Launch in T-Minus 17 Days

The date is September 19th, 2019. Allergies are at a record high. In what is claimed to be an anti-allergy program, the government begins restricting access to EpiPens. In doing so, it exposes an entirely new species to the world’s stage.

This synopsis covers the production of To Kill a Lizard, a one-of-a-kind piece of theatre created by some of Winnipeg’s up-and-coming actors, directors and writers. This hour long devised production was created from scratch by our amazing Launchpad team; the new generation of Winnipeg theatre! The production is the result of intensive workshops, mentorships with professional artists, and collaboration amongst a selected group representing the future of FemFest.


Here is a little bit about The Launchpad. First up the Coordinators/Facilitators and Stage Managers of the team …

Victoria Emilie Hill (Coordinator/Facilitator)

Victoria Emilie Hill is a creator, mover, and actor based in Winnipeg. She is passionate about work that focuses on movement and the body as a place we hold and tell stories. She is curious about the myriad ways we express and communicate with ourselves, our environments, and other creatures. Victoria is also a founding member of The Patriarchy, a two-woman acapella band that sings songs and tells stories that challenge the status quo through a comedic and playful lens. Victoria is an avid student of life, and loves adventures in new things which have included roller derby, making jewelry, sky diving, knitting, white water rafting, and trying to keep her plants alive. She enjoys collaborating with new artists, and is so very honoured to be a part of the Launchpad Project with this amazing team of humans.

Lindsay Johnson (Coordinator/Facilitator)

Lindsay Johnson is a Winnipeg-based actor, director, writer, and animal-lover. With a love of both devised and classical theatre, Lindsay has enjoyed working as a Director/Assistant Director on several projects including Purge (Geritheatrics), Little Dead Lady (Naked Theatre Productions), Home 2.0. (Sarasvati Productions) Richard III (Shakespeare in the Ruins), and Vinegar Tom (University of Winnipeg). Some of Lindsay’s acting credits include Palm House (+friendsprojects), Channel Zero: Dream Door and No End House (Universal Cable Productions), A Christmas Carol (Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre), Passion (Red Hen Collective), Shattered (Sarasvati Productions), The Time In-Between, The Writing on the Stall (Fill The (W)hole Theatre), Quickies with Chekhov (This Reality Theatre Co.).

Ridge Romanishen (Stage Manager)

Ridge is thrilled to be working with Sarasvàti Productions on Launchpad for FemFest 2019. As a previous audience member of past FemFest shows, Ridge is excited to be a part of the ground-breaking work the festival puts on. His previous credits include Time and the Conways (U of W, Assistant Stage Manager), A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Arcadia (U of W, Stage Manager). Most recently he worked on Kiss of the Spider Woman (Dry Cold Productions, Apprentice Stage Manager) and Growing Op (Winnipeg Fringe 2019, Stage Manager). A big thanks to Sarasvàti Productions for this opportunity!

Bennette Villones (Assistant Stage Manager) 

Bennette Villones is currently studying theatre and film at The University of Winnipeg. She has worked with Sarasvati Productions in the past before on a high school touring show, Home 2.0 as the understudy. Now she has an opportunity to be an assistant stage manager for The Launchpad project. Recently, she was also part of Twelfth Night, a Shakespearean play with Indifferently Reformed for Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival 2019. She found it a fun and challenging experience and she hopes to use theatre as a way to inspire, tell stories and spread awareness


Now, The Launchpad Team…

Karam Daoud (Performer/Creator)

Karam Daoud is a Moroccan-Canadian actress who moved from Morocco to Canada over Karam Daoud - Headshot6 years ago. She has played numerous roles, from army generals to teenage stalkers. More recently, she was a part of her first feature film in 2019 coming out soon to Canadian festivals. Fluent in English, French and Arabic, she loves to sing and she spends her free time painting, reading, writing or playing the violin or the piano. Karam has always been a fervent theatre lover, and has been a part of multiple productions in Winnipeg. She also happens to be a big fan of World of Warcraft when she is not filling her spare time with her mechanical engineering job.

Anika Dowsett (Performer/Creator)

Anika Dowsett is a queer theatre artist and drag performer located in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  In face she goes by Petty Davis and performs a neurotic and hyper-idealized house wife femininity.  They’ve studied playwriting, theatre, and film at the University of Winnipeg but their heart will always be at Manitoba Theatre for Young People where they took their first classes.  From Club 200 to the Asper Theatre Centre to the Local library where she always has at least two holds, Anika Dowsett is committed to making the world a queerer and artier place.

Sarah Flynn (Performer/Creator)

SARAH FLYNN - HeadshotSarah Flynn recently finished her BaH in performance with a specialization in Devised Theatre and a minor in Classics at the University of Winnipeg. She toured the Interlake with TPM’s Interlake Chautauqua, studies Clown on Manitoulin Island and with the Village Conservatory for Music Theatre. Sarah co-founded Naked Theatre Productions in 2014 and has produced and performed in 7 shows since then. Sarah enjoys breathing fresh forest air, lighting things on fire and playing with her food.
Recent credits: Pippin (ViC/WST), Little Dead Lady (NTP), Mary’s Wedding (TPM), Luna’s Suitcase (WPG Fringe)

Sara Groleau (Performer/Creator)

Sara Groleau is a 28-year old Winnipeg actor and proud to be a part of Sarasvàti Productions’ Launchpad Project! Her first theatrical role was in a play produced by The Manitoba Association of Playwrights in 2018. Since 2018, she has been in several short films. In May 2019, she appeared as Daisy in Student Body produced by Beau Theatre Co.; she also appeared as June in Farrago, produced by Dark Horse Theatre, during the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Festival and Gimli Summer Theatre Festival. Sara is looking forward to FemFest 2019!

A.J. Hotomani (Performer/Creator)

I always had an interest in the arts but, it was during my high school years, when I fell in love with film. I took every course related to it, and that included the theatre technician courses. After high school, I applied to the University of Winnipeg with an interest in pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Filmmaking, and this is how I was introduced to Theatre Performance. I took an intro course in my first year and was gifted the opportunity to work with Sarasvàti Productions. Now here I am, entering my second year of University exploring a newly found interest, in acting.

Jonathan Mourant (Performer/Creator)

Jonathan Mourant is a non-binary, multidisciplinary artist and also a robot learning how to be human. They first began improvising at 14, travelling across Canada to perform in festivals and train with professionals from Edmonton, Seattle, Vancouver and more. As an independent performer and producer, Jonathan has worked with local companies Common Crow Improv, Family Dinner, and Unexpected Results, which they formed in 2015. They are also an emerging playwright, and this year produced their play Here Together at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. Jonathan is thrilled to be a part of this incredible team of emerging artists!

Andi Lea (Leaf) Pankratz (Performer/Creator) Headshot

Andi Lea (Leaf) Pankratz is an emerging non binary performer and creator currently training in aerial arts with the eventual goal of running away with the circus. They are entering into their second year of theatre at the University of Winnipeg. They took this past year to complete their Deaf Studies Certificate with the goal of participating in and contributing to theatre accessible to the Deaf community. They started performing at the age of eight, being lucky enough to have parents who enabled them, and never stopped.

Makrenna Rose Sterdan (Performer/Creator)

Makrenna Rose Sterdan is a director and playwright born and raised in Winnipeg, MB. After graduating from the University of Winnipeg’s Theatre and Film department in 2014, she moved to South Korea to teach kindergarten and work on the expat theatre scene. She has directed plays and films in Canada and South Korea, and runs the theatre/film production company Red Lips Productions. She has participated previously with Sarasvàti Productions as a playwright, writing Doing It for the Fame and Who’s Driving? for the 2016 and 2019 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues.

Emma Welham HeadshotEmma Welham (Performer/Creator)

Emma is an emerging artist who is about to enter her final year in the University of Winnipeg’s Honours Acting Program. Since beginning her journey in theatre she has been lucky to be a part of many amazing shows, most notably House at Pooh Corner with MTYP and School of Rock the Musical with Winnipeg Studio Theatre. Emma is also a member of La Troupe Jeunesse; a French Canadian Gigue group that performs locally and international at various festival and events. She is very excited to be a part of this project and to be working with so many wonderful people!


The Launchpad Project will be presenting their work as part of FemFest 2019: All the World’s a Stage, with 3 shows. Sunday, September 15th at 4:00PM, Tuesday, September 17th at 8:30PM and Wednesday, September 18th at 6:30PM. Support local emerging artists by purchasing your tickets for the show, HERE!

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Three Ladies, One Baby

For three nights only, the world premiere of Baby Box is coming to FemFest 2019: All the World’s a Stage! If you missed the last blog on Baby Box, you can find it HERE. As we begin the rehearsal process, we are happy to introduce you to our amazing cast! We asked the cast of Baby Box to tell us a bit about themselves as well as share their answers to the question, “What was your favourite activity as a child?”


Playing Woman #1, the birth mother, is Victoria Hill.

Victoria Hill_Headshot-page-001Victoria Emilie Hill is a creator, mover, and actor based in Winnipeg.  She is passionate about work that focuses on movement and the body as a place we hold and tell stories.  She is curious about the myriad ways we express and communicate with ourselves, our environments, and other creatures.  Victoria is also a founding member of The Patriarchy, a two-woman a capella band that sings songs and tells stories that challenge the status quo through a comedic and playful lens. (Spoiler Alert: They will be hosting the FemFest Opening Cabaret) Victoria is an avid student of life, and loves adventures in new things which have included roller derby, making jewellery, sky diving, knitting, white water rafting, and trying to keep her plants alive. Baby Box is such a beautiful project, and she can’t wait to share it with all of you.

Victoria’s favourite activity as a child was climbing trees.


Playing Woman #2, the nurse, is Natasha Torres-Garner.

Torres-Garner started her performance career in contemporary dance in 2002. She has performed with Montreal’s Fortier Danse Création, Bill Coleman, in repertoire by the late IMG_5064webJean-Pierre Perreault, as well as Toronto’s Marie-Josée Chartier. Natasha’s long dedication to the independent community in Winnipeg has meant working with Winnipeg’s Tom Stroud, Out of Line Theatre, TRIP Dance Company, Treasure Waddell, Alison Robson, Johanna Riley, Alex Elliott, Ali Robson, Leigh Anne Parry, Danielle Sturk, Ming Hon, Mia Van Leeuwen, and under the direction of Arne MacPherson. As a choreographer Natasha Torres-Garner has presented solo and group works locally and internationally, including Winnipeg, Regina, London(UK), Toronto, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Dresden, Germany.

Natasha, enjoyed the calligraphy club as a child.


Playing Woman #3, the adoptive mother, is Saira Rahman.

Headshot-SAIRA RAHMANSaira Rahman grew up in Winnipeg, and was a teacher and principal before pursuing filmmaking. In 2003, she wrote a 3-part documentary series about Muslim Canadians called “A New Life in a New Land” (Milo Productions), which aired nationally. After completing the Digital Film Production program at Langara College in Vancouver, Saira and her sister, Nilufer, established Snow Angel Films in 2010, producing their first feature documentary, “Arctic Mosque” (CBC, APTN) and most recently, “Prairie Mosque”(BellMTS), a story about the first mosque established in Winnipeg in 1976. Saira is also an emerging actor having performed in The Game (Sarasvati Productions), Murder By Poe (PTE Adult Company), and Boundary Avenue (One Trunk Theatre). She is very excited to be a part of FemFest again this year and Baby Box!

Saira’s favourite activity as a child was to play house with her sister, but their own version where they were single moms.


Victoria, Natasha and Saira have already begun rehearsals for the world premiere next month along with Director, Hope McIntyre, Choreographer, Ali Robson, and Musical Director, Rachel Cameron. Through the use of unique narrative, movement and song, the Baby Box cast is sure to give a moving performance.

For ticket information and more, be sure to give us a visit HERE on our website!

To Infinity… And Beyond!

Forging a future for FemFest requires providing a space for the next generation of voices. To this end we have initiated an exciting new program. At this year’s FemFest, you will get to see the results of their development in progress! “The Launchpad Project” compiles a roster of emerging women and non-binary artists whose creative mediums range from a variety of disciplines: directors, dancers, performers, playwrights, technical crew, etc. This diverse and well rounded team will take part in intensive workshops over the summer including: movement work, vocal work, improvisation, devised theatre and scene-writing. Professionals working in Winnipeg’s theatre industry will lead these workshops and mentor the creative team.

The goal of this project is to give emerging artists a chance to learn, develop skills and network with industry professionals. How does it tie into FemFest? Along with all of the professional shows we put on at FemFest in September, The Launchpad will premiere a devised production connected to the FemFest theme just for YOU! The result of ongoing rehearsals over the summer and training alongside professionals! This is an exciting opportunity for both the artists and the spectators alike. The Launchpad ensemble will have the chance to display their hard work for you the audience, while spectators will have the chance to see a brand new work of theatre with a fresh cast and crew.

Facilitating and Coordinating the Launchpad are Victoria Hill and Lindsay Johnson. They are ecstatic to be helping a new group of performers break through and create their own piece for FemFest.

As for the ensemble members… here’s a list of who you can expect to see:

  • A.J. Hotomani
  • Anika Dowsett
  • Emma Welham
  • Jonathan Mourant
  • Karam Daoud
  • Leaf Pankratz
  • Makrenna Sterdan
  • Sara Groleau
  • Sarah Flynn
  • Bennette Villones, ASM

We can’t wait to see what this amazing team comes up with! We know it will be riveting!

Stay tuned for more details on this exciting project and the up-and-comers involved. Also, check out our just launched FemFest 2019 website!

“Home 2.0” Comes to Schools This Fall!

“Can you name a time that you’ve had to start all over? New school? New house? New activity? Throughout the course of the show, we’ll be like flies on the wall watching the stories of people who had to start over. What you are about to see is from true stories shared by people about coming to Canada.” – Joker, Home 2.0

Imagine sitting in your school gym and getting to experience music, dance, and visuals from half a dozen different cultural groups played out before your eyes, all threaded together to tell the journey of displaced people arriving to Canada. At the end of the performance, the actors invite you on stage to step in to the shoes of a character and explore solutions to the challenges they faced.

In May, we saw the culmination of the first part of our newcomer community collaboration project, New Beginnings. Now we’re continuing the project with Home 2.0!

Home 2.0 was created especially for youth, focusing on their experiences of resettlement. Young audiences will engage with characters their own age, allowing youth to see themselves and their stories represented onstage. By sharing stories of immigrant and refugee youth who have resettled in Canada, Home 2.0 will foster important dialogue around the challenges of newcomers. For many youth, this might be the first time they see their experiences represented in the arts. For others, it might be the first time they’ve been able to really grasp what it’s like to be forced to leave your home and start again halfway across the world.

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Like our previous school tours, Home 2.0 is performed “forum theatre style”, meaning the audience gets a say in the events onstage. Forum Theatre is a lively and effective way to look at and counter issues that our community faces today by encouraging audiences to take an active role in the show rather than acting as bystanders. The show offers students the chance to watch the “worst case scenario” play out before them – followed by the opportunity to change the ending, offer solutions, or provide support for the characters. By challenging what happens, youth are able to think about how they would act or how they wish they had acted in a similar scenario. Ultimately, the show promotes empathy and compassion, educating students on the experiences of starting over in a new country.

We’ll be touring the show throughout Winnipeg and Manitoba October 15 through to December 7, visiting schools in the community to promote inclusion and understanding. If you’re a teacher looking to bring the show to your students, contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca for more information!

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!

“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.

Meet the Team Behind “New Beginnings”!

New Beginnings is one of the biggest shows we’ve ever done: collaborating with artists across disciplines, including music, dance, and film-making! Get to know the amazing team bringing everything together!

What excites you about being on the New Beginnings artistic team? 

Gerry Atwell, Music Director: The subject matter is compelling and pertinent and the script is well researched, beautifully written and thought provoking. I love composing music and working with a talented creative team.

Brenda Gorlick, Dance Consultant: It is an absolute honour to work with such a diverse group of talented team members; I am extremely moved by the stories we are sharing and having a new appreciation for everyone’s journey.

Lindsay Johnson, Associate Producer: I have always admired Sarasvàti’s focus on producing theatre that sparks conversation about a wide range of important social issues. I am beyond thrilled to be a part of the artistic team who are helping stage the stories behind New Beginnings. It has been especially exciting for me to be involved in the community collaboration that shaped this production.

Cherissa Richards, Director: I love bringing these stories to life on-stage! I’m really excited to hear the personal stories of newcomers.

Saira Rahman, Snow Angel Films: It’s exciting to work with the other artists on the team – to learn from each by observing their creative process. I always like collaboration because of how enriched a piece can become with multiple perspectives.

 

What elements of the project do you personally connect with? 

Gerry: Even though I was born and raised in Winnipeg, people regularly assume I am from elsewhere and want to me to justify my presence and difference by categorizing it. “So where are you from?” is a question I have been asked all my life. My father chose Canada and all through his life he helped those who were adjusting to a new life here. I grew up sharing dinner with people from Russia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Uganda, and South Africa that my Dad met in passing and befriended.

Brenda: My brother and sister-in-law work for UNHCR so I’ve heard many of their experiences over the years of refugees’ stories.

Lindsay: I have loved getting to know members of my community that are outside of my day-to-day circle. It has been a fabulous experience watching my experience of Winnipeg grow in this way.

Saira: I felt a connection with the stories that included a parent and child. They made me remember my own experience growing up as my family tried to adapt to our new home. I’m honoured to be a part of this project because it honours my personal experience as a newcomer, although that was some time ago! My family had many new beginnings: East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), United Kingdom, Atlantic Canada, rural Manitoba, and finally Winnipeg!

 

 

Come see the culmination of this amazing team’s hard work starting May 22nd! We’re also featuring an opening dance piece choreographed by Emily Solstice and original art work by Indra Skuja-Grislis. Tickets are on sale now, available here!