Announcing Our New Mentorship Project!

Are you ready to launch into the next stage of your training? We’re kicking off the start of our brand-new “Launchpad Project”! Beginning in May 2019, a team of local emerging artists will get together to create a brand-new devised piece to be showcased at this year’s festival. If you’ve ever wanted to create something new with your peers, this is the project for you!

Our Coffee House for Emerging Artists back in August highlighted that  artists are looking for is a platform to perform, show off their skills, and get recognized for their work by their peers. Training and development opportunities only go so far without an outlet to show what an artist can do. We’re responding to this need in the community by offering a team of emerging artists – performers, directors, writers, dancers, designers, you name it! – the chance to work together and create something new for a public audience.

We’re taking to the community to recruit a group of emerging theatre artists to participate in a four-month intensive to create a brand-new production to be showcased at FemFest 2019: All the World’s A Stage.  Our goal is to make this program accessible with honorariums to participants and transportation subsidies – that’s right artists, getting paid to create theatre! We know how important it is to get that first paid opportunity and feel validated as an artist. This project will also give artists the opportunity to show off their skills to the wider theatre community.

Artists may come from any background, education, ability, or age group provided they meet the criteria for an emerging artist: being in an early stage of their career while demonstrating a strong aptitude for working in theatre. Older artists making a career switch are also welcome to apply. We will largely be focusing the project on women, non-binary, and trans-spectrum artists eighteen and older with a demonstrated interest in performance.

The process will start with a workshop intensive, covering topics like improvisation, creating devised work, movement, physical theatre, playwriting, and vocal skills. Mentoring artists from Winnipeg’s professional theatre community will offer their support and feedback in the creation of the new work. Throughout the course of the project, participants will gain the chance to be mentored by professional artists and make valuable connections.

Interested artists are advised to contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca to learn more about the project or request assistance in completing the application.

See the attached call for submissions for more information!

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Kicking Off with Seven Circles!

We’re excited to officially kick off our Reconciliation Through Theatre project! We are honoured that seven organizations from around the city are hosting Indigenous Youth Visioning Circles, bringing together their youth to guide us in developing a framework for arts-based workshops. We’ll be starting off at Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad Inc. this Thursday – read on for more information about the exciting partnerships we have for this project!

 

Ndinawe-logo-horizNdinawemaaganag Endaawaad Inc. (or Ndinawe for short) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping at-risk youth in Winnipeg. Since 1993, their integrated services have been connecting vulnerable children and youth aged 11–17 with the shelter, culture, recreation, education, outreach and support they need for safe and healthy lives. Open every day of the year, Ndinawe is an immediate and reliable place of safety, connection and support for youth during times of high risk when other resources are unavailable to them.

 

logo_ILDII-300x87Indigenous Leadership Development Institute Inc. (or ILDII) is a non-profit organization established to build leadership capacity in Indigenous people. We’ll be working directly with their Empowering Indigenous Youth in Governance and Leadership (EIYGL) program. EIYGL is Indigenous and youth led that provides important ingredients that builds effective leaders through meaningful skill development.

 

imagesUsing a creative, dynamic approach, Marymound School delivers the provincial education curriculum from elementary grades to grade 11. Marymound School serves two populations of students. Some are young people who live in Marymound group homes or living units, while others, Day Treatment students, come from all over Winnipeg, and live at home with their parents, foster parents or other group homes.

 

Manitoba Youth Centre is the largest youth correctional centre in Manitoba and is located in Winnipeg. It houses both male and female young offenders. MYC is responsible for the care, custody and security of Sentenced and Remanded youth. Case-management, Programming and Spiritual care are offered regularly at the centre; in order to help young people make better choices and avoid criminal lifestyles.

 

CaptureKnowles Centre is a community-based, non-profit social service agency for children, adolescents and young adults facing difficult times in their lives. It began as a home for boys in 1907, and today provides a range of therapeutic and skills-based programs to young people from Manitoba and other communities throughout Canada. Their mission is to help young people and their families to address past struggles, to develop healthier relationships and ways of life, and to reach their full potential in the future.

 

WLogo-1Wahbung Abinoonjiiag was established to empower children and their families to break the cycle of violence. They do this by providing opportunities for holistic healing through culturally-appropriate teachings and activities in a safe and nurturing environment. They offer youth programs, to provide participants with a safe environment where youth can come hang out, be themselves, and get support from their peers and caring adults.

 

10183d2b-f704-4fe7-a968-516f5979c475nChildren of the Earth School is an Aboriginal education school that aims to serve students who, while undertaking a standard high school education, also want to learn about their Aboriginal heritage, values, and traditions. We’ve been running youth workshops at the school for the past few years as the school does not currently offer a drama program. We’re excited to return and work with the youth to prepare for our May 2020 production!

This is just Phase One of the project! You can see the results of the visioning circles at our public presentation and project launch May 4-9, 2019. We will then launch workshops in June and begin work combining the stories to create a full production, debuting May 2020. Follow the progress on our latest community collaboration project!

 

One Night Stand Returns for Its Third Year!

We’re bringing back our One Night Stand series for another year! In this first round, playwrights from our Advanced Playwriting Class will have their work read and workshopped by a team of actors. The public reading will give the writers a chance to gain valuable audience feedback as they continue working on their scripts.

The One Night Stand play-reading series was created in the late 1990s by two playwrights in Toronto (Lindsay Price and Bonnie Anderson).  Sarasvàti Productions ran them regularly from 2003 to 2008, bringing the series back for a revival in 2017. The goal of the series is to provide playwrights the opportunity to get feedback from an audience on new material and/or works-in-progress.  We’ve already hosted one great session this year at FemFest 2018 – stay tuned for the other installments we have planned for this year.

Read on for more on the pieces we’ll be featuring!

Gettin’ Outta Dodge by Wayne Ferguson
Attracted by the beauty of the mountains, seduced by the affluent lifestyle, native Banffites and newcomers chase their desires for high social position, their dreams of heroic alpine accomplishments, and their fantasies of unflagging sexual prowess. They are incapable of confronting and dealing with the reality of disappointment. What will be the consequences for them?

The Wrong Way off the Elevator by Andrea Kell

Marlene Wells has come to the law office where her daughter worked until a few weeks ago when she committed suicide. Marlene has come to meet her daughter’s former boss, Mr. Ford, hoping he will be able to provide her with some closure. But Ford, being so uncomfortable with the subject, decides not to correct Marlene when she mistakenly assumes he’s the new receptionist, Mr. Curtis.

Favourites by Jo MacDonald
For Abqurah and her friend Jol, working safely is a guarantee among all their favourites at the big chain grocery store. Or is it? As judgements are made and like bruised fruit, they are quickly deemed unacceptable by one whose bitter palate clings to “past the due date” ideals.

Hearing Tanya by Lynne Martin
Brittany and Coulter’s long-term relationship gets thrown for a loop when Inuit artist Tanya Tagaq’s music unexpectedly penetrates their lives. Complicated by the unwelcome arrival of Brittany’s out-of-control sister Caitlyn, their responses reveal long-buried fears, desires, and (of course) family secrets.

(Don’t) Wake Me Up by Allison Stier
Jane is convinced that the recurring dream of a man’s death signals the start of her life’s purpose — saving the people in her dreams from peril in the waking world. Unfortunately, she can’t make out the who, where, or when — perhaps a hypnotist can help her find clarity?

The Dance by Tyler White

May, an 80 year old woman, is trying to adjust to her move into a seniors’ complex after the death of her husband four months earlier.

Karla by Pamela Wolk

After a decade living in the Caribbean, Chrystal and her family move back home to an ordinary suburban life in Canada, but when her true identity is revealed, she must choose between going back into hiding or facing her gruesome past.

Bringing the pieces to life are local performers Cheryl Gensiorek, A.J. Hotomani, Matt Irvine, Lorraine James, Kevin Longfield, Merri-Lou Paterson, Taesia Scratch, Glenn Odero, and Tom Young.

You can see what’s new from these up-and-coming playwrights on Tuesday, March 19th at 7PM. This session will take place in the Gendis Studio at Prairie Theatre Exchange (3rd Floor, 393 Portage Ave). Admission is pay-what-you-can-afford. Come out and support the latest works from emerging playwrights!

Queering Theatre Wrap-Up

This past Sunday, we took to the community to begin a conversation about the representation and practice of queer stories on stage. Local performing artists Elissa Kixen, Davis Plett, Lara Rae, and Liam Zarrillo spoke to their experiences of performing, creating, or working as a queer artist. Members of the circle were given the floor to share their stories and thoughts as well, creating a thought-provoking dialogue about how the LGBT+ community is reflected in the work produced both on stage and in popular culture.

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Important points raised during the discussion centered on themes of how one’s identity is reflected in the work we create. Even subconsciously, it’s possible to have a queer perspective to one’s work before folks were ready to come out publicly with their identities. Folks found themselves identifying with different themes presented in works that don’t present as being queer, but still reflect ideas and experiences that mirror those of the LGBT community – however unintentionally!

Representation was also a common theme: contrasting the need to discuss the history and harsher realities of the LGBT+ community with the desire for queer youth to see a positive future for themselves. Members of Rainbow Resource Centre mentioned the generational divide in this conversation. For many people, these discussions weren’t around when they were growing up. The representation they saw on screen was that of corrective violence, discrimination, or misinformation. As one speaker mentioned, it’s important to talk about when a character or show “misses the mark” while also acknowledging what they may have been trying to say about a queer experience. As well, including a variety of queer experiences in different characters avoids putting the responsibility of any one character to be all things to all people.

Currently in the theatre world, there is a larger discussion at work surrounding content warnings: what to include, how to include it, and when an artist would prefer not to give warnings for their work. Folks at the discussion offered up the different viewpoints to this topic: contrasting the desire to be surprised by the story with the need to be appropriately prepared to receive triggering content. Content warnings may take different forms: from a simple list of triggering themes available through a production’s website or offering more information through box office staff. One idea was also to allow folks to decide for themselves if they wanted to receive warnings through envelopes available at the theatre. Audience members could then open and check the envelopes for particular warnings before heading into the show. The main idea was that anyone who may be at risk can make an informed decision about whether or not to see a show while other audience members can experience the plot twists as the artist intended.

As well, the discussion delved into how it’s possible to apply a queer perspective to more than just the content on stage, but the process as well. This may include a more devised process than following a set script, an open dialogue about safe spaces in rehearsals, and getting rid of ticket prices to open the event up to people of all income levels. Attendees also discussed how to reshape the relationships between collaborators to ensure all voices on a project were given equal value. An important point was also raised about how to make events more accessible: including information clearly and publicly about whether or not the venue is wheelchair-friendly, if there are gender-inclusive washrooms on-site, and making events by donation instead of a fixed admission. The idea was to make all of this information part of common practice to put the onus on the producers to anticipate the needs of their audience.

While the discussion of “Queering Theatre” could easily have lasted longer than two hours, that was all the time we had! There is also much more that was tackled in the two hours that we can encapsulate in a single blog entry. A big thank-you to Rainbow Resource Centre for hosting us, to our incredible line-up of speakers, our fantastic facilitator Erin Meagan Schwartz, and everyone who came out to join the conversation. For more on the other workshops we have in store for this season, be sure to visit our website!

Queering Theatre: A Community Discussion

“Queer theatre boldly says: No, we are not all the same. Actually, we are kind of different from one another. And, not only is that okay, but it’s a good thing.” – Buddies in Bad Times

On Sunday, January 27th, join us for a community discussion on the practice of including more queer stories on Winnipeg stages. Local performing artists will speak to the representation and practice of queer stories in Winnipeg theatre, including the differing approaches to queering theatre in one’s own work.

Meet the amazing artists who will be speaking at the round-table!

ElissaElissa Black Wolf Kixen is an Anishinaabe Two Spirit Comedian whose roots lay in Couchiching First Nation, Ontario. They have travelled across Canada and the USA as a Comedian and improviser. They use comedy as a tool in dealing with racism, homophobia and sexism. They are the Co-founder/producer of WOKE Comedy Hour and have been featured on APTN’s The Laughing Drum. Elissa is also the Manitoba Ambassador for Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians and the co-produces Queer and Present Danger with Chanty Morastica.

 

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Davis Plett

Davis Plett is a Winnipeg-based artist working in the spaces between media, writing, and performance. Their work has been shown by Nuit Blanche, Young Lungs Dance Exchange, the Winnipeg Underground Film Festival, the Carol Shields Festival, and MonkeySparrow with the support of the Manitoba and Winnipeg arts councils. As a sound artist Davis has worked with Theatre Projects Manitoba, OneTrunk Theatre, Frances Koncan, Mia van Leeuwen, Alexandra Elliot, Simon Miron, Happy Accidents, and 2boys.tv. They will be premiering new performance work at the 2019 Cluster Integrated Arts Festival and Art Holm 4.

 

 

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Lara Rae

Lara Rae is a prize-winning writer for radio and television, a public speaker, an emcee, a radio host and a thirty-year veteran of stand-up comedy. She is the co-founding A.D of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.  Lara was the Just for Laughs Homegrown Comedy Competition National Champion, 2000.  She has contributed dozens of items both comedic and informative to CBC Radio, hosted numerous radio programs on CBC Radio, and had her own call in show on CFRB in Toronto. She is the only transgender person to host the CBC Radio flagship program The Current.  She teaches at the University of Winnipeg in the Women and Gender Studies Department and is the opera reviewer for CBC Manitoba.  She has been in involved in several Mosaic productions including Delma and Marta and was a consultant on the program Tiny Plastic Men. Her autobiographical play Dragonfly has its world premiere at Theatre Projects Manitoba in March 2019.

 

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Liam Zarrillo

Liam Zarrillo is a theatre artist, poet and educator, always inspired by the compelling art and agitators found in his hometown of Winnipeg, MB. He is a show builder, storyteller, sometimes performer and often over-exaggerator. He works with all of Winnipeg’s professional theatres, is a member of PTE’s Emerging Playwrights Unit and develops new work/plays as a member of Make/Shift Theatre. He loves to investigate, experiment and uncover. Using all of this as a vehicle, Liam is a persistent and dedicated advocate for representation of the LGBT2SQ+ community and the brilliantly diverse communities with which it intersects.

 

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Erin Meagan Schwartz

Facilitating the event is our Emerging Theatre Artist representative Erin Meagan Schwartz. Erin is an interdisciplinary artist, improviser, organizer, and queer Jewish femme living in the prairies of Treaty 1 Territory. Schwartz has been performing and teaching improv in Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Edmonton for over ten years and currently works with the Canadian Improv Games as a co-producer. Schwartz is currently the Emerging Artist Representative with Sarasvati. She is fascinated with the art of utilizing skills from different disciplines and combining them to create something new and exciting. Their priority as an artist is to cultivate a slow process that delves into nuance while also making room for discovery and fun.  Schwartz holds an honours bachelor’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies with a focus on theatre and cultural production.

The discussion will take place from 1-3PM on Sunday, January 27th at The Qube at Rainbow Resource Centre (170 Scott St). Admission is by donation with gender-neutral washrooms on site. For more information, visit our event page!

Balancing Mental Wellness in the Arts

“Mental Health in Theatre” is a hot-button issue right now as more and more artists begin to speak out about the working conditions and pressure that comes with a life on the stage. This past Sunday, Sarasvàti Productions hosted a panel on Mental Health in Theatre with speakers Larry Isacoff, Krista Jackson, Elena Anciro, Heidi Malazdrewich, Sylvia Massinon of Klinic, and facilitated by Taylor Demetrioff.

The panel covered many important topics, like giving voice to the issues facing mental wellness in theatre, how folks can avoid burnout, the importance of creating safe spaces in rehearsals, not to forget the demands placed on those behind the scenes, and what resources are available for folks needing extra support. In service to the community, we’re publishing more on the incredible discussion that took place so everyone can learn more about what they can do to support each other.

 

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Key Words from the Panel

In discussing what can be done to enact change, the primary focus was on the role of leadership. Many asserted that it is the responsibility of arts leaders to ensure that the artists under their employ are working in safe conditions during reasonable hours. Folks working behind the scenes spoke to the demands being placed on Winnipeg’s theatre community with artists being asked to deliver impossible results outside of the scope of the theatre’s budget or schedule. To quote one panelist, “Theatre is the only profession that has to open on time – regardless of consequences.” This pressure creates an environment where those who speak up are not only going unheard because “the show must go on,” but also have to deal with the threat of unemployment. A common issue is that artists feel “replaceable”: if they voice their concerns with a project or the leadership, they may find themselves out of a job.

Artists also spoke about their issues handling personal struggles or performance anxiety in order to continue with their roles. In several cases, they’ve been asked to push through and were even discouraged from continuing in theatre if they weren’t able to “handle the pressure”. Unfortunately, for many, the experience has been that they are working for leadership that creates a culture of fear and pressure in the rehearsal hall rather than collaboration and positivity. A great example on creating a safe space for everyone was to ask at the start of the process, “What do you need?” Getting everyone on the same page and learning who they could turn to for support was a key player in creating more positive rehearsal spaces.

 

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We also heard from Sylvia Massinon about the resources available for mental health in our community. Klinic has drop-in, short-term, and long-term counselling available on a first-come, first-serve basis – available entirely for free. Women’s Health Clinic also offers free and low-cost counselling available in fifty-minute sessions. Of course, one of the most important reminders for practicing artists is to make time for themselves. Our profession can be isolating – long hours, the pressure to perform, weeks spent inside the rehearsal hall or onstage with limited time for anything else… but it is important for folks to know that they need to be able to say no to a project if it comes at the cost of their mental well-being.

Although there was much more to discuss than we could fit in this panel, we would like to thank everyone who participated for sharing their stories and opening up this important discussion. We will be continuing with our workshop series as the season goes on with our “Queering Theatre” Lecture slated for January 2019. For more on the great events we have in store, join our mailing list!

Mental Health in Theatre

Let’s talk about mental health for artists.

Performers are twice as likely as the general population to experience depression, according to the 2015 Australian Actors’ Wellbeing Study. Many suffer from performance anxiety and report high levels of stress arising from work-related pressures such as low income and job insecurity.

Out of character: how acting puts a mental strain on performers

Low-income gigs, lack of job security, long hours, ever-changing work environments, frequent rejection, the pressure of performing… these are just some of the issues facing Winnipeg’s theatre community. On November 25th, Sarasvàti Productions will respond to these concerns by hosting a panel discussion on Mental Health in Theatre. We’ll be talking to folks from both artistic and mental health backgrounds on some of the issues of balancing self-care with a career in the arts. Some of the big questions include: how can artists stay motivated and avoid burnout? How can we create safe spaces in rehearsals? And what resources are available?

Taking part in the panel are local theatre professionals Larry Isacoff (Lighting Designer), Krista Jackson (Director), Elena Anciro (Performer), and Heidi Malazdrewich (Director). Facilitating the panel is Taylor Demetrioff of the Canadian Mental Health Association. We’ll also be having a counsellor from Klinic Community Health Centre present who can address some of the more general concerns about stressful work environments and what folks can do to seek outside help.

 

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So just what are some of the issues facing mental health in theatre? In May 2018, Toronto performer Nathan Carroll detailed his experiences for Intermission.

“Mental illness seems to affect actors and theatre artists at disproportionate rates. It’s our job to be vulnerable, to experience extreme highs and lows, and to act out ecstatic, harrowing, or humiliating situations in front of large groups of strangers. We face rejection with alarming frequency, sleep in strange beds in new cities, and acclimate to different work environments every few months. All of these things are part of why we love doing what we do, but it is not surprising when the volatility of our profession contributes to poor mental health.”

Join the discussion on November 25th! Our “Mental Health in Theatre Panel” will be taking place from 1-3PM at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W, Second Floor, Studio 2T05). Admission is by donation. Seating is limited – to RSVP or request further information, please contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca or call (204) 586-2236.