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.”

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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!
 

 

 

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Inspiring Collaboration

One of the most exciting aspects of producing International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable is seeing incredible artists work together – often for the very first time! This week we feature one of these brand new collaborations with the team behind Captain of My Ship along the pair of familiar collaborators behind, I’ve Never Been Very Good at Drawing Hearts, But I Keep Trying.

Captain of My Ship playwright, Kathy France, saw the piece arise while working on a full-length play that explores female archetypes and how they resonate in contemporary women’s lives.

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Kathy France

“Spoken word? Never wrote a piece before I wrote this one. Now it’s a thing I do”, says France. “I was a director first, then grew the courage to act, then took on producing in foreign countries so I could get myself on stage, then grew the courage to write.”

Originally from Winnipeg, France lived abroad in Syria, Thailand, Nepal, Yugoslavia, Croatia and Trinidad before settling down in the tiny, rural town of Wolfville, NS.

France’s piece is a coming-of-age story. “It’s about the journey all girls travel, whether they know it or not”, says France. “All young women grow up to be women, and somewhere along the way they grow to understand what “woman” means, in society, in themselves. Certainly, at the time of my own sexual awakening, I didn’t know that “woman” was a social construct that would probably never serve my best interests.”

Sarasvàti Productions couples France’s piece with a talented troupe of local performers.

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Ady Kay

“I feel connected to the messages I get from this piece about the confines and restrictions of gender norms. I feel connected to the way the words rhyme and work together to create imagery,” says performer Ady Kay. Together with collaborators Emily Solstice and Victoria Hill, Kay is devising a physical rendition of Captain of My Ship.

Kay is a performer, dancer, clown and poet, just to name a few.  “I am excited about this piece”, says Kay. “Not only does it speak to a matter that I care about very much, it also is beautifully described through poetry. And with poetry, so much is possible as a physical performer.”

A.b. Norris is the Winnipeg-based film maker and playwright behind I’ve Never Been Very Good at Drawing Hearts, But I Keep Trying.

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A.b. Norris

“The original concept came to me after I’d taken some pictures and decided to turn them into a short silent film”, says Norris, “but I wanted to articulate some of what I’m trying to express in a different way.”

Enter Monika Thurn und Taxis.

“The theme of the eclipse and the symbology is a very close theme to my personal life”, says Thurn und Taxis, who is a performer and photographer.  The two have worked together on theatre projects before.

“The challenges I articulate in this piece are ones with which I contend”, says Norris. “Something unique is required to work against internal conflicts versus external forces. It’s a different kind of persistence that challenges the barriers we put up ourselves, or the cycles we perpetuate and in which we can become caught.”

Monika Thurn und Taxis headshot_2017

Monika Thurn und Taxis

“I believe deeply in the reflection of our nature in the sky. An eclipse is an important moment that asks us to be present with the darkness around us and shine our inner light”, says Thurn und Taxis. “This symbology, paired with the want and need to love and be loved and not giving up on finding our true love in either a person, a career or any other form that might be important to us—it’s very powerful.”

We look forward to presenting these inspiring collaborations on March 10th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Details and tickets here.

 

Sarasvàti’s Top 6: ‘What Has Us Excited About 2018’

We have big plans for 2018! Check out the top 6 things that have us starting off the year full of enthusiasm!

6) We are excited to be working with Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba to provide ASL interpreters at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues for the very first time! Living through riots, learning to teach yoga as a senior, accepting your true self and conquering all odds – see these stories of unstoppable women March 10th. ASL interpretation will be provided for both the 4pm and 8pm performance. Celebrate International Women’s Week with us!

The cast of IWW2017

The cast of IWW17.

5) We are eager to premiere the full production of a project we’ve been working on for two years – New Beginnings. 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 come together to explore the themes of displacement and resettlement. This unique production will also run in the same space as One Trunk Theatre’s new show Boundary Avenue. There will be special opportunities to see both productions. Visit our website to get your tickets!

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4) We are so pleased to be going into 2018 with full-time admin support thanks to the capacity-building funding we received from The Winnipeg Foundation! This support will enable us to reach our full potential. You can bet we’ll be taking things to new heights!

3) We can’t wait to launch our second year of theatre workshops with the youth at Children of the Earth School. Last year, we piloted a series of theatre workshops at COTE  – a school that would not otherwise offer a theatre program. The results were incredible. This year we’ll return to offer regular theatre programming with facilitators Marsha Knight and Josh Ranville plus a roster of amazing guest artists.


2) It’s only January and we are already hard at work planning FemFest2018 – Staging Resistance. Provocative plays, brand new workshops and artists with incredible vision, we have a lot in store! Stay tuned for details on our 16th annual festival.

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1) We feel very enthusiastic to be working towards our 2018 goals with the support of an amazing staff, Board, volunteers and audience base. Most of all, we look forward to sharing a transformational year with all of you. Happy New Year!

Staff and Board December 2017

Many of our staff and Board members at a December meeting

For on-the-pulse news on our 2018 productions and workshops visit sarasvati.ca or sign-up for our mailing list!

 

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!

What it means to be Unstoppable

Living through riots, learning to teach yoga as a senior, accepting your true self and conquering all odds. This year we celebrate International Women’s Week with a Cabaret of Monologues and performance art that shines a spotlight on the the many ways in which women are unstoppable. Join us in the theatre on March 10th to see the full line-up.  We are thrilled to announce that we will be providing ASL interpreters at the performance.

If you are part of a community group looking for a way to celebrate, book a selection of pieces to host!

We are thrilled to announce this year’s incredible line-up!

Saviour Self by Andrea Scott
Performed by Reena Jolly
Where were you in 1992 when Yonge Street exploded in riots? Josephine Benedict was a swaggering teenager looking to take care of herself, one tampon at a time.

Flight 182 created and performed by Anjali Sandhu
Where are you from? The Jungle Book, 20th century supermodels, ignorant politicians…nothing will stop Rani from being accepted as Canadian.

I Got 99 Problems, My Penis is Just One created and performed by Cynthia Fortlage
One transgender woman’s exploration of her journey to womanhood. This piece delves deep into Learning to be a Feminist, Loss of Privilege, and the Subtleties of Sisterhood.

I Am Unstoppable created and performed by Joanna Hawkins
Can you remember a time when nothing stood in your way? The innocence of childhood can make you feel unstoppable, but how do we persevere after the barriers and discrimination in the dominant world are fully perceived? Deaf artist, Joanna Hawkins explores this through mime.

Captain of My Ship by Kathy France
Performed by Ady Kay in collaboration with Victoria Hill and Emily Solstice
A woman recounts her coming of age story, reliving the confusion and fear that define a young woman’s entry into sexual awareness.

I’ve Never Been Very Good at Drawing Hearts, But I Keep Trying by A.b. Norris
Performed by Monica Thurn und Taxis
Using images captured during a lunar eclipse, this audio-visual media and collaborative performance piece explores (dis)connection between the persistent need to love/be loved and actually being good at either.

I Am a Warrior by Sue Higgs
Cathy signs up for a course. Nothing unusual about that, except for the fact that Cathy is in her late 60’s in a class full of twenty-something’s.

Sweet An Nice by Althea Cunningham
Performed by Lorraine James
Pregnant with a child, Jamaican immigrant Celestine seeks a better life in a new country. After getting a family to sponsor her, she moves thousands of miles across several oceans to discover it’s far from what she imagined it to be.

ObScene created and performed by Kristy Janvier
By holding onto our beliefs or judgements, how can we create connection? A performance art piece that explores healthy sensuality as a means of release.

Perfect Pie by Judith Thompson
Performed by Anna Binder
When prompted by a long-estranged friend, Patsy explains what it’s like to have an epileptic seizure. From master playwright Judith Thompson’s ground-breaking play about how you cannot escape where you come from.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we get to know the artists involved!

Launching IWW18

How do you pull together 10 performers, doing 10 pieces and touring to upwards of 15 locations? With a lot of help. For five years now Rachel Smith has been an integral part of the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. Rachel is part of choosing the theme, making monologue selections and directing pieces to be performed at the theatre and throughout the community. As we begin to choose our selections for IWW2018, we caught up with Rachel to talk about what she’s looking forward to about the project this year.

What does the IWW Cabaret of Monologues mean to you?

I have been fortunate enough to grow as a director throughout my time working on the cabaret. When I first joined the artistic team I had just graduated with my MA so I was eager to get more practical experience under my belt. Working on this event gave me the opportunity to have Hope McIntyre as a mentor and I feel this has strongly contributed to my growth as an artist.

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Rachel Smith

Working on monologues is challenging in many ways. The playwrights have to write an active and engaging performance for only one person. The actors have no other actors on stage to feed off of and sometimes have to react to an imaginary character. As a director we have to help the actors figure out how to bring the monologues to life; ensuring the performance is active and engaging.

Each monologue that I have worked on has presented its own unique challenges artistically and each actor is different to work with. Every time I have worked on the monologues I take something new away from them. The practical experiences I gain are matched by the expansive understanding that the different stories present.

What does this year’s theme ‘Unstoppable’ mean to you?

Each year the theme we choose offers new stories and new perspectives. The perspectives that are represented in the monologues are not often seen on stage elsewhere. The topics challenge the audiences and offer new ways of thinking about the themes we present. Working as a director on these stories ensures that my own biases are constantly being challenged. I hope that it does the same for audiences.

I think that the theme “unstoppable” is important because it can be inspirational. Everyone faces challenges at some point in their lives. For some people just getting out of bed in the morning can be a challenge. Sometimes the circumstances we find ourselves in can seem hopeless. Sometimes we need other people’s stories about how they are able to push through and keep going, in order to feel as though we can do the same.

What have some of the highlights been for you?

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Jane Burpee in Dave Carley’s “Urban Nun”

My favourite monologue that I have worked on has been the, somewhat crude, smoking Nun played by Jane Burpee. It was such a great monologue and I had so much fun working on it.

That being said, every year the monologues and rehearsals are so great that it is hard to narrow down the highlights. For me, working on the Cabaret, in general, is a highlight.

Why celebrate IWW with the Cabaret of Monologues?

The Cabaret of Monologues is a unique event where we are able to confront important societal issues while getting the chance to showcase talent from Canadian Women. We often get a range of work from all over Canada from women writers of various backgrounds. With the added bonus of being able to work with local, often up and coming, artists. It is a chance to have powerful stories portrayed by powerful women on stage.

One of my favourite aspects of the Cabaret of Monologues is that the monologues tour to different community organizations. This provides opportunities to bring the performances to people who may not be able to attend the full public event. Many organizations use the monologues as an opportunity to talk about circumstances that members of their communities may be confronting. It also provides opportunities for the performers to meet members of the community. This gives the event a more personalized atmosphere.

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Johanna Burdon performing at St. John’s Library

Stay tuned for the announcement of this year’s pieces in an upcoming blog! You can catch the 2018 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues March 10 at 4pm and 8pm at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are on sale now.  Those interested in booking monologues to tour to their community can contact Angie at associate@sarasvati.ca .

 

ENVISION – Sarasvàti Productions 2017/18 Season Launch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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