The Game: a thought-provoking combination of theatre and dance

Have you ever seen the power of classical Indian dance? How about this traditional form combined with six powerhouse female actors? Do not miss the chance to see an exciting hybrid of dance, storytelling, and mythology brought to the stage at FemFest 2018! The story of The Game is taken from The Mahabharata, a Sanskrit epic that is extremely well-known in Indian culture but that you will rarely get to see onstage in Canada. It’s a daunting task to adapt such iconic source material, but Shyamala Dakshinamurti and Sowmya Dakshinamurti have created something truly unique.

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A photo from Manohar Performing Arts of Canada’s dance performance of The Game

We have the honour of producing this new adaptation in collaboration with Manohar Performing Arts of Canada, bringing together six actors and nine dancers under the inspiring direction of Cherissa Richards. Although Shyamala and Sowmya, a playwriting team of two sisters, wrote the script years ago, they have not yet performed it in its original form as a theatre piece. Manohar Performing Arts of Canada previously performed it purely as a movement piece, and now we’re excited to present it as both.

The work will look and sound both classic and contemporary. Classical Indian dance by the incredible and devoted dancers of Manohar is central to the storytelling and adds power that’s impossible to replicate with words. Dancers will be attired traditionally, but designer Joseph Abetria has come up with costumes for the actors that reflect a modern version of the mythological characters. The story may be a classic, but in the time of the #metoo movement, the themes of violation, objectification, silencing, and doubting of women ring true.

What’s unique about The Game is that it tells the story from six different perspectives. It revolves around Draupadi, whose husband makes the mistake of staking her in a game of chance, but you won’t hear her voice until the end. It’s clear that something terrible has happened to her, but you’ll be left to speculate about who’s telling the truth and who’s trying to hide it. The ambiguity is really quite eerie and it is sure to make you think.

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Dancers in action at the first rehearsal at the beginning of August

As if such a fascinating narrative idea wasn’t enough, you’ll also get to marvel at fantastic dancers and strong actors. The dancers are top-notch: such expressive artists and skilled athletes at the same time. The actors are from a range of backgrounds. Together they produce a visual element that makes this piece truly dynamic.

The Game will be performed on Sunday, September 16, at 7:00 pm, Monday, September 17, at 9:00 pm, and Saturday, September 22, at 4:00 pm. All performances are at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. You can buy your tickets here. We hope to see you there!

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OUR HOME & native land: wit and sarcasm thicker than the Indian Act

Who knew that an educational play about the history of the Treaties and how the Canadian government has violated them could be so…funny? And who could write such a play? Jo MacDonald could. And she won last year’s Bake-Off with it!

In case you’re not familiar with it, the Bake-Off is an annual event in FemFest. Playwrights are given just eight hours to “bake” up a scene with three specific “ingredients” (actions or lines) so that they can’t write ahead. The audience is then invited to a reading of these fresh ideas and they get to decide which one has the most potential for a complete play. The winning playwright receives dramaturgical guidance so that they can finish the play and have it read at the following FemFest.

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OUR HOME & native land is about two friends, Niibin and Cheryl, who are leading a workshop called “Understanding the Treaties”. They have their work cut out for them when the self-absorbed Stephanie and the mansplaining George walk in. Neither Stephanie nor George is aware of their privilege, their biases, or their ignorance. When Mrs. Bruneau, warm, friendly, and given to storytelling, comes in, it becomes clear that she does not need the workshop so much as it needs her. She helps Niibin and Cheryl win their reluctant guests over, but you’ll have to come and find out how. The only spoilers that we can give you are that it’s outrageously funny and will make you curious (and angry) about the history of the treaties and how our government has violated them.

In OUR HOME & native land, Jo MacDonald proves herself to be a sharply witty and engaging writer. Recently, her play Mother’s Little Secret was performed to packed houses at the Fringe Festival, directed by our wonderful Indigenous Outreach Coordinator, Marsha Knight. Her play Neechie-Itas was a runner-up in the Native American New Play Festival in Oklahama City. Jo was a big hit at last year’s FemFest and she will be again this year. In fact, her work was also selected to be featured in the FemFest One Night Stand as part of the festival closing night.

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Don’t miss this brand-new play—there will be just one reading at 1:00 pm on Saturday, September 15 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. You can get your tickets here!

Sound of the Beast: speaking truth to power

In March 2013, Tunisian rapper Ala Yaacoub, also known as Weld El 15, was sentenced to two years in prison for his song Boulicia Kleb (The Police Are Dogs). It was his response to police violence, a cause for anger if ever there was one. Donna-Michelle St. Bernard pays tribute to Weld El 15 in her solo show Sound of the Beast, produced by Theatre Passe Muraille with direction and dramaturgy by Andy McKim and Jivesh Parasram. The piece has continued to evolve since its first performance, so FemFest audiences will get to see the latest version of the piece.

Sound of the Beast is part of Donna-Michelle’s project to write one play inspired by each of the 54 countries in Africa. Yes, that means 54 plays. And yes, she’s an amazing playwright. She’s been nominated for the Governor General’s award. Twice. In Sound of the Beast, Donna-Michelle brings a story from Tunisia to a stage in Canada to remind us that police violence doesn’t just happen far away (or just south of the border). With the passionate power of storytelling, spoken word, and hip-hop, Donna-Michelle calls out the Toronto police for their gun violence, particularly against people of colour.SoundoftheBeast photo by Michael Cooper

Lynn Slotkin’s review states that “Donna-Michelle St. Bernard tells a gripping, compelling story that is happening all over the world. Her stories and their telling are not clichéd into sameness. Each one is perceptively drawn, calmly told, clearly illuminated and will make you suck air for all the right reasons. She is a compelling presence who tells a vital story.” Chris Klippenstein emphasises in his review that Donna-Michelle “get(s) the audience to realize something about themselves” and describes the piece as an “intense, memorable constellation of storytelling.”

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There’s a 100% chance that Sound of the Beast will make you feel something. Don’t believe me? There’s only one way to find out. Get your tickets here! You can see it at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film on Thursday, September 20, at 1:00 pm (followed by a talkback), Friday, September 21, at 9:00 pm, or Saturday, September 22, at 7:00 pm. You can also catch Donna-Michelle’s Real Thing lecture on Wednesday, September 19, at 12:30 pm. You won’t be disappointed!

 

Celebrating Our 2018/19 Season Launch!

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Resistance, Resettlement and Reconciliation – oh my! You’re invited to celebrate another incredible season of Winnipeg theatre! As part of First Fridays, Sarasvàti Productions will be hosting our annual Season Launch at Saddlery on Market, featuring free cupcakes courtesy of cake-ology! You can hear all about our incredible upcoming season of “Reimagining” featuring stories of Resistance, Resettlement, and Reconciliation.

The night will feature sneak peeks from a number of upcoming events, including the announcement of this year’s FemFest 2018 Bake-Off participants, One Night Stand series, and our brand-new Walking Art Tour. You can also enjoy a preview of The Game, a blend of Indian dance and theatre presented by Manohar Performing Arts of Canada. For a look at what’s coming up in the rest of our season, you can get a first glimpse of our new school tour, Home 2.0; learn who will make you laugh until it hurts at our annual Women’s Comedy Night fundraiser; be the first to know the theme for this year’s IWW Cabaret of Monologues; and new details will be revealed about our spring work-in-progress featuring stories of reconciliation.

Want to get creative? We’ll also be hosting a craft station with supplies generously donated by ArtsJunktion! Our speakers will also take part in our “Reimagining” Improv Game, telling us how they would re-purpose a common item to help tackle social issues!

Plus our exclusive FemFest 2018 t-shirts with original artwork by Danielle Morrison, printed by Floodway Printing Co., will be available for sale. For just $20 be one of the first to wear this fashionable tees.

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Join us on Friday, August 3rd as we look forward to another amazing year of life-changing theatre for everyone. The fun kicks off at 7PM – feel free to pop in as you enjoy other events hosted by First Fridays in the Exchange! For more information on the festivities, check out our event page.

Our Friends at the Fringe!

It’s that time of year again! The Winnipeg Fringe Festival is coming up next week and as usual, you can catch our team out and about spreading the word on FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance, including the chance to win a free festival pass! Big thank-yous go out to all the companies who are helping us promote FemFest 2018.

We had the opportunity to preview some amazing shows at our One Night Stand series in May, featuring new work by eight local companies as part of Prairie Theatre Exchange’s Carol Shields Festival.  If you’re looking for some great shows to see, check out some of the fantastic productions put on by our past collaborators:

ONEDATECITY.fin (1)One Date City presented by It’s All Relative Productions

Written by Reba Terlson and co-created by Craig Terlson
Directed by Kaeleigh Ayre

Cast: Reba Terlson, Rachel Hiebert, Drew Jensen

Best friends Morgan and Julie have awful luck with dating. Julie just got out of a relationship and forgets how to date, and Morgan can’t remember the last time she had a worthwhile date. They place a high-stakes bet to see who can go on one great date.

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Mother’s Little Secret presented by Broken Record Productions

Written by Jo MacDonald, winner of the FemFest 2017 Bake-Off!

After her latest accident, two daughters conspire to move their mother into a retirement facility. But Casa Espia is no ordinary senior’s home.

 

 

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Animosity presented by Downside Up Productions

Written by Wren Brian

Directed by Ntara Curry & Sami Desiree

Cast: Melissa Langdon & Sophie Smith-Dostmohamed

Two people. Trapped in an abyss. Refusing to get along. In this absurdist/existentialist play two people struggle with feelings of fear, disconnection, and anger at each other, the space, and themselves. This is a companion piece to last year’s Anomie (winner of the Harry Rintoul Award for Best New Manitoban Play at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe).

 
Fractured Expectations Graphic (715x800)Fractured Expectations, a collective creation presented by Timeless Weaver

Directed by Rachel Smith, co-director of our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues

Cast: Alicia Coulson, Jacob Janzen, Matthew Lupu and Erica Wilson

What kinds of expectations do you have in life? Finish your degree and immediately find your dream job? Go on a blind date and find the person of your dreams? Expectations can become a positive mantra to help you achieve your goals. Other times they can be a curse: an endless stream of disappointments.

 

2018-96735-web.jpgConfessional presented by The 28th Minute

Written by Tennessee Williams

Directed by George Toles

Cast: Heather Roberts, Jen Robinson, Kevin Ramberran, Justin Fry, Sylvia Richardson, Ivan Henwood, Sherab Rabzyor Yolmo, and our 2018 production assistant Reid Girard!

Tennessee Williams’ play-writing voice is always a lyrical plea for mercy. In Confessional, he takes us to Monk’s Bar, not far from Treasure Island Trailer Park. Eight characters, variously down and out, form a loose community of the not quite vanquished.

 

2018-125778-web.jpgThe Last 48 presented by ArtLaunch Theatre Company

Written by Camille Intson

Directed by Raffie Rosenberg and Simon Miron

Cast: Wes Rambo, Chris Sousa, Pamela Roz, Jack Maier, and Emily Meadows

Stage Managed by our Associate Producer, Daphne Finlayson

Five young associates are forced into competing for spots at a top advertising agency by a mysterious robotic surveillance system. When the workers begin to realize that their pairing together is anything but random, the company’s system of ethics is questioned as the employees struggle to complete their tasks.

There are dozens of more great shows, with amazing artists we have had the pleasure to work with and will feature in our season, but we only have so much space! Check out the Winnipeg Fringe Festival’s website for a full look at what’s up next for independent, experimental theatre!

Burnt: Norah Paton travels to Burning Man, Burning Man travels to FemFest

At FemFest this year, Norah Paton’s Burnt will take you on a theatrical trip to Burning Man, a temporary community in the desert in Nevada. You will meet all kinds of people played by Paton herself. The festival gets its name from the ritual of burning of a huge wooden effigy at the end of the festival. It is founded on ten principles: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.

Paton created the piece by visiting Burning Man in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and recording interviews with the people she met there. But instead of any old documentary, Paton wrote a script that is a collage of interviews and brought it to life with her captivating acting skills. She plays a surprisingly varied cast of characters, each with their own distinctly recognizable personality. Ian Huffam wrote in his review that “Paton’s physicality and vocal texture when embodying the subjects of her interviews deftly captures the essence of these people.”

The aesthetic of the show is wonderful, too. The sound design is by AL Connors and the play features electronic music, just as Burning Man does. Dominique Coughlin’s costume and set designs remind us of Le Petit Prince, as Ian Huffam points out, which shares its desert setting with Burnt. Lighting designer Sarah Mansikka creates fascinating visual effects. Dramaturges Emily Pearlman and Brad Long complete the artistic team.

Paton premièred Burnt at the Undercurrents Festival in Ottawa in 2017 and received glowing reviews. Jared Davidson described the première as “fascinating, clever, and immersive” and added “with a script and performance this strong, it will be interesting to see how it develops.” Our Artistic Director saw this production in Ottawa and was excited to share it with FemFest audiences.  And now that Paton has developed it further, Winnipeg theatregoers will see its best version yet.

Paton’s brilliance doesn’t stop at the sheer originality of this concept. The play also criticizes the hypocrisies of Burning Man: how a money-less city that operates on giving has become a capitalist venture, how a place where people are not supposed to leave any traces has developed a litter problem, and how racism and rape culture have crept into a community founded on inclusivity.

The Ottawa Citizen quoted Paton saying “Some of [the ten principles of Burning Man] are totally contradictory, and I definitely do look at those paradoxes…For me, it’s really interesting to see how this temporary city becomes a microcosm of all the issues or tensions or problems that we all see in our lives.”

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Come and enjoy Burnt at FemFest at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, 400 Colony Street, on Tuesday, September 18th or Wednesday, September 19th at 9:00 pm or on Thursday, September 20th at 7:00 pm and prepare to be amazed!

“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!