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!

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White Man’s Indian: not your average high school drama

darlaThe incredible emerging playwright/actor Darla Contois will bring her one-woman show White Man’s Indian to FemFest this year and we can’t wait! It’s the kind of coming-of-age story of an Indigenous girl that we rarely get to hear. This girl is the brave, independent-minded Eva, who will captivate you throughout the show and long after you leave the theatre. Darla Contois has combined dark subject matter with humour in such a way that makes them sound like they were meant to be together.

The story launches when a teacher assigns the impossible, a final essay focused on where each student’s family came from and how they transitioned to life in Canada. How does an Indigenous student address the question of adapting to Canada? As a result the play’s main character, Eva, gets a “special assignment” to write about her family history and—spoiler alert—Eva will confess to you that she doesn’t know it. Nobody taught it to her parents or grandparents in school and it’s erased everywhere.

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The title White Man’s Indian comes from what Eva calls herself when she feels disconnected from her culture. There is no way she can meet all of the expectations everyone seems to have for her. Like any young person, Eva is searching for herself. There is a lot of humour as Eva tries to figure out her space in society.

What is extremely exciting about hosting the show at FemFest is that writer/performer Darla Contois is a Winnipegger. The play premiered at the Summerworks Festival in Toronto and then played at Uno Fest in Victoria. Now you have a chance to see her where she started out.

“Contois’s convincing performance is the highlight, however, culminating in some haunting and heartrending moments of realization and defeat, but also strength and resilience, that will make many reach for a tissue.” – Jordan Bimm, Now Toronto

Also, let’s be honest, there is a real need right now to explore representation on stage. So that we don’t sweep this question of under the carpet, there will be a panel discussion about it following a select performance of White Man’s Indian. Just three chances to see this great play – September 18 or 21 at 7:00 pm or September 20 at 9:00 pm! All performances are at the U of W Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, 400 Colony Street. Get your tickets now!

 

Welcome to our Summer Students!

It’s been a hectic month for us here at Sarasvàti Productions! We’ve finished up our season with workshops and a world premiere, but we’re already looking ahead to next season with FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance. Thanks to Employment and Skills Development Canada, we’re welcoming two summer students onto the team to help make the festival happen: Anya Steur and Reid Girard!

20180606_083123.jpgAnya Steur is currently an undergraduate classical piano student at the University of Manitoba. She is primarily a pianist and also a singer, composer, dreamer, and nerd. Anya loves theatre, especially the musical variety, and has acting and singing experience in MTYP and school productions. She aspires to specialize in contemporary music and enjoys playing both solo and collaborative works. When she’s not practicing, you might find her with her nose in a book.

“I’m so glad I got a job relating to the performing arts! How lucky am I?” says Anya. “I’m really glad I got the opportunity to participate in something creative instead of destructive. Sarasvàti’s mission to transform society through theatre is exactly my cup of tea. I believe that with a little critical thinking and a lot of compassion, artists can have a powerful effect on our global culture.”

Anya is our Marketing and Community Outreach Assistant for FemFest, helping spread the word about the festival throughout the community. “I’m really excited to help make FemFest happen, especially because it’s becoming more and more about inclusion and intersectionality! Representation of human diversity in art is vital. I’m really glad this year’s program features characters from a few different cultures, including Indigenous characters, who we definitely don’t have enough of in any medium.”

img_0212.jpgJoining Anya for the summer is Reid Girard. Reid is currently attending the University of Manitoba and is planning to finish with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and Theatre. He has also been an active member of the Black Hole Theatre Company during his time at U of M, performing in three mainstages and working backstage on many shows as well.

“What excites me most about working at Sarasvàti Productions is having the opportunity help an organization that is devoted to stimulating positive change in the community,” says Reid. “I am looking forward to working on FemFest 2018 and getting to meet all the amazing people that make theatre so magical!”

As our Production Assistant, Reid got his start helping us with New Beginnings back in May. “The most interesting part of this job (so far) has been the wide variety of tasks I’ve gotten the opportunity to complete.  Whether it be hanging paintings on a wall, scheduling auditions, or changing sets between shows, this job has kept me busy with new things to try.”

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Reid and Anya will be planning our 2018-2019 Season Launch, coming this August! Stay tuned for more details on what this great team has in store!

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!

Looking Back on IWW18

Another International Women’s Week has come and gone! We are so grateful to everyone who helped make our Cabaret of Monologues such a success: whether you supported our “Buy a Butterfly” campaign, hosted a performance, attended the show, or were a part of the Cabaret itself: thank you all so much! With your support, we are truly unstoppable.

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Our lovely wall of butterfly donations!

Here are some of the great reactions we’ve had to this year’s lineup. You can also check out our full list of video testimonials!

“This is the first time I’ve been to one of [Sarasvati’s] productions and I thought it was just awesome. Everything came together seamlessly from one piece to the next and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing each and every one of the performers. I thought it was very moving and representative of non-traditional female experiences. Thank you very much for producing such a wonderful event!” – Rebecca Cramer, Audience Member

Thank you Sarasvati Productions, Hope McIntyre, Rachel Smith, and Sandy for the opportunity to perform in tonight’s show. It was an amazing experience with amazing women!– Cynthia Fortlage, Writer/Performer, I Got 99 Problems (My Penis is Just One)

What a special day I will forever cherish and remember… Thank you to the amazing cast and crew! You are truly unstoppable! And a big THANK you to A.B. Norris – you are absolutely beautiful! Thank you for the opportunity to share this story. It wasn’t an easy journey on some days but your support and love made me a stronger person and better artist throughout this process.” – Monika Thurn Und Taxis, Performer, I’ve Never Been Very Good at Drawing Hearts (But I Keep Trying)

It was awesome. It’s so great to hear people go out on the stage and show us something that they’ve created and be vulnerable… I think that is so amazing and should be celebrated!– Pamela Wolk, Audience Member

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The cast getting ready backstage!

Thanks to Althea Cunningham for writing such a wonderful piece… Thanks to Sarasvati Productions for taking me on, for the umpteenth time. I look forward to more productions with y’all. Thanks for the company of wonderfully talented women I shared the stage with – may we work together again. Thanks to the crew for your level-headedness, your encouragement, and your guidance throughout the performances – and car rides.Lorraine James, Performer, Sweet an Nice

So honoured to have my work out there and being performed in other cities. What a life…what a life…– Althea Cunningham, Playwright, Sweet an Nice

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Anjali and Hope getting ready for their Global TV Interview

I am so full of all the wonderful ideas, writing and acting I’ve heard this afternoon! I just feel unstoppable. Sarasvati is so wonderful for providing the encouragement and the space for people to say all these things that would be left silent for so much longer. Thank you for giving us your voices- you’re wonderful!” – Beverly Grace, Audience Member

It was amazing – there were so many great performances and so much that was put into these productions. Women were putting their heart and soul into their performances to advance equality, diversity, and just be champions for women’s rights!” Rochelle Squires, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women

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Lounging in the green room! (Photo: Rachel Smith)

A special thank-you to our generous donors like the Manitoba Status of Women and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg as well as Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba for supplying our very first ASL Interpreters! Thanks to their support, we were able to provide access to those who would not otherwise have been able to attend.

Finally, thank you to all the playwrights and performers for sharing your talent with us. We could not have asked for a better team to represent the incredible diversity of female experiences. Thank you to everyone who made this year’s Cabaret of Monologues such a success!

Unstoppable Women in Theatre

Happy International Women’s Day! Since starting our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues in 2003, we’ve had the pleasure of showcasing over a hundred playwrights from all across Canada. Again in 2018 we’re taking to the stage to present a diverse range of stories from women of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, and abilities.

We asked the performers in this year’s Cabaret a couple of questions to get to know them better. Check out their answers!

  1. How would you describe yourself to a stranger?

Cynthia Fortlage, I Got 99 Problems, My Penis is Just One: A women, who happens to be Transgender.

Anjali Sandhu, Flight 182: My mother taught me not to talk to strangers, or take candy from them…but I’d be lying if I said I’d never taken candy from a stranger, honey.

Joanna Hawkins, I am Unstoppable: A proud Deaf woman who is strongly involved within the Deaf community, as well as an ambassador to hearing (non-deaf) individuals about deaf culture to break barriers between their worlds.

Lorraine James, Sweet an Nice: I’m an extroverted introvert, or an introverted extrovert.

Reena Jolly, Saviour Self: I would start by saying that I have a very interesting sense of style. I can go from looking homeless one day to looking like a lady the next day. I would also say that I am a learner and always want to be improving or learning more about things.

Kristy Janvier, ObScene: Quietly observing the unfolding events of life on Earth.

Cheryl Soluk, I am a Warrior: I am a strong advocate for things I believe in, I am mindful of things around me and great at reading people. I love puns & animals, especially cats, owls, dogs and cows. I am always told I should do comedy. I love belly laughs!

2. What are some of your favourite hobbies?

Monika Thurn Und Taxis, I’ve Never Been Very Good at Drawing Hearts (But I Keep Trying): I love hiking and exploring nature. My Instagram profile is filled with some great nature photography from Manitoba. I love to encourage people to get out into nature and explore all that it has to offer.

Anna Binder, Perfect Pie: In my free time I love to tell audio-visual stories through the colloquial medium of “AMV”. I’ve won a few video contests for this work, as well as a few costume contests at the same venues. I’m also involved with local medieval battle recreationist groups.

Ady Kay, Captain of My Ship: I do all sorts of things like performance, singing, dancing, clown, painting, poetry, etc. I love all of it and it sometimes gets frustrating deciding which one I need to prioritize.

Kristy: I’ve studied and taught yoga since 2009. Current hobbies are herbalism local to the Boreal Forest, astrology, and tarot.

3. What excites you about performing this piece?

Monika: The theme of the eclipse and the symbolism is a very close theme to my personal life. I believe deeply in the reflection of our nature in the sky and an eclipse is an important moment that asks us to be present with the darkness around us and shine our inner light.

Anjali: My piece is inspired by a major event in Canadian history that affected all Canadians, but especially the Indo-Canadian community. As an Indo-Canadian, I was able to see myself in the situation that the protagonist of my piece is in.

Lorraine: Through this piece, I’m gaining insight on what it must’ve been like for my parents to uproot their lives to come here, to realize that there are people out there who feel threatened by immigrants and yet have no idea about the real struggles.

Anna: Disabled characters are often written as static people that belong more on cardboard cut-outs than something three-dimensional and real. The piece in unashamed by honesty, and I find it especially refreshing because my character is allowed to exist as her own person.

Joanna: I was rejected from enrolling in performing arts at the University of Manitoba just because of my deafness. Years later, I landed on the stage as a 100 Decibels performer; therefore no one has stopped me from becoming an actress. Having a hearing loss doesn’t mean you need to give up something.

Ady: I am excited about this piece because 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.

Reena: It is such a wonderful monologue it’s impossible not to be excited. I don’t feel like I’m acting during this piece because the character is so much like me: a bright, strong willed, young, girl of colour.

Cheryl: I lost my Mom in 2013. She was my best friend and biggest cheerleader. Even though she wasn’t physically with me anymore, I still spoke to her and shared my day with her, especially the good news.  Now when I think of her, it is like a warm hug, a feeling that fills my heart and I know that she is still my cheerleader who is always in my corner.

Cynthia: The piece is about my life so very connected to the story being told. I created this piece to share some insight as a transgender woman, and share the message of acceptance without understanding. I am a much stronger woman than I ever was as a man – I am unstoppable!

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You can catch all ten of these inspiring performers on Saturday, March 10th. Don’t miss out – get your tickets today!

Taking our Show on the Road!

International Women’s Week is only a week away! As part of our annual event, we’re taking our Cabaret of Monologues out into the community, touring a number of different venues so everyone gets the chance to see these amazing artists at work. Here are the organizations we’ll be touring:

IWW Community TourSunday, March 4thUkrainian Labour Temple (public)

Celebrating its 100th year, The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians is a progressive organization with strong and durable roots in the people and history of Canada. The AUUC is a national cultural-educational non-profit organization established for Ukrainians in Canada, sponsoring such cultural activities as dance groups, orchestras, choirs and children’s activities.

2018-03-05 Cabaret of Monologues by Sarasvàti Productions-Womyn's Centre

Monday, March 5thUniversity of Manitoba Womyn’s Centre (public)

The Womyn’s Centre is a feminist collective on campus as well as a safe space to work, share and learn together. The Centre advocates on behalf of womyn of the university and offers a wide range of services to the collective members, university students, and the outside community.

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Reena Jolly, reading up on ‘Saviour Self’

Tuesday, March 6th – North End Women’s Centre (public)

The North End Women’s Centre has been serving women and their families for since 1984. Their purpose is to provide a friendly atmosphere where women can receive the understanding, support, and resources they need to make informed choices about their lives.  The centre offers a wide range of services including counselling, outreach, employment programs, and transitional housing.

Wednesday, March 7th – Mount Carmel Clinic

Mount Carmel Clinic is a non-profit community health centre committed to helping families live healthier lives by addressing the root of poor health. Founded on the belief that everyone has the right to accessible health care, Mount Carmel Clinic goes the extra mile to help clients connect with the services they need—in their homes, workplaces and neighbourhood.

WTSC-IWWposterWednesday, March 7thWomen-Trans Spectrum Centre (public)

The Women-Trans Spectrum Centre is an accessible and inclusive resource centre for women and trans students on the University of Winnipeg campus. The centre is a great space to hang out, study, and build community as well as organizing events that examine and challenge women and trans oppression.

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Cheryl Soluk rehearsing “I am a Warrior”

Thursday, March 8th – St. Aidan’s Christian School

St. Aidan’s School Aberdeen Campus is a Grade 6-10 school, primarily focused on newcomer and aboriginal students. Their newcomer students come from a wide range of nations, such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, Columbia, Cree, Tanzania, Metis, Kaska, Canada, and Ojibway.

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Lorraine James, looking over lines for ‘Sweet an Nice’

Friday, March 9th – Interlake Women’s Resource Centre (public)

IWRC is a grassroots, community-based resource centre dedicated towards improving the quality of life for women, children, families, and the communities in which they reside. The Centre provides services and programs for women and their children living in or having left domestic violence situations, in order to help women make informed choices for themselves and their children.

Full cast at dress rehearsal

If you can’t make it to the shows on March 10th, consider attending one of our community performances instead! (Please note: the shows at Mount Carmel and St Aidan’s are closed to the public.) The one and only time to view the full line-up of our Cabaret of Monologues is Saturday, March 10th. Get your tickets today!