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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Take it from a Pro

Every year at our annual FemFest, we incorporate workshops and special readings by accomplished women in theatre. This year, at FemFest 2019: All the World’s a Stage, we are excited to welcome our special guest artist Yvette Nolan. Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) is a playwright, director, and dramaturg. She is no stranger to Winnipeg and of late has been a frequent flyer coming to share her wisdom at the University of Winnipeg and PTE’s Festival of New Works. At FemFest Yvette will give a lecture in partnership with University of Winnipeg’s Real Thing series, she will facilitate a playwriting masterclass for local playwrights that stretches over the course of five days, then alongside these writers share her own work as part of the festival wrap-up event Leaping off the Page.

“For me, theatre is all about voice. Giving voice to characters whose stories might otherwise disappear, giving voice to questions that challenge us–about being marginalized, about being invisible, about aging, about grief, about our responsibility to each other and to the world.”- Yvette Nolan in an interview with ROOM Magazine

Yvette NolanSome of Yvette’s work includes the plays BLADE, Annie Mae’s Movement, The Birds, The Unplugging, Gabriel Dumont’s Wild West Show (co-writer), The Libretto Shanawdithit and the short film “A Common Experience,” (w. Shane Belcourt). She has directed from coast to coast and north all the way to Dawson City, Yukon. As a dramaturg, she works across Turtle Island. From 2003-2011, she served as Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts. Her book Medicine Shows about Indigenous theatre in Canada was published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2015. She is an Artistic Associate of Signal Theatre.

Interested in the Playwriting Masterclass with Yvette Nolan? As artist in residence at FemFest, Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) will facilitate a masterclass for local playwrights over 5 sessions. Writers will have a chance to focus on their craft, it will then culminate in a public reading of works in progress by participants.

Workshop dates and times are as follows:

Sunday, Sept 15 – 11am to 1pm

Monday, Sept 16 – 4pm to 6pm

Tuesday, Sept 17 – 4pm  to 6pm

Thursday, Sept 19 – 4pm to 6pm

Friday, Sept 20 – 4pm to 6pm

On Saturday, September 21st at 8:30PM you can hear the culmination of Yvette’s intensive process and then join us for the Festival’s closing reception.

For more information or to reserve your spot in the workshop visit our website, HERE. Or, to purchase a ticket for the September 21st Leaping Off the Page event, click HERE. Make sure to explore our website to learn more about FemFest2019: All the World’s a Stage and what it has to offer! September 14th-21st.

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!

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.

Bringing Seven Visions to Life

Last week we posted about what Indigenous youth brought up in our seven consultation circles, this week it’s time for visual artist Jaime Black to echo their comments in an interactive art installation!

dsc_0065.jpgJaime is a Metis multidisciplinary artist and is well known for her REDress Project which she created to give voice to the hundreds of murdered and missing Indigenous women across Canada. For this project she is finding a way to visually represent ideas of the Indigenous youth who participated in the consultation circles and transmit that to audiences of Seven Visions: Reconciliation Through Theatre. There will be an opportunity for all attending to interact with and add to visual representations as we continue the conversation of what reconciliation means.

dsc_0059.jpgAudiences will be able to participate prior to the reading of Jo MacDonald’s play OUR HOME & native land (so feel free to come early!), during intermission, or after we’ve completed the presentation. While we’ll be holding conversation circles, we understand talking about these issues may not be the best form of communication for everyone. This is why Jaime has been part of the project since the beginning. Our aim with this presentation is to share what we’ve learned so far and to gather more information on current thoughts and feelings about reconciliation and treaty relations. We want everyone to feel comfortable doing so in whatever medium they choose.

Starting Wednesday Jaime has been setting up several stations throughout the theatre. She is using a variety of materials to provide several options for audiences to engage with. Including fabric, paper, and even rocks! While that’s a lot of material, she’s still leaving room for us to set up conversation circles, and space for our actors.

DSC_0027Also helping to bring the public presentation to life are actors Darla Contois, Patricia Hunter, Kevin Klassen, Marsha Knight, and Spenser Payne with Stage Manager Tamera Grace reading stage directions! With the guidance of director Heidi Malazdrewich these actors have been hard at work rehearsing Jo’s witty play confronting treaty violations and our history. Their rehearsals have been filled with laughs and deep conversations, and we’re excited to share this play with audiences during our Seven Visions presentations!

If interactive art installations and a great cast aren’t enough incentive to come out, there will also be food at intermission. And, the presentations are pay-what-you-can-afford. What is there not to love?

Book your tickets today on our website or call our office to reserve (204-586-2236). We will also accept cash, cheque or credit card at the door. For more information please visit our website by clicking here!

 

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Treating the Treaties with Humour

Well-written, very funny.”

“Hilarious!”

“Great way to convey serious info.”

These are just a few of the great things audiences had to say about OUR HOME & native land! Armed with bannock and ancestral knowledge, teaching “Mr. Mansplainer” and “Ms. Selfie-Important” about the Treaties will be as easy as the original signings! OUR HOME & native land confronts treaty violations and our history with wit and sarcasm as thick as the Indian Act.

Jo MacDonald

Jo MacDonald

After winning our 2017 FemFest Bake-Off, and a powerful reading at FemFest 2018, we’re excited to present a reading of Jo MacDonald’s revised script as part of our public project launch Seven Visions: Reconciliation Through Theatre! Writing a comedy that teaches folks about treaties is no easy task, but local playwright Jo MacDonald is up to the task. 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.  Jo had her Winnipeg Fringe debut with her comedy play Mother’s Little Secret this past July. Jo’s play NEECHIE-ITAS will premiere in Oklahoma this June.

 

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Heidi Malazdrewich

Directing the reading is Heidi Malazdrewich, who previously dramaturged the play for its reading in September 2018. Heidi is a director, dramaturg, and theatre educator. Selected directing credits: The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night- Time (Canadian Premiere, RMTC/ Citadel Theatre), Ladies Foursome (Theatre Baddeck), Di and Viv and Rose (RMTC), Romeo and Juliet (SIR), Myth of the Ostrich (RMTC), The New Canadian Kid (MTYP), and The Secret Annex (World Premiere, RMTC). Heidi holds an MFA in directing from the University of Calgary and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theatre and Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Manitoba.

There was great feedback on the script in past iterations. It is being reworked with expert support. Acting as dramaturge for this reading is acclaimed Indigenous playwright Yvette Nolan.

 

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Yvette Nolan

Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) is a playwright, director, and dramaturg. Plays include BLADE, Annie Mae’s Movement, The Birds, The Unplugging, Gabriel Dumont’s Wild West Show (co-writer), the libretto Shanawdithit and the short film A Common Experience (w. Shane Belcourt). She has directed from coast to coast and north all the way to Dawson City, Yukon. As a dramaturg, she works across Turtle Island. From 2003-2011, she served as Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts. Her book Medicine Shows about Indigenous theatre in Canada was published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2015. She is an Artistic Associate of Signal Theatre.

You can enjoy a reading of MacDonald’s script as part of Seven Visions: Reconciliation Through Theatre project launch and presentation running May 4-9. Admission is pay-what-you-can-afford. For more information and to reserve seats, visit our website!