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!

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What it means to be Unstoppable

Living through riots, learning to teach yoga as a senior, accepting your true self and conquering all odds. This year we celebrate International Women’s Week with a Cabaret of Monologues and performance art that shines a spotlight on the the many ways in which women are unstoppable. Join us in the theatre on March 10th to see the full line-up.  We are thrilled to announce that we will be providing ASL interpreters at the performance.

If you are part of a community group looking for a way to celebrate, book a selection of pieces to host!

We are thrilled to announce this year’s incredible line-up!

Saviour Self by Andrea Scott
Performed by Reena Jolly
Where were you in 1992 when Yonge Street exploded in riots? Josephine Benedict was a swaggering teenager looking to take care of herself, one tampon at a time.

Flight 182 created and performed by Anjali Sandhu
Where are you from? The Jungle Book, 20th century supermodels, ignorant politicians…nothing will stop Rani from being accepted as Canadian.

I Got 99 Problems, My Penis is Just One created and performed by Cynthia Fortlage
One transgender woman’s exploration of her journey to womanhood. This piece delves deep into Learning to be a Feminist, Loss of Privilege, and the Subtleties of Sisterhood.

I Am Unstoppable created and performed by Joanna Hawkins
Can you remember a time when nothing stood in your way? The innocence of childhood can make you feel unstoppable, but how do we persevere after the barriers and discrimination in the dominant world are fully perceived? Deaf artist, Joanna Hawkins explores this through mime.

Captain of My Ship by Kathy France
Performed by Ady Kay in collaboration with Victoria Hill and Emily Solstice
A woman recounts her coming of age story, reliving the confusion and fear that define a young woman’s entry into sexual awareness.

I’ve Never Been Very Good at Drawing Hearts, But I Keep Trying by A.b. Norris
Performed by Monica Thurn und Taxis
Using images captured during a lunar eclipse, this audio-visual media and collaborative performance piece explores (dis)connection between the persistent need to love/be loved and actually being good at either.

I Am a Warrior by Sue Higgs
Cathy signs up for a course. Nothing unusual about that, except for the fact that Cathy is in her late 60’s in a class full of twenty-something’s.

Sweet An Nice by Althea Cunningham
Performed by Lorraine James
Pregnant with a child, Jamaican immigrant Celestine seeks a better life in a new country. After getting a family to sponsor her, she moves thousands of miles across several oceans to discover it’s far from what she imagined it to be.

ObScene created and performed by Kristy Janvier
By holding onto our beliefs or judgements, how can we create connection? A performance art piece that explores healthy sensuality as a means of release.

Perfect Pie by Judith Thompson
Performed by Anna Binder
When prompted by a long-estranged friend, Patsy explains what it’s like to have an epileptic seizure. From master playwright Judith Thompson’s ground-breaking play about how you cannot escape where you come from.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we get to know the artists involved!

Launching IWW18

How do you pull together 10 performers, doing 10 pieces and touring to upwards of 15 locations? With a lot of help. For five years now Rachel Smith has been an integral part of the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. Rachel is part of choosing the theme, making monologue selections and directing pieces to be performed at the theatre and throughout the community. As we begin to choose our selections for IWW2018, we caught up with Rachel to talk about what she’s looking forward to about the project this year.

What does the IWW Cabaret of Monologues mean to you?

I have been fortunate enough to grow as a director throughout my time working on the cabaret. When I first joined the artistic team I had just graduated with my MA so I was eager to get more practical experience under my belt. Working on this event gave me the opportunity to have Hope McIntyre as a mentor and I feel this has strongly contributed to my growth as an artist.

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Rachel Smith

Working on monologues is challenging in many ways. The playwrights have to write an active and engaging performance for only one person. The actors have no other actors on stage to feed off of and sometimes have to react to an imaginary character. As a director we have to help the actors figure out how to bring the monologues to life; ensuring the performance is active and engaging.

Each monologue that I have worked on has presented its own unique challenges artistically and each actor is different to work with. Every time I have worked on the monologues I take something new away from them. The practical experiences I gain are matched by the expansive understanding that the different stories present.

What does this year’s theme ‘Unstoppable’ mean to you?

Each year the theme we choose offers new stories and new perspectives. The perspectives that are represented in the monologues are not often seen on stage elsewhere. The topics challenge the audiences and offer new ways of thinking about the themes we present. Working as a director on these stories ensures that my own biases are constantly being challenged. I hope that it does the same for audiences.

I think that the theme “unstoppable” is important because it can be inspirational. Everyone faces challenges at some point in their lives. For some people just getting out of bed in the morning can be a challenge. Sometimes the circumstances we find ourselves in can seem hopeless. Sometimes we need other people’s stories about how they are able to push through and keep going, in order to feel as though we can do the same.

What have some of the highlights been for you?

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Jane Burpee in Dave Carley’s “Urban Nun”

My favourite monologue that I have worked on has been the, somewhat crude, smoking Nun played by Jane Burpee. It was such a great monologue and I had so much fun working on it.

That being said, every year the monologues and rehearsals are so great that it is hard to narrow down the highlights. For me, working on the Cabaret, in general, is a highlight.

Why celebrate IWW with the Cabaret of Monologues?

The Cabaret of Monologues is a unique event where we are able to confront important societal issues while getting the chance to showcase talent from Canadian Women. We often get a range of work from all over Canada from women writers of various backgrounds. With the added bonus of being able to work with local, often up and coming, artists. It is a chance to have powerful stories portrayed by powerful women on stage.

One of my favourite aspects of the Cabaret of Monologues is that the monologues tour to different community organizations. This provides opportunities to bring the performances to people who may not be able to attend the full public event. Many organizations use the monologues as an opportunity to talk about circumstances that members of their communities may be confronting. It also provides opportunities for the performers to meet members of the community. This gives the event a more personalized atmosphere.

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Johanna Burdon performing at St. John’s Library

Stay tuned for the announcement of this year’s pieces in an upcoming blog! You can catch the 2018 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues March 10 at 4pm and 8pm at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are on sale now.  Those interested in booking monologues to tour to their community can contact Angie at associate@sarasvati.ca .

 

Talking Comedy with Danielle Kayahara

The Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser brings you eight hilarious comedians with eight diverse comedic styles. Danielle Kayahara did her first ever open mic this past May. Her unique blend of honest observation and storytelling made her an instant favourite among crowds and comedians alike. Since then, Danielle has been lighting up stages all over Winnipeg, including being featured in the Winnipeg Comedy Festival’s Comedy All Year: Winnipeg Women.  This week, we talked comedy with the undeniably funny Danielle Kayahara.

What drives you to talk about the things you talk about on stage?

Danielle Kayahara - HeadshotDK: I think too much and I worry too much, I’m not sure I could keep that off of the stage if I tried. I like finding silliness in everyday experiences because it takes some of the seriousness out of the world. Sometimes it means over analyzing etiquette, other times it’s pointing out flaws in technology, sometimes it means anthropomorphizing my cat, and other times it’s confessing that I had to Google “anthropomorphizing” to make sure I knew what it meant and could spell it properly. I’m drawn toward the idea that we’re all more alike than we realize, and as strange or exaggerated as a joke might be, I like to think there’s still something relatable at its core.

Why stand up comedy?

DK: That’s a question I ask myself all the time! It’s terrifying and anxiety-inducing but for some reason, I keep coming back. There’s something magical about bringing people together in a moment of laughter and shared understanding. As a fan of comedy, I’ve always loved those moments and now I do what I can to try and create them.

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Danielle Kayahara on stage at Winnipeg Comedy Festival’s Comedy All Year: Winnipeg Women

What are you looking forward to about the Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser?

DK: I’m looking forward to having a chance to perform alongside some amazingly talented comedians and all for a great cause. I’ve been lucky enough to find my voice through comedy, Sarasvàti Productions helps give a voice to meaningful stories which might otherwise go unheard.

What would you say to someone who has NEVER been to a Winnipeg comedy show?

DK: To those who have never been to a Winnipeg comedy show, I was like you once. I didn’t even know that Winnipeg had comedy shows. I didn’t know that I could spend an evening watching a show and giggling uncontrollably in a fantastic pub environment. Now, I regret that I was kept in the dark for so long! To those who are fans of comedy, I feel as though there isn’t much to say. I know that as a fan, if I didn’t have the honor of performing at this show, I’d already have my ticket. Either way, come check out this show, support an awesome cause, bring your friends, enjoy some drinks and laugh all of the laughs.

The Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser sold out last year. Get your tickets in advance!
Womens Comedy Night Fundraiser 2017

Making Space for Women’s Experience of Homelessness

Homelessness means… “I am not worthy or worth enough to be or feel safe. I don’t deserve anything. I must have done something wrong.”

Too often defining homelessness is done by those without lived experience. This response from a participant who has spent years on the streets is an important part of a unique collaboration. Sarasvàti Productions’ artists have been working with women at West Central Women’s Resource Centre (WCWRC) on a new story-sharing project, the focus is women’s experiences with homelessness.

Women come to WCWRC for a variety of services – for support groups, job training, recreation or for a shower and a meal. The West End-based non-profit has a mandate to “empower women to help themselves, their families and their community to safer, healthier lifestyles”, so it’s no surprise that they are perfect pair with Sarasvàti Productions. Far from the first time these two organizations have worked together, WCWRC and Sarasvàti collaborated on an inter-generational project two years ago, artists have led workshops as part of programming and the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues have been performed at the Centre on several occasions. This time, a core group of women at WCWRC will be working with our facilitators so that their stories can be told on stage at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness.

“These women are the epitome of strength, courage, and resilience”, says Nan Fewchuk, one of  Sarasvàti Productions’ facilitators. “They share their harrowing stories with complete honesty, and are somehow able to still laugh at themselves, and at the absurdity of the situations in their lives. Pliny the Elder once said, ‘Home is where the heart is’. I am so grateful to each of these ladies for inviting me into their beautiful ‘homes’.”

Nan at WCWRC

Facilitator Nan Fewchuk at WCWRC

Working with the women at WCWRC is an important part of meeting our goals as a company. If we want to promote social change and human understanding we need to start by listening to folks who are often neglected in our community.  We are driven to create platforms for voices rarely heard on Canadian stages.

WCWRC is an amazing organization. They are packed to the rafters and busier than ever with newly increased hours and programming.  It’s a sign that the services they provide are in high-demand and that they are really working to serve the needs of the community. Sarasvàti is proud to be working with WCWRC and honoured to have the opportunity to share the stories of the women involved.  The public is invited to “Can You See Me Now”, a presentation of readings at 7:30pm on October 24th at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film – admission by donation. The presentation will also be part of the National Conference on Ending Homelessness and open to conference attendees on October 25th. CAEH17_logo_L-900x614

 

 

Awesome Music, Fearless Storytelling: 6 Reasons to see Ivan Coyote and Tomboy Survival Guide at FemFest2017

  1. They are an incredible talent

Tomboy Survival Guide is the explosive live music and story-driven collaboration of Ivan Coyote, Sal Zori, Pebbles Willekes and Alison Gorman. It’s been described by NAC Backstage as “a rousing and unforgettable night of stories and anthems that pry the lid off the gender boxes we find ourselves in and illuminate some of the deepest wishes of tomboys and gender transgressors…” Tomboy Survival Guide is also the title of Ivan’s 11th book. This award-winning storyteller has produced four short films and released three albums.

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photo by Robin Toma

  1. They are an institution

Ivan’s books are used as teaching material in Gender Studies classes at Universities across the world.

“Ivan Coyote is a favourite of my GWS students. Since my hire in 2013, I have taught their work and shown videos of their performances in my classes.
Tomboy Survival Guide tells heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories about the social construction and consequences of strict and binary gender roles. Tomboys, like sissy femmes, and other “gender outlaws” to use Kate Bornstein’s phrase, are representative of a systemic culture that aims to concretize sex/gender binaries, but ultimately, fails to do so. What emerges from such a culture is the resiliency, humour, and kindness of someone like Ivan.
More than anything, seeing Ivan Coyote in person will give trans, gender nonconforming, and Two Spirit students a real-life representation of gender queerness unavailable in Brandon. Furthermore, access to 2SLGBTIQA* role models and representations is essential for 2SLGBTIQA* student’s gender and sexuality affirmation.”
– Corinne L. Mason, PhD, Brandon University

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photo by Jourdan Tymkow

  1. Their words will stay with you

“You don’t realize how much you are slotted into your gender box by the world until you don’t or won’t or can’t fit into one”- Ivan Coyote.

Along with being named one of the Top TED Talks of 2016, Ivan has toured Universities and elementary schools alike sharing their experience navigating life outside of society’s gender boxes.

  1. Fans of Ivan Coyote and Tomboy Survival Guide are fans for life

“I really liked Tomboy Survival Guide because it was funny but heartfelt.  You get a couple different perspectives on what it’s like to grow up being a tomboy. The music is great! Go see them!” – Wren Brian

  1. They are in demand

Ivan has toured all over the world. After playing one night only in Winnipeg, Ivan and their band take off to the Dublin Festival. Sunday Sept. 17 is a rare opportunity to see the band live!

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photo by Fubar

  1. They will not disappoint

Tomboy Survival Guide is a high-energy live performance that will have you out of your seat singing out loud. This all-tomboy band asks the audience to join them as they navigate the narrow halls of public washrooms, skirt the threat of being picked to be a flower girl at their aunt’s wedding, triumph over tying a double Windsor knot, and discover the power and beauty in realizing they were handsome all along.

Come and experience this incredible performance at FemFest2017.

Saturday, Sept 16 you have a chance for more intimate experience as Ivan reads from their work at 4pm at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Queer youth and allies welcome!

 

Up Close and Personal with Judith Thompson

Not only is legendary Canadian playwright Judith Thompson coming all the way to Winnipeg  to celebrate 15 years of FemFest, she is fully embracing all that the festival has to offer!

Two-time recipient of the Governor General’s Literary Awards for Drama and an Officer in the Order of Canada, Thompson was awarded the prestigious Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts in 2007. In 2008 she was honoured with the Susan Smith Blackburn Award and the Dora Mavor Moore Outstanding New Play Award for Palace of the End, which was also awarded the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award. Thompson has written a number of classic Canadian plays, including White Biting Dog, Lion in the Streets, I Am Yours, Such Creatures, The Thrill, and Watching Glory Die.

Despite her well-earned recognition as a playwright, Judith attributes her ability to continue writing to the stability offered by a teaching position at the University of Guelph. Were it not for this stability, she says she would have gone into social work, which won’t come as a surprise to avid Thompson fans. Thompson has made an impact on audiences around the world by amplifying voices of those who are not often heard. Her work in the arts is driven by her desire to see beyond the surface of an issue and her recent play Watching Glory Die is no exception.

Judith Thomspson_FemFest2017Most recently, Thompson has focused on working with people of exceptionality, including those who are differently abled.  Experiences with her daughter, who lives with auto-immune deficiency, lead Thompson to work with youth living with chronic disorders.  Her focus now is on how to use any clout she has to give life to stories from those who may not otherwise be heard. When asked what her title would be if she were a book, Thompson said, ‘Nothing about us without us – using my art to amplify voices’.

Thompson brings a unique perspective to playwriting, and perhaps that is why she’s been able to write plays that leave such an impact. In an interview with the Georgia Straight, Thompson said, “I haven’t suffered the way that many people have, but I think that it [the epilepsy] gave me some kind of lens. And it’s the combination: I have enough sense of entitlement as a person, with the privileges I’ve had, to write a play, and to think that anybody would listen; but then I also was—I think I would say lucky enough to go through the epilepsy, and a couple of rough years in school, to have an understanding.” Multiple award-winning playwright, mother of 5 now in the 60’s, she feels she has proven, despite naysayers, that she can have everything and do it all as a woman.

This September, FemFest brings you many opportunities to get to know Judith Thompson. Throughout Sept 16-23 you can learn from her at a free public lecture, study with her in a playwriting masterclass, hear her read from new work in development, sit down across from her for a one-on-one conversation and of course, see the FemFest production of Thompson’s recent play Watching Glory Die.

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REAL THING LECTURE (free)

Judith Thompson speaks as part of this series of exciting and informative lectures by guest speakers from the ‘real world’ of theatre and film. An important opportunity to hear about the reality of having a career in the arts.

PLAYWRITING MASTERCLASS

An opportunity to work with one of Canada’s most studied playwrights. The focus will be on writing by impulse, discovering moments of transformation that are worthy of the theatrical medium and digging deep in to conflict and character. This masterclass is intended for playwrights who are actively writing.

WATCHING GLORY DIE by Judith Thompson
Produced by Mulgrave Road Theatre
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“Politically charged and some of Thompson’s best story-telling”
-HALIFAX BLOGGERS

Watching Glory Die is inspired by the true story of New Brunswick teen Ashley Smith. Deliberately fictionalized, a riveting and deeply compassionate portrait of three women – Glory, incarcerated for minor offences at age 14; Rosellen, the girl’s adoptive mother desperately trying to remain connected to her daughter; Gail, a prison guard, walking the line between her ‘orders’ and her conscience.

HUMAN LIBRARY (free)

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Readers will be able to borrow from an amazing line-up of Human Books for up to 30 minutes of one-on-one conversation.  Thompson looks forward to sharing how arts can be used by all to increase understanding. Check-out details for reserving books.

ONE NIGHT STAND AND A TOAST TO 15 YEARS!

Judith Thompson joins five of Winnipeg’s own most celebrated playwrights to toast 15 years with readings of new work in development. Do not miss this closing night event!