Baking With Grief

How do you grieve and move on after losing someone? It is a challenge for anyone, but even more so for Katherine, especially now that death has moved in as her roommate.

The Grief Box by Alissa Watson won last year’s Bake-Off writing competition; during FemFest 2018. This year, a reading of The Grief Box is part of our FemFest 2019 roster! We asked Watson to share a little bit about the inspiration behind her play…

“Writing The Grief Box has been a weird and wonderful process. The inspiration for the piece came from the sudden death of my mom in the fall of 2017. I have found life convoluted and bizarre in the wake of her passing and it has been my experience that many people struggle to support those who are dealing with loss, even if they are sharing the same experience. In creating this piece, it is important to me to create a community experience; a safe space where the audience can laugh, cry or get angry with or at death. I would love to have everyone leave feeling that they have a slightly better relationship with death; however bizarre it might be.

The piece has evolved extensively since The Switch, that won the Bake-Off last fall. Much to my disappointment, that scene is no longer in this draft of the play. Audiences who are familiar with the scene can consider it a prologue to the reading of The Grief Box they will see this fall. However, the same loveable cast of characters are along for the ride, including death itself.”- Alissa Watson

Alissa Watson Grief BoxIn addition to acquiring her Bachelor of Music and Education from Brandon University, Alissa has trained in theatre throughout Canada, England and is an alumna of the Professional Training Ensemble at Prairie Theatre Exchange.  She is the co-founder of The Red Nose Diaries (Maple & Sticky’s Amazing Olympic Race, The Polka Dots of Death: The Making of a Supervillain) and is a proud founding member of Winnipeg’s only all-female Bouffon Ensemble, The Talentless Lumps. Selected acting credits include Sense & Sensibility, Harvey (RMTC); Torn Through Time (MTYP); Mission: Munschpossible, Small Things, Magical Mystery Munsch (PTE); and Stripped Down Midsummer Night’s Dream (SIR). Alissa is a member of PTE’s Emerging Playwright’s Unit and is currently adapting the beloved Munsch classic, The Paper Bag Princess for young audiences this winter. In addition, Alissa is a vocalist and percussionist for the sweet and cheeky, Fu Fu Chi Chi Choir.

The reading of The Grief Box will be held Saturday, September 14th at 2:00PM at The Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Admission is Pay What You Can and you can book tickets HERE on our website.  You can also check out this year’s edition of the Bake-Off on September 16th at 6:30pm to vote for a script you would like to see developed for 2020.

Stay tuned for more on what to look forward to during FemFest 2019!

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Balancing Mental Wellness in the Arts

“Mental Health in Theatre” is a hot-button issue right now as more and more artists begin to speak out about the working conditions and pressure that comes with a life on the stage. This past Sunday, Sarasvàti Productions hosted a panel on Mental Health in Theatre with speakers Larry Isacoff, Krista Jackson, Elena Anciro, Heidi Malazdrewich, Sylvia Massinon of Klinic, and facilitated by Taylor Demetrioff.

The panel covered many important topics, like giving voice to the issues facing mental wellness in theatre, how folks can avoid burnout, the importance of creating safe spaces in rehearsals, not to forget the demands placed on those behind the scenes, and what resources are available for folks needing extra support. In service to the community, we’re publishing more on the incredible discussion that took place so everyone can learn more about what they can do to support each other.

 

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Key Words from the Panel

In discussing what can be done to enact change, the primary focus was on the role of leadership. Many asserted that it is the responsibility of arts leaders to ensure that the artists under their employ are working in safe conditions during reasonable hours. Folks working behind the scenes spoke to the demands being placed on Winnipeg’s theatre community with artists being asked to deliver impossible results outside of the scope of the theatre’s budget or schedule. To quote one panelist, “Theatre is the only profession that has to open on time – regardless of consequences.” This pressure creates an environment where those who speak up are not only going unheard because “the show must go on,” but also have to deal with the threat of unemployment. A common issue is that artists feel “replaceable”: if they voice their concerns with a project or the leadership, they may find themselves out of a job.

Artists also spoke about their issues handling personal struggles or performance anxiety in order to continue with their roles. In several cases, they’ve been asked to push through and were even discouraged from continuing in theatre if they weren’t able to “handle the pressure”. Unfortunately, for many, the experience has been that they are working for leadership that creates a culture of fear and pressure in the rehearsal hall rather than collaboration and positivity. A great example on creating a safe space for everyone was to ask at the start of the process, “What do you need?” Getting everyone on the same page and learning who they could turn to for support was a key player in creating more positive rehearsal spaces.

 

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We also heard from Sylvia Massinon about the resources available for mental health in our community. Klinic has drop-in, short-term, and long-term counselling available on a first-come, first-serve basis – available entirely for free. Women’s Health Clinic also offers free and low-cost counselling available in fifty-minute sessions. Of course, one of the most important reminders for practicing artists is to make time for themselves. Our profession can be isolating – long hours, the pressure to perform, weeks spent inside the rehearsal hall or onstage with limited time for anything else… but it is important for folks to know that they need to be able to say no to a project if it comes at the cost of their mental well-being.

Although there was much more to discuss than we could fit in this panel, we would like to thank everyone who participated for sharing their stories and opening up this important discussion. We will be continuing with our workshop series as the season goes on with our “Queering Theatre” Lecture slated for January 2019. For more on the great events we have in store, join our mailing list!

Upcoming Workshops for Emerging Artists!

Want to get started in theatre? Want to expand your skills as an artist? Or maybe you want to get some feedback on a new script? Luckily, Sarasvàti Productions is offering another great season of workshops! After our Coffee House for Emerging Artists back in August, we listened to Winnipeg’s theatre community to better understand what is needed from us – and how we can better execute our mandate to serve emerging artists. In talking with local artists, we decided to focus this year’s workshops on mentorship and development opportunities for the community.We’ve already kicked off the season with our sold-out “Devising from the Real World” workshop with Burnt artist Norah Paton as part of FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance. The workshop taught participants the basics of devised theatre and how to create a piece from real-life experiences.

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“Devising from the Real World” Workshop

 

We also showcased our first One Night Stand session coordinated by Tatiana Carnevale, featuring excerpts of new plays from Leigh-Anne Kehler, Frances Koncan, Jo MacDonald, Cairn Moore, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. The One Night Stand series pairs playwrights with a director and team of actors to workshop a new script through a public reading. This process helps the playwrights gain valuable audience feedback and learn how they can continue developing their play. We’ll be hosting more sessions in the spring: stay tuned for details!

We’ll be bringing back our annual Coffee with a Pro mentorship sessions, which pair emerging artists with a pro in the field to talk shop over coffee.  “It’s always useful to hear from professionals in the field,” said one participant. “It helps break the illusion that professionals are some beyond human, super being. Being able to ask questions about their journey and process helps create a more concrete path for someone hoping to take their work to the next level.” We’ll be reaching out to Winnipeg’s theatre community to help emerging artists learn from the pros in topics like playwriting, producing, and artistic direction.

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Emerging Directors having Coffee with Ann Hodges

On November 25th, we’ll be hosting a panel on Mental Health in Theatre: asking professionals in both the artistic and mental health community how to balance self-care with a career in the arts. Local representatives will also speak to creating a safe environment from the rehearsal hall to the stage, making sure everyone feels comfortable as a cast and creative team. Also answering the question on self-care in theatre is our upcoming panel, “Can You Make a Living as an Artist in Winnipeg?” Professionals in the theatre community will speak to how they’ve made a career as an artist – and share some wisdom on how you can, too!

We’ll also be hosting a lecture on “Queering Theatre” with local artists in the LGBT+ community. Through this lecture, participants will learn how they can bring queering practices to their own work and celebrate what queer culture has to offer.

“Let’s talk about Queer, because it doesn’t always mean gay or lesbian. It means sexual, radical, from another culture, non-linear, redefining form as well as content. […] you come into the theatre assured of who you are and what you believe, but you leave the theatre all shook up.”  – Sky Gilbert, Former Artistic Director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Want to be a part of this year’s workshop series? Contact Associate Producer Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca to learn more! You can also join our mailing list for updates on what we’re offering throughout the year.

The Power of FemFest

Just three days left to feel the power of FemFest2017. Audiences have been blown away by this year’s performances.  Come and experience it for yourself before it’s too late!

“Thank you for continuing to offer amazing meaningful theatre experiences to our community” – Teela Tomassetti

“Great evening !!!” – Francesca Cotroneo

Don’t miss the opening of Watching Glory Die by Judith Thompson produced by Mulgrave Road Theatre on Thursday SEPT 21 at 2:30 pm and again at 9pm. There will be a special Coffee Talk following the 7pm performance on Friday SEPT 22 with playwright Judith Thompson, director Emmy Alcorn and special guest Senator Kim Pate. Senator Pate is a nationally renowned advocate who has spent the last 35 years working in and around the legal and penal systems of Canada, with and on behalf of some of the most marginalized, victimized, criminalized and institutionalized — particularly imprisoned youth, men and women. Senator Pate continues to advocate for reform in solitary confinement and treatment of prisoners with mental health issues in Canadian prisons, two central issues in Watching Glory Die.  We are honoured to welcome the Senator to FemFest as a Coffee Talk speaker.

Senator Kim Pate Gives a Voice to Women in Prison – The Globe and Mail

We are thrilled to announce that there will be a Coffee Talk following every 7pm performance! Head to Two Indians tonight at 7pm and stay for a Coffee Talk with Two Indians director Sonya Ballantyne and consultant Marsha Knight.

Catch a sneak peek of our latest community-based theatre project: New Beginnings on Saturday SEPT 23 at 4pm. Admission is by donation.

Be among the first to hear brand new work by Winnipeg’s most celebrated female playwrights at the One Night Stand on the closing night of the festival. Special guest Judith Thompson joins us to share brand new work. Enjoy a toast to 15 years in the lobby following the event.

Check out some of the great articles and interviews about FemFest and the incredible artists involved.

FemFest Marks 15 Years of Celebrating Diverse Talent – Global Breakfast Television

Youth will be Served by Randall King, Winnipeg Free Press

BUNNY on CTV News

Two Indians preview with CJNU

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Up Close and Personal with Judith Thompson

Not only is legendary Canadian playwright Judith Thompson coming all the way to Winnipeg  to celebrate 15 years of FemFest, she is fully embracing all that the festival has to offer!

Two-time recipient of the Governor General’s Literary Awards for Drama and an Officer in the Order of Canada, Thompson was awarded the prestigious Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts in 2007. In 2008 she was honoured with the Susan Smith Blackburn Award and the Dora Mavor Moore Outstanding New Play Award for Palace of the End, which was also awarded the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award. Thompson has written a number of classic Canadian plays, including White Biting Dog, Lion in the Streets, I Am Yours, Such Creatures, The Thrill, and Watching Glory Die.

Despite her well-earned recognition as a playwright, Judith attributes her ability to continue writing to the stability offered by a teaching position at the University of Guelph. Were it not for this stability, she says she would have gone into social work, which won’t come as a surprise to avid Thompson fans. Thompson has made an impact on audiences around the world by amplifying voices of those who are not often heard. Her work in the arts is driven by her desire to see beyond the surface of an issue and her recent play Watching Glory Die is no exception.

Judith Thomspson_FemFest2017Most recently, Thompson has focused on working with people of exceptionality, including those who are differently abled.  Experiences with her daughter, who lives with auto-immune deficiency, lead Thompson to work with youth living with chronic disorders.  Her focus now is on how to use any clout she has to give life to stories from those who may not otherwise be heard. When asked what her title would be if she were a book, Thompson said, ‘Nothing about us without us – using my art to amplify voices’.

Thompson brings a unique perspective to playwriting, and perhaps that is why she’s been able to write plays that leave such an impact. In an interview with the Georgia Straight, Thompson said, “I haven’t suffered the way that many people have, but I think that it [the epilepsy] gave me some kind of lens. And it’s the combination: I have enough sense of entitlement as a person, with the privileges I’ve had, to write a play, and to think that anybody would listen; but then I also was—I think I would say lucky enough to go through the epilepsy, and a couple of rough years in school, to have an understanding.” Multiple award-winning playwright, mother of 5 now in the 60’s, she feels she has proven, despite naysayers, that she can have everything and do it all as a woman.

This September, FemFest brings you many opportunities to get to know Judith Thompson. Throughout Sept 16-23 you can learn from her at a free public lecture, study with her in a playwriting masterclass, hear her read from new work in development, sit down across from her for a one-on-one conversation and of course, see the FemFest production of Thompson’s recent play Watching Glory Die.

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REAL THING LECTURE (free)

Judith Thompson speaks as part of this series of exciting and informative lectures by guest speakers from the ‘real world’ of theatre and film. An important opportunity to hear about the reality of having a career in the arts.

PLAYWRITING MASTERCLASS

An opportunity to work with one of Canada’s most studied playwrights. The focus will be on writing by impulse, discovering moments of transformation that are worthy of the theatrical medium and digging deep in to conflict and character. This masterclass is intended for playwrights who are actively writing.

WATCHING GLORY DIE by Judith Thompson
Produced by Mulgrave Road Theatre
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“Politically charged and some of Thompson’s best story-telling”
-HALIFAX BLOGGERS

Watching Glory Die is inspired by the true story of New Brunswick teen Ashley Smith. Deliberately fictionalized, a riveting and deeply compassionate portrait of three women – Glory, incarcerated for minor offences at age 14; Rosellen, the girl’s adoptive mother desperately trying to remain connected to her daughter; Gail, a prison guard, walking the line between her ‘orders’ and her conscience.

HUMAN LIBRARY (free)

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Readers will be able to borrow from an amazing line-up of Human Books for up to 30 minutes of one-on-one conversation.  Thompson looks forward to sharing how arts can be used by all to increase understanding. Check-out details for reserving books.

ONE NIGHT STAND AND A TOAST TO 15 YEARS!

Judith Thompson joins five of Winnipeg’s own most celebrated playwrights to toast 15 years with readings of new work in development. Do not miss this closing night event!

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.

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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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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.