Introducing Liz Whitbread

By Liz Whitbread

LizWhen I found out that I was going to be Sarasvàti Productions’ new Assistant Artistic Director, I experienced a wild rush of feelings. I felt overwhelmed! Delighted! Shocked! Sweaty! Above all, I felt EXCITED and TERRIFIED – two emotions that I’ve found, more often than not, go together in a surprisingly wonderful way.

The EXCITEMENT came first, of course. Sarasvàti is a company I’ve admired for years – they gave me some of my first professional acting gigs as an emerging artist. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of an organization that makes art that aligns with my values; to support other emerging artists; and to have a voice in the ongoing dialogue in our country about making our theatre communities safe, equitable and inclusive.

On a more selfish level, accepting the job at Sarasvàti meant that, after three years of living and working in Toronto, I would get to come home to Winnipeg. Toronto is a wild and wonderful city, and I was lucky to get some amazing creative opportunities there. However, after a sequence of family health scares in the spring, I started to re-examine my priorities. Was the work I was doing in Toronto fulfilling enough to justify keeping 2000 km between me and so many of my loved ones? More and more, I was starting to feel like it wasn’t.

And then I saw the Sarasvàti job posting. And I felt the way you feel when you mention to70818652_10220895114030391_2738919104428638208_n.jpg someone that you’re thinking about buying a new couch, and then all of a sudden all of your Instagram targeted ads are for couches. And so I applied, because it seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Of course, because of the imposter syndrome that I and so many of us suffer from, I didn’t actually believe I was going to GET the job. I thought I’d apply, maybe have a nice interview and get my foot back in the door of the Winnipeg theatre scene, in preparation for my eventual move back to the city – whenever that might be.

What I ABSOLUTELY didn’t expect was that I would get a call in August from Hope McIntyre and a few Board members offering me the job, and asking me to be back in Winnipeg for opening night of their 17th annual FemFest on September 14th – just over 3 weeks away.

Which is where the TERROR comes in. First of all, accepting the job meant that my moving-back-to-Winnipeg plan was being pushed up from ‘maybe sometime in the next 6-8 months’ to ‘RIGHT NOW!!’ I had to quit my job, sublet my apartment, figure out how to move across the country, find a place in Winnipeg – all on a very tight deadline.  Not only that, but by accepting this job I was agreeing to take on the responsibility of potentially running Sarasvàti as Artistic Director one day in the near future, as well as upholding and continuing the 20+ year legacy of a successful and lovingly maintained company. There was so much I didn’t know! I didn’t even KNOW how much I didn’t know! Were they making a huge mistake? Was I?

DSC_0431.JPGThe beautiful thing about Terror and Excitement working in tandem is that, in my experience, they don’t leave you much time or energy to overthink. You’re forced into action. And so I said YES, and figured it out.

I am WILDLY fortunate to have an incredible support system of family and friends who helped me every step of the way – offering me places to stay, helping me move, baking me cookies, generally being unbelievably generous.

And once I arrived in Winnipeg, and was tossed into the wonderful chaos that is a week-long theatre festival, the Sarasvàti staff, Board of Directors, FemFest production team and artists were all SO supportive and welcoming that Terror immediately began to take a backseat to Excitement – Excitement about the wonderful community I was entering into!

Now, a month in to my new job, the Terror is still there. It still pipes up when I’m given a71787010_10157774363937533_2602194601586458624_n new task, attend a Board meeting, or am faced with writing a big grant. But Excitement really runs the show now.  I still don’t know how much I don’t know – but luckily I have a whole support system filling in those gaps and helping me learn. I am so grateful to be part of the Sarasvàti team, and TERRIFIED and EXCITED for everything that’s coming next!


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