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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Take A Bow!

Spectacular! Fun! Powerful! Remarkable!

These are just a few of the words audiences have used to describe FemFest 2016: Transformation!

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The Seduction Theory Cast, Playwright Sherry MacDonald and Director, Hope McIntyre

This year’s collection of amazing works included the world premiere of The Seduction Theory by Sherry MacDonald. The all-star cast – comprised of Hailley Rhoda, Hannah Wigglesworth, Grant Burr and Merri-Lou Paterson – brought to life the moving story of 15-year-old Cass as she tries to break out of a system that shames and silences young girls. Sherry received a slew of great feedback from a special talkback after the opening show, which she’ll take into her planned expansion of the play.

The Opening Night Cabaret presented an array of diverse local talent including improv master Robyn Slade, indigenous filmmaker Sonya Ballantyne, Alissa Watson and Spenser Payne of Red Nose Diaries and many more! A huge thank you to our Cabaret sponsors, Garbonzo’s University of Winnipeg AnX, Baked Expectations & Banville & Jones for providing our packed-house with delicious food, dessert and beverages!

Morro & Jasp Do Puberty gave FemFest goers side-splitting laughter with the hilarious take on puberty and periods! The clown duo also mentored a handful of local artists with their Impulse & Play: Discovering your Inner Clown workshop and The Real Thing Lecture presented in partnership with the University of Winnipeg Department of Theatre and Film.

The annual fan-favourite Bake-Off was a hit, with its mixture of dramatic, heartbreaking and comical pieces. This year’s five emerging playwrights stretched their writing chops with Jessy Ardern ultimately winning Audience Choice and the Janet Taylor Award! She’ll have a chance to have her winning scene, Kit & Joe, developed for FemFest 2017!

Featuring fantastic movement and vocal performances along with amazing on-stage chemistry, Mouthpiece received standing ovations for its beautiful piece of trauma, triumph and will power.

Shocking, raw and scarily honest, audiences were also moved to tears by the frank theatre company theatrical poem Miss Understood by Antonette Rea. FemFest’s first trans* artist charmed her audiences and brought forth an important message about gender equality to Winnipeg.

SHORTs from the Shortlist provided extra entertainment every night. New this year was the SHORTs Showcase, featuring all nine chosen pieces. The staged readings took place at Garbonzo’s University of Winnipeg AnX who donated their space for the private SHORTs party!

All and all, FemFest 2016 was a blast! With a line-up brimming with so much talent, and lovely engaging audiences every night, FemFest and Canadian Theatre keeps getting better and better every year! We’re exciting to see what FemFest 2017 will have in store – it is our 15th anniversary afterall! If you are an artist wanting to get involved check out the call for submissions.

Eight Days of Life-Changing Theatre

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Let the countdown begin! In less than two days we’ll be taking over the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (The University of Winnipeg) to showcase the best in Canadian theatre by women for everyone. You bet we are beyond excited for FemFest 2016: Transformation!

Featuring everything from the real-life struggles of a trans* poet, the inner battle of a woman’s mind, a clown-duo’s growing pains, to the damaging treatment of young girls; FemFest 2016 is jam-packed with plays that celebrate unfaltering female strength and power. Our 14th annual festival is guaranteed to captivate and take you on an emotional journey! Here’s the festival breakdown to help you plan your FemFest filled week!

Playwright Reading by Sherry MacDonald
Sept. 16, 1pm. John J. Conklin Theatre (University of Manitoba)
Sherry MacDonald will be presenting a free public reading from her work. This is your opportunity to hear from the celebrated professional playwright from Vancouver and ask questions!

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The Seduction Theory
Photo: Janet Shum

The Seduction Theory by Sherry MacDonald
Sept. 17th – 24th – Asper Centre for Theatre and Film
Find out the fate of a 15-year old in the 1950s when she becomes too much to handle at home. This powerful drama delves into our society’s criminalization and sexual exploitation of young underprivileged girls. The Seduction Theory was the winner of the FemFest 2015 Bake-Off and the 2016 Special Merit Award from the Theatre BC Playwriting competition.

Opening Cabaret and Reception
Sept. 17th, 7pm – Asper Centre for Theatre and Film
Hosted by Winnipeg Comedy Festival’s Lara Rae, the Opening Night Cabaret is our annual variety show showcasing some of Winnipeg’s best female artists in theatre, film, music, visual arts and dance. It wouldn’t be a party without food and beverages! The cabaret includes dinner by Garbonzo’s U of Winnipeg AnX, dessert by Baked Expectations, wine from Banville & Jones Wine Co. and coffee from Starbucks.

Bake-Off
Sept. 19th, 7 pm – Asper Centre for Theatre and Film
Coordinated and directed by Cairn Moore – In partnership with the Manitoba Association of Playwrights. We challenged five selected playwrights with three “must-have” ingredients and eight hours to cook up their own ten-minute theatrical treats! With this year’s ingredients of “duct tape, unbridled passion, and class,” you won’t want to miss what these young emerging playwrights came up with.

SHORTS
Sept. 19th – 24th, 8:15pm – Asper Centre for Theatre and Film
Special SHORTs Showcase – Sept. 24th, 3pm – Garbonzo’s (U of Winnipeg AnX)
Every night at 8:15pm, audiences can treat themselves to a staged reading of a SHORT from the Shortlist. These ten-minute excerpts/scenes will be presented in between the evening’s 7pm and 9pm shows. With 9 selected shorts, each night will be different. New this year is the SHORTs showcase. On Sept. 24th at 3 pm, audiences can see all nine shorts at once at Garbonzo’s.

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Morro and Jasp Do Puberty
Sept. 20th-22nd

Morro and Jasp Do Puberty by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee
Sept. 20th – 22nd – Asper Centre for Theatre and Film
Clown sisters Morro and Jasp hilariously take you through the trials and tribulations of growing up! From uncontrollable emotions and raging hormones to the pain and strain of bodily functions, the smash hit is sure to induce some side-splitting laughter!

 

Mouthpiece by Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava
Sept 21st – 23rd – Asper Centre for Theatre and Film
Interweaving a cappella harmonies, dissonance, text and physicality, Mouthpiece expresses the emotional conflict that exists within a woman’s head: the push and the pull, the past and the present, the progress and the regression.

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Miss Understood
Sept. 22nd – 24th

Miss Understood by Antonette Rea
Sept. 22nd – 24th – Asper Centre for Theatre and Film
Vancouver’s spoken-word poet and activist, Antonette Rea is a survivor. Having lived through horrific experiences of marginalization and abuse as a trans* person, Rea has turned that pain into a beautiful eye-opening piece about struggle, triumph and compassion. Miss Understood is a theatrical poem based on her incredible life story.

Poetry Reading by Antonette Rea
Sept. 24, 1pm – Bison Books (424 Graham Ave.)
Antonette Rea will be doing a free public reading at Bison Books. The celebrated trans* woman street poet will read from her collection of works. Her words are powerful and her personality brings life to every word. This is a unique chance to hear her in Winnipeg.

Grab your tickets to FemFest 2016: Transformation at femfest.ca or by calling 204-586-2236. Tickets are selling fast, so get yours early! Subscription packages are also available and include passes to FemFest 2016 and tickets to the rest of the exciting Sarasvati Productions 2016/17 Season!

The Battle Between Her Head and Her Heart

Take a look into the mind of a woman. See the intricate and endless sea of thoughts, the swirls of brilliant ideas, the storms of emotion and the boundless inner strength.

mouthpiece2With their play Mouthpiece, creators/performers Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava (Quote Unquote Collective) perfectly encapsulate the beautiful whirlwind that lives inside our heads.

Presenting Mouthpiece at FemFest 2016: Transformation, Amy and Norah take us through their inspiration and the importance of seeing the show.

What were your inspirations for the play?
When we started creating Mouthpiece, we had set out looking for an authentic representation of what it was like to be a woman, right now, today. And, when we couldn’t find one, we decided to make this play. Mouthpiece tries to capture what it’s like inside our heads. The myriad of emotions, the epic canon of things we’ve never said, of things we’ve never done, or things we have done and now look back on and ask – why did I do that? Why did I say that? The inner struggle, the beautiful rage, the ugly truth, the propagation of bullshit, the strength, the cognitive dissonance…Mouthpiece is a deep investigation into our own selves. What is left after we strip away the influences and the lies, the privilege and the pressure?

In the show we play two sides (and by two sides I mean a fraction of the innumerable sides) of one woman’s head. We felt it was necessary to use two performers because, well, one wasn’t enough. There’s too much going on in there. Describing what it’s like to be a woman needs more than one woman as it turns out. Much of the play is sung a cappella because as we also discovered, words are sometimes not enough. Song and melody allow us to harness the muzzled voices of women who came before us. We sing, wail, chant, hum, and scream along with them.

This play leaves us naked, vulnerable, and exposed and it can be terrifying. We are very excited to bring it to Winnipeg.

Why are you excited to be in FemFest this year and why do you think Winnipeg audiences should see the production?
We have been touring with Mouthpiece for almost a year now, and in every tour stop the response is a little different.

Audiences react and respond in diverse ways to different parts of the show depending on their own experience, background or mood at the time. It is a densely layered play, so people pick up different themes or narrative threads. Many audience members return for a second or third viewing and seem to make new discoveries every time.

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Photo Credit: Joel Clifton

We love arriving in a new town and knowing that there is absolutely no guarantee about what kind of response we will get. Raucous laughter, sobbing, or silent attention, we have had it all. Additionally, neither of us have ever visited Winnipeg before so we really have no idea what to expect. Walking into that unknown is equally terrifying and exciting for us.

In the context of FemFest, it is thrilling to know that we will be surrounded by a population of other powerful female artists. This is a rare and special thing, an all-female festival with a mandate to promote social change.  It is a dream to be in the company of a group of people who are all on board to create the kind of change that we aim to work towards every day.

We hope, however, that we won’t just be preaching to the choir, but that those people will invite their friends and family who may not already be a part of the converted. It is important to us that the ideas of gender equality and women’s rights don’t remain siloed inside of a specific community, but can expand to the minds of those people who may not think about it on a regular basis.

We look forward to meeting you all at FemFest!

Catch Mouthpiece at FemFest 2016: Transformation at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film from September 17 to 24. For tickets and information, visit femfest.ca

Feeling Shattered into a Million Pieces

We think back to our youth and most of us can remember the ups-and-downs and all the emotions.  But what happens when all those emotions go deeper than growing pains? When these problems become overwhelming, start to affect every aspect of a teen’s life or are rooted in darker, more painful pasts? What happens when these problems become too hard to bear and you feel nothing but lost, confused and alone? Where do teens turn to and how can they cope when dealing with mental health? These are the questions explored in Sarasvàti Productions’ high school tour of Shattered.

With the support of The Winnipeg Foundation and Enterprise Foundation, Shattered will be stopping at 40 high schools in Manitoba from October 11 to December 9. Using the format of forum theatre, youth won’t just sit and watch the play, they will take the stage as they work together to explore solutions to the challenges these characters will face:

Meet the cast and crew behind Shattered:

Hailey Charney, assistant director/consultant – Hailey has worked on the Mental Health is Everyone’s Health project from its early stages. She truly believes in the importance and impact Shattered will have on the way youth view mental health. This is not Hailey’s first time working with Sarasvàti as she has had wonderful experiences participating in FemFest for the past two years.

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GeNie in action on our last tour!

Eugene Baffoe aka. GeNie, as Narrator/Joker/Absame – A freestyle battle dancer, local MC, actor, and Hip Hop instructor at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, this will be GeNie’s third Sarasvàti high school tour where he once again plays the narrator. His other roles find him giving comedic relief as the Joker, and a Canadian newcomer’s perspective as Absame.

 

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Kelsey Funk

Kelsey Funk, as Amanda/Dora – A graduate of the University of Winnipeg with a BA Honours degree in Theatre, Kelsey wrote and performed her one-woman play WTF are kale chips?! at this year’s Winnipeg Fringe. Kelsey is no stranger to the Mental Health is Everyone’s Health project also appearing in the staged readings of the project’s general production, Breaking Through.

Lindsay Johnson, as Ms. Andrews/Mom – Lindsay is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Honours Acting Program with credits in The Power of Yes, Enchanted April, and The Cassilis Engagement, other credits include Antigone and Quickies with Chekhov (This Reality Theatre Co.) Most recently she performed and co-produced The Writing on the Stalls at the Winnipeg Fringe through Fill The (W)hole Theatre Company. This is her first time working with Sarasvàti as she takes on the roles of authority figures in the play .

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Thomas Toles

Thomas Toles, as Dad/Eddie/Doug – An actor, director and teacher at the University of Winnipeg and MTYP’s theatre school, this will be Thomas’ first time performing with Sarasvàti. He has recently performed in The Collector, Middletown, and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.

Jacob Elijah Unica, as Les – Our youngest cast member, Jacob just graduated from Fort Richmond Collegiate where he studied drama. He’ll be taking on the role of Les, a teen whose challenges lie in caring for a parent struggling with mental health.

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Erica Wilson

Erica Wilson, as KoKo – Erica performed in Sarasvàti’s 2013 Giving Voice tour – a high school tour about the experiences of youth in care. She has more recently appeared alongside Kelsey Funk in the staged readings of Breaking Through, as the outspoken Two-Spirited character, KoKo. She will be reprising this role in Shattered.

Reena Jolly, as Stacy – Reena is a third year arts student at the University of Manitoba, with this role being her first professional theatre performance. She’ll play Stacy, a young girl coping with anxiety.

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Reena Jolly

Oyindamola (Oyinda) O. Alaka, as Stacy (Stacy understudy) – With her educational background and active experience in social justice and equity advocacy, Oyinda fits right into the message behind Sarasvàti Productions. Theatre as served as a home for Oyinda since childhood and she sees it as a universal way of delivery messages and impacting lives.

Start the conversation about mental health at your school. For more information or to book Shattered please visit our website or call 204-586-2236. There are only 35 spots left so book early!

Ten Minutes of Theatrical Treasures

The exploration of big dreams, a secret mission, and a “grim dream-world where women transform into badass anti-heroines,” these are just a few of the exciting stories featured in FemFest 2016 SHORTs from The Short-List.

Shorts Fem15 (8)At 8:15 pm every night from September 19th to the 24th, audiences can treat themselves to a reading of a 10-minute play or excerpts from works by women playwrights from across Canada.

We are proud to present this year’s amazing line-up of SHORTs:

September 19 Vagilantes by Ronit Rubinstein –Vagilantes is the story of women regaining their power against street harassers.

September 20 Dried Flowers by Maryjane Cruise – Award-winning playwright, lyricist and choral composer, Maryjane Cruise explores three women who each find themselves at a crucial turning point in their lives.

September 21Peace We Often Forfeit by Terrie Todd – Terrie Todd’s Peace We Often Forfeit follows Doris and her family. Their family bond and care are tested when a near tragedy takes place.Shorts Fem15 (7)

The Roomie by Emily Muller – In The Roomie, award-winning poet, Emily Muller, presents the kindness, femininity and self-doubt that can be found in all of us, even perpetrators of political violence.

September 22Our Golden Years by Sally Stubbs –What does it mean to build a life together? Our Golden Years is a dark comedy about the evolution of love and marriage.

The Funeral Guest by Tyler Joy White – After the death of her husband, Iris is forced to move to the city with her daughter Amy. The move does not make their lives better.

September 23Solo Journeys by Kirsten Van Ritzen – Actor/playwright Kirsten Van Ritzen lovingly mock clichés found in one-woman shows.

Saudade by Frances Koncan –Inspired by her personal experience, Koncan’s Saudade reflects our society’s perception of mental illness and those in care.

September 24, 8:15pmThe Living Library by Linda McCready – Young, enthusiastic Sylvia, is lost in the endless options of careers. A comedic look at the struggles that almost every 20-something can relate to.Fem12 Jordan Hall reading

September 24, 3pm – Full SHORTs Showcase – With a list of such amazing pieces, it would be hard to pick just one or two to see, but don’t fear! This year we’ve added a special Full SHORTs Showcase. On September 24 at 3pm, audiences can catch all nine plays in one show.

All pieces will be read by our talented ensemble of actors – Johanna Burdon, Melanee Deschambeault, Kim Kakegamic, Kevin Longfield and Cheryl Soluk. SHORTs is directed by recent Harry Rintoul Award winner, Frances Koncan.

Click here for more information and tickets.

 

Shame, Blame and What Almost Became a Def Leppard Play

14231787_10209977296810336_1027723112982667808_oGuest Post by The Seduction Theory playwright Sherry MacDonald

Hysteria. Red line. Yellow submarine. For last year’s FemFest Bake-Off competition my fellow playwrights and I were given eight hours to incorporate these three ingredients into a scene. Upon hearing the word ‘hysteria’ I became very excited (no pun intended) and quickly delved into online research fueled by the prospect of writing a scene set in Freud’s time about his theories for treating the ‘disease’ then known as hysteria. Great!

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Vancouver playwright, Sherry MacDonald

The problem that immediately became apparent to me was this: While there were all kinds of possibilities for folding ‘red line’ into the mix, what was I going to do with ‘yellow submarine’?

Yes, there were submarines during Freud’s time, but ‘yellow submarine’ is an unavoidably iconic term that would necessarily place the scene in an era post Beatlemania. I briefly toyed with riffing on the term, abandoning Freud, along with John, Paul et al, to set the scene in a place called The Yellow Submarine Sandwich Shop whereby a couple of rock star wannabes rehearse a karaoke version of Def Leppard’s Hysteria. Funny? Maybe. It could be fun . . .

But what if I won? I’d have to spend a year writing a play that revolves around a 1980s ‘hair band’ karaoke contest. No, back to Freud and his theories.

Fortunately for me, I went with my original gut feeling. The writing of the one act play The Seduction Theory which is being produced by Sarasvàti  at this year’s FemFest, has been a rewarding and challenging ride for me as a playwright. The necessity of having to deal with ‘yellow submarine’ actually turned out to be a blessing. Through my original ‘Wiki-mania’ research for the Bake-Off, madly keying in terms like ‘Freud’, ‘hysteria’ and eventually ‘seduction theory’, I came across an entry having to do with girls’ training schools —a then term for reformatories—in Canada and the U.S. during the middle part of the last century. Bingo! Or should I say, Ringo!

Setting the Bake-Off scene in the 60s allowed for that all important third ingredient. And because I now was setting the play in a girls’ reformatory school, I had my first two characters, Cass and Rebecca, girls whom in the process of writing their story I have come to love.

Expanding the Bake-Off scene to a one-act, I set the play back ten years to the mid-50s, a time before social movements began to take hold in North America, an era that saw the beginning of the consumer society, a ripe breeding ground for Freud’s theories to thrive. It was a time not too distant from our own, but distant enough to help frame atrocities committed at the fictional Westview Training School, as a product of ‘the times’.

Unfortunately, this restriction of time and place, ultimately is faulty. For while some of what Cass and Rebecca endure at Westview would not take place today (at least not in North America), the central theme of The Seduction Theory, subverting the female voice through victim blaming, is very much alive and well in 2016. One only has to glance at the latest headlines for verification. The play then is an examination of the current state of affairs for women and girls.

I recently received, courtesy of Theatre BC, a public reading of the script in its present form, which sparked a heated debate. “Would a learned man such as Dr. Branford, ‘the baddie’ in the play, really say the things he does?” “How much has changed since then?” “Has anything changed?” Witnessing firsthand the passion audience members displayed during this exchange, told me I just might be on to something.

Writing a play that explores topical issues that have the potential for impassioned discourse is extremely satisfying to me. And it’s all thanks to the Sarasvàti Bake-Off initiative. I may have been right in choosing Freud over Def Leppard after all. Then again, emotional debate over hair extensions and spandex pants could also be interesting.

 

Catch the world premiere of The Seduction Theory at FemFest 2016, September 17 – 24, 2016 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. For tickets visit femfest.ca or call 205-586-2336.