Embracing Identity with Humour

There’s more than one way to be confident in who you are! Our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues features all types of stories about embracing one’s identity with pride – and with a sense of humour. For these pieces, playwrights share the funny side of learning how to be comfortable in your own skin.

Ivy Charles

Ivy Charles

Ivy Charles is a twenty-two-year-old actor from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is currently furthering her acting studies at Studio 58 in Vancouver. She enjoys spaghetti, wine and having a good chuckle with her friends. Ivy is excited to dip her toe into the world of writing. In her piece Sunday Morning Brunch, Josephine is a spunky seventeen-year-old girl, confident her sexuality. This confidence is put to the test when she introduces her girlfriend to her religious family (and of course Father Henry) at Sunday brunch.

“Being someone who is always striving for equality, I thought why not use a platform that I’m not used to: writing. I knew I wanted to write about female empowerment and this was one of the first topics to come to mind,” says Ivy. “Josephine is the epitome of Here I Am. She is proud of who she is.”

 

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Brooklyn Alice Lee

Playing Josephine is Brooklyn Alice Lee. Brooklyn is currently a student in her final year with the University of Winnipeg, graduating with a degree in Acting. Despite having performed on-screen, she has a soft spot for theatre as she loves the raw truth and thrill of a live performance. She is looking forward to 2019 where she will debut her first self-written Fringe show with 803 Productions.

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

 

Makrenna Sterdan

Makrenna Sterdan

Next in the lineup is Who’s Driving? by Makrenna Sterdan. Janet is a fast-talking car saleswoman looking to get you into your next vehicle, all based off current global issues. The biggest problem with these cars isn’t the millennial-scapegoating, or the toxic chemicals, or the Neo-Nazis… it’s the auto-pilot feature.

Makrenna Rose Sterdan is a writer born and raised in Winnipeg, who has lived in South Korea since 2015. Sterdan has written several short films such as Speaking Test, which premiered at the Korean International Expat Film Festival. Sterdan has also written several ten-minute plays that have been produced across North America, such as The Geese and Last Chance. Her monologue Doing It for the Fame was featured in Sarasvàti Productions’ 2016 Cabaret of Monologues.

Who’s Driving came from Makrenna’s own feelings of helplessness she experienced while watching the news. “I wanted to personify my feelings of helplessness and make them relatable to an audience,” she says. “This is where I am right now: reading the news and not wanting to be on auto-pilot while the world takes its course.”

 

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Kim Kakegamic

Kim Kakegamic is thrilled to be a part of the Cabaret of Monologues once again! Trained at Providence University College (BFA), Kim has appeared in over thirteen Fringe Festivals in Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Winnipeg. She most recently performed in RMTC’s 2018 Master Playwright Festival with Broken Record Productions. By day Kim works as a writer for 6P Marketing, and spends far too much time binge watching shows on Netflix.

This is Kim’s second time performing one of Makrenna’s pieces after Doing It for the Fame. “I LOVE her work,” says Kim. “This piece, like that one, is dynamic and energetic. It takes some very intense topics and adds humour and cheekiness to create, what I believe, is a very memorable moment. It’s a lot of fun to perform.”

You can check out our full line-up of monologues on Saturday, March 9th! Don’t miss out – get your tickets today!
 

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Queering Theatre Wrap-Up

This past Sunday, we took to the community to begin a conversation about the representation and practice of queer stories on stage. Local performing artists Elissa Kixen, Davis Plett, Lara Rae, and Liam Zarrillo spoke to their experiences of performing, creating, or working as a queer artist. Members of the circle were given the floor to share their stories and thoughts as well, creating a thought-provoking dialogue about how the LGBT+ community is reflected in the work produced both on stage and in popular culture.

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Important points raised during the discussion centered on themes of how one’s identity is reflected in the work we create. Even subconsciously, it’s possible to have a queer perspective to one’s work before folks were ready to come out publicly with their identities. Folks found themselves identifying with different themes presented in works that don’t present as being queer, but still reflect ideas and experiences that mirror those of the LGBT community – however unintentionally!

Representation was also a common theme: contrasting the need to discuss the history and harsher realities of the LGBT+ community with the desire for queer youth to see a positive future for themselves. Members of Rainbow Resource Centre mentioned the generational divide in this conversation. For many people, these discussions weren’t around when they were growing up. The representation they saw on screen was that of corrective violence, discrimination, or misinformation. As one speaker mentioned, it’s important to talk about when a character or show “misses the mark” while also acknowledging what they may have been trying to say about a queer experience. As well, including a variety of queer experiences in different characters avoids putting the responsibility of any one character to be all things to all people.

Currently in the theatre world, there is a larger discussion at work surrounding content warnings: what to include, how to include it, and when an artist would prefer not to give warnings for their work. Folks at the discussion offered up the different viewpoints to this topic: contrasting the desire to be surprised by the story with the need to be appropriately prepared to receive triggering content. Content warnings may take different forms: from a simple list of triggering themes available through a production’s website or offering more information through box office staff. One idea was also to allow folks to decide for themselves if they wanted to receive warnings through envelopes available at the theatre. Audience members could then open and check the envelopes for particular warnings before heading into the show. The main idea was that anyone who may be at risk can make an informed decision about whether or not to see a show while other audience members can experience the plot twists as the artist intended.

As well, the discussion delved into how it’s possible to apply a queer perspective to more than just the content on stage, but the process as well. This may include a more devised process than following a set script, an open dialogue about safe spaces in rehearsals, and getting rid of ticket prices to open the event up to people of all income levels. Attendees also discussed how to reshape the relationships between collaborators to ensure all voices on a project were given equal value. An important point was also raised about how to make events more accessible: including information clearly and publicly about whether or not the venue is wheelchair-friendly, if there are gender-inclusive washrooms on-site, and making events by donation instead of a fixed admission. The idea was to make all of this information part of common practice to put the onus on the producers to anticipate the needs of their audience.

While the discussion of “Queering Theatre” could easily have lasted longer than two hours, that was all the time we had! There is also much more that was tackled in the two hours that we can encapsulate in a single blog entry. A big thank-you to Rainbow Resource Centre for hosting us, to our incredible line-up of speakers, our fantastic facilitator Erin Meagan Schwartz, and everyone who came out to join the conversation. For more on the other workshops we have in store for this season, be sure to visit our website!

Overcoming Obstacles at IWW 2019

Women’s stories are in the spotlight during our 2019 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues! This year’s pieces cover a wide range of issues from a cancer scare to coming out to one’s family. This week, we’re featuring two more pieces from the event, The LightFishers and Oracle Jane.

In Leslea Kroll’s The LightFishers, Chris is a patient in the psychiatric ward of St. Andrew’s Hospital. After experiencing a traumatic event, Chris has begun recovery from an addiction to painkillers.

Leslea KrollLeslea’s first play Domesticatrix was nominated for a Sterling Award for Outstanding Fringe Script. An excerpt of Domesticatrix was featured in The Martha Stewart Projects perfomed at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto. Her play ZedBC: Genus Lemus won the Alberta Playwrights’ Network annual script competition. Her other plays include Swallow, Auksenberg: Trial by Fury, Stains, The Catalogue of Bones, BonePeddlers, Queen of the AnthroScene, The LightFishers, and WellSpring. Her play White Count Up aired nationally on CBC’s Radio One.

 

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Amelia Warkentin

Bringing the piece to life is Amelia Warkentin. Amelia is currently completing a general arts degree at Canadian Mennonite University with the hope of beginning an after-degree program in education in the fall. She studies theatre at the University of Manitoba and was recently involved in a student-written piece entitled A Grave Story. Amelia’s passions include running, singing, and spending time with friends and family. She strives to make someone smile at least once a day and is trying to clone herself to be in more than one place at a time.

 

In Oracle Jane, playwright Vicki Zhang asks, “how do you confront the destructive power of your own creation?” When a data scientist meets a single mother in need, she questions and reflects on her life’s work.

Vicki Zhang

Vicki Zhang

Vicki Zhang’s ten-minute play The Male Root won the 8th InspiraTO Festival’s juried playwriting competition. Her play Oracle Jane was selected for production at Alumnae Theatre’s 30th New Ideas Festival. Her plays have also received staged readings at FemFest, InspiraTO Festival, Toronto’s Festival of Original Theatre (FOOT), and the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama. She is the author of Uncalculated Risks (Canadian Scholar’s Press, 2014), which was nominated for a Myrdal Prize. She has also written essays and short fiction about the Chinese diaspora for Rookie Magazine and Theread.

 

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Renee Hill

Playing data scientist Ying is local performer Renée Hill. Renée graduated from the University of Winnipeg theatre program and is a gifted musician and singer.  She performs annually in the JP Hoe Hoe Hoe Holiday Show and enjoys doing voice over and commercial work.  Renée also has had the opportunity to participate in Sarasvati’s One Night Stand 2017. Renée is passionate about her community and working to help others, completing her Masters in Social Work while raising her three children in her beloved neighborhood of Wolseley.

 

You can check out all the incredible pieces in this year’s line-up on Saturday, March 9th at 4PM and 8PM. Tickets are on sale now!

Check out a first look at The LightFishers at rehearsal!

Queering Theatre: A Community Discussion

“Queer theatre boldly says: No, we are not all the same. Actually, we are kind of different from one another. And, not only is that okay, but it’s a good thing.” – Buddies in Bad Times

On Sunday, January 27th, join us for a community discussion on the practice of including more queer stories on Winnipeg stages. Local performing artists will speak to the representation and practice of queer stories in Winnipeg theatre, including the differing approaches to queering theatre in one’s own work.

Meet the amazing artists who will be speaking at the round-table!

ElissaElissa Black Wolf Kixen is an Anishinaabe Two Spirit Comedian whose roots lay in Couchiching First Nation, Ontario. They have travelled across Canada and the USA as a Comedian and improviser. They use comedy as a tool in dealing with racism, homophobia and sexism. They are the Co-founder/producer of WOKE Comedy Hour and have been featured on APTN’s The Laughing Drum. Elissa is also the Manitoba Ambassador for Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians and the co-produces Queer and Present Danger with Chanty Morastica.

 

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Davis Plett

Davis Plett is a Winnipeg-based artist working in the spaces between media, writing, and performance. Their work has been shown by Nuit Blanche, Young Lungs Dance Exchange, the Winnipeg Underground Film Festival, the Carol Shields Festival, and MonkeySparrow with the support of the Manitoba and Winnipeg arts councils. As a sound artist Davis has worked with Theatre Projects Manitoba, OneTrunk Theatre, Frances Koncan, Mia van Leeuwen, Alexandra Elliot, Simon Miron, Happy Accidents, and 2boys.tv. They will be premiering new performance work at the 2019 Cluster Integrated Arts Festival and Art Holm 4.

 

 

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Lara Rae

Lara Rae is a prize-winning writer for radio and television, a public speaker, an emcee, a radio host and a thirty-year veteran of stand-up comedy. She is the co-founding A.D of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.  Lara was the Just for Laughs Homegrown Comedy Competition National Champion, 2000.  She has contributed dozens of items both comedic and informative to CBC Radio, hosted numerous radio programs on CBC Radio, and had her own call in show on CFRB in Toronto. She is the only transgender person to host the CBC Radio flagship program The Current.  She teaches at the University of Winnipeg in the Women and Gender Studies Department and is the opera reviewer for CBC Manitoba.  She has been in involved in several Mosaic productions including Delma and Marta and was a consultant on the program Tiny Plastic Men. Her autobiographical play Dragonfly has its world premiere at Theatre Projects Manitoba in March 2019.

 

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Liam Zarrillo

Liam Zarrillo is a theatre artist, poet and educator, always inspired by the compelling art and agitators found in his hometown of Winnipeg, MB. He is a show builder, storyteller, sometimes performer and often over-exaggerator. He works with all of Winnipeg’s professional theatres, is a member of PTE’s Emerging Playwrights Unit and develops new work/plays as a member of Make/Shift Theatre. He loves to investigate, experiment and uncover. Using all of this as a vehicle, Liam is a persistent and dedicated advocate for representation of the LGBT2SQ+ community and the brilliantly diverse communities with which it intersects.

 

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Erin Meagan Schwartz

Facilitating the event is our Emerging Theatre Artist representative Erin Meagan Schwartz. Erin is an interdisciplinary artist, improviser, organizer, and queer Jewish femme living in the prairies of Treaty 1 Territory. Schwartz has been performing and teaching improv in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Edmonton for over ten years and currently works with the Canadian Improv Games as a co-producer. Schwartz is currently the Emerging Artist Representative with Sarasvati. She is fascinated with the art of utilizing skills from different disciplines and combining them to create something new and exciting. Their priority as an artist is to cultivate a slow process that delves into nuance while also making room for discovery and fun.  Schwartz holds an honours bachelor’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies with a focus on theatre and cultural production.

The discussion will take place from 1-3PM on Sunday, January 27th at The Qube at Rainbow Resource Centre (170 Scott St). Admission is by donation with gender-neutral washrooms on site. For more information, visit our event page!

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!

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 stageto explo. 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!

 

That’s a Wrap on “Home 2.0”!

Another school tour is in the books! Last week, we wrapped up our latest community collaboration project, Home 2.0, which focused on youth stories of immigration and resettlement. After starting our Newcomer project over two years ago, we initially shared stories in performance with New Beginnings back in May. The project culminated   with Home 2.0 wrapping up on December 7th. This marks our sixth school tour and this time around, we managed to visit over 54 schools and reach out to over 4,700 youth across Manitoba.

 

This cast has been working together since the summer, rehearsing and preparing for the tour! It’s been a long road but we couldn’t be happier with how the show has impacted audiences across Manitoba. Read on for some of the responses we’ve had to this powerful show.

“The story-lines presented in the show mirrored many of our students’ experiences, and it was very powerful for them to see these stories told on stage. Students were really enthusiastic about it, and there was buzz about it for days afterwards!” – Caitlin Belton, Drama & English Teacher at Miles MacDonell Collegiate

 

 

Coming from the child of two refugees, I felt like it spoke very accurately about the struggles one faces coming to Canada as a refugee. It really touched upon many issues and explained it in a way that was helpful for people who might not understand what this experience is like for others.” – Grade 10 student at Seven Oaks School Division

Not only was the play outstanding, but adding the parts where viewers were allowed to interact with the actors and potentially change the outcome of the play, made you truly think about how you can impact the lives of others through simple actions.” – Grade 12 student at Seven Oaks School Division

 

Seven Oaks

This performance was really beautiful but heartbreaking. Seeing what you went through being played in front of you like that beings all those memories back. And if you have never been through anything like it, it’s really revealing as you get to see another side of the story. All those feelings that the performance shows you are very descriptive. The feeling of not fitting in being new and not being good enough is scary. Knowing that you are forgetting everything is devastating. Thanks for reminding me that I went through and why I am here.” – Student at New Era School

 

We have many students that are from immigrant homes or are immigrants themselves and the message of struggle, hope and inclusion was really something that resonated with them. Thank you so much for such an amazing experience on behalf of myself, the students and St. Mary’s Academy,  we thank you for sharing this story and the amazing talents of your touring group!”  – Eliana Dell’Acqua, Social and Drama Teacher at St. Mary’s Academy

Thank you to all of the incredible students and teachers who hosted us this year! The tour was a great success, promoting empathy and understanding to thousands of youth across the province. Big thank-you as well to Daniel Igne-Jajalla for putting together our tour highlight video! We’ll see you again in 2020 with another tour for youth in Manitoba.