Summer Students make Strides at Sarasvàti

A world premiere, general auditions, FemFest brochure launch, outreach, a fundraising dinner, Timeraiser display, garage sale – how have we managed all of this in the last month? We’ve been very fortunate to welcome two hard-working summer students to team Sarasvàti thanks to Canada Summer Jobs. They’ve pitched in on so many important tasks and now they’re working on our 2017-18 Season Launch. Tamera and Larysa bring dedication and fresh ideas to the table and we are so pleased to hear from them in this week’s blog entry.

“I am proud to be at Sarasvàti Productions and to work in a community with a strong social conscience”, says Tamera, who began working as our Production Assistant in May.

TameraGrace-grown-FemFest17“So far my highlight of the summer was when I was backstage during Breaking Through. The cast and crew were all magnificent, as well as the story. It was very life-giving to support them through a smooth run of the show, as well as making sure everyone was comfortable and ready.

Aside from being able to work on their spring production, I have been spending most of my time in the office. This is my first time working in an office; it has been a good opportunity to improve my professional skills.”

Tamera is working on completing her double degree in Theatre and Business at the U of W.

“My original plan was to focus on acting, but I will be graduating with a focus in acting as well as production and business. For me, working with Sarasvàti has really clarified my desire to work in the not-for-profit sector. I want to continue finding opportunities to support those in the community.”

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Tamera Grace at TimeRaiser150 with Hope McIntyre looking for great new Sarasvàti volunteers.

“One of the great things about Sarasvati Productions is the opportunity it creates for discussion and understanding”, says Larysa, our Marketing & Community Outreach Assistant.

“Getting over fifty people to sit in one room, eat Ethiopian food, smell Ethiopian coffee beans, and listen to a difficult true story about becoming a refugee is no easy thing to organize. But, I think, this type of event is necessary for building healthy and strong communities. Like me, the people who listened to Saeed’s story may walk away feeling more empathy than they felt before. And that is no small achievement.”

IMG_4303Larysa is a Creative Communications student at Red River College and the director of Winnipeg Poetry Slam. She talks about her favourite experience while working with Sarasvàti—working at the Honouring Courage – Celebrating Diversity fundraiser dinner with human rights activist and speaker, Ali Saeed.

“We’re used to thinking of revenge as a bad thing. We think of threat, torture, and war. Ali Saeed calls this ‘red revenge’. But Saeed says there is one other type of revenge just as compelling: kindness, compassion and generosity. His word for this is ‘green revenge.’

Seven years Saeed spent imprisoned and sentenced to death in Somalia. Now he’s speaking to a roomful of people here at Gohe Restaurant for Sarasvàti Productions’ fundraiser. The entire room is quiet. The people I’m sitting with grimace and look downward.

Saeed talks about the cruelty he witnessed: forced abortion, lashings, hanging, cutting. Listening to Saeed, I am reminded of the safety I have here in Canada, a true luxury.

On his feet, Saeed wears loose Velcro sandals. He points to the burn marks on his heels, marks from the hardship he endured. Sandals are one of the few shoes he’ll wear because of the pain. Barefoot is preferable.

‘No one chooses to be a refugee,’ Saeed says.”

Larysa says working for Sarasvàti Productions has opened her mind to experiences outside of her own, which has been an invaluable experience.

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Larysa Musick at Honouring Courage – Celebrating Diversity Fundraiser Dinner for Sarasvàti Productions at Gohe Restaurant.

You can see some of their awesome ideas in action at the 2017-18 Season Launch, Friday August 4th 7pm at the Saddlery on Market (114 Market Ave).

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.

The Power of Story: Sarasvàti presents human rights activist Ali Saeed

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A delicious traditional Ethiopian meal prepared at Gohe Restaurant. Photo by Serge Gumenyuk, The Uniter.

An amazing meal, a powerful story and supporting inspiring theatre – what more could you want in an evening! On Thursday June 15th at 6pm join Sarasvàti Productions for a full course meal of traditional Ethiopian food followed by the powerful story of award-winning human rights activist, Ali Saeed. Fresh from speaking at the 2017 Winnipeg TEDx, Ali joins us to share his transformational experience in support of transformational theatre.

Ali Saeed is a former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience [i] who was imprisoned on more than one occasion because of his work as a human rights defender in his home country of Ethiopia. He spent a total of seven years in custody and was held in eleven different prisons during his incarceration in Ethiopia and Somalia. He was tortured and subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment during this period.  After being released from imprisonment in Somalia in 1984, Ali Saeed immigrated to Manitoba.

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Ali Saeed

Even though he had survived unimaginable horrors as a direct consequence of his human rights activities in Ethiopia, Ali immediately resumed these efforts in Manitoba by working on behalf of other refugees seeking safety from persecution while placing emphasis on promoting the rights of women.

Since arriving in Manitoba Ali has transformed the lives of many. Ali has worked to sponsor 104 refugees through the Ethiopian Society of Winnipeg by working in collaboration with Hospitality House and the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, traveled to Parliament Hill along with his daughter to present a petition highlighting concerns about women who had been disappeared or were being held as political prisoners in Ethiopia and produced the award winning Memories of a Generation, a feature length documentary on human rights which has reached over 5,000 people in Europe and North America.

Hear Ali Saeed speak at Honouring Courage and Celebrating Diversity on June 15th at Gohe Ethiopian Restaurant. The evening includes a world-class Ethiopian meal, a silent art auctions and more. Tickets are just $45 (tax receipt for $25) and available at our office – call 204-586-2236 or info@sarasvati.ca. All funds raised will support the transformative theatre work of Sarasvàti Productions.

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[i] Prisoners of conscience are individuals who have been imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs or because of their race, gender or other personal characteristics.

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