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.

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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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Consulting with Youth: Seven Visions

The first component of our Reconciliation through Theatre project is in the books! Over the past few weeks, our team has been meeting with Indigenous youth to discuss what they’d like to see for our upcoming workshop series. We’ll be sharing a full recap of these first meetings at Seven Visions: Reconciliation through Theatre running May 4-9, but read on for a teaser!

Project Coordinator Nova Courchene, Visual Artist Jaime Black, and our Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator Marsha Knight have been hard at work meeting with youth across our seven different partner organizations.

 

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For our sessions with Ndinawe, our team looked at creating an ongoing art project for youth to drop in and add on their versions of the teachings. By giving them a way to express themselves, the youth were more likely to open up through art than chatting around a table each session. We’re excited to see how this piece will evolve over time!

At Wahbung Abinoonjiiag, participants believed parents passing along the Seven Sacred Teachings was important to help youth connect with their culture, stemming from elders down to their families and younger siblings.

For one youth, the teachings are about “history, teaching about what your ancestors did. Learning from your history, and how to be a good person.”

“Reconciliation” can mean many different things to different people. At the Indigenous Leadership Development Institute, youth shared their own definitions:

Reconciliation means fixing your wrong doings.”

Reconciling is about your past self and who you are now, and you become your true self from the meeting of the two.”

Reconciliation is about reconnecting others together, bringing people together and connecting one another.”

For youth at Children of the Earth High School, reconciliation takes on a different meaning: “Say someone burned your house down and is now helping you rebuild a house. Not just going ahead and building the house themselves, but finding out what you need in that house.” Youth were also interested in the evolution of Indigenous fashion over time, from the seventies and traditional regalia through to present day appropriation by the fashion industry. As the head of the REDress Project, Jaime was able to offer insight on the use of fashion to shine a light on missing and murdered Aboriginal women across Canada.

Possible art forms for the workshops will cover anything from film, visual art, music, animation, improv, Claymation – you name it! Our team was able to share in a smudging ceremony with the youth at Knowles Centre before kicking off their conversations. For their participants, athletics is an important a way to express themselves and build trust with new members.

For youth at Manitoba Youth Centre, there was an importance of learning about reconciliation with both sides in mind. When two members had had a conflict, they got together and talked.That was an important way to look at reconciliation without placing blame on one side.

Some organizations received an “ancestor stone” to maintain throughout the journey of the project. Marymound youth learned about the importance of the elder stones, how the spirits of their ancestors are contained in the rocks to offer guidance and support.

We’re excited to continue working with these youth and look forward to seeing the final production in May 2020! Join us for one of the 4 presentation dates between May 4 to 9 to learn more and provide input on the project.

 

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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.

 

Heidi Malazdrewich Headshot

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.

 

Yvette Nolan.jpg

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!

Kicking Off with Seven Circles!

We’re excited to officially kick off our Reconciliation Through Theatre project! We are honoured that seven organizations from around the city are hosting Indigenous Youth Visioning Circles, bringing together their youth to guide us in developing a framework for arts-based workshops. We’ll be starting off at Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad Inc. this Thursday – read on for more information about the exciting partnerships we have for this project!

 

Ndinawe-logo-horizNdinawemaaganag Endaawaad Inc. (or Ndinawe for short) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping at-risk youth in Winnipeg. Since 1993, their integrated services have been connecting vulnerable children and youth aged 11–17 with the shelter, culture, recreation, education, outreach and support they need for safe and healthy lives. Open every day of the year, Ndinawe is an immediate and reliable place of safety, connection and support for youth during times of high risk when other resources are unavailable to them.

 

logo_ILDII-300x87Indigenous Leadership Development Institute Inc. (or ILDII) is a non-profit organization established to build leadership capacity in Indigenous people. We’ll be working directly with their Empowering Indigenous Youth in Governance and Leadership (EIYGL) program. EIYGL is Indigenous and youth led that provides important ingredients that builds effective leaders through meaningful skill development.

 

imagesUsing a creative, dynamic approach, Marymound School delivers the provincial education curriculum from elementary grades to grade 11. Marymound School serves two populations of students. Some are young people who live in Marymound group homes or living units, while others, Day Treatment students, come from all over Winnipeg, and live at home with their parents, foster parents or other group homes.

 

Manitoba Youth Centre is the largest youth correctional centre in Manitoba and is located in Winnipeg. It houses both male and female young offenders. MYC is responsible for the care, custody and security of Sentenced and Remanded youth. Case-management, Programming and Spiritual care are offered regularly at the centre; in order to help young people make better choices and avoid criminal lifestyles.

 

CaptureKnowles Centre is a community-based, non-profit social service agency for children, adolescents and young adults facing difficult times in their lives. It began as a home for boys in 1907, and today provides a range of therapeutic and skills-based programs to young people from Manitoba and other communities throughout Canada. Their mission is to help young people and their families to address past struggles, to develop healthier relationships and ways of life, and to reach their full potential in the future.

 

WLogo-1Wahbung Abinoonjiiag was established to empower children and their families to break the cycle of violence. They do this by providing opportunities for holistic healing through culturally-appropriate teachings and activities in a safe and nurturing environment. They offer youth programs, to provide participants with a safe environment where youth can come hang out, be themselves, and get support from their peers and caring adults.

 

10183d2b-f704-4fe7-a968-516f5979c475nChildren of the Earth School is an Aboriginal education school that aims to serve students who, while undertaking a standard high school education, also want to learn about their Aboriginal heritage, values, and traditions. We’ve been running youth workshops at the school for the past few years as the school does not currently offer a drama program. We’re excited to return and work with the youth to prepare for our May 2020 production!

This is just Phase One of the project! You can see the results of the visioning circles at our public presentation and project launch May 4-9, 2019. We will then launch workshops in June and begin work combining the stories to create a full production, debuting May 2020. Follow the progress on our latest community collaboration project!

 

The Road to Reconciliation

“What are you going to do about the way this country treats Indigenous People,” asked Senator Murray Sinclair at the Winnipeg Foundation’s recent Vital Conversation. It is not an easy question. The word reconciliation is being used a lot lately, but not always with a full understanding of what it means let alone what it will require. Sarasvàti Productions is grappling with the role of theatre and the arts in this important process. Thanks to funding from the Winnipeg Foundation, we’re gearing up for the first phase of a long-term project. With the hard work of our Project Coordinator Nova Courchene, Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator Marsha Knight, Visual Artist Jaime Black, Graphic Designer Justin Bear, and the guidance of our Indigenous Advisory Committee, we are putting together an exciting public launch of the project from May 4 to 9.

 

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[Poster] Sarasvati - 7 CirclesThroughout April we will be working on Seven Circles, visioning sessions with youth. Seven organizations will host a space for youth to brainstorm and decide the parameters for a series of arts-based workshops. We are grateful to Children of the Earth High School, Indigenous Leadership Development Institute, The Knowles Centre, Manitoba Youth Centre, Marymound School, Ndinawe, and Wahbung Abinoonjiiag for their partnership.

At the May launch, Jaime Black will share what was heard in these consultation circles through an art installation. This presentation is part of our full project launch with a chance to share what we have heard as well as gather the community together for wider input. We’ll also be hosting a reading of Jo MacDonald’s OUR HOME & Native Land, winner of the 2017 FemFest Bake-Off. Director Heidi Malazdrewich and Dramaturg Yvette Nolan will be on board to help with the development of the play. This comedic piece about treaty rights will help to frame discussion and encourage public input.

The public presentation will take place on:

  • Saturday, May 4th at 2pm
  • Tuesday, May 7th at 1pm
  • Wednesday, May 8th at 10am
  • and Thursday, May 9th at 7pm

Members of the public are more than welcome to attend! Admission to this event is pay-what-you-can-afford at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W).

However, this is just the starting point for the project.  From June to November, workshops will take place at our partner organizations. Using storytelling, the youth will translate their experiences into different art forms. This first phase of the project will bring together youth, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and artists in several mediums.

Then in May 2020 a full public performance of the resulting work will take place. As a true community collaboration, what this performance will include will come directly from the youth so remains to be seen, created, dreamt and realized.

Building Bridges

We have kicked off our next long-term initiative and it has us busting at the seams – both with excitement and literally needing a bigger office space for our staff team! Our new collaborative project focused on reconciliation through storytelling is bringing together a team of Indigenous artists to work with Indigenous youth. Thanks to the generous support of the Winnipeg Foundation, we’re welcoming Nova Courchene to the team as our Project Coordinator for this exciting artistic community-based creation! Sarasvàti Productions joins twenty community organizations who have received funding from the Winnipeg Foundation for projects that work towards reconciliation.

 Nova Courchene Headshot
Nova Courchene is Anishinaabe-kwe from Sagkeeng First Nation and Rolling River both located in Manitoba. Nova has been involved in music and theatre for five years, working with musicians and in theatre organizations out of Toronto and Winnipeg. Currently situating herself in Winnipeg, she is actively working as the Assistant Program Director at the Native Youth Theatre program, run out of Manitoba Theatre for Young people. With experience in her past as an Arts Administrator Intern at Native Earth Performing Arts, and two intern positions at Manitoba Music including a Music Administrator Internship for 3 local Winnipeg Recording Music Artists.

Nova has a deep understanding of the challenges Indigenous people face in their daily lives and the conflict that colonization brings to everyday life. She is excited to dig into the reconciliation project. After meeting with Marsha Knight, our Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator, she will be moving forward with coordinating the logistics of the project.  Discussions continue with various organizations as we welcome sponsors, partners, and participants. She hopes to bring her administration and coordination skills to the project to provide a safe and accommodating space for all involved in the project.

Nova has been surrounded by various Indigenous creatives including emerging playwrights, songwriters, and theatre professionals. She is excited to participate in Sarasvàti’s on-going pledge dedicated to using theatre to promote human understanding and the presentation of evolving experiences on stage. She holds strongly to the ideas of developing young Indigenous voices, experiences and representation within the theatre industry. 


The full project will include consultation circles in the
spring of 2019 leading to an initial public gathering in May 2019. Here artistic means will be used to share what has been captured to date, while also allowing for public dialogue around next steps in the project. From there we will continue to work with partner organizations to structure workshops with Indigenous youth at seven different locations. These sessions will allow arts skills to be transferred to participants, while also having them collaborate on a large-scale public performance in May 2020. The results and lessons learned from the project will be explored and methodologies built in to Sarasvàti’s practices moving forward. We are excited to continue to work with new partner organizations and artists with whom relationships are built as part of this process. Through long-term relationship building, collaboration, and welcoming amazing new team members like Nova we hope to continue the on-going commitment to true reconciliation.


Visit our website to keep tabs as the project develops or feel free to contact ncourchene@sarasvati.ca for information or to get involved.