Kicking Off with Seven Circles!

We’re excited to officially kick off our Reconciliation Through Theatre project! We are honoured that seven organizations from around the city are hosting Indigenous Youth Visioning Circles, bringing together their youth to guide us in developing a framework for arts-based workshops. We’ll be starting off at Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad Inc. this Thursday – read on for more information about the exciting partnerships we have for this project!

 

Ndinawe-logo-horizNdinawemaaganag Endaawaad Inc. (or Ndinawe for short) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping at-risk youth in Winnipeg. Since 1993, their integrated services have been connecting vulnerable children and youth aged 11–17 with the shelter, culture, recreation, education, outreach and support they need for safe and healthy lives. Open every day of the year, Ndinawe is an immediate and reliable place of safety, connection and support for youth during times of high risk when other resources are unavailable to them.

 

logo_ILDII-300x87Indigenous Leadership Development Institute Inc. (or ILDII) is a non-profit organization established to build leadership capacity in Indigenous people. We’ll be working directly with their Empowering Indigenous Youth in Governance and Leadership (EIYGL) program. EIYGL is Indigenous and youth led that provides important ingredients that builds effective leaders through meaningful skill development.

 

imagesUsing a creative, dynamic approach, Marymound School delivers the provincial education curriculum from elementary grades to grade 11. Marymound School serves two populations of students. Some are young people who live in Marymound group homes or living units, while others, Day Treatment students, come from all over Winnipeg, and live at home with their parents, foster parents or other group homes.

 

Manitoba Youth Centre is the largest youth correctional centre in Manitoba and is located in Winnipeg. It houses both male and female young offenders. MYC is responsible for the care, custody and security of Sentenced and Remanded youth. Case-management, Programming and Spiritual care are offered regularly at the centre; in order to help young people make better choices and avoid criminal lifestyles.

 

CaptureKnowles Centre is a community-based, non-profit social service agency for children, adolescents and young adults facing difficult times in their lives. It began as a home for boys in 1907, and today provides a range of therapeutic and skills-based programs to young people from Manitoba and other communities throughout Canada. Their mission is to help young people and their families to address past struggles, to develop healthier relationships and ways of life, and to reach their full potential in the future.

 

WLogo-1Wahbung Abinoonjiiag was established to empower children and their families to break the cycle of violence. They do this by providing opportunities for holistic healing through culturally-appropriate teachings and activities in a safe and nurturing environment. They offer youth programs, to provide participants with a safe environment where youth can come hang out, be themselves, and get support from their peers and caring adults.

 

10183d2b-f704-4fe7-a968-516f5979c475nChildren of the Earth School is an Aboriginal education school that aims to serve students who, while undertaking a standard high school education, also want to learn about their Aboriginal heritage, values, and traditions. We’ve been running youth workshops at the school for the past few years as the school does not currently offer a drama program. We’re excited to return and work with the youth to prepare for our May 2020 production!

This is just Phase One of the project! You can see the results of the visioning circles at our public presentation and project launch May 4-9, 2019. We will then launch workshops in June and begin work combining the stories to create a full production, debuting May 2020. Follow the progress on our latest community collaboration project!

 

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The Road to Reconciliation

“What are you going to do about the way this country treats Indigenous People,” asked Senator Murray Sinclair at the Winnipeg Foundation’s recent Vital Conversation. It is not an easy question. The word reconciliation is being used a lot lately, but not always with a full understanding of what it means let alone what it will require. Sarasvàti Productions is grappling with the role of theatre and the arts in this important process. Thanks to funding from the Winnipeg Foundation, we’re gearing up for the first phase of a long-term project. With the hard work of our Project Coordinator Nova Courchene, Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator Marsha Knight, Visual Artist Jaime Black, Graphic Designer Justin Bear, and the guidance of our Indigenous Advisory Committee, we are putting together an exciting public launch of the project from May 4 to 9.

 

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[Poster] Sarasvati - 7 CirclesThroughout April we will be working on Seven Circles, visioning sessions with youth. Seven organizations will host a space for youth to brainstorm and decide the parameters for a series of arts-based workshops. We are grateful to Children of the Earth High School, Indigenous Leadership Development Institute, The Knowles Centre, Manitoba Youth Centre, Marymound School, Ndinawe, and Wahbung Abinoonjiiag for their partnership.

At the May launch, Jaime Black will share what was heard in these consultation circles through an art installation. This presentation is part of our full project launch with a chance to share what we have heard as well as gather the community together for wider input. We’ll also be hosting a reading of Jo MacDonald’s OUR HOME & Native Land, winner of the 2017 FemFest Bake-Off. Director Heidi Malazdrewich and Dramaturg Yvette Nolan will be on board to help with the development of the play. This comedic piece about treaty rights will help to frame discussion and encourage public input.

The public presentation will take place on:

  • Saturday, May 4th at 2pm
  • Tuesday, May 7th at 1pm
  • Wednesday, May 8th at 10am
  • and Thursday, May 9th at 7pm

Members of the public are more than welcome to attend! Admission to this event is pay-what-you-can-afford at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W).

However, this is just the starting point for the project.  From June to November, workshops will take place at our partner organizations. Using storytelling, the youth will translate their experiences into different art forms. This first phase of the project will bring together youth, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and artists in several mediums.

Then in May 2020 a full public performance of the resulting work will take place. As a true community collaboration, what this performance will include will come directly from the youth so remains to be seen, created, dreamt and realized.

What Does Reconciliation Mean To You?

In January, we’ll be kicking off our next long-term initiative! Our new collaborative project will focus on reconciliation through storytelling and theatre. A team of Indigenous artists will work with Indigenous youth to capture their lived experiences and bring them to the stage. Storytelling will be used to explore the truth about current experiences of racism and discrimination in Winnipeg.  Ultimately a large community gathering and performance will take place engaging the public in the important and challenging dialogue about how to make a better community. Using the arts to explore the current reality of racism will allow us to take a powerful step forward towards true reconciliation.

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Marsha Knight

Beginning steps on this initiative are being undertaken by our Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator, Marsha Knight. Marsha has been involved in theatre for over twenty years in many capacities both on and off stage. She has worked on several past productions with Sarasvàti, including consulting on Two Indians at FemFest 2017 and performing in Breaking Through and Eden.

“When I learned of the Winnipeg Foundation’s funding announcement for reconciliation projects, I remember having varied feelings of elation and interest,” says Marsha. “I was quite excited at this opportunity for community building and to know that the Winnipeg Foundation made a commitment to the ongoing process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.”

This project will involve working with Indigenous youth, Knowledge Keepers, Elders, and professional artists to gather stories. “What is exciting for me is that we are asking the youth, with the guidance of the Knowledge Keepers and the support of artists, to develop a contemporary perspective of the teachings of this region of Turtle Island,” says Marsha.

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Jaime Black

Indigenous artist Jaime Black will also be on board to help bring the project to life.  Jaime is a Metis multidisciplinary artist based in Winnipeg. She studied English Literature at the University of Manitoba and has an Education degree from The Ontario Institute of Studies in Education. She has taught in Opaskwayak Cree Nation in the Pas, Manitoba, has worked developing art curriculum for the Urban Shaman: Contemporary Aboriginal Art, and has long been involved in the Aboriginal writers and artists communities in Winnipeg. She is also head of the REDress Project, an installation-based art project focused around the issue of missing or murdered Aboriginal women across Canada.

Phase One of the project will start this year as we engage in consultation circles within the community and then undertake workshops to explore their connection to the teachings. Phase Two will then bring in artists, performers, designers, and directors to shape the youth’s creations into our next full production, keeping in consultation with Knowledge Keepers to ensure the integrity of their stories as the production develops.

“The voices of Indigenous youth are strong and much wiser than most people allow,” says Marsha. “This production will be a beautiful, awakening message combining traditional and contemporary storytelling.”

We’ll be launching the first phase of the project with a public gathering in May 2019 with the full production to come in Spring 2020. Stay tuned as we announce more on this exciting new endeavour!

 

Expanding Our Work in the Community

We need to be doing more to honour our responsibility to reconciliation. This was the commitment when Sarasvàti Productions signed on to the Winnipeg Indigenous Accord and put in to action specific goals. Thus far we have recruited better Indigenous representation on our Board, established an Indigenous Advisory Committee, and hired the amazing Elissa Kixen as Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator. She will be exploring better ways to serve, work with and build partnerships.

A first step this past week was bringing back our workshop series with Children of the Earth High School! We began the series in 2017 to provide students with information about the world of theatre since the school does not currently offer a drama program. This ten-week series gives North End youth the opportunity to learn about acting, writing, and directing for the stage. Students are given the opportunity to meet and speak with professionals who work in the arts and build connections for the future. The series will also take students to sit in on rehearsals, tour Winnipeg theatres, and see live performances!

The workshops run Mondays from 3:45pm-5:45pm at Children of the Earth High School, Room 103. All North End youth (ages 14-18) are welcome to attend, free of charge!

Joshua Ranville

Joshua Ranville

Facilitating the workshops are familiar faces Joshua Ranville and Marsha Knight, plus a roster of amazing guest artists. Ranville is an actor/musician from Winnipeg with twenty years’ experience in theatre and film. He has also been an art mentor to children for over ten years. Ranville has quite the history with Sarasvàti, having appeared in our FemFest 2017 Bake-Off, Breaking Through, and Eden. He has also worked with MTYP on the one-man show, Routes, as well as instructing at Rainbow Stage’s Camp Rainbow this past summer.

 

 

Marsha Knight

Marsha Knight

Knight has been involved in theatre for over twenty years, starting with Ian Ross’ Governor General award-winning drama fareWel (PTE). She has worked on several past productions with Sarasvàti, including consulting on Two Indians at FemFest 2017 and performing in Breaking Through and Eden. She has also performed with a number of local companies, including Time’s Fancy: The War of King Henry V and Joan of Arc (Sixth Planet Productions); Rez Sisters (PTE, Theatre Northwest, Magnus Theatre); Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun (Theatre Northwest); Antony & Cleopatra (Shakespeare in the Ruins); and Crees in the Caribbean  (Magnus Theatre).

 

Elissa Kixen 2018

Elissa Kixen

Our coordinator Elissa Kixen is an Anishinaabe Ikwe (woman) comedian and producer of WOKE Comedy Hour. She has been performing for twenty years and has been teaching for seventeen. Her passion is to bring Indigenous issues to the forefront of her comedy.

We have several other initiatives in the works and will continue to gather input in the coming months.

Looking Back on a Remarkable Year

Wow! It’s hard to believe how much can happen in a year. This week we look back on our greatest endeavours of 2017 made possible due to the amazing support of our donors, funders, volunteers, artists and community partners!

  • Theatre Workshops with North End Youth

We launched into 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 have had the pleasure of continuing to work with these youth in skill-focused workshops and mentorship sessions. We are thrilled to be continuing with a series of theatre workshops at Children of the Earth School in the New Year!

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study theatre but now I’m sure!” – Sabil, Youth Participant

  • International Women’s Week

Last March, ten amazing women took to the stage in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. The theme was Starting Over, sharing stories of displacement, resettlement and life-changing moments. We toured to new community venues like North End Family Centre. We were so honoured to facilitate the sharing of these crucial perspectives which are all too often silenced.

“The performances took place in our typically very busy and noisy drop in space. However, the performances were so captivating that you could have heard a pin drop!”
-Kristi Beaune, Mount Carmel Clinic
“Our students connected with what the presenters were saying on a deep level. I would highly recommend the monologues.”
-Rob Visch, Principal St. Aidan’s Christian School

  • Launch of New Beginnings15781754_10211121667098878_6849065531477230353_n

We used the story-gathering conducted for International Women’s Week as a spring board to soar into our next community-based project: New Beginnings. We began reaching out to artists and meeting with partner organizations. In September, we gave audiences a sneak peek at what we have in the works at a FemFest preview. From May 22-27, 2018 you can witness the coming together of a diverse range of artists, community members, recent newcomers and established immigrants. Through the use of dance, music, visual art and storytelling we will share stories of resettlement.

“Great evening at FemFest and Sarasvati production of New Beginnings! Congratulations to Rosemary Kezaabu and Gertrude Hambira, two of the women who told their stories.” – Mary Scott, Audience Member
“It was such a wonderful night yesterday! So glad I was able to participate in this project.” – Patricia Gordon, Performer

  • FemFest 2017: Coming of Age

This FemFest audiences and artists came together to celebrate 15 years of life-changing theatre.  We were proud to present such provocative touring shows as Watching Glory Die by Judith Thompson. We had some incredible first-times, partnering with the West End Cultural Centre to present Tomboy Survival Guide and partnering with the Millennium Library to present The Human Library! It was so rewarding to offer filmmaker Sonya Ballantyne her first opportunity to direct for the stage with Two Indians. We were proud to honour some of Winnipeg’s most prolific female playwrights at the One Night Stand and toast to 15 years. Believe it or not planning has already begun for FemFest 2018!

“…one of the most incredible and moving pieces of art I have ever seen” – Tatiana Carnevale, Audience Member at Tomboy Survival Guide at FemFest 2017
“Wow. I have not been so moved by a piece of theatre for a long time” – Cheryl Costen, Audience Member at Watching Glory Die at FemFest 2017

  • Second Annual Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

Thanks to two fantastic audiences and eight hilarious comedians we almost sold out two back-to-back shows for our Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser. We heard nothing but glowing remarks from audience members. We can’t wait for next year!

“Awesome” – Audience Member
“Everyone is so talented!” – Audience Member

  • Workshops for Emerging Artists

    This season we’ve provided workshops and mentorship in theatre design, tech, directing, auditioning and more! One of the highlights was our playwriting masterclass with master playwright, Judith Thompson. We aren’t slowing down anytime soon! You can look forward to workshops in vocal technique, auditioning , dramaturgy and more in 2018!

    “Extremely beneficial. Going through the audition process (before, during, after) has made me feel that I have a much better idea of how the process works, especially with professional companies.” – Participant in Auditioning 101
    “All of it was pure gold.”
    – Participant in Coffee with Ann Hodges

We also rebooted our One Night Stand series with three opportunities throughout the year for playwrights to test material under the amazing leadership of Tatiana Carnevale!

  • COMMUNITY

This year also allowed us to work with several amazing community organizations. From doing workshops with youth leaders at SEED to presenting an overview of our work for the Council of Women of Winnipeg and PCWM. The largest initiative was the amazing experience preparing Can You See Me Now in partnership with West Central Women’s Resource Centre.  The women shared their experience of homelessness with such power that it truly opened eyes and hearts.

Here’s to another year of making and experiencing tranformative theatre together!

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

BreakingThrough-StefandDoctor

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!

 

Workshops Open Up the World of Theatre for Youth

Do you have an interest in acting but not sure how to get started? Do you want to learn about other aspects of theatre, like writing for the stage, and directing? Frances Koncan and Sarasvati Productions have put together a FREE theatre workshop series for youth age 16-24 in the North End.

“The purpose of the Sarasvati Youth Theatre Workshop Series is to find and develop the talent and ability of Indigenous and Newcomer Youth who are interested in the arts, especially acting, writing, and directing”, said Koncan. Frances has coordinated the workshop series, bringing local theatre artists on board to help teach and facilitate. The workshops will give priority to youth who are Indigenous, and youth who are newcomers living in the North End.

“These groups are under-represented in the landscape of Canadian theatre”, said Koncan, “these workshops exist to increase access for these youth to explore their interest in theatre and, if they so choose, lead to opportunities to continue their training and work professionally in the theatre industry!”

Youth who participate in the free workshop series will have the opportunity to:

-Meet professionals who work in the arts
-Learn theatre basics in performing, writing, and directing
-Practice and develop new skills
-Play games, enjoy snacks, and meet new people!

For those interested there will be a chance to take part in a continued series of workshops to develop your skills, and opportunities to work professionally with Sarasvàti in the future! So what are you waiting for?

Come to our FREE drop-in theatre workshop on January 11th 2017 from 4:00PM – 6:00PM at Art Kitchen, 508 Selkirk Avenue.

For more information or to register email Frances at frances@sarasvati.ca
A big thank you to funders NECRC and Neighbourhoods Alive!

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