One Night Stand Returns for Its Third Year!

We’re bringing back our One Night Stand series for another year! In this first round, playwrights from our Advanced Playwriting Class will have their work read and workshopped by a team of actors. The public reading will give the writers a chance to gain valuable audience feedback as they continue working on their scripts.

The One Night Stand play-reading series was created in the late 1990s by two playwrights in Toronto (Lindsay Price and Bonnie Anderson).  Sarasvàti Productions ran them regularly from 2003 to 2008, bringing the series back for a revival in 2017. The goal of the series is to provide playwrights the opportunity to get feedback from an audience on new material and/or works-in-progress.  We’ve already hosted one great session this year at FemFest 2018 – stay tuned for the other installments we have planned for this year.

Read on for more on the pieces we’ll be featuring!

Gettin’ Outta Dodge by Wayne Ferguson
Attracted by the beauty of the mountains, seduced by the affluent lifestyle, native Banffites and newcomers chase their desires for high social position, their dreams of heroic alpine accomplishments, and their fantasies of unflagging sexual prowess. They are incapable of confronting and dealing with the reality of disappointment. What will be the consequences for them?

The Wrong Way off the Elevator by Andrea Kell

Marlene Wells has come to the law office where her daughter worked until a few weeks ago when she committed suicide. Marlene has come to meet her daughter’s former boss, Mr. Ford, hoping he will be able to provide her with some closure. But Ford, being so uncomfortable with the subject, decides not to correct Marlene when she mistakenly assumes he’s the new receptionist, Mr. Curtis.

Favourites by Jo MacDonald
For Abqurah and her friend Jol, working safely is a guarantee among all their favourites at the big chain grocery store. Or is it? As judgements are made and like bruised fruit, they are quickly deemed unacceptable by one whose bitter palate clings to “past the due date” ideals.

Hearing Tanya by Lynne Martin
Brittany and Coulter’s long-term relationship gets thrown for a loop when Inuit artist Tanya Tagaq’s music unexpectedly penetrates their lives. Complicated by the unwelcome arrival of Brittany’s out-of-control sister Caitlyn, their responses reveal long-buried fears, desires, and (of course) family secrets.

(Don’t) Wake Me Up by Allison Stier
Jane is convinced that the recurring dream of a man’s death signals the start of her life’s purpose — saving the people in her dreams from peril in the waking world. Unfortunately, she can’t make out the who, where, or when — perhaps a hypnotist can help her find clarity?

The Dance by Tyler White

May, an 80 year old woman, is trying to adjust to her move into a seniors’ complex after the death of her husband four months earlier.

Karla by Pamela Wolk

After a decade living in the Caribbean, Chrystal and her family move back home to an ordinary suburban life in Canada, but when her true identity is revealed, she must choose between going back into hiding or facing her gruesome past.

Bringing the pieces to life are local performers Cheryl Gensiorek, A.J. Hotomani, Matt Irvine, Lorraine James, Kevin Longfield, Merri-Lou Paterson, Taesia Scratch, Glenn Odero, and Tom Young.

You can see what’s new from these up-and-coming playwrights on Tuesday, March 19th at 7PM. This session will take place in the Gendis Studio at Prairie Theatre Exchange (3rd Floor, 393 Portage Ave). Admission is pay-what-you-can-afford. Come out and support the latest works from emerging playwrights!

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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 stage. 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!

 

Five Must-See Events at FemFest!

Hard to believe we’re more than halfway through FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance! It’s been an incredible week of theatre already… Saturday saw an eclectic Opening Cabaret with musicians, comedians, and spoken word artists from across Winnipeg! On Monday, we crowned Alissa Watson as our Bake-Off winner with her scene The Switch, which will get its own reading at FemFest 2019. We also premiered some incredible touring shows from around the world, including Burnt and La civilisation, ma mère! As the festival comes to a close, here are some events you won’t want to miss.

 

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1.  Sound of the Beast

This solo piece by two-time Governor General’s Award Nominee Donna-Michelle St. Bernard (aka Belladonna the Blest) speaks truth to power using spoken word, storytelling and hip-hop. The show highlights St. Bernard’s quick wit and quicker rhymes in a performance that reflects on identity, oppression and what happens when authority is questioned. We’ll be hosting a talkback discussion after today’s matinee at 1PM, facilitated by Tamika Krush of QPOC Winnipeg. Don’t miss your chance to experience this powerful production for yourself!

 

White Man's Indian.jpg2.  White Man’s Indian

Darla Contois takes on the ensemble of characters that make up this transformative work, focusing on the story of Eva, a Cree teenage girl, and her journey through the maze of a White Man’s high school. Following the opening performance on September 18th, we hosted a panel with Darla, Matt B. Shorting of Onashowewin Justice Circle, and Gabrielle Fiddler of Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre to talk about the issues presented by the play, as well as the larger topic of Indigenous representation on stage. There are two more chances to take in this incredible one-woman show: tonight at 9PM and Friday at 7PM!

 

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3.  Walking Art Tour

Be one of the select few who will get to experience this brand-new event! We’ve brought in an incredible team of artists who will be performing at some of Downtown Winnipeg’s hidden gems. The tour is hosted by local comedienne Heather Witherden and features Emilie Lemay (visual art), Tiana Northage (spoken word), Alexandra Elliott and Hilary Anne Crist of Art Holm (movement), Dawn Lavand (stand-up comedy), and waNda wilsoN (music). Just twenty people will get to take part in this unique event: book your spot today so you don’t miss out! The tour wraps up September 22nd at 2PM.

 

SignLanguageInterpretationDayTranslationsInterpretation4.  ASL-Interpreted Performances

After responding to requests to make theatre more accessible to our community, we’re proud to announce that we’ll be offering ASL interpretation for three shows in this year’s festival! Come see Burnt tonight at 7PM, White Man’s Indian Friday at 7PM, or Sound of the Beast Saturday also at 7PM. Tickets start at $15 – get yours today!

 

one-night-stand-poster-april-11-e1524149136777.png5.  One Night Stand

Join us on the closing night of the festival as we toast to 16 successful years! We’ll be featuring sneak peeks of new work from celebrated female playwrights, including Leigh-Anne Kehler, Frances Koncan, Jo MacDonald, Cairn Moore, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. The series is coordinated by Tatiana Carnevale and features performances by Melanee Deschambeault, Katie German, Kim Kakegamic, Glenn Odero, Matthew Paris-Irvine, and Erica Wilson.

The festival is running until Saturday, September 22nd with all performances taking place at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St) unless otherwise noted. With so much to take in, you won’t want to miss a thing! Make sure to check out our full FemFest schedule for all our upcoming events.

Meet the New Batch of Bake-Off Playwrights!

We’re bringing back an audience favourite at FemFest: our annual Bake-Off! Each year, we challenge five fearless playwrights to cook up a scene using the secret ingredients of our choosing – in just eight hours. From there, the scenes are rehearsed with our fabulous team of actors, directed by coordinator Cairn Moore, and put to the test with an audience vote for the winner! The winning playwright will then get the chance to have their scene turned into a one-act play which will have a reading at FemFest 2019. This year’s mandatory ingredients included a drone, children’s laughter, and the Nellie McClung quote “democracy for women”.

Get to know the new batch of incredible writers behind this year’s Bake-Off!

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Ntara Curry

Ntara Curry is a multi-disciplinary artist, working primarily in professional theatre as a stage hand, stage manager, and actor.  She is delighted to also be bringing her skills as dancer and writer to FemFest 2018.  You can also catch Ntara in our co-production of The Game with Manohar Performing Arts of Canada!

 

 

 

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Jo MacDonald

After winning last year’s Bake-Off with OUR HOME & native land, Jo MacDonald is back to defend her title! Jo is Anishinaabe, a mom, theatre fan, writer, and an educator. She gave up dreams of super-villainy as it wasn’t as lucrative as depicted at the job fairs (false advertising… but then again what can you expect from an evil genius job pitch). She received her BA and B.Ed. from the University of Winnipeg.  You can catch a reading of last year’s winning Bake-Off script September 15th and also get a glimpse of Jo’s latest work at our One Night Stand series on September 22nd!

 

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Allison Stier

New to the Bake-Off is Allison Stier. Allison is a fledgling playwright who prefers the eating of baked goods rather than the mixing and kneading and baking. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she has loved putting words into delicious arrangements for the greater part of her existence. She is quite thankful that the ingredients for this Bake-Off are of the word variety, which in most cases, don’t result in a sink full of dirty dishes.

 

 

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Alissa Watson

As a Winnipeg born actress, educator, and now writer, Alissa Watson has studied theatre at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England, the Manitoulin Conservatory for Creation and Performance, and is an alumna of the Professional Training Ensemble (PTE@PTE). Alissa is a member of the sweet and cheeky Fu Fu Chi Chi Choir, the all-female Bouffon ensemble The Talentless Lumps, and co-founder of The Red Nose Diaries.

 

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Pamela Wolk

Last up is Pamela Wolk. Pamela completed a BA Honours in Theatre Studies from the University of Regina with stars in her eyes of life on the stage. Funny how plans change.  She was swept off her feet by a military man and followed him from posting to posting.  Twenty years later she is back on the theatre scene, most recently acting in Jo MacDonald’s Fringe comedy Mother’s Little Secret.

 

Bake Off Dir Cairn Moore Now

Cairn Moore

Returning as director for her third year in a row is Cairn Moore. Cairn is a director and playwright and teaches first year performance at the University of Winnipeg. Her award winning play SHIKSA premiered with Winnipeg Jewish Theatre in 2016. Breaking Through, co-written with Hope McIntyre, premiered in May 2017 with Sarasvàti Productions. With the generous support of the Manitoba Arts Council, Cairn is currently re-writing her first play HABsolute Perfection. Catch a sneak peak at the One Night Stand series!

 

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Bringing the scenes to life are local performers Grant Burr, Jane Burpee, Karam Daoud, Simba Meng, and Taesia Scratch. Come see the results of an eight-hour playwriting pressure cooker Monday, September 17th at 7PM at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W). Get your tickets today and vote to select the winner!

OUR HOME & native land: wit and sarcasm thicker than the Indian Act

Who knew that an educational play about the history of the Treaties and how the Canadian government has violated them could be so…funny? And who could write such a play? Jo MacDonald could. And she won last year’s Bake-Off with it!

In case you’re not familiar with it, the Bake-Off is an annual event in FemFest. Playwrights are given just eight hours to “bake” up a scene with three specific “ingredients” (actions or lines) so that they can’t write ahead. The audience is then invited to a reading of these fresh ideas and they get to decide which one has the most potential for a complete play. The winning playwright receives dramaturgical guidance so that they can finish the play and have it read at the following FemFest.

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OUR HOME & native land is about two friends, Niibin and Cheryl, who are leading a workshop called “Understanding the Treaties”. They have their work cut out for them when the self-absorbed Stephanie and the mansplaining George walk in. Neither Stephanie nor George is aware of their privilege, their biases, or their ignorance. When Mrs. Bruneau, warm, friendly, and given to storytelling, comes in, it becomes clear that she does not need the workshop so much as it needs her. She helps Niibin and Cheryl win their reluctant guests over, but you’ll have to come and find out how. The only spoilers that we can give you are that it’s outrageously funny and will make you curious (and angry) about the history of the treaties and how our government has violated them.

In OUR HOME & native land, Jo MacDonald proves herself to be a sharply witty and engaging writer. Recently, her play Mother’s Little Secret was performed to packed houses at the Fringe Festival, directed by our wonderful Indigenous Outreach Coordinator, Marsha Knight. Her play Neechie-Itas was a runner-up in the Native American New Play Festival in Oklahama City. Jo was a big hit at last year’s FemFest and she will be again this year. In fact, her work was also selected to be featured in the FemFest One Night Stand as part of the festival closing night.

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Don’t miss this brand-new play—there will be just one reading at 1:00 pm on Saturday, September 15 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. You can get your tickets here!

“Home 2.0” Comes to Schools This Fall!

“Can you name a time that you’ve had to start all over? New school? New house? New activity? Throughout the course of the show, we’ll be like flies on the wall watching the stories of people who had to start over. What you are about to see is from true stories shared by people about coming to Canada.” – Joker, Home 2.0

Imagine sitting in your school gym and getting to experience music, dance, and visuals from half a dozen different cultural groups played out before your eyes, all threaded together to tell the journey of displaced people arriving to Canada. At the end of the performance, the actors invite you on stage to step in to the shoes of a character and explore solutions to the challenges they faced.

In May, we saw the culmination of the first part of our newcomer community collaboration project, New Beginnings. Now we’re continuing the project with Home 2.0!

Home 2.0 was created especially for youth, focusing on their experiences of resettlement. Young audiences will engage with characters their own age, allowing youth to see themselves and their stories represented onstage. By sharing stories of immigrant and refugee youth who have resettled in Canada, Home 2.0 will foster important dialogue around the challenges of newcomers. For many youth, this might be the first time they see their experiences represented in the arts. For others, it might be the first time they’ve been able to really grasp what it’s like to be forced to leave your home and start again halfway across the world.

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Like our previous school tours, Home 2.0 is performed “forum theatre style”, meaning the audience gets a say in the events onstage. Forum Theatre is a lively and effective way to look at and counter issues that our community faces today by encouraging audiences to take an active role in the show rather than acting as bystanders. The show offers students the chance to watch the “worst case scenario” play out before them – followed by the opportunity to change the ending, offer solutions, or provide support for the characters. By challenging what happens, youth are able to think about how they would act or how they wish they had acted in a similar scenario. Ultimately, the show promotes empathy and compassion, educating students on the experiences of starting over in a new country.

We’ll be touring the show throughout Winnipeg and Manitoba October 15 through to December 7, visiting schools in the community to promote inclusion and understanding. If you’re a teacher looking to bring the show to your students, contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca for more information!

New Beginnings and Endings

After two years of community interviews and workshops, the world premiere of New Beginnings took Winnipeg by storm! Over the course of the run, we had multiple sold-out shows and over 750 people came to see the play. Every performance offered a conversation circle to continue the dialogue sparked by this production, allowing audiences the chance to ask questions and learn more about the stories reflected in New Beginnings. Here are some of the great things people had to say!

It was wonderful, I cried and laughed. Those stories are so powerful. The first one with the burka is how we escaped.  I actually wore one for the first time in my life then. You guys did a great job bringing these stories to life.” – Ellie Towfigh via Facebook

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I’m excited to be a member of such an amazing company that inspires audiences to reach out and connect with others to promote social change in such powerful ways…  Perspective is hugely important to being a positive member of a community and I believe that it can often be overlooked.  But New Beginnings brings forward so many unique stories that can perhaps open horizons for our audiences and introduce the realities of immigration and resettlement.” – Alanna McPherson, Performer

“New Beginnings by Sarasvati Productions is beyond amazing. This production cannot end. The message of reality of resettlement should be heard by thousands more. The actors, content and music touched my soul.” – Judy Rose via Facebook

Thanks to a generous grant from the Inter-Action Program, we were able to offer a wide variety of accessibility services including ASL interpretation, child-minding, translation, transportation, and counselling for any audience members affected by the play’s subject matter. On May 24th, we played host to close to 100 Yazidi refugees from Operation Ezra, offering Kurmanji translation via headset and child-minding provided by Operation Ezra and West Central Women’s Resource Centre.

Congratulations on an excellent production! Thank you so much for having the Operation Ezra families at the show.  It was a great opportunity for them to experience live theatre. We really appreciate you going above and beyond to make it accessible to all. The translation and child care allowed many of the attendees to experience their first live show. We had no idea what to expect yet we found ourselves laughing at times and crying at times.  We recognized some of the stories which made it even more impactful.” – Karen Shpeller, Operation Ezra

Over the course of the run, we had representatives from Winnipeg’s newcomer community speak after the show, allowing audiences to hear their stories and share their own as well. We also hosted Kamta Roy Singh, whose story appeared in the play.

It was fantastic show last night. The individuals who act as Kamta and employee did amazing job. Congratulations.” – Kamta Roy Singh, Kamta’s Story

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Kamta Singh and Lu Fayokun

I would like to commend you, your cast and all the others involved in this performance a great “BRAVO” on an excellent performance. I was in attendance at the world premiere of Sarasvati Productions presentation of New Beginnings and was so impressed with it… A very great performance by the cast. Representatives of the Jamaican Association of Manitoba were invited to answer questions and share comments with the cast and audience at the end of the performance. A great evening.” – Patrick Moore, Jamaican Association of Manitoba

 

We couldn’t have made this production happen without the community members who participated in our workshops and allowed us to share their stories onstage. Big thank-yous as well to our incredible creative team, our hard-working volunteers, and everyone who came out to support New Beginnings!