Learn from the Pros at FemFest 2018!

Ever sit in the theatre and wonder how the show was created? How the artist chose the topic? What training did they do to get to where they are? We have such an incredible line-up in store for this year’s FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance – now you can learn the process behind these powerful productions! In addition to taking in phenomenal performances, there will also be plenty of opportunities to hear from and interact with the amazing artists in this year’s festival.

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-16-46-23.pngThese sessions are so popular that one is already full! On Sunday, September 16th, we’ll be hosting our Devising from the Real World workshop with Burnt performer Norah Paton. Burnt was created using a “devised theatre” process, taking interviews from Burning Man participants and forming the collection of stories into a play. Paton’s style in particular focuses on the real world, hinging on documentary theatre. Using this approach, participants will learn ways to create work by drawing inspiration from their own personal, social, and political worlds. Space is currently sold out – contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca to be put on the waitlist!

2016_TPM 2016-17 - SOTB - web.PNGYou can also hear from Sound of the Beast powerhouse Donna-Michelle St. Bernard at her Real Thing Lecture presented in partnership with the University of Winnipeg Department of Theatre and Film. This lecture series focuses on that big question every young artist is dying to answer: how can I find my start in the real world? Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, a.k.a. “Belladonna the Blest”, will talk about her career as an emcee, playwright, and agitator using her experience in the “real world” of theatre and film. You can hear from her September 19th at 12:30PM at the U of W. Or if you are the type who loves to discuss a performance afterwards, come see the show on September 20th at 1pm and stick around after for a talkback with the artist.

White Man's Indian.jpgThere is also a chance to discuss the powerful play White Man’s Indian with both the writer/performer Darla Contois as well as a panel of community members who have experience with the content. White Man’s Indian follows the story of Eva, a Cree teenage girl, and her journey through the maze of a White Man’s high school. It is a hilarious quest for identity and spirituality. While the story by Contois sheds light on the harsh reality of growing up as an Indigenous girl in a white space, many themes of identity, discrimination and bullying are explored. The play encourages dialogue about the effects the systems have on Indigenous communities, specifically youth. Join the panel discussion after the 7PM performance on September 18th to discuss the complex issues tackled by the play.

One Night Stand Poster April 11That’s not all – we’re also bringing back our One Night Stand series to FemFest! This series gives playwrights the opportunity to test their work, while providing audiences a chance to take part in the developmental process. You can hear from some of our most celebrated playwrights and get a sneak peek at their latest projects. After curating our events at FemFest 2017 and the 2018 Carol Shields Festival at Prairie Theatre Exchange, host Tatiana Carnevale will show off what’s new from playwrights Leigh-Anne Kehler, Frances Koncan, Jo MacDonald, Cairn Moore, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. Our talented readers for this year’s series include Melanee Deschambeault, Katie German, Kimberly Kakegamic, Glenn Odero, Matthew Paris-Irvine, and Erica Wilson.

With so much to take in, you won’t want to miss a thing! Check out our full FemFest schedule for a list of all the incredible events you can check out at this year’s festival, running September 15-22.

 

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FemFest Opens with an Explosion of Talent

Now entering its 16th year, FemFest continues to celebrate women in theatre, representing women artists from across the nation. Since 2003, FemFest has provided a supportive environment for women in theatre and the performing arts. The theme this year for FemFest is Resistance, an idea that could not have been better represented than in the works of this year’s artists. While community members can enjoy riveting plays from artists like Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Darla Contois and Norah Paton, our annual Opening Cabaret is jam-packed with Winnipeg artists, a must for this year’s FemFest.

The Opening Cabaret features a variety of multidisciplinary artists from Winnipeg’s dynamic arts community. As Sarasvàti Productions builds inspiring theatre that challenges perceptions and affects change in our community, this year’s Cabaret artists take the theme Resistance to another level. From comedy to film, choreography, dramatic arts and music, there’s no shortage of talent amongst this dynamic group that audiences won’t enjoy.

FemFest and theatre enthusiasts alike can look forward to a high-energy showcase with a total of nine acts that represent the definition of diversity in Winnipeg’s art-scene. Whether you’re listening to the vocal stylings of up-and-coming music sensation Rychelle Thompson, the artful technique of DJ Louie Lovebird, or even the raw and undeniably hilarious truth from the WOKE Comedy Collective with Dione C. Haynes and Elissa Black Wolf Kixen, these Cabaret artists bring a unique edge to the table.

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Given that Sarasvàti Productions champions programming that is diverse and inclusive to narratives from all walks of life, we are thrilled to showcase this incredible group of artists, creating an evening that is inviting and fun for everyone. For those wondering who else is on our roster this year we are happy to have the following acts a part of our 16th annual Opening Cabaret.

If you love challenging the at-times overwhelming exhibits of male privilege throughout your daily life, then these ladies have the best way for you to join in challenging the misogyny! Meet Ady Kay & Victoria Emilie Hill, the two brilliant minds of the group called The Patriarchy: a comedic a capella duo ready to smash the patriarchy with their ridiculous personalities and singing abilities.

If visual art is also of interest, audience members can look forward to an artist talk with one of Winnipeg’s emerging artist from MAWA (Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art). Sue Hoang is a multidisciplinary artist whose work has a comical way of looking at the world in order to create a sense of belonging. From visual to performance art, these two delightful souls bring absolute genius to the comedy game in Winnipeg. Whether you catch them at their monthly community comedy showcase or saw them at this year’s Fringe Festival, Dione C Haynes and Elissa Black Wolf Kixen (co-founders of WOKE Comedy Collective) will leave you holding your sides all night and in tears from honest and hilarious storytelling, demanding your attention with their charming yet intriguing comedy routine. Then listen to the powerful and refreshing vocals from up-and-coming vocalist Rychelle Thompson whose energetic and soulful voice will have you tapping your feet along to her unique and enriching voice. For such a young talent, Rychelle is on her way to making quite an impression on Winnipeg’s music community.

We couldn’t have a showcase without film! Bank Statement from filmmaker Tyshana Hobson follows the story of a young Indigenous woman who gets questioned by a teller when she makes her bi-weekly cash deposits at her local bank. Bringing nothing but raw realities and truth through cinematic perfection, Tyshana’s film will leave you both enlightened and intrigued. If film is your favourite pastime, you will absolutely adore ‘Frequently Asked Questions About My Hair’ by actor Lorraine James, a longstanding talent in Winnipeg’s acting community whose work will leave you more educated on the everyday situations Black women get into living and just existing in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Moving from dramatic to performance and movement arts, the breathtaking and ever-so technical-stylings of dance duo Maribeth Tabanera & Tracy Tomchuk, with their piece titled Energy Prevalence, will have you signing up for their next dance workshop. Moving into another medium of artistic expression, spoken word; this show would not be complete without the words from poet, writer and political-activist Sadie Phoenix-Lavoie (co-founder of Red Rising Magazine).

Ending off the night in a stellar way is local artist, DJ Louie Lovebird (Lou Gandier), a powerhouse talent that will have you running to dance floor when they drop the most intense music mashups to get you grooving at Winnipeg’s local nightlife scene.

We could not be more happy to present this incredible group of artists celebrating Resistance for FemFest 16th year at our Opening Cabaret. Save the date, Saturday, September 15 at The Asper Centre for Theatre and Film starting at 7:00PM with free reception (with food provided from Garbonzos at the U of W AnX) after the cabaret!

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.”

Sound of the Beast
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!