Hitting the Highway

Every two years we hit the road with an original, interactive performance for middle and high schools. Of course this year will look a little different. We won’t be renting a van and hitting the literal road. The digital highway will have to do this year.

Seven Visions will allow students to experience reconciliation. It will be a virtual experience, but a way that we can still share the insightful, powerful, and profound stories of over 70 Indigenous youth who worked with us over the last two years. In August we brought a socially distanced and livestreamed performance of Songide’ewin to general audiences. Since then, our youth consultants have helped to craft the original source material in to a new version of the script targeted to their peers. They also advised on how to make it interactive on video.  

Our team has also been working in consultation with teachers to find the best way to move forward during the ongoing pandemic. Some students will gather at school for a viewing party with tech support and facilitation by our team. Others will watch from the comfort of their homes as part of remote learning. All students will still have an opportunity to test out options for how to address the conflict in the play, virtually stepping into the shoes of a character and exploring solutions to the challenges they faced. This is a powerful process that encourages youth to use their voices.

Our past tours (like Home 2.0 pictured above) have shared the experiences of newcomer youth, mental health struggles, youth in foster care, racism, and explored how to deal with the lure of gangs. In 2018 we travelled all over rural Manitoba, to Brandon, and dozens of schools in Winnipeg with Home 2.0. Being in the room with students, meeting them, doing workshops, and getting them hyped with dance moves cannot be replaced in the virtual medium. However, a digital offering will allow us to share the work more widely to regions beyond our usual travel radius, with more performances than a live cast could manage, and to spark a dialogue about reconciliation with a greater number of students.

The virtual tour of Seven Visions will run from midNovember to the end of January. Spread the word to teachers, schools, and youth. For more information or to book a performance contact production@sarasvati.ca or call 204-306-5303.

To learn more about the process and the larger creation story check out an overview on our website.

FemFest Recovery

Well…we did it! FemFest 2020 happened. It happened in a very different way. It happened safely, outdoors, in the streets, online, and from across the country – plus New York!

Our team worked so incredibly hard! It took learning new skills, creating new support roles that we’ve never had in theatre before – showrunner, livestream monitor, health officer… Mostly it took everyone fully committing to the importance of theatre and supporting each other.

There are many, many people to thank. There were many lessons learned. Now that we are on the other side of it, we can see clearly what an incredible feat it was. It was a joy to share the work with a broader audience, to allow for a return to creation and to do the work we love to do. There is no other way to describe it other than blessed. The weather cooperated for all of our outdoor events, although a bit chilly for those who joined us at Assiniboine Park after nightfall. We also wrapped things up before the need to return to tighter restrictions.

Perhaps one of our volunteers said it best:

I’m proud to volunteer for FemFest. The shows not only push the boundaries of traditional theatre, but they showcase the full spectrum of talent this city (and the world) has to offer — actors and writers from different backgrounds each sharing their skills and stories. To say FemFest is diverse is an understatement; I not only see representation, I feel it. I also feel like I have a sort of “premier pass” to Winnipeg’s local talent because FemFest offers a literal stage to those who are just starting their careers (writing, creating, and acting). I’m proud to be a part of it and I’m happy to contribute, even in a small way, to theatre that simultaneously inspires change and strengthens community. – Saz Massey

And because we are not willing to rest on our laurels, or maybe because we are lacking in good sense, we have come off the festival right in to sweeping changes. We are packing up our office of the last 18 years for a new home. We are transitioning to our new leadership team. Plus shifting our biannual school tour to an interactive virtual offering.

We also are thinking ahead. FemFest 2021 is in the works! We don’t know what the fall of next year will bring, but we are committed to finding the best way to continue to showcase artists and share the power of theatre. Our theme is ‘Celebrating Difference’ and the festival is set for September 20-27. We’ve just released our call for submissions – spread the word!

What’s Left in the Fest

There are only three days (!) left of FemFest 2020: Engaging Community. With that said, these three days are also our busiest and most jam-packed with readings, cabarets, and workshops. Before we get into what’s to come, let’s do a brief wrap-up of some of the highlights from the last four days!

A sold out reading of Agency
Last year’s Bake-Off winner, barb m janes, developed her script Agency into a full-length show that was read Monday night as part of FemFest! The show had over 50 people watching the livestream and the in-person reading at The Dalnavert was sold-out. We’d call that a success for sure!

Marsha Knight wins the Bake-Off
Marsha’s play ‘Mary’ was about Mary Two-Axe Earley, a Mohawk woman and activist who advocated for Indigenous women’s rights – specifically for them to maintain their Indigenous status after marrying a non-status person. Marsha will receive dramaturgical guidance over the next year to develop ‘Mary’ into a full-length script, to be premiered at FemFest 2021!

Phenomenal feedback for bug
We heard incredible things about bug, which was originally one of our touring shows that pivoted to be offered online. Despite the new execution, the folks who saw the show commented that it was “an amazing and powerful show” – we agree!  

There have been so many more incredible moments over the last four days: if we were to write out each one, this blog post would be more like a chapter in a book! 

Here’s what’s left in the fest:

Tita Jokes premieres tonight
That’s right – the award-winning musical sketch revue, Tita Jokes, premieres tonight at 6:30PM! The show, which is Tita Jokes with a twist, will be offered virtually. Tickets can be bought here.

An embodiment workshop
Our last workshop of the festival: Embodied Storytelling takes place on September 26 from 11AM to 1PM. Hosted Facilitated by Sarah WaisviszEleanor Crowder, this dynamic workshop will invite participants to use techniques from storytelling, theatre, and choreography to narrate and embody their own biographical stories. We still have spots open! Register yours here.

Two free events
A collection of script readings by various local playwrights – “Shorts” is on today at 6:30PM7:45PM – 78:15:30PM live at the Dalnavert. Come Together, Oour Cclosing Cabaretevent takes place on September 26 at 8:30PM. The show, which also takes place at the Dalnavert, is officially a part of Culture Days. Both events are free, but in-person tickets need to be “purchased” on our website since space is limited! Both events will also be livestreamed on our Facebook and YouTube Pages if you prefer to watch from home!

An fabulous online raffle
That’s right folks! The FemFest raffle is back and there are some incredible prizes to win. All proceeds help us at Sarasvati host transformative theatre, workshops, and artists next year. 

Below is the full schedule for the next three days! Look it over, grab yourself some tickets, and enjoy the rest of FemFest 2020: Engaging Community.

Thursday, September 24
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
The Launchpad Walking Tour
TBA, Winnipeg
Thursday, September 24
6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Tita Jokes
ONLINE, from Winnipeg
Thursday, September 24
7:45 pm – 8:15 pm
Shorts Readings
Dalnavert Museum, Winnipeg MB
Thursday, September 24
8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Monstrous
ONLINE, from Winnipeg
Friday, September 25
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Tita Jokes
ONLINE, from Winnipeg
Friday, September 25
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
The Launchpad Walking Tour
TBA, Winnipeg
Friday, September 25
6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Monstrous
ONLINE, from Winnipeg
Friday, September 25
8:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Alice and the World We Live In
Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg
Saturday, September 26
11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Workshop – Embodied Storytelling
ONLINE, from Winnipeg
Saturday, September 26
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
The Launchpad Walking Tour
TBA, Winnipeg
Saturday, September 26
2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Alice and the World We Live In
Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg
Saturday, September 26
6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Tita Jokes
ONLINE, from Winnipeg
Saturday, September 26
8:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Coming Together – Closing Event
Dalnavert Museum, Winnipeg MB

Everything You Need to Know About FemFest 2020

FemFest is right around the corner – seriously, it’s two days away! This year’s festival is unique for so many reasons. Not only is it Artistic Director Hope McIntyre’s final festival before Frances Koncan transitions into the role of Artistic Director, it’s also the first time we’ve had such an eclectic mix of in-person and virtual events.

Whether you want to see readings, cabarets, or full-fledged productions, or whether you want to experience the magic of live theatre or watch comfortably from your home, there truly is something for everyone. 

Let’s get into what you need to know about FemFest 2020: Engaging Community.

All three touring shows are virtual.
If you’ve been following the news, this won’t come as a shock: for the safety of the performers and creative teams, each touring show will only be provided virtually. With that said, this is still a great opportunity to indulge in nationally regarded theatre from the comfort of your home. The three touring shows are so different in tone and genre, but they’re all great theatre. bug is a solo show about a young girl and her mother fighting the effects of colonialism in their bodies.

Tita Jokes

Tita Jokes is a musical comedy revue that centres the Filipinx folks in the Tita Collective’s lives. Monstrous is a show that integrates storytelling, multi-genre dance, music, song, and projections as the protagonist sifts through the facts and fictions of her mixed-up, mixed-race family history. A ticket for each show can be bought for $15, or all three can be enjoyed with a platinum pass for $30.

There are three locations where you can see live theatre.
For those of you wanting to experience live theatre in a safe and controlled environment, there are a few different events taking place in the great outdoors. The first is a “guided theatrical experience” that will take place in Downtown Winnipeg. The show, which is called To: Morrow, has been developed by our emerging artists unit, Launchpad. This promenade-style performance will include art in all forms in unexpected places. Short performances will tackle the theme of climate change while being situated in our own downtown environment.

The Dalnavert Museum in Downtown Winnipeg

Next is one of our featured shows Alice and The World We Live In which takes place at Assiniboine Park. Starring Elena Anciro and Ray Strachan, the play is an abstract and emotional exploration of a woman’s struggle to push through the grief of losing the love of her life to a random act of terror. Finally, there are quite a few events taking place at the national historic site, Dalnavert Museum. From a live-watch viewing party of the Opening Cabaret, to readings of Agency, Shorts, and The View From Here, there’s so much great theatre to take in. Cap it off with our Closing Cabaret, a free event live at the Dalnavert as part of Culture Days. Only a small group will be accommodated for live shows, so be sure to purchase your tickets ASAP!

There are virtual workshops and presentations galore!
If you’re someone who doesn’t just want to watch theatre, but also wants to participate in it or pick the brain of someone succeeding in it, we’ve got a few workshops and free(!) presentations for you to choose from. First off: we have the perfect workshop for theatre artists with a passion for climate change. “Theatre and Climate: What Stories Do We Want to Tell?” is a workshop hosted by Chantal Bilodeau that encourages participants to take stock of the kinds of stories that are put forward by mainstream media around climate change.

Yolanda Bonnell is our Real Thing lecturer

New narratives will be explored to find a different, more positive approach. Then short performances will be created using some of the ideas they came up with. Taking place on Sunday, Sept 20 at 12:00pm, this workshop costs $15 to participate. Next, an Embodied Storytelling workshop from Sarah Waisvisz. This dynamic workshop will invite participants to use techniques from storytelling, theatre, and choreography to narrate and embody their own biographical stories. This virtual workshop takes place on Saturday, September 26 @ 11 AM and is only $15. Finally, our free lectures include Real Thing Lecture with Yolanda Bonnell and One Playwright’s Journey Through the Climate Crisis.

Like we said earlier: there really is something for everyone. With FemFest starting so soon, we hope you’ll help us spread the word, attend some shows, and take this chance to reconnect as a community. You can view the whole schedule here.

Get to Know Our Emerging Artists

We’re so excited for the return of our emerging artists unit called Launchpad at FemFest 2020. With the support of RBC Foundation and the Graham C. Lount Foundation we’ve been able to continue this program in a safe and virtual manner. If you don’t already know, Launchpad brings together ten emerging women and non-binary artists whose creative mediums range from a variety of disciplines: directors, dancers, performers, playwrights, technical crew, etc… This year we even added a junior member for further mentorship! 

Over the last month, this team of young artists have taken part in virtual workshops to develop skills and explore the intersection of art & climate change. Led by Launchpad coordinators Lindsay Johnson and Victoria Hill but with multiple guest artist guides, their workshops are building up to a performance of To:Morrow a guided theatrical experience taking place in Downtown Winnipeg. This promenade-style performance will includes theatre in unexpected places. Short performances will tackle the theme of climate change while being situated in our own downtown environment. A small audience will be able to take part in the tour in-person, while there are virtual tickets available for those wanting to follow from the comfort of their home. 

This year’s Launchpad team includes: Lindsey Taylor, Kate Willoughby, Anna Kerot, Caitlyn Bird, Taylor Gregory, Brittney Fredrickson, Sarah Luby, Emma Welham, Kristian Cahatol, Kimmy Martin, and Tara Streilen. Let’s get to know them a little better, shall we? 

How would you describe yourself to a stranger?   
Lindsey: I would describe myself as a listener who is naturally curious about other people’s stories, and as a daydreamer who is constantly excited by the question of “What if.” I’m someone who loves coffee, listening to the rain, and going on adventures!  
Kate: I would describe myself as someone who tries not to take themselves “too” seriously, someone who is outgoing, loves to laugh and tries to be conscious of living in the moment.  
Anna: A day dreamer with excessive interest in arts, wishing to change the world for better, but definitely starting with myself.  

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give your younger self?  
Caitlyn: Quit taking everything so literally, it’s not that bad. Just let your hurt out and move forward, everything will be alright. 
Taylor: Try not to worry too much about the future and have faith that you’re where you’re supposed to be.  
Brittney: Don’t be afraid of rejection or failure, the more it happens the more you’ll understand how to deal with it and grow. Cause trust me, you’re going to deal with it a lot and honestly: the outcome will be better than you expect.  

What’s your go-to karaoke song?   
Sarah: “Love of My Life”-Queen  
Emma: I’ve actually never done karaoke, but I will never say no to a good belt of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” when driving with friends.  
Kristian: My go-to karaoke song is a Filipino hit by Morrissette called Akin Ka Na Lang which I most certainly do not have the range for, but will sing nonetheless, with impassioned fervidity.   

Why should people be excited about your performance at FemFest?  
Lindsey:  Not only will the Launchpad members present pieces in the exciting format of a walking tour, the theme of these pieces will also be centered on the important issue of climate change. I’m positive that people will walk out of these performances with something impactful, whether it’s a new perspective, a new idea, or an inspired feeling! 
Kate: I think people should be excited about the possibilities of the important subject matter we are tackling. Climate change is happening right now and is rapidly changing our world that we live in. 
Anna: I will try my best to be as natural and free on stage as possible, mixing myself with the character I am playing and thus creating a unique personalized one.  
Taylor: It is my first show ever with Sarasvàti! 
Brittney: Because a lot of amazing talented people worked really hard on something we are super proud of.  
Emma: I am very excited to work with other emerging artists on a piece about climate change. In my generation I think there is a great push towards protecting the environment, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because we will be around to witness the effects of what will happen if we don’t. 
Kristian: People should be excited about my performance at FemFest because I think that the workshops and training leading up to the performances are the opportunity, I’ve been looking for to really discover and challenge my voice as an artist while exploring the critical topic of climate change.  
Sarah: Because an extremely talented group of female and non-binary artists are coming together, to create an exciting, provocative, and engaging piece bound not only to entertain, but educate, and engage audiences.  

As mentioned above, only a very small number of folks will be accommodated for the walking tour, so buy your tickets ASAP! The performances run on September 20, 24, 25, and 26. See Downtown Winnipeg through a new lens and support emerging artists! 

Meet the Playwrights of FemFest 2020

FemFest wouldn’t be possible without our incredible playwrights. These local writers vary in age and experience, but they have one thing in common: a talent for creating new worlds. Our “Shorts” playwrights include Jonathon Mourant, Sarah Flynn, Vicki Zhang, and Meredith Taylor-Parry. Two more local playwrights whose works are featured are barb janes, the Bake-Off winner for Agency, and Hannah Foulger, who’ll be premiering The View From Here

Let’s get to know them a little better through a little Q&A. 

If you weren’t working in theatre, what would you be doing instead?  
Jon: I would likely get involved in politics or criminal justice, secretly trying to destroy both from the inside. And by destroy, I mean radically change in order to better serve the people that they currently exploit.  
Sarah: I wanted to be a vet as a kid but as I grew up I found out I was afraid of animals larger than the average house cat.   
Vicki: I’ll still be writing – non-fiction, short stories, novel. In fact that’s what I do.  
Meredith: I have always loved kids, babies and preschoolers are particularly amazing … maybe a preschool teacher? (Although I started out in education but found it didn’t suit me … maybe I could just be a baby-holder?) I have thought about writing books for this age group… 
barb: Attending theatre, volunteering in theatre! Writing a novel, playing pickle ball, watching birds (how many kinds of sparrows ARE there??!)  
Hannah: I would be living off the grid living on a mountain somewhere. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give your younger self? 
Jon: Lean into how weird and different you know you are.  
Sarah: Memorizing more than the first 5 numbers of Pi won’t actually impress anyone.   
Vicki: Don’t worry about how others and the world see you. Be yourself and love yourself. 
Meredith: You knew you wanted to be in theatre since you were 4 years old. Don’t let ANYONE talk you out of it.  
barb: Don’t settle – go for it, and trust your gut.  
Hannah: Buy bitcoin?   

Why should people be excited about your piece at FemFest?  
Jon: I can promise that my show at FemFest is unlike anything that’s been seen in Winnipeg theatre before. It’s funny, touching, weird, and glam rock, baby.  
Sarah: I believe one can always be excited about a new playwright. This will be my first time having something I wrote performed by someone other than me. So, I am super new to this whole playwriting thing. Meaning that there’s so much possibility from here. You could see this reading of my first real play at FemFest and one day maybe you’ll be able to tell people you were at the first public reading of the first script by a now famous playwright! What? Anything could happen, right?  
Vicki: This short performance piece is an “autofiction” monologue that was inspired by my encounter in 2019 with Chinese and Hong Kong protesters, as well as a reporter on the scene. I am a female Chinese-Canadian writer. As an immigrant and POC living in diaspora, I aim to draw attention to the personal, messy, complex grey area in the black-and-white narratives that dominate our cultural reporting on foreign affairs. Such perspectives, so hard to be put into neat boxes, have been largely missing in the mainstream discussion of those important issues of our day. I am so excited that FemFest 2020 has welcomed such voices and perspectives that have the potential to bridge politically-fractured communities. I hope the audience will find inspirations and questions from viewing this piece.  
Meredith: There is a puppet in it? I am hoping it will resonate because there is a big piece of me in it, and in my experience, the more human the story the more audience members will connect to it.  
barbAgency opens an overdue conversation on child welfare by exposing the parallels in three generations (British Home Children, 60’s scoop, inter-country adoptions) in a surreal, funny and poignant story.  

What’s your go-to karaoke song?   
Jon: Mr. Brightside  
Sarah: Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield  
Vicki: In English, anything from the Carpenters because theirs was one of the few bands that got introduced to China in the 1990s when I was coming of age. In Chinese, there will just be too many songs I’ll be happy to sing.  
Meredith: I would like it to be Don’t Stop Believing (Journey) but I can’ t hit the high notes.  
barb: R-E-S-P-E-C-T (Aretha Franklin), Rise Up (Parachute Club)  
Hannah: Somebody to Love – Queen  

Tickets to see ShortsAgency, and The View From Here are on sale now. The Shorts are taking place on Thursday, Sept 24 – 7:45pm, Agency is on Monday, Sept 21 – 8:30pm, and The View From Here is Saturday, Sept 19 – 2:00pm. All readings will be taking place in-person at The Dalnavert with social-distancing measures in place. Only a small, limited audience will be accommodated so buy your tickets fast! Possible livestreaming is also in the works so stay tuned if watching from home is more your speed. 

bug at FemFest 2020

The tree is sick
The poison cycled so much
Sickness was planted in us
And we are trying to get well

How can you navigate inter-generational trauma when you’re pushed beyond the brink? bug, one of our featured shows at FemFest 2020, explores this question. Although our commitment to safety during the continued pandemic means that the artists cannot travel to Winnipeg and offer the performance live, we are excited that a high quality version of the show will be offered virtually and followed by a chance for discussion in real-time with the artists.

photo-of-Yolanda-Bonnell-as-The-Girl-by-Gilad-Cohen-2-1024x683

Yolanda Bonnell created and stars in bug 

bug is the story of a girl and her mother, both fighting the effects of colonialism on their bodies. They are followed by Manidoons, a physical manifestation of trauma that crawls across generations. Created and performed by Yolanda Bonnell, this Dora Mavor Moore Award-nominated performance draws on the strength and resilience of Indigenous women as they grapple with a painful past and carve out their place to survive.

Using movement, poetry, and prose, creator/performer Bonnell weaves stories of women grappling with their painful past and making tough choices to survive.

bug pulls back the curtain on the falsehood of reconciliation using storytelling and movement, bringing everything we’ve seen in the news and the history books into the heart and gut.” Kiera Grant, Mooney on Theatre

“I think people should be excited because bug is more than just a performance,” Yolanda said. “It’s an artistic ceremony in which witnesses are invited to share space – which may not be physically – but share space nonetheless. It’s an opportunity to see a small faction of the effects of colonization, specifically in Northern communities or small cities. Performed in a poetic manner.”

When asked who inspires her, Yolanda said Indigenous youth: “The amount of fighting they do every day in a world that often treats them like garbage. Yet they keep rising up and they keep going. There’s nothing more inspiring than that.”

“While my heart broke for the protagonist, I felt hope looking across the audience, and as we cried together from the heaviness, we all felt. To move forward in reconciliation, we need to hear these stories and sit in the uncomfortable silence that precedes change.” Trisha Dayal, Stage Door Toronto

The 60-minute solo show will be virtually offered at FemFest 2020 and tickets are already on sale. The show times are Sunday, Sept 20 at 6:00pm, Monday, Sept 21 at 1:00pm, and Tuesday, Sept 22 at 6:30pm. Yolanda is also our featured “The Real Thing” lecturer who will be giving an overview of her career trajectory in theatre. Her lecture is taking place on Wednesday September 23 from 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm and is free and open to the public.

As Trisha Dayal writes in her review, “Unless you’ve lived as a marginalized person in this country, you will struggle to relate to the story in bug, but that’s exactly why you should watch it.”

 

The Artists of Songide’ewin

With Songide’ewin opening in less than a week (!) we thought you should get to know the cast and crew a little better. Songide’ewin tells the stories of over 70 Indigenous youth and their views on reconciliation. Originally set to premiere in May 2020, the show is being performed in late August with all social distancing and health protocols in place. Three performances will take place under an open-air tent at Whittier Park for limited audiences August 25-27 at 7pm. The shows will also be livestreaming each night with a chance for virtual discussion, tickets are required to tune in.

Each artist has had an invaluable role in creating Songide’ewin and we’re in awe of their flexibility and commitment to telling these stories.

 

Playwrights

The stories of the youth were compiled by Darla Contois and Jo Macdonald.

Darla Contois is a Cree-Salteaux Indigenous theatre artist. She graduated from Toronto’s Centre for Indigenous Theatre professional training program in 2014, attended

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Darla Contois

David Smukler’s National Voice Intensive and premiered her solo show White Man’s Indian at Summerworks 2017 in Toronto where she was awarded the Emerging Artist Award. For the past few years she has been living and working professionally in her home territory treaty one; facilitating arts/storytelling workshops, mentoring Indigenous youth, acting, writing and also starting a family.

Jo MacDonald head shot

Jo Macdonald

Jo is Anishinaabe, a mom, theatre fan, and writer living on Treaty 1 territory. She is a member of Prairie Theatre Exchange ‘s Emerging Playwrights Unit.

 

 

Ensemble

The show features five ensemble members.

Josh

Josh Ranville

Joshua Ranville’s first ever acting experience was auditioning for a play called “The Rememberer” in 1998 at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People (MTYP). This happened to be where he had the pleasure of meeting Tracey Nepinak and working with her for the first time as she was also a part of that cast. That was when Josh caught the theatre bug and he hasn’t been able to stop acting ever since. The opportunity to work with the amazing Songide’ewin cast is a breath of air for Josh since quarantine was feeling like a creative vacuum. Yay for this project, yay for theatre!

 

Aqqalu Meekis-2

Aqqalu Meekis

Named after an inuit actor from Greenland, Aqqalu Meekis got his start in acting with a cut, small role in the 2003 film Stryker. Since then, he has been been active in various film, TV and theatre roles such as a sniper with the Canadian Armed Forces in Paul Gross’ Hyena road, Donny in George F. Walker’s Adult Entertainment, Katurian in Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman, and even as a nameless extra (no role is too small) on the set of Outlander, on location in Scotland. Aqqalu would like to thank Sarasvàti for the chance to break free from pandemic-induced cabin fever.

 

Jessica_McGlynn_Headshot

Jessica McGlynn

Jessica McGlynn is a Winnipeg based actor and a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Theatre and Film Honours program. This is Jessica’s first time working with Sarasvàti Productions and she is thrilled to have been able to work on this show. She hopes you listen to the show with an open heart and leave with the drive to listen and learn from experiences that are different from your own. Much love to her family for their continual love and support.

 

Sara Demers 31

Sara Demers

Originally from Quebec, Sara Demers is a transformative actress. Since her youth, body language and the human mind were her playground and her curiosity. She worked as the lead in Once upon a time, Doltra by Théâtre des petites lanternes, a French landscape play. She also was the lead in the short film Clara by Matthew Gaines that was presented at Fantasia a Montreal Film Festival in 2018. And she played in Patterns by Pierre Friquet a 360° and virtual reality independent French film that won the VR Award from the Festival du nouveau cinéma (New Cinema Festival) in Montreal and when to Cannes, France, in 2018. Sara is also a writer. She co-produced and wrote What if … an independent short film, and she is currently working to create films with Ode Productions’ team in Winnipeg.

 

Braiden Houle Headshot

Braiden Houle

Braiden Houle is excited and honoured to be involved in this production of Songide’ewin. He was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Selected credits include: Kill Me Now (Touchstone Theatre), Kill Me Now (Manitoba Theatre Centre/National Arts Centre), Only Drunks and Children Tell The Truth (Firehall Arts Centre), Camera Obscura (the frank theatre company), The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Manitoba Theatre for Young People), TH’OWXIYA: The Hungry Feast Dish (Axis Theatre), Redpatch (Hardline Productions), Jumping Mouse (Urban Indigenous Theatre Company), Little  Red Riding Hood (Urban Indigenous Theatre Company), Wings of Darkness (Urban Indigenous Theatre Company). He is a graduate of Studio 58.

 

 

Sound & Design

MJ Dandeneau

MJ Dandeneau

MJ DANDENEAU is a French Anishinaabe / Métis woman born on Treaty 1 Territory (Winnipeg, MB). Her tours and studio work have literally taken her all over the globe and nationally recognized with recording awards such as Canadian JUNO, WCMA-Award, Indian Summer Awards & CFM-Award. MJ’s deep-seated roots to her French-Anishinaabe and Métis heritage are translated and embodied in the music she creates. MJ made her theatre debut in RMTC’s production of the musical Bitter Girls. Some of her highlights has been, being part of MTYP’s production musical Charlie Brown’s Double Bill playing Frieda as well as the sound designer for the production Torn Through Time and Tiny Treasure, Prairie Theatre Exchange’s production “Katharsis” and Cercle Molière premier production “La Liste”. She continues to compose for numerous short films and documentaries for various projects along the way. Dandeneau is very excited and honored to be part of this production under the talented Director Tracey Nepinak.

 

 

Set & Costume Design

Louis

Louis Ogemah

Louis Ogemah was born in 1962, at a very young age somewhere near his mother in the town of Sioux Lookout, Ontario. In 1992, Louis graduated from the University of Manitoba with an Honors Degree in Fine Arts. He is the Founder of the Urban Shaman Gallery, a contemporary indigenous art gallery, situated in downtown Winnipeg since 1996. Louis has worked over 30 years as a contemporary artist, articulating and embracing the Anishinaabe culture into all his work. Louis began his theatre opus in 1989 with Awasikan Puppet Theatre, later Awasikan Theatre as an actor. He trained young people in Red Roots Community Theatre for various productions and then, began dabbling in Set and Costume design with MTYP’s “The Rememberer”, and WowPow Theatre’s Fringe play “Crisis in Oka”, and many other productions throughout the new millennia. So, when the opportunity to work on Songide’ewin, a play inspired and developed by Indigenous youth about the challenges they face in these ambiguous times, Louis thought; “I love the sound of an Orange being peeled”.

 

 

Director

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Tracey Nepinak

Tracey Nepinak is Cree (with a hint of international flavoring mixed in), her family roots are from Peguis first nation but currently lives in the Canada’s largest urban reserve, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Tracey has worked as a professional actor since 1993. Recent theatre, film and directing credits include: The Hours That Remain (director- Theatre by the River), Honour Beat (Rae Anna – The Grand London/Theatre Calgary), The Third Colour (Agatu – Prairie Theatre Exchange), A Short History of Crazy Bone (Crazy Bone – Theatre Projects Manitoba), Burden of Truth (Rose – Eaglevision), The Rez Sisters (Philomena Moosetail), The Belfry.

 

 

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As you can see from the incredible talent, Songide’ewin is not a show to be missed! If you haven’t already bought your ticket for our outdoor, socially distanced shows, there are still some available. Not into the idea of being in a live audience? That’s OK too! Each night we are offering a virtual live-stream. Whether you want to see the show in-person or online, you better buy your tickets quick before they go!

Alice and The World We Live In

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

AlexHaber

Alex Haber, Playwright

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Songide’ewin: Reconciliation Through Theatre

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you think reconciliation is possible?”

“Yes, but it will take lots of time.”

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

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

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

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