Breaking Through has everyone talking!

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Molly (Dorothy Carroll) and Kennedy (Marsha Knight) are turned away from an emergency shelter.

Breaking Through opened on Tuesday and has had everyone talking since.

“Saw Breaking Through yesterday, and recommend it, it is honest but done with humour too. Still shows this week. I love all the characters, especially KoKo.” – Mary Scott

“I identify with some of the characters as I have gone through mental struggles of my own… I think what it certainly got across very well was that each character was a sort of individual element, not of their own choosing, but they’re trying to find some means of attaining normalcy. This is what I’ve gone through—the struggle to find normalcy when you have a condition that leaves you feeling anything but.”  – Patrick Lowe, Winnipeg Filmmaker

JoshRanville_MarshaKnight photo by Janet Shum (1024x683)

KoKo (Josh Ranville) is visited by her spirit guide (Marsha Knight)

“Brilliantly done and very well-researched. The actors really took on the roles. Everybody’s characters just stay with you.” – Angela, audience member

Check out a feature in The Times on actor Harry Nelken who plays Joe, a 72 year old character who has been living with schizophrenia since he was 19. Read the Winnipeg Free Press preview by Randall King and the blog review by Winnipeg theatre artist Lorraine James. Breaking Through has also been featured in the Winnipeg Free Press Arts & Culture, CBC News, The Herald, The Lance, The Pilipino Express, Global News Morning and more!

Come and see for yourself. There are four performances left! To see a performance schedule and book you tickets click here.

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“Plays like this are good messages. They’re valuable, in a sense. What I also like about the play is it was meant to be entertaining throughout. It wasn’t really a ‘downer’. It was trying to be an ‘upper’” – Patrick Lowe, Winnipeg filmmaker

Photos by Janet Shum.

 

 

Keeping the Conversation Going – Panel Discussions at Breaking Through

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Joe (Harry Nelken) takes it upon himself to welcome Stef (Elena Anciro) at the Mental Health Centre in Breaking Through

Speaking up is the seed of Breaking Through. Feeling able to speak, qualified to speak, and comfortable to speak are some of the challenges we’ve heard from the 400 Manitobans we worked with in the story-gathering phase of this project. Without the generosity and bravery of the individuals who contributed, this play would not have been possible. Now that Breaking Through has come this far, debuting to public audiences in a week, we want to keep the conversation open.

We have put together a series of panel discussions to take place after select performances of Breaking Through. We hope these panels will keep the conversation going while responses are fresh. Check out our panel discussion schedule to plan your experience.

May 24, 8pm –  The Creation Process Panel – Shirley Grierson and Dana Rungay of Red Threads Playback Theatre with Cairn Moore, co-writer of Breaking Through.

SMHC Playback

Cairn Moore, Dana Rungay, Bequie Lake and Karissa Martins at Selkirk Mental Health Centre

Playback Theatre is a form of improvisational theatre that starts with listening deeply to people’s stories and then transforming them spontaneously into theatre. It is especially powerful in honouring the voices of people from marginalized communities and in helping to build understanding across differences.  Dana Rungay is a founder of Red Threads of Peace Playback Theatre. The traditional use of the arts of storytelling, music and dance are natural ways of restoring connection and community – the social support determinant of health.  This was the intention of their Playback Theatre involvement at Selkirk Mental Health Centre in collaboration with Sarasvàti Productions in the development process of Breaking Through.

 

 

May 25 , 8pm – Breaking Barriers Panel– Bryan Young, Dara Hallock, Danielle Sicotte, Co-Executive Directors and Event Director of the Breaking Barriers Summit on Mental Health.

breaking barriers summit
The Breaking Barriers Summit on Mental Health was the first student–led, multi university conference on mental health in the province. This year, they launched a collaborative initiative that brought together students from the three major academic institutions in our province. Students from the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg & L’Université de Saint-Boniface joined together in an effort to not only reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, but to also effectively break down the barriers between our academic institutions.

May 26, 8pm – Varied Perspectives Panel – Jan DeFehr, Patricia Johnstone and the Winnipeg Police Service Vulnerable Persons Unit.

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Kennedy (Marsha Knight) seeks help for her sister Molly (Dorothy Carroll) in Breaking Through

Jan DeFehr, MSW, PhD, has twenty years experience as a clinical social worker in programs focused on youth ‘corrections’, violence in intimate partner relationships, crisis & trauma, and suicide prevention. She is an Associate of The Taos Institute, an honourary faculty member of the Houston-Galveston Institute, and a regular lecturer with The Kanankil Institute in Mérida Mexico. An Assistant Professor in the University of Winnipeg Faculty of Education, Jan presents her work locally and internationally and teaches mental health courses that expose and confront the misinformation and potential for harm in mainstream mental health services.

Pat Johnstone is the Mother of three children, all of whom have experienced some form of severe and persistent mental illness.  She is an advocate for improving the community supports, such as appropriate housing and benefits, to help the mentally ill to succeed in their recovery journey.  She chairs the Family Advisory Committee (friends and family members of patients) for the Selkirk Mental Health Centre (SMHC).

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KoKo (Josh Ranville) is visited by spirit guide (Marsha Knight)

Perspectives on this topic are just as varied as the people they come from. We don’t expect everyone to agree with what all the characters expresses in Breaking Through. Whatever your response is, we want to hear it. We encourage you to share any and all responses to the show. The panels provide a chance for dialogue and much needed discussion.

Breaking Through runs from May 23-28 at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film.  Tickets are available in advance or at the door.

Watch a behind the scenes video by Ora Walker.

Behind the Scenes with Breaking Through

With less than two weeks until Opening Night, the cast of Breaking Through are delving deep in to their characters who are born out of so many Winnipegger’s stories. For this week’s blog we visited the actors in action for a behind the scenes look into Breaking Through.

Harry Nelken as "Joe" in Breaking Through

Joe (Harry Nelken)

Harry Nelken plays Joe, a sometimes prickly, sometimes charming mental health centre resident with the story of a lifetime.

“What excites me about Joe: he’s a fighter, he’s compassionate, he thinks of others, he nurtures, he’s loving, and a kidder”, says Harry, “most of all, he accepts who he is and his lot in life.”

 

Richie Diggs plays an array of different characters as the Male Ensemble in Breaking Through.

Richie Diggs as "Absame" in Breaking Through

A fateful encounter at a bus stop between Absame (Richie Diggs) and Stef (Elena Anciro)

“Everyone needs a healthy mind, but anyone can get a sick mind.” My character says this in the play, thereby distilling the entire play to that simple comprehension, says Richie. “It is a key point to note, not just because one’s own self may sometimes be confronted with the challenges of living with a mental illness, but that when we encounter others battling these health challenges, that understanding, and support will be our participation, rather than stigma, or exclusion, or fear.”

Elena Ancrio as "Stef" in Breaking Through

Joe (Harry Nelken) and Stef (Elena Anciro); Joe fulfills duty as the unofficial ‘welcome committee’ of the mental health centre.

“What I love about Stef is that she is strong and resilient, that even when she is struggling, she has a quick wit and the instinct to help others”, says Elena Anciro. “The journey she goes on during the play has a really important message for all of us. I think whenever you are tasked with playing a character that is based on a real person or is experiencing something very specific (in this case, anxiety and OCD), it’s hard not to feel nervous about “getting it right.” It’s been amazing to work with Hope and Cairn’s script and to explore the text / subject matter with the cast. There’s been a very supportive and ‘safe space’ vibe to our rehearsals, which has really helped me feel relaxed about finding Stef and telling her story.”

 

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Val (Spenser Payne) saves face!

Spenser Payne plays Val. “I think Val’s story is a really great story to witness, says Spenser.  “It’s hard to live up to certain beauty standards in our world, and doing my research on this character, really realized how common it is for women, and men to deal with an eating disorder. It happens to anyone, doesn’t matter your size, or gender. 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.”

 

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KoKo (Josh Ranville) is visited by spirit guide (Marsha Knight)

“I play different family members to more than one character so I am in relationship with more than one other person who has mental health concerns”, says Marsha Knight, who plays the Female Ensemble.

 

“Not only am I looking at the nuances for each character”, says Marsha, “I am also looking at the relationship. Those are areas that every actor addresses – characteristics, a uniqueness, the dynamic. This time around, there is a heightened awareness when it comes to the relationship part.”

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Molly (Dorothy Carroll) stirs things up at the mental health centre.

 

“Molly is so intensely dynamic”, says Dorothy Carroll. “We see her in her highest and lowest moments, which has made it a real challenging journey. Finding a way “in” to someone struggling as Molly does, and discovering the “whys” has been most enlightening.”

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Dr. Morgan (Richie Diggs) and KoKo (Josh Ranville

“KoKo is a voice of wisdom in the play”, says Josh Ranville. “There are beautiful painful moments of hopelessness at the start of the play but I also get to climb out of the muck. KoKo is a light beacon for the other characters to accept themselves for who they are. What a journey I get to go on every night we perform.”

Breaking Through runs May 23-28 at the Asper Centre for Theatre an Film. To see a full list of showtimes and to book tickets visit sarasvati.ca.

Photos by Janet Shum.

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L to R: Joe (Harry Nelken) Stef (Elena Anciro) KoKo (Josh Ranville) Val (Spenser Payne) and Molly (Dorothy Carroll)

 

 

The Long Journey to Breaking Through

Two years…that’s the average lifespan of a robin. Why work on a project for two years? It might be your first time reading about Breaking Through or perhaps you have you been following its progress for two years? Either way, as we launch in to rehearsals for the world premiere, we thought an overview was in order.

SMHC Playback

Playback group

In 2015 we launched “Mental Health is Everyone’s Health” with Artists in Healthcare Manitoba and Red Threads Playback Theatre. Much of the genesis was supported by the Selkirk Mental Health Centre where Red Threads did amazing playbacks sessions with residents who shared their stories and where co-writer Hope McIntyre had the honour of interviewing those in the geriatric and acquired brain injury ward. Sarasvàti also put out the word that we wanted to hear as many stories from as many perspectives. A need to break the silence and counter misrepresentation led to those with lived experience, health care workers and caregivers coming forward for interviews and to participate in open workshop sessions. We were hosted by the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society, Rainbow Resource Centre, St. John’s High School, Resource Assistance for Youth and Aurora Family Centre’s male newcomer peer support group. In total almost 400 people shared their experiences! We were blown away. Writers Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore with the support of facilitator Nan Fewchuk faced the difficult task of compiling so many diverse perspectives in to a compelling play. In fact, they would have liked a third year to take on this daunting task!

Nan Fewchuk and Cairn Moore

Nan Fewchuk and Cairn Moore make notes at a workshop reading of Breaking Through, 2016.

It was decided in consulting with all our partners that the ultimate goals was to increase empathy and understanding, highlight the reality that everyone has mental health, and demonstrate that everyone’s experience of illness is unique. All that as well as making it artistically engaging! Breaking Through was read in various drafts for those who contributed their stories. Then a full staged reading in May 2016 allowed actors to contribute their insights while testing the play out in front of an audience.

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Over one hundred feedback forms were received! Overall an extremely favourable response, but with amazing insights leading to round after round of rewrites. Then another workshop with actors thanks to the Manitoba Association of Playwrights and the guidance of Sharon Bajer in January 2017.

The process has already created a platform for people to talk about the importance of mental health for everyone. It is easy to think of mental health with an “us vs. them” mentality: people who have a mental illness and people who do not. However, it is important to know that this apparent line is a lot blurrier than many people may think. One in four Manitobans will receive medical treatment for a mental illness. Many people are affected in one way or another and some people to do not stop to consider their own mental health.

Finally we arrive at the beginning of the final stage. Our first read-through on Tuesday was exhilarating for everyone! We can hardly wait to share the results of this journey with the world or at least with Winnipeg audiences as a start.

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The world premiere of Breaking Through is coming up May 23-28, 2017 under the direction of Kevin Klassen with an accomplished Winnipeg cast and crew featuring Elena Anciro, Dorothy Carroll, Richie Diggs, Marsha Knight, Harry Nelken, Spenser Payne and Josh Ranville. Plus design team Kim Griffin (set/costumes), Dean Cowieson (lighting) and jaymez (video/sound).

For more information on Breaking Through and how to get tickets visit our website! http://sarasvati.ca/breaking-through-world-premiere/

Spotlight Behind the Scenes!

The world premiere of Breaking Through would not be possible without a small army of unsung heroes known as the design and production team.  This week we’ve tracked some down in order to shine the spotlight on the awesome folks who will be working hard behind the scenes.

Dean Cowieson – Lighting Designer Dean Cowieson

Dean is happy to work on the lighting for this powerful production of Breaking Through.  Dean has been the resident lighting designer for Le Cercle Moliere since 2005, as well as the resident lighting designer for Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers since 2006. Dean last worked with Sarasvàti Productions as the Lighting Designer for the production of Miss N Me. He has designed the lighting for various companies in Winnipeg as well as recently completing a three-city tour. In addition to his lighting design work he has also designed sets and costumes for various companies in Winnipeg.
Dean’s motto: “Are you hip to my jive?”

Kim Griffin – Costume & Set DesignerKim Griffin

Kim Griffin, B.I.D., B.A.(hons), M.A., is an Interior Designer, Set, Costume and Lighting Designer, and Cultural Studies scholar. Her company Donald-Haverty Design Group, started in the 1980s, has served hundreds of clients on residential, commercial, hospitality, medical and recreation projects. Her work analyzing scripts and interpreting atmospheres and characters has kept her busy for over 15 years working with various community theatres in Winnipeg. Knowledge and ability to use the elements of design, fine art concepts, practical applications, and human ergonomics and interactions make all her designs, whether for interiors or for the stage, specific and unique.
Kim’s motto: “It never hurts to help”

jaymezjaymez – Sound & Video Designer

With a multi-faceted and distinct visual style, jaymez has worked in the visual art, dance, theatre and music communities.   His video work has appeared in a number of international festivals, theatrical and dance productions and he has performed live video alongside dozens of musicians and artists.  He has created lighting, video and sound designs for a wide range of companies and choreographers. His work has been seen in a number of cities including Stratford, Edmonton, Regina, Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, Osnabrück, Germany and Utrecht, Netherlands.  jaymez is one half of the experimental voice and video duo The Gritty.  He currently sits on the board of Video Pool Media Arts Centre and is the Technical Director of Cluster New Music and Integrated Arts Festival.
jaymez’s motto: “I’m not very good at making things nice, that’s when my work is least interesting. ” -Es Devlin

Holly LaJambe – Stage Managerpicture017 - GREYSCALE HEADSHOT

Holly LaJambe is a Theatre Honors graduate from the University of Winnipeg. Her stage management credits include Fire & Water Music Festival, Gilbert & Sullivan Society, Girls Only Productions, Geri\the/atrics, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Prairie Theatre Exchange School, Winnipeg Pride. This will be her eighth time stage managing for Sarasvàti Productions. She has been involved with 2016 – Breaking Through Staged Reading, 2015 – Cabaret of Monologues, 2015 – Miss N’ Me, 2014 – Fefu and Her Friends, 2013 – Harold and Vivian Entertain Guests, 2012 – Diss Tour, and 2012 – Immigration Stories. She is excited to be involved with another of their projects addressing important social issues.
Holly’s motto: “I’m already calm. I’m the Stage Manager.”

Laura LindeblomLaura Lindeblom – Production Coordinator

Twelve years ago at York University, Laura decided that she wanted to be a production manager, and as luck would have it she’s been working in that role, as well as various other production departments, ever since. Her two full time jobs are as mother to one child (soon to be two) and production manager at Manitoba Theatre for Young People, and she is very grateful for the opportunity to work with Sarasvàti Productions again. Thanks to Kris, Kaia, and Blyth the puggle for all of their love and support.
Laura’s motto: “It’s totally fine for plans to change, but it’s always best to have a plan in the first place.”

Meet the Cast of Breaking Through!

This ace team of actors who will be working on Breaking Through includes many familiar faces and some who are brand new to Sarasvàti. We can’t wait to dive into rehearsals with this incredible team of artists!

Elena Anciro

Elena AnciroElena Anciro is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Theatre & Film. She was recently seen on stage in Alice in Wonderland (Theatre NorthWest), JONNO (Echo Theatre), and Chimerica (RMTC/CanStage). Her favourite Sarasvàti credits include: Fefu & Her Friends, Flood Control, and Empty. Elena is a member of Red Threads of Peace, a playback theatre troupe that merges artistry, social justice, and community building through improvised storytelling. She is honoured to be part of the premiere of this poignant and relevant new work.

Dorothy Carroll

Dorothy is excited to embark on this incredibly important project with Sarasvàti. Dorathy CarrollPreviously she appeared in Kayak (2010). A graduate of the University of Winnipeg Honours Acting program, favorite past shows include: Alice Through the Looking Glass (RMTC), Stripped Down Midsummer Nights Dream (SIR), Dutchman (play on Theatre), Hamlet (Bravura), The Producers (Rainbow Stage), Avenue Q (Winnipeg Studio Theatre), Little Women, Company (Dry Cold). Dorothy is the Associate Artistic Director of Bravura Theatre, and produces their Shakespeare in the Pub series here in Winnipeg. Watch for her production On Love (play on Theatre) in this year’s Winnipeg Fringe Festival!

Richie Diggs

Richie DiggsRichie Diggs (University of Winnipeg), is glad to be returning to Winnipeg for Breaking Through. Now living in Vancouver, B.C. he has previously been in Winnipeg features such as Trish Cooper’s Social Studies (Prairie Theatre Exchange) and Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s Pirates of Penzance. Richie starred in Firehall Arts Centre’s production of Social Studies for which he was nominated for the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards in the Best Lead Actor category.  Richie will star in Lynn Nottage’s Ruined at Dark Glass Theatre, Vancouver January of 2018.

Marsha Knight

Marsha KnightMarsha last appeared with Sarasvàti for Hope McIntyre’s production of Eden and assisted with facilitating workshops for Jail Baby. She has been in this business for over 20 years starting with Ian Ross’ Governor General’s award winning drama fareWel (PTE). She performed in fareWel two additional times, one being at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She was also in three separate productions of Rez Sisters (PTE, Theatre Northwest, Magnus Theatre). Her recent work includes Norm Foster’s Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun (Theatre Northwest), Shakespeare in the Ruins Antony & Cleopatra, and Drew Hayden Taylor’s Crees in the Caribbean  (Magnus Theatre). She thanks Hope McIntyre and Sarasvàti Productions for all their work in bringing these stories to light and for staging storytelling for us all to hear.

Harry Nelken

Mr. Nelken told us how happy he was to be part of this wonderful project.
Harry NelkenAn Equity member since 1978, he has worked extensively in theatres in Winnipeg and several Canadian cities. Selected credits: Glengarry Glen Ross, MTC  (Levine), Butcher, PTE (Josef), Zadie’s Shoes, PTE and Factory Theatre (Eli), Hamlet (Polonius), The Merchant of Venice (Shylock), S.I.R., Einstein’s Gift (Einstein), WJT/MTC, The Sunshine Boys (Al Lewis), Chemainus Theatre, B.C., All or Nothing (Unamuno) Shiksa (Abe), WJT,  The Hunting Party (Graves) for Agatha Christie Fest. At the 2017 Fringe, Mr. Nelken will be seen in Eastport.

Spenser Payne

Spenser PayneSpenser Payne is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program. She is founding member of The Talentless Lumps, Red Nose Diaries and Sweet and Salty Collective. When she’s not onstage, you can find her teaching at Prairie Theatre Exchange School or studying with clown duo Mump and Smoot. Recently she traveled with Prairie Theatre Exchange’s Munchbusters! and went to Ireland to work with clown master Phillipe Gaulier. She is excited to be back working with Sarasvàti after joining them in the 2016 FemFest Bakeoff and clowing around in FemFest’s Opening Cabaret!

 

Joshua Ranville

Joshua RanvilleJosh is an actor/musician from Winnipeg. Josh has been part of a few Sarasvàti productions in the past such as: Eden workshop, Breaking Through workshop. His most recent public theatre work was a one-man touring play with the Manitoba Theatre for Young People called Routes directed by Kimberly Rampersad. Josh trained for 3 years at Studio 58 in Vancouver B.C. Josh looks forward to playing Bass with Burnt Project 1 on the Scotia-Bank Stage for Aboriginal Day Live this summer.

Catch this amazing ensemble as they bring the world premiere of Breaking Through to life at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film May 23-28.

 

Spotlight on Director Kevin Klassen

Breaking Through launches into rehearsal at the end of this month. Leading the team of this world premiere is director, Kevin Klassen. We’re pleased to turn the spotlight on Kevin in this week’s blog.

Kevin Klassen is thrilled and grateful to be working with Sarasvàti on this challenging play, and with this exciting collection of artists. His directing credits include: JONNO, Dr. Kellogg’s System, Lulu: A Monster Tragedy, Le Grand-Guignol Sur La Prairie, MissAdventurous Perils of Pauline, Poet And The Rent (Echo Theatre); Dog Act (Nancan Boogie Productions) and Merry Wives of Windsor (SIR). He is currently developing an immersive theatrical adventure called Dracula Unearthed for Echo Theatre, to be experienced at the Dalnavert Museum this coming Halloween!

 How would you describe yourself as a director?

I consider it my job as director to help create on stage what the playwright is trying to put on the page. That leap of imagination is the primary task, and then helping to lead and facilitate that leap for everyone else involved: especially the audience. Ensuring that what the audience experiences is as much as possible what the collaborating artists intend.

Kevin Klassen

What was the impetus for directing Breaking Through?

I was honoured and flattered to be asked in the first place, and after reading the script I felt that I understood what Cairn and Hope were after, and that I had something to offer in terms of bringing it across to an audience in an entertaining, meaningful way. It tickled my imagination.

What about the script excites you? 

I think that the challenges faced by people who are affected by mental illness is a very important subject. I think the play does a very good job of balancing the serious realities of this issue with playful and creative methods of storytelling- it’s got a robust strain of humour and a rather bold theatricality.

If you could say one thing to the Artist who inspired you most, who would it be? And what would you say?

Choosing one is hard. I’ll choose the person who had the most direct impact on my sense of myself as an artist: Reg Skene. And I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to say thank you.

What do you hope the audience will be talking about on the car ride home from Breaking Through?

I hope they talk about how glad they are that they came, how much there is to consider when dealing with mental health issues, and how crucial it is to our society that we tackle these issues with compassion and intelligence and imagination- even if it means that some people have to pay a little more in taxes.

Breaking Through runs May 23-38, 2017 at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film.