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!

 

There’s Nowhere to Hide in Stand-Up Comedy

Associate Producer Angie St. Mars Profiles Her Stand-Up Colleagues

I understand why we fixate on the things we’re tired of – it’s because we want them to go away already. Amidst so many articles and discussions of women in comedy I hear the same thing. I’m not even going to say it. I’ll give you a hint: it’s something someone said in Vanity Fair nine years ago which still gets brought up in interviews as if someone more important said it yesterday.  I understand that we want to grind those stale notions out of existence, but when we constantly acknowledge those tired ideas, when we consistently give them centre stage, we can sometimes inadvertently contribute to their entrenchment and reproduction and what’s more, we are passing up the opportunity to talk about what we LOVE about women in comedy.  And there is a LOT to love. I had the pleasure of talking to two of the comedians who will be featured in the Women’s Comedy Night about what gets them jazzed about comedy, and let me tell you, it felt great.

I like that I can think about something no one is talking about, or that I wish people were talking about, and I can write something to say about it”, said Melanie Dahling, who has been doing stand-up comedy for six years. Dahling is a writer at The Uniter as well as an actor and sketch comic. “I spent a lot of time in my 20’s being defined by others based on what they see when they look at me. I love acting, but I struggled with that a lot when I was focused solely on it” said Dahling. “Comedy is exciting to me because I can choose who I want to be on stage and how I want to be seen.”

“Okay, I hate to give the really typical answer but it’s the rush you get when you hear them roar”, said Cathy Herbert,  sketch comic, and stand-up comedian who regularly mixes it up by using puppetry and music to tell jokes.

“I find it’s better than getting laughs from a play or improv or whatever because stand-up is my own previously conceived thoughts. It’s me, saying what I think, and people are then responding by getting it and agreeing that it is interesting.

I’ve only recently ventured into stand-up (thanks to the prodding of a few women on the scene) but I have to agree. It’s terrifying to me, I mean absolutely terrifying to share your private thoughts with a room full of strangers—and there’s nowhere to hide in stand-up comedy.  But when I share my truth with a crowd and they respond as if they get it I feel connected to the human race again. I feel like I’m not so alone in the universe. That is the reward for being bold, honest, and funny all at once. But can you achieve that every time? Goodness no.

“Of course this is also why I hate doing comedy”, Herbert continued. “When they don’t laugh, when they don’t agree, when they don’t ‘get it’, it can feel really isolating. And not isolating in the good way.”

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Cathy Herbert performing . Photo by April Plett.

Doing comedy can be empowering, yes, most definitely, but it can also be vexing, lonely, scary, and painful.

“Sometimes it’s frustrating to be a woman in comedy mainly because of the things women still feel they need to say”, said Dahling. “I don’t find it funny to be fixated on my weight, or hate men, or begrudgingly perform sex acts, but I see a lot of women assuming that this is what they have to offer. So I like going up there and having something else to talk about. I could cut those women down all I want but it’s much more positive to write what I do want to see.

I started doing stand-up for the same reason I started writing plays; it feels good to take an active role in the change you want to see.  For me, that is the most rewarding part.

“The other reason I love doing comedy is when you see joy on the audience’s faces, when you pull laughs out of them that they didn’t even know were there”, said Herbert. It feels good to know that I’m the reason that joy is happening…  But mostly the first thing I said.”

Catch Melanie Dahling and Cathy Herbert at the Women’s Comedy Night on November 16th at the Kings Head Pub. Doors open at 8pm and line-up starts at 8:30pm. Tickets are just $10 and the money raised goes to support Sarasvàti Productions season of theatre and workshops for artists. Call 204-586-2236 for tickets!

Comedy for a Good Cause

Who doesn’t need to have good laugh AND fasten a good deed under their belt now that we are approaching the holiday season at breakneck speed?? On November 16th at the King’s Head Pub (120 King Street) Sarasvàti Productions will launch a brand new fundraiser; one that highlights many of the women in Winnipeg’s comedy scene. To do this, we are joining forces with comedian Dana Smith, organizer and host of the monthly Women’s Comedy Open Mic.

“The Women’s Comedy Open Mic has been even more rewarding than I anticipated.”, said host and organizer Dana Smith. “Not only is it a space where women feel comfortable trying stand-up for the first time, seasoned comedians feel comfortable trying out material that’s out of their comfort zone.”

Over the past year the number of women doing stand-up comedy in Winnipeg has increased significantly, thanks in part to local initiatives like Dana Smith’s monthly Women’s Comedy Night and Melanie Dahling’s Comedy Workshop for Women. This year, Sarasvàti Productions sought to throw a fundraising event that would align with our mandate to foster social change and promote equity on Canadian stages by teaming up with Dana Smith to organize the Women’s Comedy Night.

The Women’s Comedy Night will entertain audiences with a diverse line-up of local funny women who range stylistically from classic stand-up, to alt comedy, to storytelling. Dana Smith will host the Women’s Comedy Night and the evening will feature an array of comedians, both seasoned and emerging. Check our our amazing line-up!

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Dana Smith runs the successful monthly Women’s Open Mic and is a member of the sketch group H.U.N.K.S. (5 STARS – Wpg Free Press). She has been featured in the Winnipeg Comedy Showcase, 2015-2016 Oddblock Comedy Fest, 2015-2016 Winnipeg Comedy Festival and the 2015 and 2016 IF Winnipeg Improv Festival.

130510mdhs0120Melanie Dahling has been on the Winnipeg comedy scene for six years. She has been featured in the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, Toronto’s SheDot Festival, Chantel Marostica’s EmpowHERment, and more. In addition to stand up she keeps busy writing for The Uniter and coming up with new projects. She is currently on post production for a short film produced with Winnipeg Film Group’s First Film Fund, writing sketch comedy, and researching a new show for the 2017 Fringe Festival.

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Florence Spence is a stand-up comedian from York Factory Cree Nation.  Raised in Winnipeg and on the reserve she has been able to transition the hardships of growing up with 7 brothers, being a single parent of 3 and now a grandmother into comedy gold. With almost no Aboriginal women comics to look up to, Florence has broken down barriers across Manitoba with her raw and real material. Her witty observations and captivating stage presence set Florence Spence up to be your next favorite comedian.

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Ashley Burdett has been doing improv for over 10 years and spent 5 glorious seasons with the improvised soap opera Soap Scum. She is very new to stand-up but has already appeared in the Oddblock Comedy Festival, The Winnipeg Comedy Festival and the Winnipeg Comedy Showcase. Her style has been described as “thoughtful, honest and wickedly silly.”

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A lifelong theatre geek and comedy nerd, Meghan Riley first performed stand-up in 2012’s “Winnipeg’s Funniest Person With a Day Job,” where she was a finalist. A few months later she had her second child and disappeared…In June of 2015, Meghan returned to the stand-up circuit… with a look of desperation,  a delightful soccer mom haircut, and stories to share! Since then, Meghan is a regular at the open mics and has been featured in the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, the EmpowHERment 3 showcase, and the Token diversity showcase.

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Cathy Herbert is a writer from Winnipeg and is currently an unwilling slave of humanity’s corporate overlords. She spends most of her time pondering a peaceful solution to this problem and has so far come up with nothing.

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Hailing from the North End of Winnipeg, Jessica Seburn ventured into stand-up comedy a year ago after facing personal tragedy. A newcomer to the performing arts; she quickly found her comedic voice. Jessica was featured in the EmpowHERment Show, The Winnipeg Comedy Showcase, Winnipeg Comedy Festival and most recently featured in Oddblock 2016. She recently produced the local show: “The Naked Truth, Comedy Truth or Dare.” Jessica wants to remind everyone that life is meaningless and bleak but hey, that’s comedy.

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Autumn Crossman-Serb is a Muslim illustrator/comic artist who was born and raised in Winnipeg. Her passions are monster girls, scifi/fantasy, and romantic comedies. Stand-up is a new addition to her backlog of weird skills but still employs her love telling a story.

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Frances Koncan is an Anishinaabe writer, director, and apparently stand-up comedian from Couchiching First Nation! Once the Principal French Horn in the National Youth Band of Canada, she peaked at a young age and has been desperate to achieve the success of her youth ever since. And now here we all are…

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Angie St. Mars is the Associate Producer at Sarasvàti Productions and this is how she got this gig. She spends most of her time writing for the stage. Recently, she has been doing make-em-ups with Winnipeg-based sketch comedy groups Free Snacks and President Bear. She has been featured in the Winnipeg Improv Festival’s Sketch Ensemble Show, Token Diverse Comedy Showcase, and the Women’s Comedy Open Mic Winnipeg Comedy Fest Edition.

The Women’s Comedy Night will take place at the Kings Head Pub (120 King Street) on Wednesday, November 16th. Doors open at 8pm with the show starting at 8:30pm. The evening will include a 50/50 and a door prize including tickets to our next production and a package from Amsterdam Tea Room. Tickets are just $10 and you can get yours in advance to ensure a seat by calling 204-586-2236! If there are still tickets left, you can also get them at the door the night of the event.

 

Shattered Hits the Road!

img_20161012_140356“I wish they had this when I was in high school,” was a repeated response from audiences when Shattered previewed to a large crowd last Thursday evening at Graffiti Gallery. In preparation for the launch of Shattered into Manitoba schools and education centres the play was premiered to interested organizations and the public as a fundraiser for the tour. The response was overwhelming. Those in attendance responded adamantly that we should be taking Shattered to parents and to an even younger age group. We also received offers to advocate at schools who have not booked yet!

Shattered was great. It was fun but still got across a very important message”, said Griffin Jenkins, Youth Programs Coordinator at Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba (MDAM). “I personally related to some of the scenes almost as if it were my own life so it is amazing to see those parts of someone’s life shown to a large audience to understand how painful it really is.”

Griffin spoke to the audience before the play began alongside Bonnie Bricker, mental health advocate and Director of the Family Navigation Program at MDAM. “I thought your script and the actors were sincere”, said Bonnie, “[they] did not overact, and provided effective characterizations. I wish you every success in utilizing this creative tool to reach our most vulnerable population.”

This performance was the first opportunity for all-youth cast of Shattered to incorporate audience participation. Shattered is a forum theatre play, which means scenes are intentionally rife with conflict. The idea is that audience members will watch characters make choices, see the effects of those choices, and think about alternative choices that may lead to a more positive outcome.
“The use of forum theatre was done brilliantly”, said Griffin, “it gave the audience who may have never been in that situation [the chance to] speak about what they think should have been done. More importantly it gives people who have been in that situation the opportunity to share how they wished that scenario occurred”

Shattered hits the road today with their first school performance at Balmoral Hall. The Sarasvàti team has been hard at work on Shattered for the past six months and we can’t wait to work with these youth.

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“Thank you Sarasvati for the great work you do in the community …this play is very powerful & I am sure will be well received in the schools & make a difference in the lives of youth. it was inspiring to see such great interaction between actors & audience…everyone was so engaged. Left with a feeling of hope.” – Kay Stewart, Social Worker

Check out these articles to read more about Shattered! There are only a few dates left for schools to book!!
http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/entertainment/arts/theatre-with-a-social-conscience-391420421.html

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/our-communities/New-play-explores-youth-mental-health-396343861.html

 

Shattered Launches Tonight!

Although it is targeted at youth, Shattered is a powerful production and a must see for everyone! At our recent open rehearsal, one viewer asked “where were you when I was in high school?”

The interactive style is what truly makes it unique and empowering. As the audience’s guide for the experience, GeNie Baffoe has a presence that even the toughest audiences—aka grade 7 to grade 12—will warm to. Confident, expressive, and welcoming, GeNie is the Joker (a term used for a facilitator in Forum Theatre). He will have lots of back-up with the talented group of young  actors in the cast. They hit the road next week to open up the discussion about mental health with students at dozens of Manitoba schools.

“If you disagree with what is happening in the scene, if you notice that a character could be making better choices I want you to clap and yell stop at which point you will rise from your seat, join us up on stage and take the place of one of these characters, are you ready?”, announces GeNie. The actors step into place and begin the scene. In this scene, a young man berates another young man at school after finding out that his mother has a mental illness. Many characters are bystanders, but nobody steps in.

*Clap!*

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The scene freezes. GeNie identifies the clapper and invites her up on stage. GeNie asks, “What do you think this character could have done instead?”
And just like that youth are up on their feet, engaging in proactive solutions to stopping the stigma and providing support for those dealing with mental health. It’s a beautiful sight to behold.

Sarasvàti Productions set the course for this play for youth while working on their larger Mental Health Project. The project saw Sarasvàti’s team of artists facilitate workshops with the public and a number of community organizations in order to gather real Winnipegger’s experiences with mental health. At the urging of youth a piece targeted to high schools was created. Shattered is set in a high school and is performed entirely by a young cast.

Since we can’t bring our fans and supporters in to high schools we have partnered with Graffiti Gallery and Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba to offer a special public preview. Funds raised will help take Shattered to schools that would not otherwise be able to afford it. Join us tonight, October 6th, at Graffiti Gallery (109 Higgins Avenue). The show starts at 7pm and tickets are only $10, available at the door. The performance is open to everyone. This is your chance to watch the play and hear what youth in our city are dealing with in terms of mental health.

We hope you can join us for the Shattered Fundraiser preview. If you’d like to support but you’re unable to attend you can contact the office at 204-586-2236 or donate at our website sarasvati.ca.  If you know of a school that should host a performance please contact Erin at touring@sarasvati.ca.

 

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.