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!

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Bringing Women’s Stories to the Stage

We have an incredible line-up in store for this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues! A teenage girl comes out to her family, a woman fights to go to the moon, a spoken word artist challenges stereotypes… all these pieces and many more will be featured during our 2019 Cabaret!

Get to know the playwrights that will be featured at this year’s event:

 

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Ivy Charles

Sunday Morning Brunch by 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.

 

Nan Fewchuk

Nan Fewchuk

Thelma and Louise created and performed by Nan Fewchuk

Nan is no stranger to working with Sarasvàti Productions, having worked on such favorites as Fefu and Her Friends, Fen, Jail Baby and Empty. Nan has also 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.

 

Natalie Frija

Natalie Frijia

Geraldine Sloan Truhill: Mommy’s Going to the Moon, Kids! by Natalie Frijia

Natalie Frijia is a Toronto-based writer, theatre-maker, clown-wrangler, and adventurer. She was also a member of Storefront Theatre’s inaugural playwriting unit. Her plays have been workshopped and presented at Storefront Theatre, Rhubarb Festival, New Ideas Festival, and Fringe festivals across Canada. Recent productions include, Divine, GO/NO, Last Transmission, and Black Wool Jacket.

 

 

Leslea Kroll

Leslea Kroll

The Lightfishers by Leslea Kroll

Leslea’s first play Domesticatrix was nominated for a Sterling Award for Outstanding Fringe Script. Her other plays include Swallow, Auksenberg: Trial by Fury, Stains, The Catalogue of Bones, BonePeddlers, Queen of the AnthroScene, The LightFishers, and WellSpring.

 

 

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Shereen Ramprashad

I Am NOT a Victim created and performed by Shereen Ramprashad

Shereen Ramprashad is a colorful, witty and lively Canadian writer based out of Winnipeg Manitoba. Her writings are a creative blend of intelligent metaphor and philosophy with under currents of subtext and observation.

 

 

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Hailley Rhoda

Talking about ED created and performed by Hailley Rhoda

Hailley Rhoda is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Theatre and Film department. She is an actor, puppeteer, and writer. Hailley has worked with Sarasvàti on several projects, including Ripple Effect, Honey and Jupiter, and The Seduction Theory. She is the founding – and only – member of Chronically Ch(ill) Productions.

 

 

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Makrenna Sterdan

Who’s Driving? by Makrenna Sterdan

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. Her monologue Doing It for the Fame was featured in Sarasvàti Productions’ 2016 Cabaret of Monologues.

 

Vicki Zhang

Vicki Zhang

Oracle Jane by Vicki Zhang

Vicki Zhang’s 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.

 

 

 

You can catch all of these pieces on March 9th, 2019, at 4PM and 8PM! The 8PM performance will also have ASL interpretation available. Stay tuned as we announce additional performers bringing women’s stories to the stage!

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!

 

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!

Staying Unstoppable Through Change

This week, we’re featuring three more artists from our upcoming International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable! Get to know them below:

Sweet an Nice – written by Althea Cunningham, performed by Lorraine James

Althea Cunningham headshot 2017

Althea Cunningham

Cunningham is of Jamaican descent and grew up in Edmonton, AB. She is a graduate of the Theatre Arts Program at MacEwan University and a seasoned performer with a background in acting, writing, music and producing.  In 2005, Cunningham founded her three-tier company Nappy Roots Productions, which focuses on positive stories for the black diaspora in the twenty-first century using writing, acting and music as the vehicle.

Her piece, Sweet an Nice, focuses on the story of her mother as a Jamaican immigrant coming to Canada in the 1970s. “Not only was it culture shock, but there were unexpected challenges she experienced up until the day of her death. My mother, being my most beloved parent, left behind a legacy that I feel needs exploring,” says Cunningham. “It’s a story that deals with intense, painful themes: immigration, discrimination, abuse, and codependency. Writing allows me to explore, heal and move forward from the past.”

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Lorraine James

Bringing Cunningham’s piece to the stage is long-time veteran of Sarasvàti, Lorraine James. James has most recently been seen in the 2017 FemFest Bake-Off, The Mousetrap for Christiefest, When God Comes for Breakfast You Don’t Burn the Toast, and The Appointment.

“I get to portray an experience seemingly outside of myself,” says James. “I’m gaining insight on what it must’ve been like for my parents to uproot their lives to come here, to realize that there are people out there who feel threatened by immigrants and yet have no idea about the real struggles.”

 

I Got 99 Problems, My Penis is Just One – created and performed by Cynthia Fortlage

Cynthia Fortlage headshot 2017

Cynthia Fortlage

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Fortlage has worked as an internationally award-winning information technology executive for the past twenty-nine years with a privately owned Winnipeg company.  She is a board member with various organizations, including Rainbow Resource Center where she sits as President of the Board. Ms. Fortlage came to terms in 2016 with a forty-one-year denial of her true gender identity.

Fortlage created her piece to share some insight as a transgender woman and to share the message of acceptance without understanding. “Acceptance without understanding is a way to see how we interact with each other as human beings first before any gender, sexual preference, age, body shape, country of origin, political or religious beliefs, and so on.”

You can catch these amazing pieces – and many more! – on March 10th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Ticket information available 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.

Kathy France headshot 2017

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.

Ady Kay headshot_2017

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.

A.b. Norris headshot 2017

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.”

Monika Thurn und Taxis headshot_2017

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!

The cast of IWW2017

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.

FemFest Logo

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!

Staff and Board December 2017

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!