The Road to Reconciliation

“What are you going to do about the way this country treats Indigenous People,” asked Senator Murray Sinclair at the Winnipeg Foundation’s recent Vital Conversation. It is not an easy question. The word reconciliation is being used a lot lately, but not always with a full understanding of what it means let alone what it will require. Sarasvàti Productions is grappling with the role of theatre and the arts in this important process. Thanks to funding from the Winnipeg Foundation, we’re gearing up for the first phase of a long-term project. With the hard work of our Project Coordinator Nova Courchene, Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator Marsha Knight, Visual Artist Jaime Black, Graphic Designer Justin Bear, and the guidance of our Indigenous Advisory Committee, we are putting together an exciting public launch of the project from May 4 to 9.

 

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[Poster] Sarasvati - 7 CirclesThroughout April we will be working on Seven Circles, visioning sessions with youth. Seven organizations will host a space for youth to brainstorm and decide the parameters for a series of arts-based workshops. We are grateful to Children of the Earth High School, Indigenous Leadership Development Institute, The Knowles Centre, Manitoba Youth Centre, Marymound School, Ndinawe, and Wahbung Abinoonjiiag for their partnership.

At the May launch, Jaime Black will share what was heard in these consultation circles through an art installation. This presentation is part of our full project launch with a chance to share what we have heard as well as gather the community together for wider input. We’ll also be hosting a reading of Jo MacDonald’s OUR HOME & Native Land, winner of the 2017 FemFest Bake-Off. Director Heidi Malazdrewich and Dramaturg Yvette Nolan will be on board to help with the development of the play. This comedic piece about treaty rights will help to frame discussion and encourage public input.

The public presentation will take place on:

  • Saturday, May 4th at 2pm
  • Tuesday, May 7th at 1pm
  • Wednesday, May 8th at 10am
  • and Thursday, May 9th at 7pm

Members of the public are more than welcome to attend! Admission to this event is pay-what-you-can-afford at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W).

However, this is just the starting point for the project.  From June to November, workshops will take place at our partner organizations. Using storytelling, the youth will translate their experiences into different art forms. This first phase of the project will bring together youth, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and artists in several mediums.

Then in May 2020 a full public performance of the resulting work will take place. As a true community collaboration, what this performance will include will come directly from the youth so remains to be seen, created, dreamt and realized.

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Announcing our IWW 2019 Community Tour!

We’re taking the Cabaret on the road! As part of our annual International Women’s Week celebration, we’ll be touring the monologues out to community groups around Manitoba. This is a great way for new audiences to experience live theatre, especially in rural communities. This year, we’re travelling across the province to Steinbach, Gimli, The Pas, and Flin Flon! Check out the list below for all the ways you can catch the pieces in this year’s tour:

Aurora House Poster.jpgAurora House – The Pas

March 3rd at 1:00 PM

Wescana Inn – 439 Fischer (HWY 10)

Featuring: Sunday Morning Brunch, Talking about ED, The LightFishers, I am NOT a Victim, and Oracle Jane

Incorporated in 1982, the agency addresses domestic violence in the Norman region through counseling, support and education.  The Pas Committee for Women in Crisis operates two facilities – Aurora House, the emergency shelter, and My Sister’s House (a small apartment complex for women establishing themselves in a violence free life). Admission to this event is “pay what you can.”

 

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Brooklyn Alice Lee in “Sunday Morning Brunch”

Women’s Resource Centre – Flin Flon

March 3rd at 7:00PM

Johnny’s Social Club (177 Green St)

Featuring: Sunday Morning Brunch, Talking about ED, The LightFishers, I am NOT a Victim, and Oracle Jane

The Flin Flon Women’s Safe Haven and Resource Services Inc. supports the women and children in their community. They work hard to empower women: to help them be more dynamic, confident and to ensure their safety. Admission to this event is free. Photo: Patrick Rabago.

 

University of Manitoba Womyn’s Centre

 March 5th at 5:00PM and March 8th at 11:00AM

Basement of University College, Room 145 (220 Dysart Road)

Featuring: Talking about ED (March 5th) and I am NOT a Victim (March 8th)

The Womyn’s Centre is a feminist collective on campus as well as a safe space to work, share and learn together. The Centre advocates on behalf of womyn of the university and offers a wide range of services to the collective members, university students, and the outside community. Photos: Patrick Rabago.

 

static1.squarespace.comCanadian Museum for Human Rights

March 6th at 6:30PM

85 Israel Asper Way

Featuring: Sunday Morning Brunch, Talking about ED, The LightFishers, I am NOT a Victim, Thelma and Louise, Who’s Driving, Bare Bones, Oracle Jane, and Geraldine Sloan Truhill: Mommy’s Going to the Moon, Kids!

We’re excited to partner with the Museum to bring you all nine IWW pieces! On the first Wednesday of every month, the museum offers free entry to guests. You can check out our full line-up as you browse the incredible exhibits on display.

 

monologue poster2Interlake Women’s Resource Centre – Gimli

March 7th at 7:30PM

Gimli Unitarian Church (76 2nd Ave)

Featuring: Sunday Morning Brunch, Talking about ED, The LightFishers, I am NOT a Victim, Thelma and Louise, Who’s Driving, Bare Bones, Oracle Jane, and Geraldine Sloan Truhill: Mommy’s Going to the Moon, Kids!

IWRC is a grassroots, community-based resource centre dedicated towards improving the quality of life for women, children, families, and the communities in which they reside. The Centre provides services and programs for women and their children living in or having left domestic violence situations, in order to help women make informed choices for themselves and their children.

The IWRC requests that admission to the event is given in the form of a basic hygiene product – particularly tampons, face wash, or conditioner.

 

Agape House IWD PosterAgape House – Steinbach

March 8th at 7:00PM

Steinbach Arts Council (304 Second St)

Featuring: Talking about ED, Bare Bones, and Geraldine Sloan Truhill: Mommy’s Going to the Moon, Kids!

As one of 10 women’s shelters in Manitoba, Agape House serves an area that extends North to Beausejour, South to the U.S. Border, West to Winnipeg and East to the Ontario border.

Agape House (Eastman Crisis Centre) began operating in December 1985, out of a three-bedroom bungalow, after concerned citizens recognized the need to help families in the Eastman region. In time, the women’s shelter moved to a five-bedroom house in Steinbach to facilitate the growing need for services. Today, the shelter has 16 beds, and in an average year sees over 200 clients and responds to over 1,000 crisis calls.

Admission to this event is $10 with proceeds going to support Agape House.

 

We’ll also be performing around Winnipeg for Rainbow Resource Centre, Sunshine House, University of Manitoba Women and Gender Studies, Residence Despins, University of Winnipeg Disability Studies, University of Winnipeg Conflict Resolution Studies, West Broadway Youth Outreach, and the North End Women’s Centre.

For the full lineup, be sure to get your tickets today for our performances on Saturday, March 9th! Tickets available here.

 

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.

 

Bringing Women’s Stories to the Stage

We have an incredible line-up in store for this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues! A teenage girl comes out to her family, a woman fights to go to the moon, a spoken word artist challenges stereotypes… all these pieces and many more will be featured during our 2019 Cabaret!

Get to know the playwrights that will be featured at this year’s event:

 

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Ivy Charles

Sunday Morning Brunch by Ivy Charles

Ivy Charles is a twenty-two-year-old actor from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is currently furthering her acting studies at Studio 58 in Vancouver. She enjoys spaghetti, wine and having a good chuckle with her friends. Ivy is excited to dip her toe into the world of writing.

 

Nan Fewchuk

Nan Fewchuk

Thelma and Louise created and performed by Nan Fewchuk

Nan is no stranger to working with Sarasvàti Productions, having worked on such favorites as Fefu and Her Friends, Fen, Jail Baby and Empty. Nan has also 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.

 

Natalie Frija

Natalie Frijia

Geraldine Sloan Truhill: Mommy’s Going to the Moon, Kids! by Natalie Frijia

Natalie Frijia is a Toronto-based writer, theatre-maker, clown-wrangler, and adventurer. She was also a member of Storefront Theatre’s inaugural playwriting unit. Her plays have been workshopped and presented at Storefront Theatre, Rhubarb Festival, New Ideas Festival, and Fringe festivals across Canada. Recent productions include, Divine, GO/NO, Last Transmission, and Black Wool Jacket.

 

 

Leslea Kroll

Leslea Kroll

The Lightfishers by Leslea Kroll

Leslea’s first play Domesticatrix was nominated for a Sterling Award for Outstanding Fringe Script. Her other plays include Swallow, Auksenberg: Trial by Fury, Stains, The Catalogue of Bones, BonePeddlers, Queen of the AnthroScene, The LightFishers, and WellSpring.

 

 

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Shereen Ramprashad

I Am NOT a Victim created and performed by Shereen Ramprashad

Shereen Ramprashad is a colorful, witty and lively Canadian writer based out of Winnipeg Manitoba. Her writings are a creative blend of intelligent metaphor and philosophy with under currents of subtext and observation.

 

 

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Hailley Rhoda

Talking about ED created and performed by Hailley Rhoda

Hailley Rhoda is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Theatre and Film department. She is an actor, puppeteer, and writer. Hailley has worked with Sarasvàti on several projects, including Ripple Effect, Honey and Jupiter, and The Seduction Theory. She is the founding – and only – member of Chronically Ch(ill) Productions.

 

 

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Makrenna Sterdan

Who’s Driving? by Makrenna Sterdan

Makrenna Rose Sterdan is a writer born and raised in Winnipeg, who has lived in South Korea since 2015. Sterdan has written several short films such as Speaking Test, which premiered at the Korean International Expat Film Festival. Her monologue Doing It for the Fame was featured in Sarasvàti Productions’ 2016 Cabaret of Monologues.

 

Vicki Zhang

Vicki Zhang

Oracle Jane by Vicki Zhang

Vicki Zhang’s 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.

 

 

 

You can catch all of these pieces on March 9th, 2019, at 4PM and 8PM! The 8PM performance will also have ASL interpretation available. Stay tuned as we announce additional performers bringing women’s stories to the stage!

“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

 

Seven Oaks

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.