New Beginnings and Endings

After two years of community interviews and workshops, the world premiere of New Beginnings took Winnipeg by storm! Over the course of the run, we had multiple sold-out shows and over 750 people came to see the play. Every performance offered a conversation circle to continue the dialogue sparked by this production, allowing audiences the chance to ask questions and learn more about the stories reflected in New Beginnings. Here are some of the great things people had to say!

It was wonderful, I cried and laughed. Those stories are so powerful. The first one with the burka is how we escaped.  I actually wore one for the first time in my life then. You guys did a great job bringing these stories to life.” – Ellie Towfigh via Facebook

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I’m excited to be a member of such an amazing company that inspires audiences to reach out and connect with others to promote social change in such powerful ways…  Perspective is hugely important to being a positive member of a community and I believe that it can often be overlooked.  But New Beginnings brings forward so many unique stories that can perhaps open horizons for our audiences and introduce the realities of immigration and resettlement.” – Alanna McPherson, Performer

“New Beginnings by Sarasvati Productions is beyond amazing. This production cannot end. The message of reality of resettlement should be heard by thousands more. The actors, content and music touched my soul.” – Judy Rose via Facebook

Thanks to a generous grant from the Inter-Action Program, we were able to offer a wide variety of accessibility services including ASL interpretation, child-minding, translation, transportation, and counselling for any audience members affected by the play’s subject matter. On May 24th, we played host to close to 100 Yazidi refugees from Operation Ezra, offering Kurmanji translation via headset and child-minding provided by Operation Ezra and West Central Women’s Resource Centre.

Congratulations on an excellent production! Thank you so much for having the Operation Ezra families at the show.  It was a great opportunity for them to experience live theatre. We really appreciate you going above and beyond to make it accessible to all. The translation and child care allowed many of the attendees to experience their first live show. We had no idea what to expect yet we found ourselves laughing at times and crying at times.  We recognized some of the stories which made it even more impactful.” – Karen Shpeller, Operation Ezra

Over the course of the run, we had representatives from Winnipeg’s newcomer community speak after the show, allowing audiences to hear their stories and share their own as well. We also hosted Kamta Roy Singh, whose story appeared in the play.

It was fantastic show last night. The individuals who act as Kamta and employee did amazing job. Congratulations.” – Kamta Roy Singh, Kamta’s Story

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Kamta Singh and Lu Fayokun

I would like to commend you, your cast and all the others involved in this performance a great “BRAVO” on an excellent performance. I was in attendance at the world premiere of Sarasvati Productions presentation of New Beginnings and was so impressed with it… A very great performance by the cast. Representatives of the Jamaican Association of Manitoba were invited to answer questions and share comments with the cast and audience at the end of the performance. A great evening.” – Patrick Moore, Jamaican Association of Manitoba

 

We couldn’t have made this production happen without the community members who participated in our workshops and allowed us to share their stories onstage. Big thank-yous as well to our incredible creative team, our hard-working volunteers, and everyone who came out to support New Beginnings!

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Exploring Immigration Across Generations

Newcomer stories from all over the world will be appearing in New Beginnings: from Syria to Ethiopia, Vietnam to Zimbabwe! We have such a diverse range of artists bringing these stories to life, including some familiar faces as well as newcomers to Canada! Get to know this week’s featured New Beginnings artists below.

 

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Melissa Langdon

Melissa Langdon is thrilled to be a part of the New Beginnings team. She is a graduating Honours Acting student from the University of Winnipeg. Through her time at the university, she appeared in Time and the Conways, Concord Floral, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. She’s also appeared in a number of films including Grief (Kaiju Productions) and Harmonize (Prairie Kid Productions). In addition to performing as a dancer, Melissa appears in Usna’s story, which focuses on a group of women fleeing their home country of Afghanistan.

 

As the daughter of an immigrant parent, Melissa has learned so much about the struggles and triumphs that many newcomers face while arriving in Canada. “The conversations that have emerged while discussing the struggles of new Canadian citizenship and the immigration process have been extremely powerful: from resettling after arrival to long-term personal growth and adaptation,” says Melissa.

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Dagmawit Habtemariam

 

Dagmawit Habtemariam (or Dagm for short) is new to the Sarasvàti stage, having been born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She moved to Winnipeg with her husband and two children in July 2011. Her educational backgrounds include an M.A in Social Anthropology and a B.Ed. degree in History, both from Ethiopia. Currently, she is taking an undergraduate degree in Human Rights program at the University of Winnipeg while working as a Graduate Studies Admission Officer.

Dagm is excited to share the stories of immigrants’ lives with Winnipeggers: particularly culture shocks, the ordeals of coming to Canada, as well as hopes for themselves and their children in a new home. “I am an immigrant myself and the different scenes of the project discuss the opportunities, challenges and commonalities that immigrants face when moving to Winnipeg and Canada.”

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Anjali Sandhu

Dagm also appears in Karwan and Irekanmi’s stories, both of which focus on how different generations experience settlement. Joining Dagm in Karwan’s story is familiar face Anjali Sandhu. Anjali is a Winnipeg-based comedian, actor, writer and law student. She has performed stand-up at the Winnipeg Comedy Fest, SheDot Comedy Festival, Sirius XM’s Next Top Comic, and more. Anjali was a writer/adapter of The Trump Card which she performed with District Theatre Collective at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. She also wrote and performed an original piece for Sarasvàti’s 2018 Cabaret of Monologues, Flight 182. Anjali’s original show I’m Not Taylor Swift will premiere this summer at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

 

Like Melissa, Anjali also comes from a family of newcomers. “I’m excited about working with new artists,” says Anjali. “As the daughter/granddaughter of immigrants, I am excited to explore what my family members’ may have experienced through this piece.”

You can catch all of our amazing artists when New Beginnings premieres on May 22nd! The production takes place until May 27th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St). Don’t miss out – get your tickets today!

New Faces and Newcomers

Through casting New Beginnings, we have had the amazing opportunity to meet and work with a whole new branch of emerging artists in Winnipeg! Representation is incredibly important – doing newcomer stories justice by doing our part to cast them as accurately as possible.

With this project, we’re introducing a number of new faces to the Sarasvàti Productions artistic team as well as welcoming back some familiar ones! Get to know this week’s featured New Beginnings artists below.

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Denisse Samaniego

Denisse Samaniego is currently a third-year Theatre and Education student at University of Winnipeg. She has been performing since she learned how to talk. This is her debut performance with Sarasvàti Productions as well as her first professional job as a performer. She is honored to be a part of such a wonderful and real piece and can’t wait for everyone to experience it.

Having come over from the Philippines at the age of three, Denisse can relate to her character Hazel’s story. “I’m an immigrant and my parents, like Hazel, started from nothing and worked hard to where they are now to provide a better life for me,” says Denisse. “I want to thank my parents for everything they have done because I literally wouldn’t be here in Canada doing what I love without them.”

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Reena Jolly

In addition to Hazel’s story, Denisse will also take part in depicting Ariana’s journey about a family of women escaping a dangerous situation to come to Canada. Also in Ariana’s story is Sarasvàti Productions veteran Reena Jolly. Reena is a fourth-year arts student at the University of Manitoba. She has been keeping herself very busy this year when it comes to theatre, having acted in two out of the three Black Hole Theatre Company mainstages: Nothing Sacred and Marat/Sade. Reena also appeared in our 2017 and 2018 IWW Cabaret of Monologues. Source material has been drawn from the monologue she performed in 2017, You Say Tomato, I Say Goodbye. It is the story of Irekanmi, a young high school student trying to balance assimilation into Canadian culture with her own heritage.

“I’m excited to bring the character of Irekanmi to life!” says Reena. “It’s so cool that they have transformed her into a complete, well-rounded character. Plus it’s an added perk that that some of the lines from the monologue are in the play, so I have fewer lines to memorize!”

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Bosun Amao

Joining Reena in her third piece for the show is Bosun Amao, performing a snapshot from his own life. Hailing from Nigeria, Bosun has over fifteen years of experience in financial advisory, operations and project management. Aside his professional experience, Bosun has served at different times as head of drama/theatre group as well as co-founder of a dance group between year 2002 and 2003 with four other friends. He has handled various theatre projects and also coordinated the production of a film.

For all our these incredible stories and more, you can catch New Beginnings running May 22nd – 27th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St). Don’t miss out – get your tickets today!

“New Beginnings”: Meet the Artists!

We’re so excited to start introducing the artists behind our upcoming production, New Beginnings! This incredible collaboration features a team of over thirty people to bring to life stories of resettlement from all over the world. This production has given us the chance to work with newcomers of all backgrounds to share their experiences with Winnipeg audiences.

We had the privilege of sharing the story of Rachel Awur Moijok Chol as part of our 2017 IWW Cabaret of Monologues. Lost Girls focuses on the missing girls of the South Sudan, pairing Rachel’s voice with movement performed and choreographed by Sydney Macfarlane.

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Sydney Macfarlane

“I am really looking forward to the challenge of bringing someone’s story to life through movement,” says Sydney. “It forces me to dig deep into expressions and put me in the shoes of the person I am portraying. Some of these stories are just so empowering and it makes me feel really happy to help someone’s story be known and give a visual to their voice.”

Dance has always been a huge part of Sydney’s life, allowing her to connect more with music and herself. Sydney started dancing at the age of 5 taking tap and ballet before branching off to jazz, contemporary, lyrical, modern, acrobatics and hip-hop throughout the years. Recently she has been trying to learn more about Latin ballroom styles to grow her dance vocabulary.

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Olaolu Fayokun

Performing for the first time with Sarasvàti Productions is Olaolu Fayokun. Originally hailing from Nigeria, Olaolu (Lou) now resides in Winnipeg. Olaolu established a love for the dramatic arts in high school and has since taken up studies in law and theatrical arts at the University of Manitoba, playing a prominent role in the university’s Black Hole Theatre Company. Most recently he appeared in their 2017-2018 season as Gregor in George F. Walker’s Nothing Sacred.

“I’m excited about the way in which this piece gives the audience numerous perspectives on immigration – how it affects not only the present, but future generations,” says Olaolu. “I personally connect with the unique stories depicting the journey people took to carve a safe and promising future for themselves.”

 

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Jonathan Chipalata

Jonathan Chipalata is a current student at Gordon Bell High School, where he received a Best Actor Award in 2016. He’s been acting since the second grade, appearing in musical theatre and performing for big crowds.  Born in the DRC, Jonathan immigrated to Canada with his mother, father, and siblings from South Africa. As part of the production’s acting ensemble, both he and Olaolu will be portraying Kamta’s story, which focuses on two generations of newcomers at the most Canadian of workplaces: Tim Horton’s.

 

You can catch both of these powerful stories – and many more – at the world premiere of New Beginnings May 22-27. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we feature more of the amazing artists involved in this production. For more info and to buy tickets, click here!

Inspiring Collaboration

One of the most exciting aspects of producing International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable is seeing incredible artists work together – often for the very first time! This week we feature one of these brand new collaborations with the team behind Captain of My Ship along the pair of familiar collaborators behind, I’ve Never Been Very Good at Drawing Hearts, But I Keep Trying.

Captain of My Ship playwright, Kathy France, saw the piece arise while working on a full-length play that explores female archetypes and how they resonate in contemporary women’s lives.

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Kathy France

“Spoken word? Never wrote a piece before I wrote this one. Now it’s a thing I do”, says France. “I was a director first, then grew the courage to act, then took on producing in foreign countries so I could get myself on stage, then grew the courage to write.”

Originally from Winnipeg, France lived abroad in Syria, Thailand, Nepal, Yugoslavia, Croatia and Trinidad before settling down in the tiny, rural town of Wolfville, NS.

France’s piece is a coming-of-age story. “It’s about the journey all girls travel, whether they know it or not”, says France. “All young women grow up to be women, and somewhere along the way they grow to understand what “woman” means, in society, in themselves. Certainly, at the time of my own sexual awakening, I didn’t know that “woman” was a social construct that would probably never serve my best interests.”

Sarasvàti Productions couples France’s piece with a talented troupe of local performers.

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Ady Kay

“I feel connected to the messages I get from this piece about the confines and restrictions of gender norms. I feel connected to the way the words rhyme and work together to create imagery,” says performer Ady Kay. Together with collaborators Emily Solstice and Victoria Hill, Kay is devising a physical rendition of Captain of My Ship.

Kay is a performer, dancer, clown and poet, just to name a few.  “I am excited about this piece”, says Kay. “Not only does it speak to a matter that I care about very much, it also is beautifully described through poetry. And with poetry, so much is possible as a physical performer.”

A.b. Norris is the Winnipeg-based film maker and playwright behind I’ve Never Been Very Good at Drawing Hearts, But I Keep Trying.

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A.b. Norris

“The original concept came to me after I’d taken some pictures and decided to turn them into a short silent film”, says Norris, “but I wanted to articulate some of what I’m trying to express in a different way.”

Enter Monika Thurn und Taxis.

“The theme of the eclipse and the symbology is a very close theme to my personal life”, says Thurn und Taxis, who is a performer and photographer.  The two have worked together on theatre projects before.

“The challenges I articulate in this piece are ones with which I contend”, says Norris. “Something unique is required to work against internal conflicts versus external forces. It’s a different kind of persistence that challenges the barriers we put up ourselves, or the cycles we perpetuate and in which we can become caught.”

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Monika Thurn und Taxis

“I believe deeply in the reflection of our nature in the sky. An eclipse is an important moment that asks us to be present with the darkness around us and shine our inner light”, says Thurn und Taxis. “This symbology, paired with the want and need to love and be loved and not giving up on finding our true love in either a person, a career or any other form that might be important to us—it’s very powerful.”

We look forward to presenting these inspiring collaborations on March 10th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Details and tickets here.

 

Sarasvàti’s Top 6: ‘What Has Us Excited About 2018’

We have big plans for 2018! Check out the top 6 things that have us starting off the year full of enthusiasm!

6) We are excited to be working with Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba to provide ASL interpreters at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues for the very first time! Living through riots, learning to teach yoga as a senior, accepting your true self and conquering all odds – see these stories of unstoppable women March 10th. ASL interpretation will be provided for both the 4pm and 8pm performance. Celebrate International Women’s Week with us!

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The cast of IWW17.

5) We are eager to premiere the full production of a project we’ve been working on for two years – New Beginnings. Witness the coming together of a diverse range of artists, community members, recent newcomers and established immigrants. Through the use of dance, music, visual art and storytelling we will come together to explore the themes of displacement and resettlement. This unique production will also run in the same space as One Trunk Theatre’s new show Boundary Avenue. There will be special opportunities to see both productions. Visit our website to get your tickets!

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4) We are so pleased to be going into 2018 with full-time admin support thanks to the capacity-building funding we received from The Winnipeg Foundation! This support will enable us to reach our full potential. You can bet we’ll be taking things to new heights!

3) We can’t wait to launch our second year of theatre workshops with the youth at Children of the Earth School. Last year, we piloted a series of theatre workshops at COTE  – a school that would not otherwise offer a theatre program. The results were incredible. This year we’ll return to offer regular theatre programming with facilitators Marsha Knight and Josh Ranville plus a roster of amazing guest artists.


2) It’s only January and we are already hard at work planning FemFest2018 – Staging Resistance. Provocative plays, brand new workshops and artists with incredible vision, we have a lot in store! Stay tuned for details on our 16th annual festival.

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1) We feel very enthusiastic to be working towards our 2018 goals with the support of an amazing staff, Board, volunteers and audience base. Most of all, we look forward to sharing a transformational year with all of you. Happy New Year!

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Many of our staff and Board members at a December meeting

For on-the-pulse news on our 2018 productions and workshops visit sarasvati.ca or sign-up for our mailing list!

 

Looking Back on a Remarkable Year

Wow! It’s hard to believe how much can happen in a year. This week we look back on our greatest endeavours of 2017 made possible due to the amazing support of our donors, funders, volunteers, artists and community partners!

  • Theatre Workshops with North End Youth

We launched into 2017 with a focused series of theatre workshops for North End youth. Youth Coordinators Frances Koncan and Cherrel Holder alongside a series of guest artists introduced theatre techniques and worked on scenes with youth. On February 22nd we celebrated with a showcase of the youth involved. We have already heard from multiple youth that they have decided to pursue theatre and we have had the pleasure of continuing to work with these youth in skill-focused workshops and mentorship sessions. We are thrilled to be continuing with a series of theatre workshops at Children of the Earth School in the New Year!

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study theatre but now I’m sure!” – Sabil, Youth Participant

  • International Women’s Week

Last March, ten amazing women took to the stage in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. The theme was Starting Over, sharing stories of displacement, resettlement and life-changing moments. We toured to new community venues like North End Family Centre. We were so honoured to facilitate the sharing of these crucial perspectives which are all too often silenced.

“The performances took place in our typically very busy and noisy drop in space. However, the performances were so captivating that you could have heard a pin drop!”
-Kristi Beaune, Mount Carmel Clinic
“Our students connected with what the presenters were saying on a deep level. I would highly recommend the monologues.”
-Rob Visch, Principal St. Aidan’s Christian School

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We used the story-gathering conducted for International Women’s Week as a spring board to soar into our next community-based project: New Beginnings. We began reaching out to artists and meeting with partner organizations. In September, we gave audiences a sneak peek at what we have in the works at a FemFest preview. From May 22-27, 2018 you can witness the coming together of a diverse range of artists, community members, recent newcomers and established immigrants. Through the use of dance, music, visual art and storytelling we will share stories of resettlement.

“Great evening at FemFest and Sarasvati production of New Beginnings! Congratulations to Rosemary Kezaabu and Gertrude Hambira, two of the women who told their stories.” – Mary Scott, Audience Member
“It was such a wonderful night yesterday! So glad I was able to participate in this project.” – Patricia Gordon, Performer

  • FemFest 2017: Coming of Age

This FemFest audiences and artists came together to celebrate 15 years of life-changing theatre.  We were proud to present such provocative touring shows as Watching Glory Die by Judith Thompson. We had some incredible first-times, partnering with the West End Cultural Centre to present Tomboy Survival Guide and partnering with the Millennium Library to present The Human Library! It was so rewarding to offer filmmaker Sonya Ballantyne her first opportunity to direct for the stage with Two Indians. We were proud to honour some of Winnipeg’s most prolific female playwrights at the One Night Stand and toast to 15 years. Believe it or not planning has already begun for FemFest 2018!

“…one of the most incredible and moving pieces of art I have ever seen” – Tatiana Carnevale, Audience Member at Tomboy Survival Guide at FemFest 2017
“Wow. I have not been so moved by a piece of theatre for a long time” – Cheryl Costen, Audience Member at Watching Glory Die at FemFest 2017

  • Second Annual Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

Thanks to two fantastic audiences and eight hilarious comedians we almost sold out two back-to-back shows for our Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser. We heard nothing but glowing remarks from audience members. We can’t wait for next year!

“Awesome” – Audience Member
“Everyone is so talented!” – Audience Member

  • Workshops for Emerging Artists

    This season we’ve provided workshops and mentorship in theatre design, tech, directing, auditioning and more! One of the highlights was our playwriting masterclass with master playwright, Judith Thompson. We aren’t slowing down anytime soon! You can look forward to workshops in vocal technique, auditioning , dramaturgy and more in 2018!

    “Extremely beneficial. Going through the audition process (before, during, after) has made me feel that I have a much better idea of how the process works, especially with professional companies.” – Participant in Auditioning 101
    “All of it was pure gold.”
    – Participant in Coffee with Ann Hodges

We also rebooted our One Night Stand series with three opportunities throughout the year for playwrights to test material under the amazing leadership of Tatiana Carnevale!

  • COMMUNITY

This year also allowed us to work with several amazing community organizations. From doing workshops with youth leaders at SEED to presenting an overview of our work for the Council of Women of Winnipeg and PCWM. The largest initiative was the amazing experience preparing Can You See Me Now in partnership with West Central Women’s Resource Centre.  The women shared their experience of homelessness with such power that it truly opened eyes and hearts.

Here’s to another year of making and experiencing tranformative theatre together!