Mulgrave Road Theatre brings harrowing Thompson play to FemFest

“Judith Thompson’s Watching Glory Die is a call to action and a cri de coeur.”
-THE CHRONICLE HERALD

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Watching Glory Die

In her recent play, Judith Thompson turns our attention to the flaws within the Canadian prison system. Inspired by the true story of New Brunswick teenager Ashley Smith who died while under suicide watch in an Ontario prison in 2007, Watching Glory Die is a deliberately fictionalized portrait of three women intertwined by systemic abandonment.

“Politically charged and some of Thompson’s best story-telling”
-HALIFAX BLOGGERS

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Emmy Alcorn

After a successful run in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Mulgrave Road Theatre has been touring this powerful production across the country. We are excited to welcome them to Winnipeg to deliver this incredible piece of theatre at FemFest 2017. Director Emmy Alcorn (Artistic Director of Mulgrave Road Theatre, Nova Scotia Established Artist Award) brings this powerful play to the stage with perfect balance. “I believe there is a way to lift everyone up in society. We live in an abundant world and must ensure that everyone is treated fairly, that they have food and shelter; that they are loved”, says Alcorn.

Watching Glory Die Stephanie MacDonald Headshot (cast) now

Stephanie MacDonald

Award-winning actor Stephanie MacDonald brings these three women to life in a performance that is described in a review by the Chronicle Herald as “masterful, intense, deeply focused and totally convincing.”  In Watching Glory Die MacDonald plays all three characters: Glory, a fictionalized version of Ashley Smith; Rosellen, Glory’s mother and Gail, a guard at the prison where Glory is incarcerated. “It’s not just the precision between roles that is captivating, but how honestly and instantly MacDonald apparates from one woman’s deep emotional state to the next” –HALIFAX BLOGGERS

“Thompsons powerful writing skills are on display” – TORONTO STAR

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Watching Glory Die

The play does not shy away from the harrowing moments of this story. Chief among questions raised throughout the play is, “What would I do?” “The impossible is happening in our country,” Thompson said in an interview about Watching Glory Die with the Toronto Star. “The system destroyed Smith. And it happened where least expected.”

Judith Thompson is a multiple award-winning playwright and is highly regarded as one

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Watching Glory Die

of Canada’s most prolific playwrights. She is the author of such notable plays as The Crackwalker, White Biting Dog and Lion in the Streets. Her work is a staple of theatre programs in Universities across Canada. There are three chances to see Watching Glory Die at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film: September 21 at 2:30pm and again at 9pm, September 22 at 7pm.

“Watching Glory Die shocks, clarifies and engages.” —Evan Andrew Mackay, Post City Toronto

Stay tuned for more FemFest news!
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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.

 

Summer Students make Strides at Sarasvàti

A world premiere, general auditions, FemFest brochure launch, outreach, a fundraising dinner, Timeraiser display, garage sale – how have we managed all of this in the last month? We’ve been very fortunate to welcome two hard-working summer students to team Sarasvàti thanks to Canada Summer Jobs. They’ve pitched in on so many important tasks and now they’re working on our 2017-18 Season Launch. Tamera and Larysa bring dedication and fresh ideas to the table and we are so pleased to hear from them in this week’s blog entry.

“I am proud to be at Sarasvàti Productions and to work in a community with a strong social conscience”, says Tamera, who began working as our Production Assistant in May.

TameraGrace-grown-FemFest17“So far my highlight of the summer was when I was backstage during Breaking Through. The cast and crew were all magnificent, as well as the story. It was very life-giving to support them through a smooth run of the show, as well as making sure everyone was comfortable and ready.

Aside from being able to work on their spring production, I have been spending most of my time in the office. This is my first time working in an office; it has been a good opportunity to improve my professional skills.”

Tamera is working on completing her double degree in Theatre and Business at the U of W.

“My original plan was to focus on acting, but I will be graduating with a focus in acting as well as production and business. For me, working with Sarasvàti has really clarified my desire to work in the not-for-profit sector. I want to continue finding opportunities to support those in the community.”

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Tamera Grace at TimeRaiser150 with Hope McIntyre looking for great new Sarasvàti volunteers.

“One of the great things about Sarasvati Productions is the opportunity it creates for discussion and understanding”, says Larysa, our Marketing & Community Outreach Assistant.

“Getting over fifty people to sit in one room, eat Ethiopian food, smell Ethiopian coffee beans, and listen to a difficult true story about becoming a refugee is no easy thing to organize. But, I think, this type of event is necessary for building healthy and strong communities. Like me, the people who listened to Saeed’s story may walk away feeling more empathy than they felt before. And that is no small achievement.”

IMG_4303Larysa is a Creative Communications student at Red River College and the director of Winnipeg Poetry Slam. She talks about her favourite experience while working with Sarasvàti—working at the Honouring Courage – Celebrating Diversity fundraiser dinner with human rights activist and speaker, Ali Saeed.

“We’re used to thinking of revenge as a bad thing. We think of threat, torture, and war. Ali Saeed calls this ‘red revenge’. But Saeed says there is one other type of revenge just as compelling: kindness, compassion and generosity. His word for this is ‘green revenge.’

Seven years Saeed spent imprisoned and sentenced to death in Somalia. Now he’s speaking to a roomful of people here at Gohe Restaurant for Sarasvàti Productions’ fundraiser. The entire room is quiet. The people I’m sitting with grimace and look downward.

Saeed talks about the cruelty he witnessed: forced abortion, lashings, hanging, cutting. Listening to Saeed, I am reminded of the safety I have here in Canada, a true luxury.

On his feet, Saeed wears loose Velcro sandals. He points to the burn marks on his heels, marks from the hardship he endured. Sandals are one of the few shoes he’ll wear because of the pain. Barefoot is preferable.

‘No one chooses to be a refugee,’ Saeed says.”

Larysa says working for Sarasvàti Productions has opened her mind to experiences outside of her own, which has been an invaluable experience.

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Larysa Musick at Honouring Courage – Celebrating Diversity Fundraiser Dinner for Sarasvàti Productions at Gohe Restaurant.

You can see some of their awesome ideas in action at the 2017-18 Season Launch, Friday August 4th 7pm at the Saddlery on Market (114 Market Ave).

Theatre that Transforms Us – 2016/17 Season Retrospective

Cotton candy cocktails, ghosts, riots, vans stuck in the snow, standing ovations, tears and a lot of laughter. It really is hard to believe that another season has gone by – our 17th one in Winnipeg to be exact! Just over a year ago, we launched a season themed on Transformation and it truly was life-changing.

Breaking Through
“They were commenting on how they thought they were the only ones feeling a certain way until seeing this play and being able to realize that they are not alone.” – Loveeza Arshad, Friends Housing

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The cast of Breaking Through takes a bow

Thanks to your support we enjoyed an incredibly successful run of the culmination of our Mental Health project. We hope the dialogue will continue outside the theatre for some time to come. We’ll keep you posted as we work towards publishing the play!

 

IWW 2017 Starting Over
“Engaging and inspiring, these powerful performances rooted in real experiences provided brilliant insight. In our case, the complex realities of both youthful and mature immigrant women were are the forefront. Exploring these themes is so vital, with increased cultural diversity and amid global striving for women’s rights. Women of all nations and cultures can relate to themes of place, space, marginalization, hope, potential…”– Pamela Hadder, Agape House-Eastman Crisis Centre

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A packed house at IWW2017: Starting Over

This year, we worked closely with newcomer women and girls and the results were some incredible pieces.  We were proud to provide a platform for women’s stories, to promote equity on Canadian stages and to provide access to the arts. A great big thank you goes out to Manitoba Status of Women and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. Without them, this Cabaret would not be possible. Special thanks to Neighborhoods Alive! and NERI for supporting our North End performances.

One Night Stand Series
“Amazing job, everyone! And for those involved in [my piece], thank you so much for helping me bring that world to life… Truly an inspirational night!” –  Marjorie Roden, featured playwright

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One Night Stand Fringe Frenzy! at Carol Shields Festival of new Works

With the help of producer Tatiana Carnevale and Prairie Theatre Exchange we re-launched the One Night Stand playreading Series. The Series gives playwrights the opportunity to test their work, while giving audiences a chance to take part in their development process.  Look out for the launch of One Night Stand next season at closing night of FemFest! We will be featuring readings from Judith Thompson and our most celebrated local playwrights.

 

Workshops for Emerging Artists
“So much good info!”
“Extremely beneficial”
“It was great! More workshops!” – Feedback from workshop participants

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Our Artistic Director Hope McIntyre facilitates at Auditioning 101

We served 85 emerging artists with our Emerging Artist workshop series this season.
We tackled some of our most-requested workshops this year with Grantwriting & Taxes for Artists, Auditioning 101 and Mock Auditions for Advanced Actors.  We thank our partners Winnipeg Arts Council, Manitoba Arts Council, ACI Manitoba, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Theatre Projects Manitoba and Winnipeg Jewish Theatre for helping us support education opportunities for emerging artists. Plans for the 2017/18 Emerging Artists Workshop Series are already underway! Drop us a line if there is a workshop you’d like to see.

North End Workshop Series
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study theatre but now I’m sure!” – Sabil, youth participant

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Youth facilitator Erica Wilson offers direction as the youth participants work on their scene

We kicked-off 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 look forward to supporting them with mentorship in 2017/18.

 

 


Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

“Congratulations! What a great evening!!” – Brigit Krasovec
“Great turn out! Amazing show.” – Tim Gray

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Actions shots of some of the comedians at the Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

We took a leap and tried something brand new with our comedy fundraiser. We teamed up with Winnipeg’s hilarious women comedians to produce the Women’s Comedy Night. The event saw unprecedented success—selling out and packing the venue with an incredible mix of Sarasvàti supporters and comedy fans. We had a blast and you better believe we’ll be doing this again next year.

 

 


Shattered
High School Tour

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The cast of Shattered

“Things aren’t what they seem and we should never assume things about people. I learned a lot and I
could tell my fellow audience members also learned something new. I realized a lot more people in our
school had experience with mental illness than I thought.” -Student at Fort Richmond Collegiate

We broke pervious records by performing to 6,161 youth and educators in Manitoba. Shattered has received overwhelming praise from teachers and students alike. It was also transformative for the cast who were touched by the number of youth who approached them after performances to share their own struggles with mental health.


FemFest2016: Transformation

We were proud to present such provocative touring shows as Miss Understood, Mouthpiece, as well as clown favourites Morro & Jasp Do Puberty. The world premiere of the previous year’s Bake-Off winner Sherry MacDonald’s The Seduction Theory made a huge impact as audiences discussed the ways we continue to victim-blame.

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These are just a few of our highlights. What stood out for you? Save the date for August 4th at 7pm and stay tuned for exciting details about our 2017/18 season launch.

FemFest Celebrates 15 Years!

Our beloved festival in support of women playwrights turns 15 this year! We are celebrating with the theme Coming of Age and a line-up that will blow you away.

We are ecstatic to be bringing in one of the most highly regarded playwright’s in Canadian history, two-time Governor General award-winning playwright Judith Thompson!  Thompson will join us for Mulgrave Road Theatre’s production of her play Watching Glory Die,  a harrowing play based on the true story of Ashley Smith. She will also teach a playwriting master class (September 20, 21 and 22 from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.) give a Real Thing lecture and be part of the Human Library ™.

Tomboy Survival Guide is a live stage experience that defies genre and gender boxes with fearless truth-telling and compassionate defiance. Ivan Coyote and an all-tomboy band take the audience on a musical journey navigating the narrow halls of public washrooms, skirting the childhood threat of being picked to be a flower girl, triumphing over tying a double Windsor knot, and discovering the beauty in being handsome, not pretty, all along. This is also our first time taking FemFest to the West End Cultural Centre!

We focus our in-house attention on producing Two Indians by Falen Johnson directed by Sonya Ballantyne. After years apart two cousins meet in a Toronto alley to recreate a ceremony from their childhood, but can they remember how? When the words missing and murdered, truth and reconciliation, occupation and resistance are everywhere, how do two Mohawk women stand their ground?

We’ll share a workshop preview of New Beginnings, a work in development created with the Winnipeg newcomer and refugee community.  Come and see a preview of this exciting culmination of story and dance from around the world.
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As a company dedicated to transforming society through theatre, we’ve witnessed the impact  that story-sharing can have on breaking down stereotypes and prejudices. This year we are thrilled to present a Human Library ™ as part of FemFest.  In partnership with the Millennium Library, Sarasvàti Productions has curated an incredible line up of Human Books that you can ‘take out’ for a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

Bake off 2016The beloved Bake-Off is back! This FemFest favourite challenges 5 local female playwrights to write a scene in 8-hours using three key top-secret ingredients. Scenes will be performed as part of the Festival on Sept. 18.
Winner of the FemFest 2016 Bake-Off, Jessy Ardern presents a reading of her play in progress, Kit and Joe.

WebFor ages 6 and up, Castlemoon Theatre presents Grounded Heroes. 10 year old Jess loves Lego, but her friends think it’s childish and weird. While researching a class assignment, Jess encounters three girls from history who were also a little bit weird for their time, and together they discover what it means to be true to yourself.

And you definitely won’t want to miss our closing night! This season, we brought our classic One Night Stand play reading series back with a vengeance. In honour of Winnipeg’s own celebrated female playwrights we’re curating a special One Night Stand dedicated to showcasing works in progress by some of these prolific writers who will be joined by Judith Thompson.

Workshops, readings and a dynamite Opening Cabaret will be a staple again this year. Get your passes now and celebrate 15 years of FemFest!

The Power of Story: Sarasvàti presents human rights activist Ali Saeed

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A delicious traditional Ethiopian meal prepared at Gohe Restaurant. Photo by Serge Gumenyuk, The Uniter.

An amazing meal, a powerful story and supporting inspiring theatre – what more could you want in an evening! On Thursday June 15th at 6pm join Sarasvàti Productions for a full course meal of traditional Ethiopian food followed by the powerful story of award-winning human rights activist, Ali Saeed. Fresh from speaking at the 2017 Winnipeg TEDx, Ali joins us to share his transformational experience in support of transformational theatre.

Ali Saeed is a former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience [i] who was imprisoned on more than one occasion because of his work as a human rights defender in his home country of Ethiopia. He spent a total of seven years in custody and was held in eleven different prisons during his incarceration in Ethiopia and Somalia. He was tortured and subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment during this period.  After being released from imprisonment in Somalia in 1984, Ali Saeed immigrated to Manitoba.

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Ali Saeed

Even though he had survived unimaginable horrors as a direct consequence of his human rights activities in Ethiopia, Ali immediately resumed these efforts in Manitoba by working on behalf of other refugees seeking safety from persecution while placing emphasis on promoting the rights of women.

Since arriving in Manitoba Ali has transformed the lives of many. Ali has worked to sponsor 104 refugees through the Ethiopian Society of Winnipeg by working in collaboration with Hospitality House and the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, traveled to Parliament Hill along with his daughter to present a petition highlighting concerns about women who had been disappeared or were being held as political prisoners in Ethiopia and produced the award winning Memories of a Generation, a feature length documentary on human rights which has reached over 5,000 people in Europe and North America.

Hear Ali Saeed speak at Honouring Courage and Celebrating Diversity on June 15th at Gohe Ethiopian Restaurant. The evening includes a world-class Ethiopian meal, a silent art auctions and more. Tickets are just $45 (tax receipt for $25) and available at our office – call 204-586-2236 or info@sarasvati.ca. All funds raised will support the transformative theatre work of Sarasvàti Productions.

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[i] Prisoners of conscience are individuals who have been imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs or because of their race, gender or other personal characteristics.

Breaking the Silence Together

We have been honoured to hear about how Breaking Through affected audiences and all of those involved. Through the course of the run, over 600 people saw the play. From initial story-gathering workshops to the lively panel discussions that followed select performances, so many people have spoken up about their experience with mental health. Here are some snapshots of what people have had to say.

“Amazing show! Thank you Sarasvati for bringing mental health issues to light and sharing the struggles breaking down stereotypes and stigma! BRAVO!” – Debbie Radi (Facebook)

18738812_10158648658995328_1417637719958705646_o“What a show!! Giving us some hard truths about mental illness… and plenty of fine acting. Real, relevant reportage from one of the front lines of human suffering (and it’s also good theatre).” – Kevan Bowkett (Facebook)

“I had a great time at Sarasvati Productions’ Breaking Through. It’s so important to talk about mental health and illness. It meant so much to meet Hope McIntyre and her colleagues!” – Angela Taylor

Thanks to generous donors, we were able to provide access to those who would not otherwise have been able to attend.

“First off, thank you so much for providing the financial ease on Friends Housing as we are a non-profit organization and also for contacting us to come see this breathtaking play. I brought three residents. There were tears but also laughter, but most importantly they were very engaged. All three of them felt a real connection to the play and empathized for the characters. They were even commenting on how they thought they were the only ones feeling a certain way until seeing this play and being able to realize that they are not alone. Thank-you again for inviting Friends Housing, we had a wonderful time.” -Loveeza Arshad, staff at Friends Housing Inc.

“A few of our volunteers were able to watch “Breaking Through” by Sarasvati Productions last weekend. “It was a very moving portrayal of people with differing mental health needs. It was very real, graphic at times, and they didn’t shy away from confronting the hard issues. Excellent actors and very true to life!” – Corrie Neil, Volunteer Coordinator at Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba.

We were excited to share the stage with a diverse range of speakers in our panel discussions. We are overwhelmed with gratitude for all of those who shared experiences and perspectives after performances.

“It helped overcome the fear of interacting with someone with a mental health condition which would probably be a big factor in stigmatization.” – Dana Rungay, Red Threads Playback Theatre

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“I’ve experienced mental health challenges due to living with a chronic illness. For many years, it was something I felt I couldn’t talk about. Through online support groups, I discovered the power of shared experience, which has been integral to both my physical and mental health. I feel honoured to be in a play rooted in real mental health journeys, expressed with such honesty, respect, and humour. As my character Stef says, ‘silence is the illness.’ I hope the audience will keep talking long after the show is over, whether it be in reflection of their own experiences or others in their lives.” – Elena Anciro ‘Stef’ in Breaking Through

“The story of Breaking Through reminds me to respect the inherent value of every human being, sick or well. All people have needs, feelings, & wishes.” – Harry Nelken ‘Joe’ in Breaking Through

“There is massive pressure from our social media world to look a certain way, or act a certain way, and I think seeing Val struggle with This concept will really resonate with audiences.” – Spenser Payne ‘Val’ in Breaking Through

“I know [the playwrights] have talked with people, from every aspect possible, – in mental health centres, in hospitals, in drop in centres, in the community as a whole and what they have developed – both with Shattered and with Breaking Through – is a very real snapshot. We all share the parts of being through Spiritual, Emotional, Mental, and Physical. It’s important to address all aspects for balance. This is why Breaking Through resonates with me. It is bringing to balance one area of our whole.” – Marsha Knight, Female Ensemble in Breaking Through

Breaking Through resonates with me because it echoes a few of the personal experiences I had in my own life. Members of my own family have struggled with mental illness. As a child I endured first-hand trauma as a result of psychotic and manic episodes that a family member was going through. The underlying message of Breaking Through is that we all need to re-think how we treat those dealing with different lived experiences due to their unique minds or their circumstances.” – Josh Ranville, ‘KoKo’ in Breaking Through

We could not have envisioned a stronger creative team to have pulled this project together. Every artist involved has brought something unique to Breaking Through. Thank you to everyone who made Breaking Through such a huge success!
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