Breaking Through has everyone talking!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos by Janet Shum.

 

 

Keeping the Conversation Going – Panel Discussions at Breaking Through

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch a behind the scenes video by Ora Walker.

Our Next One Night Stand is a Fringe Frenzy!

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6364_PTE_Carol.Shields_PlayItForward_Horizontal_ColourOne Night Stand Series Producer Tatiana Carnevale has curated an action-packed afternoon of playreadings as part of the Carol Shields Festival of New Works. This special Fringe Frenzy edition features preview readings of six new plays from local companies who will be premiering these works at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. Here’s a peek at what the event has in store.

Anomie by Wren Brian
Presented by Downside Up Productions
Directed by Eric Rae
Performed by Victoria Hill & Eric Rae 

When everything is taken away, what’s left?Anomie_ONS3

Two people struggle against each other and the empty space they’re trapped in to find a way out.  Not knowing how or why they ended up in an “abyss”, the two search for meaning and understanding in their existence and in their relationship. Riffing on absurdism and existentialism (and not without a dash of humour), this play explores how we deny and deal with meaninglessness.

Harper & Row by Rebekah Enns and Sarah Flynn
Presented by Naked Theatre productions
Naked Theatre ProductionsDear Universe,
Did you know the pen is mightier than the sword? We’ve been trying to figure out what that means. Could you send us a sign, or at least some more peaches?
Signed, Harper & Row

Naked Theatre presents an original piece about two girls just trying to figure it all out. With pens as their defense against the world, all they need now is an envelope, a stamp and someone to write back.

Riot Resist Revolt Repeat by Frances Koncan
Presented by Vault Projects
Directed by Frances Koncan
Performed by Melanee Deschambeault, Sandy Klowak, Frances Koncan, Eric Rae, Karmelle Spence-Sing, and Erica Wilson

In the near-future, in a city surrounded by walls and a world where water is scarce and a Riot Resist_ONS3luxury available only to the very rich, a Revolution is beginning. Iskwe, a young Cree woman, is struggling with bipolar disorder. Her current state of depression is further complicated by the loss of sister, who went missing one year ago. While being treated in a hospital run by a white supremacist Doctor, Iskwe meets two new friends who believe her to be her sister – the missing leader of the Revolution. Together, they embark on a journey to find her missing sister and destroy the Wall that keeps them from their sacred lands, but a mysterious person known only as The Gatekeeper has other plans. As Iskwe’s mental health continues to deteriorate under discriminatory, colonial treatment methods, the boundaries between the world of the Wall and the world of the Hospital begin to disintegrate, leaving her more confused than ever… and more powerful.

(Un)Happy Medium by Heather Madill
Presented by Kiss the Giraffe Productions
Directed by Alan Mackenzie
Performed by Heather Madill, Kami Desilets, Joseph Aragon

Madill_ONS3“I’ve got two lousy roommates. They don’t pay rent, they don’t clean up, and they’re so loud I can’t hear my own thoughts. One keeps me always on edge, the other sucks my will to live. But I can’t evict them, so I’ve got to make this work somehow. I swear they’re real, but most people don’t believe these jerks can possibly exist, so I don’t usually talk about them. But today… I’m gonna have to make an exception.”

Inertia by Gislina Patterson, Davis Plett, Angelica Schwartz, and Erin Meagan Schwartz
Presented by Happy Accidents

Inertia is an experimental theatre piece devised by a collective of intermedia artists. inertia squareDeviating from narrative-lead performance, Inertia is a mediation on haunting, magic, semiconscious inheritances and predators. The collective is made up of Gislina Patterson (writer and theatre artist), Davis Plett (cultural studies academic, poet, director, musician and technical wizard), Angelica Schwartz (director, Studio58 production grad) and Erin Meagan Schwartz (improviser, theatre artist, gender studies scholar, and activist). The collective aims to deconstruct the hierarchy of theatre production and creation, queering theatre tech by attacking heteronormativity in the community and canon. Inertia draws on Shakespeare, in-yer-face theatre, and clowns.

Filter This by Craig Terlson and Reba Terlson
Presented by It’s All Relative Productions
Directed by Kaeleigh Ayre
Performed by Reba Terlson, Sam McLean, Jesse Nobess

Filter This_ONS3Olivia and Dan come from two different worlds. Olivia lives on social media, documenting every moment of her life. Dan lives without a cell phone, or anything that distracts him from being present. A chance meeting at a park, has the two wonder if they could live in each other’s world, and find a deeper connection. Along for the ride is their friend the meme, who tweets, snaps and instagrams their lives. Filter This is a comedy that asks do opposites attract? And if so, must they tweet about it?

Catch readings from each of these enticing new plays on May 13 at 3:30pm at Prairie Theatre Exchange, 3rd Floor Portage Place. Free admission. Enjoy the 2017 Carol Shields Festival of New Works!

Rethinking Mental Illness: New play grounded in truth

MORGAN: Your worker says you have been behaving differently.

KOKO: I pride myself on behaving differently.

-excerpt from Breaking Through by Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore

The stories of five individuals struggling with mental health issues interweave in Sarasvàti Productions new play, Breaking Through. Playwrights Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore created Breaking Through as part of community-based two-year Mental Health is Everyone’s Health project. The project saw McIntyre and Moore team up with Artists in Health Care, Red Threads Playback Theatre and the Selkirk Mental Health Centre as well as working with multiple community organizations and the public. The resulting play is an exploration of mental illness grounded in real experience.

This week, we catch up with the playwrights to talk about the journey of this new, provocative play – from inspiration to early stages of production.

1)            What was the impetus that got you going on Breaking Through?

McIntyre: Meeting with so many people and hearing their stories was all the inspiration needed. We were lucky to have several individuals contact us to share, others show up to the open sessions and amazing workshops at numerous organizations. There was never an issue of lack of material or desire to write but more so too much material!

Moore: For me it was during our visits to female prisons across Canada during the writing of Hope and I’s play “Jail Baby.” Early on I realized at least 30 percent of the women we were meeting, had serious mental illness. In prison, those issues were not, and would never be, addressed.  I wanted to be a part of changing that.

Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore at the book launch of their play ‘Jail Baby’

 

2)            Do you feel like your understanding of mental health has changed while working on this play? How?

McIntyre: Not changed per say as I have worked with and had many people in my life who struggled with mental health prior to this project. I think what I realized is that every individual has their own experience and own perspective. One of the challenges is to show the myriad responses and points of view. Some have been devastated by the medications they were prescribed and lost quality of life whereas others we spoke with believe the medications saved their lives. There are no easy answers or one size fits all solutions but a need to really honour each story.

Moore: Definitely. Particularly when it comes to medication in North America. While visiting Selkirk Mental Health Centre, I realized that what I originally thought was “mental illness” was really the side effects of medication. That was a scary moment.

3)            While doing research, workshops and interviews with the public, what surprised you most?

McIntyre: The willingness of people to share was the most surprising. There was clearly a desire to talk about it in order to educate, increase awareness and to stop feeling like it was something that needed to be hidden. Many people I knew beforehand in other capacities came forward to share. I feel I started to stop and listen more after going through this process. Asking someone how they are doing, really doing, can be such an important thing.

Moore: That most of us experience mental health issues, even those people who may seem like they have the world by the tail. I was surprised at just how sick people can get. How much care takers and loved ones sacrifice to help those suffering from mental illness. How very real psychosis is, to those who experience it. That we need to recognize people with mental illness, are not their illness, for example, a person is not schizophrenic; they are a person with schizophrenia. The illness should not define them, any more than cancer should define someone. That person is not cancer; they are a person who has cancer. We really need to rethink how we talk about mental illness.

4)            What do you hope the audience is talking about on the car ride home from Breaking Through?

McIntyre: I hope they are opening up about their own struggles, discussing the reality that it is universal and exploring how we should support anyone who is going through a rough time by providing them with what they need.

Moore: I hope there is passionate debate. Talking about mental illness is the first step. It is my greatest wish as a playwright, to raise questions, rather than answer them. Silence is the most difficult hurdle. We should be able to talk about mental illness with our friends, in our work place, without fear of being stigmatized.

Breaking Through premieres on May 23rd and runs until May 28th at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film. Tickets are available now on our website or by calling the office at 204-586-2236.

How It All Comes Together

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This week we welcome our Associate Director’s perspective on our unique approach to International Women’s Week. Rachel Smith is an actor, director, writer and acting coach. She has a MA in Theatre & Performance from the University of Manchester, UK and a BA Honours in Theatre & Film from the University of Winnipeg. Rachel has worked with Sarasvati many times and enjoys her continuing work with the company. 

The Cabaret of Monologues is an event that I look forward to every year. It is such an interesting and diverse array of artistic works that beautifully captures the year’s theme. This year the theme of “Starting Over” was particularly relatable for me, and for many audience members who I encountered. Starting Over can mean different things for different people. The variety of monologues featured in the cabaret was a wonderful representation of the different perspectives on that theme. I found that I could relate to most of the monologues in one way or another.

This was the fourth year that I have been the Associate Director on the cabaret. I was delighted and honoured that I was able to work on them again this year. It is an interesting project to work on because it is not rehearsed like a normal play is. Ten separate pieces are rehearsed once a week until the weekend before the full cabaret when it all comes together. Many of the actors do not even meet until the dress rehearsal. Each monologue is given the same rehearsal guidelines but the individual pieces are so different. It is great to work with the different actors and work with the unique challenges within the individual pieces. When working on them during the months of January and February, they feel almost like separate entities that do not relate to each other. When they all come together at the beginning of March it is amazing to see the full picture: the collage that is revealed.

Each monologue is powerful in its own way. I felt that the monologues developed with the newcomers to Canada were especially powerful. Some of them had heartbreaking stories yet were filled with joy and hope. When the monologues were presented as whole it became all the more powerful. Rachel Awur Moijok Chol was one of the women whose story was told during the performance. Her story was presented as a voice over recording of Rachel speaking while Sydney Macfarlane did a movement piece. At the matinee performance on March 11, Rachel sang an absolutely beautiful song after her story was presented. While she sang, Martha Akuch Maketh joined her on stage dancing with Sydney, while the rest of the cast joined the trio to prepare for the curtain call. The image of all those women dancing together on stage is one I do not think I will ever forget. It was so incredibly powerful to see them all up there, these amazing women portraying such important stories.

– Rachel Smith

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Eager to experience more transformative theatre? Join us for the world premiere of Breaking Through (May 23-28) an awe-inspiring new play about mental health.

Art Beyond the Stage

The artistic showcase is going beyond the stage at this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues with the help of our amazing Outreach Coordinator, Audrey Unger! A Masters student at the U of M, Audrey has been working with Sarasvàti Productions since September 2016 as part of her practicum in Peace and Conflict Studies.

“The theatre workshops done with several groups of women in November 2016 were a particular highlight”, said Audrey, who helped to organize these story-gathering workshops at a variety of organizations that serve immigrants and refugees. “Much joy and laughter was shared through interaction with theatre games and new friendships were formed by listening to each other’s stories.” Some of the pieces that will be performed on March 11th were developed directly from these workshops.

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Sarasvàti Outreach Coordinator Audrey Unger

Audrey has also been curating an incredible display of visual art in order to highlight this year’s Cabaret theme of “Starting Over”. The collection is made up of pieces in many mediums that have been created by Winnipeg-based artists including photography from the Eritrean Women’s Association and traditional outfits from Uganda and Iraq. Professional Artist Xavier Mutshipayi, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, will be present with his collection of paintings titled “Awakened Consciousness.”  Artist Briand-Nelson Mutima will also be present with a collection of his paintings. The lobby installation represents different moments from these artists’ experience as newcomers at various stages of life in Canada. “This is an opportunity for artists to showcase and discuss their work with the public audience”, said Audrey. “It has been a joy to connect with these new faces in the community.”

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Professional Artist Xavier Mutshipayi with his collection of paintings titled “Awakened Consciousness.”

There will be interactive opportunities as well! Many of the artists will be there to meet the public and chat about their work. Members of the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute, who were part of our story-gathering workshops, will be set up in the lobby to share info about their call for donations of winter clothing, blankets, toiletries, and furniture to meet the needs of newly arrived refugees. There will be opportunity to purchase items from Sew Fair, a local fair trade company that employs newcomer women.

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Last but not least, check out our photo booth, where you and your friends can take a selfie with your own call to action. We’ll have #beboldforchange arm bands and signs as part of CUPE’s International Women’s Day 2017 campaign.

You can take part in our lobby installation at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film before and after the performances on March 11th at 4pm and 8pm. Tickets are just $15 and available on-line or at the door. See you there!

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What Does Starting Over Mean to You?

Have you ever relocated, tackled a new job, new relationship or even just discovered your true self? This year we explore what is perhaps the most universal topic we have tackled in the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. Erin Meagan Schwartz asked all of our performers what this year’s theme means to them.

“New adventure! But that was my idea when I was eleven years old and I came to Canada”, says Cherrel Holder, “then doing it when I was 20–moving to Australia for school–starting over was scary.” Check out the promo video for all of our performers responses!

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Kim Kakegamic rehearsing “The Pit” in front of playwright Alissa Watson and Directors Hope McIntyre and Rachel Smith. Photo by Nik Rave.

Alka Kumar shared her story of starting over with Angie St. Mars. The two co-wrote one of the monologue sin this year’s cabaret based on Alka’s experience. “Sharing my story provided me space for reflection, even helping me process my experience in a deliberate and considered manner”, said Alka, including that it is a technique and useful tool within narrative therapy. “I found this useful as it was a good opportunity to go back to my `lived experience’ after the fact, almost separating it out of myself (externalising it, as it were) and through such a process of articulation becoming more aware of it.”
The piece created from their process is called Diaspora. It focuses on an Indian woman, once a newcomer herself, as she welcomes a young newcomer to Winnipeg.

The Cabaret features monologues that take you through ten different stories of pivotal moments in very different women’s lives. From the moment when an Ojibwe activist must choose to apologize or stand by what she believes in, to the moment a young Nigerian woman tells her first generation immigrant parents that she wants to go home: this year’s selections will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

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“I hope the audience [members] who share my experiencing of my everyday dilemmas, struggles, and negotiations with my many homes will get to know me a little”, said Alka. “Even more significantly, I hope the monologue and my voice will resonate, and that it may help in their personal processes and journeys of reflection, and exploration, as ideas and emotions around identity, belonging, and being comfortable being who we are wherever home is are important questions for everyone.”

There are two chances to catch all ten monologues on March 11th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are available at the door, but we recommend getting them in advance, as this event will sell out.