“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!

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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!

“New Beginnings”: On and Off-Stage!

Just 5 days until opening and we offer you the top 5 reasons this production should not be missed! With New Beginnings, we’re pulling together a lot of moving parts: from dancers to film, music to art, there are so many elements that make up one amazing show! But that’s not all we have going on.

1. Accessibility Services

As part of our commitment to making the show as accessible as possible – particularly for the groups represented in the production – we’re also offering child-minding, transportation, and translation services so as many people as possible can take part in New Beginnings. We’ll also have ASL interpretation at our May 25th performance!

2. Visual Art Installation by Newcomer Artists

Out in the lobby, we’re also featuring artists from all over the world! We’ll be screening Patrick Mugosa’s documentary Restoration: A Refugee’s Story and showcasing work by Natalia Dechevykh, Mannan Hamrasho, and Nadim Ado. We’ll also have OneNation Exchange bags available for purchase. As well, as you enter the theatre you can check out the amazing art installation by Indra Skuja-Grislis, done specially for New Beginnings!

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3. Conversation Circles

Even after the show, the work doesn’t stop: we’ll also be hosting conversation circles following each performance to continue the dialogue sparked by these thought-provoking stories. We’ll be hosting representatives from Welcome Place (Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council), Bread and Borders, the Jamaican Association of Manitoba, Institute for International Women’s Rights, Immigrant Women’s Oldtimers, Immigration Partnership Winnipeg, and community members featured in the production! For more info, stay tuned on social media where we’ll be announcing the different conversation facilitators for each performance.

4. Weekend Feasts

Over the two weekend performances, you’ll be able to feed your body as well as your mind thanks to our generous New Beginnings feast sponsors! Starting at 5:30 PM both days, you’ll be able to sample food from Viena do Castelo, Gohe Restaurant, and Baraka Pita with additional supplies provided by Safeway (Mountain and McGregor)! We’ll also be hosting an opening night reception on May 22nd with food  donated by Diversity Food Services.

 

5. Boundary Avenue

In addition, we’re proud to be partnering as a double bill with One Trunk Theatre’s latest show, Boundary AvenueThe production is spearheaded by Andraea Sartison, Liam Zarrillo, and Caroline Wintoniw together with Razak Iyal and Seidu Mohammed.  We’re offering discounted packages to check out both productions, available here!

 

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With so much going on, you won’t want to miss out on what an incredible experience this show as to offer! We already have one performance sold out and another one just a few seats away from filling up. Tickets are available now through our website or call us at (204) 586-2236.

Meet the Team Behind “New Beginnings”!

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New Beginnings is one of the biggest shows we’ve ever done: collaborating with artists across disciplines, including music, dance, and film-making! Get to know the amazing team bringing everything together!

What excites you about being on the New Beginnings artistic team? 

Gerry Atwell, Music Director: The subject matter is compelling and pertinent and the script is well researched, beautifully written and thought provoking. I love composing music and working with a talented creative team.

Brenda Gorlick, Dance Consultant: It is an absolute honour to work with such a diverse group of talented team members; I am extremely moved by the stories we are sharing and having a new appreciation for everyone’s journey.

Lindsay Johnson, Associate Producer: I have always admired Sarasvàti’s focus on producing theatre that sparks conversation about a wide range of important social issues. I am beyond thrilled to be a part of the artistic team who are helping stage the stories behind New Beginnings. It has been especially exciting for me to be involved in the community collaboration that shaped this production.

Cherissa Richards, Director: I love bringing these stories to life on-stage! I’m really excited to hear the personal stories of newcomers.

Saira Rahman, Snow Angel Films: It’s exciting to work with the other artists on the team – to learn from each by observing their creative process. I always like collaboration because of how enriched a piece can become with multiple perspectives.

 

What elements of the project do you personally connect with? 

Gerry: Even though I was born and raised in Winnipeg, people regularly assume I am from elsewhere and want to me to justify my presence and difference by categorizing it. “So where are you from?” is a question I have been asked all my life. My father chose Canada and all through his life he helped those who were adjusting to a new life here. I grew up sharing dinner with people from Russia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Uganda, and South Africa that my Dad met in passing and befriended.

Brenda: My brother and sister-in-law work for UNHCR so I’ve heard many of their experiences over the years of refugees’ stories.

Lindsay: I have loved getting to know members of my community that are outside of my day-to-day circle. It has been a fabulous experience watching my experience of Winnipeg grow in this way.

Saira: I felt a connection with the stories that included a parent and child. They made me remember my own experience growing up as my family tried to adapt to our new home. I’m honoured to be a part of this project because it honours my personal experience as a newcomer, although that was some time ago! My family had many new beginnings: East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), United Kingdom, Atlantic Canada, rural Manitoba, and finally Winnipeg!

 

 

Come see the culmination of this amazing team’s hard work starting May 22nd! We’re also featuring an opening dance piece choreographed by Emily Solstice and original art work by Indra Skuja-Grislis. Tickets are on sale now, available here!

Exploring Immigration Across Generations

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

 

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Melissa Langdon

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

 

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

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Dagmawit Habtemariam

 

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

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

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Anjali Sandhu

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

 

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

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

The Future of FemFest

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FemFest has come a long way in the past fifteen years! As our most recognizable contribution to Winnipeg’s theatre scene, FemFest has been inspiring, challenging, and transforming theatre since 2003. In that time we’ve grown from a small, grassroots festival to an eight-day showcase of female theatre artists from Winnipeg, Canada, and all over the world! We’ve nurtured countless emerging artists to help kickstart their careers, brought together artists from a wide range of disciplines for future collaborations, and amplified the voices of groups who are still underrepresented in Canadian theatre.

After so many years, we have to ask ourselves: “where do we go from here?” Where can we take FemFest that it hasn’t already gone – and where does it need to go? As part of our commitment to representing the Winnipeg theatre community, we aren’t just asking this question within our organization – we want to hear from members of the public as well!

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On April 11th, we hosted a community consultation as a way to open FemFest up to a wider audience, hearing from local groups about what they needed and wanted from FemFest. This offered us the amazing opportunity to introduce ourselves to new groups and hear about what the community needs from us in the future. For some groups, this was their first time hearing about the festival and allowed us the chance to invite new members into the FemFest fold!

 

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Cate Friesen

Facilitating this consultation was Cate Friesen. Cate is a story practitioner, trainer, and keynote presenter with twenty-five years of experience as an entrepreneur, award-winning CBC producer, documentary maker, and performer. In her work with The Story Source, she has appeared at SHEday 2018 as well as Fast Pitch 2018, teaching skills in development for organizations and telling stories of impact. In the past year she has delivered workshops and series for Canadian Mental Health Association, RCMP, QNET Manitoba, Canadian Centre for Economic Development Network and Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba, and more.

The consultation isn’t complete, we want to hear from YOU – whether you’ve attended FemFest sometimes, always, or never! We’re seeking a wide range of input from related organizations as well as local artists, volunteers and patrons. Feel free to share the link with anyone you think might be interested – we want as many opinions as possible. Our goal is to start implementing smaller changes for FemFest 2018 and move on to larger updates in 2019.

Take part in our short survey and have your say in the future of FemFest. Deadline is Monday, April 30th!