Take it from a Pro

Every year at our annual FemFest, we incorporate workshops and special readings by accomplished women in theatre. This year, at FemFest 2019: All the World’s a Stage, we are excited to welcome our special guest artist Yvette Nolan. Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) is a playwright, director, and dramaturg. She is no stranger to Winnipeg and of late has been a frequent flyer coming to share her wisdom at the University of Winnipeg and PTE’s Festival of New Works. At FemFest Yvette will give a lecture in partnership with University of Winnipeg’s Real Thing series, she will facilitate a playwriting masterclass for local playwrights that stretches over the course of five days, then alongside these writers share her own work as part of the festival wrap-up event Leaping off the Page.

“For me, theatre is all about voice. Giving voice to characters whose stories might otherwise disappear, giving voice to questions that challenge us–about being marginalized, about being invisible, about aging, about grief, about our responsibility to each other and to the world.”- Yvette Nolan in an interview with ROOM Magazine

Yvette NolanSome of Yvette’s work includes the plays BLADE, Annie Mae’s Movement, The Birds, The Unplugging, Gabriel Dumont’s Wild West Show (co-writer), The Libretto Shanawdithit and the short film “A Common Experience,” (w. Shane Belcourt). She has directed from coast to coast and north all the way to Dawson City, Yukon. As a dramaturg, she works across Turtle Island. From 2003-2011, she served as Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts. Her book Medicine Shows about Indigenous theatre in Canada was published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2015. She is an Artistic Associate of Signal Theatre.

Interested in the Playwriting Masterclass with Yvette Nolan? As artist in residence at FemFest, Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) will facilitate a masterclass for local playwrights over 5 sessions. Writers will have a chance to focus on their craft, it will then culminate in a public reading of works in progress by participants.

Workshop dates and times are as follows:

Sunday, Sept 15 – 11am to 1pm

Monday, Sept 16 – 4pm to 6pm

Tuesday, Sept 17 – 4pm  to 6pm

Thursday, Sept 19 – 4pm to 6pm

Friday, Sept 20 – 4pm to 6pm

On Saturday, September 21st at 8:30PM you can hear the culmination of Yvette’s intensive process and then join us for the Festival’s closing reception.

For more information or to reserve your spot in the workshop visit our website, HERE. Or, to purchase a ticket for the September 21st Leaping Off the Page event, click HERE. Make sure to explore our website to learn more about FemFest2019: All the World’s a Stage and what it has to offer! September 14th-21st.

Who knew you could be conceived 8 different ways!

We are excited to welcome Michaela Di Cesare to FemFest this year! She completed her Master’s Degree at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies and is a recipient of a MECCA award for Best Text (along with a Best Actress and Revelation nomination) and the Launchpad Award for Emerging Artists. She is a celebrated performer as well as having been recognized for her writing. We asked her to talk about the show for our blog readers!


8 Ways my Mother was Conceived has been a journey unlike any other in my life. This little show has taken me places (both geographically and artistically) that I would not have imagined when I first began to write it. Like many other stories of self-8 Waysdiscovery, the embryo for this particular play was fertilized in a moment of crisis. At a time when everything I thought I believed and everything I believed defined me as a young woman was challenged, I locked myself in my room and wrote the first draft of 8 Ways in 2 weeks. That draft was terrible, but necessary—much like the pain I was going through at the time. You see, the event I believed to be a crisis at the time was that my first (“and better-be-last”) boyfriend had proposed marriage and then took it back. This is something that does not go over lightly in a family of Italian immigrants.

Here is a synopsis of the play:

In order to cure herself of the Virgin Complex sabotaging her love life, a young woman must face her eccentric Italian family and disprove their belief that her mother was conceived à la Jesus Christ (sans sex). Her quest for the truth takes her from the gynecologist’s office, to a clairvoyant, to her estranged and mysterious great-grandmother in Southern Italy.

Promo2I have toured this show for over 3 years now and each time the show travels, I can feel it evolving and I can feel myself maturing. At first, I felt a certain shame in performing the show. I found myself using judgmental words like “ranting” and “complaining” to describe my actions as the protagonist. I performed with an assumption that no one but myself cared about the subject matter of the show. That was my show in its adolescent stage. Ironically, an adolescent girl changed my outlook. I had been invited to perform at a Woman’s Day event and among the invited guests were young women from a local women’s shelter for refugees. When I found out, I went into a panic worrying that these women would interpret my comical show as “a privileged rant” compared to the real injustices they had been through. After my performance, a 16-year-old Afghan girl came up to me and thanked me for “talking about the things [her] community doesn’t feel comfortable talking about yet.” That conversation forced me to take myself more seriously and allowed the show to mature. The last run of 8 Ways prior to FemFest was a special run for high schools in the neighborhood I grew up in. It felt like coming home again, familiar yet grown up. I had many interesting discussions with the youth in my talkback session. The action words I use now are more along the lines of “exploring”, “healing” and “growing.”

I look forward to the exploration, healing and growth that will undoubtedly occur when 8 Ways comes to Winnipeg.


Fefu Has Everybody Talking!

It’s been an amazing run so far for Fefu and Her Friends with several sold out performances. a few thunder storms adding an ominous sound track and reviews raving about the performances! Here are a few of our favourite quotes pulled from last week’s reviews:

CBC’s Joff Schmidt on the use of a site specific venue: “the overall effect is intriguing – truth, and reality, become subjective here.”

“It’s The [Feminist] Breakfast Club for grown-ups, and you should go see this play.” -The Winnipeg Review’s Chandra Mayor.

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On the content:
“And it may seem the play’s central themes are something we’re long past – surely we no longer consider women lesser or ‘loathsome’ creatures. And yet we still live in a country where a woman earns 87 cents for every dollar a man does, in a province that has never elected a woman as premier, and a nation that has had a female prime minister for less than 20 weeks of its near 147-year history.”- CBC’s Joff Schmidt.

“the play as a whole is concerned with the tensions and relationships between individuality and collectivity, and this structure highlights these dynamics, encouraging the audience to each have a slightly different experience of the play…It all makes sense the way that a dream makes stubborn, innate sense while you’re dreaming it.” – The Winnipeg Review’s Chandra Mayor.

On the performances:
“Kelci Stephenson is outstanding as Julia…Tracey Nepinak shines as the theatrical Emma, and Tracy Penner’s laugh lights up the room.” – The Winnipeg Review’s Chandra Mayor.

“Reliable Megan McArton superbly communicates Fefu’s feminine strength while offering glimpses of her brazen masculine desires. The other major character is the tortured, wheelchair-bound Julia, paralyzed from the waist down… or maybe not. In one of the second-act scenes in her bedroom, she suffers from harrowing hallucinations that involve judges and being forced to repeat that women are not human beings. Kelci Stephenson, who spent time in a wheelchair during a provincial tour of a Munsch play for Prairie Theatre Exchange earlier this year, is forcefully convincing in conveying the way Julia’s inner demons have left her more psychologically crippled then physically disabled…Emma is the dreamer and optimist, giving the impressive Tracey Nepinak plenty of space to create a provocative drama queen. In her second-act scene in the backyard lawn with Fefu, Emma provides a rare humorous interlude by admitting she thinks of genitals all the time. Using veggies as phallic props, she speculates that heaven is populated with divine lovers, while hell houses the sexual duds. The audience regroups in the living for the third act, when confident Emma again grabs the spotlight to makes Fornes’ point that, “Life is theatre. Theatre is life.” – Kevin Prokosh, The Winnipeg Free Press

There are only 4 performances left and very few tickets to be had! Book now or give us a call at 204-586-2236 to be added to the waiting list for any of the sold out performances. There are often reservations who do not show up so it’s still worth trying to get a ticket at the door.

The Wait for Fefu Is Over!

It’s finally here: the Winnipeg premiere of Fefu and Her Friends by Maria Irene Fornes. We’re so happy to be able to bring you this exciting story that has been a theatrical dream of Sarasvàti Productions for years. And the excitement isn’t contained within the massive walls of Ralph Connor House, the play’s venue. We’ve received wonderful coverage from Winnipeg media over the past week.

Check out the previews:

CTV Morning Live

The Uniter – Thank You For Being a Friend

Winnipeg Free Press – Ladies of the House

If that isn’t enough to peak your interest, here are the Top 10 reasons why you shouldn’t miss Fefu:

  1. A story set in 1935, written in in 1977, and performed by Sarasvàti Productions in 2014: When else will you get to enjoy three eras for the price of one?
  2. For those of you interested in a Winnipeg history lesson every now and then, you can get your double dose of culture and story with Fefu and Her Friends, as the venue of the play is a Manitoba Heritage Building.
  3. Fefu and Her Friends is performed by 8 of Winnipeg’s most talented female performers, it’s directed by one of Winnipeg’s most talented directors and it was written by a world famous female playwright. What better way to experience so much female talent in 1 (okay, 4) rooms.
  4. You know when you’re watching a play and despite the fact that it’s very entertaining you feel a little restless from sitting in the same place for too long. Audience members will actually get to move around the venue, 54 West Gate, with the play.
  5. And to push the sensory experiences even further, audience members will be entertained by water and ice cube fights contained within the story of the play.
  6. For those of you who like to sneak a musical or two into your theatre schedule every year, Fefu and Her Friends doesn’t hold back from belting out a note here and there.
  7. We all secretly enjoy the sighting of a vegetable or a fruit that looks alarmingly like certain parts of the human anatomy—Fefu and Her Friends also don’t shy away from indulging in humour of all shapes and sizes.
  8. To add to the intimate nature of the play’s story, every showing of Fefu and Her Friends includes only 60 audience members.
  9. The first couple of shows are already sold out, don’t be left out of seeing this unique production.
  10. As Emma says in the play “Life is theatre. Theatre is life. If we’re showing what life is, can be, we must do theatre.”
Fefu Ensemble

Fefu Ensemble

Get your tickets before it’s too late!

Fefu – A Labour of Love

A Labour of Love by Hope McIntyre, Director

Julia and Fefu (2)“Fight!…I need you to fight.” Watching our initial run-throughs of Fefu and Her Friends, this is what stands out – the need to fight against the things that stop us from being fully alive. The need to deal with the injustice we see in the world. The need to keep struggling to improve the world we live in. A message many of us need to hear when we feel that we’ve been fighting the same battles for too long. It is a powerful and inspiring moment in the play. Of course there is so much more than this rallying cry though. The moments of great pain are immediately turned to moments of silliness, laughter and games. In her typical way, Maria Irene Fornes has confronted us with fear and allowed us to see the pleasure in the world all at once.

The performers have struggled in their own way with the deeply layered script, with the sharp changes in tone, with the magical elements that won’t line up with logical approaches. They have also found beautiful moments of connection, of longing and of course fun. With eight women in the cast, our female stage management team and a female assistant director; there is a real sense of community in the room and a lot of laughter. Emma and Julia

“Intimacy, pleasure, truthfulness, and innocence willing to be taken by surprise. These are all crucial attributes of Fornes’ theater.” – Scott Cummings

Yesterday Fornes turned 84, yet she has given us a gift with this beautiful script that we cannot wait to share with our audiences. After waiting many years to direct the play, I can truly say that I have the ideal cast, ideal venue in the beautiful Ralph Connor House and have loved immersing myself in the world of Fefu. We are one week away from opening and we want to welcome you to a different kind of theatre, one that allows for laughter and pain, struggle and discovery…Ultimately Fornes believed she showed things as they are and it was up to the audience to find ways to improve the world as a result, but her writing is also filled with moments of mischievous celebration and joy.


Buy your tickets for this unique experience!

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014!

Where did the time go?! It’s hard to believe 2013 has finally come to an end. One of the greatest parts about a New Year is the opportunity to reflect upon all that you accomplished in the last 365 days. What was your greatest artistic achievement in 2013? Share it with us on Facebook or Twitter. We would love to hear from you!

Our achievements include:

– The 2nd annual (and wildly entertaining) So You Think You Can Act fundraiser

– The successful sold out IWW Cabaret of Monologues: Wild Women performance

-The world premiere of the much awaited Jail Baby

FemFest 2013: Revelation and Revolution which featured the world premiere of Harold and Vivian by Jessy Ardern who is one of Winnipeg’s Group of 7 Female Playwrights

-The creation and workshop presentation of Giving Voice, our latest youth based play created in partnership with VOICES: Manitoba Youth in Care Network. In November, Giving Voice did a test run in three Winnipeg High Schools for our upcoming fall tour and received an incredible amount of positive feedback and rave reviews!

It was truly a fantastic year but we are just as excited (if not more) for 2014! Be sure to check out our website for a list of upcoming events. First up is our 3rd annual So You Think You Can Act fundraiser which we promise will be just as fun, fabulous, and gut-wrenching as last year! With that, let’s take a look at our resolutions for 2014.

Andrea Geary (President, Board of Directors): The Board’s focus for 2014 is to keep growing our audience base, in other words – get more bums in the seats – and to keep our board structure strong. I resolve to keep spreading the word on behalf of Sarasvàti Productions in hopes of increasing our audience numbers and our committee and board membership. I suggest that all readers resolve to come out to see one of our performances this year, and also support us by attending our upcoming annual So You Think You Can Act fundraiser at the Gas Station Theatre on Feb. 19.

Hope McIntyre (Artistic Director): As I research the amazing Maria Irene Fornes in preparation for our May production of Fefu and Her Friends, I am resolving to turn off the producer brain when I enter the rehearsal room and find that deep place Fornes talks about in the gut that tells us what needs to be on stage.

Samantha Walters (Associate Producer): Coming on board with Sarasvàti Productions in September has been an incredible opportunity for me. It has given me so much insight into how much hardwork, time, and dedication it takes to do what we do! My resolution for 2014 is to help Sarasvàti grow by educating others on what we do and the importance of our work, particularly those who are not involved in the arts. I also hope to provide more opportunities for emerging artists to develop their skills and career. First up is our workshop with Stratford actor Bethany Jillard on How to Get from Here to There on January 31st, 2014!

On behalf of our team at Sarasvàti Productions, we wish you all the best in 2014! Also, thank you for continuing to support our blog! Take a look at our wonderful 2013 report below.

Report Excerpt – “A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.”Click here to see the complete report.

FemFest 2013 A Big Hit!

Sarasvàti Productions would like to thank everyone who helped make FemFest 2013: Revelation and Revolution a huge success! Every year we are blown away by the amount of support and encouragement we recieve from our audience members and from the community. It is because of you we are able to produce this important festival every year! Once again audiences were inspired, entertained and amazed by what FemFest had to offer. The festival also continues to be an invaluable showcase and opportunity for female artists. Today, our Bake-Off winner Rebecca Gibson speaks about her experience as one of the five playwrights chosen to mix-up a script with a list of ingredients in 8 hours. Rebecca’s scene “The Naked Woman” was chosen by our audience as the winner and will be developed as a full production for next year’s FemFest 2014: She’s Got the Power!

How does rebeccagibsonit feel to be this year’s Bake-Off winner? Will this be your first stage play?

Being the winner of the Bake-Off makes me feel grateful. I’ve felt grateful throughout this process – even reading the request for  submissions, which was a call to action. I do write plays (I’ll have one produced this November at Glenlawn Collegiate Institute), but I’ve never thought of myself as a playwright. Sitting in the theatre and hearing my name announced was surreal.

What was your initial reaction to the ingredients you were given (zombies, a dill pickle, and maniacle laugher)?

I had no expectations for the words, but I had a sense that whatever the words were, they would be right for the piece that I had (loosely) in my mind. When Cairn Moore (Bake-Off Coordinator and Director) announced the first word, I teared up. It was exactly right. So were the other two.

What was your process like during the 8 hours you had to write the scene?

I write all the time (for film and TV), so I had a feeling that I could get a scene done in the allotted time. I think I delivered it within three hours of the start of day -it came easily. What I didn’t expect was how many times throughout that day I’d re-read the scene, wait for an email from Cairn, wait for Cairn to give notes… That was the hardest part of the process! Letting go!

What was your favorite part about being involved in this year’s Bake-Off?

My favourite part of being involved in the Bake-Off was being chosen. I was so nervous to apply. When I sent in the application package, I thought it would get lost in the mail (for some reason I crammed everything into a standard size envelope, which looked like a sausage ready to burst). Being in the company of the great playwrights who were also chosen was one of the highlights of my life. It felt like a message – you can do this.

And lastly, have you started working on the full script yet?

I have started working on the full-script, but not much. I dreamed about this concept many years ago – it was extremely vivid. The play would be called “The Naked Woman”. It would be on Broadway starring Richard Kind and Frances Sternhagen (specific dream, eh?). I NEVER have prophetic dreams, or dreams about stuff I’ll write. But I did, and now I can’t wait to get to serious work on this play and see it at FemFest 2014: She’s Got the Power!

Thank you once again to everyone involved in this years FemFest! We truly could not have done it without you. Tune in next week for FemFest 2013 highlights and audience responses.  

Three Days Left to Join in on the Action at FemFest 2013!

FEMFEST2013 logoA great big thank you goes out to all of our audiences, volunteers, season subscribers, and board members who helped kick-off FemFest 2013 last weekend at the Opening Cabret and who have continued to support us throughout the week! Our in-house production of Harold and Vivian ,written by local playwright Jessy Ardern has been a tremendous hit with FemFest audiences this year and plays one last time this Saturday at 4:00pm!

We also have several other productions playing this weekend including another in-house production, Flood Control, and two incredible touring productions, The Aftermath, and pomme is french for apple. Keep reading to find out more about these performances.

Flood Control (4)Flood Control – On the eve of his fortieth birthday, lonely Ray stands on a bridge over a swollen river, building up the nerve to end his life. He’s interrupted by Gina, a highly-organized woman who has come to kill herself simply because she has nothing else left to do. Finding what is missing from their lives is a revelation for the characters. This play written by Marilyn Anne Campbell features local actors Elena Anciro and Grant Burr and is directed by our Artistic Director, Hope McIntyre. Only one chance left to catch Flood Control, Thursday, Sept. 19th at 7pm. Admission is $10.

Pomme6pomme is french for apple –  Created and performed by liza paul and bahia watson, it was a critic’s pick, patron pick and best of fringe at the Toronto Fringe Festival. pomme is french for apple is a vaudevillian and distinctly west indian exploration of the absurdity of women’s lives in settings diverse as the islands, downtown toronto, southeast london, and the too-tight crotch of the pants. What more could you ask for? Check out pomme is french for apple on Thursday, Sept. 19th at 9pm or on Friday, Sept. 20th at 9pm. Admission is $10.

GetInlineThe Aftermath – Written and performed by Lisa Codrington, Black Row Theatre Collective of Toronto, ON presents this one woman show about Jane who is preparing for the Apocalypse and she wants you to be ready too.  By spinning The Great Flood, Hurricane Katrina, and her own personal experience with zombies and chicken pox into a comprehensive cautionary tale, Jane presents a fresh and frank lecture on how to survive the unimaginable. Check out The Aftermath on Friday, Sept. 20th at 7pm and Saturday, Sept. 21st at 7pm. Admission is $10

Then don’t miss our Closing Cabaret on September 21st at 9pm to celebrate another successful year with fabulous female artists, food by New Host Restaurant and our much anticipated raffle draw!

There truly is something for everyone at this years FemFest! We hope you will be able to join in on the action at some point over the next three days. For more information on our full line-up this weekend and to reserve or purchase tickets, vist our website at www.femfest.ca . Tickets are also available at the door!

FemFest Cabarets Feature an Array of Talent!

It has become a tradition that each year FemFest will open and close with a cabaret celebrating female artists from multiple disciplines. These are amazing evenings featuring performers, dancers, visual artists, comedians and film-makers. FemFest 2013 will not disappoint. We have put together a unique line-up of artists to showcase to launch the festival on September 14th and to ceremoniously end the festival on September 21st.

Here is the exciting line-up for both but stay tuned for more details and news!

Opening Cabaret and Reception – Saturday, September 14, 7 p.m.

Host: Susan Tymofichuk (CTV)

  • visual art by MAWA artists
  • The Exchange a short play by Katherine Koller
  • Accalia Robertson – tribal dance
  • Samantha Halas – contortionist
  • Melanie Dahling – comedian
  • Acquetore: Swan Doll – devised theatre by Devan Gingrich, Megan Sekiya and Brittany Thiessen
  • Van Kunder – music
  • The Craftastics: Agents for Social Change by Jennie O and Valley Gardens Middle School Grrlz Club – Art Installation in lobby and Trading Card Deck – Developed through the Winnipeg Arts Council’s Community WITH ART Program
  • Plus teasers from other FemFest shows


Closing Cabaret and Reception – Saturday, September 21, 9 p.m.

Host: Kerri Salki (Clear FM)

  • visual art by MAWA artists
  • Adi Sara Kreindler – music
  • Heather Witherden – comedian
  • Renée Vandale – dance
  • Teresa-Lee Cooke – prose writing
  • Danishka Esterhazy – short film “Fallen”


FemFest 2013 Sneak Peek!

It is hard to believe that June is here! We’ve wrapped up our amazing run of Jail Baby and have quickly turned our attention to FemFest 2013: Revelation and Revolution. We have all the shows confirmed and are just putting the schedule puzzle together for our big brochure release later this month. We just can’t wait to share a few juicy tidbits though.

We have another amazing line-up of touring shows coming to Winnipeg for FemFest! What is really exciting is that some of them feature former Winnipeggers returning home to share their work. Lisa Codrington is one such former local gal now based in Toronto. She has been doing amazing work as a performer and playwright. Her play Cast Iron was nominated for a Governor General Literary Award and she will be presenting her latest play The Aftermath at FemFest.

Lisa Codrington

Lisa Codrington

bahia watson will also be returning to Winnipeg from Toronto. She and co-creator liza paul will be performer their widely popular pomme is french for apple.

liza paula & bahia watson - pomme is french for apple

liza paula & bahia watson – pomme is french for apple

Finally we will welcome Christine Rodriguez from Montreal to perform her powerful and inspiring play Dreaming in Autism.


Christine Rodriguez – Dreaming in Autism

Of course we will also be showcasing local talent once again. Last year we included our first Bake-Off in the festival, where female playwrights were given ingredients and two weeks to write a piece incorporating these elements. Staged readings were then presented and the audience voted on which piece they most wanted to see as part of FemFest 2013. Based on demand we will be producing Jessy Ardern’s new play Harold and Vivian Entertain Guests. Last year’s reading from the piece had the audience in stitches so you won’t want to miss the world premiere of the full play at FemFest.

Stay tuned for the rest of the line-up, including other local productions, readings of new works in development and our popular cabaret evenings!