Meet the New Batch of Bake-Off Playwrights!

We’re bringing back an audience favourite at FemFest: our annual Bake-Off! Each year, we challenge five fearless playwrights to cook up a scene using the secret ingredients of our choosing – in just eight hours. From there, the scenes are rehearsed with our fabulous team of actors, directed by coordinator Cairn Moore, and put to the test with an audience vote for the winner! The winning playwright will then get the chance to have their scene turned into a one-act play which will have a reading at FemFest 2019. This year’s mandatory ingredients included a drone, children’s laughter, and the Nellie McClung quote “democracy for women”.

Get to know the new batch of incredible writers behind this year’s Bake-Off!

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Ntara Curry

Ntara Curry is a multi-disciplinary artist, working primarily in professional theatre as a stage hand, stage manager, and actor.  She is delighted to also be bringing her skills as dancer and writer to FemFest 2018.  You can also catch Ntara in our co-production of The Game with Manohar Performing Arts of Canada!

 

 

 

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Jo MacDonald

After winning last year’s Bake-Off with OUR HOME & native land, Jo MacDonald is back to defend her title! Jo is Anishinaabe, a mom, theatre fan, writer, and an educator. She gave up dreams of super-villainy as it wasn’t as lucrative as depicted at the job fairs (false advertising… but then again what can you expect from an evil genius job pitch). She received her BA and B.Ed. from the University of Winnipeg.  You can catch a reading of last year’s winning Bake-Off script September 15th and also get a glimpse of Jo’s latest work at our One Night Stand series on September 22nd!

 

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Allison Stier

New to the Bake-Off is Allison Stier. Allison is a fledgling playwright who prefers the eating of baked goods rather than the mixing and kneading and baking. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she has loved putting words into delicious arrangements for the greater part of her existence. She is quite thankful that the ingredients for this Bake-Off are of the word variety, which in most cases, don’t result in a sink full of dirty dishes.

 

 

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Alissa Watson

As a Winnipeg born actress, educator, and now writer, Alissa Watson has studied theatre at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England, the Manitoulin Conservatory for Creation and Performance, and is an alumna of the Professional Training Ensemble (PTE@PTE). Alissa is a member of the sweet and cheeky Fu Fu Chi Chi Choir, the all-female Bouffon ensemble The Talentless Lumps, and co-founder of The Red Nose Diaries.

 

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Pamela Wolk

Last up is Pamela Wolk. Pamela completed a BA Honours in Theatre Studies from the University of Regina with stars in her eyes of life on the stage. Funny how plans change.  She was swept off her feet by a military man and followed him from posting to posting.  Twenty years later she is back on the theatre scene, most recently acting in Jo MacDonald’s Fringe comedy Mother’s Little Secret.

 

Bake Off Dir Cairn Moore Now

Cairn Moore

Returning as director for her third year in a row is Cairn Moore. Cairn is a director and playwright and teaches first year performance at the University of Winnipeg. Her award winning play SHIKSA premiered with Winnipeg Jewish Theatre in 2016. Breaking Through, co-written with Hope McIntyre, premiered in May 2017 with Sarasvàti Productions. With the generous support of the Manitoba Arts Council, Cairn is currently re-writing her first play HABsolute Perfection. Catch a sneak peak at the One Night Stand series!

 

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Bringing the scenes to life are local performers Grant Burr, Jane Burpee, Karam Daoud, Simba Meng, and Taesia Scratch. Come see the results of an eight-hour playwriting pressure cooker Monday, September 17th at 7PM at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W). Get your tickets today and vote to select the winner!

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OUR HOME & native land: wit and sarcasm thicker than the Indian Act

Who knew that an educational play about the history of the Treaties and how the Canadian government has violated them could be so…funny? And who could write such a play? Jo MacDonald could. And she won last year’s Bake-Off with it!

In case you’re not familiar with it, the Bake-Off is an annual event in FemFest. Playwrights are given just eight hours to “bake” up a scene with three specific “ingredients” (actions or lines) so that they can’t write ahead. The audience is then invited to a reading of these fresh ideas and they get to decide which one has the most potential for a complete play. The winning playwright receives dramaturgical guidance so that they can finish the play and have it read at the following FemFest.

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OUR HOME & native land is about two friends, Niibin and Cheryl, who are leading a workshop called “Understanding the Treaties”. They have their work cut out for them when the self-absorbed Stephanie and the mansplaining George walk in. Neither Stephanie nor George is aware of their privilege, their biases, or their ignorance. When Mrs. Bruneau, warm, friendly, and given to storytelling, comes in, it becomes clear that she does not need the workshop so much as it needs her. She helps Niibin and Cheryl win their reluctant guests over, but you’ll have to come and find out how. The only spoilers that we can give you are that it’s outrageously funny and will make you curious (and angry) about the history of the treaties and how our government has violated them.

In OUR HOME & native land, Jo MacDonald proves herself to be a sharply witty and engaging writer. Recently, her play Mother’s Little Secret was performed to packed houses at the Fringe Festival, directed by our wonderful Indigenous Outreach Coordinator, Marsha Knight. Her play Neechie-Itas was a runner-up in the Native American New Play Festival in Oklahama City. Jo was a big hit at last year’s FemFest and she will be again this year. In fact, her work was also selected to be featured in the FemFest One Night Stand as part of the festival closing night.

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Don’t miss this brand-new play—there will be just one reading at 1:00 pm on Saturday, September 15 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. You can get your tickets here!

8 hours, 5 playwrights, 3 ingredients

Five female playwrights accept the challenge to write a stellar scene in just 8 hours based on three key, mystery ingredients – this is the annual FemFest Bake-Off.

On August 18th, our five playwrights met with Bake-Off Coordinator, Cairn Moore, for the announcement of their three ingredients –  Q-tip, tearing of a paper, and the quote “When one door closes another door opens.” They spent the day writing feverishly. Just imagine what a playwright could do with a Q-tip! The resulting scenes will be staged on Monday, September 18th at 7pm.

Which scene will steal your heart?

Lucy in the Sky by Sara Arenson
Bake Off Playwright Sara Arenson

Postcards from Paris by Brigette DePape
Bake Off Playwright Brigette DePape

The Lettuce Flower by Larissa Hikel
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OUR HOME & native land by Jo MacDonald
Bake Off Playwright Jo MacDonald

Superpowers by Pamela Wolk
Bake Off Playwright Pamela Wolk

Bringing these scenes to the stage are a team of talented and versatile actors – Ian Bastin, Lorraine James, Christina Heather, Josh Ranville and Danielle Savage.

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Bake-Off audiences must love surprises and come ready for anything.  Be prepared to play an integral role in crowning this year’s Bake-Off winner by voting for your favourite. On the line for these playwrights is the Janet Taylor award (a $500 cash prize) and a chance to have a reading of their full script at FemFest 2018. Come and share in the excitement!

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:

ArtsJunktion
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!