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.

 

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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!

Meet the Cast of “Home 2.0”!

“This project means a lot to me, especially as a first generation Canadian that grew up watching my parents going through similar struggles after their immigration.”

– performer Joanne Roberts

Over the past two years, we’ve conducted interviews with local community groups to share the stories of newcomer youth. Home 2.0 was created as part of our “New Beginnings” project, focusing on youth experiences of immigration and resettlement.

After a great preview at FemFest 2018, Home 2.0 is ready to hit the road starting October 15th! Meet the incredible cast bringing newcomer stories to life:

Melissa Langdon

Melissa Langdon

Melissa Langdon is thrilled to be back with Sarasvàti Productions. A recent graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Theatre and Film program, she loves singing, dancing, and playing the violin. You might have seen her in past productions as Kay in Time and the Conways, Nearly Wild in Concord Floral, or Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz Guildenstern Are Dead and the Original New Beginnings cast.

 

Reena Jolly

Reena Jolly

Reena Jolly is keeping herself very busy this year when it comes to theatre. Later in the year, Reena will be doing another touring show with MTYP called Torn Through Time. When Reena is not out saving the world one smile at a time, she enjoys things like hanging out with her family, singing in the shower and being a decent human being. Reena feels very blessed to be surrounded by such talented and inspiring performers all year round.

 

 

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Manuel Ortega

Manuel Ortega is proud to collaborate with Sarasvàti Productions. Arriving as refugees with his family in the winter of 1990, this play strikes a certain chord in his heart. Manuel is a graduate of U of M and has worked under the directions of Bill Kerr, Chris Johnson, Gary Jarvis and Kelly Jenken. Fluent in English and Spanish, Manuel enjoys Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, singing, and dancing, in no particular order.

 

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Matthew Paris-Irvine

Matthew Paris-Irvine is thrilled to be making his second appearance with Sarasvàti Productions! Last appearing in the Giving Voice tour, Matt is ecstatic to be touring again with such a powerful story.  A recent graduate of the Honours Acting program at the University of Winnipeg, selected past credits include: Time and The Conways, Concord Floral, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (University of Winnipeg); Tuesdays and Sundays (Beau Theatre Co); and The Laramie Project (Meraki Productions). He would like to thank those who have shared their stories and hopes this show can serve as a catalyst for even more voices to be emboldened.

 

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Joanne Roberts

Joanne Roberts approaches acting like one does an extreme sport. A veteran of horror films, she most recently starred in a short film titled “Dead Bolt” produced by CBC. As a comédienne Joanne joined Théâtre Cercle Molière for their Manitoba tour of De Bouche à oreille. Not one to shy from away from drama, a notable performance was as Sawda in Wajdi Mouawad’s  Scorched. The Quill Newspaper stated that her performance “hit everyone in the theatre with intense emotion [.]” Joanne is proud of her work, but also of her studio where she coaches new artists. Many students have gone onto professional careers.

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Denisse Samaniego

 

Denisse Samaniego is a Theatre and Education student at University of Winnipeg. As a part of the original cast of New Beginnings, she is excited to work with Sarasvàti Productions once again to bring you the revised version, Home 2.0. As an immigrant herself coming to Winnipeg at the age of 3, she finds the stories very close to her heart and is so honoured to be sharing these stories to all audiences.

 

 

 

Headshot Bennette Villones

Bennette Villones

Bennette Villones is just a girl who wants to inspire people and wants to pursue her dreams in the arts. To make and create art that’ll have an impact on people. A way to make people smile, laugh, feel understood, that they’re not alone and that they have a voice of their own they can share to world.

 

 

 

Home 2.0 has two public previews for audiences that may not be able to experience this show in a school. The first preview is the Graffiti Gallery (109 Higgins Ave) on October 11th at 7PM (admission by donation). The second is on October 20th 2018 at the Millennium Library at 7PM as part of the library’s teen program and requires registration on the library’s website. . For more information on the tour and previews, please contact Angelina at touring@sarasvati.ca or call the office at (204) 586-2236.

 

That’s a Wrap on FemFest 2018!

Another FemFest has come and gone! This past weekend, we wrapped up our 16th festival featuring life-changing theatre for everyone. FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance saw touring shows from across Canada and the world, including a bilingual production coming all the way in from Morocco! Here are some of the highlights from this year’s festival.

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We kicked the festival off with a bang, starting with a reading of last year’s Bake-Off winner “OUR HOME and native land” by Jo MacDonald and a preview of our latest school tour, Home 2.0! Opening Night saw an eclectic cabaret featuring an incredible range of artists including comedy, spoken word, dance, music, and visual art. The night included Elissa Kixen and Dione C. Haynes of WOKE Comedy Hour tickling our funny bones, Maribeth Tabanera and Tracy Tomchuk unleashing a powerful hip-hop dance performance, and The Patriarchy opened the show with their hilarious brand of a capella comedy. Thank you to the night’s host and coordinator, Alexa Potashnik for all her hard work! We also had a great opening reception with sponsorship from Garbanzo’s Pizza Pub UofW Anx and The Winehouse.

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This year we partnered with local Indian dance company Manohar Performing Arts for our in-house production of The Game! This show featured a beautiful blend of traditional Indian dance with scripted theatre, playing to packed houses and a sold-out final show.

Alissa Watson Bake Off

Alissa Watson and Cairn Moore

Annual FemFest staple The Bake-Off gave five fearless playwrights just eight hours – and three secret ingredients – to create an all-new scene! Alissa Watson took home the Janet Taylor Bake-Off Playwriting Award for her scene, The Switch, which featured a drone, children’s laughter, and the Nellie McClung quote “democracy for women”. You can catch what happens next when The Switch gets its own reading at FemFest 2019!

 

“Thanks so much for all the love Sarasvàti Productions – I am so honoured to receive this award. A Big Shout Out to all the fantastic playwrights this year. So many great starts to future plays! Now we all have to figure out that happens next!” – Alissa Watson via Facebook, Bake-Off Winner

Our touring shows featured an incredible range of stories, including life at Burning Man in Norah Paton’s Burnt, growing up in a white man’s high school in Darla Contois’ White Man’s Indian, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard speaking truth to power in Sound of the Beast. We also partnered with Théâtre Cercle Molière to bring in La civilisation, ma mère!…, from Morocco, featuring performances in both French and Arabic!

Shorts

SHORTS cast: Hera Nalam, Ivan Henwood, and Gisele Charr

Audiences who stuck around between shows also got to take in our SHORTS series directed by Megan Andres! The series featured short works from playwrights Colleen Wagner, Tyler White, Vicki Zhang, Jen McDonald, Alexandria Haber, and Sara Arenson, offering a great sample platter of Canadian theatre.

 

Winnipeg audiences braved the chilly weather to take in our all-new Walking Art Tour, featuring artists across disciplines performing in some of downtown Winnipeg’s hidden gems. The tour saw Emilie Lemay live-painting outside Wesley Hall, Tiana Northage’s powerful spoken word at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Alexandra Elliott and Hilary Anne Crist transforming Hudson’s Bay into a stark doctor’s office, Dawn Lavand performing her unique mix of stand-up and drumming inside Portage Place, and singer-songwriter waNda wilsoN serenading us from Saigon Park. Huge thank-you to Downtown Winnipeg Biz and the Host It program for their support, and to Heather Witherden for hosting!

“It was great! Some sights in Winnipeg that I’d never seen, plus some extremely talented artists. Win-win.” – Audience Member, Walking Art Tour

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We closed out the festival with our One Night Stand series, giving playwrights the opportunity to present their work and gain valuable audience feedback. We invited both local and touring playwrights to participate, including Leigh-Anne Kehler, Frances Koncan, Jo MacDonald, Cairn Moore, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard!

Huge thank-you as always to our incredible staff, amazing performers, hard-working crew, and the team of volunteers that made this year’s festival possible. Want to be a part of FemFest 2019? We’re already looking for submissions! See you next year for FemFest 2019: All the World’s a Stage, running September 14-21!

 

Five Must-See Events at FemFest!

Hard to believe we’re more than halfway through FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance! It’s been an incredible week of theatre already… Saturday saw an eclectic Opening Cabaret with musicians, comedians, and spoken word artists from across Winnipeg! On Monday, we crowned Alissa Watson as our Bake-Off winner with her scene The Switch, which will get its own reading at FemFest 2019. We also premiered some incredible touring shows from around the world, including Burnt and La civilisation, ma mère! As the festival comes to a close, here are some events you won’t want to miss.

 

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1.  Sound of the Beast

This solo piece by two-time Governor General’s Award Nominee Donna-Michelle St. Bernard (aka Belladonna the Blest) speaks truth to power using spoken word, storytelling and hip-hop. The show highlights St. Bernard’s quick wit and quicker rhymes in a performance that reflects on identity, oppression and what happens when authority is questioned. We’ll be hosting a talkback discussion after today’s matinee at 1PM, facilitated by Tamika Krush of QPOC Winnipeg. Don’t miss your chance to experience this powerful production for yourself!

 

White Man's Indian.jpg2.  White Man’s Indian

Darla Contois takes on the ensemble of characters that make up this transformative work, focusing on the story of Eva, a Cree teenage girl, and her journey through the maze of a White Man’s high school. Following the opening performance on September 18th, we hosted a panel with Darla, Matt B. Shorting of Onashowewin Justice Circle, and Gabrielle Fiddler of Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre to talk about the issues presented by the play, as well as the larger topic of Indigenous representation on stage. There are two more chances to take in this incredible one-woman show: tonight at 9PM and Friday at 7PM!

 

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3.  Walking Art Tour

Be one of the select few who will get to experience this brand-new event! We’ve brought in an incredible team of artists who will be performing at some of Downtown Winnipeg’s hidden gems. The tour is hosted by local comedienne Heather Witherden and features Emilie Lemay (visual art), Tiana Northage (spoken word), Alexandra Elliott and Hilary Anne Crist of Art Holm (movement), Dawn Lavand (stand-up comedy), and waNda wilsoN (music). Just twenty people will get to take part in this unique event: book your spot today so you don’t miss out! The tour wraps up September 22nd at 2PM.

 

SignLanguageInterpretationDayTranslationsInterpretation4.  ASL-Interpreted Performances

After responding to requests to make theatre more accessible to our community, we’re proud to announce that we’ll be offering ASL interpretation for three shows in this year’s festival! Come see Burnt tonight at 7PM, White Man’s Indian Friday at 7PM, or Sound of the Beast Saturday also at 7PM. Tickets start at $15 – get yours today!

 

one-night-stand-poster-april-11-e1524149136777.png5.  One Night Stand

Join us on the closing night of the festival as we toast to 16 successful years! We’ll be featuring sneak peeks of new work from celebrated female playwrights, including Leigh-Anne Kehler, Frances Koncan, Jo MacDonald, Cairn Moore, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. The series is coordinated by Tatiana Carnevale and features performances by Melanee Deschambeault, Katie German, Kim Kakegamic, Glenn Odero, Matthew Paris-Irvine, and Erica Wilson.

The festival is running until Saturday, September 22nd with all performances taking place at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St) unless otherwise noted. With so much to take in, you won’t want to miss a thing! Make sure to check out our full FemFest schedule for all our upcoming events.

FemFest Opens with an Explosion of Talent

Now entering its 16th year, FemFest continues to celebrate women in theatre, representing women artists from across the nation. Since 2003, FemFest has provided a supportive environment for women in theatre and the performing arts. The theme this year for FemFest is Resistance, an idea that could not have been better represented than in the works of this year’s artists. While community members can enjoy riveting plays from artists like Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Darla Contois and Norah Paton, our annual Opening Cabaret is jam-packed with Winnipeg artists, a must for this year’s FemFest.

The Opening Cabaret features a variety of multidisciplinary artists from Winnipeg’s dynamic arts community. As Sarasvàti Productions builds inspiring theatre that challenges perceptions and affects change in our community, this year’s Cabaret artists take the theme Resistance to another level. From comedy to film, choreography, dramatic arts and music, there’s no shortage of talent amongst this dynamic group that audiences won’t enjoy.

FemFest and theatre enthusiasts alike can look forward to a high-energy showcase with a total of nine acts that represent the definition of diversity in Winnipeg’s art-scene. Whether you’re listening to the vocal stylings of up-and-coming music sensation Rychelle Thompson, the artful technique of DJ Louie Lovebird, or even the raw and undeniably hilarious truth from the WOKE Comedy Collective with Dione C. Haynes and Elissa Black Wolf Kixen, these Cabaret artists bring a unique edge to the table.

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Given that Sarasvàti Productions champions programming that is diverse and inclusive to narratives from all walks of life, we are thrilled to showcase this incredible group of artists, creating an evening that is inviting and fun for everyone. For those wondering who else is on our roster this year we are happy to have the following acts a part of our 16th annual Opening Cabaret.

If you love challenging the at-times overwhelming exhibits of male privilege throughout your daily life, then these ladies have the best way for you to join in challenging the misogyny! Meet Ady Kay & Victoria Emilie Hill, the two brilliant minds of the group called The Patriarchy: a comedic a capella duo ready to smash the patriarchy with their ridiculous personalities and singing abilities.

If visual art is also of interest, audience members can look forward to an artist talk with one of Winnipeg’s emerging artist from MAWA (Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art). Sue Hoang is a multidisciplinary artist whose work has a comical way of looking at the world in order to create a sense of belonging. From visual to performance art, these two delightful souls bring absolute genius to the comedy game in Winnipeg. Whether you catch them at their monthly community comedy showcase or saw them at this year’s Fringe Festival, Dione C Haynes and Elissa Black Wolf Kixen (co-founders of WOKE Comedy Collective) will leave you holding your sides all night and in tears from honest and hilarious storytelling, demanding your attention with their charming yet intriguing comedy routine. Then listen to the powerful and refreshing vocals from up-and-coming vocalist Rychelle Thompson whose energetic and soulful voice will have you tapping your feet along to her unique and enriching voice. For such a young talent, Rychelle is on her way to making quite an impression on Winnipeg’s music community.

We couldn’t have a showcase without film! Bank Statement from filmmaker Tyshana Hobson follows the story of a young Indigenous woman who gets questioned by a teller when she makes her bi-weekly cash deposits at her local bank. Bringing nothing but raw realities and truth through cinematic perfection, Tyshana’s film will leave you both enlightened and intrigued. If film is your favourite pastime, you will absolutely adore ‘Frequently Asked Questions About My Hair’ by actor Lorraine James, a longstanding talent in Winnipeg’s acting community whose work will leave you more educated on the everyday situations Black women get into living and just existing in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Moving from dramatic to performance and movement arts, the breathtaking and ever-so technical-stylings of dance duo Maribeth Tabanera & Tracy Tomchuk, with their piece titled Energy Prevalence, will have you signing up for their next dance workshop. Moving into another medium of artistic expression, spoken word; this show would not be complete without the words from poet, writer and political-activist Sadie Phoenix-Lavoie (co-founder of Red Rising Magazine).

Ending off the night in a stellar way is local artist, DJ Louie Lovebird (Lou Gandier), a powerhouse talent that will have you running to dance floor when they drop the most intense music mashups to get you grooving at Winnipeg’s local nightlife scene.

We could not be more happy to present this incredible group of artists celebrating Resistance for FemFest 16th year at our Opening Cabaret. Save the date, Saturday, September 15 at The Asper Centre for Theatre and Film starting at 7:00PM with free reception (with food provided from Garbonzos at the U of W AnX) after the cabaret!

Sound of the Beast: speaking truth to power

In March 2013, Tunisian rapper Ala Yaacoub, also known as Weld El 15, was sentenced to two years in prison for his song Boulicia Kleb (The Police Are Dogs). It was his response to police violence, a cause for anger if ever there was one. Donna-Michelle St. Bernard pays tribute to Weld El 15 in her solo show Sound of the Beast, produced by Theatre Passe Muraille with direction and dramaturgy by Andy McKim and Jivesh Parasram. The piece has continued to evolve since its first performance, so FemFest audiences will get to see the latest version of the piece.

Sound of the Beast is part of Donna-Michelle’s project to write one play inspired by each of the 54 countries in Africa. Yes, that means 54 plays. And yes, she’s an amazing playwright. She’s been nominated for the Governor General’s award. Twice. In Sound of the Beast, Donna-Michelle brings a story from Tunisia to a stage in Canada to remind us that police violence doesn’t just happen far away (or just south of the border). With the passionate power of storytelling, spoken word, and hip-hop, Donna-Michelle calls out the Toronto police for their gun violence, particularly against people of colour.SoundoftheBeast photo by Michael Cooper

Lynn Slotkin’s review states that “Donna-Michelle St. Bernard tells a gripping, compelling story that is happening all over the world. Her stories and their telling are not clichéd into sameness. Each one is perceptively drawn, calmly told, clearly illuminated and will make you suck air for all the right reasons. She is a compelling presence who tells a vital story.” Chris Klippenstein emphasises in his review that Donna-Michelle “get(s) the audience to realize something about themselves” and describes the piece as an “intense, memorable constellation of storytelling.”

Sound of the Beast
There’s a 100% chance that Sound of the Beast will make you feel something. Don’t believe me? There’s only one way to find out. Get your tickets here! You can see it at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film on Thursday, September 20, at 1:00 pm (followed by a talkback), Friday, September 21, at 9:00 pm, or Saturday, September 22, at 7:00 pm. You can also catch Donna-Michelle’s Real Thing lecture on Wednesday, September 19, at 12:30 pm. You won’t be disappointed!