Alice and The World We Live In

We are thrilled to continue to offer unique theatre and important opportunities to showcase artists safely at FemFest 2020: Engaging Community. Here’s a chance to learn more about our featured local production!

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Alex Haber, Playwright

How do you move forward when you’re stuck? Alice and the World We Live In tells the story of Alice, who stands frozen on a dangerous mountain pass. Paralyzed, unable to move forward or turn back, she is suspended between multiple possibilities of what could have been and what is. Inspired by the topsy-turvy world Alice encounters in Wonderland when she falls down the rabbit hole, this moving allegory explores a woman’s struggle to push through the grief of losing the love of her life to a random act of terror. Echoing our collective fear of what lies ahead in these tumultuous and uncertain times, the play exalts our indefatigable resilience and endless capacity to love, once we find the courage to let go.

“Haber takes what could have been a thin and predictable premise and enriches it with a quite dazzling sense of theatricality.” – Jim Burke, Montreal Gazette

The play was written by Alexandria Haber: an award-winning playwright. Her plays have been produced in Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, the UK and include Alice and The World We Live In (Centaur),  Mouth to Mouth (Montreal Fringe, The White Bear, London) (co- written with Ned Cox), On This Day (Centaur Theatre), Life Here After (Imago, Centaur, Wildside), Closed for Urgent and Extraordinary Work (Theatre Yes, Edmonton), Game Changers and I Don’t Like Mondays and The Water Chronicles (Geordie Productions). This is the second time she will have the pleasure of having her work in FemFest, the first time being Ordinary Times in 2002.

Alice and The World We Live In is a passionate and important piece dealing with a very modern sense of grieving. […] The way these ideas are dug into in the writing, as well as the expressionistic way we are handed them by this production, still give fresh perspectives and a realness that is always welcome.”  – Brandon Lorimer, Art Critique

To learn more about the script, be sure to check out this interview with Alexandria Haber and Jane Wheeler, who played Alice in the world premiere.

“Montrealer Alexandria Haber has written an extremely complex two-hander play about the process of grief and death, and how we are able to move forward.” – Joe Szekeres, On Stage Blog

We’re incredibly excited to be moving forward with Alice and the World We Live In at FemFest as a live, outdoor event with an on-line viewing option. Directed by Ann Hodges, the play will star local-theatre-veterans Ray Strachan and Elena Anciro. It will be a presentation unique to our times with a chance for audience to gain insights in to the creative process. The shows will take place at Assiniboine Park on September 23, 25, and 26. It will be limited capacity in order to implement social distancing, so reserve your spot right now by buying a ticket here!

Songide’ewin: Reconciliation Through Theatre

We are so excited to finally share Songide’ewin with audiences! We’ve worked hard to ensure a safe process for our cast, crew and audiences. This production features the stories and lived experiences of over 70 Indigenous youth performed by a cast of 5. Join us outdoors or online August 25 to 27!

For three nights at 7pm we will have 50 in person tickets available for the outdoor performance with socially distanced seating. Each performance will also be livestreamed for at home viewing. Tickets can be purchased online here or by calling (204) 586-2236.

Gathering online for the first rehearsal this past Tuesday was an exhilarating experience. Under the direction of Tracey Nepinak and with the support of Knowledge Keeper Gayle Pruden, the team shared how thirsty they have been to return to creative work.

“Sorry doesn’t change the past! Systemic racism still exists! Words are meaningless without actions!”

Reconciliation through Theatre was initiated by an Indigenous Advisory Committee two years ago. We have since worked with seven amazing organizations to offer a creative and safe space for Indigenous youth. Using an artistic lens, with the guidance of experienced facilitators and elders, youth examined how they interact with the world around them and how the world in turn interacts with them.

“Do you think reconciliation is possible?”

“Yes, but it will take lots of time.”

Anishinaabe playwright Jo MacDonald with Darla Contois have transformed these stories into a theatrical script. With a fabulous design team and five talented actors, renowned Cree theatre artist Tracey Nepinak will bring this production to life! In addition, participant Bear Harper is mentoring with Jaime Black to display a large mural of his artwork alongside art created during the workshops.

Our gratitude to the amazing funders who have waited with us – The Winnipeg Foundation, Province of Manitoba, Department of Canadian Heritage, NIB Trust, Manitoba Arts Council, The Winnipeg Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and our sponsors Cushman & Wakefield | Stevenson, Wawanesa Insurance & Manitoba Blue Cross.

“You need to take everything you’ve been taught and put it aside. And really hear what the young people have to say.”

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to see this exciting performance! Get your tickets here.

Looking for Cooks in the Kitchen

Last year’s Bake-Off was a deliciously good time (pun intended). With a sold-out show featuring five incredible plays, it was a great night for everyone – especially the winner, barb janes. 

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barb janes at the 2019 Bake-Off

 This year, we’re bringing back the Bake-Off (with increased physical distancing, of course). If you’re not already familiar, the premise is simple: five playwrights will be given “ingredients” that they must include in an original sceneLast year’s ingredients were a flat tire, a “shhh” sound, and the quote “everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.” For the next eight hours, the writers are left to work on their scripts. Scenes can be anywhere from five to ten minutes long. The scenes will then be performed as a staged reading by an ensemble at FemFest 2020: Engaging Community. the playwright with the most-developed piece will win 500 dollars and dramaturgical guidance to develop a full-length one-act script, which will be read publicly at FemFest 2021. 

A huge thank you to the Manitoba Association of Playwrights and the family of Janet Taylor, who continue to sponsor the Bake-Off every year.  

Speaking of readings, barb janes’ piece, Agency, won the 2019 Bake-Off and has spent the last year being developed. The play follows three “orphan” girls from three different eras and three different countries: Louisa (a British Home Child), Annie (a sixties scoop adoptee) and Natasha (adopted from Romania). Plagued by issues of abandonment and belonging, the three friends search for their mothers, their identity and their own agency. We’re so looking forward to seeing how her play has taken shape since writing it almost one year ago! 

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Brooklyn at the 2019 Bake-Off

If we haven’t sold you on how incredible of an experience the Bake-Off is yet, revisit Brooklyn Kilfoyle’s article about her time participating in the Bake-Off as one of the five playwrights.  

Meeting the other playwrights for the first time was a huge help to calming my nerves. Everyone was so kind and supportive of each other, the energy in the room was electric. Being surrounded by a group of such positive women; passionate about theatre set fire to my determination.”  Brooklyn Kilfoyle 

We are looking for women, non-binary, and trans folks to apply for the Bake-Off! Even if you don’t have any formal playwriting experience, all you need to submit is: 

  1. A letter including your full contact information (address, phone & email) and anything you want to tell us about yourself & why you’re interested in the BakeOff  
  2. A 100-word bio for yourself  
  3. A 5 – 10 page writing sample (can be a scene or monologue) in PDF format. 

Please email the above to Cairn Moore at bakeoff@sarasvati.caOtherwise, you can check out more details about the Bake-Off or other FemFest shows and readings here! 

 

The Monster in All of Us

Who are you when you don’t know who you are? That’s the question Sarah Waisvicz asks in Monstrous.

Created and performed by Waisvicz, we’re incredibly excited to be featuring Monstrous in FemFest 2020: Engaging Community. Monstrous follows the protagonist’s journey across continents, centuries, and musical genres as she sifts through the facts and fictions of her mixed-up, mixed-race family history. Integrating storytelling, multi-genre dance, music, song, projections, and audience interaction, it is a quest for roots, remembrance, and belonging; it is also a cutting, hard-hitting provocation about “multiculturalism” in Canada. Monstrous is a startling wake-up call that puts pressure on how accepting we think we are.

MonstrousPromoPhotoDoorOfNoReturnChrisSnow

Sarah is a playwright, dramaturge, and multi-disciplinary performer with training in dance and physical theatre (classical ballet, puppetry, acrobatics, stilts, West African dance styles). Her solo script to Monstrous, about the Afro-diaspora experience and mixed-race identity, was published in Alt.theatre 13.3 and the show has been performed in Montreal, Toronto, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. Sarah has been Artist-in-Residence at Great Canadian Theatre Company and at the National Arts Centre. Her most recent play Heartlines premiered to sold-out houses at Ottawa’s undercurrents festival.

“I was strongly moved by this piece — not leaving the studio with the same mindset I had upon entering… I found myself lost in thought about my background and place within this world. I felt as if I had also just explored my entire background and found a little more of myself in the process, too. If you are prepared for a deep, self-discovery performance — this play is a definite go see!” – Makinizi Hoover, Medium

MonstrousPromoPhotoPraiseGingerChrisSnowIn 2015, when Waisvicz began this project, she documented part of its development process. The full title was originally called Monstrous, or, The Miscegenation Advantage, and it was described as an “original 70-minute solo show: one woman, two races, four continents, and a suitcase full of secrets.” You can check out a video about the show’s development here.

“Waisvisc’s dynamic energy fills the minimalist set where music, projection and dance illustrate a global trek as stories, anecdotes, lies, hearsay and research are pulled from this trunk of family history.” Jennifer Cavanaugh, Apt613

In light of COVID-19, we’re excited to announce we’ll be moving forward with a virtual edition of Monstrous. Like previous reviewers, we know you’ll be moved by this show – no matter what part of the world you’re from. If you haven’t yet, be sure to watch the official Monstrous trailer and stay tuned on our website for the latest information on how to access FemFest programming.

The Tita Collective: Essential Reading

We are incredibly lucky to have the Tita Collective present their musical sketch revue hit, Tita Jokes, at this year’s FemFest. Although it may not be the usual live performance due to the current situation, it will still be hilarious and a must-see! An all-Filipina collective composed of award-winning playwrights, comedians, musicians, dancers, theatremakers and actors, the Tita Collective explores different mediums to tell the stories about the Filipinx diaspora.

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The Tita Collective

Tita Collective won the 2019 Steamwhistle Producers’ Pick at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, Best Newcomer at the Montreal Sketch Comedy Festival, and the Second City Outstanding New Comedy Award.

To get you just as excited as us, we’ve gathered some interviews and videos of the Tita Collective (made up of Ann Paula Bautista, Belinda Corpuz, Isabel Kanaan, Ellie Posadas, Alia Rasul and Maricris Rivera). We highly recommend you watch and read the following and, as we get closer to FemFest, bookmark it so you can return to it again and again and again and… (you get the idea!)

Tita Collective: ‘We’re Like The Spice Girls Of Theatre,’ With A Filipino Twist
This article from the CBC tells you all the key facts about the Tita Collective and their show, from their origin story to their connection with each other.

Excerpt: “It’s a very inter-generational story. So our parents, our older aunts and uncles have come to the show . . . But even my niece and nephew who are eight and 11 years old also came to the show and they could still enjoy it and resonate with it and identify with that.”

5 Questions With… The Tita Collective
Get to know the Titas even better with this interview on comedy and Filipinx culture.

Excerpt: Filipinas of our parents’ generations are some of the bravest people out there, and there’s a lot to learn from their journeys: from making the choice to leaving their communities behind to move to a strange new place and starting a new life, having to deal with racism, classism and sexism in degrees that today is unacceptable but back then was the norm, and all of this to provide for their families and to prop the Philippine economy up. It’s time that their bravery is recognized and honoured.

FTV (Filipino TV) Exclusive Feature Tita Jokes at the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival
This video features an interview with the Tita Collective spliced up with footage from their hilarious show.

“When we tell these stories I hear a lot of stories from people who aren’t Filipino, Filipina, or Filipinx and they’re like, ‘My sister-in-law is Filipina so I know what lumpia is,’ or, ‘I have lot of friends who are [Filipinx],’ so it just makes me feel like I’m not as invisible as I thought. This encouraged me to tell other people to tell their stories.”

#NowYouKnow YouTube Videos
#NowYouKnow is a series of videos the Tita Collective made that opens with a slide that says, “We asked titos and titas to explain a few words in Tagalog.” These short clips, featuring words like “ube” or “maganda,” are recommend by the Tita Collective to be watched before you see their show.

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Kristina Guevarra

So there you have it: essential reading (and viewing, technically) for those of you who are soon-to-be fans of the Tita Collective! Keeping in mind COVID-19 protocols, we are currently working on some additional (and very exciting!) virtual programming with them. We’re also excited to announce Kristina Guevarra, a multidisciplinary Filipinx artist, will be coordinating a panel featuring Filipinx creatives. Be sure to check out our new FemFest 2020 page to stay up to date on how each show will be uniquely executed!

Virtual Audition Tips

With so many aspects of regular life changing, so too have auditions! Due to physical distancing recommendations, we’ve decided to hold our general auditions online. (Also, if you’re aactor interested in auditioning, but you haven’t submitted your headshot and resume, it’s not too late!) While not everyone who submits their headshot and resume will be given an audition, those who are chosen will be asked to do so virtuallyWe encourage all to submit, we will be holding on-line auditions on a show by show basis so connecting with actors on a show by show basis. Never done a virtual audition before? No problem! Here are our best tips:  

Be mindful of lighting.
It’s always recommended to sit with the light, rather than against itYou want to avoid being “backlit” – a term that means being lit from the back (AKA, facing away from a window so the camera captures your silhouette, and not your face). If you can, set up your laptop/webcam in line with a window’s light stream, this will make your face clear and easy to see! 

Double check your camera and microphone are working.
This is one a few members of our team have personally experienced! Computers can be unpredictable and web cameras/microphones may randomly stop working. It’s a great idea to restart your computer and open up a program that uses both your webcam and microphone (Facetime, Zoom, or Skype, for example) before the audition to guarantee it’ll run smooth when the time comes. 

Try to deliver your lines at eye-level with the camera. 
Eyes are, of course, not only the gateway to the soul, but also an incredibly important part of acting. It can be far too easy to lose someone’s eyes virtually, as there’s not necessarily a “reader” or mark to be looking at. Try to keep your eyeline around where the camera is, so we won’t lose your face and our team can see your best work! Another tip: consider placing a sticker or post-it above or next to your camera, as some cameras are so small, they can be tough to see. 

Be prepared.
Like regular auditions, the main task is to show what you can do. We will be sure to let everyone know what to prepare if you are booked to audition. However, sometimes directors will ask you to try a different interpretation. If you were sitting, they may ask you to stand to demonstrate greater embodiment. This might mean making sure you are dressed to audition on top and bottom! 

Have fun!
Auditions can already be a bit nerve-wracking for some folks, so the idea of doing them in an unfamiliar way may add more feelings of anxiety. But don’t worry! Our team is figuring things out just like you, and we absolutely understand technical problems may come and go – and that’s one of the silver-linings of this new time we’re in: we’re all just figuring it out together!  

We want to thank the folks who’ve submitted already, and we’re excited to (virtually) audition others as needed for our 2020/2021 season! 

Fresh(ish) Faces

Yes, summer is approaching and we can always tell because our team expands – although this year it’s a remote expansion. This month we welcomed two members to the Sarasvàti team! We have Samantha Desiree returning as our Production Assistant and Riva Billows joining us as the Marketing and Community Outreach Assistant.

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Sami Desiree, Production Assistant

You may recognize Sami as she filled the same position leading up to and during FemFest 2019. Sami is currently working towards her BAH at the University of Winnipeg, with speciality in Stage Management. She is an artist with many interests and has been working in production, directing, acting and producing. She started in theatre at a young age, performing as Buttercup in The Princess Bride. After that performance she received handwritten letters from young girls who had seen the show and “wanted to grow up to be like Buttercup.” That was when she learned the power of theatre. She founded Beau Theatre Co. in 2017 and since has produced six full productions with them and was slotted for a 5 stop Canadian Fringe tour this year (which has been postponed). She thanks her cat Zella and partner Matt for their support.

Riva Billows is a local improviser, comedian, and a recent graduate of the Creative Communications program. She was voted the second funniest person in Winnipeg in this year’s Uniter 30. She’s performed at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, Montreal Sketch Festival, and the Winnipeg Fringe Festival the last four years.

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Riva Billows, Marketing and Community Outreach Assistant

 

Riva was an actor in “Can You See Me Now?”, a partnership between Sarasvàti and West Central Women’s Resource Centre that told women’s experiences of homelessness. “Looking back, doing that show and collaborating with these incredible women just solidified how important it is to tell the untold stories,” she said. “That was probably the first time that I really saw, firsthand, how theatre can be a vehicle for change.”

Sami believes theatre can change perspective and create empathy and compassion which is something she incorporates into all her work. She is so grateful to be back working on FemFest for a second year, with such brilliant humans!

The two are looking forward to seeing the exciting (but still secret!) performers featured in FemFest 2020 – no matter what shape that may be.

We’re excited to have these two on board as we move closer to FemFest 2020FemFest will run in some shape or form from September 19 – 26. Stay up to date by following us on one of our many social media platforms or check out our website as we start to announce the line-up for our 18th festival. 

We Want YOU!

There are so many exciting things to look forward to in the near future. From workshops, to festivals, we can’t wait to gather once again as a community and share our art. We would love for you to join us! We are currently accepting submissions for our One Night Stand playwright development series and applications for our Launchpad Project! 

one-night-stand-poster-april-11-e1524149136777Every year, we host our One Night Stand reading series as a way for emerging and established playwrights to share their work and gain some feedback. We are seeking 10-minute scenes from Manitoban playwrights of all ages, genders, and backgrounds! Our first virtual, One Night Stand will take place in June, 2020. All submissions must be received by 11:59pm on May 8th, 2020. More details on how and what to submit HERE. 


We are so excited to welcome former Launchpad participant Jonathan Mourant in helping to coordinate future ONS editions! 

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Jonathan Mourant in the 2019 Launchpad Project

Jonathan Mourant is a trans-disciplinary performer, producer, and also a robot learning how to be human. They have been improvising for just under a decade and have performed and learned at festivals and workshops across Canada, including the Winnipeg Improv Festival and Toronto SketchFest. This year, Jonathan wrote and directed Here Together for the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Festival and created Jon After Hours, an experimental late night talk show featuring local personalities. Recently, they have begun performing drag as Nora Vision, and are thrilled at the opportunities to combine improv, theatre, and drag into their own unique performance.


You may recall our Launchpad Project from FemFest 2019. A group of emerging female and non-binary identifying artists gathered weekly for a series of workshops, before creating and performing their final work To Kill a Lizard during FemFest 2019. After a successful pilot project that supported ten young artists, we are excited to change it up this year with a new focus. This intensive residency will take place in August/September 2020. Participants will be working on performance pieces that explore climate change. They will perform them in site-specific locations in downtown Winnipeg during our fall festival of FemFest 2020. The best part is participants are paid – as all artists should be!. For more details on who, what and how to apply, click HERE. 

We hope you will consider submitting for one (or both!) of these exciting initiatives. It is important to remember that there is still a lot of exciting things to look forward to and so much art and theatre still to create! 


 

Postponed, Cancelled, Thriving

It is with a heavy heart that we recently announced the postponement of our May 2020 performance of Songide’ewin, the culmination of our Reconciliation Through Theatre Project at the Forks. We have been holding on with great hope and optimism. We have amazing stories compiled from over 70 Indigenous youth. We have an incredible artistic team and community partners all lined up. We would like to say we are making this choice, however it ultimately was out of our hands as permits and regulations were no longer allowing gatherings in to May and June. We do believe it is the safest decision and what is best for all involved.

Songide'ewin

On April 1st we had a wonderful reading of the draft script under the guidance of our director Tracey Nepinak and with actors Sara Demers, Katie German, Braiden Houle, Jessica McGlynn, Akalu Meekis and Josh Ranville. Incredible designs are underway thanks to Production Designer Louis Ogemah and we have such beautiful art ready to share from so many talented youth.

91609969_10158340738552533_7649438720994574336_nWe are 100% committed to seeing the show through, but at this time cannot provide new dates as we are working with our venue to sort out what is realistic and feasible. We will continue to share all the inspiring work happening in the interim and cannot wait to celebrate when the time is ready! We are grateful for how the community is rallying at this time, thankful for all those working so hard to provide essential services, and for all our supporters, funders, partners for their belief in our work.


These are truly uncertain times we’re in! The arts are taking a hit as performances, workshops, festivals and more are being cancelled or postponed on the daily. In times like these, we understand it’s a challenge to remain positive. But, not all hope is lost. In fact, it is more alive than ever! There are still plenty of resources on creative ways to keep your mind and the arts active. Here are just some examples:

Watch theatre at home!

Free virtual acting classes!

Art from a distance!


Our friends at I Like Hue created a documentary following the process of our reconciliation through theatre project. The documentary outlines the Seven Visions art workshops at our partner youth organizations, eventually resulting in our final production Songide’ewin. You can watch the video HERE on our Facebook with closed captioning or HERE on our Youtube account! [Poster] Sarasvati - 7 Circles

Songide’ewin may be postponed, but the conversation on reconciliation is not. We want to continue to support our artists and collaborators anyway that we can, which is why we will be introducing “Songide’ewin Sunday”! Every Sunday, starting next week, we will be featuring a Songide’ewin artist on our social media platforms. You can keep up with Songide’ewin Sunday on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Stay tuned for updates on Songide’ewin once more information is available to us. We hope you are all remaining in good health and high spirits!


 

 

Accessibility Online

Lots of companies are offering free virtual workshops, discussions and play readings. We were so grateful to host the accessibility panel discussion, “Accessibility On Stage and Off” on Saturday, April 4th along with Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba and Sick + Twisted Theatre.

91937880_10158356493302533_3700888570668515328_nWe hosted the discussion online so panellists and workshop participants could participate from the comfort of their own home! We were even able to broadcast the discussion to or Facebook livestream so folks could choose to just watch and observe. It was nice just to do something beyond the usual quarantine routine and to have an important and valuable conversation pertaining to accessibility in the theatre industry. We were even able to have ASL interpretation for the Deaf.


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Joanna Hawkins

Some of the points and ideas brought up included a calendar of events specifically for accessible performances and productions, suggested by Joanna Hawkins, a local Deaf performer. She also brought up the idea of using ASL videos to announce local events, in order to appeal more to the Deaf community. Joanna also shared insights on the importance of communication, “communication is something we all do, we are human beings!” One of the other disability advocates, Hannah Foulger, also mentioned the importance of communication, “the more we talk about what some venues are already doing, the more the other venues will listen and change.” As did our Sick + Twisted Theatre host and moderator, Debbie Patterson, “it’s all about connections and communication. We observe, we pay attention, it’s a network it’s not any one person!” While our other partner Jenel Shaw from Arts AccessAbility Network Manitoba expressed the importance of venues and organizations understanding the need for accessible spaces, “if more organizations saw accessibility not as a burden or expensive but as an opportunity to grow, it would really benefit everyone. More than a quarter of the Canadian population has a disability.”

Panellists Hailley Rhoda and Hannah Foulger also discussed the importance of hiring

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Hailley Rhoda

disabled performers. “Seeing people with disabilities on stage reminds me I am worthwhile, my life is worthwhile and we have important things to say,” Hannah Foulger. “The difference between knowing you’re allowed in a space and knowing you’re welcome in a space, the.re is a huge difference,” Hailley Rhoda.


This discussion was incredible informative and beneficial in many ways. We want to thank the panelists, the participants and everyone who tuned in! We are grateful to be able to keep conversations like these going and we hope to have many more! It is also important to move it beyond talk and walk the walk. Here are some amazing resources:

Stay tuned for more updates on our season. We hope you all are happy and healthy!


 

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