FemFest Opens with an Explosion of Talent

Now entering its 16th year, FemFest continues to celebrate women in theatre, representing women artists from across the nation. Since 2003, FemFest has provided a supportive environment for women in theatre and the performing arts. The theme this year for FemFest is Resistance, an idea that could not have been better represented than in the works of this year’s artists. While community members can enjoy riveting plays from artists like Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, Darla Contois and Norah Paton, our annual Opening Cabaret is jam-packed with Winnipeg artists, a must for this year’s FemFest.

The Opening Cabaret features a variety of multidisciplinary artists from Winnipeg’s dynamic arts community. As Sarasvàti Productions builds inspiring theatre that challenges perceptions and affects change in our community, this year’s Cabaret artists take the theme Resistance to another level. From comedy to film, choreography, dramatic arts and music, there’s no shortage of talent amongst this dynamic group that audiences won’t enjoy.

FemFest and theatre enthusiasts alike can look forward to a high-energy showcase with a total of nine acts that represent the definition of diversity in Winnipeg’s art-scene. Whether you’re listening to the vocal stylings of up-and-coming music sensation Rychelle Thompson, the artful technique of DJ Louie Lovebird, or even the raw and undeniably hilarious truth from the WOKE Comedy Collective with Dione C. Haynes and Elissa Black Wolf Kixen, these Cabaret artists bring a unique edge to the table.

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Given that Sarasvàti Productions champions programming that is diverse and inclusive to narratives from all walks of life, we are thrilled to showcase this incredible group of artists, creating an evening that is inviting and fun for everyone. For those wondering who else is on our roster this year we are happy to have the following acts a part of our 16th annual Opening Cabaret.

If you love challenging the at-times overwhelming exhibits of male privilege throughout your daily life, then these ladies have the best way for you to join in challenging the misogyny! Meet Ady Kay & Victoria Emilie Hill, the two brilliant minds of the group called The Patriarchy: a comedic a capella duo ready to smash the patriarchy with their ridiculous personalities and singing abilities.

If visual art is also of interest, audience members can look forward to an artist talk with one of Winnipeg’s emerging artist from MAWA (Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art). Sue Hoang is a multidisciplinary artist whose work has a comical way of looking at the world in order to create a sense of belonging. From visual to performance art, these two delightful souls bring absolute genius to the comedy game in Winnipeg. Whether you catch them at their monthly community comedy showcase or saw them at this year’s Fringe Festival, Dione C Haynes and Elissa Black Wolf Kixen (co-founders of WOKE Comedy Collective) will leave you holding your sides all night and in tears from honest and hilarious storytelling, demanding your attention with their charming yet intriguing comedy routine. Then listen to the powerful and refreshing vocals from up-and-coming vocalist Rychelle Thompson whose energetic and soulful voice will have you tapping your feet along to her unique and enriching voice. For such a young talent, Rychelle is on her way to making quite an impression on Winnipeg’s music community.

We couldn’t have a showcase without film! Bank Statement from filmmaker Tyshana Hobson follows the story of a young Indigenous woman who gets questioned by a teller when she makes her bi-weekly cash deposits at her local bank. Bringing nothing but raw realities and truth through cinematic perfection, Tyshana’s film will leave you both enlightened and intrigued. If film is your favourite pastime, you will absolutely adore ‘Frequently Asked Questions About My Hair’ by actor Lorraine James, a longstanding talent in Winnipeg’s acting community whose work will leave you more educated on the everyday situations Black women get into living and just existing in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Moving from dramatic to performance and movement arts, the breathtaking and ever-so technical-stylings of dance duo Maribeth Tabanera & Tracy Tomchuk, with their piece titled Energy Prevalence, will have you signing up for their next dance workshop. Moving into another medium of artistic expression, spoken word; this show would not be complete without the words from poet, writer and political-activist Sadie Phoenix-Lavoie (co-founder of Red Rising Magazine).

Ending off the night in a stellar way is local artist, DJ Louie Lovebird (Lou Gandier), a powerhouse talent that will have you running to dance floor when they drop the most intense music mashups to get you grooving at Winnipeg’s local nightlife scene.

We could not be more happy to present this incredible group of artists celebrating Resistance for FemFest 16th year at our Opening Cabaret. Save the date, Saturday, September 15 at The Asper Centre for Theatre and Film starting at 7:00PM with free reception (with food provided from Garbonzos at the U of W AnX) after the cabaret!

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“Home 2.0” Comes to Schools This Fall!

“Can you name a time that you’ve had to start all over? New school? New house? New activity? Throughout the course of the show, we’ll be like flies on the wall watching the stories of people who had to start over. What you are about to see is from true stories shared by people about coming to Canada.” – Joker, Home 2.0

Imagine sitting in your school gym and getting to experience music, dance, and visuals from half a dozen different cultural groups played out before your eyes, all threaded together to tell the journey of displaced people arriving to Canada. At the end of the performance, the actors invite you on stage to step in to the shoes of a character and explore solutions to the challenges they faced.

In May, we saw the culmination of the first part of our newcomer community collaboration project, New Beginnings. Now we’re continuing the project with Home 2.0!

Home 2.0 was created especially for youth, focusing on their experiences of resettlement. Young audiences will engage with characters their own age, allowing youth to see themselves and their stories represented onstage. By sharing stories of immigrant and refugee youth who have resettled in Canada, Home 2.0 will foster important dialogue around the challenges of newcomers. For many youth, this might be the first time they see their experiences represented in the arts. For others, it might be the first time they’ve been able to really grasp what it’s like to be forced to leave your home and start again halfway across the world.

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Like our previous school tours, Home 2.0 is performed “forum theatre style”, meaning the audience gets a say in the events onstage. Forum Theatre is a lively and effective way to look at and counter issues that our community faces today by encouraging audiences to take an active role in the show rather than acting as bystanders. The show offers students the chance to watch the “worst case scenario” play out before them – followed by the opportunity to change the ending, offer solutions, or provide support for the characters. By challenging what happens, youth are able to think about how they would act or how they wish they had acted in a similar scenario. Ultimately, the show promotes empathy and compassion, educating students on the experiences of starting over in a new country.

We’ll be touring the show throughout Winnipeg and Manitoba October 15 through to December 7, visiting schools in the community to promote inclusion and understanding. If you’re a teacher looking to bring the show to your students, contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca for more information!

Our Next Community Collaboration Project!

A team of 9 artists collaborating, 9 performers, 9 dancers, musicians and dozens of community participants! It’s going to be one heck of a show. Over the past two years, we’ve been interviewing community members who are newcomers to Canada, working with numerous newcomer agencies and hearing the stories of dozens of individuals who have experienced resettlement. Now, we’ve compiled their stories into our final show of the 2017-2018 season, New Beginnings!

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“New Beginnings” Preview at FemFest 2017

The project incited passionate responses at the preview at FemFest 2017. This was the first step towards realizing this production on stage. Professional theatre artists teamed up with new arrivals in an exchange of stories, music, and dance. Inspired by the input we received, we’ve been workshopping the script since September and continuing to add stories from newcomers of all ages and backgrounds.

new beggining.jpgWe are excited to finally bring the collaboration to the stage later this spring! 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.

Before the performance, you can also check out our lobby art installation featuring paintings, photography, and film by local refugee artists. We’ll also be offering an ASL-interpreted performance, translation services, and child-minding to make the show as accessible as possible. Following the performance, we’ll be hosting regular conversation circles to foster dialogue about the stories depicted and welcome people to offer their own stories in return.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we feature the amazing artists participating!

27907465_1675043125940329_5390131185813551337_o.jpgThis unique production will also run in the same space as One Trunk Theatre’s new show Boundary Avenue: a documentary-style play co-created by Liam Zarrillo, Andraea Sartison, and Caroline Wintoniw. The show looks at the town of Emerson and the influx of asylum seekers who have crossed into Manitoba over the past year. One Trunk Theatre is excited to share their research and to support those who lent their stories for the development of the play by donating back the proceeds from this production. There will be special opportunities to see both productions – check out Brown Paper Tickets for package deals!

You can catch the world premiere of New Beginnings May 22-27 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (at the University of Winnipeg). For more details and to purchase your tickets, click here!

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.

Kathy France headshot 2017

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.

A.b. Norris headshot 2017

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.”

Monika Thurn und Taxis headshot_2017

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!