ENVISION – Sarasvàti Productions 2017/18 Season Launch

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Sarasvàti Productions invites you to envision a season of life-changing theatre that is inclusive, full of possibility and absolutely thrilling!

From FemFest 2017: Coming of Age to the 2018 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable, to a formidable season of workshops geared to supporting youth and emerging artists: we are so excited to get started! Join us on August 4th at the Saddlery on Market (114 Market Ave)–a beautiful new spot in the Exchange District. This party is absolutely free. Show up by 7pm to enjoy the entire evening, or pop in throughout your First Friday adventures.

We’ll be celebrating FemFest’s 15th birthday by having some of our staff and artists share things they wrote as a child.

Let us entertain you with a Cabaret-style line-up featuring artists from our season to come. RobYn Slade presents a sampling of 50/50 theatre-improv fusion from the FemFest 2017 Cabaret. Reena Jolly performs a monologue devised from interviews with young newcomer women as part of New Beginnings development. Melanee Deschambeault and Erica Wilson perform a teaser  from FemFest featured show Two Indians and much, much more!

See what you envision at our awesome build-your-own kaleidoscope station courtesy of ArtsJunktion mb.

And as always we’ll have plenty of decadent cupcakes supplied generously by Cake-ology.

So join us on Friday August 4th as we envision an incredible season of Winnipeg theatre.
See more event details here.

 

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Theatre that Transforms Us – 2016/17 Season Retrospective

Cotton candy cocktails, ghosts, riots, vans stuck in the snow, standing ovations, tears and a lot of laughter. It really is hard to believe that another season has gone by – our 17th one in Winnipeg to be exact! Just over a year ago, we launched a season themed on Transformation and it truly was life-changing.

Breaking Through
“They were commenting on how they thought they were the only ones feeling a certain way until seeing this play and being able to realize that they are not alone.” – Loveeza Arshad, Friends Housing

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The cast of Breaking Through takes a bow

Thanks to your support we enjoyed an incredibly successful run of the culmination of our Mental Health project. We hope the dialogue will continue outside the theatre for some time to come. We’ll keep you posted as we work towards publishing the play!

 

IWW 2017 Starting Over
“Engaging and inspiring, these powerful performances rooted in real experiences provided brilliant insight. In our case, the complex realities of both youthful and mature immigrant women were are the forefront. Exploring these themes is so vital, with increased cultural diversity and amid global striving for women’s rights. Women of all nations and cultures can relate to themes of place, space, marginalization, hope, potential…”– Pamela Hadder, Agape House-Eastman Crisis Centre

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A packed house at IWW2017: Starting Over

This year, we worked closely with newcomer women and girls and the results were some incredible pieces.  We were proud to provide a platform for women’s stories, to promote equity on Canadian stages and to provide access to the arts. A great big thank you goes out to Manitoba Status of Women and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. Without them, this Cabaret would not be possible. Special thanks to Neighborhoods Alive! and NERI for supporting our North End performances.

One Night Stand Series
“Amazing job, everyone! And for those involved in [my piece], thank you so much for helping me bring that world to life… Truly an inspirational night!” –  Marjorie Roden, featured playwright

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One Night Stand Fringe Frenzy! at Carol Shields Festival of new Works

With the help of producer Tatiana Carnevale and Prairie Theatre Exchange we re-launched the One Night Stand playreading Series. The Series gives playwrights the opportunity to test their work, while giving audiences a chance to take part in their development process.  Look out for the launch of One Night Stand next season at closing night of FemFest! We will be featuring readings from Judith Thompson and our most celebrated local playwrights.

 

Workshops for Emerging Artists
“So much good info!”
“Extremely beneficial”
“It was great! More workshops!” – Feedback from workshop participants

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Our Artistic Director Hope McIntyre facilitates at Auditioning 101

We served 85 emerging artists with our Emerging Artist workshop series this season.
We tackled some of our most-requested workshops this year with Grantwriting & Taxes for Artists, Auditioning 101 and Mock Auditions for Advanced Actors.  We thank our partners Winnipeg Arts Council, Manitoba Arts Council, ACI Manitoba, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Theatre Projects Manitoba and Winnipeg Jewish Theatre for helping us support education opportunities for emerging artists. Plans for the 2017/18 Emerging Artists Workshop Series are already underway! Drop us a line if there is a workshop you’d like to see.

North End Workshop Series
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study theatre but now I’m sure!” – Sabil, youth participant

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Youth facilitator Erica Wilson offers direction as the youth participants work on their scene

We kicked-off 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 look forward to supporting them with mentorship in 2017/18.

 

 


Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

“Congratulations! What a great evening!!” – Brigit Krasovec
“Great turn out! Amazing show.” – Tim Gray

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Actions shots of some of the comedians at the Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

We took a leap and tried something brand new with our comedy fundraiser. We teamed up with Winnipeg’s hilarious women comedians to produce the Women’s Comedy Night. The event saw unprecedented success—selling out and packing the venue with an incredible mix of Sarasvàti supporters and comedy fans. We had a blast and you better believe we’ll be doing this again next year.

 

 


Shattered
High School Tour

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The cast of Shattered

“Things aren’t what they seem and we should never assume things about people. I learned a lot and I
could tell my fellow audience members also learned something new. I realized a lot more people in our
school had experience with mental illness than I thought.” -Student at Fort Richmond Collegiate

We broke pervious records by performing to 6,161 youth and educators in Manitoba. Shattered has received overwhelming praise from teachers and students alike. It was also transformative for the cast who were touched by the number of youth who approached them after performances to share their own struggles with mental health.


FemFest2016: Transformation

We were proud to present such provocative touring shows as Miss Understood, Mouthpiece, as well as clown favourites Morro & Jasp Do Puberty. The world premiere of the previous year’s Bake-Off winner Sherry MacDonald’s The Seduction Theory made a huge impact as audiences discussed the ways we continue to victim-blame.

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These are just a few of our highlights. What stood out for you? Save the date for August 4th at 7pm and stay tuned for exciting details about our 2017/18 season launch.

The Power of Story: Sarasvàti presents human rights activist Ali Saeed

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A delicious traditional Ethiopian meal prepared at Gohe Restaurant. Photo by Serge Gumenyuk, The Uniter.

An amazing meal, a powerful story and supporting inspiring theatre – what more could you want in an evening! On Thursday June 15th at 6pm join Sarasvàti Productions for a full course meal of traditional Ethiopian food followed by the powerful story of award-winning human rights activist, Ali Saeed. Fresh from speaking at the 2017 Winnipeg TEDx, Ali joins us to share his transformational experience in support of transformational theatre.

Ali Saeed is a former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience [i] who was imprisoned on more than one occasion because of his work as a human rights defender in his home country of Ethiopia. He spent a total of seven years in custody and was held in eleven different prisons during his incarceration in Ethiopia and Somalia. He was tortured and subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment during this period.  After being released from imprisonment in Somalia in 1984, Ali Saeed immigrated to Manitoba.

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Ali Saeed

Even though he had survived unimaginable horrors as a direct consequence of his human rights activities in Ethiopia, Ali immediately resumed these efforts in Manitoba by working on behalf of other refugees seeking safety from persecution while placing emphasis on promoting the rights of women.

Since arriving in Manitoba Ali has transformed the lives of many. Ali has worked to sponsor 104 refugees through the Ethiopian Society of Winnipeg by working in collaboration with Hospitality House and the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, traveled to Parliament Hill along with his daughter to present a petition highlighting concerns about women who had been disappeared or were being held as political prisoners in Ethiopia and produced the award winning Memories of a Generation, a feature length documentary on human rights which has reached over 5,000 people in Europe and North America.

Hear Ali Saeed speak at Honouring Courage and Celebrating Diversity on June 15th at Gohe Ethiopian Restaurant. The evening includes a world-class Ethiopian meal, a silent art auctions and more. Tickets are just $45 (tax receipt for $25) and available at our office – call 204-586-2236 or info@sarasvati.ca. All funds raised will support the transformative theatre work of Sarasvàti Productions.

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[i] Prisoners of conscience are individuals who have been imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs or because of their race, gender or other personal characteristics.

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.

Tales of Starting Over Tackled by a Stellar Cast

We’ve got a lot of local talent packed into this year’s Cabaret, some familiar faces, and some new to Sarasvati. We’re pleased to introduce to you to some of the cast members of the 2017 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. Stay tuned next week for part two!

Cherrel Holder is an actress, dancer, and teacher in both arenas. She is a passionate multi-tasker who describes herself as “raw, enthusiastic, and annoyingly positive.” Cherrel will perform In My Country, an exposé of how Canada can appear to some as they arrive from other countries.

Many of you will be familiar with actor Erica Wilson who has worked with Sarasvàti many times, most-recently on Shattered.”I’m a girl with many faces”, says Wilson, “once a women said I had 5, I laughed and told her I currently had 7. I’m a workaholic that tries to do better every single year.” Wilson plays an Ojibwe Activist who finds herself faced with a big choice after speaking out at a rally.

Johanna Burdon is an actor and avid cyclist–perfect for her role in this year’s Cabaret where Johanna plays a character who is part-way through cycling across Canada.”I really like riding my bike”, said Burdon. “It’s my go-to form of transportation because it’s fun, healthy, good for the environment, easy, inexpensive, and reliable.”

Melanee Deschambeault is a full-time student in her 3rd year at U of M. She is an actor as well as one of the facilitators of Sarasvati’s  North End Youth Workshop Series. Melanee performs Questions and Answers, a piece that finds a young woman at a challenging moment in her life  as she attempts to re-enter the dating world after surviving rape.

And finally introducing Sarah London. Sarah is in her first year of studies at the University of Winnipeg. She was recently the subject of a mini-doc for The Orange Daisy Project which advocates for young women’s mental health. London will perform Wild Orchid, the monologue of a young woman with Autism who is trying to come to terms with the idea of breaking patterns.

We caught up with these performers to ask them a few fun questions and  get to know them better as they begin buckling down to rehearse!

If you could wake up tomorrow with any new skill, what would it be?
Erica Wilson: Contortionist, hands down. Its always been in the back of my mind but the way I’m going its such an unreachable goal.
Sarah London: A photographic memory to expand my capacity for knowledge.
Johanna Burdon: To be able to speak, write, and understand every language.
Melanee Deshcambeault: I would love to bilingual. French would be awesome!
Cherrel Holder: Sing like Lea Michelle.

Who is a local woman that inspires you?
Cherrel Holder
: My mom, Junette Holder, because she is a single parent from a third world country who fought to bring me and my two sisters to Canada for a better life, and in doing so has taught me the value of love and forgiveness.
Erica Wilson: I have been able to meet and work with so many kick-ass women in my life, just to name a few, Madison Thomas (also the playwright for the monologue I’m performing), Frances Koncan, Victoria Perrie, Emily Barker and Dee Thomas are just doing so well for themselves.
Sarah London:Your mom…just kidding. My mom inspires me, I probably don’t know your mom.

What would you do if you won a million dollars?
Sarah London: I would invest it, learn to play the stock market, take risks. Turn that million into millions.
Johanna Burdon:
Put half of it in a fund of some sort, so that it would grow, and spend the other producing theatre/donating to theatre companies.
Erica Wilson
: I’d pay off my mom’s debt, get her into her own little house fully paid and utilities paid for up to 20 years. Once that’s done pay my rent off for a year and travel. I’m a simple gal.

If you had to start over again in a new place, where would you want to go?
Cherrel Holder: New York – especially if it was Christmas!
Melanee Deschambeault: I would love to go to Montreal and audition for the National Theater School Of Canada.
Johanna Burdon: I can’t imagine getting a better start in any other city.

We are excited to get down to work with such an amazing cast. For more info on the pieces, or to get tickets visit our website!

 

Going Above and Beyond in 2017!

Happy New Year! We are excited to announce our goals for 2017! We aim to break new ground and cover uncharted territory in order to realize our vision of transforming society through theatre. Check out what we are setting our sights on this year:

1.PROMOTE DIVERSITY ON THE STAGE

If you think the Equity in Theatre stats on women in the industry have a long way to go, wait until you see the stats on diversity. Promoting diversity in the local theatre scene generates growth, equity and human understanding within the arts community and audiences.  We are proud to produce a season of theatre and workshops that respond to the lack of equity on Canadian stages proactively. January 11th marks the launch of our second round of free theatre workshops for Indigenous and newcomer youth in Winnipeg’s North End.  This March, we highlight the stories of newcomer women throughout International Women’s Week with the 2017 Cabaret of Monologues: Starting Over.

 

2. SUPPORT EMERGING ARTISTS

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Coffee with a Pro

After successfully piloting Coffee with a Pro, an informal mentorship series that sets emerging artists up with an established artist in their field to talk shop over coffee, we look forward to expanding the series into even more disciplines in 2017.

We have received ample requests for an Audition workshop geared to those who have never auditioned before. This Spring, Hope McIntyre will facilitate just that with Auditioning 101. Stay tuned for details.

3. HAVE SOME FUN AND RAISE SOME FUNDS

audience-shotWe’re rolling into uncharted territory with a brand new fundraising event. On April 9th at Academy Lanes some of the most well-known CEO’s and business leaders in Winnipeg will square-off in a Strike-a-Thon with pledges and proceeds going to Sarasvàti Productions.

Plus last year’s Women’s Comedy Night was such a success that we can’t wait for round two in the fall of 2017!

4. BUST BARRIERS

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Staged reading of Breaking Through, May 2016

After over two years of community-based research, workshops, and interviews we are thrilled to present the full production of Breaking Through May 23-38, 2017.

The Mental Health is Everyone’s Health project saw Sarasvàti’s artists team up with Artists in Health Care, Red Threads Playback Theatre and the Selkirk Mental Health Centre as well as multiple community organizations and members of the public to create a play that takes a realistic look the way mental health issues affect us all. The result is a bold theatrical experience that is guaranteed to spark dialogue.

5. CELEBRATE SUCCESSES

FemFest turns 15 this year! We are working on the line-up that will appropriately celebrate our landmark festival of plays by women for everyone! You can look forward to some exciting surprises and special guest artists.

 

That’s our top 5, but when all is said and done we are basically going to produce kick-ass art and we want you to be a part of it!  Stay posted on our events by following us here!