The Game: a thought-provoking combination of theatre and dance

Have you ever seen the power of classical Indian dance? How about this traditional form combined with six powerhouse female actors? Do not miss the chance to see an exciting hybrid of dance, storytelling, and mythology brought to the stage at FemFest 2018! The story of The Game is taken from The Mahabharata, a Sanskrit epic that is extremely well-known in Indian culture but that you will rarely get to see onstage in Canada. It’s a daunting task to adapt such iconic source material, but Shyamala Dakshinamurti and Sowmya Dakshinamurti have created something truly unique.

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A photo from Manohar Performing Arts of Canada’s dance performance of The Game

We have the honour of producing this new adaptation in collaboration with Manohar Performing Arts of Canada, bringing together six actors and nine dancers under the inspiring direction of Cherissa Richards. Although Shyamala and Sowmya, a playwriting team of two sisters, wrote the script years ago, they have not yet performed it in its original form as a theatre piece. Manohar Performing Arts of Canada previously performed it purely as a movement piece, and now we’re excited to present it as both.

The work will look and sound both classic and contemporary. Classical Indian dance by the incredible and devoted dancers of Manohar is central to the storytelling and adds power that’s impossible to replicate with words. Dancers will be attired traditionally, but designer Joseph Abetria has come up with costumes for the actors that reflect a modern version of the mythological characters. The story may be a classic, but in the time of the #metoo movement, the themes of violation, objectification, silencing, and doubting of women ring true.

What’s unique about The Game is that it tells the story from six different perspectives. It revolves around Draupadi, whose husband makes the mistake of staking her in a game of chance, but you won’t hear her voice until the end. It’s clear that something terrible has happened to her, but you’ll be left to speculate about who’s telling the truth and who’s trying to hide it. The ambiguity is really quite eerie and it is sure to make you think.

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Dancers in action at the first rehearsal at the beginning of August

As if such a fascinating narrative idea wasn’t enough, you’ll also get to marvel at fantastic dancers and strong actors. The dancers are top-notch: such expressive artists and skilled athletes at the same time. The actors are from a range of backgrounds. Together they produce a visual element that makes this piece truly dynamic.

The Game will be performed on Sunday, September 16, at 7:00 pm, Monday, September 17, at 9:00 pm, and Saturday, September 22, at 4:00 pm. All performances are at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. You can buy your tickets here. We hope to see you there!

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OUR HOME & native land: wit and sarcasm thicker than the Indian Act

Who knew that an educational play about the history of the Treaties and how the Canadian government has violated them could be so…funny? And who could write such a play? Jo MacDonald could. And she won last year’s Bake-Off with it!

In case you’re not familiar with it, the Bake-Off is an annual event in FemFest. Playwrights are given just eight hours to “bake” up a scene with three specific “ingredients” (actions or lines) so that they can’t write ahead. The audience is then invited to a reading of these fresh ideas and they get to decide which one has the most potential for a complete play. The winning playwright receives dramaturgical guidance so that they can finish the play and have it read at the following FemFest.

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OUR HOME & native land is about two friends, Niibin and Cheryl, who are leading a workshop called “Understanding the Treaties”. They have their work cut out for them when the self-absorbed Stephanie and the mansplaining George walk in. Neither Stephanie nor George is aware of their privilege, their biases, or their ignorance. When Mrs. Bruneau, warm, friendly, and given to storytelling, comes in, it becomes clear that she does not need the workshop so much as it needs her. She helps Niibin and Cheryl win their reluctant guests over, but you’ll have to come and find out how. The only spoilers that we can give you are that it’s outrageously funny and will make you curious (and angry) about the history of the treaties and how our government has violated them.

In OUR HOME & native land, Jo MacDonald proves herself to be a sharply witty and engaging writer. Recently, her play Mother’s Little Secret was performed to packed houses at the Fringe Festival, directed by our wonderful Indigenous Outreach Coordinator, Marsha Knight. Her play Neechie-Itas was a runner-up in the Native American New Play Festival in Oklahama City. Jo was a big hit at last year’s FemFest and she will be again this year. In fact, her work was also selected to be featured in the FemFest One Night Stand as part of the festival closing night.

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Don’t miss this brand-new play—there will be just one reading at 1:00 pm on Saturday, September 15 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. You can get your tickets here!

Burnt: Norah Paton travels to Burning Man, Burning Man travels to FemFest

At FemFest this year, Norah Paton’s Burnt will take you on a theatrical trip to Burning Man, a temporary community in the desert in Nevada. You will meet all kinds of people played by Paton herself. The festival gets its name from the ritual of burning of a huge wooden effigy at the end of the festival. It is founded on ten principles: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.

Paton created the piece by visiting Burning Man in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and recording interviews with the people she met there. But instead of any old documentary, Paton wrote a script that is a collage of interviews and brought it to life with her captivating acting skills. She plays a surprisingly varied cast of characters, each with their own distinctly recognizable personality. Ian Huffam wrote in his review that “Paton’s physicality and vocal texture when embodying the subjects of her interviews deftly captures the essence of these people.”

The aesthetic of the show is wonderful, too. The sound design is by AL Connors and the play features electronic music, just as Burning Man does. Dominique Coughlin’s costume and set designs remind us of Le Petit Prince, as Ian Huffam points out, which shares its desert setting with Burnt. Lighting designer Sarah Mansikka creates fascinating visual effects. Dramaturges Emily Pearlman and Brad Long complete the artistic team.

Paton premièred Burnt at the Undercurrents Festival in Ottawa in 2017 and received glowing reviews. Jared Davidson described the première as “fascinating, clever, and immersive” and added “with a script and performance this strong, it will be interesting to see how it develops.” Our Artistic Director saw this production in Ottawa and was excited to share it with FemFest audiences.  And now that Paton has developed it further, Winnipeg theatregoers will see its best version yet.

Paton’s brilliance doesn’t stop at the sheer originality of this concept. The play also criticizes the hypocrisies of Burning Man: how a money-less city that operates on giving has become a capitalist venture, how a place where people are not supposed to leave any traces has developed a litter problem, and how racism and rape culture have crept into a community founded on inclusivity.

The Ottawa Citizen quoted Paton saying “Some of [the ten principles of Burning Man] are totally contradictory, and I definitely do look at those paradoxes…For me, it’s really interesting to see how this temporary city becomes a microcosm of all the issues or tensions or problems that we all see in our lives.”

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Come and enjoy Burnt at FemFest at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, 400 Colony Street, on Tuesday, September 18th or Wednesday, September 19th at 9:00 pm or on Thursday, September 20th at 7:00 pm and prepare to be amazed!

FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance!

FemFest is turning 16 this year and we’re already hard at work getting this incredible festival ready! After community consultation and a huge response to our recent survey, we are responding by focusing on making FemFest more diverse, inclusive and visible with life-changing plays for everyone. We have an amazing line-up in store for this year, including readings, workshops, and touring shows from Toronto to Morocco. Check out just some of what will be featured at FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance!

04ManoharTheGame2012.jpgThe Game written by Shyamala Dakshinamurti and Sowmya Dakshinamurti

Witness six different perspectives on a single violent incident that occurs to Draupadi, the iconic woman at the heart of The Mahabharata. An exciting first time partnership with Manohar Performing Arts that will combine classical Indian dance with theatre.

 

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Burnt explores the participants and culture of Burning Man using recordings of interviews, conversations, music, dust storms, and chaos. We are excited to welcome Norah Paton from Ottawa to present her work and facilitate a workshop on do it yourself devised work!

 

 

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The Sound of the Beast written and performed by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard

This solo piece by two-time Governor General’s Award Nominee Donna-Michelle St. Bernard (aka Belladonna the Blest) speaks truth to power using spoken word, storytelling and hip-hop. It is particularly exciting to welcome this show produced by the renowned Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto.

 

White Man's Indian.jpgWhite Man’s Indian written and performed by Darla Contois

This is the story of Eva, a Cree teenage girl, and her journey through the maze of a White Man’s high school. After its premiere in Toronto last summer, it is a pleasure to allow this promising Winnipeg artist to share her work in her home town.

 

 

 

cmmLa Civilisation, ma mère!…, from the novel by Driss Chraïbi | adapted by Émilie Malosse

Help us to welcome La Compagnie du Jour & La Compagnie L’Aparté from Morocco.

This play is adapted from the celebrated novel of the same name and tells the story of a young woman who discovers that there was more to her grandmother’s life than she’d ever imagined.  Presented with Théâtre Cercle Molière, this production will enjoy an Arabic reading as well as a French presentation.

 

OUR HOME & native land a reading of a new play by Jo MacDonald

Armed with bannock and ancestral knowledge, teaching ‘Mr. Mansplainer’ and ‘Ms. Selfie Important’ about the Treaties will be as easy as the original signings! After winning the 2017 Bake-Off, we’re proud to present a reading of Jo Macdonald’s full script as part of FemFest 2018!

 

 

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Bake-Off

Feast your eyes on the annual Bake-Off. We challenge selected playwrights with a list of ingredients and eight hours to cook up their own fantastic theatrical feasts! We are accepting playwright submissions until July 31st: check out full details here!

 

One Night Stand

Instant Gratification. Immediate Results. This series gives creators the opportunity to test their work, while providing audiences a chance to take part in the developmental process. We’ll be featuring readings from our most celebrated writers!

 

As always, we’ll be kicking off with our Opening Cabaret on September 15 featuring a variety of local performers! Stay tuned as we announce more details on the festival, running September 15-22.

Exploring Immigration Across Generations

Newcomer stories from all over the world will be appearing in New Beginnings: from Syria to Ethiopia, Vietnam to Zimbabwe! We have such a diverse range of artists bringing these stories to life, including some familiar faces as well as newcomers to Canada! Get to know this week’s featured New Beginnings artists below.

 

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Melissa Langdon

Melissa Langdon is thrilled to be a part of the New Beginnings team. She is a graduating Honours Acting student from the University of Winnipeg. Through her time at the university, she appeared in Time and the Conways, Concord Floral, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. She’s also appeared in a number of films including Grief (Kaiju Productions) and Harmonize (Prairie Kid Productions). In addition to performing as a dancer, Melissa appears in Usna’s story, which focuses on a group of women fleeing their home country of Afghanistan.

 

As the daughter of an immigrant parent, Melissa has learned so much about the struggles and triumphs that many newcomers face while arriving in Canada. “The conversations that have emerged while discussing the struggles of new Canadian citizenship and the immigration process have been extremely powerful: from resettling after arrival to long-term personal growth and adaptation,” says Melissa.

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Dagmawit Habtemariam

 

Dagmawit Habtemariam (or Dagm for short) is new to the Sarasvàti stage, having been born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She moved to Winnipeg with her husband and two children in July 2011. Her educational backgrounds include an M.A in Social Anthropology and a B.Ed. degree in History, both from Ethiopia. Currently, she is taking an undergraduate degree in Human Rights program at the University of Winnipeg while working as a Graduate Studies Admission Officer.

Dagm is excited to share the stories of immigrants’ lives with Winnipeggers: particularly culture shocks, the ordeals of coming to Canada, as well as hopes for themselves and their children in a new home. “I am an immigrant myself and the different scenes of the project discuss the opportunities, challenges and commonalities that immigrants face when moving to Winnipeg and Canada.”

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Anjali Sandhu

Dagm also appears in Karwan and Irekanmi’s stories, both of which focus on how different generations experience settlement. Joining Dagm in Karwan’s story is familiar face Anjali Sandhu. Anjali is a Winnipeg-based comedian, actor, writer and law student. She has performed stand-up at the Winnipeg Comedy Fest, SheDot Comedy Festival, Sirius XM’s Next Top Comic, and more. Anjali was a writer/adapter of The Trump Card which she performed with District Theatre Collective at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. She also wrote and performed an original piece for Sarasvàti’s 2018 Cabaret of Monologues, Flight 182. Anjali’s original show I’m Not Taylor Swift will premiere this summer at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

 

Like Melissa, Anjali also comes from a family of newcomers. “I’m excited about working with new artists,” says Anjali. “As the daughter/granddaughter of immigrants, I am excited to explore what my family members’ may have experienced through this piece.”

You can catch all of our amazing artists when New Beginnings premieres on May 22nd! The production takes place until May 27th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St). Don’t miss out – get your tickets today!

Staying Unstoppable Through Change

This week, we’re featuring three more artists from our upcoming International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable! Get to know them below:

Sweet an Nice – written by Althea Cunningham, performed by Lorraine James

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Althea Cunningham

Cunningham is of Jamaican descent and grew up in Edmonton, AB. She is a graduate of the Theatre Arts Program at MacEwan University and a seasoned performer with a background in acting, writing, music and producing.  In 2005, Cunningham founded her three-tier company Nappy Roots Productions, which focuses on positive stories for the black diaspora in the twenty-first century using writing, acting and music as the vehicle.

Her piece, Sweet an Nice, focuses on the story of her mother as a Jamaican immigrant coming to Canada in the 1970s. “Not only was it culture shock, but there were unexpected challenges she experienced up until the day of her death. My mother, being my most beloved parent, left behind a legacy that I feel needs exploring,” says Cunningham. “It’s a story that deals with intense, painful themes: immigration, discrimination, abuse, and codependency. Writing allows me to explore, heal and move forward from the past.”

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Lorraine James

Bringing Cunningham’s piece to the stage is long-time veteran of Sarasvàti, Lorraine James. James has most recently been seen in the 2017 FemFest Bake-Off, The Mousetrap for Christiefest, When God Comes for Breakfast You Don’t Burn the Toast, and The Appointment.

“I get to portray an experience seemingly outside of myself,” says James. “I’m gaining insight on what it must’ve been like for my parents to uproot their lives to come here, to realize that there are people out there who feel threatened by immigrants and yet have no idea about the real struggles.”

 

I Got 99 Problems, My Penis is Just One – created and performed by Cynthia Fortlage

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Cynthia Fortlage

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Fortlage has worked as an internationally award-winning information technology executive for the past twenty-nine years with a privately owned Winnipeg company.  She is a board member with various organizations, including Rainbow Resource Center where she sits as President of the Board. Ms. Fortlage came to terms in 2016 with a forty-one-year denial of her true gender identity.

Fortlage created her piece to share some insight as a transgender woman and to share the message of acceptance without understanding. “Acceptance without understanding is a way to see how we interact with each other as human beings first before any gender, sexual preference, age, body shape, country of origin, political or religious beliefs, and so on.”

You can catch these amazing pieces – and many more! – on March 10th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Ticket information available 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.