Seeing Our Vision Through: 2017-2018 Season Retrospective

Another great year of theatre has come and gone! We celebrated our 18th season here in Winnipeg, showcasing newcomer stories, tales of unstoppable women, some hilarious local comedians, and powerful theatre from all across Canada! Take a look back at what we’ve accomplished with our 2017-2018 season: Envision.

New Beginnings

 

New Beginnings by Sarasvati Productions is beyond amazing. This production cannot end. The message of reality of resettlement should be heard by thousands more. The actors, content and music (Gerry Atwell, Music Director) touched my soul.” – Jay Rose, Audience Member

Thanks to amazing support from Winnipeg’s newcomer and theatre community, the show enjoyed an amazing run with multiple sold-out performances! A generous grant from Canadian Heritage, allowed us to offer translation services for the performance in Arabic, Kurmanji, and French! Stay tuned in the fall for our school tour, Home 2.0, which focuses on youth stories of immigration and resettlement.

IWW Cabaret of Monologues: I am Unstoppable

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

This year’s Cabaret showcased artists from across disciplines, including stories of heartbreak, resettlement, grief, and staying unstoppable in the face of adversity. We also used ASL interpretation for the first time to make our performances accessible to the Deaf community! Thanks to support from the Manitoba Status of Women, we were able to tour pieces to communities that might not normally get to experience live theatre. Big thank-yous to all of the artists and playwrights who shared the stories of such inspiring, unstoppable women.

One Night Stand Series

We had three different One Night Stands this year, starting with FemFest and ending with the Carol Shields Festival of New Works! Thanks to producers Tatiana Carnevale and Daphne Finlayson, as well as a partnership with the U of W and Prairie Theatre Exchange, we showcased twenty new pieces from both experienced and emerging playwrights. You can catch the plays from ONS: Fringe and Fancy-Free next month at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival!

Workshops for Emerging Artists

“This workshop gave me new tools to be a better performer.”

“Extremely beneficial, will make producing and stage managing shows much easier, so much useful information.” – feedback from workshop participants

This year, we hosted ten workshops for nearly 100 emerging artists, covering Grant-Writing with a cereal buffet, Are You Technically Prepared with Allison Loat, The Actor’s Voice with Tom Soares, a Monologue Intensive with Sharon Bajer, and our informal mentorship sessions, Coffee with a Pro! We thank our partners Fools and Horses, Elements Restaurant, and the Graham C. Lount Foundation for helping us support up-and-coming artists in the community. We’re currently planning out next year’s series – if you have any suggestions for us, contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca!

Support from NERI and crucial donors also allowed us to continue to work in partnership with Children of the Earth High School. We offered weekly theatre sessions for students. Thanks to the City of Winnipeg we are just wrapping up ten weeks with Gonzaga Middle School. We are well on our way to fostering some new, culturally diverse future theatre artists!

Women’s Comedy Night

After selling out in 2016, we had to bring back the event for another year! Eight of Winnipeg’s hilarious comediennes took part in our second annual Women’s Comedy Night back in November, packing the King’s Head for both a tamer 7PM show and a racier 9PM show. Don’t worry, we’ll be back again later in 2018 – stay tuned for more details!

FemFest 2017: Coming of Age

Our 15th FemFest saw some amazing work on the stage: from incredible touring artists like Tomboy Survival Guide, Judith Thompson’s Watching Glory Die, Falen Johnson’s Two Indians, as well as a reading of the 2016 Bake-Off winner, Kit and Joe by Jessy Ardern! Mark your calendars – FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance is happening September 15-22!

Thanks to all the audience members, artists, volunteers and community members who made our 18th season possible! For more on what we have coming up next year, stay tuned for details on our season launch in August.

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New Beginnings and Endings

After two years of community interviews and workshops, the world premiere of New Beginnings took Winnipeg by storm! Over the course of the run, we had multiple sold-out shows and over 750 people came to see the play. Every performance offered a conversation circle to continue the dialogue sparked by this production, allowing audiences the chance to ask questions and learn more about the stories reflected in New Beginnings. Here are some of the great things people had to say!

It was wonderful, I cried and laughed. Those stories are so powerful. The first one with the burka is how we escaped.  I actually wore one for the first time in my life then. You guys did a great job bringing these stories to life.” – Ellie Towfigh via Facebook

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I’m excited to be a member of such an amazing company that inspires audiences to reach out and connect with others to promote social change in such powerful ways…  Perspective is hugely important to being a positive member of a community and I believe that it can often be overlooked.  But New Beginnings brings forward so many unique stories that can perhaps open horizons for our audiences and introduce the realities of immigration and resettlement.” – Alanna McPherson, Performer

“New Beginnings by Sarasvati Productions is beyond amazing. This production cannot end. The message of reality of resettlement should be heard by thousands more. The actors, content and music touched my soul.” – Judy Rose via Facebook

Thanks to a generous grant from the Inter-Action Program, we were able to offer a wide variety of accessibility services including ASL interpretation, child-minding, translation, transportation, and counselling for any audience members affected by the play’s subject matter. On May 24th, we played host to close to 100 Yazidi refugees from Operation Ezra, offering Kurmanji translation via headset and child-minding provided by Operation Ezra and West Central Women’s Resource Centre.

Congratulations on an excellent production! Thank you so much for having the Operation Ezra families at the show.  It was a great opportunity for them to experience live theatre. We really appreciate you going above and beyond to make it accessible to all. The translation and child care allowed many of the attendees to experience their first live show. We had no idea what to expect yet we found ourselves laughing at times and crying at times.  We recognized some of the stories which made it even more impactful.” – Karen Shpeller, Operation Ezra

Over the course of the run, we had representatives from Winnipeg’s newcomer community speak after the show, allowing audiences to hear their stories and share their own as well. We also hosted Kamta Roy Singh, whose story appeared in the play.

It was fantastic show last night. The individuals who act as Kamta and employee did amazing job. Congratulations.” – Kamta Roy Singh, Kamta’s Story

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Kamta Singh and Lu Fayokun

I would like to commend you, your cast and all the others involved in this performance a great “BRAVO” on an excellent performance. I was in attendance at the world premiere of Sarasvati Productions presentation of New Beginnings and was so impressed with it… A very great performance by the cast. Representatives of the Jamaican Association of Manitoba were invited to answer questions and share comments with the cast and audience at the end of the performance. A great evening.” – Patrick Moore, Jamaican Association of Manitoba

 

We couldn’t have made this production happen without the community members who participated in our workshops and allowed us to share their stories onstage. Big thank-yous as well to our incredible creative team, our hard-working volunteers, and everyone who came out to support New Beginnings!

One Night Stand Series: Fringe and Fancy-Free!

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The One Night Stand series is back for its final installment of the season: the Carol Shields Festival of New Works, hosted by Prairie Theatre Exchange! This time around, we’ll be showcasing eight works-in-progress in preparation for the 2018 Winnipeg Fringe Festival! For a sneak peek of what’s to come at this year’s Fringe, check out what’s new from local theatre companies:
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One Date City presented by It’s All Relative Productions

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

Cast: Reba Terlson, Rachel Hiebert, Drew Jensen

Venue: Playhouse Studio

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


MLSMother’s Little Secret
presented by Broken Record Productions

Written by Jo MacDonald
Cast: Judy Arnason, Shirley Godfrey, Beverley Grace, Cheryl Soluk

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

 

Animosity fringe program_v3.5Animosity presented by Downside Up Productions

Written by Wren Brian

Directed by Ntara Curry & Sami Desiree

Cast: Melissa Langdon & Sophie Smith-Dostmohamed

Venue: Forth

Two people. Trapped in an abyss. Refusing to get along. In this absurdist/existentialist play two people struggle with feelings of fear, disconnection, and anger at each other, the space, and themselves. With no memory of who they are or who they are to each other, they have to confront how and why people come to hate each other, as well as how to move forward. This is a companion piece to last year’s Anomie (winner of the Harry Rintoul Award for Best New Manitoban Play at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe).

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Alex Colville and I presented by Gearshifting Performance Works
Created and performed by Jolene Bailie

Sound: Susan Chafe

Venue: MTC Tom Hendry Warehouse

Alex Colville and I walks a story of admiration and hope. Inspired by the play The Post Mistress by Tomson Highway. In the play, the Post Mistress is a magical French spirit who delivers the mail between the living and the dead.

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Freestyle Fantastique presented by White Rabbit Productions

Created and performed by Simon Miron

Venue: Rachel Browne Theatre

A multidisciplinary work merging spoken word, Hip Hop, dance, live looping, video mixing and montage inspired by Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

 

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

Directed by Rachel Smith

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

Venue: Son of Warehouse

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

 

image1Journey to Kalcedon Island: A Steampunk Adventure presented by Kiss the Giraffe Productions

Written by Joseph Aragon and Heather Madill

Directed by Leith Clark

Cast: Betty Asseiro, Josh Bellan, Sikhona Gwintsa, Jasmine Lontajo, Caelen Rondeau, Tara Streilein, Makis Viado, Nick Xidos, and Josh Caldo

From the creators of The Mystery of Krummhorn Castle (5 STARS—CBC) comes a Steampunk musical odyssey for the whole family! For young geniuses Ada and Lacey LaForge, there’s no problem that a ratchet and slide rule can’t solve. But their journey to find their long-lost aunt becomes a harrowing adventure that tests the limits of their ingenuity. Join the LaForge sisters as they outwit fearsome airship pirates, uncover astonishing family secrets, and maybe bend space and time a little.

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Parked presented by Lady Brain Creative Co.

Written by Katie Grossman with material from Brigitte Sabourin

Directed by Kira Watson

Cast: Katie Grossman and Brigitte Sabourin

Venue: Playhouse Studio

Hazel is a meter maid recently rejected from grad school who’s just trying to make it through her shift. Liz just got her car towed on the worst day of her life. While the two may seem to be polar opposites, they’re more like two sides of the same coin. A heartfelt comedy about figuring out your identity, career and the rest of your life, Parked is what happens when you stay in the same place for too long.

This installment is produced by Tatiana Carnevale, who also produced our 2017 One Night Stand editions! You can check out this exciting preview of upcoming Fringe shows this Saturday, May 26th at 2PM – which will let out in time to also catch New Beginnings at 4PM. And for the final products, you can catch them at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival running July 18-29!

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“New Beginnings”: On and Off-Stage!

Just 5 days until opening and we offer you the top 5 reasons this production should not be missed! With New Beginnings, we’re pulling together a lot of moving parts: from dancers to film, music to art, there are so many elements that make up one amazing show! But that’s not all we have going on.

1. Accessibility Services

As part of our commitment to making the show as accessible as possible – particularly for the groups represented in the production – we’re also offering child-minding, transportation, and translation services so as many people as possible can take part in New Beginnings. We’ll also have ASL interpretation at our May 25th performance!

2. Visual Art Installation by Newcomer Artists

Out in the lobby, we’re also featuring artists from all over the world! We’ll be screening Patrick Mugosa’s documentary Restoration: A Refugee’s Story and showcasing work by Natalia Dechevykh, Mannan Hamrasho, and Nadim Ado. We’ll also have OneNation Exchange bags available for purchase. As well, as you enter the theatre you can check out the amazing art installation by Indra Skuja-Grislis, done specially for New Beginnings!

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3. Conversation Circles

Even after the show, the work doesn’t stop: we’ll also be hosting conversation circles following each performance to continue the dialogue sparked by these thought-provoking stories. We’ll be hosting representatives from Welcome Place (Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council), Bread and Borders, the Jamaican Association of Manitoba, Institute for International Women’s Rights, Immigrant Women’s Oldtimers, Immigration Partnership Winnipeg, and community members featured in the production! For more info, stay tuned on social media where we’ll be announcing the different conversation facilitators for each performance.

4. Weekend Feasts

Over the two weekend performances, you’ll be able to feed your body as well as your mind thanks to our generous New Beginnings feast sponsors! Starting at 5:30 PM both days, you’ll be able to sample food from Viena do Castelo, Gohe Restaurant, and Baraka Pita with additional supplies provided by Safeway (Mountain and McGregor)! We’ll also be hosting an opening night reception on May 22nd with food  donated by Diversity Food Services.

 

5. Boundary Avenue

In addition, we’re proud to be partnering as a double bill with One Trunk Theatre’s latest show, Boundary AvenueThe production is spearheaded by Andraea Sartison, Liam Zarrillo, and Caroline Wintoniw together with Razak Iyal and Seidu Mohammed.  We’re offering discounted packages to check out both productions, available here!

 

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With so much going on, you won’t want to miss out on what an incredible experience this show as to offer! We already have one performance sold out and another one just a few seats away from filling up. Tickets are available now through our website or call us at (204) 586-2236.

The Future of FemFest

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FemFest has come a long way in the past fifteen years! As our most recognizable contribution to Winnipeg’s theatre scene, FemFest has been inspiring, challenging, and transforming theatre since 2003. In that time we’ve grown from a small, grassroots festival to an eight-day showcase of female theatre artists from Winnipeg, Canada, and all over the world! We’ve nurtured countless emerging artists to help kickstart their careers, brought together artists from a wide range of disciplines for future collaborations, and amplified the voices of groups who are still underrepresented in Canadian theatre.

After so many years, we have to ask ourselves: “where do we go from here?” Where can we take FemFest that it hasn’t already gone – and where does it need to go? As part of our commitment to representing the Winnipeg theatre community, we aren’t just asking this question within our organization – we want to hear from members of the public as well!

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On April 11th, we hosted a community consultation as a way to open FemFest up to a wider audience, hearing from local groups about what they needed and wanted from FemFest. This offered us the amazing opportunity to introduce ourselves to new groups and hear about what the community needs from us in the future. For some groups, this was their first time hearing about the festival and allowed us the chance to invite new members into the FemFest fold!

 

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Cate Friesen

Facilitating this consultation was Cate Friesen. Cate is a story practitioner, trainer, and keynote presenter with twenty-five years of experience as an entrepreneur, award-winning CBC producer, documentary maker, and performer. In her work with The Story Source, she has appeared at SHEday 2018 as well as Fast Pitch 2018, teaching skills in development for organizations and telling stories of impact. In the past year she has delivered workshops and series for Canadian Mental Health Association, RCMP, QNET Manitoba, Canadian Centre for Economic Development Network and Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba, and more.

The consultation isn’t complete, we want to hear from YOU – whether you’ve attended FemFest sometimes, always, or never! We’re seeking a wide range of input from related organizations as well as local artists, volunteers and patrons. Feel free to share the link with anyone you think might be interested – we want as many opinions as possible. Our goal is to start implementing smaller changes for FemFest 2018 and move on to larger updates in 2019.

Take part in our short survey and have your say in the future of FemFest. Deadline is Monday, April 30th!

 

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!

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.