Everybody’s Got a Plan, Until They Get Punched in the Face

By Brooklyn Alice Lee

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The night before the Bake-Off, I could hardly sleep. “What are the three ingredients going to be?” “What are my competitors like?” “What if I don’t come up with anything?” All of these questions and more were racing through my mind. When I sent in my application for the “Bake-Off,” I hadn’t considered the reality of the competition! 5 of us in one room for 8 hours, writing. AH!

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All of my worries melted away when I arrived at The Asper Centre for Theatre and Film and entered the writing room (well, most of my worries. There was still the ‘will I come up with anything?!’ panic). All of the playwrights were in good spirits, everyone brought snacks, there was coffee, water and sunlight to keep us going. Meeting the other playwrights for the first time was a huge help to calming my nerves. Everyone was so kind and supportive of each other, the energy in the room was electric. Being surrounded by a group of such positive women; passionate about theatre set fire to my determination. Then came the ingredients.


The sound, “shhh,” a flat tire, and the quote, “Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.”

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Well… alright then! As a writer, I had a few ideas in my head. The trick was which idea would these three ingredients work best with?

The timer begins.

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I take my blanket (taken right off my bed at home) and my pillow (also taken right off my bed at home) and I plop myself down in the corner. I will confess. The first half-an-hour was spent scrolling through Twitter and Facebook. What? I was 68803677_10157631014417533_6195709625510133760_olooking for inspiration! Then I came across a photo of my five-year-old brother and I remembered a story I had been toying with for quite some time that involved the two of us, but never actually got around to writing. I was immediately inspired (see, scrolling can spark inspiration)!

68706456_10157631014072533_5099784042023223296_nThe room was mostly quiet throughout the writing process. With the exception of a little chatter around lunch time and the occasional “Bless you,” everyone was hard at work. Seven hours, approximately thirty different seating positions, two bottles of water and one phone call to my mum for encouragement later and I was done. I read over the script quite a few times, which I’m so glad I did because initially my script included a “spare tire,” very different from a “flat tire”! I was sure to make that adjustment, read it over a few more times and then pressed send!

Everyone completed their scripts in a timely fashion, some finishing earlier than others. By the end of it, you could feel the thickness in the air, the stress that comes with sending DSC_0227.JPGoff your work to not only be displayed in front of an audience, but no more adjustments can be made! Now, all there is left to do is wait to watch the actors bring our pieces to life and see who the audience choice winner is.

All in all, I am feeling proud, terrified, motivated and excited to see what my competitors brought to the table! It is sure to be an exciting FemFest! The performances of each playwrights Bake-Off piece will take place on September 16th at 6:30PM and you can purchase tickets HERE! Make sure to check out all of the other amazing shows going on during FemFest 2019.

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Three Ladies, One Baby

For three nights only, the world premiere of Baby Box is coming to FemFest 2019: All the World’s a Stage! If you missed the last blog on Baby Box, you can find it HERE. As we begin the rehearsal process, we are happy to introduce you to our amazing cast! We asked the cast of Baby Box to tell us a bit about themselves as well as share their answers to the question, “What was your favourite activity as a child?”


Playing Woman #1, the birth mother, is Victoria Hill.

Victoria Hill_Headshot-page-001Victoria Emilie Hill is a creator, mover, and actor based in Winnipeg.  She is passionate about work that focuses on movement and the body as a place we hold and tell stories.  She is curious about the myriad ways we express and communicate with ourselves, our environments, and other creatures.  Victoria is also a founding member of The Patriarchy, a two-woman a capella band that sings songs and tells stories that challenge the status quo through a comedic and playful lens. (Spoiler Alert: They will be hosting the FemFest Opening Cabaret) Victoria is an avid student of life, and loves adventures in new things which have included roller derby, making jewellery, sky diving, knitting, white water rafting, and trying to keep her plants alive. Baby Box is such a beautiful project, and she can’t wait to share it with all of you.

Victoria’s favourite activity as a child was climbing trees.


Playing Woman #2, the nurse, is Natasha Torres-Garner.

Torres-Garner started her performance career in contemporary dance in 2002. She has performed with Montreal’s Fortier Danse Création, Bill Coleman, in repertoire by the late IMG_5064webJean-Pierre Perreault, as well as Toronto’s Marie-Josée Chartier. Natasha’s long dedication to the independent community in Winnipeg has meant working with Winnipeg’s Tom Stroud, Out of Line Theatre, TRIP Dance Company, Treasure Waddell, Alison Robson, Johanna Riley, Alex Elliott, Ali Robson, Leigh Anne Parry, Danielle Sturk, Ming Hon, Mia Van Leeuwen, and under the direction of Arne MacPherson. As a choreographer Natasha Torres-Garner has presented solo and group works locally and internationally, including Winnipeg, Regina, London(UK), Toronto, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Dresden, Germany.

Natasha, enjoyed the calligraphy club as a child.


Playing Woman #3, the adoptive mother, is Saira Rahman.

Headshot-SAIRA RAHMANSaira Rahman grew up in Winnipeg, and was a teacher and principal before pursuing filmmaking. In 2003, she wrote a 3-part documentary series about Muslim Canadians called “A New Life in a New Land” (Milo Productions), which aired nationally. After completing the Digital Film Production program at Langara College in Vancouver, Saira and her sister, Nilufer, established Snow Angel Films in 2010, producing their first feature documentary, “Arctic Mosque” (CBC, APTN) and most recently, “Prairie Mosque”(BellMTS), a story about the first mosque established in Winnipeg in 1976. Saira is also an emerging actor having performed in The Game (Sarasvati Productions), Murder By Poe (PTE Adult Company), and Boundary Avenue (One Trunk Theatre). She is very excited to be a part of FemFest again this year and Baby Box!

Saira’s favourite activity as a child was to play house with her sister, but their own version where they were single moms.


Victoria, Natasha and Saira have already begun rehearsals for the world premiere next month along with Director, Hope McIntyre, Choreographer, Ali Robson, and Musical Director, Rachel Cameron. Through the use of unique narrative, movement and song, the Baby Box cast is sure to give a moving performance.

For ticket information and more, be sure to give us a visit HERE on our website!

Ready For Launch

-Written by Emma WelhamEmma Welham Headshot

As I enter the final year in my undergrad degree, my thoughts have been on what to do after I graduate. Many professors say “Make your own work!”, but I will admit that idea always scared me slightly. When the time came, would I know how to create a piece from scratch? Would I be able to cover not only everything on the artistic side of the process but on the production and business side of things as well?

Thankfully, the universe has a way of giving you what you need, and this past May I learned about Sarasvàti Production’s Launchpad Project. Aimed specifically at emerging artists, The Launchpad Project gives artists like me the chance to create our own show over the period of three months; culminating in three performances of the show at their annual FemFest.

Starting in mid-June, myself and eight other incredible emerging artists began workshops with industry professionals in devised theatre, movement, improv, and directing before beginning to cultivate and create material that we would like to put in our show. Now a month into this project, I can easily say that being a part of this initiative is one of the most fun and artistically fulfilling projects I have ever been involved in.

non binaryWe meet twice a week (soon to become three in mid-August), and create, create, create! Each of our eight members takes turns leading the rehearsals and we have two facilitators in the room in order to keep things running smoothly. Each member of our group comes from a different background both in theatre and in life, and one of my favourite parts of rehearsal are our group discussions, because everyone brings such a unique perspective to the table.

As we approach August our show is starting to take shape as we begin to piece together material previously created and begin to create the structure of our show.

Be sure to follow Sarasvàti Productions on Facebook, Instagram (@sarasvati_wpg) and Twitter to keep up to date with all future The Launchpad Project updates including blog posts and Instagram takeovers! For more information on FemFest 2019, visit our website HERE!

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!

To Infinity… And Beyond!

Forging a future for FemFest requires providing a space for the next generation of voices. To this end we have initiated an exciting new program. At this year’s FemFest, you will get to see the results of their development in progress! “The Launchpad Project” compiles a roster of emerging women and non-binary artists whose creative mediums range from a variety of disciplines: directors, dancers, performers, playwrights, technical crew, etc. This diverse and well rounded team will take part in intensive workshops over the summer including: movement work, vocal work, improvisation, devised theatre and scene-writing. Professionals working in Winnipeg’s theatre industry will lead these workshops and mentor the creative team.

The goal of this project is to give emerging artists a chance to learn, develop skills and network with industry professionals. How does it tie into FemFest? Along with all of the professional shows we put on at FemFest in September, The Launchpad will premiere a devised production connected to the FemFest theme just for YOU! The result of ongoing rehearsals over the summer and training alongside professionals! This is an exciting opportunity for both the artists and the spectators alike. The Launchpad ensemble will have the chance to display their hard work for you the audience, while spectators will have the chance to see a brand new work of theatre with a fresh cast and crew.

Facilitating and Coordinating the Launchpad are Victoria Hill and Lindsay Johnson. They are ecstatic to be helping a new group of performers break through and create their own piece for FemFest.

As for the ensemble members… here’s a list of who you can expect to see:

  • A.J. Hotomani
  • Anika Dowsett
  • Emma Welham
  • Jonathan Mourant
  • Karam Daoud
  • Leaf Pankratz
  • Makrenna Sterdan
  • Sara Groleau
  • Sarah Flynn
  • Bennette Villones, ASM

We can’t wait to see what this amazing team comes up with! We know it will be riveting!

Stay tuned for more details on this exciting project and the up-and-comers involved. Also, check out our just launched FemFest 2019 website!

Celebrating New Works!

New name, new play…time for spring renewal! We’ll be back at Prairie Theatre Exchange’s Festival of New Works (formerly the Carol Shields Festival) for another year. This time we’ll be showcasing a reading of a former One Night Stand script turned full-length play by Wren Brian. A Fine Line was featured in our April 2018 One Night Stand scene-reading series and we’re proud to present the full script as part of the festival.

This dystopian war drama follows seven people as they struggle to cope with increasing conflict in their country. As their world is turned upside down, they must decide what they will or will not sacrifice in order to survive.

Wren Brian

Wren Brian

Wren has worked with Sarasvàti Productions for many years and recently returned as our part-time administrator! She started her diverse career in Whitehorse, Yukon (territory of the Kwanlin Dün & Ta’an Kwäch’än) where she was born and raised. Currently based in Winnipeg on Treaty 1, Wren is a playwright as well as an arts administrator and producer. In her writing she is dedicated to creating characters that can be played by actors of any gender, ancestry, ability and/or age. Recently her play Anomie won the 2017 Rintoul Award for Best New Manitoba Play at the Winnipeg Fringe, and in October 2018 her play Bystander was premiered by Gwaandak Theatre in Whitehorse.

 

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Tatiana Carnevale

Directing the reading is Tatiana Carnevale. Tatiana is based in Winnipeg (Treaty 1, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene people and homeland of the Métis nation). Select directing credits include: The Trump Card, Tigers Be Still (District Theatre Collective); One Night Stand, Shorts from the Short List (Sarasvàti Productions); You Were There, [title of show] (Pocket Frock Productions), and Godspell (Winnipeg Studio Theatre). Tat received her MA from the University of Guelph and BA from the University of Winnipeg. She is very excited to be collaborating with Wren and this wonderful group of artists on A Fine Line.

 

Performing A Fine Line are local actors Joshua Balzer, Hera Nalam, Matthew Paris-Irvine, Robert Piche, Anaka Sandhu, Amanda Shymko, and Sophie Smith-Dostmohamed. We’re excited to see how they bring this work to life onstage!

 

 

Join us on Saturday, June 1 at 4PM for a reading of this powerful new script! We’ll be at PTE’s Mainstage, located on the third floor of Portage Place Shopping Centre. Admission to this event is free –a hat will be passed for contributions to support the festival.

Exploring Responses to Reconciliation

We’re excited to share what’s come out of Seven Visions: Reconciliation through Theatre project launch! We’ve had incredible audiences over the last few days respond to the notion of reconciliation. There’s one more chance to be part of the conversation tonight at 7pm!

We’ve had a great experience so far working with the amazing artists who are part of this project – here are just some of the reasons they’re excited to be involved as we look ahead to the next phase of the project!

I’m very excited about this project because I feel like the perspective that comes forward in the play is very important – very comedic, very funny, very relatable – to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. I’m really excited to see how that affects the audience.” – Darla Contois, Performer, OUR HOME & native land and Indigenous Advisory Committee member

 

 

As an artist engaged with this project, I’m hoping to work with some youth on creating art works that really bring forward their voices and their thoughts on reconciliation and what that means to them. The interactive art work we’re creating at the theatre allows for the public to come out and have their voices heard around reconciliation as well.” – Jaime Black, Visual Artist

I think it’s really important to have reconciliation in theatre because it’s a very important way of communicating different styles. Historically speaking, theatre came from settler colonies – Britain, mainly – and First Nations and Indigenous peoples’ way of communicating and passing down knowledge has been storytelling. What is storytelling but performance and theatre? The coming together and meeting in that spot is really important for reconciliation.” – Nova Courchene, Indigenous Project Coordinator

 

 

It’s been almost three years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report. It put out a challenge to all Canadians. While it was a legal proceeding and even bringing to bear the need for an apology, that doesn’t really bring reconciliation. What we present is an opportunity to have a difficult discussion in a creative and stimulating environment involving youth. There will be hard discussions and there will be hard topics, but it will also be creative and full of hope.” – Myra Tait, Vice President and Indigenous Advisory Committee member

 

 

We’ve had some incredible audience responses so far as community members interact with the art installations, writing down their thoughts and responses to how each of us can do our part for reconciliation. One audience member mentioned that growing up, Indigenous peoples’ history wasn’t taught in her school and it wasn’t until much later in life that she was able to learn more about her own history. Starting this project with a focus on youth allows for an earlier connection to one’s roots. As well, discussions after OUR HOME & native land focused on how each of us can avoid being a “George”: admitting when we don’t know something and recognizing the importance of listening when others have something to teach us.

Discussions from this event will also help us as we move forward in shaping the full production for May 2020. Huge thank you to Patrick Rabago for these incredible photos from the event so far! For more information on the project, check out our website.