Setting up the new office with Frances!

Greetings readers,

Welcome to my blog post. The “my” in question is me and the “me” in question is Frances Koncan, incoming artistic director of Sarasvàti Productions.

As the company says goodbye to two decades of dynamic leadership by founder and outgoing artistic director Hope McIntyre, we’re also saying What’s Good? too many new and exciting things, including a brand new office space located in the heart of the Exchange District.

But what does it take to put a new office together? What does the process entail? Great question. Stay curious. I can’t answer that, because Wren and an enthusiastic group of volunteers who were not in any way coerced to help did all the heavy lifting.

But decorating? That, so far, has been me. I love pretty things and I love making things look pretty. I think this stems from my lived experience of being not pretty but able to trick people with makeup.

Our new office space is in no way complete, as we have many more serious things to attend to, like school tours, and balancing budgets, and worrying about the upcoming presidential election even though it doesn’t directly impact us. But we wanted to give you a little taste of where we’re at so far, aesthetically speaking.

Welcome to 415-70 Arthur Street.

As you enter the heritage building, you will be struck and awed by the main foyer, which features a ceiling lamp of undetermined origin. Your journey will take you straight ahead towards a digital listing of the building occupants. To your left, will be the stairwell and the elevator. Choose your path forward and come on up to Unit 415. Don’t forget your mask!

Our new office space is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., during which time you will find any one or all of us present to assist you. Often you will also find the office therapy dog, Tucker, napping on the floor. He is a very good boy and enjoys pets and snacks.

a photograph of a black large dog wearing a purple harness that reads "emotional support". In the background is a green apple coloured wall with an arm charm and a lighting tree.

Right before moving into the office, I spent a weekend refreshing the paint with a colour scheme that incorporated our collective favourite colour, purple and pulled together the remaining green and blue walls with a pop of coral. I was later informed that the green and coral colour scheme was also the colour scheme of the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, so I somewhat regret making that paint choice. But it’s too late to change because I am too lazy to change it, so here we are!

Green apple painted wall with a white counter in front that has a microwave and coffee mugs. In front of the counter is a small patio chair and table set with a bottle of sanitizer and two mugs on top.

In the main room, you’ll find a tiny fridge, multiple coffee mugs, and – hopefully, someday in the near future – an espresso machine. Our printer also lives here, as does a collection of valuable artwork by Carl Beam, that was donated to us many years ago. Should we auction it off or frame it and put it up in the office? Vote in the comments!

Entering the room on your right, you’ll find Wren and angelica. As you can see, I am the decorative brains behind this all.

a view from the floyer on looking two rooms with their doors open. The room on the left is painted green and has a desk inside. The room on the right is painted coral and in front of the door is the black large dog.

Now, enter the room on your left. What’s that intoxicating scent? It’s the smell of rain falling on freshly cut grass. Let the seafoam and green apple walls wrap you in their summertime vibes. With 5 new plants from Verde Plant Shop (one of them might be dying, but I’m trying my best, I swear) and an overarching accent colour of rose gold, I’m so happy to be able to carve out a comfortable space to learn and create in.

Frances Koncan sitting at their computer desk typing.

I know many people look down upon the things I talked about in this blog as frivolous or unnecessary, but holding space for each other and ourselves is important, and making sure that space feels good is important, too.

Frances Koncan sitting and reading while petting her dog.

So, I encourage all of you to refresh your own space! Get a new plant; touch up some paint; steal my dog; transition into a new role guiding a theatre company during a global pandemic. It’ll all work out, I promise.


Meet the new team of Sarasvàti!

We are going through an exciting time of transition here at Sarasvàti, we are thrilled to announce our new trifecta that will lead the company beyond its first 20 years in Winnipeg! Our new team consists of Frances Koncan as Artistic Director, Wren Brian as Office Manager, and angelica schwartz as Marketing and Community Outreach Manager. Let’s get to know them better!

What are your pronouns?

Wren: She/They.

angelica: they/she.

Frances: She/They.

What is your sun sign?

Wren: Pisces.

angelica: Cancer.

Frances: Taurus.

Where were you born?

Wren: Whitehorse, Yukon – Territory of the Kwanlin Dün & Ta’an Kwäch’än.

angelica: “you were born on a very sunny day!!!!” – text from my mom, I was born on a sunny day on Treaty 1 Territory.

Frances: I was born in Fort Frances, Ontario on Treaty 3 territory. I like to spread the rumour that they named the town after me.

When did you know you wanted to work in theatre?

Wren: Around age 10 when I learned about the high school Music Arts Drama Program and wanted to be in it after seeing their shows

angelica: When I was nine years old, my sister forced me to watch the 2005 musical movie Phantom of the Opera with Gerard Butler, and I never looked back.

Frances: In 2007-2008, I saw the original Spring Awakening on Broadway a lot and would always sit onstage. The cast always made it so much fun to be there and being welcomed over and over again and getting to know everyone as artists and as people made me realize that things, I thought were impossible dreams were totally possible. When I graduated in 2010, I had no idea what to do with my life, so I turned to some of the actors in that show for advice to help me decide between going to law school or pursuing writing and theatre. So here I am. Because when Jonathan Groff tells you to do something, you do it.

What was the first play you ever saw?

Wren: Cinderella or Wizard of Oz…community theatre group at the Yukon Arts Centre!

angelica: The first stage show I ever saw was an international tour of Hairspray. In this production, the two actors who played Edna and Wilber broke character on stage and they took a whole ten minutes to recover from their laughter. When I came out of the theatre, I found my car was broken into and I started laughing in shock for about ten minutes. I remember thinking: wow, theatre is as unpredictable as life.

Frances: The first musical I ever saw was Grease and the second was CATS. I don’t remember what the first play I ever saw was, but the first memory I have was seeing Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane in The Odd Couple, which I thought was brilliant at the time because I was an innocent naïve youth full of hope. It was probably not that good. I was just star-struck by Ferris Bueller.

What is your greatest fear?

Wren: Toss-up between being afraid of not being a good person and dying without having really lived/enjoyed life. Both have kept me up at night and exacerbated the latter fear.

angelica: Drowning. I had an intense near-death experience last summer and now anything to do with being submerged or traveling through water freaks me out. I should maybe learn how to swim…

Frances: It used to be being forgotten and not accomplishing anything with my life. I think that’s still the case, but now I’m honestly just too exhausted to be afraid anymore. Also, clowns.

Who is your favourite playwright?

Wren: Sarah Kane.

angelica: Young Jean Lee or Larry Tremblay.

Frances: It’s Tennessee Williams, I’m sorry, I wish it wasn’t a white guy, but it is.

Andrew Lloyd Webber has asked you to re-direct the CATS film with your dream cast – who do you cast as the Rum Tum Tugger?

Wren: You could not pay me enough to direct a musical film. Tried film and directing, neither are my forte nor bring me joy, just burnout.

angelica: I lasted 20 minutes in the 2019 movie before I fell asleep, which means I have a lot of opinions on the movie and contrary to popular belief, I think Billy Porter would make an excellent Rum Tum Tugger.

Frances: Okay I have thought a lot about this since December 2019 when I first experienced CATS the movie directed by Tom Hooper starring Jason Derulo as the Rum Tum Tugger. If I was asked to direct a reboot of CATS, I would firstly insist it should be a miniseries with each episode focusing on a specific cat. Secondly, I would go a little against type and cast Timothee Chalamet as the Rum Tum Tugger. While not the physically commanding presence one might expect from a Mr. Tum Tugger, I am confident he could pull it off.

What is one issue facing local theatre that you are most passionate about amplifying and improving?

Wren: Local creators, particularly emerging that are telling stories/perspectives that have not or rarely get seen.

angelica: Winnipeg theatre is extremely behind on conversations within race, accessibility, and gender, and I hope to work towards collaborative action within our community to move us into the future.

Frances: Western theatre was built on a foundation of racism and it’s time to do some renovations.

Drop your socials here:

Wren: Not good at social media, but I’m sort of active on Instagram: @wrenbrian – website is – I still enjoy emailing.

angelica: I deleted all social media except Instagram at the beginning of the pandemic but now working with Sarasvàti, I will be on the socials again soon. Stay tuned but for now HMU on insta: @aschwartz.jpg

Frances: Twitter: @franceskoncan | Tiktok: @franceskoncan | Insta: @franceskoncan | LinkedIn: lol | Snapchat: @franceskoncan | YouTube: @franceskoncan | Vine: RIP

Frances, Wren, and angelica will be spending the next few months together in our new office space at 70 Arthur St, in the Exchange District, dreaming of the future of Sarasavàti. Stay tuned for their exciting plans come 2021!

Note 10:55am: In retrospect, Frances believes her answers are too long but refuses to edit them.

Wren Brian (she/they) started her diverse career in Whitehorse, Yukon (territory of the Kwanlin Dün & Ta’an Kwäch’än) where she was born and raised. Currently based in Winnipeg on Treaty 1, Wren is a playwright as well as an arts administrator and producer. In 2014/15 she did a short contract as the Emerging Artist in Residence at Sarasvàti. After four years gaining experience at a variety of contract jobs in theatre and film, she was happy to come back as a part-time Administrator in January 2019. For more information on her playwriting visit

angelica schwartz (they/them) is a director and collective creator born on Treaty 1 Territory (Winnipeg, MB). schwartz has had the pleasure to collaborate with some exceptional companies including All Out Arts in NYC, Buddies in Bad Times, Electric Theatre Company, The Chop Theatre, SpiderWebShow, ITSAZOO, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, and more. After graduating the National Theatre School of Canada and Studio 58, schwartz has returned to Treaty 1 Territory with a hunger to reconnect and expand their community. In addition to schwartz’s work as an artist, they enjoy fine coffee, perusing TikTok, and attending a biweekly queer bookclub.

Frances Kocan (she/they) is a playwright, director and journalist of mixed Anishinaabe and Slovene descent hailing from Couchiching First Nation in Treaty 3 territory. After graduating with an MFA in Playwriting from Brooklyn College, she returned to Winnipeg and has been active in the theatre scene ever since. You might know her writing from plays like Women of the Fur Trade (RMTC Warehouse, 2019/20 Season) and from articles in the Winnipeg Free Press. “I am enormously excited to be joining the Sarasvàti team and to continue to champion the work of under-represented artists, voices and stories through the transformative and radical possibilities of theatre,” said Frances Koncan.

Wren Brian (top left), angelica schwartz (top right), Frances Koncan (bottom left), Bernadette Peters (bottom right).

Hitting the Highway

Every two years we hit the road with an original, interactive performance for middle and high schools. Of course this year will look a little different. We won’t be renting a van and hitting the literal road. The digital highway will have to do this year.

Seven Visions will allow students to experience reconciliation. It will be a virtual experience, but a way that we can still share the insightful, powerful, and profound stories of over 70 Indigenous youth who worked with us over the last two years. In August we brought a socially distanced and livestreamed performance of Songide’ewin to general audiences. Since then, our youth consultants have helped to craft the original source material in to a new version of the script targeted to their peers. They also advised on how to make it interactive on video.  

Our team has also been working in consultation with teachers to find the best way to move forward during the ongoing pandemic. Some students will gather at school for a viewing party with tech support and facilitation by our team. Others will watch from the comfort of their homes as part of remote learning. All students will still have an opportunity to test out options for how to address the conflict in the play, virtually stepping into the shoes of a character and exploring solutions to the challenges they faced. This is a powerful process that encourages youth to use their voices.

Our past tours (like Home 2.0 pictured above) have shared the experiences of newcomer youth, mental health struggles, youth in foster care, racism, and explored how to deal with the lure of gangs. In 2018 we travelled all over rural Manitoba, to Brandon, and dozens of schools in Winnipeg with Home 2.0. Being in the room with students, meeting them, doing workshops, and getting them hyped with dance moves cannot be replaced in the virtual medium. However, a digital offering will allow us to share the work more widely to regions beyond our usual travel radius, with more performances than a live cast could manage, and to spark a dialogue about reconciliation with a greater number of students.

The virtual tour of Seven Visions will run from midNovember to the end of January. Spread the word to teachers, schools, and youth. For more information or to book a performance contact or call 204-306-5303.

To learn more about the process and the larger creation story check out an overview on our website.

FemFest Recovery

Well…we did it! FemFest 2020 happened. It happened in a very different way. It happened safely, outdoors, in the streets, online, and from across the country – plus New York!

Our team worked so incredibly hard! It took learning new skills, creating new support roles that we’ve never had in theatre before – showrunner, livestream monitor, health officer… Mostly it took everyone fully committing to the importance of theatre and supporting each other.

There are many, many people to thank. There were many lessons learned. Now that we are on the other side of it, we can see clearly what an incredible feat it was. It was a joy to share the work with a broader audience, to allow for a return to creation and to do the work we love to do. There is no other way to describe it other than blessed. The weather cooperated for all of our outdoor events, although a bit chilly for those who joined us at Assiniboine Park after nightfall. We also wrapped things up before the need to return to tighter restrictions.

Perhaps one of our volunteers said it best:

I’m proud to volunteer for FemFest. The shows not only push the boundaries of traditional theatre, but they showcase the full spectrum of talent this city (and the world) has to offer — actors and writers from different backgrounds each sharing their skills and stories. To say FemFest is diverse is an understatement; I not only see representation, I feel it. I also feel like I have a sort of “premier pass” to Winnipeg’s local talent because FemFest offers a literal stage to those who are just starting their careers (writing, creating, and acting). I’m proud to be a part of it and I’m happy to contribute, even in a small way, to theatre that simultaneously inspires change and strengthens community. – Saz Massey

And because we are not willing to rest on our laurels, or maybe because we are lacking in good sense, we have come off the festival right in to sweeping changes. We are packing up our office of the last 18 years for a new home. We are transitioning to our new leadership team. Plus shifting our biannual school tour to an interactive virtual offering.

We also are thinking ahead. FemFest 2021 is in the works! We don’t know what the fall of next year will bring, but we are committed to finding the best way to continue to showcase artists and share the power of theatre. Our theme is ‘Celebrating Difference’ and the festival is set for September 20-27. We’ve just released our call for submissions – spread the word!