Art Beyond the Stage

The artistic showcase is going beyond the stage at this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues with the help of our amazing Outreach Coordinator, Audrey Unger! A Masters student at the U of M, Audrey has been working with Sarasvàti Productions since September 2016 as part of her practicum in Peace and Conflict Studies.

“The theatre workshops done with several groups of women in November 2016 were a particular highlight”, said Audrey, who helped to organize these story-gathering workshops at a variety of organizations that serve immigrants and refugees. “Much joy and laughter was shared through interaction with theatre games and new friendships were formed by listening to each other’s stories.” Some of the pieces that will be performed on March 11th were developed directly from these workshops.

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Sarasvàti Outreach Coordinator Audrey Unger

Audrey has also been curating an incredible display of visual art in order to highlight this year’s Cabaret theme of “Starting Over”. The collection is made up of pieces in many mediums that have been created by Winnipeg-based artists including photography from the Eritrean Women’s Association and traditional outfits from Uganda and Iraq. Professional Artist Xavier Mutshipayi, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, will be present with his collection of paintings titled “Awakened Consciousness.”  Artist Briand-Nelson Mutima will also be present with a collection of his paintings. The lobby installation represents different moments from these artists’ experience as newcomers at various stages of life in Canada. “This is an opportunity for artists to showcase and discuss their work with the public audience”, said Audrey. “It has been a joy to connect with these new faces in the community.”

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Professional Artist Xavier Mutshipayi with his collection of paintings titled “Awakened Consciousness.”

There will be interactive opportunities as well! Many of the artists will be there to meet the public and chat about their work. Members of the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute, who were part of our story-gathering workshops, will be set up in the lobby to share info about their call for donations of winter clothing, blankets, toiletries, and furniture to meet the needs of newly arrived refugees. There will be opportunity to purchase items from Sew Fair, a local fair trade company that employs newcomer women.

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Last but not least, check out our photo booth, where you and your friends can take a selfie with your own call to action. We’ll have #beboldforchange arm bands and signs as part of CUPE’s International Women’s Day 2017 campaign.

You can take part in our lobby installation at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film before and after the performances on March 11th at 4pm and 8pm. Tickets are just $15 and available on-line or at the door. 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!

Opening with a Bang!

With aerial acrobatics, high-energy contemporary dance, and the side-splitting comedic offerings of Winnipeg’s funniest performers, it’s no doubt Sarasvàti knows how to throw a party!

FemFest 2016: Transformation kicks off with the FemFest Opening Night Cabaret. The annual variety show is jam-packed with some of the most talented entertainers this city has to offer; everything from music, dance, comedy, theatre and film. Now, feast your eyes and ears on the incredibly entertaining line-up of the FemFest 2016 Opening Night Cabaret!

Lara Rae, Comedian/Host – Guiding you through the evening’s festivities will be stand-up comedian and Winnipeg Comedy Fest Artistic Director, Lara Rae.

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Comedian Lara Rae, Photo:Ruth Bonneville

Lara Rae is the founding Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. She was the Just For Laughs National Champion at the Homegrown Comedy Competition in Montreal in 2000 and won a Gemini Award and Prix Roma Prize from Italy for her work on Little Mosque on the Prairie. She is a regular instructor at the McNally Robinson Community classroom on opera, comedy and various genres of literature. She’ll be bringing the cabaret a taste of her signature wit and we couldn’t be happier to have her.

Robyn Slade & co., 50/50  – Serving up a delightful dash of improv-theatre fusion is Robyn Slade & co. With 50/50, one actor memorizes lines from a unique play and is paired with an improviser who has no idea what their partner has rehearsed. This combo is sure to bring hilarious and unexpected entertainment.

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Crash Site by Sonya Ballantyne

Sonya Ballantyne, Filmmaker, Crash Site – Originally from Misipawistik Cree Nation, Ballantyne is a self-proclaimed nerd whose work is infused with iconic comic book colours and feel. A graduate of the National Screen Institute New Voices program, Ballantyne uses her films to address issues facing aboriginal women and girls. She’ll be presenting a screening of her new animated film, Crash Site, about a young girl who meets a superhero.

Raye Anderson, Pearl in the Egg- Enjoy a solo performance by theatre artist and former theatre educator, Raye Anderson. She’ll present her new piece, Pearl in the Egg. The work combines storytelling, spoken word and visual arts to reclaim the power of older women storytellers and their stories.

Alissa Watson and Spenser Payne, Buzzkill and Tattletale in: You Win Some, You Lose Most – The Winnipeg clown duo behind The Red Nose Diaries is spending the summer entertaining the masses at the Winnipeg and Edmonton Fringe Fests with THE POLKA DOTS OF DEATH: The Making of the Supervillain. The duo makes their triumph return at the opening cabaret with Buzzkill and Tattletale in: You Win Some, You Lose Most.

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Lost, Dancer: Jillian Groening Photo: Bruce Monk

Gearshifting, Lost – Contemporary dance company Gearshifting will be storming the stage with their intricately moving piece, Lost. Featuring dancers Jillian Groening, Elise Page and Carol-Ann Bohrn with choreography by Jolene Bailie, the audience will surely be mesmerized by the poetry hidden in human movement.

Jennifer Genest, Break the Silence – Genest will light up the night with her famous LED glow poi dance. Genest creates dramatic, colourful images in darkened spaces through her use of rhythmical movements and geometric patterns. Infusing her routine with contemporary dance, Break the Silence, will be an awe-inspiring show.

Ruth Baines, Wolf Woman – Bringing a different exploration of physical storytelling, is aerial artist Ruth Baines. Baines is known for her beloved blend of theatrical aerial dance and monologue. Presenting her latest gravity-defying act, Wolf Woman, Baines will be treating the audience to sky-high entertainment.

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Wolf Woman, Ruth Baines. Photo: Leif Norman

The entertainment doesn’t stop there. Throughout the evening, the lobby will be packed with amazing artwork from local visual artists, Teresa-Lee Cooke, Debbie Machula and Susan Aydan Abbott. We’ll also have work by graphic artist Autumn Crossman-Serb, whose comics feature Muslims and women of colour as protagonists.

And lastly, it wouldn’t be a party without treats and the chance to mingle and meet the artists, so of course we have that too. We’ll have delectable dainties and delicious food with an array of fun-filled raffle prizes from vendors across the city.

Stay tuned for more artists and news to be announced.

FemFest 2016 Opening Night Cabaret takes place September 17, 2016 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (University of Winnipeg). Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at femfest.ca or by calling 204-586-2336.

Art as a Way Out

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There are so many amazing stories about the healing power of art! Sarasvàti Productions’ new play script Breaking Through was created with this in mind. Our artists worked with people with lived experience, caregivers, mental health organizations, and the general public to collect experiences of mental health. It made sense as we prepared for staged readings of the play, to also gather the perspectives of artists in our community who live with mental health issues. We’ve been excited to interview artists about their experience with mental health, the stigmas they have encountered and the unique role art plays in their lives.

Quinn Whitlaw is a Winnipeg-based visual artist. He works mainly with ink and pencils and has been been creating more than ever over the past four months during his residency at ArtBeat Studio. It was only this past winter that Quinn re-discovered his love of drawing while he was in the hospital in recovery and treatment for Major Depressive Disorder and anxiety.

“I think there’s a lot of negative stigma around mental health and addiction problems. They really, really go hand in hand for a lot of people” said Quinn. He remembers feeling depression and anxiety beginning in grade 8. “I wouldn’t want to tell my friends because I wouldn’t want them to know about it. I wouldn’t want them feeling bad for me.”

Trying to cope has lead him to addiction problems throughout the years.

“People will look at someone that has mental health issue but is using drugs to deal with it and they’ll just think ‘he’s a druggie’ and ‘he’s no good’, when in actuality that’s the person’s only way out–the only way out of what they’re feeling ” said Quinn.

Quinn remembers liking to draw in grade 10. He hadn’t done it much since then, but Quinn took it up again while he was in the hospital because he had time on his hands. One of the hospital workers told Quinn about ArtBreat Studio, and he thought it sounded like a great idea.

ArtBeat Studio is a recovery-oriented program that is mental health consumer-initiated, and peer directed. It’s a community-based studio that accommodates artists whose mental health, social connection, and income make it impracticable for them, individually, to acquire a work space where they might advance their artistic technique safely and securely. Over a six-month period, nine artists are supported and mentored in managing their own workplace, production, and marketing within the operating parameters of the studio. Quinn is currently one of nine artists doing their residency at ArtBeat Studio.

“I think being an artist has given me a way out”, said Quinn, “when I feel down or am having a tough time I know that if I just sit down and start drawing everything will take a step back and I can focus on what I’m doing for once.”

We’ve spoken to a number of artists who describe creating and performing as therapeutic. For Quinn, drawing helps with his anxiety and depression,” Doing art puts me in a place where I can sit back and relax for a bit, which I can’t normally do” said Quinn. “You get a good feeling when you finish a piece of art. It feels good to accomplish something.”

Quinn is preparing to showcase his work this summer in ArtBeat Studio’s public exhibition. Although Quinn is looking forward to exhibiting his work, he admits that the stigma surrounding depression and anxiety prevents him from being more open about it.

“I still don’t really talk to anyone about it except for my doctor”, said Quinn.  “It’s hard to come out and talk about it because you never know who’s going to understand and who’s going to tell you ‘just suck it up’”, said Quinn. “It’s hard because people don’t always understand, and at the same time you can’t expect them to know unless they’ve dealt with it themselves”, explained Quinn. “ I think the stigma is around being sad all the time, not having as much friends, not going out and living life like you should—which sometimes is true when you’re in such a down spot, but not all the time. There are little glimmers of light that come out once and a while, right?”

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To find out more about ArtBeat Studio and their residency program visit artbeatstudio.ca. To see Quinn Whitlaw’s work in the flesh, and take in the work of all resident artists check out the exhibition at ArtBeat Studio from July 21- July 30.

Get your tickets to the staged reading of Sarasvati’s Breaking Through today!
May 22 & 28 at 3pm
May 24-27 at 7 pm
Asper Centre for Theatre and Film