Embracing Identity with Humour

There’s more than one way to be confident in who you are! Our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues features all types of stories about embracing one’s identity with pride – and with a sense of humour. For these pieces, playwrights share the funny side of learning how to be comfortable in your own skin.

Ivy Charles

Ivy Charles

Ivy Charles is a twenty-two-year-old actor from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is currently furthering her acting studies at Studio 58 in Vancouver. She enjoys spaghetti, wine and having a good chuckle with her friends. Ivy is excited to dip her toe into the world of writing. In her piece Sunday Morning Brunch, Josephine is a spunky seventeen-year-old girl, confident her sexuality. This confidence is put to the test when she introduces her girlfriend to her religious family (and of course Father Henry) at Sunday brunch.

“Being someone who is always striving for equality, I thought why not use a platform that I’m not used to: writing. I knew I wanted to write about female empowerment and this was one of the first topics to come to mind,” says Ivy. “Josephine is the epitome of Here I Am. She is proud of who she is.”

 

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Brooklyn Alice Lee

Playing Josephine is Brooklyn Alice Lee. Brooklyn is currently a student in her final year with the University of Winnipeg, graduating with a degree in Acting. Despite having performed on-screen, she has a soft spot for theatre as she loves the raw truth and thrill of a live performance. She is looking forward to 2019 where she will debut her first self-written Fringe show with 803 Productions.

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

 

Makrenna Sterdan

Makrenna Sterdan

Next in the lineup is Who’s Driving? by Makrenna Sterdan. Janet is a fast-talking car saleswoman looking to get you into your next vehicle, all based off current global issues. The biggest problem with these cars isn’t the millennial-scapegoating, or the toxic chemicals, or the Neo-Nazis… it’s the auto-pilot feature.

Makrenna Rose Sterdan is a writer born and raised in Winnipeg, who has lived in South Korea since 2015. Sterdan has written several short films such as Speaking Test, which premiered at the Korean International Expat Film Festival. Sterdan has also written several ten-minute plays that have been produced across North America, such as The Geese and Last Chance. Her monologue Doing It for the Fame was featured in Sarasvàti Productions’ 2016 Cabaret of Monologues.

Who’s Driving came from Makrenna’s own feelings of helplessness she experienced while watching the news. “I wanted to personify my feelings of helplessness and make them relatable to an audience,” she says. “This is where I am right now: reading the news and not wanting to be on auto-pilot while the world takes its course.”

 

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Kim Kakegamic

Kim Kakegamic is thrilled to be a part of the Cabaret of Monologues once again! Trained at Providence University College (BFA), Kim has appeared in over thirteen Fringe Festivals in Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Winnipeg. She most recently performed in RMTC’s 2018 Master Playwright Festival with Broken Record Productions. By day Kim works as a writer for 6P Marketing, and spends far too much time binge watching shows on Netflix.

This is Kim’s second time performing one of Makrenna’s pieces after Doing It for the Fame. “I LOVE her work,” says Kim. “This piece, like that one, is dynamic and energetic. It takes some very intense topics and adds humour and cheekiness to create, what I believe, is a very memorable moment. It’s a lot of fun to perform.”

You can check out our full line-up of monologues on Saturday, March 9th! Don’t miss out – get your tickets today!
 

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Overcoming Obstacles at IWW 2019

Women’s stories are in the spotlight during our 2019 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues! This year’s pieces cover a wide range of issues from a cancer scare to coming out to one’s family. This week, we’re featuring two more pieces from the event, The LightFishers and Oracle Jane.

In Leslea Kroll’s The LightFishers, Chris is a patient in the psychiatric ward of St. Andrew’s Hospital. After experiencing a traumatic event, Chris has begun recovery from an addiction to painkillers.

Leslea KrollLeslea’s first play Domesticatrix was nominated for a Sterling Award for Outstanding Fringe Script. An excerpt of Domesticatrix was featured in The Martha Stewart Projects perfomed at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto. Her play ZedBC: Genus Lemus won the Alberta Playwrights’ Network annual script competition. Her other plays include Swallow, Auksenberg: Trial by Fury, Stains, The Catalogue of Bones, BonePeddlers, Queen of the AnthroScene, The LightFishers, and WellSpring. Her play White Count Up aired nationally on CBC’s Radio One.

 

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Amelia Warkentin

Bringing the piece to life is Amelia Warkentin. Amelia is currently completing a general arts degree at Canadian Mennonite University with the hope of beginning an after-degree program in education in the fall. She studies theatre at the University of Manitoba and was recently involved in a student-written piece entitled A Grave Story. Amelia’s passions include running, singing, and spending time with friends and family. She strives to make someone smile at least once a day and is trying to clone herself to be in more than one place at a time.

 

In Oracle Jane, playwright Vicki Zhang asks, “how do you confront the destructive power of your own creation?” When a data scientist meets a single mother in need, she questions and reflects on her life’s work.

Vicki Zhang

Vicki Zhang

Vicki Zhang’s ten-minute play The Male Root won the 8th InspiraTO Festival’s juried playwriting competition. Her play Oracle Jane was selected for production at Alumnae Theatre’s 30th New Ideas Festival. Her plays have also received staged readings at FemFest, InspiraTO Festival, Toronto’s Festival of Original Theatre (FOOT), and the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama. She is the author of Uncalculated Risks (Canadian Scholar’s Press, 2014), which was nominated for a Myrdal Prize. She has also written essays and short fiction about the Chinese diaspora for Rookie Magazine and Theread.

 

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Renee Hill

Playing data scientist Ying is local performer Renée Hill. Renée graduated from the University of Winnipeg theatre program and is a gifted musician and singer.  She performs annually in the JP Hoe Hoe Hoe Holiday Show and enjoys doing voice over and commercial work.  Renée also has had the opportunity to participate in Sarasvati’s One Night Stand 2017. Renée is passionate about her community and working to help others, completing her Masters in Social Work while raising her three children in her beloved neighborhood of Wolseley.

 

You can check out all the incredible pieces in this year’s line-up on Saturday, March 9th at 4PM and 8PM. Tickets are on sale now!

Check out a first look at The LightFishers at rehearsal!

Poetry and Playwrights at IWW 2019!

We’re excited to share more about the fabulous artists behind this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues! This year’s theme is Here I Am, exploring themes of reclaiming identity and coming into one’s own.

Appearing in this year’s Cabaret are a number of artists writing and performing their own work, including long-time Sarasvàti collaborator Nan Fewchuk performing her piece, Thelma and Louise. While waiting in Cancer Care, Maggie reflects back on her life, her resentment towards her large breasts, and how the thought of losing one of them changes her perspective.

Nan Fewchuk

Nan Fewchuk

Nan is grateful to be a performer, director, and facilitator with Sarasvàti Productions, working on such favorites as Fefu and Her Friends, Fen, Jail Baby and Empty. Nan has performed with Rainbow Stage, Shakespeare in the Ruins, and Green Kids Inc. She produced and acted in the Fringe hits Dog Act and Or as well as working with the Manitoba Drama Youth Festival, Villa Rosa, The Peaceful Village, and the West Central Women’s Resource Centre. Nan co-founded the Indigenous youth group Neechisan at Garden City Collegiate where she taught drama for over twenty-five years.

Thelma and Louise was originally Nan’s final performance piece while studying at One Yellow Rabbit in Calgary. “Ten years later I’m finding it super interesting to further explore, dive deeper, and rework things, especially because I feel differently now than I did when I first wrote it,” says Nan. “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.”

 

Shereen Ramprashad

Shereen Ramprashad

Also performing a work of her own creation is local spoken word artist Shereen Ramprashad. Shereen’s piece I am NOT a Victim is a charismatic, satirical poem challenging the media’s perception that women are – and always will be – a victim of something. Shereen is a colourful, witty and lively Canadian writer based out of Winnipeg. Her writings are a creative blend of intelligent metaphor and philosophy with undercurrents of subtext and observation. Shereen started her creative journey in her early forties with the intent of creating waves with poetry. Ten years later she’s doing just that with her interdisciplinary performance poetry and storytelling.

“Writing and performing is my way of presenting alternative perspectives on mainstream ideas and norms,” says Shereen. “I encourage critical thought of who we are as a society, where we are going, and how we want to see ourselves in the future. I think it’s important to find humour in hard times; satire is a powerful tool when it is used in the right context.”

You can see Nan and Shereen perform alongside seven other talented artists during the full Cabaret line-up on March 9th! Performances are at 4PM and 8PM at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W). Get your tickets today!

2018: A Look Back

We’ve had another amazing year here at Sarasvàti Productions! It was a season of workshops and life-changing theatre, promoting empathy and understanding to audiences across Manitoba! Check out some of our highlights from the past year.

WORKSHOPS FOR EMERGING ARTISTS

This year we had over ten workshops for emerging artists, including The Artist’s Voice with Tom Soares, Monologue Intensive with Sharon Bajer, and Devising from the Real World with FemFest artist Norah Paton! We also had our Coffee with a Pro mentorship series, pairing emerging artists with a pro in the field to talk shop over coffee. In 2018, we had sessions like Dramaturgy with Brian Drader, Playwriting with Ellen Peterson and Ginny Collins, and Producing with Brenda McLean! We also hosted our “Mental Health in Theatre” Panel back in November, starting an important dialogue we hope to continue.

SHARING THE STORIES OF UNSTOPPABLE WOMEN

Full cast at dress rehearsal

Our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues saw the stories of incredible women living through riots, learning to teach yoga as a senior, accepting their true selves, and conquering all odds. New work was created by up-and-coming stand-up comic Anjali Sandhu as well as trans advocate Cynthia Fortlage. Aboriginal artist Kristy Janvier traveled from Flin Flon to present a new piece. We also welcomed Joanna Hawkins of 100 Decibels to perform a solo mime work. This was also our first year offering ASL interpretation.

WORKSHOPS FOR NORTH END YOUTH

This year, we brought theatre workshops to the students of Gonzaga Middle School and Children of the Earth High School, where students currently don’t have access to drama programs. Students were taught the basics of playwriting, directing, improvisation, and set design.

NEW BEGINNINGS ON STAGE

Two years ago, we began a series of workshops and community interviews, hearing from newcomers and immigrants to Canada about their experiences with resettling in a new country. In May of this year, we got to bring those stories to life with the world premiere of New Beginnings, featuring a blend of dance, film, and theatre. An interactive touring show focusing on youth experiences, Home 2.0, launched in the fall! Over 4,700 youth and teachers across Manitoba were exposed to the work that helped promote empathy and understanding.

PUTTING THE ‘FUN’ IN FUNDRAISING

We got to try something a little different this year with a spring fundraiser produced and organized by Delta Hirsch. It was a sit-down dinner at Forth that paired Perogies and Puns! Local comedians Mike Green and Angie St. Mars tickled funny bones while chef Keith Csabak treated folks to five courses of gourmet perogies. Then in November, we brought back our annual Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser for its third year! Elissa Kixen of WOKE Comedy Hour produced this incredible event showcasing a diverse line-up of women comics.

FEMFEST CELEBRATES 16 YEARS!

In 2018 we showcased our sixteenth annual festival of plays that put women’s stories in the spotlight! We got to travel to Burning Man with Norah Paton’s Burnt, hear from a young Cree teenager with White Man’s Indian, watch Donna-Michelle St. Bernard speak truth to power with Sound of the Beast, and witness the beautiful blend of Indian dance and theatre with The Game! Alissa Watson brought home our 2018 Bake-Off Prize with her winning scene, The Switch. We also got to explore downtown Winnipeg’s hidden gems with our first-ever Walking Art Tour. We’ve already started brainstorming for 2019, so stay tuned!

Thanks to everyone who made this past year such a success. We’re so excited to talk about what we have coming up in 2019, starting with our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues in March! We’ll keep you posted with more updates on all the great events you can look forward to this coming year.

 

That’s a Wrap on “Home 2.0”!

Another school tour is in the books! Last week, we wrapped up our latest community collaboration project, Home 2.0, which focused on youth stories of immigration and resettlement. After starting our Newcomer project over two years ago, we initially shared stories in performance with New Beginnings back in May. The project culminated   with Home 2.0 wrapping up on December 7th. This marks our sixth school tour and this time around, we managed to visit over 54 schools and reach out to over 4,700 youth across Manitoba.

 

This cast has been working together since the summer, rehearsing and preparing for the tour! It’s been a long road but we couldn’t be happier with how the show has impacted audiences across Manitoba. Read on for some of the responses we’ve had to this powerful show.

“The story-lines presented in the show mirrored many of our students’ experiences, and it was very powerful for them to see these stories told on stage. Students were really enthusiastic about it, and there was buzz about it for days afterwards!” – Caitlin Belton, Drama & English Teacher at Miles MacDonell Collegiate

 

 

Coming from the child of two refugees, I felt like it spoke very accurately about the struggles one faces coming to Canada as a refugee. It really touched upon many issues and explained it in a way that was helpful for people who might not understand what this experience is like for others.” – Grade 10 student at Seven Oaks School Division

Not only was the play outstanding, but adding the parts where viewers were allowed to interact with the actors and potentially change the outcome of the play, made you truly think about how you can impact the lives of others through simple actions.” – Grade 12 student at Seven Oaks School Division

 

Seven Oaks

This performance was really beautiful but heartbreaking. Seeing what you went through being played in front of you like that beings all those memories back. And if you have never been through anything like it, it’s really revealing as you get to see another side of the story. All those feelings that the performance shows you are very descriptive. The feeling of not fitting in being new and not being good enough is scary. Knowing that you are forgetting everything is devastating. Thanks for reminding me that I went through and why I am here.” – Student at New Era School

 

We have many students that are from immigrant homes or are immigrants themselves and the message of struggle, hope and inclusion was really something that resonated with them. Thank you so much for such an amazing experience on behalf of myself, the students and St. Mary’s Academy,  we thank you for sharing this story and the amazing talents of your touring group!”  – Eliana Dell’Acqua, Social and Drama Teacher at St. Mary’s Academy

Thank you to all of the incredible students and teachers who hosted us this year! The tour was a great success, promoting empathy and understanding to thousands of youth across the province. Big thank-you as well to Daniel Igne-Jajalla for putting together our tour highlight video! We’ll see you again in 2020 with another tour for youth in Manitoba.

 

Balancing Mental Wellness in the Arts

“Mental Health in Theatre” is a hot-button issue right now as more and more artists begin to speak out about the working conditions and pressure that comes with a life on the stage. This past Sunday, Sarasvàti Productions hosted a panel on Mental Health in Theatre with speakers Larry Isacoff, Krista Jackson, Elena Anciro, Heidi Malazdrewich, Sylvia Massinon of Klinic, and facilitated by Taylor Demetrioff.

The panel covered many important topics, like giving voice to the issues facing mental wellness in theatre, how folks can avoid burnout, the importance of creating safe spaces in rehearsals, not to forget the demands placed on those behind the scenes, and what resources are available for folks needing extra support. In service to the community, we’re publishing more on the incredible discussion that took place so everyone can learn more about what they can do to support each other.

 

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Key Words from the Panel

In discussing what can be done to enact change, the primary focus was on the role of leadership. Many asserted that it is the responsibility of arts leaders to ensure that the artists under their employ are working in safe conditions during reasonable hours. Folks working behind the scenes spoke to the demands being placed on Winnipeg’s theatre community with artists being asked to deliver impossible results outside of the scope of the theatre’s budget or schedule. To quote one panelist, “Theatre is the only profession that has to open on time – regardless of consequences.” This pressure creates an environment where those who speak up are not only going unheard because “the show must go on,” but also have to deal with the threat of unemployment. A common issue is that artists feel “replaceable”: if they voice their concerns with a project or the leadership, they may find themselves out of a job.

Artists also spoke about their issues handling personal struggles or performance anxiety in order to continue with their roles. In several cases, they’ve been asked to push through and were even discouraged from continuing in theatre if they weren’t able to “handle the pressure”. Unfortunately, for many, the experience has been that they are working for leadership that creates a culture of fear and pressure in the rehearsal hall rather than collaboration and positivity. A great example on creating a safe space for everyone was to ask at the start of the process, “What do you need?” Getting everyone on the same page and learning who they could turn to for support was a key player in creating more positive rehearsal spaces.

 

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We also heard from Sylvia Massinon about the resources available for mental health in our community. Klinic has drop-in, short-term, and long-term counselling available on a first-come, first-serve basis – available entirely for free. Women’s Health Clinic also offers free and low-cost counselling available in fifty-minute sessions. Of course, one of the most important reminders for practicing artists is to make time for themselves. Our profession can be isolating – long hours, the pressure to perform, weeks spent inside the rehearsal hall or onstage with limited time for anything else… but it is important for folks to know that they need to be able to say no to a project if it comes at the cost of their mental well-being.

Although there was much more to discuss than we could fit in this panel, we would like to thank everyone who participated for sharing their stories and opening up this important discussion. We will be continuing with our workshop series as the season goes on with our “Queering Theatre” Lecture slated for January 2019. For more on the great events we have in store, join our mailing list!

“Home 2.0”: The Road So Far

It’s been a busy time for Home 2.0! The cast has already traveled to over twenty-five different locations, performing for schools, conferences, the Millennium Library, and Graffiti Gallery! And we’re not slowing down any time soon: the tour continues its Manitoban run until December 7!

The cast has gotten to perform for students across Manitoba, including newcomer youth, drama students, and teachers learning how they can make a difference in their students’ lives. Here are some of the great things people have to say about this transformative show:

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Home 2.0 at Graffiti Gallery

“It was amazing. I liked it because it included some history in it about people and where they came from. It was funny and sad. I learned how to welcome people who come from other countries.” – Audience Member, Graffiti Gallery

“I believe that the show created a space for students to either relate to the experiences of the actors or be more mindful and purposeful regarding their interactions with those who are new to Canada.  The notion that it is possible to be both grateful and desperate as a new immigrant or refugee is impactful and true for many.  Thank you to Sarasvàti for igniting important and empathetic conversations with our students.” – Megan Turnley Steinbach Regional Secondary School

My favourite part of the tour is when the kids come up that are like, ‘This is how I wish I had been treated when I came to a new school.’ Be kind. Think of things from a different perspective.” – Melissa Langdon, Performer

 

 

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The cast at Ecole Sacre Coeur

The audience interaction was new to them, and I was so pleased with how some of them responded. One girl had mild autism and her improved line to the mean girl was so perfect.  It was a great moment for her and for her classmates to see her in that light. The actors and stage manager were so wonderful.  They fully engaged the students before the show to get them comfortable.  It was a great afternoon educating and entertaining us on the relevant subject of newcomers.” – Carri McDonald, Teacher at Linden Christian School

I have never taken an hour to sit back and think about how hard it is for people/refugees to come and live in Canada. The true stories made me pretty upset because I just can’t understand why anybody would treat another human being so poorly and make them feel like nothing. I feel like it got us thinking about how we could help change the picture in the present and future.” – Ivy, Grade 12 Student at Gimli High School

 

Seven Oaks

After the show at Seven Oaks Performing Arts Centre

Our students continued to talk about the performance after your team left. Considering we are a rural school over 2 hours away from Winnipeg, we have a very multi-cultural student body. There were things that came up during the performance that hit home for many, and opened eyes of even more. As a teacher, I had more than one “eye-opener” moments, thinking back to the different students I have taught who are new Canadians.” – Teresa Moore, Teacher at Fisher Branch Collegiate

After our show at Miles Mac – there’s a large Syrian population there – at first we were so discouraged because we kept hearing talking during the show, but the kids came up to us after and said, ‘Sorry we were talking, we were translating for our friends here that just came over a few months ago.’ They shared their stories and there were a bunch of Yazidi kids who just wanted to laugh and share and teach me things… it was a great reminder of why we do this sort of thing, why touring is important. That was amazing for me.” – Matt Irvine, Performer

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The cast finishing up rehearsals!

The tour wraps up on December 7 as we continue bringing newcomer and refugee stories to schools across Manitoba. For more info on the show, visit our website!