How It All Comes Together

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This week we welcome our Associate Director’s perspective on our unique approach to International Women’s Week. Rachel Smith is an actor, director, writer and acting coach. She has a MA in Theatre & Performance from the University of Manchester, UK and a BA Honours in Theatre & Film from the University of Winnipeg. Rachel has worked with Sarasvati many times and enjoys her continuing work with the company. 

The Cabaret of Monologues is an event that I look forward to every year. It is such an interesting and diverse array of artistic works that beautifully captures the year’s theme. This year the theme of “Starting Over” was particularly relatable for me, and for many audience members who I encountered. Starting Over can mean different things for different people. The variety of monologues featured in the cabaret was a wonderful representation of the different perspectives on that theme. I found that I could relate to most of the monologues in one way or another.

This was the fourth year that I have been the Associate Director on the cabaret. I was delighted and honoured that I was able to work on them again this year. It is an interesting project to work on because it is not rehearsed like a normal play is. Ten separate pieces are rehearsed once a week until the weekend before the full cabaret when it all comes together. Many of the actors do not even meet until the dress rehearsal. Each monologue is given the same rehearsal guidelines but the individual pieces are so different. It is great to work with the different actors and work with the unique challenges within the individual pieces. When working on them during the months of January and February, they feel almost like separate entities that do not relate to each other. When they all come together at the beginning of March it is amazing to see the full picture: the collage that is revealed.

Each monologue is powerful in its own way. I felt that the monologues developed with the newcomers to Canada were especially powerful. Some of them had heartbreaking stories yet were filled with joy and hope. When the monologues were presented as whole it became all the more powerful. Rachel Awur Moijok Chol was one of the women whose story was told during the performance. Her story was presented as a voice over recording of Rachel speaking while Sydney Macfarlane did a movement piece. At the matinee performance on March 11, Rachel sang an absolutely beautiful song after her story was presented. While she sang, Martha Akuch Maketh joined her on stage dancing with Sydney, while the rest of the cast joined the trio to prepare for the curtain call. The image of all those women dancing together on stage is one I do not think I will ever forget. It was so incredibly powerful to see them all up there, these amazing women portraying such important stories.

– Rachel Smith

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Eager to experience more transformative theatre? Join us for the world premiere of Breaking Through (May 23-28) an awe-inspiring new play about mental health.

All the World’s a Stage this International Women’s Week

Hot off the heels of an incredibly successful community tour, our performers are ready to showcase this year’s line up of monologues this Saturday at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: Starting Over !  We are proud to provide a platform for women’s stories, to promote equity on Canadian stages and to provide access to the arts.

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We started off by taking the pieces that were created through community group story-sharing back to the groups of women who had helped us to create them. After well-received performances at Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba and Welcome Place, we set off to tour the wider community! Here are the great host groups, all amazing organizations worth checking out:

March 2 – Genesis House – Manitou, Manitoba
Genesis House exists so that people of South Central Manitoba will be free from family and intimate partner abuse achieving results that justify the relative worth. They provide a confidential service, which includes a shelter for abused women and their children, residential and non-residential programs and prevention through public education.

March 6 – UWSA Women Trans-Spectrum Centre
The Women-Trans Spectrum Centre is an accessible and inclusive resource centre for women and trans students on the University of Winnipeg campus. The centre is a great space to hang out, study, and build community.

March 7 – North End Women’s CentreNEWC IWW17 (2)
The North End Women’s Centre is a community based organization that provides women with support, knowledge, and opportunity as they move forward on their journey towards independence and healthier lifestyle.

 

March 7 – Nova House – Selkirk, Manitoba
Nova House is a shelter for abused women and children in the Interlake Region of Manitoba. They provide temporary shelter, counseling, support groups, and referral to community resources for women and their children.

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March 8 – North End Family Centre

The North End Family Centre is a community gathering place that provides a comfortable and safe environment for community members to connect and belong.

March 8 – U of M Womyn’s Centre
RRC IWW17 (1)The Womyn’s Centre provides a feminist voice and safe space for womyn on campus. The members strive to create a place where women are listened to and recognized, and facilitate women as they gather the information they need to make informed decisions in their lives.

March 8 – Rainbow Resource Centre
Rainbow Resource Centre provides support, education, and resources to foster a proud, resilient, and diverse LGBT2SQ+ community.

March 9 – Agape House – Steinbach, Manitoba
The mission of Agape House-Eastman Crisis Centre, Inc. is to empower women and children experiencing family violence by providing safe shelter, information, counseling, and ongoing support.

March 9 – Mount Carmel Clinic
Founded on the belief that everyone has the right to accessible health care, Mount Carmel Clinic goes the extra mile to help clients connect with the services they need—in their homes, workplaces and neighbourhood.

March 9 – St. John’s Library
In addition to offering the services of a public library, St. John’s Library offers an array of free programs and workshops for all ages.

March 10 – St. Aidan’s School, Aberdeen Campus
St. Aidan’s School Aberdeen Campus is a Grade 6-10 school, primarily focused on at-risk kids, and presently serving kids from about ten nations – Cree, Tanzania, Metis, Kaska, Canada, Eritrea, Congo, Ojibway, Ethiopia, Burundi.

March 10 – IIWR-MB
IIWR-MB is an organization open to all individuals, as well as organizations that have an interest in promoting women’s human rights.

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March 12 –The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians
The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians is a progressive Organization with strong and durable roots in the people and history of Canada.

March 19- Manitoba Storytelling Guild
The Manitoba Storytelling Guild supports and promotes the art of oral storytelling throughout Manitoba.

A great big thank you goes out to Manitoba Status of Women and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. Without them, this Cabaret would not be possible. Special thanks to Neighborhoods Alive! and NERI for supporting our North End performances.

Join us for a performance of the full line-up, and a lobby full of visual art on the theme of ‘Starting Over’ at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues, March 11, 2017.

 

 

Spotlight on Newcomer Stories

How do we welcome new members to our local circle?
How do we provide space to hear and understand their stories?
How do we work with them to be inclusive rather than insisting they adjust to our forms?
How do we give them a role in the arts?

These were our burning questions as we began curating work for the 2017 IWW Cabaret of Monologues. We had put out a call for stories of Starting Over, and while we were thankful to receive over 4o stellar submissions, something was missing. We set to work reaching out to dozens of women who had experience as a newcomer to Canada and invited them to collaborate.

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We went all over the community, dropping in for story-gathering workshops with newcomer women’s groups including the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute (CMWI), Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM), The Immigration Centre and more. We also lined up one-on-one interviews with women who were excited to share their story with the help of community contacts such as the International Institute for Women’s Rights Manitoba (IIWR-MB).

“The response to our call for collaboration has been overwhelming”, said Hope McIntyre, Artistic Director of  Sarasvàti Productions. “We are excited to continue to work with the amazing individuals and organizations in the long-term for our next community-based project!”

“There are few things more enjoyable than being told a good story”, said Angie St. Mars, co-writer of two of the collaborative monologues.”I would meet with the women who wanted to tell their stories. We would sit down together and record an interview. I’d go home, listen back, come up with a concept, and then write a draft. I sent each draft back-and-forth with the person who’d shared their story  and they would give me feedback throughout the writing pro0cess. This is great way to write a monologue.”

Monologues created through collaboration include:

Diaspora by Angie St. Mars and Alka Kumar
Lost Girls by Hope McIntyre with Rachel Awur Moijok Chol
You Say Tomato, I Say…Fine by Angie St. Mars from interviews
In My Country by Hope McIntyre with the women of IIWR-MB (Martha Akuch Maketh, Rosemary Kezaaba and Gertrude Hambira)

“I could have listened to the women I interviewed tell stories all day, and I hope that the audience will get swept up in them the way I did sitting across from these women”, said St. Mars. “Starting Over lends itself to so many great stories. This year’s line up is witty and intrepid and always, always so honest.”

Using the performing arts as a medium, we can inspire a larger conversation about the city, country and world we live in. It is an important time for Canada to be a leader in the future and it needs to begin with engaging people locally. What better way than through the arts?

There are two chances to see the full line-up, 4pm and 8pm on Saturday, March 11th.
Celebrate International Women’s Week with us!

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Starting from Scratch with a cast of expert story-tellers

This 2017 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues is over-flowing with talent! Check out part two of our feature on the stellar cast.

Just off the Manitoba school tour of Sarasvàti’s Shattered, Reena Jolly has delved right back into work with us for the Cabaret. She will be performing “You Say Tomato, I say Goodbye”, a piece she resonates personally with about a difficult conversation with first-generation newcomer parents. Reena has been working hard on mastering an accent for this piece and we can’t wait to see it come to life!

Kim Kakegamic made an impact in last year’s Cabaret as an outrageous game show host. In fact this will be her third year doing a monologue for this event! Here’s something that you probably didn’t know: Kim loves geocaching and feels the exact opposite about slow-walkers. This Cabaret, Kim performs a gut-wrenching comedic piece, “The Pit” by Alissa Watson.

Brand new to the Sarasvàti team is Anjali Sandhu. Anjali studied stand-up and improv with Second City Toronto. You can see her regularly around town performing improv and stand-up comedy. Anjali will be performing a provocative and poetic monologue by Fauzia Rafique in this year’s Cabaret, called “Places that have no names.”

Nalini Reddy is also new to Sarasvàti, but is no stranger to the stage. She studied theatre in the Black Hole at the U of MB, performed in several fundraising productions for the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (the annual joint RMTC-MB Bar Association show), been a performing member of Manohar Performing Arts. She’s even had her own band! Nalini will be performing, “Disapora”, the story of a woman struggling to define home while splitting her life between Winnipeg and Delhi.

You’ll remember Sydney MacFarlene from last year’s Cabaret of monologues; she was the only one who did not speak throughout her entire piece! Sydney is a devoted dancer who’s always on the move. She has been developing choreography as part of an oral-telling of a Lost Girl from South Sudan for this year’s Cabaret. During the week you’ll find her studying Kinesiology and tap-dancing under her desk.

We caught up with these performers to ask them a few fun questions and  get to know them better as they begin buckling down to rehearse!

  • If you could have coffee with any person who has ever existed, who would it be?
    Nalini: Vandana Shiva
    Reena
    : God. I have a few questions I’d like to ask.
    Anjali: Vincent Van Gogh (This is a lie, my true answer is Taylor Swift)
  • Who is a local woman that inspires you?
    Anjali: Pam Oberman
    Kim: My co-worker Rosalyn Boucha (who is also an amazing artist) – she is smart, creative, and aspires to learn something new everyday.
    Sydney: There isn’t just one local woman who inspires me, I find inspiration in every woman I meet. They each have their own unique stories and advice that I definitely learn from.
    Nalini: Fiona Smith
    Reena: My mum hands down. She is incredibly smart and perceptive. She has a great sense of humor and makes me laugh all the time. She is extremely hard working and never gives up. My mum is a real life wonder woman.
  • If you could wake up tomorrow with any new skill, what would it be?
    Nalini: Super-memory
    Anjali: Mind control or singing.
    Kim: Drawing
    Sydney: I would want to be able to memorize information just by reading it, I always have to write things out and it can be quite time-consuming.
  • If you had to start over again in a new place, where would you want to go?
    Sydney: If I had to start over again, I would be in the Caribbean or somewhere in South America.
    Kim: If I could speak Swedish I’d pick Sweden. It’s where my mom’s family is from and those Nordic countries seem like pretty fabulous places to live. On this side of the ocean? Honestly, probably Regina. Haha! I’ve started over twice there before and maybe third time’s the charm!
    Reena: New Orleans. The music and art are so vibrant! Plus, they have rich history and the food would be amazing. I’ve never been there… but, I saw The Princess and the Frog one time and wanted to move there instantly.

We are enjoying getting into the rehearsal process with this amazing cast. We look forward to sharing women’s stories on a theme we can all relate to: Starting Over.  For more info on the pieces, or to get tickets visit our website!

 

Going Above and Beyond in 2017!

Happy New Year! We are excited to announce our goals for 2017! We aim to break new ground and cover uncharted territory in order to realize our vision of transforming society through theatre. Check out what we are setting our sights on this year:

1.PROMOTE DIVERSITY ON THE STAGE

If you think the Equity in Theatre stats on women in the industry have a long way to go, wait until you see the stats on diversity. Promoting diversity in the local theatre scene generates growth, equity and human understanding within the arts community and audiences.  We are proud to produce a season of theatre and workshops that respond to the lack of equity on Canadian stages proactively. January 11th marks the launch of our second round of free theatre workshops for Indigenous and newcomer youth in Winnipeg’s North End.  This March, we highlight the stories of newcomer women throughout International Women’s Week with the 2017 Cabaret of Monologues: Starting Over.

 

2. SUPPORT EMERGING ARTISTS

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Coffee with a Pro

After successfully piloting Coffee with a Pro, an informal mentorship series that sets emerging artists up with an established artist in their field to talk shop over coffee, we look forward to expanding the series into even more disciplines in 2017.

We have received ample requests for an Audition workshop geared to those who have never auditioned before. This Spring, Hope McIntyre will facilitate just that with Auditioning 101. Stay tuned for details.

3. HAVE SOME FUN AND RAISE SOME FUNDS

audience-shotWe’re rolling into uncharted territory with a brand new fundraising event. On April 9th at Academy Lanes some of the most well-known CEO’s and business leaders in Winnipeg will square-off in a Strike-a-Thon with pledges and proceeds going to Sarasvàti Productions.

Plus last year’s Women’s Comedy Night was such a success that we can’t wait for round two in the fall of 2017!

4. BUST BARRIERS

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Staged reading of Breaking Through, May 2016

After over two years of community-based research, workshops, and interviews we are thrilled to present the full production of Breaking Through May 23-38, 2017.

The Mental Health is Everyone’s Health project saw Sarasvàti’s artists team up with Artists in Health Care, Red Threads Playback Theatre and the Selkirk Mental Health Centre as well as multiple community organizations and members of the public to create a play that takes a realistic look the way mental health issues affect us all. The result is a bold theatrical experience that is guaranteed to spark dialogue.

5. CELEBRATE SUCCESSES

FemFest turns 15 this year! We are working on the line-up that will appropriately celebrate our landmark festival of plays by women for everyone! You can look forward to some exciting surprises and special guest artists.

 

That’s our top 5, but when all is said and done we are basically going to produce kick-ass art and we want you to be a part of it!  Stay posted on our events by following us here!

 

Workshops Open Up the World of Theatre for Youth

Do you have an interest in acting but not sure how to get started? Do you want to learn about other aspects of theatre, like writing for the stage, and directing? Frances Koncan and Sarasvati Productions have put together a FREE theatre workshop series for youth age 16-24 in the North End.

“The purpose of the Sarasvati Youth Theatre Workshop Series is to find and develop the talent and ability of Indigenous and Newcomer Youth who are interested in the arts, especially acting, writing, and directing”, said Koncan. Frances has coordinated the workshop series, bringing local theatre artists on board to help teach and facilitate. The workshops will give priority to youth who are Indigenous, and youth who are newcomers living in the North End.

“These groups are under-represented in the landscape of Canadian theatre”, said Koncan, “these workshops exist to increase access for these youth to explore their interest in theatre and, if they so choose, lead to opportunities to continue their training and work professionally in the theatre industry!”

Youth who participate in the free workshop series will have the opportunity to:

-Meet professionals who work in the arts
-Learn theatre basics in performing, writing, and directing
-Practice and develop new skills
-Play games, enjoy snacks, and meet new people!

For those interested there will be a chance to take part in a continued series of workshops to develop your skills, and opportunities to work professionally with Sarasvàti in the future! So what are you waiting for?

Come to our FREE drop-in theatre workshop on January 11th 2017 from 4:00PM – 6:00PM at Art Kitchen, 508 Selkirk Avenue.

For more information or to register email Frances at frances@sarasvati.ca
A big thank you to funders NECRC and Neighbourhoods Alive!

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The Politics of Art by Fauzia Rafique

Throughout the 16 Days of Action Against Gender-Based Violence we honour the women and girls whose lives have been taken from them. We reflect on the many women and girls for whom violence is a daily reality, and we challenge ourselves to improve the conditions of equality.

Fauzia Rafique is well-versed in using art and activism in support of equality. Fauzia is a novelist, poet, activist, and author of a piece for this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. She has written for Pakistan Television, and published several titles, including The Adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a Relentless Warrior’  (2016), ‘Holier Than Life’ (2013) and ‘Skeena’ (2011) Fauzia blogs about Punjabi literature,  blasphemy and honor killings. We are pleased to share her entry on exploring, coping with, and reconciling violence against women through her art in our blog this week.

 

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Fauzia Rafique – Places that have no names

The Politics of Art
by Fauzia Rafique

In 2008, in a province of Pakistan, five women were buried alive by the male members of their families with support of the local government. What came out among other things was a set of about seven poems in Punjabi, and uncontrollable crying. To this day, i cannot deliver a single one of those poems; when i try, i cry. The same happens when reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved and The Color Purple by Alice Walker. There also are characters, images and sounds i cannot express nor can i get rid of them. In other instances, the pain of knowing or experiencing wrestles with me over years to find expression.

Violence against women is only a part of the violence we experience in our daily lives. State violence against pipeline protesters or land/water protectors; word-violence or bullying in schools, on the street, and on social media; hate speeches against Muslims, Blacks, Aboriginals; constant bombings and dronings of innocent people around the world; the ongoing attacks on the dignity of less privileged people;  and, the daily incidences of police violence against the homeless. Of course, women in all groups experience it in its worst forms and to the highest degrees.

My home is in my art where i try to make sense of the perpetual systemic violence, use it as weapon to resist and to fight, inspiration to create beauty and joy, and, as meditation to stand my ground. It embodies me, and i perpetuate it.

My process is not intellectual, cerebral or emotional but instinctive, and it doesn’t require effort from me to be ‘with it’. Art is not my hobby neither it is a commercial enterprise, and so, i don’t experience the famed ‘writer’s block’; art is life, and there’s no stopping it. When not writing with hands, i write with thoughts, feel the ‘feels’, imagine the real, stretch ideas, challenge forms- all to be able to wriggle out of the numerous constructs built around me with the purpose of enslaving my mind in order to obstruct the independent flight of my imagination.

The question for me is not if my art is political or not, because all and everyone’s art is political. The question is what kind of ‘political’ it is. My art must defend me and my virtual home against systemic violence; it must resist and fight; it must be beautiful, lyrical, joyful; it must provide me solid artistic and emotional ground to take a stand and to be able to defend the politics of my art.


You can find more of Fauzia Rafique’s writing at  gandholi.wordpress.com. See her piece, “Places that have no names”,  performed live on March 11th at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: Starting Over.