“Home 2.0” Hits the Road!

Our latest school tour is up and running! After two years of community interviews and storytelling, Home 2.0 hit the road this week to start its Manitoban tour. We’ll be taking the show to high schools in Winnipeg and surrounding areas to share stories of immigration, resettlement, and what it means to start over in a new country.

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“Do you remember your first time on a plane?”

This past week, we opened the show with a public preview at the Graffiti Gallery. The cast got to test-run the show with an audience, getting folks on their feet to help work through the issues presented by the play. One audience member said that the stories felt so familiar. As someone who works with newcomers, she was moved by the common threads between her clients and the characters in the play.

Because Home 2.0 is presented “forum theatre style”, the play shows audiences the worst case scenario for the characters and invites them to explore actions that will lead to a better ending. After the play, audience members were encouraged to swap out with the characters to find a solution together. Audience members stepped into the scenes, offering one student the chance to succeed in sports while another was given help with sponsorship papers. One audience member even stepped into a bully’s shoes to make a newcomer student feel welcome! Home 2.0 is already showing audiences how we can help make a change for the better.

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“Home 2.0” Preview at the Graffiti Gallery

We kicked off the tour on Monday with back-to-back double-show days at Steinbach Regional Secondary School before performing for Seven Oaks Met School and Miles Mac Collegiate.  “The students at our first show were amazing,” shares Director Hope McIntyre, “they stopped the action and jumped in with amazing enthusiasm. In fact, they were competing to get up there.” Want to bring the show to your school? We only have a few dates left before the tour wraps up on December 7 – contact Angelina at touring@sarasvati.ca for more information!

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The cast and stage manager of “Home 2.0”!

Not a student or a teacher? No problem! You still have one more chance to check out Home 2.0 outside of a school – we’ll be at the Millennium Library on Saturday, October 20th at 2PM. While we recommend the show for youth thirteen and up, all ages are welcome! Admission is by donation. For more info, visit our event page!

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Women’s Comedy Night is Back!

They say good things come in threes – so we’ve brought back our annual Women’s Comedy Night fundraiser for a third year! On November 14th, join some of Winnipeg’s funniest women in supporting life-changing theatre.

Dana SmithReturning as host for her third year is Dana Smith. Dana Smith runs the successful monthly Women’s Open Mic and is a member of the sketch group HUNKS. She’s been featured in Just for Laughs Northwest, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, Chicago Sketchfest, San Francisco Sketchfest, Edmonton’s Improvaganza, and has recorded for Sirius XM radio.

 

 

ElissaElissa Black Wolf Kixen will be producing the event for the first time. Elissa is an Anishinaabe Two Spirit Comedian whose roots lay in Couchiching First Nation, Ontario. They have travelled across Canada and the USA as a Comedian and improviser. They use comedy as a tool in dealing with racism, homophobia, and sexism. They are the co-founder/producer of WOKE Comedy Hour and have been featured on APTN’s The Laughing Drum and serve as the Manitoba Ambassador for the Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians. They also co-produce Queer and Present Danger with Chanty Morastica.

 

Meet the comedians who will be tickling your funny bones:

ana.jpgAna Damaskin is Russian-Canadian that relocated to Winnipeg from Maritimes 6 years ago after she mistook a cult for yoga retreat and gave up all possession. She’s self-realized aging hipster who has bike, drinks kombucha, and enjoy soothing sounds of white-noise machine. She has performed at Queer & Present Danger and multiple alt-comedy show at Wee Johnny’s. She brings dark, tongue-in-cheek twist to her comedy. Currently in year-long beef with Shoppers Drug Mart for gifting anti-aging creams on her 29th birthday. She asks that you please read comedian biography in Russian accent.

 

dione-e1539269226842.jpgDione C. Haynes is a product of the Caribbean and South America, living on Treaty One Land. She is a writer, poet, and co-producer of WOKE Comedy Hour, fresh off their run at Winnipeg Fringe 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

MayranMayran Kalah is a Comedian from the bushes of Somalia and brings her experiences of displacement to the stage. She is one year into comedy and is a staple performer of WOKE Comedy Hour. She brings her A-Game every time she enters the stage.

 

 

danielle.jpgDanielle Kayahara is a benevolent cat owner and relative newcomer to the Winnipeg comedy scene. Fuelled by equal parts anxiety and caffeine, she remains convinced that the former has nothing to do with the latte. Danielle has appeared in the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, the Winnipeg Comedy Showcase, and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. She is excited to bring her unique blend of storytelling and silliness to the stage in support of Sarasvàti Productions.

 

Dawn Lavand (2)Born and raised in Winnipeg, Dawn Lavand is a city slicker is of Cree and Ojibwe descent. A former youth in care, child actress, and a former great deal of other things; she strives to share her teachings/lessons learned along her journey in a good way.  She possesses a bright and extroverted personality with a quick wit that contributes to her ability to engage and build community by sharing her story through humourous anecdotes you are sure to enjoy. Dawn believes that laughter is medicine, so come out and get a dose.

 

Angie St. MarsPlus we are super excited to include our former producer of the event! Angie St. Mars is a Winnipeg-based comedian who has been accused of “lighting it all on fire!” with her tongue-in-cheek feminist-fueled wit. She has been featured multiple times at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, ODDBLOCK Comedy Festival, the Winnipeg Comedy Showcase, and Queer and Present Danger. She is a staple on the live comedy game show Pants on Fire and has performed alongside such notable comedians as Jess Salomon, Eman El Husseini, and Kevin McDonald. She is proud to have opened for the likes of Paul Rabliauskas, Mike Rita, and 2018 Juno Award recipient for Comedy Album of the Year, Ivan Decker.

 

You can catch these hilarious comics at two different performances on November 14th: a 7PM show and a racier version at 9:30PM! This year, we’ve relocated to Club 200 (190 Garry St), which is an accessible venue. Last year we sold out the early show and came close with the late night edition, so don’t miss out – get your tickets today!

 

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.

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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!

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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!

 

Our Downtown is Made for Walking

We’re introducing something new to the FemFest line-up this year: a brand-new Walking Art Tour! The tour will explore parts of Winnipeg’s downtown area, shining a light on some of our city’s hidden gems. The tour will feature a mix of spoken word, comedy, visual art, movement, and music as audiences tour the downtown area, spanning Memorial Boulevard to Ellice Avenue.

Get to know the incredible artists taking part in this year’s tour!

 

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How would you describe yourself to a stranger?

  • Daphne Finlayson, Coordinator: I am but a simple pun enthusiast who loves dogs and terrible jokes.
  • Dawn Lavand, Stand-Up Comic: A daydreamer without enough sleep.
  • Emilie Lemay, Visual Artist: French-Canadian painter inspired by extraordinary prairie skies.
  • Tiana Northage, Spoken Word Poet: What you see, is what you get – but good luck keeping track of what you see. This Winnipeg poet is a living chameleon, and her wardrobe’s a mood-ring. This package is fragile – please handle with care.
  • Wanda Wilson, Musician: Depends, I could say, “I’m the one with the hat”. Or “I’m kind of like a turtle”.
  • Heather Witherden, Host: Heather is a fun Mom-aged lady living her best life as a burlesque emcee by night and receptionist by day!

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

  • Alexandra Elliott, Movement Performer/Art Holm Curator: “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole.
  • Daphne: Oh gosh… it oscillates between classic 80’s chart-toppers and ambitious solos from Broadway musicals. Right now I’d have to say either “Limelight” by Rush or “More than a Feeling” by Boston.
  • Emilie: “Mamma Mia” by ABBA. I have even sung it a cappella once. Now my daughter sings it with me as a duet!
  • Tiana: “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows is an absolute BOP and I refuse to hear otherwise. You can catch me yelling “CUT UP MARIA” at The Good Will any Wednesday of the month.
  • Wanda: “Fight for Your Right” by The Beastie Boys.
  • Heather: “Baby Got Back”, no question.

Why should people be excited about your piece at FemFest?

  • Alexandra: Because the main prop is a doctor’s medical exam table and as of this current moment, I have no idea what will happen. But there will be two women clad in purple hospital gowns doing contemporary dance.
  • Daphne: Winnipeg’s Downtown Area is such a cool space, full of hidden gems and cool little spots waiting to be discovered. What I’m hoping to do with this tour is shine a light on just a few of these spots, combining art with architecture to showcase the beauty lurking under the surface of our city.
  • Dawn: Laughter is medicine. I can be hilarious – come get a dose, community-style.
  • Emilie: People will get to see a painting created live in the heart of the city and they will be a part of its creation story.
  • Tiana: Coming to see my performances is like getting a live diary reading. I’m letting you in on the sad scary thoughts you thought only you had. Together we can ride the emotions out, and leave with a sense of not being so alone.

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Also featured in the tour is fellow Art Holm curator Hilary Anne Crist. No stranger to performing in unconventional locations, Art Holm is a semi-annual performance series that showcases artists of different disciplines. She’ll be joining Alexandra as they preview a piece from their upcoming performance series titled Scooch Forward. Singer-songwriter waNda wilsoN will be serenading audiences from Saigon Park across the street from the University of Winnipeg. Wanda plays an eclectic mix of raw and sweet material, expressing strength, humour, hope and pain in her own alternative way.

You have two chances to check out this incredible line-up of artists: September 19th at 5:30PM and September 22nd at 2PM. The tour starts at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W). Space is limited – be sure to book your spot today! A total of just 40 audience members will get to experience this unique initiative.

“Home 2.0” Comes to Schools This Fall!

“Can you name a time that you’ve had to start all over? New school? New house? New activity? Throughout the course of the show, we’ll be like flies on the wall watching the stories of people who had to start over. What you are about to see is from true stories shared by people about coming to Canada.” – Joker, Home 2.0

Imagine sitting in your school gym and getting to experience music, dance, and visuals from half a dozen different cultural groups played out before your eyes, all threaded together to tell the journey of displaced people arriving to Canada. At the end of the performance, the actors invite you on stage to step in to the shoes of a character and explore solutions to the challenges they faced.

In May, we saw the culmination of the first part of our newcomer community collaboration project, New Beginnings. Now we’re continuing the project with Home 2.0!

Home 2.0 was created especially for youth, focusing on their experiences of resettlement. Young audiences will engage with characters their own age, allowing youth to see themselves and their stories represented onstage. By sharing stories of immigrant and refugee youth who have resettled in Canada, Home 2.0 will foster important dialogue around the challenges of newcomers. For many youth, this might be the first time they see their experiences represented in the arts. For others, it might be the first time they’ve been able to really grasp what it’s like to be forced to leave your home and start again halfway across the world.

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Like our previous school tours, Home 2.0 is performed “forum theatre style”, meaning the audience gets a say in the events onstage. Forum Theatre is a lively and effective way to look at and counter issues that our community faces today by encouraging audiences to take an active role in the show rather than acting as bystanders. The show offers students the chance to watch the “worst case scenario” play out before them – followed by the opportunity to change the ending, offer solutions, or provide support for the characters. By challenging what happens, youth are able to think about how they would act or how they wish they had acted in a similar scenario. Ultimately, the show promotes empathy and compassion, educating students on the experiences of starting over in a new country.

We’ll be touring the show throughout Winnipeg and Manitoba October 15 through to December 7, visiting schools in the community to promote inclusion and understanding. If you’re a teacher looking to bring the show to your students, contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca for more information!

Seeing Our Vision Through: 2017-2018 Season Retrospective

Another great year of theatre has come and gone! We celebrated our 18th season here in Winnipeg, showcasing newcomer stories, tales of unstoppable women, some hilarious local comedians, and powerful theatre from all across Canada! Take a look back at what we’ve accomplished with our 2017-2018 season: Envision.

New Beginnings

 

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 (Gerry Atwell, Music Director) touched my soul.” – Jay Rose, Audience Member

Thanks to amazing support from Winnipeg’s newcomer and theatre community, the show enjoyed an amazing run with multiple sold-out performances! A generous grant from Canadian Heritage, allowed us to offer translation services for the performance in Arabic, Kurmanji, and French! Stay tuned in the fall for our school tour, Home 2.0, which focuses on youth stories of immigration and resettlement.

IWW Cabaret of Monologues: I am Unstoppable

I am so full of all the wonderful ideas, writing and acting I’ve heard this afternoon! I just feel unstoppable. Sarasvati is so wonderful for providing the encouragement and the space for people to say all these things that would be left silent for so much longer. Thank you for giving us your voices – you’re wonderful!” – Beverly Grace, Audience Member

This year’s Cabaret showcased artists from across disciplines, including stories of heartbreak, resettlement, grief, and staying unstoppable in the face of adversity. We also used ASL interpretation for the first time to make our performances accessible to the Deaf community! Thanks to support from the Manitoba Status of Women, we were able to tour pieces to communities that might not normally get to experience live theatre. Big thank-yous to all of the artists and playwrights who shared the stories of such inspiring, unstoppable women.

One Night Stand Series

We had three different One Night Stands this year, starting with FemFest and ending with the Carol Shields Festival of New Works! Thanks to producers Tatiana Carnevale and Daphne Finlayson, as well as a partnership with the U of W and Prairie Theatre Exchange, we showcased twenty new pieces from both experienced and emerging playwrights. You can catch the plays from ONS: Fringe and Fancy-Free next month at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival!

Workshops for Emerging Artists

“This workshop gave me new tools to be a better performer.”

“Extremely beneficial, will make producing and stage managing shows much easier, so much useful information.” – feedback from workshop participants

This year, we hosted ten workshops for nearly 100 emerging artists, covering Grant-Writing with a cereal buffet, Are You Technically Prepared with Allison Loat, The Actor’s Voice with Tom Soares, a Monologue Intensive with Sharon Bajer, and our informal mentorship sessions, Coffee with a Pro! We thank our partners Fools and Horses, Elements Restaurant, and the Graham C. Lount Foundation for helping us support up-and-coming artists in the community. We’re currently planning out next year’s series – if you have any suggestions for us, contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca!

Support from NERI and crucial donors also allowed us to continue to work in partnership with Children of the Earth High School. We offered weekly theatre sessions for students. Thanks to the City of Winnipeg we are just wrapping up ten weeks with Gonzaga Middle School. We are well on our way to fostering some new, culturally diverse future theatre artists!

Women’s Comedy Night

After selling out in 2016, we had to bring back the event for another year! Eight of Winnipeg’s hilarious comediennes took part in our second annual Women’s Comedy Night back in November, packing the King’s Head for both a tamer 7PM show and a racier 9PM show. Don’t worry, we’ll be back again later in 2018 – stay tuned for more details!

FemFest 2017: Coming of Age

Our 15th FemFest saw some amazing work on the stage: from incredible touring artists like Tomboy Survival Guide, Judith Thompson’s Watching Glory Die, Falen Johnson’s Two Indians, as well as a reading of the 2016 Bake-Off winner, Kit and Joe by Jessy Ardern! Mark your calendars – FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance is happening September 15-22!

Thanks to all the audience members, artists, volunteers and community members who made our 18th season possible! For more on what we have coming up next year, stay tuned for details on our season launch in August.

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!