Getting to know the Band behind Tomboy Survival Guide

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photo by Robin Toma

On stage Ivan Coyote, Sal Zori, Pebbles Willekes and Alison Gorman are known for rousing audiences from their seats with a high-energy story-driven performance that will leave you breathless. Off stage this fantastic four have a lot of interesting hobbies and strong feelings about fishing. Get to know the talented collaborators of Tomboy Survival Guide in this week’s blog. As a special feature we’ve been asking all FemFest artists about their childhood after all our theme this year is Coming of Age!

Ivan Coyote
Writer/Lead Vocals

  • third generation Yukoner now based in Vancouver
  • author of eleven books, creator of four short films, six full-length live shows, and three albums
  • will be given a Honorary Doctorate of Laws at Simon Fraser University for their writing and activism
  • if Ivan wasn’t doing this they would be an electrician
  • as a child they would play the saxophone and write stories and go fishing

Sal Zori
Drummer/Percussionist

  • born in Iraq and grew up moving back and forth between the United Arab Emirates and Canada
  • for a brief time was the percussionist for Aretha Franklin
  • DIY-er, tennis player, videographer, barista
  • playing tennis was a favourite past-time as a child
  • hates karaoke
  • If you could go back in time, where would you go and why? “1920’s. The music.”

Pebbles Willekes
Bass

  • born and raised in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Graphic designer, WordPress nerd, avid gardener & cook of vegetarian food
  • has fantasized about running a small farm
  • “I spend most of my childhood outside, in the West side of Amsterdam, riding my bike, building huts in the dense butterfly bushes. Roasting potatoes over a campfire.  Making up stories about how me and my best friend were stranded on an island and had to survive.  Started playing music (punk rock) when I was 14, then most time was spent inside.”
  • go-to karaoke song? Rebel Rebel – David Bowie
  • If you could go back in time, where would you go and why? “I’d probably go back to the late 60’s, early 70’s, to see a young Bowie in concert”

Alison Gorman
Trumpet

  • “ I eat a troubling amount of olives.”
  • go-to Karaoke song – Runaround Sue
  • “My brother used to take me fishing at the crack of dawn every weekend. I hated fishing, but liked hanging out with him. (He still thinks I like fishing).”
  • “If I weren’t in music. Jeez. I had a brief, failed attempt at an air traffic control career. Packing groceries in bins, I suppose.”
  • If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why? “Vancouver 1990’s? I’d buy up all that real estate, yo.”
  • Alison directs the band Queer As Funk [link], Vancouver’s own LGBTQ Motown, soul and funk band – they play weddings!

See Tomboy Survival Guide at FemFest 2017 one-night-only SEPT 17 at the West End Cultural Centre. Tickets on sale now.

Mulgrave Road Theatre brings harrowing Thompson play to FemFest

“Judith Thompson’s Watching Glory Die is a call to action and a cri de coeur.”
-THE CHRONICLE HERALD

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Watching Glory Die

In her recent play, Judith Thompson turns our attention to the flaws within the Canadian prison system. Inspired by the true story of New Brunswick teenager Ashley Smith who died while under suicide watch in an Ontario prison in 2007, Watching Glory Die is a deliberately fictionalized portrait of three women intertwined by systemic abandonment.

“Politically charged and some of Thompson’s best story-telling”
-HALIFAX BLOGGERS

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Emmy Alcorn

After a successful run in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Mulgrave Road Theatre has been touring this powerful production across the country. We are excited to welcome them to Winnipeg to deliver this incredible piece of theatre at FemFest 2017. Director Emmy Alcorn (Artistic Director of Mulgrave Road Theatre, Nova Scotia Established Artist Award) brings this powerful play to the stage with perfect balance. “I believe there is a way to lift everyone up in society. We live in an abundant world and must ensure that everyone is treated fairly, that they have food and shelter; that they are loved”, says Alcorn.

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Stephanie MacDonald

Award-winning actor Stephanie MacDonald brings these three women to life in a performance that is described in a review by the Chronicle Herald as “masterful, intense, deeply focused and totally convincing.”  In Watching Glory Die MacDonald plays all three characters: Glory, a fictionalized version of Ashley Smith; Rosellen, Glory’s mother and Gail, a guard at the prison where Glory is incarcerated. “It’s not just the precision between roles that is captivating, but how honestly and instantly MacDonald apparates from one woman’s deep emotional state to the next” –HALIFAX BLOGGERS

“Thompsons powerful writing skills are on display” – TORONTO STAR

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Watching Glory Die

The play does not shy away from the harrowing moments of this story. Chief among questions raised throughout the play is, “What would I do?” “The impossible is happening in our country,” Thompson said in an interview about Watching Glory Die with the Toronto Star. “The system destroyed Smith. And it happened where least expected.”

Judith Thompson is a multiple award-winning playwright and is highly regarded as one

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Watching Glory Die

of Canada’s most prolific playwrights. She is the author of such notable plays as The Crackwalker, White Biting Dog and Lion in the Streets. Her work is a staple of theatre programs in Universities across Canada. There are three chances to see Watching Glory Die at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film: September 21 at 2:30pm and again at 9pm, September 22 at 7pm.

“Watching Glory Die shocks, clarifies and engages.” —Evan Andrew Mackay, Post City Toronto

Stay tuned for more FemFest news!
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ENVISION – Sarasvàti Productions 2017/18 Season Launch

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Sarasvàti Productions invites you to envision a season of life-changing theatre that is inclusive, full of possibility and absolutely thrilling!

From FemFest 2017: Coming of Age to the 2018 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable, to a formidable season of workshops geared to supporting youth and emerging artists: we are so excited to get started! Join us on August 4th at the Saddlery on Market (114 Market Ave)–a beautiful new spot in the Exchange District. This party is absolutely free. Show up by 7pm to enjoy the entire evening, or pop in throughout your First Friday adventures.

We’ll be celebrating FemFest’s 15th birthday by having some of our staff and artists share things they wrote as a child.

Let us entertain you with a Cabaret-style line-up featuring artists from our season to come. RobYn Slade presents a sampling of 50/50 theatre-improv fusion from the FemFest 2017 Cabaret. Reena Jolly performs a monologue devised from interviews with young newcomer women as part of New Beginnings development. Melanee Deschambeault and Erica Wilson perform a teaser  from FemFest featured show Two Indians and much, much more!

See what you envision at our awesome build-your-own kaleidoscope station courtesy of ArtsJunktion mb.

And as always we’ll have plenty of decadent cupcakes supplied generously by Cake-ology.

So join us on Friday August 4th as we envision an incredible season of Winnipeg theatre.
See more event details here.

 

Theatre that Transforms Us – 2016/17 Season Retrospective

Cotton candy cocktails, ghosts, riots, vans stuck in the snow, standing ovations, tears and a lot of laughter. It really is hard to believe that another season has gone by – our 17th one in Winnipeg to be exact! Just over a year ago, we launched a season themed on Transformation and it truly was life-changing.

Breaking Through
“They were commenting on how they thought they were the only ones feeling a certain way until seeing this play and being able to realize that they are not alone.” – Loveeza Arshad, Friends Housing

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The cast of Breaking Through takes a bow

Thanks to your support we enjoyed an incredibly successful run of the culmination of our Mental Health project. We hope the dialogue will continue outside the theatre for some time to come. We’ll keep you posted as we work towards publishing the play!

 

IWW 2017 Starting Over
“Engaging and inspiring, these powerful performances rooted in real experiences provided brilliant insight. In our case, the complex realities of both youthful and mature immigrant women were are the forefront. Exploring these themes is so vital, with increased cultural diversity and amid global striving for women’s rights. Women of all nations and cultures can relate to themes of place, space, marginalization, hope, potential…”– Pamela Hadder, Agape House-Eastman Crisis Centre

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A packed house at IWW2017: Starting Over

This year, we worked closely with newcomer women and girls and the results were some incredible pieces.  We were proud to provide a platform for women’s stories, to promote equity on Canadian stages and to provide access to the arts. 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.

One Night Stand Series
“Amazing job, everyone! And for those involved in [my piece], thank you so much for helping me bring that world to life… Truly an inspirational night!” –  Marjorie Roden, featured playwright

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One Night Stand Fringe Frenzy! at Carol Shields Festival of new Works

With the help of producer Tatiana Carnevale and Prairie Theatre Exchange we re-launched the One Night Stand playreading Series. The Series gives playwrights the opportunity to test their work, while giving audiences a chance to take part in their development process.  Look out for the launch of One Night Stand next season at closing night of FemFest! We will be featuring readings from Judith Thompson and our most celebrated local playwrights.

 

Workshops for Emerging Artists
“So much good info!”
“Extremely beneficial”
“It was great! More workshops!” – Feedback from workshop participants

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Our Artistic Director Hope McIntyre facilitates at Auditioning 101

We served 85 emerging artists with our Emerging Artist workshop series this season.
We tackled some of our most-requested workshops this year with Grantwriting & Taxes for Artists, Auditioning 101 and Mock Auditions for Advanced Actors.  We thank our partners Winnipeg Arts Council, Manitoba Arts Council, ACI Manitoba, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Theatre Projects Manitoba and Winnipeg Jewish Theatre for helping us support education opportunities for emerging artists. Plans for the 2017/18 Emerging Artists Workshop Series are already underway! Drop us a line if there is a workshop you’d like to see.

North End Workshop Series
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study theatre but now I’m sure!” – Sabil, youth participant

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Youth facilitator Erica Wilson offers direction as the youth participants work on their scene

We kicked-off 2017 with a focused series of theatre workshops for North End youth. Youth Coordinators Frances Koncan and Cherrel Holder alongside a series of guest artists, introduced theatre techniques and worked on scenes with youth. On February 22nd we celebrated with a showcase of the youth involved. We have already heard from multiple youth that they have decided to pursue theatre and we look forward to supporting them with mentorship in 2017/18.

 

 


Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

“Congratulations! What a great evening!!” – Brigit Krasovec
“Great turn out! Amazing show.” – Tim Gray

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Actions shots of some of the comedians at the Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

We took a leap and tried something brand new with our comedy fundraiser. We teamed up with Winnipeg’s hilarious women comedians to produce the Women’s Comedy Night. The event saw unprecedented success—selling out and packing the venue with an incredible mix of Sarasvàti supporters and comedy fans. We had a blast and you better believe we’ll be doing this again next year.

 

 


Shattered
High School Tour

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The cast of Shattered

“Things aren’t what they seem and we should never assume things about people. I learned a lot and I
could tell my fellow audience members also learned something new. I realized a lot more people in our
school had experience with mental illness than I thought.” -Student at Fort Richmond Collegiate

We broke pervious records by performing to 6,161 youth and educators in Manitoba. Shattered has received overwhelming praise from teachers and students alike. It was also transformative for the cast who were touched by the number of youth who approached them after performances to share their own struggles with mental health.


FemFest2016: Transformation

We were proud to present such provocative touring shows as Miss Understood, Mouthpiece, as well as clown favourites Morro & Jasp Do Puberty. The world premiere of the previous year’s Bake-Off winner Sherry MacDonald’s The Seduction Theory made a huge impact as audiences discussed the ways we continue to victim-blame.

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These are just a few of our highlights. What stood out for you? Save the date for August 4th at 7pm and stay tuned for exciting details about our 2017/18 season launch.

FemFest Celebrates 15 Years!

Our beloved festival in support of women playwrights turns 15 this year! We are celebrating with the theme Coming of Age and a line-up that will blow you away.

We are ecstatic to be bringing in one of the most highly regarded playwright’s in Canadian history, two-time Governor General award-winning playwright Judith Thompson!  Thompson will join us for Mulgrave Road Theatre’s production of her play Watching Glory Die,  a harrowing play based on the true story of Ashley Smith. She will also teach a playwriting master class (September 20, 21 and 22 from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.) give a Real Thing lecture and be part of the Human Library ™.

Tomboy Survival Guide is a live stage experience that defies genre and gender boxes with fearless truth-telling and compassionate defiance. Ivan Coyote and an all-tomboy band take the audience on a musical journey navigating the narrow halls of public washrooms, skirting the childhood threat of being picked to be a flower girl, triumphing over tying a double Windsor knot, and discovering the beauty in being handsome, not pretty, all along. This is also our first time taking FemFest to the West End Cultural Centre!

We focus our in-house attention on producing Two Indians by Falen Johnson directed by Sonya Ballantyne. After years apart two cousins meet in a Toronto alley to recreate a ceremony from their childhood, but can they remember how? When the words missing and murdered, truth and reconciliation, occupation and resistance are everywhere, how do two Mohawk women stand their ground?

We’ll share a workshop preview of New Beginnings, a work in development created with the Winnipeg newcomer and refugee community.  Come and see a preview of this exciting culmination of story and dance from around the world.
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As a company dedicated to transforming society through theatre, we’ve witnessed the impact  that story-sharing can have on breaking down stereotypes and prejudices. This year we are thrilled to present a Human Library ™ as part of FemFest.  In partnership with the Millennium Library, Sarasvàti Productions has curated an incredible line up of Human Books that you can ‘take out’ for a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

Bake off 2016The beloved Bake-Off is back! This FemFest favourite challenges 5 local female playwrights to write a scene in 8-hours using three key top-secret ingredients. Scenes will be performed as part of the Festival on Sept. 18.
Winner of the FemFest 2016 Bake-Off, Jessy Ardern presents a reading of her play in progress, Kit and Joe.

WebFor ages 6 and up, Castlemoon Theatre presents Grounded Heroes. 10 year old Jess loves Lego, but her friends think it’s childish and weird. While researching a class assignment, Jess encounters three girls from history who were also a little bit weird for their time, and together they discover what it means to be true to yourself.

And you definitely won’t want to miss our closing night! This season, we brought our classic One Night Stand play reading series back with a vengeance. In honour of Winnipeg’s own celebrated female playwrights we’re curating a special One Night Stand dedicated to showcasing works in progress by some of these prolific writers who will be joined by Judith Thompson.

Workshops, readings and a dynamite Opening Cabaret will be a staple again this year. Get your passes now and celebrate 15 years of FemFest!

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!

 

Take A Bow!

Spectacular! Fun! Powerful! Remarkable!

These are just a few of the words audiences have used to describe FemFest 2016: Transformation!

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The Seduction Theory Cast, Playwright Sherry MacDonald and Director, Hope McIntyre

This year’s collection of amazing works included the world premiere of The Seduction Theory by Sherry MacDonald. The all-star cast – comprised of Hailley Rhoda, Hannah Wigglesworth, Grant Burr and Merri-Lou Paterson – brought to life the moving story of 15-year-old Cass as she tries to break out of a system that shames and silences young girls. Sherry received a slew of great feedback from a special talkback after the opening show, which she’ll take into her planned expansion of the play.

The Opening Night Cabaret presented an array of diverse local talent including improv master Robyn Slade, indigenous filmmaker Sonya Ballantyne, Alissa Watson and Spenser Payne of Red Nose Diaries and many more! A huge thank you to our Cabaret sponsors, Garbonzo’s University of Winnipeg AnX, Baked Expectations & Banville & Jones for providing our packed-house with delicious food, dessert and beverages!

Morro & Jasp Do Puberty gave FemFest goers side-splitting laughter with the hilarious take on puberty and periods! The clown duo also mentored a handful of local artists with their Impulse & Play: Discovering your Inner Clown workshop and The Real Thing Lecture presented in partnership with the University of Winnipeg Department of Theatre and Film.

The annual fan-favourite Bake-Off was a hit, with its mixture of dramatic, heartbreaking and comical pieces. This year’s five emerging playwrights stretched their writing chops with Jessy Ardern ultimately winning Audience Choice and the Janet Taylor Award! She’ll have a chance to have her winning scene, Kit & Joe, developed for FemFest 2017!

Featuring fantastic movement and vocal performances along with amazing on-stage chemistry, Mouthpiece received standing ovations for its beautiful piece of trauma, triumph and will power.

Shocking, raw and scarily honest, audiences were also moved to tears by the frank theatre company theatrical poem Miss Understood by Antonette Rea. FemFest’s first trans* artist charmed her audiences and brought forth an important message about gender equality to Winnipeg.

SHORTs from the Shortlist provided extra entertainment every night. New this year was the SHORTs Showcase, featuring all nine chosen pieces. The staged readings took place at Garbonzo’s University of Winnipeg AnX who donated their space for the private SHORTs party!

All and all, FemFest 2016 was a blast! With a line-up brimming with so much talent, and lovely engaging audiences every night, FemFest and Canadian Theatre keeps getting better and better every year! We’re exciting to see what FemFest 2017 will have in store – it is our 15th anniversary afterall! If you are an artist wanting to get involved check out the call for submissions.