The Game: a thought-provoking combination of theatre and dance

Have you ever seen the power of classical Indian dance? How about this traditional form combined with six powerhouse female actors? Do not miss the chance to see an exciting hybrid of dance, storytelling, and mythology brought to the stage at FemFest 2018! The story of The Game is taken from The Mahabharata, a Sanskrit epic that is extremely well-known in Indian culture but that you will rarely get to see onstage in Canada. It’s a daunting task to adapt such iconic source material, but Shyamala Dakshinamurti and Sowmya Dakshinamurti have created something truly unique.

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A photo from Manohar Performing Arts of Canada’s dance performance of The Game

We have the honour of producing this new adaptation in collaboration with Manohar Performing Arts of Canada, bringing together six actors and nine dancers under the inspiring direction of Cherissa Richards. Although Shyamala and Sowmya, a playwriting team of two sisters, wrote the script years ago, they have not yet performed it in its original form as a theatre piece. Manohar Performing Arts of Canada previously performed it purely as a movement piece, and now we’re excited to present it as both.

The work will look and sound both classic and contemporary. Classical Indian dance by the incredible and devoted dancers of Manohar is central to the storytelling and adds power that’s impossible to replicate with words. Dancers will be attired traditionally, but designer Joseph Abetria has come up with costumes for the actors that reflect a modern version of the mythological characters. The story may be a classic, but in the time of the #metoo movement, the themes of violation, objectification, silencing, and doubting of women ring true.

What’s unique about The Game is that it tells the story from six different perspectives. It revolves around Draupadi, whose husband makes the mistake of staking her in a game of chance, but you won’t hear her voice until the end. It’s clear that something terrible has happened to her, but you’ll be left to speculate about who’s telling the truth and who’s trying to hide it. The ambiguity is really quite eerie and it is sure to make you think.

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Dancers in action at the first rehearsal at the beginning of August

As if such a fascinating narrative idea wasn’t enough, you’ll also get to marvel at fantastic dancers and strong actors. The dancers are top-notch: such expressive artists and skilled athletes at the same time. The actors are from a range of backgrounds. Together they produce a visual element that makes this piece truly dynamic.

The Game will be performed on Sunday, September 16, at 7:00 pm, Monday, September 17, at 9:00 pm, and Saturday, September 22, at 4:00 pm. All performances are at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. You can buy your tickets here. We hope to see you there!

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OUR HOME & native land: wit and sarcasm thicker than the Indian Act

Who knew that an educational play about the history of the Treaties and how the Canadian government has violated them could be so…funny? And who could write such a play? Jo MacDonald could. And she won last year’s Bake-Off with it!

In case you’re not familiar with it, the Bake-Off is an annual event in FemFest. Playwrights are given just eight hours to “bake” up a scene with three specific “ingredients” (actions or lines) so that they can’t write ahead. The audience is then invited to a reading of these fresh ideas and they get to decide which one has the most potential for a complete play. The winning playwright receives dramaturgical guidance so that they can finish the play and have it read at the following FemFest.

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OUR HOME & native land is about two friends, Niibin and Cheryl, who are leading a workshop called “Understanding the Treaties”. They have their work cut out for them when the self-absorbed Stephanie and the mansplaining George walk in. Neither Stephanie nor George is aware of their privilege, their biases, or their ignorance. When Mrs. Bruneau, warm, friendly, and given to storytelling, comes in, it becomes clear that she does not need the workshop so much as it needs her. She helps Niibin and Cheryl win their reluctant guests over, but you’ll have to come and find out how. The only spoilers that we can give you are that it’s outrageously funny and will make you curious (and angry) about the history of the treaties and how our government has violated them.

In OUR HOME & native land, Jo MacDonald proves herself to be a sharply witty and engaging writer. Recently, her play Mother’s Little Secret was performed to packed houses at the Fringe Festival, directed by our wonderful Indigenous Outreach Coordinator, Marsha Knight. Her play Neechie-Itas was a runner-up in the Native American New Play Festival in Oklahama City. Jo was a big hit at last year’s FemFest and she will be again this year. In fact, her work was also selected to be featured in the FemFest One Night Stand as part of the festival closing night.

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Don’t miss this brand-new play—there will be just one reading at 1:00 pm on Saturday, September 15 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. You can get your tickets here!

Sound of the Beast: speaking truth to power

In March 2013, Tunisian rapper Ala Yaacoub, also known as Weld El 15, was sentenced to two years in prison for his song Boulicia Kleb (The Police Are Dogs). It was his response to police violence, a cause for anger if ever there was one. Donna-Michelle St. Bernard pays tribute to Weld El 15 in her solo show Sound of the Beast, produced by Theatre Passe Muraille with direction and dramaturgy by Andy McKim and Jivesh Parasram. The piece has continued to evolve since its first performance, so FemFest audiences will get to see the latest version of the piece.

Sound of the Beast is part of Donna-Michelle’s project to write one play inspired by each of the 54 countries in Africa. Yes, that means 54 plays. And yes, she’s an amazing playwright. She’s been nominated for the Governor General’s award. Twice. In Sound of the Beast, Donna-Michelle brings a story from Tunisia to a stage in Canada to remind us that police violence doesn’t just happen far away (or just south of the border). With the passionate power of storytelling, spoken word, and hip-hop, Donna-Michelle calls out the Toronto police for their gun violence, particularly against people of colour.SoundoftheBeast photo by Michael Cooper

Lynn Slotkin’s review states that “Donna-Michelle St. Bernard tells a gripping, compelling story that is happening all over the world. Her stories and their telling are not clichéd into sameness. Each one is perceptively drawn, calmly told, clearly illuminated and will make you suck air for all the right reasons. She is a compelling presence who tells a vital story.” Chris Klippenstein emphasises in his review that Donna-Michelle “get(s) the audience to realize something about themselves” and describes the piece as an “intense, memorable constellation of storytelling.”

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There’s a 100% chance that Sound of the Beast will make you feel something. Don’t believe me? There’s only one way to find out. Get your tickets here! You can see it at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film on Thursday, September 20, at 1:00 pm (followed by a talkback), Friday, September 21, at 9:00 pm, or Saturday, September 22, at 7:00 pm. You can also catch Donna-Michelle’s Real Thing lecture on Wednesday, September 19, at 12:30 pm. You won’t be disappointed!