Summer Students make Strides at Sarasvàti

A world premiere, general auditions, FemFest brochure launch, outreach, a fundraising dinner, Timeraiser display, garage sale – how have we managed all of this in the last month? We’ve been very fortunate to welcome two hard-working summer students to team Sarasvàti thanks to Canada Summer Jobs. They’ve pitched in on so many important tasks and now they’re working on our 2017-18 Season Launch. Tamera and Larysa bring dedication and fresh ideas to the table and we are so pleased to hear from them in this week’s blog entry.

“I am proud to be at Sarasvàti Productions and to work in a community with a strong social conscience”, says Tamera, who began working as our Production Assistant in May.

TameraGrace-grown-FemFest17“So far my highlight of the summer was when I was backstage during Breaking Through. The cast and crew were all magnificent, as well as the story. It was very life-giving to support them through a smooth run of the show, as well as making sure everyone was comfortable and ready.

Aside from being able to work on their spring production, I have been spending most of my time in the office. This is my first time working in an office; it has been a good opportunity to improve my professional skills.”

Tamera is working on completing her double degree in Theatre and Business at the U of W.

“My original plan was to focus on acting, but I will be graduating with a focus in acting as well as production and business. For me, working with Sarasvàti has really clarified my desire to work in the not-for-profit sector. I want to continue finding opportunities to support those in the community.”

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Tamera Grace at TimeRaiser150 with Hope McIntyre looking for great new Sarasvàti volunteers.

“One of the great things about Sarasvati Productions is the opportunity it creates for discussion and understanding”, says Larysa, our Marketing & Community Outreach Assistant.

“Getting over fifty people to sit in one room, eat Ethiopian food, smell Ethiopian coffee beans, and listen to a difficult true story about becoming a refugee is no easy thing to organize. But, I think, this type of event is necessary for building healthy and strong communities. Like me, the people who listened to Saeed’s story may walk away feeling more empathy than they felt before. And that is no small achievement.”

IMG_4303Larysa is a Creative Communications student at Red River College and the director of Winnipeg Poetry Slam. She talks about her favourite experience while working with Sarasvàti—working at the Honouring Courage – Celebrating Diversity fundraiser dinner with human rights activist and speaker, Ali Saeed.

“We’re used to thinking of revenge as a bad thing. We think of threat, torture, and war. Ali Saeed calls this ‘red revenge’. But Saeed says there is one other type of revenge just as compelling: kindness, compassion and generosity. His word for this is ‘green revenge.’

Seven years Saeed spent imprisoned and sentenced to death in Somalia. Now he’s speaking to a roomful of people here at Gohe Restaurant for Sarasvàti Productions’ fundraiser. The entire room is quiet. The people I’m sitting with grimace and look downward.

Saeed talks about the cruelty he witnessed: forced abortion, lashings, hanging, cutting. Listening to Saeed, I am reminded of the safety I have here in Canada, a true luxury.

On his feet, Saeed wears loose Velcro sandals. He points to the burn marks on his heels, marks from the hardship he endured. Sandals are one of the few shoes he’ll wear because of the pain. Barefoot is preferable.

‘No one chooses to be a refugee,’ Saeed says.”

Larysa says working for Sarasvàti Productions has opened her mind to experiences outside of her own, which has been an invaluable experience.

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Larysa Musick at Honouring Courage – Celebrating Diversity Fundraiser Dinner for Sarasvàti Productions at Gohe Restaurant.

You can see some of their awesome ideas in action at the 2017-18 Season Launch, Friday August 4th 7pm at the Saddlery on Market (114 Market Ave).

Theatre that Transforms Us – 2016/17 Season Retrospective

Cotton candy cocktails, ghosts, riots, vans stuck in the snow, standing ovations, tears and a lot of laughter. It really is hard to believe that another season has gone by – our 17th one in Winnipeg to be exact! Just over a year ago, we launched a season themed on Transformation and it truly was life-changing.

Breaking Through
“They were commenting on how they thought they were the only ones feeling a certain way until seeing this play and being able to realize that they are not alone.” – Loveeza Arshad, Friends Housing

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The cast of Breaking Through takes a bow

Thanks to your support we enjoyed an incredibly successful run of the culmination of our Mental Health project. We hope the dialogue will continue outside the theatre for some time to come. We’ll keep you posted as we work towards publishing the play!

 

IWW 2017 Starting Over
“Engaging and inspiring, these powerful performances rooted in real experiences provided brilliant insight. In our case, the complex realities of both youthful and mature immigrant women were are the forefront. Exploring these themes is so vital, with increased cultural diversity and amid global striving for women’s rights. Women of all nations and cultures can relate to themes of place, space, marginalization, hope, potential…”– Pamela Hadder, Agape House-Eastman Crisis Centre

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A packed house at IWW2017: Starting Over

This year, we worked closely with newcomer women and girls and the results were some incredible pieces.  We were proud to provide a platform for women’s stories, to promote equity on Canadian stages and to provide access to the arts. A great big thank you goes out to Manitoba Status of Women and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. Without them, this Cabaret would not be possible. Special thanks to Neighborhoods Alive! and NERI for supporting our North End performances.

One Night Stand Series
“Amazing job, everyone! And for those involved in [my piece], thank you so much for helping me bring that world to life… Truly an inspirational night!” –  Marjorie Roden, featured playwright

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One Night Stand Fringe Frenzy! at Carol Shields Festival of new Works

With the help of producer Tatiana Carnevale and Prairie Theatre Exchange we re-launched the One Night Stand playreading Series. The Series gives playwrights the opportunity to test their work, while giving audiences a chance to take part in their development process.  Look out for the launch of One Night Stand next season at closing night of FemFest! We will be featuring readings from Judith Thompson and our most celebrated local playwrights.

 

Workshops for Emerging Artists
“So much good info!”
“Extremely beneficial”
“It was great! More workshops!” – Feedback from workshop participants

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Our Artistic Director Hope McIntyre facilitates at Auditioning 101

We served 85 emerging artists with our Emerging Artist workshop series this season.
We tackled some of our most-requested workshops this year with Grantwriting & Taxes for Artists, Auditioning 101 and Mock Auditions for Advanced Actors.  We thank our partners Winnipeg Arts Council, Manitoba Arts Council, ACI Manitoba, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Theatre Projects Manitoba and Winnipeg Jewish Theatre for helping us support education opportunities for emerging artists. Plans for the 2017/18 Emerging Artists Workshop Series are already underway! Drop us a line if there is a workshop you’d like to see.

North End Workshop Series
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study theatre but now I’m sure!” – Sabil, youth participant

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Youth facilitator Erica Wilson offers direction as the youth participants work on their scene

We kicked-off 2017 with a focused series of theatre workshops for North End youth. Youth Coordinators Frances Koncan and Cherrel Holder alongside a series of guest artists, introduced theatre techniques and worked on scenes with youth. On February 22nd we celebrated with a showcase of the youth involved. We have already heard from multiple youth that they have decided to pursue theatre and we look forward to supporting them with mentorship in 2017/18.

 

 


Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

“Congratulations! What a great evening!!” – Brigit Krasovec
“Great turn out! Amazing show.” – Tim Gray

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Actions shots of some of the comedians at the Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

We took a leap and tried something brand new with our comedy fundraiser. We teamed up with Winnipeg’s hilarious women comedians to produce the Women’s Comedy Night. The event saw unprecedented success—selling out and packing the venue with an incredible mix of Sarasvàti supporters and comedy fans. We had a blast and you better believe we’ll be doing this again next year.

 

 


Shattered
High School Tour

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The cast of Shattered

“Things aren’t what they seem and we should never assume things about people. I learned a lot and I
could tell my fellow audience members also learned something new. I realized a lot more people in our
school had experience with mental illness than I thought.” -Student at Fort Richmond Collegiate

We broke pervious records by performing to 6,161 youth and educators in Manitoba. Shattered has received overwhelming praise from teachers and students alike. It was also transformative for the cast who were touched by the number of youth who approached them after performances to share their own struggles with mental health.


FemFest2016: Transformation

We were proud to present such provocative touring shows as Miss Understood, Mouthpiece, as well as clown favourites Morro & Jasp Do Puberty. The world premiere of the previous year’s Bake-Off winner Sherry MacDonald’s The Seduction Theory made a huge impact as audiences discussed the ways we continue to victim-blame.

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These are just a few of our highlights. What stood out for you? Save the date for August 4th at 7pm and stay tuned for exciting details about our 2017/18 season launch.

Going Above and Beyond in 2017!

Happy New Year! We are excited to announce our goals for 2017! We aim to break new ground and cover uncharted territory in order to realize our vision of transforming society through theatre. Check out what we are setting our sights on this year:

1.PROMOTE DIVERSITY ON THE STAGE

If you think the Equity in Theatre stats on women in the industry have a long way to go, wait until you see the stats on diversity. Promoting diversity in the local theatre scene generates growth, equity and human understanding within the arts community and audiences.  We are proud to produce a season of theatre and workshops that respond to the lack of equity on Canadian stages proactively. January 11th marks the launch of our second round of free theatre workshops for Indigenous and newcomer youth in Winnipeg’s North End.  This March, we highlight the stories of newcomer women throughout International Women’s Week with the 2017 Cabaret of Monologues: Starting Over.

 

2. SUPPORT EMERGING ARTISTS

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Coffee with a Pro

After successfully piloting Coffee with a Pro, an informal mentorship series that sets emerging artists up with an established artist in their field to talk shop over coffee, we look forward to expanding the series into even more disciplines in 2017.

We have received ample requests for an Audition workshop geared to those who have never auditioned before. This Spring, Hope McIntyre will facilitate just that with Auditioning 101. Stay tuned for details.

3. HAVE SOME FUN AND RAISE SOME FUNDS

audience-shotWe’re rolling into uncharted territory with a brand new fundraising event. On April 9th at Academy Lanes some of the most well-known CEO’s and business leaders in Winnipeg will square-off in a Strike-a-Thon with pledges and proceeds going to Sarasvàti Productions.

Plus last year’s Women’s Comedy Night was such a success that we can’t wait for round two in the fall of 2017!

4. BUST BARRIERS

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Staged reading of Breaking Through, May 2016

After over two years of community-based research, workshops, and interviews we are thrilled to present the full production of Breaking Through May 23-38, 2017.

The Mental Health is Everyone’s Health project saw Sarasvàti’s artists team up with Artists in Health Care, Red Threads Playback Theatre and the Selkirk Mental Health Centre as well as multiple community organizations and members of the public to create a play that takes a realistic look the way mental health issues affect us all. The result is a bold theatrical experience that is guaranteed to spark dialogue.

5. CELEBRATE SUCCESSES

FemFest turns 15 this year! We are working on the line-up that will appropriately celebrate our landmark festival of plays by women for everyone! You can look forward to some exciting surprises and special guest artists.

 

That’s our top 5, but when all is said and done we are basically going to produce kick-ass art and we want you to be a part of it!  Stay posted on our events by following us here!

 

Hands Up for the Cast & Crew of Shattered!

6,161 is the number of people who saw Shattered this tour. Incredible!

After performing the show a total of 60 times 47 different locations, including 39 high schools in Winnipeg and surrounding areas, what are the moments that stood out to this formidable cast and crew the most?

“My biggest highlight is watching the students who are brave enough to come up and share their own personal stories”, said Erin Cunningham, who was at every performance as Stage Manager. “It’s nice to see not only them feeling brave enough to share their stories, but that the students in the audience are understanding enough to listen and they don’t get judgemental about it.” Erin also put an incredible amount of work into coordinating this year’s tour– a gargantuan task that calls for a standing ovation in itself.

“There have been a few girls that have come up to me after and talked to me about how they have already been to a treatment centre just like I had gone to for my eating disorder” said Kelsey Funk, who has shared her lived experience with the project. Kelsey plays Amanda, a high school student who struggles with an eating disorder unbeknownst to her family and friends. “They tell me that it has been a powerful experience to watch the show and you can kind of see hope in their eyes, so that’s been really great for me.”

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Performance at Children of the Earth High School

The cast and crew of Shattered set out to make an impact on schools; to engage students in open discussion of mental health, to reach out to those who have experience with mental health issues, and to encourage human understanding among those who have not. The whole team is extremely proud to have made a positive impact on so many young people.

“I enjoyed it because it felt real and it hits you hard”, said a student at Garden City Collegiate.
“I realised that a lot more people in our school had experience with mental illness than I thought”, said a student at Fort Richmond Collegiate.
“I just wanted to say thank you all so much for coming to my school…the message was so powerful and I relate so much to these stories” said a student at John Taylor Collegiate.

Although our cast and crew deserve a much needed break, it’s clear that they will miss spending so much time with each other. “One of my favourite times is when we’re in the passenger van driving to our different locations”, said Reena Jolly who plays Stacy. “You get to bond and just talk to each other on the drive to wherever we’re going. I love that part.”

20161129_093559Touring a performance like this has a profound impact on the performers too. “After the show at Churchill high a student came up to me and she was very, very emotional”, said Erica Wilson, who plays KoKo, a young, two-spirited character in Shattered.  “Her friend is going through a transition where she’s not comfortable with her gender. I was able to explain to her that a lot of girls and a lot of boys feel that way…so it’s a very emotional tour.”

 

We have felt honoured to share these stories with the next generation of Manitobans. We hope that the empathy and understanding they are full of today stays with them as they become adults. Their bravery and acceptance of mental health gives us much hope for the future.

Workshops Open Up the World of Theatre for Youth

Do you have an interest in acting but not sure how to get started? Do you want to learn about other aspects of theatre, like writing for the stage, and directing? Frances Koncan and Sarasvati Productions have put together a FREE theatre workshop series for youth age 16-24 in the North End.

“The purpose of the Sarasvati Youth Theatre Workshop Series is to find and develop the talent and ability of Indigenous and Newcomer Youth who are interested in the arts, especially acting, writing, and directing”, said Koncan. Frances has coordinated the workshop series, bringing local theatre artists on board to help teach and facilitate. The workshops will give priority to youth who are Indigenous, and youth who are newcomers living in the North End.

“These groups are under-represented in the landscape of Canadian theatre”, said Koncan, “these workshops exist to increase access for these youth to explore their interest in theatre and, if they so choose, lead to opportunities to continue their training and work professionally in the theatre industry!”

Youth who participate in the free workshop series will have the opportunity to:

-Meet professionals who work in the arts
-Learn theatre basics in performing, writing, and directing
-Practice and develop new skills
-Play games, enjoy snacks, and meet new people!

For those interested there will be a chance to take part in a continued series of workshops to develop your skills, and opportunities to work professionally with Sarasvàti in the future! So what are you waiting for?

Come to our FREE drop-in theatre workshop on January 11th 2017 from 4:00PM – 6:00PM at Art Kitchen, 508 Selkirk Avenue.

For more information or to register email Frances at frances@sarasvati.ca
A big thank you to funders NECRC and Neighbourhoods Alive!

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Making Noise for Mental Health at the Millennium Library

The awesome cast & crew of Shattered have been busy touring all over Manitoba, and now they’re excited to be performing in the heart of their home city at the Millennium Library!

shattered-rehearsal-oct5_2016-092Shattered has been making an impact and by the end of the run will have done 59 performances! Here’s what some of the teachers have had to say.

The show was great! I’ve had a chance to speak with about 75% of the students who saw it and it has generated some very honest discussion–exactly what we were hoping for” – John Kerr, Balmoral Hall

“I discussed the play with both my theatre classes and the overall consensus was that it was fantastic. I even had a colleague stop me in the hall to tell me how moved she was by the performance and the interaction with the kids. This was, bar none, the absolute most engaging piece I have witnessed at our school. Our students really became involved with the piece and I think it resonated powerfully with them all, particularly the message that they are not alone.” – Kim Dudek, Murdock MacKay

“The power of forum is nothing short of amazing.  The way it allows for tough topics to be talked about and considered in such depth, it makes me wonder why this type of theatre isn’t being done more often by more companies (or in more schools for that matter!).  The fact that Sarasvati has mandated to produce a forum piece on a two year cycle that hinges on a topic pressing in the broader community is something that needs to continue to happen.”- Brett Schmall, Green Valley School

One of the best parts of performing Shattered is engaging with the students during the ‘interventions.’ The interventions are moments when the students clap to stop the action of the play because the want the characters to make a different choice.

One student, who was initially so nervous she wanted someone else to speak for her wound up taking control and leading the scene herself! She wanted to go over to KoKo to comfort and offer help. She  said that we all have problems and KoKo is dealing with hers in her own way. It was a great moment to experience.

On November 26th Sarasvàti Productions will welcome local youth organizations to a free performance in the Carol Shields Auditorium thanks to a partnership with the Millennium Library. While the performance is mainly for youth organizations, we will be offering a few seats to the public. If you’d like to attend, please RSVP at 204-586-2236 or by emailing associate@sarasvati.ca.

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Shattered Hits the Road!

img_20161012_140356“I wish they had this when I was in high school,” was a repeated response from audiences when Shattered previewed to a large crowd last Thursday evening at Graffiti Gallery. In preparation for the launch of Shattered into Manitoba schools and education centres the play was premiered to interested organizations and the public as a fundraiser for the tour. The response was overwhelming. Those in attendance responded adamantly that we should be taking Shattered to parents and to an even younger age group. We also received offers to advocate at schools who have not booked yet!

Shattered was great. It was fun but still got across a very important message”, said Griffin Jenkins, Youth Programs Coordinator at Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba (MDAM). “I personally related to some of the scenes almost as if it were my own life so it is amazing to see those parts of someone’s life shown to a large audience to understand how painful it really is.”

Griffin spoke to the audience before the play began alongside Bonnie Bricker, mental health advocate and Director of the Family Navigation Program at MDAM. “I thought your script and the actors were sincere”, said Bonnie, “[they] did not overact, and provided effective characterizations. I wish you every success in utilizing this creative tool to reach our most vulnerable population.”

This performance was the first opportunity for all-youth cast of Shattered to incorporate audience participation. Shattered is a forum theatre play, which means scenes are intentionally rife with conflict. The idea is that audience members will watch characters make choices, see the effects of those choices, and think about alternative choices that may lead to a more positive outcome.
“The use of forum theatre was done brilliantly”, said Griffin, “it gave the audience who may have never been in that situation [the chance to] speak about what they think should have been done. More importantly it gives people who have been in that situation the opportunity to share how they wished that scenario occurred”

Shattered hits the road today with their first school performance at Balmoral Hall. The Sarasvàti team has been hard at work on Shattered for the past six months and we can’t wait to work with these youth.

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“Thank you Sarasvati for the great work you do in the community …this play is very powerful & I am sure will be well received in the schools & make a difference in the lives of youth. it was inspiring to see such great interaction between actors & audience…everyone was so engaged. Left with a feeling of hope.” – Kay Stewart, Social Worker

Check out these articles to read more about Shattered! There are only a few dates left for schools to book!!
http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/entertainment/arts/theatre-with-a-social-conscience-391420421.html

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/our-communities/New-play-explores-youth-mental-health-396343861.html