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

 

 

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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!

More than Meets the Eye at FemFest 2017

FemFest is for theatre lovers, theatre newbies and theatre-makers alike.

Along with feature plays, FemFest celebrates female playwrights with readings, workshops and a roster full of fun events. Check out what we have going on from SEPT 16-23!

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Ivan Coyote (photo by Jourdan Tymkow)

IVAN COYOTE READING

Join Ivan Coyote, natural born storyteller and LGBT advocate for an intimate reading of their award-winning writing. This event is absolutely free and open to youth!

ARTIST WORKSHOP

Are You ‘Technically’ Prepared?

Esteemed Theatre Technician Allison Loat shares her expertise with emerging theatre artists in this new workshop. If you’re an independent theatre maker who is new to working with technicians this workshop is for you. Register by emailing associate@sarasvati.ca.

BAKE-OFF

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Cairn Moore

8 hours, 5 playwrights, 3 ingredients. The Bake-Off is back with a new line-up of playwrights. What will they cook up? There’s only one way to find out. Scenes will be directed by Bake-Off coordinator Cairn Moore and performed by an awesome ensemble cast of Ian Bastin, Lorraine James, Christina Heather, Josh Ranville and Danielle Savage.

KIT AND JOE

Jessy Ardern left us with a cliffhanger at last year’s Bake-Off. The scene she wrote in just 8 hours had us all captivated. Now, Jessy returns with a reading of the play that resulted from that scene. Kit and Joe is a one-night-only reading directed by the fabulous Krista Jackson.

WebGROUNDED HEROES

FemFest is thrilled to present a play reading for kids!
Local theatre artists Carrie Costello, Frances Koncan and Cherissa Richards join forces as Castlemoon Theatre to bring you a reading of a new play for audiences age 6 and up.

 

 

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Judith Thompson

ARTIST TALK

Award-winning playwright Judith Thompson speaks as part of the University of Winnipeg Theatre & Film Department’s Real Thing Lecture Series. This lecture is free and open to all.

PLAYWRITING WORKSHOP

Judith Thompson leads a three-day Masterclass for local playwrights from Sept 20-22. If you are a playwright interested in learning from one of Canada’s most respected modern playwrights this workshop is for you. Register by emailing associate@sarasvati.ca. This is a small workshop that will fill up fast.

NEW BEGINNINGS

FemFest offers a teaser of Sarasvàti Productions’ new community-based work-in-progress. New Beginnings is a cross-cultural, multi-media performance created by a team of local artists and new arrivals to Canada.  Stay tuned for exciting news about One Trunk Theatre’s production running alongside New Beginnings.

ONE NIGHT STAND AND A TOAST TO 15 YEARS!

Join us as we celebrate FemFest’s 15th birthday with readings from some of our most celebrated local playwrights! Sarasvàti Productions’ One Night Stand series gives playwrights the opportunity to test their work, while providing audiences a chance to take part in the developmental process. Enjoy a sampling of some of Winnipeg’s finest playwrights and be a part of their process. With a special reading by guest playwright Judith Thompson thanks to the Playwrights Guild of Canada and Canada Council. What better way to celebrate 15 years of FemFest?Play Connect transparent

All these amazing events take place at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony Street)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to know the Band behind Tomboy Survival Guide

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photo by Robin Toma

On stage Ivan Coyote, Sal Zori, Pebbles Willekes and Alison Gorman are known for rousing audiences from their seats with a high-energy story-driven performance that will leave you breathless. Off stage this fantastic four have a lot of interesting hobbies and strong feelings about fishing. Get to know the talented collaborators of Tomboy Survival Guide in this week’s blog. As a special feature we’ve been asking all FemFest artists about their childhood after all our theme this year is Coming of Age!

Ivan Coyote
Writer/Lead Vocals

  • third generation Yukoner now based in Vancouver
  • author of eleven books, creator of four short films, six full-length live shows, and three albums
  • will be given a Honorary Doctorate of Laws at Simon Fraser University for their writing and activism
  • if Ivan wasn’t doing this they would be an electrician
  • as a child they would play the saxophone and write stories and go fishing

Sal Zori
Drummer/Percussionist

  • born in Iraq and grew up moving back and forth between the United Arab Emirates and Canada
  • for a brief time was the percussionist for Aretha Franklin
  • DIY-er, tennis player, videographer, barista
  • playing tennis was a favourite past-time as a child
  • hates karaoke
  • If you could go back in time, where would you go and why? “1920’s. The music.”

Pebbles Willekes
Bass

  • born and raised in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Graphic designer, WordPress nerd, avid gardener & cook of vegetarian food
  • has fantasized about running a small farm
  • “I spend most of my childhood outside, in the West side of Amsterdam, riding my bike, building huts in the dense butterfly bushes. Roasting potatoes over a campfire.  Making up stories about how me and my best friend were stranded on an island and had to survive.  Started playing music (punk rock) when I was 14, then most time was spent inside.”
  • go-to karaoke song? Rebel Rebel – David Bowie
  • If you could go back in time, where would you go and why? “I’d probably go back to the late 60’s, early 70’s, to see a young Bowie in concert”

Alison Gorman
Trumpet

  • “ I eat a troubling amount of olives.”
  • go-to Karaoke song – Runaround Sue
  • “My brother used to take me fishing at the crack of dawn every weekend. I hated fishing, but liked hanging out with him. (He still thinks I like fishing).”
  • “If I weren’t in music. Jeez. I had a brief, failed attempt at an air traffic control career. Packing groceries in bins, I suppose.”
  • If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why? “Vancouver 1990’s? I’d buy up all that real estate, yo.”
  • Alison directs the band Queer As Funk [link], Vancouver’s own LGBTQ Motown, soul and funk band – they play weddings!

See Tomboy Survival Guide at FemFest 2017 one-night-only SEPT 17 at the West End Cultural Centre. Tickets on sale now.