Love, Money & the Invention of Duct Tape

Duct tape, unbridled passion and class – these are the magic ingredients of the FemFest 2016 Bake-Off.

The annual fan-favourite challenge put five brave playwrights in a race against their own creativity and the clock. With three “must-have” ingredients and eight hours, these playwrights cooked up their own ten-minute theatrical treat!

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“…You want to dress for comfort so you can focus on writing, but also dress to impress in case a writing agent or an oil tycoon from Saudi Arabia walks by!” – Frances Koncan, #LiveAtTheBakeOff

On August 19th, the five selected playwrights met with director Cairn Moore for the official unveiling of the Bake-Off 2016 ingredients and began their Bake-Off challenge. Throughout the day the playwrights kept followers posted on Facebook and Twitter with #LiveAtTheBakeOff. These posts included hilarious tips and updates on their process.

Now the writing is done and audiences can enjoy staged readings of these scenes on September 19 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film.

Even more exciting, viewers cast their vote for the Bake-Off Audience Choice. The winning playwright receives the Janet Taylor Bake-Off Award of $500 and the highly coveted opportunity to have a reading of their full script at FemFest 2017! How’s that for a prize?

We are excited to present this year’s Bake-Off playwrights and their imaginative scenes:

Angie St. Mars, She’s All Dead – An emerging playwright, director, comedian, performer and Apprentice Dramaturge at the Manitoba Association of Playwrights, Angie received her B.A with a Double Major in Politics and Theatre and Film at the University of Winnipeg. She has recently emerged on the Winnipeg comedy scene as a core member of Winnipeg Sketch Comedy groups Free Snacks and President Bear. You bet her Bake-Off piece about the struggles of a female ghost will exude a slice of her humour.

Frances Koncan, Duct Tape Terrace – The Anishinaabe writer, director, and producer studied at the University of Manitoba with a BA Psychology and the City University of New York Brooklyn College with a MFA in Playwriting. The 2016 Harry Rintoul Award recipient for Best New Play at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival and shortlisted for the 2016 Tarragon Emerging Playwrights Award, Frances is definitely making waves in Canadian Theatre. Her Bake-Off scene takes hilarious elements of current pop-culture and peppers it into this piece about haunted love.

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Bake-Off 2016 Playwrights: Wren Brian, Gislina Patterson, Angie St. Mars & Frances Koncan

Gislina Patterson, Coffee – A theatre performer and producer for the past ten years, Gislina has recently begun work as a writer, director, and performance artist. With a diverse set of training in clown, devised theatre, physical theatre, and performance art, she melds these elements into her Bake-Off drama, Coffee.

Jessy Ardern, Kit & Joe – Jessy is an actor, playwright, co-Artistic Director of The Struts and Frets Players and two-time winner of the Harry S. Rintoul Award for best new Manitoba play at the Winnipeg Fringe. She recently completed her BFA in acting at the University of Alberta, and has now brought her talents to the Bake-Off challenge with Kit & Joe.

wrenbake-off-tweet-2016Wren Brian, From The Depths – A graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Theatre & Film Honours Program, Wren began her theatre career as an actor and stage manager. She has now transitioned into playwriting, directing, and producing. Her work is focused on contributing to equity in theatre by creating unique characters that can be played by any gender, ethnicity, and age. She continues this mission with her thought-provoking scene, From The Depths.

Catch the staged-readings of FemFest 2016 Bake-Off on September 19th, at 7 pm. Scenes will be performed by the talented Bake-Off cast: Ian Bastin, Jane Burpee, Andres Collantes, Nan Fewchuk and Spenser Payne. For tickets visit, femfest.ca or call 204-586-2236.

Not For the Faint of Heart

Five female playwrights; three distinct elements; eight exhilarating hours; only one winning scene – this is the annual FemFest Bake-Off.

On August 19, the FemFest 2016 Bake-Off will challenge a group of emerging and established playwrights with three must-have ‘ingredients’ for a scene. These ingredients can range from the normal (ballroom dancing) to the downright obscure (yellow submarine). With only eight hours from start to finish, Bake-Off writers must use every ounce of their creativity to come up with this year’s Bake-Off audience choice! Up for grabs is a $500 cash prize and a chance to have a reading of their full script at FemFest 2017.

Each scene will have a staged reading before a live audience on September 19 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Based on this viewers vote for their favourite piece. Helping to bring these scenes to the stage, is this year`s team of brave actors:

Ian Bastin – Bastin’s credits include various roles on stage – Lion in the Streets, The Aristocrats (Black Hole Theatre), public reading of Breaking Through (Sarasvàti) – as well as on screen, Steel and Stilettos and The Pinkertons (Buffalo Gal Pictures). Aside from acting, Bastin will bring a list of skills to the Bake-Off cast, like classical guitar, dialects and even stage combat, making him ready for anything the playwrights throw at him.

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Jane in IWW: Cabaret of Monologues – Urban Nun

Jane Burpee –Having performed in several Sarasvàti produced plays like Fen, International Women`s Week Cabaret of Monologues, and Quite an Undertaking, Burpee is no stranger to the Sarasvàti stage. As a performer in FemFest 2012 and 2014’s Bake-Off, she`ll return to this year`s competition ready to take on whatever exciting roles the playwrights throw at her.

Andres Collantes – His first time as part of the Sarasvàti family, we are excited to welcome Collantes to the Bake-Off ensemble. He was discovered by director Cairn Moore in her Intro Performance class at the University of Winnipeg last year.

Nan Fewchuk - HeadshotNan Fewchuk – Always excited about working with Sarasvàti in any capacity she can, Fewchuk has worked both on stage and behind the scenes. Most recently she assistant directed, Jail Baby, and played multiple roles in the public readings of Breaking Through. Other past credits include Fefu and Her Friends and The Naked Woman with Sarasvàti, Beauty and The Beast at Rainbow Stage, The Merry Wives of Windsor at Shakespeare in the Ruins, and she produced and performed in the Winnipeg Fringe Hit, Dog Act.

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Spenser Payne – As Sarasvàti Producitons’ June 2016 Rising Star and one half of clown duo, The Red Nose Diaries, we are excited to have Payne performing in this year`s Bake-off. A graduate of the University of Alberta’s Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program, and a founding member of both Sweet and Salty Collective and The Talentless Lumps, Payne will be bringing her enthusiasm and comedic offerings to the Bake-Off cast.

If you’d like to see these multi-talented actors bring your work to life, there is still time to apply for the FemFest 2016 Bake-Off. Grab the bull by the horns (in this case, the computer by the mouse and click here) and apply. The deadline for applications is August 8.

As challenging as the competition may be, it might just be the motivation and inspiration you need to get that scene out of your head and onto the stage! If that’s not enough to sweeten the pot, the Bake-Off winner will receive the Janet Taylor Bake–Off Award of $500. Need we say more?

Performances of FemFest 2016 Bake-Off takes place September 19 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are available at femfest.ca or by calling 204-586-2236.

Shame, Blame and What Almost Became a Def Leppard Play

14231787_10209977296810336_1027723112982667808_oGuest Post by The Seduction Theory playwright Sherry MacDonald

Hysteria. Red line. Yellow submarine. For last year’s FemFest Bake-Off competition my fellow playwrights and I were given eight hours to incorporate these three ingredients into a scene. Upon hearing the word ‘hysteria’ I became very excited (no pun intended) and quickly delved into online research fueled by the prospect of writing a scene set in Freud’s time about his theories for treating the ‘disease’ then known as hysteria. Great!

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Vancouver playwright, Sherry MacDonald

The problem that immediately became apparent to me was this: While there were all kinds of possibilities for folding ‘red line’ into the mix, what was I going to do with ‘yellow submarine’?

Yes, there were submarines during Freud’s time, but ‘yellow submarine’ is an unavoidably iconic term that would necessarily place the scene in an era post Beatlemania. I briefly toyed with riffing on the term, abandoning Freud, along with John, Paul et al, to set the scene in a place called The Yellow Submarine Sandwich Shop whereby a couple of rock star wannabes rehearse a karaoke version of Def Leppard’s Hysteria. Funny? Maybe. It could be fun . . .

But what if I won? I’d have to spend a year writing a play that revolves around a 1980s ‘hair band’ karaoke contest. No, back to Freud and his theories.

Fortunately for me, I went with my original gut feeling. The writing of the one act play The Seduction Theory which is being produced by Sarasvàti  at this year’s FemFest, has been a rewarding and challenging ride for me as a playwright. The necessity of having to deal with ‘yellow submarine’ actually turned out to be a blessing. Through my original ‘Wiki-mania’ research for the Bake-Off, madly keying in terms like ‘Freud’, ‘hysteria’ and eventually ‘seduction theory’, I came across an entry having to do with girls’ training schools —a then term for reformatories—in Canada and the U.S. during the middle part of the last century. Bingo! Or should I say, Ringo!

Setting the Bake-Off scene in the 60s allowed for that all important third ingredient. And because I now was setting the play in a girls’ reformatory school, I had my first two characters, Cass and Rebecca, girls whom in the process of writing their story I have come to love.

Expanding the Bake-Off scene to a one-act, I set the play back ten years to the mid-50s, a time before social movements began to take hold in North America, an era that saw the beginning of the consumer society, a ripe breeding ground for Freud’s theories to thrive. It was a time not too distant from our own, but distant enough to help frame atrocities committed at the fictional Westview Training School, as a product of ‘the times’.

Unfortunately, this restriction of time and place, ultimately is faulty. For while some of what Cass and Rebecca endure at Westview would not take place today (at least not in North America), the central theme of The Seduction Theory, subverting the female voice through victim blaming, is very much alive and well in 2016. One only has to glance at the latest headlines for verification. The play then is an examination of the current state of affairs for women and girls.

I recently received, courtesy of Theatre BC, a public reading of the script in its present form, which sparked a heated debate. “Would a learned man such as Dr. Branford, ‘the baddie’ in the play, really say the things he does?” “How much has changed since then?” “Has anything changed?” Witnessing firsthand the passion audience members displayed during this exchange, told me I just might be on to something.

Writing a play that explores topical issues that have the potential for impassioned discourse is extremely satisfying to me. And it’s all thanks to the Sarasvàti Bake-Off initiative. I may have been right in choosing Freud over Def Leppard after all. Then again, emotional debate over hair extensions and spandex pants could also be interesting.

 

Catch the world premiere of The Seduction Theory at FemFest 2016, September 17 – 24, 2016 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. For tickets visit femfest.ca or call 205-586-2336.

Hope Enters the Dragon’s Den

For the past couple of months, our Artistic Director Hope McIntyre has been training to make a Dragon’s Den-style pitch in front of a panel of judges and live audience. No, Hope isn’t doing it to get her cardboard beach furniture business the jump start it needs, nor will she be trying to explain why the world needs a glove that lets you know what side of the road you should be driving on.  Hope will be pitching something very near and dear to her, something she’s dedicated her life to. Hope will be pitching transformative theatre.

Fast Pitch WinnipegThe pitch is really my own story about why I do what I do. It’s hard work. Running the company over the last 15 and a half years has meant sacrifices, challenges and very little pay! The pitch captures the impact of what we do and why I’m motivated to keep doing it.”

For those of you who have truly experienced life-altering theatre, the impact of transformative theatre is unquestionable. But Hope has been training in order to pitch transformative theatre to a new and different crowd – Winnipeg’s business sector. This is where the challenge comes in. That’s why The Winnipeg Foundation felt local charities could benefit from participating in Fast Pitch.

“The biggest challenge by far has been the 3-minute time limit. To explain all that we do in such a short time frame has been difficult. In order to do this it meant writing a very focused script and sticking to it – not extemporizing in the moment!”, said Hope.

Fast Pitch is in international program that trains leaders of charitable organizations to pitch their organization to the business sector “succinctly and powerfully.” Participants are paired with coaches who help them to develop their pitch and connect with members of the legal, financial, and business communities.

Team Sarasvati Fast Pitch“The biggest appeal was the ability to work with business professionals as coaches.” Hope is being coached by two business professionals – Paul Beatty of GrantThorton and Baillie Chisick of Aikins Law.

“It is important to get the word out about Sarasvàti Productions amazing work and to do that we have to make sure we are communicating clearly to those who may not have experienced ‘transformative theatre.’ I wanted to find new networks in the business community and learn how to pitch our work to these professionals. Plus the possibility of winning funds to support our work was a good incentive”, said Hope.

“I learned that many people did not know the breadth of work Sarasvàti has done and is doing. We need to brag more. My coaches were able to help me hone in on what a wider audience might be interested in so we can spread our message more effectively”

Creating a pitch requires a person to tap into their personal connection to the work.  The process asks leaders of charitable organizations to think about what drove them to do what they do and what keeps them doing it.

Fast Pitch group shotI have learned things that I would not have learned were it not for theatre. Every project we have undertaken and every show I have done has allowed me educate myself on a topic I would not otherwise have learned about. I am a much better-rounded person as a result. The work has also taught me compassion. Finally it has cemented my belief that storytelling is a powerful and important way to understand our world, validate our experiences and grow as human beings.

Hope will be making her pitch along with nine other local leaders of charitable organizations:

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Big Brother Big Sisters of Winnipeg
KidSport Winnipeg
Lake Winnipeg Foundation
Local Investment Toward Employment (LITE)
Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre
Sexuality Education Resource Centre Manitoba
Shakespeare in the Ruins
Spence Neighbourhood Association

“The best thing I learned was about the amazing work that all the other participant organizations are doing! It’s really inspiring to know that Winnipeg has such passionate people working to make health and vibrant communities” said Hope.

Check out Hope’s Fast Pitch interview and a video from the semi finals!

You can see Hope make her pitch live at The Met on April 7th at the Fast Pitch Winnipeg Showcase. Judges will decide the top prize, but there is also an audience choice award, so come out and support Sarasvàti ! Tickets are available on the Winnipeg Foundation website but hurry, they’re going fast!

Non-stop fun, antics, surprises…

We wanted an audience point of view of this year’s All-Star fundraiser, so here is a response from guest blogger Meg Crane.

Sarasvàti Productions presented a hilarious three-in-one performance at the Gas Station Arts Centre on Feb. 17. The fifth annual So You Think You Can Act fundraiser packed together short skits, improv and stand-up comedy for a night of entertainment, good food and tons of prizes.

This year was the All-Star Edition of the event, so winners from past four years were brought back to compete against one another.

Before a crowded theatre, Big Daddy Taz, Jenna Khan, Tracy Koga, Kerri Salki, Al Simmons and Troy Westwood tried their hands at acting. These local celebs, none of whom have a theatre background, were partnered with local actors Grant Burr, Kevin Ramberran, Johanna Burdon, Ian Bastin, Cheryl Gensiorek and Lyle Morris. We were promised by the evening’s emcee Lara Rae that the skits would have minimal props and costumes, and that the actors would be reading from the script.

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Anticipating hilarious stumbles over lines and bad acting, the audience was in for a surprise. The celebrities must have really wanted the trophy—which Lara Rae described as looking like something from a children’s beauty pageant—because they showed up costumed, with their lines mostly memorized and ready to give it their all.

This didn’t matter too much to judge Andrea del Campo. She was more interested in the costumes, collecting bits from each scene as she gave scores of 8 (or infinity?), 200 and D. Fellow judges Pablo Felices-Luna and Ari Weinberg dished out some solid advice, such as that it’s ideal for male actors to whip off their jackets during a performance to entice onlookers. Lara Rae had to agree.

But their opinions ultimately didn’t matter in deciding the winner. The audience cast their ballots and awarded the trophy to Al Simmons, whose skit was about an actor who was getting too old to be cast in roles.

Everyone left with more than memories of the non-stop jokes of the evening. Baskets filled with thousands of dollars’ worth of prizes were raffled off at the end of the night and several guests left with more than $400 worth of swag.

As if Sarasvàti didn’t give the audience enough, the lobby was packed with food from Charisma Of India and Jonnies Sticky Buns when the show was over. Each guest was even provided with a free glass of wine.

If you missed it, you missed out. The All-Star Edition of So You Think You Can Act won’t happen again, at least for a few years, because new celebs need to be given the chance to shine on stage.

Why So You Think You Can Act?

We’re so excited, So You Think You Can Act All-Star Edition is only 6 days away, but why should you come? In this blog, we’ve got the answer, or rather the answers, for those of you still on the fence!

 

  1. It’s a fun fundraiser! What’s better than a fundraiser for a non-profit theatre company? A fun fundraiser! We are dedicated to creating transformative theatre, and our next production is a community-based project on mental health. After an interview for the project, one person battling mental illness said “thanks for letting us get our stories out.” Monies raised will support this important initiative! Plus you will have a fun time drinking wine, eating great food and watching your favourite local celebrities try their hand at acting.
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    Big Daddy Tazz at his rehearsal with local actor Kevin Ramberran!

    Six All-Star Local Celebrities! To celebrate the fifth year of the fundraiser we’ve brought back past winners and favourite competitors to vie for the coveted trophy. We’ve got Big Daddy Tazz, Jenna Khan, Kerri Salki, Al Simmons, and Troy Westwood all coming back to reclaim their title, or redeem themselves by winning it this year. These celebrities are famous for things other than theatre, their only crack at acting was during their last SYTYCA competition, come see if they’ve been practicing!

  3. Awesome Raffle Prizes! As is tradition we’ve collected a wide variety of amazing raffle prizes for you to try your luck with. We’ve got tickets to Rainbow Stage, Theatre Projects Manitoba, Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, Manitoba Opera, Winnipeg Folk Fest, and more. We’ve got gift certificates for acting classes, shopping, car washes, and more. We’ve got a signed Blue Bombers football, a framed, signed Winnipeg Jets photo, and we’ve got even more than that! Come see for yourself before the show and at intermission.
  4. Critical Theatre Professional Judges! All three of our judges are theatre professionals who have vowed not to go easy on our celebrities. Ari Weinberg, Artistic Director of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, and Andrea del Campo, improv and actor extraordinaire, have promised to be especially tough. Pablo Felices-Luna, Artistic Director of Manitoba Theatre for Young People, on the other hand is our wild card, will he turn out to be the nicest judge of the bunch or the harshest? Find out on February 17th!
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    Our emcee, Lara Rae!

    A Hilarious Emcee! Our emcee, aka our referee, will keep everything under control with her quick wit and comedy skills. Lara Rae is the Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Club after all, so she knows what she’s doing. She will be joined by six fellow local actors who will be acting with our celebrities, filling our stage with a lot of laughs and talent.

  6. Great Wine Reception! After the winner has been crowned, it’s off to the lobby for great food and wine! Included with the ticket price is a glass of wine and food from Charisma of India, Jonnie’s Sticky Buns, and Grrrumpy’s Pizza & Café. Plus our celebrities will be out there too either celebrating their win or dealing with their loss – but with an evening this fun no one can really lose!

What better way is there to spend a night? Don’t miss out, and get your tickets now for So You Think You Can Act on Wednesday February 17th at the Gas Station Theatre! Tickets for the fundraiser are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Phone 204-586-2236, or click here to get your tickets now!

 

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All-Star Raffle Prizes, All-Star Food at SYTYCA

During the past five years of So You Think You Can Act, you’ve come to expect a great evening, and we’re ready to deliver! While the celebrities are waiting patiently to meet their scene partners for their rehearsals next week with director Cairn Moore, we’ve been busy in the office preparing for the big day. As always we’ve got All-Star raffle prizes and All-Star food to go along with our amazing celebrities. Here is a sneak peak at what you can expect at this year’s SYTYCA fun fundraiser!

Superhero RaffleIf you love theatre as much as we do, you’ll be just as excited by the awesome tickets you could win in the raffle this year! There are season passes to Rainbow Stage where you’ll get to see Ring of Fire and Shrek The Musical, and tickets to Cairn Moore’s play Shiksa at Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, and Reservations at Theatre Projects Manitoba. We’ve got more than theatre tickets though if you like to sample all the arts! There are also tickets to Manitoba Opera, Celebrations Dinner Theatre, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Winnipeg Folk Fest, Winnipeg Jazz, and more!

Do you think you can act? If you’d like to try in a fun, relaxed environment, now you can with gift certificates for theatre classes at Prairie Theatre Exchange, and the Actors’ Training Centre of Manitoba. And if you’ve got a young person in your life you’d like to introduce to the wonderful world of theatre, there is also a gift certificate for classes at Manitoba Theatre for Young People!

Sports RaffleAnd don’t worry sports fans, there are raffle prizes for you too! We’ve got a signed, framed photo of Blake Wheeler from the Winnipeg Jets and a signed Blue Bombers football. We’ve also got great gift certificates to a variety of cool places, including $100 for the Foxy Shoppe and Anthropologie, plus gift certificates from Chamois Car Wash, Movie Village, Into the Music, and Academy Lanes!

All of these prizes and more will be part of our raffle draw at SYTYCA on Wednesday February 17! And after the prizes have been drawn and the SYTYCA 2016 winner crowned we have a great reception in the lobby. There will be food from Charisma of India, Jonnie’s Sticky Buns, and Grrrumpy’s Pizza & Café, plus wine, which is all included in the ticket price! To get in on the fun and support the transformative theatre work of Sarasvàti Productions purchase tickets here or phone 204-586-2236!

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