One Night Stand Returns!

Feature by Daphne Finlayson

Sarasvàti Productions is thrilled to announce that we’re bringing back the One Night Stand series for another year! After a nine-year hiatus, the series returned in 2017 to showcase established writers, playwriting students, and upcoming Fringe productions. The series was produced by Tatiana Carnevale, who also brought One Night Stand to FemFest 2017.

The purpose of the series is to provide emerging and established playwrights with audience feedback on new material or works-in-progress. The evening will feature a line-up of short scenes read by a team of local actors. For many, this will be the first time their work is performed and offers the chance for an outsider’s perspective on a new script.

Daphne Finlayson 2017

Daphne Finlayson

In addition to being the new associate producer here at Sarasvati, I’m also coordinating and directing this year’s One Night Stand series. As for my experience, I’m a recent graduate of the University of Manitoba’s theatre program with a focus on directing. I’ve directed a number of shows in the past, including Stewart Lemoine’s Pith! for the Black Hole Theatre’s 2017-2018 mainstage season as well as shorter one-acts. My play, The Committee, also placed third in this year’s Winnipeg Fringe Festival New Play Contest.

I’m so excited to be working on this series. In the past I’ve helped friends workshop their plays and it’s always so rewarding to see the final product after months of rewrites and tweaking. Anything I can do to help a writer see their work realized on stage for the first time is always such an amazing experience.

Submissions can be anything: a scene that’s giving a writer some trouble, wanting to hear how their dialogue sounds in performance, or seeing how an audience responds to a new short play. The goal for this year’s series is to place a greater focus on serving the playwright’s needs. I’d like to keep the readings simple so the focus stays on what’s on the page, making sure the playwrights get to hear the audience’s response to their work. It’s easy with staged readings to want to turn it into a full-fledged performance, but that takes the focus off the script by making it more about the audience than the playwright.

It’s important to have a series like this to get audiences excited for what’s coming next from new and established talent. We have so many talented writers in this city who need an outlet to showcase their work. One of the biggest challenges with a script is that feeling of ‘what now’: how do I turn this from an idea I had into an actual performance? This series is part of that first step by helping playwrights learn how an outsider – like a director or an actor – has interpreted their work.

Come be a part of this amazing series dedicated to showcasing the future of Winnipeg theatre. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, February 21st at midnight, emailed to associate@sarasvati.ca. See the submission notice below for guidelines!

 

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Expanding Our Work in the Community

We need to be doing more to honour our responsibility to reconciliation. This was the commitment when Sarasvàti Productions signed on to the Winnipeg Indigenous Accord and put in to action specific goals. Thus far we have recruited better Indigenous representation on our Board, established an Indigenous Advisory Committee, and hired the amazing Elissa Kixen as Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator. She will be exploring better ways to serve, work with and build partnerships.

A first step this past week was bringing back our workshop series with Children of the Earth High School! We began the series in 2017 to provide students with information about the world of theatre since the school does not currently offer a drama program. This ten-week series gives North End youth the opportunity to learn about acting, writing, and directing for the stage. Students are given the opportunity to meet and speak with professionals who work in the arts and build connections for the future. The series will also take students to sit in on rehearsals, tour Winnipeg theatres, and see live performances!

The workshops run Mondays from 3:45pm-5:45pm at Children of the Earth High School, Room 103. All North End youth (ages 14-18) are welcome to attend, free of charge!

Joshua Ranville

Joshua Ranville

Facilitating the workshops are familiar faces Joshua Ranville and Marsha Knight, plus a roster of amazing guest artists. Ranville is an actor/musician from Winnipeg with twenty years’ experience in theatre and film. He has also been an art mentor to children for over ten years. Ranville has quite the history with Sarasvàti, having appeared in our FemFest 2017 Bake-Off, Breaking Through, and Eden. He has also worked with MTYP on the one-man show, Routes, as well as instructing at Rainbow Stage’s Camp Rainbow this past summer.

 

 

Marsha Knight

Marsha Knight

Knight has been involved in theatre for over twenty years, starting with Ian Ross’ Governor General award-winning drama fareWel (PTE). She has worked on several past productions with Sarasvàti, including consulting on Two Indians at FemFest 2017 and performing in Breaking Through and Eden. She has also performed with a number of local companies, including Time’s Fancy: The War of King Henry V and Joan of Arc (Sixth Planet Productions); Rez Sisters (PTE, Theatre Northwest, Magnus Theatre); Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun (Theatre Northwest); Antony & Cleopatra (Shakespeare in the Ruins); and Crees in the Caribbean  (Magnus Theatre).

 

Elissa Kixen 2018

Elissa Kixen

Our coordinator Elissa Kixen is an Anishinaabe Ikwe (woman) comedian and producer of WOKE Comedy Hour. She has been performing for twenty years and has been teaching for seventeen. Her passion is to bring Indigenous issues to the forefront of her comedy.

We have several other initiatives in the works and will continue to gather input in the coming months.

Pushing Past Obstacles

Growth, change, the struggle to fit in, overcoming adversity – all universal experiences and part of what it means to be unstoppable. At this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable, our line-up features women of all ages and backgrounds finding the strength to face whatever life threw at them. This week we’re featuring two more exciting pieces: Perfect Pie, one woman’s description of experiencing seizures, and Flight 182, which focuses on what it means to be Canadian.

Judith Thomspson headshot 2017

Judith Thompson

The artists behind Perfect Pie are Judith Thompson, renowned Canadian playwright, and local performer Anna Binder. Perfect Pie was originally written as a monologue in 1993 before being adapted into a full-length play and later, a feature film. Thompson has won numerous awards for her work, including two Governor General’s Literary Awards for Drama and an Officer in the Order of Canada. We had the pleasure of hosting Thompson for several events at FemFest 2017 including a playwriting master class, a performance of her play Watching Glory Die, and as a ‘book’ in our Human Library.

Anna Binder headshot 2017.jpg

Anna Binder

Looking back, Binder believes she was always meant to go into entertainment as she’s always been drawn to the arts. Binder’s parents encouraged her journey into theatre after convincing her to pursue courses that really moved her. She took her first acting course at the University of Winnipeg last year and has been inspired since the first lesson.

“Although my character and I are both disabled women, my piece isn’t actually about her disability,” says Binder. “Disability is just one of the powerful vehicles the piece uses to tell a story that’s relevant to us all. Everyone has challenges that are incomprehensibly steep. To each of us are unique experiences, and part of the human condition is the decision to either tell people what you think they want to hear, or to take a leap of faith; to trust people with your vulnerabilities, then welcome whatever reactions they might answer you with.”

Anjali Sandhu headshot_2017

Anjali Sandhu

Returning for her second year at our Cabaret of Monologues is Anjali Sandhu. In addition to studying law at the University of Manitoba, Sandhu is also a comedian, actor, and writer. She performed stand-up at the SheDot Comedy Festival in Toronto as well as Sirius XM’s Next Top Comic and The Park Theatre’s Empow(her)ment. Sandhu has also appeared in our November Women’s Comedy Night fundraiser as well as The Trump Card at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe Festival with District Theatre Collective.

Sandhu’s piece, Flight 182, takes its name from the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182 and the Canadian government’s response to the incident. “It affected all Canadians, but especially the Indo-Canadian community,” says Sandhu. “As an Indo-Canadian, I was able to see myself in the situation that the protagonist of my piece is in. She is still striving to create change from a position in which most people would be ineffective.”

We look forward to presenting our entire line-up of impactful stories on Saturday, March 10th! For more information, click here.

Sharing the Stories of Unstoppable Women

As we gear up for International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable, we’re proud to present the artists behind two more of our upcoming pieces. ObScene is a performance art piece that explores healthy sensuality as well as the importance of women supporting women. I Am a Warrior focuses on the fact that it is never too late to pursue your dreams.

Kristy Janvier headshot 2017

Kristy Janvier

ObScene – created and performed by Kristy Janvier

Janvier was born and raised in Flin Flon and is of Dene, Irish, and Ukrainian decent. At the age of eighteen, she began working overseas as a professional actress/dancer. Upon returning to Canada in 2016, she has connected to her roots through contemporary-Indigenous dance. She’s had opportunities to work with Young Lungs Dance Exchange (Winnipeg); 8 Days (Toronto); Aberdeen Cultural Centre (New Brunswick); Dancers of Damelahamid (Vancouver); and Weesageechak Festival (Toronto).

Janvier created ObScene after an experiment conducted during a hostessing gig. “I made a point of only smiling at the women and got very mixed reactions,” explains Janvier. “In my research, I’m looking at how my own beliefs or judgements hold myself back from true expression. I’m curious if women hold ourselves back out of fear of judgement from others. This piece is about exploring our inner sensuality as a means of release, which I hope inspires others to do so as well.”

Sue Higgs headshot 2017

Sue Higgs

I am a Warrior – written by Sue Higgs and performed by Cheryl Soluk

Originally from the United Kingdom, Higgs came to Canada by way of Nova Scotia eleven years ago. Higgs didn’t start writing until she reached her fifties, but has since enjoyed being a member of the Eastern Shore Players, who have produced several of her plays. She has been fortunate to have six short comedies performed at the annual King’s Shorts Festival in Annapolis Royal, NS.

Higgs’ piece, I am a Warrior, comes from the inspiration of her mother, who encouraged her to get out there and try everything. “I don’t think age should ever stop you from learning something new,” Higgs says.

Cheryl Soluk headshot 2018.jpg

Cheryl Soluk

Performing Higgs’ piece is Cheryl Soluk. Soluk is thrilled to be working with Sarasvàti Productions again, having joined us for 2017’s One Night Stand series and SHORTs for FemFest 2016. She has also performed in a number of local productions: Jim Forgetting (Stars on Moon Theatre); Janitor, 2CentStamp, Recycled (Geri\the\atrics); Blade, Under the Empress of China, June’s Window (Theatre Anywhere); and Jill’s War, Story of Deborah (Sarasvàti Productions).

“One of the greatest joys in life is to be able to tell someone’s story,” says Soluk. “It’s a moment in time where a group of strangers meet in one room so they can all feel something together, and how awesome is that?”

We couldn’t agree more, Cheryl! Join us on March 10th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film to experience all our artists and their stories. For more information, click here!

Inspiring Collaboration

One of the most exciting aspects of producing International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable is seeing incredible artists work together – often for the very first time! This week we feature one of these brand new collaborations with the team behind Captain of My Ship along the pair of familiar collaborators behind, I’ve Never Been Very Good at Drawing Hearts, But I Keep Trying.

Captain of My Ship playwright, Kathy France, saw the piece arise while working on a full-length play that explores female archetypes and how they resonate in contemporary women’s lives.

Kathy France headshot 2017

Kathy France

“Spoken word? Never wrote a piece before I wrote this one. Now it’s a thing I do”, says France. “I was a director first, then grew the courage to act, then took on producing in foreign countries so I could get myself on stage, then grew the courage to write.”

Originally from Winnipeg, France lived abroad in Syria, Thailand, Nepal, Yugoslavia, Croatia and Trinidad before settling down in the tiny, rural town of Wolfville, NS.

France’s piece is a coming-of-age story. “It’s about the journey all girls travel, whether they know it or not”, says France. “All young women grow up to be women, and somewhere along the way they grow to understand what “woman” means, in society, in themselves. Certainly, at the time of my own sexual awakening, I didn’t know that “woman” was a social construct that would probably never serve my best interests.”

Sarasvàti Productions couples France’s piece with a talented troupe of local performers.

Ady Kay headshot_2017

Ady Kay

“I feel connected to the messages I get from this piece about the confines and restrictions of gender norms. I feel connected to the way the words rhyme and work together to create imagery,” says performer Ady Kay. Together with collaborators Emily Solstice and Victoria Hill, Kay is devising a physical rendition of Captain of My Ship.

Kay is a performer, dancer, clown and poet, just to name a few.  “I am excited about this piece”, says Kay. “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.”

A.b. Norris is the Winnipeg-based film maker and playwright behind I’ve Never Been Very Good at Drawing Hearts, But I Keep Trying.

A.b. Norris headshot 2017

A.b. Norris

“The original concept came to me after I’d taken some pictures and decided to turn them into a short silent film”, says Norris, “but I wanted to articulate some of what I’m trying to express in a different way.”

Enter Monika Thurn und Taxis.

“The theme of the eclipse and the symbology is a very close theme to my personal life”, says Thurn und Taxis, who is a performer and photographer.  The two have worked together on theatre projects before.

“The challenges I articulate in this piece are ones with which I contend”, says Norris. “Something unique is required to work against internal conflicts versus external forces. It’s a different kind of persistence that challenges the barriers we put up ourselves, or the cycles we perpetuate and in which we can become caught.”

Monika Thurn und Taxis headshot_2017

Monika Thurn und Taxis

“I believe deeply in the reflection of our nature in the sky. An eclipse is an important moment that asks us to be present with the darkness around us and shine our inner light”, says Thurn und Taxis. “This symbology, paired with the want and need to love and be loved and not giving up on finding our true love in either a person, a career or any other form that might be important to us—it’s very powerful.”

We look forward to presenting these inspiring collaborations on March 10th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Details and tickets here.

 

Sarasvàti’s Top 6: ‘What Has Us Excited About 2018’

We have big plans for 2018! Check out the top 6 things that have us starting off the year full of enthusiasm!

6) We are excited to be working with Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba to provide ASL interpreters at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues for the very first time! Living through riots, learning to teach yoga as a senior, accepting your true self and conquering all odds – see these stories of unstoppable women March 10th. ASL interpretation will be provided for both the 4pm and 8pm performance. Celebrate International Women’s Week with us!

The cast of IWW2017

The cast of IWW17.

5) We are eager to premiere the full production of a project we’ve been working on for two years – New Beginnings. 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. This unique production will also run in the same space as One Trunk Theatre’s new show Boundary Avenue. There will be special opportunities to see both productions. Visit our website to get your tickets!

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4) We are so pleased to be going into 2018 with full-time admin support thanks to the capacity-building funding we received from The Winnipeg Foundation! This support will enable us to reach our full potential. You can bet we’ll be taking things to new heights!

3) We can’t wait to launch our second year of theatre workshops with the youth at Children of the Earth School. Last year, we piloted a series of theatre workshops at COTE  – a school that would not otherwise offer a theatre program. The results were incredible. This year we’ll return to offer regular theatre programming with facilitators Marsha Knight and Josh Ranville plus a roster of amazing guest artists.


2) It’s only January and we are already hard at work planning FemFest2018 – Staging Resistance. Provocative plays, brand new workshops and artists with incredible vision, we have a lot in store! Stay tuned for details on our 16th annual festival.

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1) We feel very enthusiastic to be working towards our 2018 goals with the support of an amazing staff, Board, volunteers and audience base. Most of all, we look forward to sharing a transformational year with all of you. Happy New Year!

Staff and Board December 2017

Many of our staff and Board members at a December meeting

For on-the-pulse news on our 2018 productions and workshops visit sarasvati.ca or sign-up for our mailing list!

 

Looking Back on a Remarkable Year

Wow! It’s hard to believe how much can happen in a year. This week we look back on our greatest endeavours of 2017 made possible due to the amazing support of our donors, funders, volunteers, artists and community partners!

  • Theatre Workshops with North End Youth

We launched into 2017 with a focused series of theatre workshops for North End youth. Youth Coordinators Frances Koncan and Cherrel Holder alongside a series of guest artists introduced theatre techniques and worked on scenes with youth. On February 22nd we celebrated with a showcase of the youth involved. We have already heard from multiple youth that they have decided to pursue theatre and we have had the pleasure of continuing to work with these youth in skill-focused workshops and mentorship sessions. We are thrilled to be continuing with a series of theatre workshops at Children of the Earth School in the New Year!

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study theatre but now I’m sure!” – Sabil, Youth Participant

  • International Women’s Week

Last March, ten amazing women took to the stage in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. The theme was Starting Over, sharing stories of displacement, resettlement and life-changing moments. We toured to new community venues like North End Family Centre. We were so honoured to facilitate the sharing of these crucial perspectives which are all too often silenced.

“The performances took place in our typically very busy and noisy drop in space. However, the performances were so captivating that you could have heard a pin drop!”
-Kristi Beaune, Mount Carmel Clinic
“Our students connected with what the presenters were saying on a deep level. I would highly recommend the monologues.”
-Rob Visch, Principal St. Aidan’s Christian School

  • Launch of New Beginnings15781754_10211121667098878_6849065531477230353_n

We used the story-gathering conducted for International Women’s Week as a spring board to soar into our next community-based project: New Beginnings. We began reaching out to artists and meeting with partner organizations. In September, we gave audiences a sneak peek at what we have in the works at a FemFest preview. From May 22-27, 2018 you can 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 share stories of resettlement.

“Great evening at FemFest and Sarasvati production of New Beginnings! Congratulations to Rosemary Kezaabu and Gertrude Hambira, two of the women who told their stories.” – Mary Scott, Audience Member
“It was such a wonderful night yesterday! So glad I was able to participate in this project.” – Patricia Gordon, Performer

  • FemFest 2017: Coming of Age

This FemFest audiences and artists came together to celebrate 15 years of life-changing theatre.  We were proud to present such provocative touring shows as Watching Glory Die by Judith Thompson. We had some incredible first-times, partnering with the West End Cultural Centre to present Tomboy Survival Guide and partnering with the Millennium Library to present The Human Library! It was so rewarding to offer filmmaker Sonya Ballantyne her first opportunity to direct for the stage with Two Indians. We were proud to honour some of Winnipeg’s most prolific female playwrights at the One Night Stand and toast to 15 years. Believe it or not planning has already begun for FemFest 2018!

“…one of the most incredible and moving pieces of art I have ever seen” – Tatiana Carnevale, Audience Member at Tomboy Survival Guide at FemFest 2017
“Wow. I have not been so moved by a piece of theatre for a long time” – Cheryl Costen, Audience Member at Watching Glory Die at FemFest 2017

  • Second Annual Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

Thanks to two fantastic audiences and eight hilarious comedians we almost sold out two back-to-back shows for our Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser. We heard nothing but glowing remarks from audience members. We can’t wait for next year!

“Awesome” – Audience Member
“Everyone is so talented!” – Audience Member

  • Workshops for Emerging Artists

    This season we’ve provided workshops and mentorship in theatre design, tech, directing, auditioning and more! One of the highlights was our playwriting masterclass with master playwright, Judith Thompson. We aren’t slowing down anytime soon! You can look forward to workshops in vocal technique, auditioning , dramaturgy and more in 2018!

    “Extremely beneficial. Going through the audition process (before, during, after) has made me feel that I have a much better idea of how the process works, especially with professional companies.” – Participant in Auditioning 101
    “All of it was pure gold.”
    – Participant in Coffee with Ann Hodges

We also rebooted our One Night Stand series with three opportunities throughout the year for playwrights to test material under the amazing leadership of Tatiana Carnevale!

  • COMMUNITY

This year also allowed us to work with several amazing community organizations. From doing workshops with youth leaders at SEED to presenting an overview of our work for the Council of Women of Winnipeg and PCWM. The largest initiative was the amazing experience preparing Can You See Me Now in partnership with West Central Women’s Resource Centre.  The women shared their experience of homelessness with such power that it truly opened eyes and hearts.

Here’s to another year of making and experiencing tranformative theatre together!