Saying Goodbye to IWW 2019

Another great International Women’s Week has come and gone! After a community tour that took our team all across Manitoba, our Cabaret of Monologues wrapped up with two public performances on March 9th. In total 860 people saw the work.

This year we traveled further than ever before with two community performances in Flin Flon and The Pas! Brand-new audiences across the province got to take in inspiring and powerful performances, bringing the stories of hilarious, strong, resilient women to communities that don’t normally get to experience the power of live theatre.

 

 

I saw just a few performances at a fundraiser for Agape House, and they absolutely blew me away. I’ll never be the same. I feel empowered, transformed, electrified. I am officially a huge fan and can’t wait to see more! Bravo to all involved. Bravo!” – Agape House Audience Member

Stop hiding away and embrace your story so you can love yourself, then you can love the world. I honestly just feel so strong and confident now, with such a clear purpose.” – Agape House Audience Member

 

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We teamed up with classes at the University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba to share stories of sexuality, addiction, and disability with students. Our performers also entertained the youth of West Broadway Youth Outreach’s Girls World program, inspiring the kids to share their own stories of empowerment!

 “It was wonderful to have the Sarasvati performers in my class. I appreciated the opportunity to have ideas related to the class presented in such an engaging and dynamic way, and especially to have a chance to talk to the performers afterwards about what the pieces meant to them. Students learned both from the performances and from the discussion afterwards.” – Dr. Jocelyn Thorpe

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Sarasvàti Productions for a couple years now – selecting works from their annual Cabaret of Monologues – and it’s always been an excellent experience. The Cabaret of Monologues provides such a wonderful array of performance art that is sure to please many audiences. The performers/performances are diverse, strong, intriguing, thought-provoking, heartwarming, humbling, enlightening, and more! The SP staff are always eager and available to accommodate requests that help me put on a good show. The work that they do is not only important but necessary! I hope that their work and programming continue year after year.” Mubo Christine Ilelaboye, Community Groups Coordinator, University of Manitoba Womyn’s Centre

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“That was really fun, it’s so cool one person could make it so alive without a stage or other actors or anything fancy like that! Like a one woman show!”

“We really want to write our own play about women empowerment and how strong women are.”

“I’m so glad we got to do this for Women’s day, we should do this again!”West Broadway Youth Outreach Girls World Participants

 

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We also featured our full line-up at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, pairing our performers with the museum’s exhibitions to share the call for equality and the stories of ground-breaking women.

 “It was an exceptional experience for us, as well. To see our spaces filled with so many people and alive with this programming was a true highlight! Thank You!”Chandra Erlendson, Manager of Public Programs at Canadian Museum for Human Rights

 

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Thank you to everyone who made this year’s Cabaret such a success: from our incredible performers, our hardworking staff and production team, our amazing volunteers, and all the wonderful audiences who helped us put women’s stories in the spotlight! We’ll see you next year for another exciting Cabaret celebrating the experiences of women everywhere.

 

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Get to know the Artists Behind IWW 2019!

Hard to believe our 2019 Cabaret of Monologues is coming up so fast! This week, get to know the amazing performers behind this year’s event.

How would you describe yourself to a stranger?

Amelia Warkentin, The LightFishers: I am a student, a friend, a daughter, and a very flawed human that recognizes each day as a blessing.

Brooklyn Alice Lee, Sunday Morning Brunch: An empathetic animal lover with a passion for playing make-believe.

Kim Kakegamic, Who’s Driving: I’ll tell you how someone recently described me – friendly, quirky and fun. So that’s what I’ll go with! I work as a writer and I’ve always loved the arts and performing. Although I am an introvert who prefers to stay home, so maybe the best word to use is “dichotomic”.

Lauren Marshall, Geraldine Sloan: 90% my mother, 64.5% bad at math, 17% Mrs. Bennett, 15% Jo March, 5% Harry Potter at the moment in Order of the Phoenix when he’s waiting for mail to arrive at the Dursleys’ and it never comes.

Renee Hill, Oracle Jane: I am a friendly, creative person who enjoys people. I am a stay-at-home mother who maintains her sanity through creativity!

 

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How do you feel connected to your piece?

Amelia: I have visited family in a psychiatric ward and I am very aware of how mental health services operate. I can relate to the anxiety expressed throughout the piece and understand the detrimental effects of addiction.

Brooklyn: I feel connected to the dry, blunt humour of Josephine – she and I are very alike in that way.  I like the complete honesty of the piece. It’s unique, raunchy, and relatable even if you yourself haven’t been in the character’s situation.

Lauren: I love Geraldine because she is fighting for the thing she wants, despite what the people close to her expect her to be. I so strongly identify with that. I’m lucky to have supportive friends and family, but I get her. When I overhear, “She’s still trying to make it as an actress?” it drives me crazy. Just believe in me, for crying out loud! Stop saying no.

Hailley Rhoda, Talking about ED: I live with two invisible disabilities, and have since birth. The older I get, the more I realize how much living with them has shaped me. I wanted to be brave enough to speak some of the uncomfortable truths on stage in the hopes it helped spread that feeling to a wider audience.

Kim: Janet has a lot to say about a wide variety of issues and I feel connected to her opinions, how she turns things on their heads. Again, it’s the writing I really connect with. Plus Janet’s sassiness!

Nan Fewchuk, Thelma and Louise: As I grow older, I think so much more about my own mortality and have come to fully realize what really matters in life. I am so grateful for all of the good times and the wacky times, and for all of my family, friends, teachers, mentors,  coaches, and kind strangers who have taught me so much about life; how to  love, forgive, and journey forward.

Renee: I am interested in exploring how Ying comes to terms with how her innovative technology has negatively impacted marginalized people.  I am curious about the role of culture and its impact on success as well as the difficulty of coming to terms with our mistakes.

Shereen Ramprashad, I Am NOT a Victim: I wrote I Am NOT a Victim at a time when there was a lot of anti-Semitism against the Muslim community. The poem is a defiant cry against society’s need to repress and control women from being their true authentic selves.

Wanda Wilson, Bare Bones: My piece is my life – it is the story of the turning point in my life. I sobered up. I got my life back.

 

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How does your piece relate to the theme of embracing identity?

Hailley: This piece is the most of myself I’ve ever put onstage. Usually I get the mask of someone else’s words, or the framework of a pre-existing story to work behind. This is just me, and my lived experience: talking about the realities of living with disability in a way that I haven’t yet been brave enough to do.

Nan: When I was a little girl, my mom said to me, “Nan, one day you are going to wake up and you will be 40.” Well, I closed my eyes and opened them at fifty-seven years young. And here I am. No regrets. Forever grateful.

Shereen: The drive for my practise comes from my experiences as a kid not understanding why I had little connection to the world around me, why I couldn’t read numbers and symbols, or why my brain never shuts off. Most of all, why people felt it was all right to dehumanize me because of my skin colour and obvious learning difficulties. Once I understood how my brain worked, I was able to turn what is perceived as a disability into an outstanding ability.

Wanda: I’ve never shared my story before. It has been thirteen years and I still feel I have so much more to learn but I’m ready. It’s time. I know a lot of other people are hurting and one of several things I have learned in sobriety is that you are not alone.

 

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The team behind IWW 2019 out on tour!

You can see all these incredible artists in action on Saturday, March 9th! Get your tickets today!

Announcing our IWW 2019 Community Tour!

We’re taking the Cabaret on the road! As part of our annual International Women’s Week celebration, we’ll be touring the monologues out to community groups around Manitoba. This is a great way for new audiences to experience live theatre, especially in rural communities. This year, we’re travelling across the province to Steinbach, Gimli, The Pas, and Flin Flon! Check out the list below for all the ways you can catch the pieces in this year’s tour:

Aurora House Poster.jpgAurora House – The Pas

March 3rd at 1:00 PM

Wescana Inn – 439 Fischer (HWY 10)

Featuring: Sunday Morning Brunch, Talking about ED, The LightFishers, I am NOT a Victim, and Oracle Jane

Incorporated in 1982, the agency addresses domestic violence in the Norman region through counseling, support and education.  The Pas Committee for Women in Crisis operates two facilities – Aurora House, the emergency shelter, and My Sister’s House (a small apartment complex for women establishing themselves in a violence free life). Admission to this event is “pay what you can.”

 

BrooklynAliceLee_photobyPatrickRabago

Brooklyn Alice Lee in “Sunday Morning Brunch”

Women’s Resource Centre – Flin Flon

March 3rd at 7:00PM

Johnny’s Social Club (177 Green St)

Featuring: Sunday Morning Brunch, Talking about ED, The LightFishers, I am NOT a Victim, and Oracle Jane

The Flin Flon Women’s Safe Haven and Resource Services Inc. supports the women and children in their community. They work hard to empower women: to help them be more dynamic, confident and to ensure their safety. Admission to this event is free. Photo: Patrick Rabago.

 

University of Manitoba Womyn’s Centre

 March 5th at 5:00PM and March 8th at 11:00AM

Basement of University College, Room 145 (220 Dysart Road)

Featuring: Talking about ED (March 5th) and I am NOT a Victim (March 8th)

The Womyn’s Centre is a feminist collective on campus as well as a safe space to work, share and learn together. The Centre advocates on behalf of womyn of the university and offers a wide range of services to the collective members, university students, and the outside community. Photos: Patrick Rabago.

 

static1.squarespace.comCanadian Museum for Human Rights

March 6th at 6:30PM

85 Israel Asper Way

Featuring: Sunday Morning Brunch, Talking about ED, The LightFishers, I am NOT a Victim, Thelma and Louise, Who’s Driving, Bare Bones, Oracle Jane, and Geraldine Sloan Truhill: Mommy’s Going to the Moon, Kids!

We’re excited to partner with the Museum to bring you all nine IWW pieces! On the first Wednesday of every month, the museum offers free entry to guests. You can check out our full line-up as you browse the incredible exhibits on display.

 

monologue poster2Interlake Women’s Resource Centre – Gimli

March 7th at 7:30PM

Gimli Unitarian Church (76 2nd Ave)

Featuring: Sunday Morning Brunch, Talking about ED, The LightFishers, I am NOT a Victim, Thelma and Louise, Who’s Driving, Bare Bones, Oracle Jane, and Geraldine Sloan Truhill: Mommy’s Going to the Moon, Kids!

IWRC is a grassroots, community-based resource centre dedicated towards improving the quality of life for women, children, families, and the communities in which they reside. The Centre provides services and programs for women and their children living in or having left domestic violence situations, in order to help women make informed choices for themselves and their children.

The IWRC requests that admission to the event is given in the form of a basic hygiene product – particularly tampons, face wash, or conditioner.

 

Agape House IWD PosterAgape House – Steinbach

March 8th at 7:00PM

Steinbach Arts Council (304 Second St)

Featuring: Talking about ED, Bare Bones, and Geraldine Sloan Truhill: Mommy’s Going to the Moon, Kids!

As one of 10 women’s shelters in Manitoba, Agape House serves an area that extends North to Beausejour, South to the U.S. Border, West to Winnipeg and East to the Ontario border.

Agape House (Eastman Crisis Centre) began operating in December 1985, out of a three-bedroom bungalow, after concerned citizens recognized the need to help families in the Eastman region. In time, the women’s shelter moved to a five-bedroom house in Steinbach to facilitate the growing need for services. Today, the shelter has 16 beds, and in an average year sees over 200 clients and responds to over 1,000 crisis calls.

Admission to this event is $10 with proceeds going to support Agape House.

 

We’ll also be performing around Winnipeg for Rainbow Resource Centre, Sunshine House, University of Manitoba Women and Gender Studies, Residence Despins, University of Winnipeg Disability Studies, University of Winnipeg Conflict Resolution Studies, West Broadway Youth Outreach, and the North End Women’s Centre.

For the full lineup, be sure to get your tickets today for our performances on Saturday, March 9th! Tickets available here.

 

Inspiring Others at IWW 2019

At our 2019 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues, we’re sharing stories that inspire! Through the power of storytelling, our lineup will showcase a variety of women’s experiences about what is means to embrace identity.

Hailley Rhoda

Hailley Rhoda

Hailley Rhoda is the puppeteer, playwright, and performer behind Talking about ED. This brand-new piece explores “the elephant in the room”: how disability and the secrecy surrounding it affects lives.

Hailley is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Theatre and Film department. Hailley has worked with Sarasvàti on several projects, including Ripple Effect, Honey and Jupiter, and The Seduction Theory. She is the founding – and only – member of Chronically Ch(ill) Productions, a Winnipeg-based company interested in women in mythology, disability in the arts, and seeing just how complicated a puppet made from dollar store parts can get.

“This piece is the most of myself I’ve ever put onstage,” says Hailley. “Usually I get the mask of someone else’s words, or the framework of a pre-existing story to work behind. This is just me, and my lived experience, talking about the realities of living with disability in a way that I haven’t yet been brave enough to do.”

 

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Wanda Wilson

In Bare Bones, singer/songwriter Wanda Wilson portrays an eclectic mix of raw, sweet edge with a musical approach that is bold, courageous and out of the ordinary. Receiving CBC’s Most Unique Album of the Week Award (2009), her self-released debut project “Under Donald” is a solid testament to that. With Cree roots from northern Manitoba, Canada, Wilson’s material embodies strength, humor, hope and pain in her own alternative way.

“I’ve never shared my story before,” says Wanda. “It has been thirteen years and I still feel I have so much more to learn but I’m ready. It’s time. I know a lot of other people are hurting and one of several things I have learned in sobriety is that you are not alone.”

 

Taking the Cabaret into the stratosphere is Geraldine Sloan Truhill: Mommy’s Going to the Moon, Kids! In 1961, NASA denied training to the “Mercury 13”, an all-female band of astronauts. Refusing to take no for an answer, Geraldine fights for respect from NASA and her family.

Natalie FrijaPlaywright Natalie Frijia is a Toronto-based writer, theatre-maker, clown-wrangler, and adventurer. She has a PhD from the University of Toronto’s Graduate Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, and the School of the Environment. She was also a member of Storefront Theatre’s inaugural playwriting unit. Her plays have been workshopped and presented at Storefront Theatre, Rhubarb Festival, New Ideas Festival, and Fringe festivals across Canada.

 

 

Lauren Marshall Headshot

Lauren Marshall

Lauren Marshall is exceptionally honoured to make her first appearance with Sarasvàti Productions as Geraldine. Past stage credits include As You Like It (Midnight Productions), Of Mice and Men (Real Live), and Doubt (Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre). Lauren originally studied music education at Brandon University before discovering a love for the dramatic arts, and can be found substitute teaching in the band room in between auditions.

“I’m excited to play a woman who has always known from the very beginning what she wants to do with her life,” says Lauren. “Geraldine wants to fly. I’ve always admired people who have that early conviction. She is very different than me and that will be a lovely challenge.”

 

For all these pieces and more, you can check out our full line-up of monologues on Saturday, March 9! Don’t miss out – get your tickets today!

Poetry and Playwrights at IWW 2019!

We’re excited to share more about the fabulous artists behind this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues! This year’s theme is Here I Am, exploring themes of reclaiming identity and coming into one’s own.

Appearing in this year’s Cabaret are a number of artists writing and performing their own work, including long-time Sarasvàti collaborator Nan Fewchuk performing her piece, Thelma and Louise. While waiting in Cancer Care, Maggie reflects back on her life, her resentment towards her large breasts, and how the thought of losing one of them changes her perspective.

Nan Fewchuk

Nan Fewchuk

Nan is grateful to be a performer, director, and facilitator with Sarasvàti Productions, working on such favorites as Fefu and Her Friends, Fen, Jail Baby and Empty. Nan has performed with Rainbow Stage, Shakespeare in the Ruins, and Green Kids Inc. She produced and acted in the Fringe hits Dog Act and Or as well as working with the Manitoba Drama Youth Festival, Villa Rosa, The Peaceful Village, and the West Central Women’s Resource Centre. Nan co-founded the Indigenous youth group Neechisan at Garden City Collegiate where she taught drama for over twenty-five years.

Thelma and Louise was originally Nan’s final performance piece while studying at One Yellow Rabbit in Calgary. “Ten years later I’m finding it super interesting to further explore, dive deeper, and rework things, especially because I feel differently now than I did when I first wrote it,” says Nan. “As I grow older, I think so much more about my own mortality and have come to fully realize what really matters in life. I am so grateful for all of the good times and the wacky times, and for all of my family, friends, teachers, mentors,  coaches, and kind strangers who have taught me so much about life: how to  love, forgive, and journey forward.”

 

Shereen Ramprashad

Shereen Ramprashad

Also performing a work of her own creation is local spoken word artist Shereen Ramprashad. Shereen’s piece I am NOT a Victim is a charismatic, satirical poem challenging the media’s perception that women are – and always will be – a victim of something. Shereen is a colourful, witty and lively Canadian writer based out of Winnipeg. Her writings are a creative blend of intelligent metaphor and philosophy with undercurrents of subtext and observation. Shereen started her creative journey in her early forties with the intent of creating waves with poetry. Ten years later she’s doing just that with her interdisciplinary performance poetry and storytelling.

“Writing and performing is my way of presenting alternative perspectives on mainstream ideas and norms,” says Shereen. “I encourage critical thought of who we are as a society, where we are going, and how we want to see ourselves in the future. I think it’s important to find humour in hard times; satire is a powerful tool when it is used in the right context.”

You can see Nan and Shereen perform alongside seven other talented artists during the full Cabaret line-up on March 9th! Performances are at 4PM and 8PM at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W). Get your tickets today!

2018: A Look Back

We’ve had another amazing year here at Sarasvàti Productions! It was a season of workshops and life-changing theatre, promoting empathy and understanding to audiences across Manitoba! Check out some of our highlights from the past year.

WORKSHOPS FOR EMERGING ARTISTS

This year we had over ten workshops for emerging artists, including The Artist’s Voice with Tom Soares, Monologue Intensive with Sharon Bajer, and Devising from the Real World with FemFest artist Norah Paton! We also had our Coffee with a Pro mentorship series, pairing emerging artists with a pro in the field to talk shop over coffee. In 2018, we had sessions like Dramaturgy with Brian Drader, Playwriting with Ellen Peterson and Ginny Collins, and Producing with Brenda McLean! We also hosted our “Mental Health in Theatre” Panel back in November, starting an important dialogue we hope to continue.

SHARING THE STORIES OF UNSTOPPABLE WOMEN

Full cast at dress rehearsal

Our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues saw the stories of incredible women living through riots, learning to teach yoga as a senior, accepting their true selves, and conquering all odds. New work was created by up-and-coming stand-up comic Anjali Sandhu as well as trans advocate Cynthia Fortlage. Aboriginal artist Kristy Janvier traveled from Flin Flon to present a new piece. We also welcomed Joanna Hawkins of 100 Decibels to perform a solo mime work. This was also our first year offering ASL interpretation.

WORKSHOPS FOR NORTH END YOUTH

This year, we brought theatre workshops to the students of Gonzaga Middle School and Children of the Earth High School, where students currently don’t have access to drama programs. Students were taught the basics of playwriting, directing, improvisation, and set design.

NEW BEGINNINGS ON STAGE

Two years ago, we began a series of workshops and community interviews, hearing from newcomers and immigrants to Canada about their experiences with resettling in a new country. In May of this year, we got to bring those stories to life with the world premiere of New Beginnings, featuring a blend of dance, film, and theatre. An interactive touring show focusing on youth experiences, Home 2.0, launched in the fall! Over 4,700 youth and teachers across Manitoba were exposed to the work that helped promote empathy and understanding.

PUTTING THE ‘FUN’ IN FUNDRAISING

We got to try something a little different this year with a spring fundraiser produced and organized by Delta Hirsch. It was a sit-down dinner at Forth that paired Perogies and Puns! Local comedians Mike Green and Angie St. Mars tickled funny bones while chef Keith Csabak treated folks to five courses of gourmet perogies. Then in November, we brought back our annual Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser for its third year! Elissa Kixen of WOKE Comedy Hour produced this incredible event showcasing a diverse line-up of women comics.

FEMFEST CELEBRATES 16 YEARS!

In 2018 we showcased our sixteenth annual festival of plays that put women’s stories in the spotlight! We got to travel to Burning Man with Norah Paton’s Burnt, hear from a young Cree teenager with White Man’s Indian, watch Donna-Michelle St. Bernard speak truth to power with Sound of the Beast, and witness the beautiful blend of Indian dance and theatre with The Game! Alissa Watson brought home our 2018 Bake-Off Prize with her winning scene, The Switch. We also got to explore downtown Winnipeg’s hidden gems with our first-ever Walking Art Tour. We’ve already started brainstorming for 2019, so stay tuned!

Thanks to everyone who made this past year such a success. We’re so excited to talk about what we have coming up in 2019, starting with our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues in March! We’ll keep you posted with more updates on all the great events you can look forward to this coming year.

 

Staying Unstoppable Through Change

This week, we’re featuring three more artists from our upcoming International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable! Get to know them below:

Sweet an Nice – written by Althea Cunningham, performed by Lorraine James

Althea Cunningham headshot 2017

Althea Cunningham

Cunningham is of Jamaican descent and grew up in Edmonton, AB. She is a graduate of the Theatre Arts Program at MacEwan University and a seasoned performer with a background in acting, writing, music and producing.  In 2005, Cunningham founded her three-tier company Nappy Roots Productions, which focuses on positive stories for the black diaspora in the twenty-first century using writing, acting and music as the vehicle.

Her piece, Sweet an Nice, focuses on the story of her mother as a Jamaican immigrant coming to Canada in the 1970s. “Not only was it culture shock, but there were unexpected challenges she experienced up until the day of her death. My mother, being my most beloved parent, left behind a legacy that I feel needs exploring,” says Cunningham. “It’s a story that deals with intense, painful themes: immigration, discrimination, abuse, and codependency. Writing allows me to explore, heal and move forward from the past.”

Lorraine James headshot 2017.jpg

Lorraine James

Bringing Cunningham’s piece to the stage is long-time veteran of Sarasvàti, Lorraine James. James has most recently been seen in the 2017 FemFest Bake-Off, The Mousetrap for Christiefest, When God Comes for Breakfast You Don’t Burn the Toast, and The Appointment.

“I get to portray an experience seemingly outside of myself,” says James. “I’m gaining insight on what it must’ve been like for my parents to uproot their lives to come here, to realize that there are people out there who feel threatened by immigrants and yet have no idea about the real struggles.”

 

I Got 99 Problems, My Penis is Just One – created and performed by Cynthia Fortlage

Cynthia Fortlage headshot 2017

Cynthia Fortlage

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Fortlage has worked as an internationally award-winning information technology executive for the past twenty-nine years with a privately owned Winnipeg company.  She is a board member with various organizations, including Rainbow Resource Center where she sits as President of the Board. Ms. Fortlage came to terms in 2016 with a forty-one-year denial of her true gender identity.

Fortlage created her piece to share some insight as a transgender woman and to share the message of acceptance without understanding. “Acceptance without understanding is a way to see how we interact with each other as human beings first before any gender, sexual preference, age, body shape, country of origin, political or religious beliefs, and so on.”

You can catch these amazing pieces – and many more! – on March 10th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Ticket information available here!