Overcoming Obstacles at IWW 2019

Women’s stories are in the spotlight during our 2019 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues! This year’s pieces cover a wide range of issues from a cancer scare to coming out to one’s family. This week, we’re featuring two more pieces from the event, The LightFishers and Oracle Jane.

In Leslea Kroll’s The LightFishers, Chris is a patient in the psychiatric ward of St. Andrew’s Hospital. After experiencing a traumatic event, Chris has begun recovery from an addiction to painkillers.

Leslea KrollLeslea’s first play Domesticatrix was nominated for a Sterling Award for Outstanding Fringe Script. An excerpt of Domesticatrix was featured in The Martha Stewart Projects perfomed at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto. Her play ZedBC: Genus Lemus won the Alberta Playwrights’ Network annual script competition. Her other plays include Swallow, Auksenberg: Trial by Fury, Stains, The Catalogue of Bones, BonePeddlers, Queen of the AnthroScene, The LightFishers, and WellSpring. Her play White Count Up aired nationally on CBC’s Radio One.

 

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Amelia Warkentin

Bringing the piece to life is Amelia Warkentin. Amelia is currently completing a general arts degree at Canadian Mennonite University with the hope of beginning an after-degree program in education in the fall. She studies theatre at the University of Manitoba and was recently involved in a student-written piece entitled A Grave Story. Amelia’s passions include running, singing, and spending time with friends and family. She strives to make someone smile at least once a day and is trying to clone herself to be in more than one place at a time.

 

In Oracle Jane, playwright Vicki Zhang asks, “how do you confront the destructive power of your own creation?” When a data scientist meets a single mother in need, she questions and reflects on her life’s work.

Vicki Zhang

Vicki Zhang

Vicki Zhang’s ten-minute play The Male Root won the 8th InspiraTO Festival’s juried playwriting competition. Her play Oracle Jane was selected for production at Alumnae Theatre’s 30th New Ideas Festival. Her plays have also received staged readings at FemFest, InspiraTO Festival, Toronto’s Festival of Original Theatre (FOOT), and the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama. She is the author of Uncalculated Risks (Canadian Scholar’s Press, 2014), which was nominated for a Myrdal Prize. She has also written essays and short fiction about the Chinese diaspora for Rookie Magazine and Theread.

 

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Renee Hill

Playing data scientist Ying is local performer Renée Hill. Renée graduated from the University of Winnipeg theatre program and is a gifted musician and singer.  She performs annually in the JP Hoe Hoe Hoe Holiday Show and enjoys doing voice over and commercial work.  Renée also has had the opportunity to participate in Sarasvati’s One Night Stand 2017. Renée is passionate about her community and working to help others, completing her Masters in Social Work while raising her three children in her beloved neighborhood of Wolseley.

 

You can check out all the incredible pieces in this year’s line-up on Saturday, March 9th at 4PM and 8PM. Tickets are on sale now!

Check out a first look at The LightFishers at rehearsal!

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Queering Theatre: A Community Discussion

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

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

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

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

 

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Davis Plett

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

 

 

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Lara Rae

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

 

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Liam Zarrillo

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

 

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Erin Meagan Schwartz

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

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

Poetry and Playwrights at IWW 2019!

We’re excited to share more about the fabulous artists behind this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues! This year’s theme is Here I Am, exploring themes of reclaiming identity and coming into one’s own.

Appearing in this year’s Cabaret are a number of artists writing and performing their own work, including long-time Sarasvàti collaborator Nan Fewchuk performing her piece, Thelma and Louise. While waiting in Cancer Care, Maggie reflects back on her life, her resentment towards her large breasts, and how the thought of losing one of them changes her perspective.

Nan Fewchuk

Nan Fewchuk

Nan is grateful to be a performer, director, and facilitator with Sarasvàti Productions, working on such favorites as Fefu and Her Friends, Fen, Jail Baby and Empty. Nan has performed with Rainbow Stage, Shakespeare in the Ruins, and Green Kids Inc. She produced and acted in the Fringe hits Dog Act and Or as well as working with the Manitoba Drama Youth Festival, Villa Rosa, The Peaceful Village, and the West Central Women’s Resource Centre. Nan co-founded the Indigenous youth group Neechisan at Garden City Collegiate where she taught drama for over twenty-five years.

Thelma and Louise was originally Nan’s final performance piece while studying at One Yellow Rabbit in Calgary. “Ten years later I’m finding it super interesting to further explore, dive deeper, and rework things, especially because I feel differently now than I did when I first wrote it,” says Nan. “As I grow older, I think so much more about my own mortality and have come to fully realize what really matters in life. I am so grateful for all of the good times and the wacky times, and for all of my family, friends, teachers, mentors,  coaches, and kind strangers who have taught me so much about life: how to  love, forgive, and journey forward.”

 

Shereen Ramprashad

Shereen Ramprashad

Also performing a work of her own creation is local spoken word artist Shereen Ramprashad. Shereen’s piece I am NOT a Victim is a charismatic, satirical poem challenging the media’s perception that women are – and always will be – a victim of something. Shereen is a colourful, witty and lively Canadian writer based out of Winnipeg. Her writings are a creative blend of intelligent metaphor and philosophy with undercurrents of subtext and observation. Shereen started her creative journey in her early forties with the intent of creating waves with poetry. Ten years later she’s doing just that with her interdisciplinary performance poetry and storytelling.

“Writing and performing is my way of presenting alternative perspectives on mainstream ideas and norms,” says Shereen. “I encourage critical thought of who we are as a society, where we are going, and how we want to see ourselves in the future. I think it’s important to find humour in hard times; satire is a powerful tool when it is used in the right context.”

You can see Nan and Shereen perform alongside seven other talented artists during the full Cabaret line-up on March 9th! Performances are at 4PM and 8PM at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W). Get your tickets today!

What’s Up Next in 2019

2019
Join us for another incredible year of life-changing theatre! We have some exciting events in store for 2019 and can’t wait to get started. Here’s our Top 4 Things we’re looking forward to in the New Year.

        1. COMMUNITY DIALOGUE – Queering Theatre Round-Table

We’ll be kicking off 2019 with our Queering Theatre round-table, facilitated by Erin Meagan Schwartz! Representatives from Winnipeg’s performing arts and LGBT community will speak to their experiences of incorporating their identities into their work, as well as their experiences as a queer artist in the community. Keep your eyes peeled on social media as we announce more on the exciting workshops and opportunities we have coming up for emerging artists!

2. STANDING PROUD 

Here I am banner draft Dec 25_18Up and running since 2003, this event shares the stories of incredible women! This year’s theme is Here I Am, focused on stories of embracing identity and coming into one’s own. Our line-up will feature stories like an aspiring astronaut fighting to be taken seriously, a teenager coming out to her family (and the local priest!) over brunch, and the “elephant in the room” of life with a chronic illness. Check out our website for the full line-up!

3. MORE COMMUNITY COLLABORATION

Starting in January, we’ll begin work on our next full production focused on the theme of reconciliation. Indigenous artists will work with youth, Knowledge Keepers, and Elders. This year will see the first phase of the project as we begin workshops and interviews, gathering stories and feedback from the community that will shape the production. Check out this post for more info!

4. FEMFEST SHAKES THINGS UP FOR ITS 17TH YEAR!

This September will mark our 17th annual festival of life-changing theatre for everyone! Our theme is All the World’s a Stage, focusing on global stories of powerful women. We’ll be focusing on making the festival more accessible to the community with exciting new programming. Stay tuned for full details in the spring.

With so much in store, you won’t want to miss a thing! Be sure to sign up for our mailing list to stay up-to-date on all the great events we have coming up in 2019.

2018: A Look Back

We’ve had another amazing year here at Sarasvàti Productions! It was a season of workshops and life-changing theatre, promoting empathy and understanding to audiences across Manitoba! Check out some of our highlights from the past year.

WORKSHOPS FOR EMERGING ARTISTS

This year we had over ten workshops for emerging artists, including The Artist’s Voice with Tom Soares, Monologue Intensive with Sharon Bajer, and Devising from the Real World with FemFest artist Norah Paton! We also had our Coffee with a Pro mentorship series, pairing emerging artists with a pro in the field to talk shop over coffee. In 2018, we had sessions like Dramaturgy with Brian Drader, Playwriting with Ellen Peterson and Ginny Collins, and Producing with Brenda McLean! We also hosted our “Mental Health in Theatre” Panel back in November, starting an important dialogue we hope to continue.

SHARING THE STORIES OF UNSTOPPABLE WOMEN

Full cast at dress rehearsal

Our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues saw the stories of incredible women living through riots, learning to teach yoga as a senior, accepting their true selves, and conquering all odds. New work was created by up-and-coming stand-up comic Anjali Sandhu as well as trans advocate Cynthia Fortlage. Aboriginal artist Kristy Janvier traveled from Flin Flon to present a new piece. We also welcomed Joanna Hawkins of 100 Decibels to perform a solo mime work. This was also our first year offering ASL interpretation.

WORKSHOPS FOR NORTH END YOUTH

This year, we brought theatre workshops to the students of Gonzaga Middle School and Children of the Earth High School, where students currently don’t have access to drama programs. Students were taught the basics of playwriting, directing, improvisation, and set design.

NEW BEGINNINGS ON STAGE

Two years ago, we began a series of workshops and community interviews, hearing from newcomers and immigrants to Canada about their experiences with resettling in a new country. In May of this year, we got to bring those stories to life with the world premiere of New Beginnings, featuring a blend of dance, film, and theatre. An interactive touring show focusing on youth experiences, Home 2.0, launched in the fall! Over 4,700 youth and teachers across Manitoba were exposed to the work that helped promote empathy and understanding.

PUTTING THE ‘FUN’ IN FUNDRAISING

We got to try something a little different this year with a spring fundraiser produced and organized by Delta Hirsch. It was a sit-down dinner at Forth that paired Perogies and Puns! Local comedians Mike Green and Angie St. Mars tickled funny bones while chef Keith Csabak treated folks to five courses of gourmet perogies. Then in November, we brought back our annual Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser for its third year! Elissa Kixen of WOKE Comedy Hour produced this incredible event showcasing a diverse line-up of women comics.

FEMFEST CELEBRATES 16 YEARS!

In 2018 we showcased our sixteenth annual festival of plays that put women’s stories in the spotlight! We got to travel to Burning Man with Norah Paton’s Burnt, hear from a young Cree teenager with White Man’s Indian, watch Donna-Michelle St. Bernard speak truth to power with Sound of the Beast, and witness the beautiful blend of Indian dance and theatre with The Game! Alissa Watson brought home our 2018 Bake-Off Prize with her winning scene, The Switch. We also got to explore downtown Winnipeg’s hidden gems with our first-ever Walking Art Tour. We’ve already started brainstorming for 2019, so stay tuned!

Thanks to everyone who made this past year such a success. We’re so excited to talk about what we have coming up in 2019, starting with our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues in March! We’ll keep you posted with more updates on all the great events you can look forward to this coming year.

 

What Does Reconciliation Mean To You?

In January, we’ll be kicking off our next long-term initiative! Our new collaborative project will focus on reconciliation through storytelling and theatre. A team of Indigenous artists will work with Indigenous youth to capture their lived experiences and bring them to the stage. Storytelling will be used to explore the truth about current experiences of racism and discrimination in Winnipeg.  Ultimately a large community gathering and performance will take place engaging the public in the important and challenging dialogue about how to make a better community. Using the arts to explore the current reality of racism will allow us to take a powerful step forward towards true reconciliation.

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Marsha Knight

Beginning steps on this initiative are being undertaken by our Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator, Marsha Knight. Marsha has been involved in theatre for over twenty years in many capacities both on and off stage. She has worked on several past productions with Sarasvàti, including consulting on Two Indians at FemFest 2017 and performing in Breaking Through and Eden.

“When I learned of the Winnipeg Foundation’s funding announcement for reconciliation projects, I remember having varied feelings of elation and interest,” says Marsha. “I was quite excited at this opportunity for community building and to know that the Winnipeg Foundation made a commitment to the ongoing process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.”

This project will involve working with Indigenous youth, Knowledge Keepers, Elders, and professional artists to gather stories. “What is exciting for me is that we are asking the youth, with the guidance of the Knowledge Keepers and the support of artists, to develop a contemporary perspective of the teachings of this region of Turtle Island,” says Marsha.

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Jaime Black

Indigenous artist Jaime Black will also be on board to help bring the project to life.  Jaime is a Metis multidisciplinary artist based in Winnipeg. She studied English Literature at the University of Manitoba and has an Education degree from The Ontario Institute of Studies in Education. She has taught in Opaskwayak Cree Nation in the Pas, Manitoba, has worked developing art curriculum for the Urban Shaman: Contemporary Aboriginal Art, and has long been involved in the Aboriginal writers and artists communities in Winnipeg. She is also head of the REDress Project, an installation-based art project focused around the issue of missing or murdered Aboriginal women across Canada.

Phase One of the project will start this year as we engage in consultation circles within the community and then undertake workshops to explore their connection to the teachings. Phase Two will then bring in artists, performers, designers, and directors to shape the youth’s creations into our next full production, keeping in consultation with Knowledge Keepers to ensure the integrity of their stories as the production develops.

“The voices of Indigenous youth are strong and much wiser than most people allow,” says Marsha. “This production will be a beautiful, awakening message combining traditional and contemporary storytelling.”

We’ll be launching the first phase of the project with a public gathering in May 2019 with the full production to come in Spring 2020. Stay tuned as we announce more on this exciting new endeavour!

 

That’s a Wrap on “Home 2.0”!

Another school tour is in the books! Last week, we wrapped up our latest community collaboration project, Home 2.0, which focused on youth stories of immigration and resettlement. After starting our Newcomer project over two years ago, we initially shared stories in performance with New Beginnings back in May. The project culminated   with Home 2.0 wrapping up on December 7th. This marks our sixth school tour and this time around, we managed to visit over 54 schools and reach out to over 4,700 youth across Manitoba.

 

This cast has been working together since the summer, rehearsing and preparing for the tour! It’s been a long road but we couldn’t be happier with how the show has impacted audiences across Manitoba. Read on for some of the responses we’ve had to this powerful show.

“The story-lines presented in the show mirrored many of our students’ experiences, and it was very powerful for them to see these stories told on stage. Students were really enthusiastic about it, and there was buzz about it for days afterwards!” – Caitlin Belton, Drama & English Teacher at Miles MacDonell Collegiate

 

 

Coming from the child of two refugees, I felt like it spoke very accurately about the struggles one faces coming to Canada as a refugee. It really touched upon many issues and explained it in a way that was helpful for people who might not understand what this experience is like for others.” – Grade 10 student at Seven Oaks School Division

Not only was the play outstanding, but adding the parts where viewers were allowed to interact with the actors and potentially change the outcome of the play, made you truly think about how you can impact the lives of others through simple actions.” – Grade 12 student at Seven Oaks School Division

 

Seven Oaks

This performance was really beautiful but heartbreaking. Seeing what you went through being played in front of you like that beings all those memories back. And if you have never been through anything like it, it’s really revealing as you get to see another side of the story. All those feelings that the performance shows you are very descriptive. The feeling of not fitting in being new and not being good enough is scary. Knowing that you are forgetting everything is devastating. Thanks for reminding me that I went through and why I am here.” – Student at New Era School

 

We have many students that are from immigrant homes or are immigrants themselves and the message of struggle, hope and inclusion was really something that resonated with them. Thank you so much for such an amazing experience on behalf of myself, the students and St. Mary’s Academy,  we thank you for sharing this story and the amazing talents of your touring group!”  – Eliana Dell’Acqua, Social and Drama Teacher at St. Mary’s Academy

Thank you to all of the incredible students and teachers who hosted us this year! The tour was a great success, promoting empathy and understanding to thousands of youth across the province. Big thank-you as well to Daniel Igne-Jajalla for putting together our tour highlight video! We’ll see you again in 2020 with another tour for youth in Manitoba.