Self-Care in the age of COVID-19

As we approach the ninth month of a pandemic and we start to get more and more snow, the feeling of pandemic fatigue weighs quite heavy on our consciousnesses. Today, I turned to my theatre community online looking for inspiration on Self-Care in the age of COVID-19.

Hi, my name is angelica schwartz, and I followed the fad of buying a Nintendo Switch at the beginning of the pandemic to play Animal Crossing only to sell it two months after to pay some bills. I am a mediocre sour-dough baker, theatre artist, and the Marketing and Community Outreach Manager at Sarasvàti Productions.

When we went through our first lockdown in March, I was living alone in a basement suite with very little sunlight in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal. I was in my last month of the Directing Program at the National Theatre School of Canada (NTS). For three months, the only person I saw was my amazing playwright friend, Gillian Clark, who also lived alone.

We had very strict rules in place to keep both of us safe. Gill taught me a lot about self-compassion and self-care during that period. We both graduated NTS together in May 2020, but during the April lockdown, we put all our energy into creating our final school project together. Throughout our creation time, we would have long social distant walks to check in with one another. We would leave snacks on each other’s doorsteps. We would send photos of sunsets with pink cotton-candy skies to remind each other, ça va aller (a French saying that translates as “it will be fine”).

a brown paper bag with sharpie writing on it that says "angelica" in an alley way.
a little package Gillian left outside my apartment

I asked Gill what her methods of self-care during a pandemic were and her response was, “Honestly, just hearing about other people’s ideas and jamming with them. I think it’s all about feeling a sense of worth and meaning”.

I really appreciated that response. I remember a dramatic shift happened within me at the beginning of lockdown. I have been living in a self-focused path for the past few years, but now all I can think about is community, community building, and practising radical empathy as a form of healing, forgiving myself for mistakes I have made in the past. I thank adrienne maree browns book, Emergent Strategy, for that.

Over two years ago, I was living in Winnipeg and working full-time as a Barista. I spent most of my life working various theatre production jobs (usher, technician, IATSE calls, various design gigs, but primarily stage management), I even went to two theatre schools for production (but only graduated one of them), and yet I was feeling so unsatisfied. I was severely burnt out and frustrated that I was taught that mental health in the arts was not a priority.

In desperate need of change and the hunger for more creativity, I looked into directing and creating new work. I applied to NTS, a program that only accepts two people every two years, looking for the universe to give me some sort of sign, and the universe returned my call. I need to add that the call was also paired with my best friend singing “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” by Rod Stewart, loudly, in the room next door, as I received my acceptance call.

a pink and purple sky sunset on a street

I spent those two years really focused on my self-growth. Focused on self-care for not only me but the health of my collaborators. When Tiohtià:ke/Montreal went into our first lock-down, I watched the majority of my classmates/friends leave town and return to their respected communities and families. It made me really question, who is my community? What does home look like to me? Having a nomadic history, that last question was especially challenging, but the answer I kept coming back to was Winnipeg.

With the desire to reconnect, it felt natural that I move back to Winnipeg to be with the community I feel most close to. Even though I am not able to reconnect in person, I feel very grateful for the last-minute move. I now live in a beautiful affordable home in the heart of Corydon with three amazing roommates, two cats, and ample sunlight.

In my search for answers of self-care, I talked to local theatre producer and improviser, Kristina Guevarra, and asked them what the best thing they did for themselves during the pandemic was.

“Probably the panic apartment move (Kristina moved at the beginning of lockdown), following my instinct on environmental change really helped my peace of mind, I find that with moving around little things too, re-decorating, finding that feng shui. Leaning into the pleasure of taking care of myself” we then proceeded to chat about how we both moved in this time “Yes, we both did! We take care of ourselves”.

Cultivating a safe and cozy home is so important to well-being. In conversation with knowledge keeper, Gayle Pruden, Gayle spoke about how her self-care is her home.

“I live in a big house,” she says. “I have roommates I never see because they live in a different reserve and so when they come into town, they stay with me. I never got the time and chance to really enjoy my home because I travel a lot and before I was rarely home.”

“But now, with this pandemic, I’m just loving my home. I didn’t realize I had such a beautiful home. Caring for my home is my form of self-care. I have a friend who is going to come in and he wants to come to celebrate his birthday here. He’s been self-isolating, I have been too, and he is going to bring his pipe and we’re going to do a pipe ceremony together. He’s going to bring wild meat and we’re going to cook together, and it will just be the two of us. He still remembers Ojibwe, I’m slowly losing the language, but with him, we can speak and laugh together. That is something I have to look forward to.”

a pink and blue sky surrounded by brick montreal apartments

For our Artistic Director, Frances Koncan, self-care takes place through elaborate bubble baths.

“It involves a curated selection of plants, candles, incense a bespoke Spotify playlist, and a tea all crafted around the theme of a specific novel I am reading,” says Koncan, who reads a new book every week. “I always take a photo and share it on Instagram, so the internet knows it happened.”

“My favourite thing I have done for myself so far is sleep,” she continues. “I sleep a lot and I love sleeping. Every day I wake up and make coffee and count down until I am able to go back to sleep.

“I’m not depressed,” adds Koncan, although sources say she is, in fact, a lifelong sufferer of depression. Right now, she takes Prozac. Is it helping, I wonder?

 “Look, angelica… it was it is and it be like that sometimes.”

I’ve been thinking about sleep a lot. Sleep as a form of healing. There is amazing group, founded in 2016 by Tricia Hersey, called The Nap Ministry, which is an organization that examines the liberating power of naps.

“We engage with the power of performance art, site-specific installations, and community organizing to install sacred and safe spaces for the community to rest together. We facilitate immersive workshops and curate performance art that examines rest as a radical tool for community healing.  We believe rest is a form of resistance and name sleep deprivation as a racial and social justice issue.”

I find this organization deeply inspiring. I think this pandemic has forced us to ask ourselves how do we take care of ourselves? Especially, in an industry that often overlooks mental health, when we are gifted with time of self-reflection, how do we slow down, rest and recharge?

For more answers, I reached out to my community on Instagram and asked, “THEATRE ARTISTS, what is your method of self-care amid a pandemic?” and various anonymous responses were:

“channeling my creativity into as many facets of my day as possible, not forcing it though”


“Not doing theatre lolz. Jokes, but in truth, reading, writing, creating not for the sake of theatre, but enjoyment”

“Hair masks!! Meets impulsivity “CHANGE HAIR NOW” needs AND makes hair healthier”


“Yoga & meditation”

“Leaving the industry…”

“Sweating and purging my system of toxins through physical exercise”

“Smoking and watching comfort shows!”

“Baths, baking, lots of dancing and naps”

“RUNNING! And journaling and eating healthy and yummy food – taking care of my body”

“Drink a beer if u want, jog in the morning/night, work yr ass off at a shitty job and make $$$”

The winter is just upon us, the dark days are ahead, and the harsh truth is that we are still in a pandemic. But it’s important to remember to take of yourself and your well-being amid the long days.

“I am not of the belief that everything happens for a reason – at least not a discernible one; it comforts me sometimes to know there is chaos, there is nonsense. But I believe that regardless of what happens, there is an opportunity to move with intention – towards growth, relationship, regeneration.”- adrienne maree brown, pg. 71, Emergent Strategy.

How do you be patient with yourself? How do you take of others? The only way through is together. Share with us your thoughts in the comments below.

Ideas for You

We’re starting to look ahead at the possibilities of 2021 and what the next year might bring. According to my trusted news sources – random people on Twitter – the tail end of 2021 may feature a vaccine for COVID-19 and signal a change in the winds leading into 2022. 

But what to do until then? 

Here are some ideas I’d like to share with you, in an award-deserving format that is sure to make my former employers say, “Glad we got rid of her!”

You can also watch the film adaptation of this incredible play, starring the brilliant Kathleen MacLean, HERE.


A short play 

by Frances Koncan

Setting: In your apartment. 

Characters: You and a ghost.


Lights up on You, sitting on your bed, typing furiously on your 2015 Macbook Pro with a CD-ROM drive and a sticker on it that says, “I heart theatre”. Ambient coffee shop noises from a YouTube playlist fill the air. 

YOU: I gotta finish this play in time to submit for Sarasvàti Production’s FemFest 2021! 

Suddenly, an incorporeal entity appears at the foot of your bed. You scream

YOU: Gahh! 

GHOST: Don’t forget to put the accent thing on top of the A! 

YOU: Gàhh! 

GHOST: That’s not what I meant.

YOU: Who are you? 

GHOST: I am a ghost. 

YOU: What do you want? 

GHOST: Nobody’s ever asked me that before. 

YOU: Do you want to talk about it?

GHOST: Yeah I do. 

YOU: Okay, but first I have to finish this play by the deadline. 

GHOST: Understood. 

The GHOST floats quietly and waits patiently for you to finish your script. For extra support in the final hours, you turn on your YouTube playlist featuring ambient coffee sounds. You’re on the final page of the script when the worst happens: the YouTube server crashes and your music.  

YOU: Oh no! How will I finish this play without my ambient coffee shop sounds? I’m nothing without my ambient sounds playlist. Ever since I was a little kid I could only write when I had my ambient coffee shop noises playing. I am nothing without it and will never finish this script in time.  

GHOST: You could always send an incomplete draft.

YOU: An incomplete draft? Would the reading committee be okay with that?

GHOST: Sure. 

YOU: How do you know?

The GHOST is silent for a few beats. 

GHOST: Because… I am on the reading committee. 

YOU: No! But you’re a ghost! How…?

GHOST: I think the better question is… when?

YOU: What? 

GHOST: Exactly. 

YOU: I suppose submitting a work-in-progress is okay, knowing I will still have many months to work on it after the submission deadline on November 30th. But this page is still incomplete. And I can’t finish it without the ambient coffee shop sounds.  But maybe… no. It would never work. 

GHOST: What would never work? 

YOU: Maybe if I think really hard and imagine myself in a montage… maybe then I can finish the page. 

You imagine you are in a movie montage and finish the page. 

GHOST: You see? The power was in you all along. You didn’t need the ambient coffee shop music. You just needed to believe in yourself. 

YOU: Thanks ghost. And what about you? Do you still want to talk? 

GHOST: Yeah, I do thanks for asking. 

YOU: No problem. 

GHOST: So… if you haven’t noticed, I’m a ghost.  

YOU: Right.   

GHOST: But I still have all this corporeal money and I don’t know what to do with it.  I want to use it to make a difference, like by giving to an Endowment Fund for a small non-profit theatre company on Treaty 1 Territory. But which one? 

YOU: I know the perfect one. 

YOU and GHOST: Sarasvàti Productions! 


All of us at Sarasvàti Productions hope you will consider submitting your work for presentation at FemFest 2021. We can’t wait to read what you’ve got cooking and are very welcoming of work of all kinds and in all stages of development. You can find submission guidelines HERE.

Nov. 26 at 11am is the next deadline for donating to our Endowment Fund, which provides stability of future income for companies like us. A donation to our endowment fund honours the legacy of the donor in forever and gets matched thanks to programs by the Winnipeg Foundation and the federal government. Your donation supports us in realizing our artistic and community goals! You can learn more about it HERE.

And we always appreciate donations of any amount right here on our website

For rights to this play, please contact my agent, Tucker the Dog at

Interview with Seven Visions Elder, Gayle Pruden

What is your name and pronouns?

I like introducing myself with my spirit name which is Dancing Bear and my clan is Black Bear. My name is Gayle Pruden, I am transgender, and I prefer to be called she.

What does 2spirit mean to you?

I don’t know why we all need to be under labels, we should be who we want to be regardless of gender, this is why we’re here, to be yourself, not to be labeled. But 2spirit for the Anishinaabe people is another word for being gay or whatever the other way there is to describe our being. You walk with the 2spirits of a woman and a man on two sides of you and it’s up to you what life you want to live.

What is your role on Seven Visions?

Well first of all I was shocked when I got invited, they invited me to sit on as their knowledge-keeper. I am 56 now, I am not saying I know everything, but I know enough to share. What I understood was that they went to these youth centres to collect data to find out what the children/youth know about reconciliation and effects of residential schools.

They named it Songide’ewin which in translation means strong heart, which is what was needed to put all this information together. So, when I got there, I sat in a sharing circle with the youth and I was blown away by how knowledgeable they were. The youth are so brilliant, they are great big shining stars who are ready to burst. In my era, we were never able to talk to elders or adults, we were always chased away and told to be quiet because it’s impolite but to see these children be so comfortable and speak from the heart, it’s great to hear them and work with them.

I sat there, I got my beadwork, and got my hair done just to show that we are beautiful people, we have a beautiful culture and we can dress well. They really liked what they saw when I walked in because I wore my ribbon skirt and I was just myself; I think they were very comfortable around that. Hearing what they had to say (about reconciliation) was so mind-blowing to me because I don’t know the effects of residential schools and it was a learning process to me to hear their stories to hear what they thought and what they knew about residential schools. So that is how I became involved and with this play.

Also, I speak my language (Ojibwe) fluently which I’m really fortune and very proud. It was the only language we spoke in my household, it was so hard for me to speak the English language but it has to be spoken in order to live in this world, but I prefer Ojibwe language always but (laughs) what can we do right? I do have a lot of friends who are fluent so it’s like I practice my language every other day and them too loved hearing me speak my language. I said Creator gave us a beautiful gift of language and this tongue was given to us to use, same with our other languages in our nations, it’s a powerful tool to have language, I speak it as often as I can.

Back to the play, they gave me a script to read, I read it, but I always speak from the heart so I got the idea of what they wanted me to say and every time I would speak it in a different way. Speaking the (Ojibwe) language, some of the youth said that they felt what I said, even if they didn’t understand, because it’s such a beautiful language. I loved it so much, I speak the language, hold my feather proudly and speak on their behalf to Creator and pray (which I usually do). I really had a great time being with them and meeting other people. There is so much to learn within our people.

Can you tell me more about jingle dancing?

I’ve been dancing jingle for close to 20 years now. I’m a 2spirit jingle dress dancer, and a lot of the women didn’t know (that I was 2spirit) until they saw my video on YouTube CBC 2spirit dancer. When they found out that I’m 2spirit in a jingle dress, it was so positive, some of them came up to me and said, “I didn’t even know but you’re my sister and I still love dancing with you”.

I am from central Manitoba, this was where I was raised, but a lot of my teachings come from Lake of the Woods in Ontario because I have so many Elders whom I look up to and I get all my teachings from them. The Jingle Dress came from White Fish Bay and that’s where I get the teachings on the Jingle Dress, which is a very important healing tool that creator has gifted us. The dress itself is a healing tool.

It started off where a medicine man was very concerned of his sick dying little girl and he asked creator what he could do and he had a dream about this dress and four women dancing by and he told his wife about his dream and his wife got community members together to make this dress. When the dress was done, he was showing which way to dance. They picked up their little girl, where she was laying sick, and took her to a ceremony and brought these four women and the jingle dress and he told them about his dream of how he plans to save his daughter. So, they went to the ceremony, gathered around the sacred fire, the women in came in dancing as the girl laid there, I guess you could say in her death bed, as the jingle dress came by, she opened her eyes and she could see.

There are different stories around the jingle on the dress and what the jingle’s sound like. All I know is it invites the grandmother and grandfather spirits and all kinds of spirits and that’s where the healing starts. Some people say it’s the sound of water, but for myself, it sounds like great big eagle wings. If you ever listen to a lot of jingle dresses, you’ll hear the sound and that is when the healing starts.

So, the first round the sick little girl opened her eyes, the second round the women went by and she got up and started looking at them and you could see the healing taking place. The fourth round she got up and started dancing with them and this is what healed her and brought her full life back. In the jingle dance, when you go to a Pow Wow, you’ll see the jingle dress be requested to come in and to heal whomever needs to heal. Normally it’s for the community or mother earth, or someone who is sick, or even yourself. Because this is our communication with Creator asking for the healing and this is when ancestors come in to take care of what they need to care of. So, this is a really important dress.

Seven Visions is a Forum Theatre piece about reconciliation – what does reconciliation mean to you?

Reconciliation is getting the world back together. For myself, I have different pain as a youth and it’s going to stay there regardless of what counseling there is or how many times you talk about it. Because it’s so instilled in your heart there’s no way you’re going to heal but you can live the best you can for the time that you have. This is what I’ve been learning from when I hear these stories (from the youth), they are so outrageous and so evil for anyone to go through what they’ve been through. With reconciliation it’s really being brought out into the open and people need to help one another and it’s going great, and the work that is being done out there, you can see it, but there needs to be more. Just keep at it.

What is your hope for Indigenous youth for the future?

Oh my god, what a good question! I love the youth so much! We need to support them, the best we can, as much as we can. Regardless of the drugs that are out there killing our youth, but there are good youth who can speak, and we need to idolize these youth and give them the strength to continue their good walk that they’ve been through so far. Encourage them, be there for them, they are our future. The youth is going to be speaking for us, on our behalf, and also, they will be the ones leading us and taking care of us and so now is the time we need to give them full support and guide them to the best we can and let go of your own past and let them make one for themselves regardless how bad or good it is just be there as support.

I hear about a lot of Elders who don’t listen, that is one of the most important things for an Elder to learn is to listen, right to the bitter end, doesn’t matter how awful the stories of whatever this child is talking about. Sit and listen. We don’t have all the answers, if someone comes up to me and talks to me about knowledge, I tell them I don’t have the answers but I’m here to listen and I’m here to guide you in how you can get your answer. It’s really important to sit and listen, especially with what our youth have to say because they’re so brilliant and so beautiful and I just love being around the youth and I know they like being around me because I like to joke (laughs) sure life is serious but I don’t take it too serious you need to have you need to laugh once in a while, let go of your ego, on this earth we are all equal in Creators eyes, regardless how much money you have or how beautiful you are, in Creators eye’s that means nothing we’re all equal and the youth needs to know that. They are so important. 

 Seven Visions Digital School Tour runs from November to the end of January 2021. 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.

Getting Ready for the School Tour

Today is the day!

What day? Well, you’ll just have to keep reading.

Today is the day our Seven Visions school tour gets documented, in perpetuity (that’s a word that lawyers use, I learned it from Legally Blonde), for the viewing pleasure of students far and wide.

Since we can’t take our tour into schools like we usually do, we’re filming it and bringing it students and schools via streaming. With a mixture of pre-recorded and live footage hosted by actor, facilitator and all-around awesome person Josh Ranville, junior high and high school students from across Manitoba – and maybe even further – will still have the opportunity to experience this powerful story about what reconciliation means to today’s youth in the style of forum theatre that Sarasvàti is known for presenting.

Forum Theatre is a type of theatre created by the innovative practitioner Augusto Boal as part of what he calls “Theatre of the Oppressed”. While practicing earlier in his career, Boal would apply ‘simultaneous dramaturgy.’ In this process the actors or audience members could stop a performance and attempt to change the outcome of what they were seeing.

This was an attempt to bring audience members into the performance and give them input into the dramatic action they were watching. Students experience and develop a deeper sense of awareness when given the opportunity to contribute and reflect, which is a necessary and an important aspect of the drama curriculum. With Forum Theatre, students are encouraged to step outside themselves and to explore different ways of thinking and being.

In our adapted tour presentation, Josh will be streaming live from our new office space, chatting with youth across the province about the play and hosting conversations about how situations within the play could be navigated differently.

And even though the actors can’t be there live to improvise these new scenarios as suggested by the students, there will be plenty of extra scenarios to explore in a choose-your-own-adventure style that stays true to the idea of forum theatre.

(If you’ve ever seen the movie Clue, with its multiple endings, it’s kind of like that!)

Prepping to film a theatre production and figuring out how to deliver it to schools and students in a meaningful, interesting way has been a lot of hard work, but in a few days that hard work will be ready to share with schools, with Josh ready to give teachers a much-needed break from virtual teaching and give students an experience with theatre unlike any that have had before.

You can stay up to date with Sarasvàti as it explores the landscape of digital theatre more via our social media platforms. Upcoming not-to-miss posts will very likely include any or all of the following:

  • An actor getting drenched in ice coffee repeatedly in order to get the perfect shot
  • Many outtakes of failed improvised scenarios
  • Copious amounts of hand-sanitizer, face masks and face shields
  • And so much more!

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