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.

 

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Balancing Mental Wellness in the Arts

“Mental Health in Theatre” is a hot-button issue right now as more and more artists begin to speak out about the working conditions and pressure that comes with a life on the stage. This past Sunday, Sarasvàti Productions hosted a panel on Mental Health in Theatre with speakers Larry Isacoff, Krista Jackson, Elena Anciro, Heidi Malazdrewich, Sylvia Massinon of Klinic, and facilitated by Taylor Demetrioff.

The panel covered many important topics, like giving voice to the issues facing mental wellness in theatre, how folks can avoid burnout, the importance of creating safe spaces in rehearsals, not to forget the demands placed on those behind the scenes, and what resources are available for folks needing extra support. In service to the community, we’re publishing more on the incredible discussion that took place so everyone can learn more about what they can do to support each other.

 

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Key Words from the Panel

In discussing what can be done to enact change, the primary focus was on the role of leadership. Many asserted that it is the responsibility of arts leaders to ensure that the artists under their employ are working in safe conditions during reasonable hours. Folks working behind the scenes spoke to the demands being placed on Winnipeg’s theatre community with artists being asked to deliver impossible results outside of the scope of the theatre’s budget or schedule. To quote one panelist, “Theatre is the only profession that has to open on time – regardless of consequences.” This pressure creates an environment where those who speak up are not only going unheard because “the show must go on,” but also have to deal with the threat of unemployment. A common issue is that artists feel “replaceable”: if they voice their concerns with a project or the leadership, they may find themselves out of a job.

Artists also spoke about their issues handling personal struggles or performance anxiety in order to continue with their roles. In several cases, they’ve been asked to push through and were even discouraged from continuing in theatre if they weren’t able to “handle the pressure”. Unfortunately, for many, the experience has been that they are working for leadership that creates a culture of fear and pressure in the rehearsal hall rather than collaboration and positivity. A great example on creating a safe space for everyone was to ask at the start of the process, “What do you need?” Getting everyone on the same page and learning who they could turn to for support was a key player in creating more positive rehearsal spaces.

 

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We also heard from Sylvia Massinon about the resources available for mental health in our community. Klinic has drop-in, short-term, and long-term counselling available on a first-come, first-serve basis – available entirely for free. Women’s Health Clinic also offers free and low-cost counselling available in fifty-minute sessions. Of course, one of the most important reminders for practicing artists is to make time for themselves. Our profession can be isolating – long hours, the pressure to perform, weeks spent inside the rehearsal hall or onstage with limited time for anything else… but it is important for folks to know that they need to be able to say no to a project if it comes at the cost of their mental well-being.

Although there was much more to discuss than we could fit in this panel, we would like to thank everyone who participated for sharing their stories and opening up this important discussion. We will be continuing with our workshop series as the season goes on with our “Queering Theatre” Lecture slated for January 2019. For more on the great events we have in store, join our mailing list!

“Home 2.0”: The Road So Far

It’s been a busy time for Home 2.0! The cast has already traveled to over twenty-five different locations, performing for schools, conferences, the Millennium Library, and Graffiti Gallery! And we’re not slowing down any time soon: the tour continues its Manitoban run until December 7!

The cast has gotten to perform for students across Manitoba, including newcomer youth, drama students, and teachers learning how they can make a difference in their students’ lives. Here are some of the great things people have to say about this transformative show:

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Home 2.0 at Graffiti Gallery

“It was amazing. I liked it because it included some history in it about people and where they came from. It was funny and sad. I learned how to welcome people who come from other countries.” – Audience Member, Graffiti Gallery

“I believe that the show created a space for students to either relate to the experiences of the actors or be more mindful and purposeful regarding their interactions with those who are new to Canada.  The notion that it is possible to be both grateful and desperate as a new immigrant or refugee is impactful and true for many.  Thank you to Sarasvàti for igniting important and empathetic conversations with our students.” – Megan Turnley Steinbach Regional Secondary School

My favourite part of the tour is when the kids come up that are like, ‘This is how I wish I had been treated when I came to a new school.’ Be kind. Think of things from a different perspective.” – Melissa Langdon, Performer

 

 

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The cast at Ecole Sacre Coeur

The audience interaction was new to them, and I was so pleased with how some of them responded. One girl had mild autism and her improved line to the mean girl was so perfect.  It was a great moment for her and for her classmates to see her in that light. The actors and stage manager were so wonderful.  They fully engaged the students before the show to get them comfortable.  It was a great afternoon educating and entertaining us on the relevant subject of newcomers.” – Carri McDonald, Teacher at Linden Christian School

I have never taken an hour to sit back and think about how hard it is for people/refugees to come and live in Canada. The true stories made me pretty upset because I just can’t understand why anybody would treat another human being so poorly and make them feel like nothing. I feel like it got us thinking about how we could help change the picture in the present and future.” – Ivy, Grade 12 Student at Gimli High School

 

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After the show at Seven Oaks Performing Arts Centre

Our students continued to talk about the performance after your team left. Considering we are a rural school over 2 hours away from Winnipeg, we have a very multi-cultural student body. There were things that came up during the performance that hit home for many, and opened eyes of even more. As a teacher, I had more than one “eye-opener” moments, thinking back to the different students I have taught who are new Canadians.” – Teresa Moore, Teacher at Fisher Branch Collegiate

After our show at Miles Mac – there’s a large Syrian population there – at first we were so discouraged because we kept hearing talking during the show, but the kids came up to us after and said, ‘Sorry we were talking, we were translating for our friends here that just came over a few months ago.’ They shared their stories and there were a bunch of Yazidi kids who just wanted to laugh and share and teach me things… it was a great reminder of why we do this sort of thing, why touring is important. That was amazing for me.” – Matt Irvine, Performer

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The cast finishing up rehearsals!

The tour wraps up on December 7 as we continue bringing newcomer and refugee stories to schools across Manitoba. For more info on the show, visit our website!

Mental Health in Theatre

Let’s talk about mental health for artists.

Performers are twice as likely as the general population to experience depression, according to the 2015 Australian Actors’ Wellbeing Study. Many suffer from performance anxiety and report high levels of stress arising from work-related pressures such as low income and job insecurity.

Out of character: how acting puts a mental strain on performers

Low-income gigs, lack of job security, long hours, ever-changing work environments, frequent rejection, the pressure of performing… these are just some of the issues facing Winnipeg’s theatre community. On November 25th, Sarasvàti Productions will respond to these concerns by hosting a panel discussion on Mental Health in Theatre. We’ll be talking to folks from both artistic and mental health backgrounds on some of the issues of balancing self-care with a career in the arts. Some of the big questions include: how can artists stay motivated and avoid burnout? How can we create safe spaces in rehearsals? And what resources are available?

Taking part in the panel are local theatre professionals Larry Isacoff (Lighting Designer), Krista Jackson (Director), Elena Anciro (Performer), and Heidi Malazdrewich (Director). Facilitating the panel is Taylor Demetrioff of the Canadian Mental Health Association. We’ll also be having a counsellor from Klinic Community Health Centre present who can address some of the more general concerns about stressful work environments and what folks can do to seek outside help.

 

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So just what are some of the issues facing mental health in theatre? In May 2018, Toronto performer Nathan Carroll detailed his experiences for Intermission.

“Mental illness seems to affect actors and theatre artists at disproportionate rates. It’s our job to be vulnerable, to experience extreme highs and lows, and to act out ecstatic, harrowing, or humiliating situations in front of large groups of strangers. We face rejection with alarming frequency, sleep in strange beds in new cities, and acclimate to different work environments every few months. All of these things are part of why we love doing what we do, but it is not surprising when the volatility of our profession contributes to poor mental health.”

Join the discussion on November 25th! Our “Mental Health in Theatre Panel” will be taking place from 1-3PM at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W, Second Floor, Studio 2T05). Admission is by donation. Seating is limited – to RSVP or request further information, please contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca or call (204) 586-2236.

Upcoming Workshops for Emerging Artists!

Want to get started in theatre? Want to expand your skills as an artist? Or maybe you want to get some feedback on a new script? Luckily, Sarasvàti Productions is offering another great season of workshops! After our Coffee House for Emerging Artists back in August, we listened to Winnipeg’s theatre community to better understand what is needed from us – and how we can better execute our mandate to serve emerging artists. In talking with local artists, we decided to focus this year’s workshops on mentorship and development opportunities for the community.We’ve already kicked off the season with our sold-out “Devising from the Real World” workshop with Burnt artist Norah Paton as part of FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance. The workshop taught participants the basics of devised theatre and how to create a piece from real-life experiences.

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“Devising from the Real World” Workshop

 

We also showcased our first One Night Stand session coordinated by Tatiana Carnevale, featuring excerpts of new plays from Leigh-Anne Kehler, Frances Koncan, Jo MacDonald, Cairn Moore, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. The One Night Stand series pairs playwrights with a director and team of actors to workshop a new script through a public reading. This process helps the playwrights gain valuable audience feedback and learn how they can continue developing their play. We’ll be hosting more sessions in the spring: stay tuned for details!

We’ll be bringing back our annual Coffee with a Pro mentorship sessions, which pair emerging artists with a pro in the field to talk shop over coffee.  “It’s always useful to hear from professionals in the field,” said one participant. “It helps break the illusion that professionals are some beyond human, super being. Being able to ask questions about their journey and process helps create a more concrete path for someone hoping to take their work to the next level.” We’ll be reaching out to Winnipeg’s theatre community to help emerging artists learn from the pros in topics like playwriting, producing, and artistic direction.

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Emerging Directors having Coffee with Ann Hodges

On November 25th, we’ll be hosting a panel on Mental Health in Theatre: asking professionals in both the artistic and mental health community how to balance self-care with a career in the arts. Local representatives will also speak to creating a safe environment from the rehearsal hall to the stage, making sure everyone feels comfortable as a cast and creative team. Also answering the question on self-care in theatre is our upcoming panel, “Can You Make a Living as an Artist in Winnipeg?” Professionals in the theatre community will speak to how they’ve made a career as an artist – and share some wisdom on how you can, too!

We’ll also be hosting a lecture on “Queering Theatre” with local artists in the LGBT+ community. Through this lecture, participants will learn how they can bring queering practices to their own work and celebrate what queer culture has to offer.

“Let’s talk about Queer, because it doesn’t always mean gay or lesbian. It means sexual, radical, from another culture, non-linear, redefining form as well as content. […] you come into the theatre assured of who you are and what you believe, but you leave the theatre all shook up.”  – Sky Gilbert, Former Artistic Director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Want to be a part of this year’s workshop series? Contact Associate Producer Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca to learn more! You can also join our mailing list for updates on what we’re offering throughout the year.

Meet the Cast of “Home 2.0”!

“This project means a lot to me, especially as a first generation Canadian that grew up watching my parents going through similar struggles after their immigration.”

– performer Joanne Roberts

Over the past two years, we’ve conducted interviews with local community groups to share the stories of newcomer youth. Home 2.0 was created as part of our “New Beginnings” project, focusing on youth experiences of immigration and resettlement.

After a great preview at FemFest 2018, Home 2.0 is ready to hit the road starting October 15th! Meet the incredible cast bringing newcomer stories to life:

Melissa Langdon

Melissa Langdon

Melissa Langdon is thrilled to be back with Sarasvàti Productions. A recent graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Theatre and Film program, she loves singing, dancing, and playing the violin. You might have seen her in past productions as Kay in Time and the Conways, Nearly Wild in Concord Floral, or Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz Guildenstern Are Dead and the Original New Beginnings cast.

 

Reena Jolly

Reena Jolly

Reena Jolly is keeping herself very busy this year when it comes to theatre. Later in the year, Reena will be doing another touring show with MTYP called Torn Through Time. When Reena is not out saving the world one smile at a time, she enjoys things like hanging out with her family, singing in the shower and being a decent human being. Reena feels very blessed to be surrounded by such talented and inspiring performers all year round.

 

 

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Manuel Ortega

Manuel Ortega is proud to collaborate with Sarasvàti Productions. Arriving as refugees with his family in the winter of 1990, this play strikes a certain chord in his heart. Manuel is a graduate of U of M and has worked under the directions of Bill Kerr, Chris Johnson, Gary Jarvis and Kelly Jenken. Fluent in English and Spanish, Manuel enjoys Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, singing, and dancing, in no particular order.

 

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Matthew Paris-Irvine

Matthew Paris-Irvine is thrilled to be making his second appearance with Sarasvàti Productions! Last appearing in the Giving Voice tour, Matt is ecstatic to be touring again with such a powerful story.  A recent graduate of the Honours Acting program at the University of Winnipeg, selected past credits include: Time and The Conways, Concord Floral, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (University of Winnipeg); Tuesdays and Sundays (Beau Theatre Co); and The Laramie Project (Meraki Productions). He would like to thank those who have shared their stories and hopes this show can serve as a catalyst for even more voices to be emboldened.

 

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Joanne Roberts

Joanne Roberts approaches acting like one does an extreme sport. A veteran of horror films, she most recently starred in a short film titled “Dead Bolt” produced by CBC. As a comédienne Joanne joined Théâtre Cercle Molière for their Manitoba tour of De Bouche à oreille. Not one to shy from away from drama, a notable performance was as Sawda in Wajdi Mouawad’s  Scorched. The Quill Newspaper stated that her performance “hit everyone in the theatre with intense emotion [.]” Joanne is proud of her work, but also of her studio where she coaches new artists. Many students have gone onto professional careers.

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Denisse Samaniego

 

Denisse Samaniego is a Theatre and Education student at University of Winnipeg. As a part of the original cast of New Beginnings, she is excited to work with Sarasvàti Productions once again to bring you the revised version, Home 2.0. As an immigrant herself coming to Winnipeg at the age of 3, she finds the stories very close to her heart and is so honoured to be sharing these stories to all audiences.

 

 

 

Headshot Bennette Villones

Bennette Villones

Bennette Villones is just a girl who wants to inspire people and wants to pursue her dreams in the arts. To make and create art that’ll have an impact on people. A way to make people smile, laugh, feel understood, that they’re not alone and that they have a voice of their own they can share to world.

 

 

 

Home 2.0 has two public previews for audiences that may not be able to experience this show in a school. The first preview is the Graffiti Gallery (109 Higgins Ave) on October 11th at 7PM (admission by donation). The second is on October 20th 2018 at the Millennium Library at 7PM as part of the library’s teen program and requires registration on the library’s website. . For more information on the tour and previews, please contact Angelina at touring@sarasvati.ca or call the office at (204) 586-2236.

 

That’s a Wrap on FemFest 2018!

Another FemFest has come and gone! This past weekend, we wrapped up our 16th festival featuring life-changing theatre for everyone. FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance saw touring shows from across Canada and the world, including a bilingual production coming all the way in from Morocco! Here are some of the highlights from this year’s festival.

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We kicked the festival off with a bang, starting with a reading of last year’s Bake-Off winner “OUR HOME and native land” by Jo MacDonald and a preview of our latest school tour, Home 2.0! Opening Night saw an eclectic cabaret featuring an incredible range of artists including comedy, spoken word, dance, music, and visual art. The night included Elissa Kixen and Dione C. Haynes of WOKE Comedy Hour tickling our funny bones, Maribeth Tabanera and Tracy Tomchuk unleashing a powerful hip-hop dance performance, and The Patriarchy opened the show with their hilarious brand of a capella comedy. Thank you to the night’s host and coordinator, Alexa Potashnik for all her hard work! We also had a great opening reception with sponsorship from Garbanzo’s Pizza Pub UofW Anx and The Winehouse.

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This year we partnered with local Indian dance company Manohar Performing Arts for our in-house production of The Game! This show featured a beautiful blend of traditional Indian dance with scripted theatre, playing to packed houses and a sold-out final show.

Alissa Watson Bake Off

Alissa Watson and Cairn Moore

Annual FemFest staple The Bake-Off gave five fearless playwrights just eight hours – and three secret ingredients – to create an all-new scene! Alissa Watson took home the Janet Taylor Bake-Off Playwriting Award for her scene, The Switch, which featured a drone, children’s laughter, and the Nellie McClung quote “democracy for women”. You can catch what happens next when The Switch gets its own reading at FemFest 2019!

 

“Thanks so much for all the love Sarasvàti Productions – I am so honoured to receive this award. A Big Shout Out to all the fantastic playwrights this year. So many great starts to future plays! Now we all have to figure out that happens next!” – Alissa Watson via Facebook, Bake-Off Winner

Our touring shows featured an incredible range of stories, including life at Burning Man in Norah Paton’s Burnt, growing up in a white man’s high school in Darla Contois’ White Man’s Indian, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard speaking truth to power in Sound of the Beast. We also partnered with Théâtre Cercle Molière to bring in La civilisation, ma mère!…, from Morocco, featuring performances in both French and Arabic!

Shorts

SHORTS cast: Hera Nalam, Ivan Henwood, and Gisele Charr

Audiences who stuck around between shows also got to take in our SHORTS series directed by Megan Andres! The series featured short works from playwrights Colleen Wagner, Tyler White, Vicki Zhang, Jen McDonald, Alexandria Haber, and Sara Arenson, offering a great sample platter of Canadian theatre.

 

Winnipeg audiences braved the chilly weather to take in our all-new Walking Art Tour, featuring artists across disciplines performing in some of downtown Winnipeg’s hidden gems. The tour saw Emilie Lemay live-painting outside Wesley Hall, Tiana Northage’s powerful spoken word at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Alexandra Elliott and Hilary Anne Crist transforming Hudson’s Bay into a stark doctor’s office, Dawn Lavand performing her unique mix of stand-up and drumming inside Portage Place, and singer-songwriter waNda wilsoN serenading us from Saigon Park. Huge thank-you to Downtown Winnipeg Biz and the Host It program for their support, and to Heather Witherden for hosting!

“It was great! Some sights in Winnipeg that I’d never seen, plus some extremely talented artists. Win-win.” – Audience Member, Walking Art Tour

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We closed out the festival with our One Night Stand series, giving playwrights the opportunity to present their work and gain valuable audience feedback. We invited both local and touring playwrights to participate, including Leigh-Anne Kehler, Frances Koncan, Jo MacDonald, Cairn Moore, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard!

Huge thank-you as always to our incredible staff, amazing performers, hard-working crew, and the team of volunteers that made this year’s festival possible. Want to be a part of FemFest 2019? We’re already looking for submissions! See you next year for FemFest 2019: All the World’s a Stage, running September 14-21!