The Road to Reconciliation

“What are you going to do about the way this country treats Indigenous People,” asked Senator Murray Sinclair at the Winnipeg Foundation’s recent Vital Conversation. It is not an easy question. The word reconciliation is being used a lot lately, but not always with a full understanding of what it means let alone what it will require. Sarasvàti Productions is grappling with the role of theatre and the arts in this important process. Thanks to funding from the Winnipeg Foundation, we’re gearing up for the first phase of a long-term project. With the hard work of our Project Coordinator Nova Courchene, Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator Marsha Knight, Visual Artist Jaime Black, Graphic Designer Justin Bear, and the guidance of our Indigenous Advisory Committee, we are putting together an exciting public launch of the project from May 4 to 9.

 

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[Poster] Sarasvati - 7 CirclesThroughout April we will be working on Seven Circles, visioning sessions with youth. Seven organizations will host a space for youth to brainstorm and decide the parameters for a series of arts-based workshops. We are grateful to Children of the Earth High School, Indigenous Leadership Development Institute, The Knowles Centre, Manitoba Youth Centre, Marymound School, Ndinawe, and Wahbung Abinoonjiiag for their partnership.

At the May launch, Jaime Black will share what was heard in these consultation circles through an art installation. This presentation is part of our full project launch with a chance to share what we have heard as well as gather the community together for wider input. We’ll also be hosting a reading of Jo MacDonald’s OUR HOME & Native Land, winner of the 2017 FemFest Bake-Off. Director Heidi Malazdrewich and Dramaturg Yvette Nolan will be on board to help with the development of the play. This comedic piece about treaty rights will help to frame discussion and encourage public input.

The public presentation will take place on:

  • Saturday, May 4th at 2pm
  • Tuesday, May 7th at 1pm
  • Wednesday, May 8th at 10am
  • and Thursday, May 9th at 7pm

Members of the public are more than welcome to attend! Admission to this event is pay-what-you-can-afford at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W).

However, this is just the starting point for the project.  From June to November, workshops will take place at our partner organizations. Using storytelling, the youth will translate their experiences into different art forms. This first phase of the project will bring together youth, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and artists in several mediums.

Then in May 2020 a full public performance of the resulting work will take place. As a true community collaboration, what this performance will include will come directly from the youth so remains to be seen, created, dreamt and realized.

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Saying Goodbye to IWW 2019

Another great International Women’s Week has come and gone! After a community tour that took our team all across Manitoba, our Cabaret of Monologues wrapped up with two public performances on March 9th. In total 860 people saw the work.

This year we traveled further than ever before with two community performances in Flin Flon and The Pas! Brand-new audiences across the province got to take in inspiring and powerful performances, bringing the stories of hilarious, strong, resilient women to communities that don’t normally get to experience the power of live theatre.

 

 

I saw just a few performances at a fundraiser for Agape House, and they absolutely blew me away. I’ll never be the same. I feel empowered, transformed, electrified. I am officially a huge fan and can’t wait to see more! Bravo to all involved. Bravo!” – Agape House Audience Member

Stop hiding away and embrace your story so you can love yourself, then you can love the world. I honestly just feel so strong and confident now, with such a clear purpose.” – Agape House Audience Member

 

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We teamed up with classes at the University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba to share stories of sexuality, addiction, and disability with students. Our performers also entertained the youth of West Broadway Youth Outreach’s Girls World program, inspiring the kids to share their own stories of empowerment!

 “It was wonderful to have the Sarasvati performers in my class. I appreciated the opportunity to have ideas related to the class presented in such an engaging and dynamic way, and especially to have a chance to talk to the performers afterwards about what the pieces meant to them. Students learned both from the performances and from the discussion afterwards.” – Dr. Jocelyn Thorpe

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Sarasvàti Productions for a couple years now – selecting works from their annual Cabaret of Monologues – and it’s always been an excellent experience. The Cabaret of Monologues provides such a wonderful array of performance art that is sure to please many audiences. The performers/performances are diverse, strong, intriguing, thought-provoking, heartwarming, humbling, enlightening, and more! The SP staff are always eager and available to accommodate requests that help me put on a good show. The work that they do is not only important but necessary! I hope that their work and programming continue year after year.” Mubo Christine Ilelaboye, Community Groups Coordinator, University of Manitoba Womyn’s Centre

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“That was really fun, it’s so cool one person could make it so alive without a stage or other actors or anything fancy like that! Like a one woman show!”

“We really want to write our own play about women empowerment and how strong women are.”

“I’m so glad we got to do this for Women’s day, we should do this again!”West Broadway Youth Outreach Girls World Participants

 

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We also featured our full line-up at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, pairing our performers with the museum’s exhibitions to share the call for equality and the stories of ground-breaking women.

 “It was an exceptional experience for us, as well. To see our spaces filled with so many people and alive with this programming was a true highlight! Thank You!”Chandra Erlendson, Manager of Public Programs at Canadian Museum for Human Rights

 

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Thank you to everyone who made this year’s Cabaret such a success: from our incredible performers, our hardworking staff and production team, our amazing volunteers, and all the wonderful audiences who helped us put women’s stories in the spotlight! We’ll see you next year for another exciting Cabaret celebrating the experiences of women everywhere.

 

One Night Stand Returns for Its Third Year!

We’re bringing back our One Night Stand series for another year! In this first round, playwrights from our Advanced Playwriting Class will have their work read and workshopped by a team of actors. The public reading will give the writers a chance to gain valuable audience feedback as they continue working on their scripts.

The One Night Stand play-reading series was created in the late 1990s by two playwrights in Toronto (Lindsay Price and Bonnie Anderson).  Sarasvàti Productions ran them regularly from 2003 to 2008, bringing the series back for a revival in 2017. The goal of the series is to provide playwrights the opportunity to get feedback from an audience on new material and/or works-in-progress.  We’ve already hosted one great session this year at FemFest 2018 – stay tuned for the other installments we have planned for this year.

Read on for more on the pieces we’ll be featuring!

Gettin’ Outta Dodge by Wayne Ferguson
Attracted by the beauty of the mountains, seduced by the affluent lifestyle, native Banffites and newcomers chase their desires for high social position, their dreams of heroic alpine accomplishments, and their fantasies of unflagging sexual prowess. They are incapable of confronting and dealing with the reality of disappointment. What will be the consequences for them?

The Wrong Way off the Elevator by Andrea Kell

Marlene Wells has come to the law office where her daughter worked until a few weeks ago when she committed suicide. Marlene has come to meet her daughter’s former boss, Mr. Ford, hoping he will be able to provide her with some closure. But Ford, being so uncomfortable with the subject, decides not to correct Marlene when she mistakenly assumes he’s the new receptionist, Mr. Curtis.

Favourites by Jo MacDonald
For Abqurah and her friend Jol, working safely is a guarantee among all their favourites at the big chain grocery store. Or is it? As judgements are made and like bruised fruit, they are quickly deemed unacceptable by one whose bitter palate clings to “past the due date” ideals.

Hearing Tanya by Lynne Martin
Brittany and Coulter’s long-term relationship gets thrown for a loop when Inuit artist Tanya Tagaq’s music unexpectedly penetrates their lives. Complicated by the unwelcome arrival of Brittany’s out-of-control sister Caitlyn, their responses reveal long-buried fears, desires, and (of course) family secrets.

(Don’t) Wake Me Up by Allison Stier
Jane is convinced that the recurring dream of a man’s death signals the start of her life’s purpose — saving the people in her dreams from peril in the waking world. Unfortunately, she can’t make out the who, where, or when — perhaps a hypnotist can help her find clarity?

The Dance by Tyler White

May, an 80 year old woman, is trying to adjust to her move into a seniors’ complex after the death of her husband four months earlier.

Karla by Pamela Wolk

After a decade living in the Caribbean, Chrystal and her family move back home to an ordinary suburban life in Canada, but when her true identity is revealed, she must choose between going back into hiding or facing her gruesome past.

Bringing the pieces to life are local performers Cheryl Gensiorek, A.J. Hotomani, Matt Irvine, Lorraine James, Kevin Longfield, Merri-Lou Paterson, Taesia Scratch, Glenn Odero, and Tom Young.

You can see what’s new from these up-and-coming playwrights on Tuesday, March 19th at 7PM. This session will take place in the Gendis Studio at Prairie Theatre Exchange (3rd Floor, 393 Portage Ave). Admission is pay-what-you-can-afford. Come out and support the latest works from emerging playwrights!

Get to know the Artists Behind IWW 2019!

Hard to believe our 2019 Cabaret of Monologues is coming up so fast! This week, get to know the amazing performers behind this year’s event.

How would you describe yourself to a stranger?

Amelia Warkentin, The LightFishers: I am a student, a friend, a daughter, and a very flawed human that recognizes each day as a blessing.

Brooklyn Alice Lee, Sunday Morning Brunch: An empathetic animal lover with a passion for playing make-believe.

Kim Kakegamic, Who’s Driving: I’ll tell you how someone recently described me – friendly, quirky and fun. So that’s what I’ll go with! I work as a writer and I’ve always loved the arts and performing. Although I am an introvert who prefers to stay home, so maybe the best word to use is “dichotomic”.

Lauren Marshall, Geraldine Sloan: 90% my mother, 64.5% bad at math, 17% Mrs. Bennett, 15% Jo March, 5% Harry Potter at the moment in Order of the Phoenix when he’s waiting for mail to arrive at the Dursleys’ and it never comes.

Renee Hill, Oracle Jane: I am a friendly, creative person who enjoys people. I am a stay-at-home mother who maintains her sanity through creativity!

 

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How do you feel connected to your piece?

Amelia: I have visited family in a psychiatric ward and I am very aware of how mental health services operate. I can relate to the anxiety expressed throughout the piece and understand the detrimental effects of addiction.

Brooklyn: I feel connected to the dry, blunt humour of Josephine – she and I are very alike in that way.  I like the complete honesty of the piece. It’s unique, raunchy, and relatable even if you yourself haven’t been in the character’s situation.

Lauren: I love Geraldine because she is fighting for the thing she wants, despite what the people close to her expect her to be. I so strongly identify with that. I’m lucky to have supportive friends and family, but I get her. When I overhear, “She’s still trying to make it as an actress?” it drives me crazy. Just believe in me, for crying out loud! Stop saying no.

Hailley Rhoda, Talking about ED: I live with two invisible disabilities, and have since birth. The older I get, the more I realize how much living with them has shaped me. I wanted to be brave enough to speak some of the uncomfortable truths on stage in the hopes it helped spread that feeling to a wider audience.

Kim: Janet has a lot to say about a wide variety of issues and I feel connected to her opinions, how she turns things on their heads. Again, it’s the writing I really connect with. Plus Janet’s sassiness!

Nan Fewchuk, Thelma and Louise: As I grow older, I think so much more about my own mortality and have come to fully realize what really matters in life. I am so grateful for all of the good times and the wacky times, and for all of my family, friends, teachers, mentors,  coaches, and kind strangers who have taught me so much about life; how to  love, forgive, and journey forward.

Renee: I am interested in exploring how Ying comes to terms with how her innovative technology has negatively impacted marginalized people.  I am curious about the role of culture and its impact on success as well as the difficulty of coming to terms with our mistakes.

Shereen Ramprashad, I Am NOT a Victim: I wrote I Am NOT a Victim at a time when there was a lot of anti-Semitism against the Muslim community. The poem is a defiant cry against society’s need to repress and control women from being their true authentic selves.

Wanda Wilson, Bare Bones: My piece is my life – it is the story of the turning point in my life. I sobered up. I got my life back.

 

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How does your piece relate to the theme of embracing identity?

Hailley: This piece is the most of myself I’ve ever put onstage. Usually I get the mask of someone else’s words, or the framework of a pre-existing story to work behind. This is just me, and my lived experience: talking about the realities of living with disability in a way that I haven’t yet been brave enough to do.

Nan: When I was a little girl, my mom said to me, “Nan, one day you are going to wake up and you will be 40.” Well, I closed my eyes and opened them at fifty-seven years young. And here I am. No regrets. Forever grateful.

Shereen: The drive for my practise comes from my experiences as a kid not understanding why I had little connection to the world around me, why I couldn’t read numbers and symbols, or why my brain never shuts off. Most of all, why people felt it was all right to dehumanize me because of my skin colour and obvious learning difficulties. Once I understood how my brain worked, I was able to turn what is perceived as a disability into an outstanding ability.

Wanda: I’ve never shared my story before. It has been thirteen years and I still feel I have so much more to learn but I’m ready. It’s time. I know a lot of other people are hurting and one of several things I have learned in sobriety is that you are not alone.

 

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The team behind IWW 2019 out on tour!

You can see all these incredible artists in action on Saturday, March 9th! Get your tickets today!