Non-stop fun, antics, surprises…

We wanted an audience point of view of this year’s All-Star fundraiser, so here is a response from guest blogger Meg Crane.

Sarasvàti Productions presented a hilarious three-in-one performance at the Gas Station Arts Centre on Feb. 17. The fifth annual So You Think You Can Act fundraiser packed together short skits, improv and stand-up comedy for a night of entertainment, good food and tons of prizes.

This year was the All-Star Edition of the event, so winners from past four years were brought back to compete against one another.

Before a crowded theatre, Big Daddy Taz, Jenna Khan, Tracy Koga, Kerri Salki, Al Simmons and Troy Westwood tried their hands at acting. These local celebs, none of whom have a theatre background, were partnered with local actors Grant Burr, Kevin Ramberran, Johanna Burdon, Ian Bastin, Cheryl Gensiorek and Lyle Morris. We were promised by the evening’s emcee Lara Rae that the skits would have minimal props and costumes, and that the actors would be reading from the script.

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Anticipating hilarious stumbles over lines and bad acting, the audience was in for a surprise. The celebrities must have really wanted the trophy—which Lara Rae described as looking like something from a children’s beauty pageant—because they showed up costumed, with their lines mostly memorized and ready to give it their all.

This didn’t matter too much to judge Andrea del Campo. She was more interested in the costumes, collecting bits from each scene as she gave scores of 8 (or infinity?), 200 and D. Fellow judges Pablo Felices-Luna and Ari Weinberg dished out some solid advice, such as that it’s ideal for male actors to whip off their jackets during a performance to entice onlookers. Lara Rae had to agree.

But their opinions ultimately didn’t matter in deciding the winner. The audience cast their ballots and awarded the trophy to Al Simmons, whose skit was about an actor who was getting too old to be cast in roles.

Everyone left with more than memories of the non-stop jokes of the evening. Baskets filled with thousands of dollars’ worth of prizes were raffled off at the end of the night and several guests left with more than $400 worth of swag.

As if Sarasvàti didn’t give the audience enough, the lobby was packed with food from Charisma Of India and Jonnies Sticky Buns when the show was over. Each guest was even provided with a free glass of wine.

If you missed it, you missed out. The All-Star Edition of So You Think You Can Act won’t happen again, at least for a few years, because new celebs need to be given the chance to shine on stage.

Why So You Think You Can Act?

We’re so excited, So You Think You Can Act All-Star Edition is only 6 days away, but why should you come? In this blog, we’ve got the answer, or rather the answers, for those of you still on the fence!

 

  1. It’s a fun fundraiser! What’s better than a fundraiser for a non-profit theatre company? A fun fundraiser! We are dedicated to creating transformative theatre, and our next production is a community-based project on mental health. After an interview for the project, one person battling mental illness said “thanks for letting us get our stories out.” Monies raised will support this important initiative! Plus you will have a fun time drinking wine, eating great food and watching your favourite local celebrities try their hand at acting.
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    Big Daddy Tazz at his rehearsal with local actor Kevin Ramberran!

    Six All-Star Local Celebrities! To celebrate the fifth year of the fundraiser we’ve brought back past winners and favourite competitors to vie for the coveted trophy. We’ve got Big Daddy Tazz, Jenna Khan, Kerri Salki, Al Simmons, and Troy Westwood all coming back to reclaim their title, or redeem themselves by winning it this year. These celebrities are famous for things other than theatre, their only crack at acting was during their last SYTYCA competition, come see if they’ve been practicing!

  3. Awesome Raffle Prizes! As is tradition we’ve collected a wide variety of amazing raffle prizes for you to try your luck with. We’ve got tickets to Rainbow Stage, Theatre Projects Manitoba, Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, Manitoba Opera, Winnipeg Folk Fest, and more. We’ve got gift certificates for acting classes, shopping, car washes, and more. We’ve got a signed Blue Bombers football, a framed, signed Winnipeg Jets photo, and we’ve got even more than that! Come see for yourself before the show and at intermission.
  4. Critical Theatre Professional Judges! All three of our judges are theatre professionals who have vowed not to go easy on our celebrities. Ari Weinberg, Artistic Director of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, and Andrea del Campo, improv and actor extraordinaire, have promised to be especially tough. Pablo Felices-Luna, Artistic Director of Manitoba Theatre for Young People, on the other hand is our wild card, will he turn out to be the nicest judge of the bunch or the harshest? Find out on February 17th!
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    Our emcee, Lara Rae!

    A Hilarious Emcee! Our emcee, aka our referee, will keep everything under control with her quick wit and comedy skills. Lara Rae is the Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Club after all, so she knows what she’s doing. She will be joined by six fellow local actors who will be acting with our celebrities, filling our stage with a lot of laughs and talent.

  6. Great Wine Reception! After the winner has been crowned, it’s off to the lobby for great food and wine! Included with the ticket price is a glass of wine and food from Charisma of India, Jonnie’s Sticky Buns, and Grrrumpy’s Pizza & Café. Plus our celebrities will be out there too either celebrating their win or dealing with their loss – but with an evening this fun no one can really lose!

What better way is there to spend a night? Don’t miss out, and get your tickets now for So You Think You Can Act on Wednesday February 17th at the Gas Station Theatre! Tickets for the fundraiser are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Phone 204-586-2236, or click here to get your tickets now!

 

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“I hope I make it to the top 7”

We’ve been so caught up preparing to compete that we’d almost forgotten what great acting is really about; vulnerability.

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Amid trash-talk and competitive call-outs Big Daddy Tazz swoops in to steal our hearts with some genuine human insecurity.

We asked Tazz to share his strategy, and our hearts grew three sizes as he complimented the strengths of each and every celebrity he’ll be competing against instead of trying to scare them away.

“Maybe I don’t have a Juno like Al Simmons. Maybe I’m not all muscley and athletic like Troy Westwood. Sure, I can’t dance like Tracy Koga. Nor do I have the voice for apps that Kerri’s got. There’s no way that I have the same amount of energy for the radio that Jenna Khan’s got. But I have one thing all these other people don’t have – insecurity.”

And we ask, who, in their right mind doesn’t love a gracious underdog?

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Continuing on with this week’s trash-talk-free theme; rumor has it that former Blue Bomber Troy Westwood has been undergoing a mindful acting intensive in order to prepare for the competition. Although we were unable to reach him directly, we were able to reach his theatre instructor who gave us this statement:

“Troy is unable to answer questions right now as he is immersed in becoming the colour blue. Is he going to win the competition? That’s like asking if Leonardo DiCaprio is going to win an Oscar. I mean, I don’t know why not.”

We’re at a loss for words when it comes to speculating who is most likely to take home the title, but we can’t wait to find out.

For those who were there in 2014, you know that Troy Westwood and Big Daddy Tazz tied for the trophy. Now is your chance to see them compete for the ultimate win–or support one another selflessly– February 17th at So You Think You Can Act.

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Local Talent Wild Card

We’ve heard from four of six celebrity competitors as they prepare to kick butt and takes names in this year’s Rage on the Stage. They’re talented, they’re motivated, and they’re hungry for the win, BUT they aren’t the only factors in this competition…

It’s time we introduce the Local Talent Wild Cards! Each one of these wonderful, talented, Winnipeg-based actors will be teamed up with a non-actor celebrity in order to help them compete for the ultimate So You Think You Can Act title.

Thought you knew who was set to take this year’s trophy? You might want to think again.

“In it to Win It” Jenna Khan is the only competitor who mentioned working with her scene partner as part of her game-plan. This is likely music to the ears of local talent wild card Lyle Morris (The Dance-Off of Conscious Uncoupling and Launched, Sarasvàti Productions’ FemFest). But if Jenna Khan “channels her inner diva” as promised, this team’s co-operational advantage will quickly become a distant memory. We’ll have to wait and see what happens when Jenna and Lyle bring Michel Tremblay’s Johnny Mangano and His Astonishing Dogs to the stage.

Tracy Koga, a self-described “warrior” is not one to shy away from competition. Is her scene-partner-in-crime Grant Burr (For, Union Station Theatre; The Naked Woman, Sarasvàti Productions) prepared for the “blood, sweat, and tears” Tracy expects him to shed along their path to victory? This team will bring David Freeman’s Jitters to the stage and leave their own jitters at home.

Kerri “Angry Skills” Salki partners up with the mesmerizing Johanna “Beast of” Burdon (Mars One, Winnipeg Fringe 2015; Heartbreak, A Bizarro Cabaret) to bring us Sky Gilbert’s Lola Starr Builds Her Dream Home. These fierce challengers share an affinity for competition. What happens when you mix one lethal compound with another? Explosions, baby.

“Shakespeare like a butterfly–Chekhov like a bee” Al Simmons has been calling out the pretenders left, right, and centre! Will coach Simmons be able to take Ian Bastin (Lion in the Streets, Black Hole Theatre; The Club, FemFest 2015) from actor/pretender to ruthless contender in order to bring this title home? We’ll watch as they perform the fittingly titled Opening Night by Norm Foster.

The pressure’s on for Big Daddy Tazz as he prepares to face-off with Troy Westwood yet again. His right-hand man Kevin Ramberran (Tape, Rope, The 28th Minute; The Pinkertons, Buffalo Gal) better be prepared to go to any length in order to bring this title home. This dynamic duo cuts their chops on Zastrozzi by George F. Walker. And this time, it’s personal.

With stakes just as high, Tazz’s rival Troy Westwood joins forces with Cheryl Gensiorek (Launched, FemFest 2014; Empty, Sarasvàti Productions) to take a crack at the All-Star Edition victory.  They’ll be performing Self-Help by Norm Foster, and they’ll be seeking it if they fall short.

Lookout for these Local Talent Wild Cards spicin’ up the competition!

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Not only does a ticket to So You Think You Can Act 2016 grant you the entertainment of seeing six celebrity non-actors compete for the championship title, it also grants you the chance to admire some serious Winnipeg acting talent. That’s double the entertainment! All for one good cause.

 

 

Al Simmons vs. Kerri Salki

So You Think You Can Act 2016 is gearing up to be the most ferocious acting competition in Winnipeg history! To celebrate five years we’ve invited past winners and crowd favourites to compete for the ULTIMATE TITLE!

Last week, celebrity competitors Tracy Koga and Jenna Khan did their best to intimidate remaining competitors with big talk and video messages!

Not to be scared-off so quickly, competitors Kerri Salki and Al Simmons weighed in this week to offer their two cents on the epic competition ahead.

Kerri Salki

Kerri Salki, radio producer and host on UMFM, fueled the fire when we asked her about her acting skills,  “Skills? Mine are MAD. Actually they’re angry and they’re out to win!

Self-described as a “fierce competitor on and off the stage” her experience with voice over acting may give her an upper hand in some aspects of the competition, but every stage actor knows that it takes absolutely everything: voice, mind, body, and spirit to act–especially if you’re going to impress our distinguished panel of judges.

“I’m bringing my A PLUS PLUS game, or about 119% if you’re more into numbers”, says Salki.  Salki has been preparing for this year’s competition, and she warned other competitors “watch out, because my acting chops have been sharpened since the last round! Yours would too if you watched Coronation Street every darn day.”

Al Simmons

Salki appears to be stacked for victory…but what if we were to pit her against the “Thomas Edison of entertainers” physical and musical comedy genius Al Simmons?! We asked the man himself. “No one, not even Kerri, stands a chance against me… Al ‘Brando’, ‘Olivier’ Simmons. Shakespeare like a butterfly — Chekhov like a bee.”

Still not convinced? Al sent over a little video that might just make you change your mind…

Come see these celebrities compete in what will be the most entertaining act-off of the century So You Think You Can Act 2016 and support local theatre! Advance tickets are just $25 and include a wine reception!!

Listen Here, You Celebrities!

As our six returning celebrity champions prepare to compete for the ultimate title in So You Think You Can Act 2016, our judges weigh-in on the incredible challenge that awaits them.

Ari Weinberg.JPGWhile barely suppressing his excitement for this highly anticipated battle, judge Ari Weinberg, Artistic Director of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre laid out his expectations: “I am expecting a full on West Side Story- type rumble of acting talent; I know the competition is going to be that fierce!”

Prepare yourselves for a judge who self-describes as “one part Judge Judy, one part Blake Shelton with a dash of Stanislavsky.” Weinberg is already throwing out challenges to competitors, “I’d like to challenge all the competitors to work on their voices- first and foremost you must be heard.” Celebrities would be wise to heed that call and come prepared to project Ari Weinberg right out of the water if they hope to impress him. I asked Ari if he had any advice for the celebrity competitors, to which he replied, “BRING IT ON!!!!” A message that has now set the tone for the entire competition.

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When I caught up with judge Andrea del Campo, actor and founding member of Outside Joke I was immediately taken aback by her intimidating disposition and stern stance on the subject of being a judge. She offered but one succinct sentiment which she stated ruthlessly enough to make any competitors blood run cold: “I expect blinding success or devastating failure from the competitors. Anything between is trivial.”As she effortlessly mounted her all-white thoroughbed I implored her to offer competitors some words of advice. She said nothing as she rode off into the distance. I deduce that competitors will face the challenge of a lifetime if they aim to impress her.

Pablo photo.jpgLastly, I spoke with Artistic director of MTYPjudge Pablo Felices-Luna who cautioned competitors about his style of judgement, “think of me as your good cop trying to be the bad cop. It works out to a mildly irritated cop.”Is Pablo a window of hope for our competitors, or is he their worst nightmare? There’s only one way to find out.

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And finally, our ref and emcee for the evening, Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival Lara Rae describes herself as “fair, but firm.” But as they say in sports games, ‘She who undervalues the referee undervalues the win.’ Lara explains that she is new to gender transition and therefore possesses “the combined wisdom of menopause with the fierce insanity of late puberty.”

She will personally “challenge every performer to take huge risks and be true to themselves regardless of how others might react.”

Stakes are high. Our competitors have their work cut out for them. You can catch the live action rumble of So You Think You Can Act on February 17 7:00 pm at the Gas Station Arts Centre. Tickets for the fundraiser are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Phone 204-586-2236, or visit our website to get your tickets now.

 

 

 

Be It Resolved!

Happy New Year!! Still can’t decide on your New Year’s resolution? Well we have something to help you pull out of the post-holiday winter blues. It’s great for self-care, you could take home amazing prizes and be treated like a VIP. Here are the top 5 reasons to resolve to attend the All-Star So You Think You Can Act on February 17th:

1. Last time Al Simmons did the event he invented the table lunge, nearly knocking water glasses and judges to the floor. Who knows what he will do this year?

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2. Big Daddy Tazz and Troy Westwood tied when they competed two years ago. They are in it to prove once and for all who deserves the trophy.

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3. Self-help gurus, divas and has-beens, a messiah-figure, a dog show and a super star trying to iron a shirt for the first time in her life…we have an amazing selection of scenes from Canada’s top playwrights!

4. You could win two prime subscriptions to Rainbow Stage’s 2016 season! We have a stellar array of prizes streaming in to go with our all-star theme – jewelry, tickets, acting classes…

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5. Don’t you want to laugh until your stomach hurts? With emcee Lara Rae; comedic scenes; judges Andrea del Campo, Pablo Felices-Luna and Ari Weinberg – we promise hilarity!

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If that doesn’t convince you then check out the promo video and stay tuned as we feature video challenges from our stars starting next week! Expect trash talk, training secrets and the announcement of the scenes. Get tickets now so you don’t miss out!

 

 

It’s the Rage on the Stage!

The fifth annual So You Think You Can Act fundraiser is Wednesday February 17th and it’s bound to be the Fight of the Century. We’ve rallied all of your favourite past celebrity competitors to duke it out for your viewing pleasure. Six! Count ‘em, Six! Local celebrities who are famous for anything but acting will be paired with actors to perform scenes. They’ll cut their chops on theatrical challenges in front of a panel of judges and you! Who will take home the title? There’s only one way to find out.

The wonderful and hilarious Founding Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, Lara Rae will be emceeing all night, doing her very best to keep competitors on track and in line. But she’ll have her work cut out for her because this year’s theme is all about big breaks, fast fame, and huge divas.

Enough chit-chat! Announcing this year’s celebrities; six fierce competitors in too many corners to count we have….

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  • Al Simmons: Juno Award Winning musical comedy wizard. ‘Al has been called the Thomas Edison of Entertainers.’ Well, let’s see if he can invent his way out of this one!
  • Troy Westwood: Former professional Canadian football player. Troy played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for 17 years, earning an All-Star selection in 1992. The bigger they are, the harder they fall!
  • Big Daddy Tazz: Often described as ‘one of the most talented comics in the business’ he’s used to rave reviews and standing ovations. But can he stay in character?!
  • Jenna Khan: Co-Host of ‘Energy Morning’s with Frankie Hollywood’ on Energy 106 FM. Jenna knows how to win over Winnipeggers, but our panel of judges? That’s a whole other story!
  • Tracy Koga: Senior Producer and Host of Shaw Television’s “Backstage”. A former dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Tracy has danced all around the world. She can float like a butterfly, can she sting like a bee?
  • Kerri Salki: Produces and Hosts a radio show on 101.5 UMFM. She’s a voiceover actor who’s recorded everything from animated series to apps for smartphones. She could be stacked to slay in this competition, but audiences love an underdog.

    There all night to make sure these celebrities put their big piles of money where their mouths are is our cutthroat panel of judges, featuring… Pablo Felices-Luna, Artistic Director of MTYP; Ari Weinberg, Artistic Director of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre; and Andrea Del Campo, actor, singer, producer and founding member of Outside Joke.

    To ring in our 5th year we are offering a VIP package—buy a 5-pack of tickets and reap in some celebrity treatment for yourself. Our High Five All Star Experience entitles your group to wine upon your arrival, reserved seating, and a group photo with the celebrity competitor of your choice!

    You won’t want to miss this battle royale! Get your tickets to SYTYCA 2016 HERE! Stay tuned, we’ll be featuring each celebrity competitor in the weeks to come. Let the trash-talk begin.

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Ace Burpee Takes Home the Trophy!

What an amazing evening packed full of entertainment! The first annual So You Think You Can Act was a huge success. All the celebrities brought their A-game to the event and surpassed expectations with solid performances of the nine scenes in the evening. In addition, emcee Big Daddy Tazz kept the audience entertained every moment and played off the panel of judges. Lee White, Kayla Gordon and Bob Metcalfe were impressive in terms of their ability to come up with insightful, hilarious and bizarre commentary that had the audience booing, cheering, laughing and thoroughly engaged.

Although for some celebrities the event was their first foray on stage, they all took risks and really enjoyed themselves. They all deserve an award for having the guts to take on this challenge and for being such great sports no matter what the judges threw at them. Ultimately the audience did cast their ballots and select the first ever So You Think You Can Act winner. Although Al Simmons was the favourite to win in the advance polls, it was Ace Burpee who walked away with the trophy. His scene with mother, Jane, was certainly a big hit. Perhaps it was just his bad wig, bizarre character physicality and ridiculous southern accent but the performance won over the audience. This will likely be the only time the Hot 103 morning host wins an Oscar (the trophy had an Oscar figure perched on top).

Jane Burpee and Ace Burpee accepting the trophy. Photo by Janet Shum.

John Lu, who had flown in from Montreal that very day, and Sylvia Kuzyk, who was a convincing vixen, were the runners-up. John wowed the audience with his natural stage ability and great parody of bad Asian films opposite scene partner Alissa Watson. Sylvia had the grace and airs down pat for a famous actress, a lovely contrast to Toni Reimer’s mousy character who has come pleading for her husband back.

Every celebrity was memorable though. Al Simmons was first on stage and not only did he make an entrance but he also threw himself at the judges afterwards, to the shock of his scene partner Nan Fewchuk. Tracy Koga was charming and a joy to watch as she sped through a relationship with actor Tyhr Trubiak. Laurie Mustard was so natural on stage, everyone had to wonder if he’d missed his calling, plus he played beautifully off scene partner Lois Brothers. Howard Mandshein had a chance to rock out and was the perfect straight man to partner Danielle Savage’s neurotic character in How It Works. In yellow rain coat, boots and covered in mud Judy Wasylycia-Leis made quite the entrance for her scene with Kevin Anderson. Of course the judges were able to play off of the notion of a former politician playing a character involved in a cover-up! Randall King brought his brother’s words to life in David King’s Life Skills and managed to remain focused even when opposite him Cheryl Gensiorek was eating fettuccini with her bare hands.

If all of that wasn’t enough the audience also partook of the raffle featuring amazing prizes, enjoyed violinist John Racaru in the lobby before the event as well as wine and cheese post event.

In fact the audience was amazing and helped to make it a perfect night out!

The response overall has been overwhelming. It will be difficult to top it next year, but we will certainly try!

Who Will Win the Raffle Prizes at So You Think You Can Act? It Could Be You!

Learn about the So You Think You Can Act Raffle from Sarasvàti Productions’ Administrator Robyn Pooley!

A big part of So You Think You Can Act on February 16th, aside from watching our celebrities rock the stage, is the raffle!

The prizes we have are amazing – the generosity of theatres, companies, and individuals has been astounding! The outpouring of support from the places approached for So You Think You Can Act donations will go a long way to help fund Sarasvàti Productions’ upcoming projects! With March’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues, the world premiere of EDEN coming up fast, FemFest’s 10th anniversary in the fall and plans for another school tour tackling the issue of gang recruitment, there is certainly a lot of important work that the event will be supporting.

All of the prizes really are amazing, but there are a couple that I think everyone is going to want! One of the big prizes is a voucher for a Fall 2012 Acting Class at Prairie Theatre Exchange valued at $400! If any aspiring actors are out there, this is the prize they’ll want to win!

All of the arts organizations in the city were incredibly generous, and it just goes to show how tight the community really is. We all support each other, and want to see one another thrive! The prizes up for grabs from the arts community include:

  • Two tickets to Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s Next To Normal
  • Two tickets to Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Giselle
  • Two tickets to Manitoba Opera’s The Daughter of the Regiment
  • Two tickets to Prarie Theatre Exchange’s Till It Hurts
  • Two tickets to the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s Parker Plays Brahms
  • Four tickets to Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers’ 97 Positions of the Heart
  • Two tickets to Winnipeg Studio Theatre’s My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding
  • Two tickets to Manitoba Theatre for Young People’s MacHomer
  • And much much more!

There is also some lovely schwag, that we’ve been looking at longingly in the office. Many of these donations are likely to ignite ticket buying. For the ladies, we’ve got a giant gift basket from Love Nest valued at $200 that will be the perfect post Valentine’s Day pick me up. We have a beautiful Italian ring with a tiny diamond from Vandenberg’s Fine Jewlery, we have chocolates from the best place in the city, Chocolatier Constance Popp Shop,  a beautiful package from Sonya’s Flowers that includes a purse, and MUCH more!

For the men, we’ve got an Italian sterling silver and wood bracelet from Vandenberg’s Fine Jewelry, comic books from Cover to Cover, tickets to Rumours Comedy Club, and a GORGEOUS Sun Ice TSN winter coat donated by John Lu! There’s so much more that has been so graciously donated to us for So You Think You Can Act, but you’ll have to come to the event to see it!

To view the full list of So You Think You Can Act Raffle Prizes, click here!

Tickets for the Raffle will be priced at 1 for $2, 3 for $5, and 15 for $20!  You can buy them in the lobby before the event, and at intermission. At the end of the night, we draw for the winners!

All these donations are going to make up twelve fantastic packages -the winners will be beyond happy!

So, will you be one of the lucky winners at So You Think You Can Act? We hope so! We hope to see you on February 16th at 8pm, Gas Station Arts Centre! Tickets are limited so purchase yours in advance on our website or call us at 586-2236.

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Image of Winner by Salvatore Vuono/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net Salvatore’s portfolio can be found here