Burnt: Norah Paton travels to Burning Man, Burning Man travels to FemFest

At FemFest this year, Norah Paton’s Burnt will take you on a theatrical trip to Burning Man, a temporary community in the desert in Nevada. You will meet all kinds of people played by Paton herself. The festival gets its name from the ritual of burning of a huge wooden effigy at the end of the festival. It is founded on ten principles: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.

Paton created the piece by visiting Burning Man in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and recording interviews with the people she met there. But instead of any old documentary, Paton wrote a script that is a collage of interviews and brought it to life with her captivating acting skills. She plays a surprisingly varied cast of characters, each with their own distinctly recognizable personality. Ian Huffam wrote in his review that “Paton’s physicality and vocal texture when embodying the subjects of her interviews deftly captures the essence of these people.”

The aesthetic of the show is wonderful, too. The sound design is by AL Connors and the play features electronic music, just as Burning Man does. Dominique Coughlin’s costume and set designs remind us of Le Petit Prince, as Ian Huffam points out, which shares its desert setting with Burnt. Lighting designer Sarah Mansikka creates fascinating visual effects. Dramaturges Emily Pearlman and Brad Long complete the artistic team.

Paton premièred Burnt at the Undercurrents Festival in Ottawa in 2017 and received glowing reviews. Jared Davidson described the première as “fascinating, clever, and immersive” and added “with a script and performance this strong, it will be interesting to see how it develops.” Our Artistic Director saw this production in Ottawa and was excited to share it with FemFest audiences.  And now that Paton has developed it further, Winnipeg theatregoers will see its best version yet.

Paton’s brilliance doesn’t stop at the sheer originality of this concept. The play also criticizes the hypocrisies of Burning Man: how a money-less city that operates on giving has become a capitalist venture, how a place where people are not supposed to leave any traces has developed a litter problem, and how racism and rape culture have crept into a community founded on inclusivity.

The Ottawa Citizen quoted Paton saying “Some of [the ten principles of Burning Man] are totally contradictory, and I definitely do look at those paradoxes…For me, it’s really interesting to see how this temporary city becomes a microcosm of all the issues or tensions or problems that we all see in our lives.”

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Come and enjoy Burnt at FemFest at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, 400 Colony Street, on Tuesday, September 18th or Wednesday, September 19th at 9:00 pm or on Thursday, September 20th at 7:00 pm and prepare to be amazed!

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One Night Stand Series: Fringe and Fancy-Free!

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The One Night Stand series is back for its final installment of the season: the Carol Shields Festival of New Works, hosted by Prairie Theatre Exchange! This time around, we’ll be showcasing eight works-in-progress in preparation for the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe Festival! For a sneak peek of what’s to come at this year’s Fringe, check out what’s new from local theatre companies:
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One Date City presented by It’s All Relative Productions

Written by Reba Terlson and co-created by Craig Terlson
Directed by Kaeleigh Ayre

Cast: Reba Terlson, Rachel Hiebert, Drew Jensen

Venue: Playhouse Studio

Best friends Morgan and Julie have awful luck with dating. Julie just got out of a relationship and forgets how to date, and Morgan can’t remember the last time she had a worthwhile date. They place a high-stakes bet to see who can go on one great date. They experience catfishing, ghosting, and cushioning as they manoeuvre the dating world.


MLSMother’s Little Secret
presented by Broken Record Productions

Written by Jo MacDonald
Cast: Judy Arnason, Shirley Godfrey, Beverley Grace, Cheryl Soluk

Venue: School of Contemporary Dancers
After her latest accident, two daughters conspire to move their mother into a retirement facility. But Casa Espia is no ordinary senior’s home.

 

Animosity fringe program_v3.5Animosity presented by Downside Up Productions

Written by Wren Brian

Directed by Ntara Curry & Sami Desiree

Cast: Melissa Langdon & Sophie Smith-Dostmohamed

Venue: Forth

Two people. Trapped in an abyss. Refusing to get along. In this absurdist/existentialist play two people struggle with feelings of fear, disconnection, and anger at each other, the space, and themselves. With no memory of who they are or who they are to each other, they have to confront how and why people come to hate each other, as well as how to move forward. This is a companion piece to last year’s Anomie (winner of the Harry Rintoul Award for Best New Manitoban Play at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe).

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Alex Colville and I presented by Gearshifting Performance Works
Created and performed by Jolene Bailie

Sound: Susan Chafe

Venue: MTC Tom Hendry Warehouse

Alex Colville and I walks a story of admiration and hope. Inspired by the play The Post Mistress by Tomson Highway. In the play, the Post Mistress is a magical French spirit who delivers the mail between the living and the dead.

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Freestyle Fantastique presented by White Rabbit Productions

Created and performed by Simon Miron

Venue: Rachel Browne Theatre

A multidisciplinary work merging spoken word, Hip Hop, dance, live looping, video mixing and montage inspired by Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

 

Fractured Expectations Graphic (715x800)Fractured Expectations, a collective creation presented by Timeless Weaver

Directed by Rachel Smith

Cast: Alicia Coulson, Jacob Janzen, Matthew Lupu and Erica Wilson

Venue: Son of Warehouse

What kinds of expectations do you have in life? Finish your degree and immediately find your dream job? Go on a blind date and find the person of your dreams? Expectations can become a positive mantra to help you achieve your goals. Other times they can be a curse: an endless stream of disappointments. Fractured Expectations is a comedic exploration of how to survive in a world of well wishes and inevitability.

 

image1Journey to Kalcedon Island: A Steampunk Adventure presented by Kiss the Giraffe Productions

Written by Joseph Aragon and Heather Madill

Directed by Leith Clark

Cast: Betty Asseiro, Josh Bellan, Sikhona Gwintsa, Jasmine Lontajo, Caelen Rondeau, Tara Streilein, Makis Viado, Nick Xidos, and Josh Caldo

From the creators of The Mystery of Krummhorn Castle (5 STARS—CBC) comes a Steampunk musical odyssey for the whole family! For young geniuses Ada and Lacey LaForge, there’s no problem that a ratchet and slide rule can’t solve. But their journey to find their long-lost aunt becomes a harrowing adventure that tests the limits of their ingenuity. Join the LaForge sisters as they outwit fearsome airship pirates, uncover astonishing family secrets, and maybe bend space and time a little.

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Parked presented by Lady Brain Creative Co.

Written by Katie Grossman with material from Brigitte Sabourin

Directed by Kira Watson

Cast: Katie Grossman and Brigitte Sabourin

Venue: Playhouse Studio

Hazel is a meter maid recently rejected from grad school who’s just trying to make it through her shift. Liz just got her car towed on the worst day of her life. While the two may seem to be polar opposites, they’re more like two sides of the same coin. A heartfelt comedy about figuring out your identity, career and the rest of your life, Parked is what happens when you stay in the same place for too long.

This installment is produced by Tatiana Carnevale, who also produced our 2017 One Night Stand editions! You can check out this exciting preview of upcoming Fringe shows this Saturday, May 26th at 2PM – which will let out in time to also catch New Beginnings at 4PM. And for the final products, you can catch them at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival running July 18-29!

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One Night Stand Series: Another World!

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We’ve brought the One Night Stand series back for another year! This time around, all the submissions take place in a world much like our own – but with a few twists thrown in (heaven-sent chili fries? An evil plot about Mike & Ike’s? The drowned remains of Portage Place? What’s going on here?)

This year’s readings will take place in a studio setting, keeping the focus on the scripts and letting the work speak for itself. All five pieces were directed by Daphne Finlayson and will be performed by an ensemble cast: Betty Asseiro, Kate Berg, Kai Chochinov, Kelsey Funk, Rowan Gannon, Cheryl Soluk, Logan Stefanson, and Ryland Thiessen!

We’ve got a great mix for this edition of experienced playwrights and emerging artists – get to know them below!

A Fine Line by Wren Brian

Wren started her diverse career in Whitehorse, Yukon where she was born and raised. A graduate from the University of Winnipeg’s Theatre & Film Honours Program, Wren is a playwright as well as an arts administrator, director, and producer. In her writing, Wren is dedicated to creating characters that can be played by actors of any gender, ancestry, and age. Recently her play Anomie won the 2017 Harry S. Rintoul Award for Best New Manitoban Play at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, and her play Bystander was one of three plays shortlisted for the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada Emerging Playwright Award in 2015. For more information, visit wrenbrian.com.

520lb Breakfast by J.P. Button

J.P. is a young emerging playwright and director from Winnipeg, Manitoba. They have worked out of the Black Hole Theatre Company as well as completed their Bachelor of Arts in Theatre at the University of Manitoba. They continue to find inspiration from the immense talent of their friends and peers. They hope to continue to write, and also one day find Big Foot. They believe that Big Foot would be a fan of the arts.

The True Deeds of the Illuminati by Thomas Donnelly

This play came to Thomas within one of his many mind rambles. He is a student of the University of Manitoba and enjoys writing, film, theatre, music, drawing, and comic books. He was a part of the 2016-2017 U of M Film Production class as part of the camera crew and recently took part in the university’s 2017-2018 Backstage theatre class. He served as light operator for Pith! and stage manager for Here We Go, the final Lunch B.H.A.G.G. in the Black Hole Theatre Company’s 2017-2018 season. His writing includes many complete and incomplete works that he will get to… eventually; he has other stuff to do.

The Winter Hideout of the Wasp Queen by Larissa Hikel

Larissa is a freelance writer from Winnipeg, MB, who brings a native instinct to her writing, photography and acting. She explores the world from a personally complex place. High school dropout, drifter, used to shifting between identities as they serve her, she has the power to observe life from a wide range of vantage points which she brings to her art.

Here Together by Jonathan Mourant

Jonathan is a Winnipeg improviser, performer, and playwright. He performs regularly with his improv troupe Unexpected Results and serves as an executive and treasurer for the University of Winnipeg Improv and Common Crow Improv. Jonathan has written multiple plays and screenplays including the self-produced Here Together, first performed at the University of Winnipeg’s 2017 DIO Festival and now as part of the One Night Stand series!

Come take part in the future of Winnipeg theatre and hear what’s next from local, up-and-coming playwrights! The One Night Stand series returns Wednesday, April 25th at 7PM in Studio 2T05, Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony Street). For more info, check out the event page!

 

 

Inspiring Collaboration

One of the most exciting aspects of producing International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable is seeing incredible artists work together – often for the very first time! This week we feature one of these brand new collaborations with the team behind Captain of My Ship along the pair of familiar collaborators behind, I’ve Never Been Very Good at Drawing Hearts, But I Keep Trying.

Captain of My Ship playwright, Kathy France, saw the piece arise while working on a full-length play that explores female archetypes and how they resonate in contemporary women’s lives.

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Kathy France

“Spoken word? Never wrote a piece before I wrote this one. Now it’s a thing I do”, says France. “I was a director first, then grew the courage to act, then took on producing in foreign countries so I could get myself on stage, then grew the courage to write.”

Originally from Winnipeg, France lived abroad in Syria, Thailand, Nepal, Yugoslavia, Croatia and Trinidad before settling down in the tiny, rural town of Wolfville, NS.

France’s piece is a coming-of-age story. “It’s about the journey all girls travel, whether they know it or not”, says France. “All young women grow up to be women, and somewhere along the way they grow to understand what “woman” means, in society, in themselves. Certainly, at the time of my own sexual awakening, I didn’t know that “woman” was a social construct that would probably never serve my best interests.”

Sarasvàti Productions couples France’s piece with a talented troupe of local performers.

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Ady Kay

“I feel connected to the messages I get from this piece about the confines and restrictions of gender norms. I feel connected to the way the words rhyme and work together to create imagery,” says performer Ady Kay. Together with collaborators Emily Solstice and Victoria Hill, Kay is devising a physical rendition of Captain of My Ship.

Kay is a performer, dancer, clown and poet, just to name a few.  “I am excited about this piece”, says Kay. “Not only does it speak to a matter that I care about very much, it also is beautifully described through poetry. And with poetry, so much is possible as a physical performer.”

A.b. Norris is the Winnipeg-based film maker and playwright behind I’ve Never Been Very Good at Drawing Hearts, But I Keep Trying.

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A.b. Norris

“The original concept came to me after I’d taken some pictures and decided to turn them into a short silent film”, says Norris, “but I wanted to articulate some of what I’m trying to express in a different way.”

Enter Monika Thurn und Taxis.

“The theme of the eclipse and the symbology is a very close theme to my personal life”, says Thurn und Taxis, who is a performer and photographer.  The two have worked together on theatre projects before.

“The challenges I articulate in this piece are ones with which I contend”, says Norris. “Something unique is required to work against internal conflicts versus external forces. It’s a different kind of persistence that challenges the barriers we put up ourselves, or the cycles we perpetuate and in which we can become caught.”

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Monika Thurn und Taxis

“I believe deeply in the reflection of our nature in the sky. An eclipse is an important moment that asks us to be present with the darkness around us and shine our inner light”, says Thurn und Taxis. “This symbology, paired with the want and need to love and be loved and not giving up on finding our true love in either a person, a career or any other form that might be important to us—it’s very powerful.”

We look forward to presenting these inspiring collaborations on March 10th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Details and tickets here.

 

Sarasvàti’s Top 6: ‘What Has Us Excited About 2018’

We have big plans for 2018! Check out the top 6 things that have us starting off the year full of enthusiasm!

6) We are excited to be working with Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba to provide ASL interpreters at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues for the very first time! Living through riots, learning to teach yoga as a senior, accepting your true self and conquering all odds – see these stories of unstoppable women March 10th. ASL interpretation will be provided for both the 4pm and 8pm performance. Celebrate International Women’s Week with us!

The cast of IWW2017

The cast of IWW17.

5) We are eager to premiere the full production of a project we’ve been working on for two years – New Beginnings. Witness the coming together of a diverse range of artists, community members, recent newcomers and established immigrants. Through the use of dance, music, visual art and storytelling we will come together to explore the themes of displacement and resettlement. This unique production will also run in the same space as One Trunk Theatre’s new show Boundary Avenue. There will be special opportunities to see both productions. Visit our website to get your tickets!

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4) We are so pleased to be going into 2018 with full-time admin support thanks to the capacity-building funding we received from The Winnipeg Foundation! This support will enable us to reach our full potential. You can bet we’ll be taking things to new heights!

3) We can’t wait to launch our second year of theatre workshops with the youth at Children of the Earth School. Last year, we piloted a series of theatre workshops at COTE  – a school that would not otherwise offer a theatre program. The results were incredible. This year we’ll return to offer regular theatre programming with facilitators Marsha Knight and Josh Ranville plus a roster of amazing guest artists.


2) It’s only January and we are already hard at work planning FemFest2018 – Staging Resistance. Provocative plays, brand new workshops and artists with incredible vision, we have a lot in store! Stay tuned for details on our 16th annual festival.

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1) We feel very enthusiastic to be working towards our 2018 goals with the support of an amazing staff, Board, volunteers and audience base. Most of all, we look forward to sharing a transformational year with all of you. Happy New Year!

Staff and Board December 2017

Many of our staff and Board members at a December meeting

For on-the-pulse news on our 2018 productions and workshops visit sarasvati.ca or sign-up for our mailing list!

 

Looking Back on a Remarkable Year

Wow! It’s hard to believe how much can happen in a year. This week we look back on our greatest endeavours of 2017 made possible due to the amazing support of our donors, funders, volunteers, artists and community partners!

  • Theatre Workshops with North End Youth

We launched into 2017 with a focused series of theatre workshops for North End youth. Youth Coordinators Frances Koncan and Cherrel Holder alongside a series of guest artists introduced theatre techniques and worked on scenes with youth. On February 22nd we celebrated with a showcase of the youth involved. We have already heard from multiple youth that they have decided to pursue theatre and we have had the pleasure of continuing to work with these youth in skill-focused workshops and mentorship sessions. We are thrilled to be continuing with a series of theatre workshops at Children of the Earth School in the New Year!

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study theatre but now I’m sure!” – Sabil, Youth Participant

  • International Women’s Week

Last March, ten amazing women took to the stage in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. The theme was Starting Over, sharing stories of displacement, resettlement and life-changing moments. We toured to new community venues like North End Family Centre. We were so honoured to facilitate the sharing of these crucial perspectives which are all too often silenced.

“The performances took place in our typically very busy and noisy drop in space. However, the performances were so captivating that you could have heard a pin drop!”
-Kristi Beaune, Mount Carmel Clinic
“Our students connected with what the presenters were saying on a deep level. I would highly recommend the monologues.”
-Rob Visch, Principal St. Aidan’s Christian School

  • Launch of New Beginnings15781754_10211121667098878_6849065531477230353_n

We used the story-gathering conducted for International Women’s Week as a spring board to soar into our next community-based project: New Beginnings. We began reaching out to artists and meeting with partner organizations. In September, we gave audiences a sneak peek at what we have in the works at a FemFest preview. From May 22-27, 2018 you can witness the coming together of a diverse range of artists, community members, recent newcomers and established immigrants. Through the use of dance, music, visual art and storytelling we will share stories of resettlement.

“Great evening at FemFest and Sarasvati production of New Beginnings! Congratulations to Rosemary Kezaabu and Gertrude Hambira, two of the women who told their stories.” – Mary Scott, Audience Member
“It was such a wonderful night yesterday! So glad I was able to participate in this project.” – Patricia Gordon, Performer

  • FemFest 2017: Coming of Age

This FemFest audiences and artists came together to celebrate 15 years of life-changing theatre.  We were proud to present such provocative touring shows as Watching Glory Die by Judith Thompson. We had some incredible first-times, partnering with the West End Cultural Centre to present Tomboy Survival Guide and partnering with the Millennium Library to present The Human Library! It was so rewarding to offer filmmaker Sonya Ballantyne her first opportunity to direct for the stage with Two Indians. We were proud to honour some of Winnipeg’s most prolific female playwrights at the One Night Stand and toast to 15 years. Believe it or not planning has already begun for FemFest 2018!

“…one of the most incredible and moving pieces of art I have ever seen” – Tatiana Carnevale, Audience Member at Tomboy Survival Guide at FemFest 2017
“Wow. I have not been so moved by a piece of theatre for a long time” – Cheryl Costen, Audience Member at Watching Glory Die at FemFest 2017

  • Second Annual Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

Thanks to two fantastic audiences and eight hilarious comedians we almost sold out two back-to-back shows for our Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser. We heard nothing but glowing remarks from audience members. We can’t wait for next year!

“Awesome” – Audience Member
“Everyone is so talented!” – Audience Member

  • Workshops for Emerging Artists

    This season we’ve provided workshops and mentorship in theatre design, tech, directing, auditioning and more! One of the highlights was our playwriting masterclass with master playwright, Judith Thompson. We aren’t slowing down anytime soon! You can look forward to workshops in vocal technique, auditioning , dramaturgy and more in 2018!

    “Extremely beneficial. Going through the audition process (before, during, after) has made me feel that I have a much better idea of how the process works, especially with professional companies.” – Participant in Auditioning 101
    “All of it was pure gold.”
    – Participant in Coffee with Ann Hodges

We also rebooted our One Night Stand series with three opportunities throughout the year for playwrights to test material under the amazing leadership of Tatiana Carnevale!

  • COMMUNITY

This year also allowed us to work with several amazing community organizations. From doing workshops with youth leaders at SEED to presenting an overview of our work for the Council of Women of Winnipeg and PCWM. The largest initiative was the amazing experience preparing Can You See Me Now in partnership with West Central Women’s Resource Centre.  The women shared their experience of homelessness with such power that it truly opened eyes and hearts.

Here’s to another year of making and experiencing tranformative theatre together!

Unstoppable Women in Theatre

International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable is bursting at the seams with talented writers and creators. Though we’ve long-admired them, we are excited to be working with these artists for the very first time! Get to know them as we do the same in this week’s blog.

I Am Unstoppable created and performed by Joanna Hawkins

Joanna Hawkins is a proud Deaf woman who is strongly involved within the Deaf community. She’s an ambassador to hearing ( non – deaf ) individuals about deaf culture in order to break barriers between their worlds.

Joanna Hawkins headshot 2017Originally from Lodz, Poland, Joanna now resides right her in Winnipeg and we feel lucky to have her. She has a history of working with the Manitoba Cultural Society of the Deaf, as well as performing with 100 Decibels : A Deaf Mime Troupe.

“Being involved with the 100 Decibels troupe, our goal is to create a barrier free world between the Deaf and the hearing (non-deaf), “I Am Unstoppable” is a piece I have been thinking about for a while”, says Joanna.

“I have been rejected to enroll in performing arts at University of Manitoba just because of my deafness. They couldn’t imagine myself acting with a sign language interpreter on the stage. Years later, I landed on the stage as a 100 Decibels actress, including other performances, therefore no one has stopped me from becoming an actress. Having a hearing loss doesn’t mean you need to give up something.”

Saviour Self by Andrea Scott

Andrea Scott is a professional playwright and producer.
“I trained as an actor and still audition but have been transitioning to positions that will allow me to eventually rule the world”, says Andrea.

“‘Saviour Self’ is from a play I wrote called ‘All Most Be Longing’ about the role riots, rebellion, and rage played in forming Toronto starting with the Anti-Greek riots of 1918. the play was developed while I was in the Stratford Playwright Retreat & the Tarragon Workspace program in 2016.

Andrea Scott headshot 2017A friend told me story about how her brothers tried to protect her during the Yonge Street riots of 1992 by ordering her stay home. She chose, instead, to get a front row seat by walking down to the Eaton Centre to watch the chaos. It made me think of how young women are often perceived as invisible when uprisings happen when in reality they are in the thick of the action and, sometimes direct instigators.”

Andrea describes her connection to the piece:
“I grew up in a world where positive images of black females were scarce but my parents always expected me to work towards excellence. Nobody expected anything of me, encouraged my talent, or intelligence in school. In fact, I had a guidance teacher try to get me to drop down to basic levels in English from the advanced levels I was in during my 4 years of high-school. I was told not to bother auditioning for the school play because ‘there were no black roles’, and my favourite high school teacher was surprised to see me go to Graduate school because she always assumed I’d be a housewife (for some bizarre reason).”

“Every person of colour who was a teenager knows how it feels to be watched in a store. Well, what if the perceived greater danger existed outside the doors of the shop rather than inside and embodied by a black girl? And what if she used that small window of time to help herself in a way that escapes the awareness of so many people? ”

See these pieces and so many more created and performed by women on March 10th. Tickets are on sale now!

Stay tuned for features on the rest of our fabulous artists in upcoming blogs!