues, and to encourage human understanding among those who have not. The whole team is extremely proud to have made a positive impact on so many young people.

“I enjoyed it because it felt real and it hits you hard”, said a student at Garden City Collegiate.
“I realised that a lot more people in our school had experience with mental illness than I thought”, said a student at Fort Richmond Collegiate.
“I just wanted to say thank you all so much for coming to my school…the message was so powerful and I relate so much to these stories” said a student at John Taylor Collegiate.

Although our cast and crew deserve a much needed break, it’s clear that they will miss spending so much time with each other. “One of my favourite times is when we’re in the passenger van driving to our different locations”, said Reena Jolly who plays Stacy. “You get to bond and just talk to each other on the drive to wherever we’re going. I love that part.”

20161129_093559Touring a performance like this has a profound impact on the performers too. “After the show at Churchill high a student came up to me and she was very, very emotional”, said Erica Wilson, who plays KoKo, a young, two-spirited character in Shattered.  “Her friend is going through a transition where she’s not comfortable with her gender. I was able to explain to her that a lot of girls and a lot of boys feel that way…so it’s a very emotional tour.”

 

We have felt honoured to share these stories with the next generation of Manitobans. We hope that the empathy and understanding they are full of today stays with them as they become adults. Their bravery and acceptance of mental health gives us much hope for the future.

Workshops Open Up the World of Theatre for Youth

Do you have an interest in acting but not sure how to get started? Do you want to learn about other aspects of theatre, like writing for the stage, and directing? Frances Koncan and Sarasvati Productions have put together a FREE theatre workshop series for youth age 16-24 in the North End.

“The purpose of the Sarasvati Youth Theatre Workshop Series is to find and develop the talent and ability of Indigenous and Newcomer Youth who are interested in the arts, especially acting, writing, and directing”, said Koncan. Frances has coordinated the workshop series, bringing local theatre artists on board to help teach and facilitate. The workshops will give priority to youth who are Indigenous, and youth who are newcomers living in the North End.

“These groups are under-represented in the landscape of Canadian theatre”, said Koncan, “these workshops exist to increase access for these youth to explore their interest in theatre and, if they so choose, lead to opportunities to continue their training and work professionally in the theatre industry!”

Youth who participate in the free workshop series will have the opportunity to:

-Meet professionals who work in the arts
-Learn theatre basics in performing, writing, and directing
-Practice and develop new skills
-Play games, enjoy snacks, and meet new people!

For those interested there will be a chance to take part in a continued series of workshops to develop your skills, and opportunities to work professionally with Sarasvàti in the future! So what are you waiting for?

Come to our FREE drop-in theatre workshop on January 11th 2017 from 4:00PM – 6:00PM at Art Kitchen, 508 Selkirk Avenue.

For more information or to register email Frances at frances@sarasvati.ca
A big thank you to funders NECRC and Neighbourhoods Alive!

youth-workshop-poster-dec-11th-2016

The Politics of Art by Fauzia Rafique

Throughout the 16 Days of Action Against Gender-Based Violence we honour the women and girls whose lives have been taken from them. We reflect on the many women and girls for whom violence is a daily reality, and we challenge ourselves to improve the conditions of equality.

Fauzia Rafique is well-versed in using art and activism in support of equality. Fauzia is a novelist, poet, activist, and author of a piece for this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. She has written for Pakistan Television, and published several titles, including The Adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a Relentless Warrior’  (2016), ‘Holier Than Life’ (2013) and ‘Skeena’ (2011) Fauzia blogs about Punjabi literature,  blasphemy and honor killings. We are pleased to share her entry on exploring, coping with, and reconciling violence against women through her art in our blog this week.

 

fauzia-head-shot

Fauzia Rafique – Places that have no names

The Politics of Art
by Fauzia Rafique

In 2008, in a province of Pakistan, five women were buried alive by the male members of their families with support of the local government. What came out among other things was a set of about seven poems in Punjabi, and uncontrollable crying. To this day, i cannot deliver a single one of those poems; when i try, i cry. The same happens when reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved and The Color Purple by Alice Walker. There also are characters, images and sounds i cannot express nor can i get rid of them. In other instances, the pain of knowing or experiencing wrestles with me over years to find expression.

Violence against women is only a part of the violence we experience in our daily lives. State violence against pipeline protesters or land/water protectors; word-violence or bullying in schools, on the street, and on social media; hate speeches against Muslims, Blacks, Aboriginals; constant bombings and dronings of innocent people around the world; the ongoing attacks on the dignity of less privileged people;  and, the daily incidences of police violence against the homeless. Of course, women in all groups experience it in its worst forms and to the highest degrees.

My home is in my art where i try to make sense of the perpetual systemic violence, use it as weapon to resist and to fight, inspiration to create beauty and joy, and, as meditation to stand my ground. It embodies me, and i perpetuate it.

My process is not intellectual, cerebral or emotional but instinctive, and it doesn’t require effort from me to be ‘with it’. Art is not my hobby neither it is a commercial enterprise, and so, i don’t experience the famed ‘writer’s block’; art is life, and there’s no stopping it. When not writing with hands, i write with thoughts, feel the ‘feels’, imagine the real, stretch ideas, challenge forms- all to be able to wriggle out of the numerous constructs built around me with the purpose of enslaving my mind in order to obstruct the independent flight of my imagination.

The question for me is not if my art is political or not, because all and everyone’s art is political. The question is what kind of ‘political’ it is. My art must defend me and my virtual home against systemic violence; it must resist and fight; it must be beautiful, lyrical, joyful; it must provide me solid artistic and emotional ground to take a stand and to be able to defend the politics of my art.


You can find more of Fauzia Rafique’s writing at  gandholi.wordpress.com. See her piece, “Places that have no names”,  performed live on March 11th at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: Starting Over.

 

Starting Over/Finishing Stronger – Ten Powerful Monologues

What do a mystical meeting on a cycling trip across Canada, the inner monologue of a woman’s return to dating after surviving rape, and discovering the cold of Canadian winters have in common? They are all pivotal moments in women’s lives when they must face challenges and forge ahead.

This International Women’s Week Sarasvàti brings you ten engaging stories on the theme of “Starting Over.”

“Character is defined by the choices you make at junctures like these”, said Angie St. Mars co-writer of two pieces, “this year’s Cabaret showcases tangible women characters who define themselves in the moments you see played out before you. It’s exciting and scary and empowering all at once.”

After receiving an amazing array of selections from across Canada, we are honoured to share the final line-up and list of writers. This year our writing contributors include playwrights, poets, and young film makers. With a desire to reflect diverse voices and newcomer experiences our team also worked with women to put their stories in to monologue form.

Take a peek at what we have in store and check out our website for full descriptions.

  • The Pit by Alissa Watson
  • Questions and Answers by Sonya Ballantyne
  • Aabamii (Rise Up) by Madison Thomas
  • Wild Orchid by Bev Brenna
  • Three Totems by Natalie Frijia
  • Places that have no names by Fauzia Rafique
  • Diaspora by Angie St. Mars and Alka Kumar
  • You Say Tomato, I Say…Fine by Angie St. Mars from a story gathered through interviews
  • Lost Girls by Hope McIntyre with the women of IIWR-MB
    Performed and Choreographed by Sydney Macfarlane
  • In My Country by Hope McIntyre with the women of IIWR-MB

Get your tickets now. Performances on March 11 at 4pm and 8pm at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Contact Erin at touring@sarasvati.ca to book a performance at your community venue and stay tuned as we announce the actors!