Sound of the Beast: speaking truth to power

In March 2013, Tunisian rapper Ala Yaacoub, also known as Weld El 15, was sentenced to two years in prison for his song Boulicia Kleb (The Police Are Dogs). It was his response to police violence, a cause for anger if ever there was one. Donna-Michelle St. Bernard pays tribute to Weld El 15 in her solo show Sound of the Beast, produced by Theatre Passe Muraille with direction and dramaturgy by Andy McKim and Jivesh Parasram. The piece has continued to evolve since its first performance, so FemFest audiences will get to see the latest version of the piece.

Sound of the Beast is part of Donna-Michelle’s project to write one play inspired by each of the 54 countries in Africa. Yes, that means 54 plays. And yes, she’s an amazing playwright. She’s been nominated for the Governor General’s award. Twice. In Sound of the Beast, Donna-Michelle brings a story from Tunisia to a stage in Canada to remind us that police violence doesn’t just happen far away (or just south of the border). With the passionate power of storytelling, spoken word, and hip-hop, Donna-Michelle calls out the Toronto police for their gun violence, particularly against people of colour.SoundoftheBeast photo by Michael Cooper

Lynn Slotkin’s review states that “Donna-Michelle St. Bernard tells a gripping, compelling story that is happening all over the world. Her stories and their telling are not clichéd into sameness. Each one is perceptively drawn, calmly told, clearly illuminated and will make you suck air for all the right reasons. She is a compelling presence who tells a vital story.” Chris Klippenstein emphasises in his review that Donna-Michelle “get(s) the audience to realize something about themselves” and describes the piece as an “intense, memorable constellation of storytelling.”

Sound of the Beast
There’s a 100% chance that Sound of the Beast will make you feel something. Don’t believe me? There’s only one way to find out. Get your tickets here! You can see it at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film on Thursday, September 20, at 1:00 pm (followed by a talkback), Friday, September 21, at 9:00 pm, or Saturday, September 22, at 7:00 pm. You can also catch Donna-Michelle’s Real Thing lecture on Wednesday, September 19, at 12:30 pm. You won’t be disappointed!

 

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Celebrating Our 2018/19 Season Launch!

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Resistance, Resettlement and Reconciliation – oh my! You’re invited to celebrate another incredible season of Winnipeg theatre! As part of First Fridays, Sarasvàti Productions will be hosting our annual Season Launch at Saddlery on Market, featuring free cupcakes courtesy of cake-ology! You can hear all about our incredible upcoming season of “Reimagining” featuring stories of Resistance, Resettlement, and Reconciliation.

The night will feature sneak peeks from a number of upcoming events, including the announcement of this year’s FemFest 2018 Bake-Off participants, One Night Stand series, and our brand-new Walking Art Tour. You can also enjoy a preview of The Game, a blend of Indian dance and theatre presented by Manohar Performing Arts of Canada. For a look at what’s coming up in the rest of our season, you can get a first glimpse of our new school tour, Home 2.0; learn who will make you laugh until it hurts at our annual Women’s Comedy Night fundraiser; be the first to know the theme for this year’s IWW Cabaret of Monologues; and new details will be revealed about our spring work-in-progress featuring stories of reconciliation.

Want to get creative? We’ll also be hosting a craft station with supplies generously donated by ArtsJunktion! Our speakers will also take part in our “Reimagining” Improv Game, telling us how they would re-purpose a common item to help tackle social issues!

Plus our exclusive FemFest 2018 t-shirts with original artwork by Danielle Morrison, printed by Floodway Printing Co., will be available for sale. For just $20 be one of the first to wear this fashionable tees.

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Join us on Friday, August 3rd as we look forward to another amazing year of life-changing theatre for everyone. The fun kicks off at 7PM – feel free to pop in as you enjoy other events hosted by First Fridays in the Exchange! For more information on the festivities, check out our event page.

White Man’s Indian: not your average high school drama

darlaThe incredible emerging playwright/actor Darla Contois will bring her one-woman show White Man’s Indian to FemFest this year and we can’t wait! It’s the kind of coming-of-age story of an Indigenous girl that we rarely get to hear. This girl is the brave, independent-minded Eva, who will captivate you throughout the show and long after you leave the theatre. Darla Contois has combined dark subject matter with humour in such a way that makes them sound like they were meant to be together.

The story launches when a teacher assigns the impossible, a final essay focused on where each student’s family came from and how they transitioned to life in Canada. How does an Indigenous student address the question of adapting to Canada? As a result the play’s main character, Eva, gets a “special assignment” to write about her family history and—spoiler alert—Eva will confess to you that she doesn’t know it. Nobody taught it to her parents or grandparents in school and it’s erased everywhere.

White Man's Indian

The title White Man’s Indian comes from what Eva calls herself when she feels disconnected from her culture. There is no way she can meet all of the expectations everyone seems to have for her. Like any young person, Eva is searching for herself. There is a lot of humour as Eva tries to figure out her space in society.

What is extremely exciting about hosting the show at FemFest is that writer/performer Darla Contois is a Winnipegger. The play premiered at the Summerworks Festival in Toronto and then played at Uno Fest in Victoria. Now you have a chance to see her where she started out.

“Contois’s convincing performance is the highlight, however, culminating in some haunting and heartrending moments of realization and defeat, but also strength and resilience, that will make many reach for a tissue.” – Jordan Bimm, Now Toronto

Also, let’s be honest, there is a real need right now to explore representation on stage. So that we don’t sweep this question of under the carpet, there will be a panel discussion about it following a select performance of White Man’s Indian. Just three chances to see this great play – September 18 or 21 at 7:00 pm or September 20 at 9:00 pm! All performances are at the U of W Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, 400 Colony Street. Get your tickets now!

 

Our Friends at the Fringe!

It’s that time of year again! The Winnipeg Fringe Festival is coming up next week and as usual, you can catch our team out and about spreading the word on FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance, including the chance to win a free festival pass! Big thank-yous go out to all the companies who are helping us promote FemFest 2018.

We had the opportunity to preview some amazing shows at our One Night Stand series in May, featuring new work by eight local companies as part of Prairie Theatre Exchange’s Carol Shields Festival.  If you’re looking for some great shows to see, check out some of the fantastic productions put on by our past collaborators:

ONEDATECITY.fin (1)One Date City presented by It’s All Relative Productions

Written by Reba Terlson and co-created by Craig Terlson
Directed by Kaeleigh Ayre

Cast: Reba Terlson, Rachel Hiebert, Drew Jensen

Best friends Morgan and Julie have awful luck with dating. Julie just got out of a relationship and forgets how to date, and Morgan can’t remember the last time she had a worthwhile date. They place a high-stakes bet to see who can go on one great date.

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Mother’s Little Secret presented by Broken Record Productions

Written by Jo MacDonald, winner of the FemFest 2017 Bake-Off!

After her latest accident, two daughters conspire to move their mother into a retirement facility. But Casa Espia is no ordinary senior’s home.

 

 

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Animosity presented by Downside Up Productions

Written by Wren Brian

Directed by Ntara Curry & Sami Desiree

Cast: Melissa Langdon & Sophie Smith-Dostmohamed

Two people. Trapped in an abyss. Refusing to get along. In this absurdist/existentialist play two people struggle with feelings of fear, disconnection, and anger at each other, the space, and themselves. This is a companion piece to last year’s Anomie (winner of the Harry Rintoul Award for Best New Manitoban Play at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe).

 
Fractured Expectations Graphic (715x800)Fractured Expectations, a collective creation presented by Timeless Weaver

Directed by Rachel Smith, co-director of our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues

Cast: Alicia Coulson, Jacob Janzen, Matthew Lupu and Erica Wilson

What kinds of expectations do you have in life? Finish your degree and immediately find your dream job? Go on a blind date and find the person of your dreams? Expectations can become a positive mantra to help you achieve your goals. Other times they can be a curse: an endless stream of disappointments.

 

2018-96735-web.jpgConfessional presented by The 28th Minute

Written by Tennessee Williams

Directed by George Toles

Cast: Heather Roberts, Jen Robinson, Kevin Ramberran, Justin Fry, Sylvia Richardson, Ivan Henwood, Sherab Rabzyor Yolmo, and our 2018 production assistant Reid Girard!

Tennessee Williams’ play-writing voice is always a lyrical plea for mercy. In Confessional, he takes us to Monk’s Bar, not far from Treasure Island Trailer Park. Eight characters, variously down and out, form a loose community of the not quite vanquished.

 

2018-125778-web.jpgThe Last 48 presented by ArtLaunch Theatre Company

Written by Camille Intson

Directed by Raffie Rosenberg and Simon Miron

Cast: Wes Rambo, Chris Sousa, Pamela Roz, Jack Maier, and Emily Meadows

Stage Managed by our Associate Producer, Daphne Finlayson

Five young associates are forced into competing for spots at a top advertising agency by a mysterious robotic surveillance system. When the workers begin to realize that their pairing together is anything but random, the company’s system of ethics is questioned as the employees struggle to complete their tasks.

There are dozens of more great shows, with amazing artists we have had the pleasure to work with and will feature in our season, but we only have so much space! Check out the Winnipeg Fringe Festival’s website for a full look at what’s up next for independent, experimental theatre!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“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!

FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance!

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

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

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

 

Burnt created and performed by Norah Patonburnt_lores_photo_christopher_snow.jpg

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Bake off 2016

Bake-Off

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

 

One Night Stand

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

 

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