Setting up the new office with Frances!

Greetings readers,

Welcome to my blog post. The “my” in question is me and the “me” in question is Frances Koncan, incoming artistic director of Sarasvàti Productions.

As the company says goodbye to two decades of dynamic leadership by founder and outgoing artistic director Hope McIntyre, we’re also saying What’s Good? too many new and exciting things, including a brand new office space located in the heart of the Exchange District.

But what does it take to put a new office together? What does the process entail? Great question. Stay curious. I can’t answer that, because Wren and an enthusiastic group of volunteers who were not in any way coerced to help did all the heavy lifting.

But decorating? That, so far, has been me. I love pretty things and I love making things look pretty. I think this stems from my lived experience of being not pretty but able to trick people with makeup.

Our new office space is in no way complete, as we have many more serious things to attend to, like school tours, and balancing budgets, and worrying about the upcoming presidential election even though it doesn’t directly impact us. But we wanted to give you a little taste of where we’re at so far, aesthetically speaking.

Welcome to 415-70 Arthur Street.

As you enter the heritage building, you will be struck and awed by the main foyer, which features a ceiling lamp of undetermined origin. Your journey will take you straight ahead towards a digital listing of the building occupants. To your left, will be the stairwell and the elevator. Choose your path forward and come on up to Unit 415. Don’t forget your mask!

Our new office space is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., during which time you will find any one or all of us present to assist you. Often you will also find the office therapy dog, Tucker, napping on the floor. He is a very good boy and enjoys pets and snacks.

a photograph of a black large dog wearing a purple harness that reads "emotional support". In the background is a green apple coloured wall with an arm charm and a lighting tree.

Right before moving into the office, I spent a weekend refreshing the paint with a colour scheme that incorporated our collective favourite colour, purple and pulled together the remaining green and blue walls with a pop of coral. I was later informed that the green and coral colour scheme was also the colour scheme of the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, so I somewhat regret making that paint choice. But it’s too late to change because I am too lazy to change it, so here we are!

Green apple painted wall with a white counter in front that has a microwave and coffee mugs. In front of the counter is a small patio chair and table set with a bottle of sanitizer and two mugs on top.

In the main room, you’ll find a tiny fridge, multiple coffee mugs, and – hopefully, someday in the near future – an espresso machine. Our printer also lives here, as does a collection of valuable artwork by Carl Beam, that was donated to us many years ago. Should we auction it off or frame it and put it up in the office? Vote in the comments!

Entering the room on your right, you’ll find Wren and angelica. As you can see, I am the decorative brains behind this all.

a view from the floyer on looking two rooms with their doors open. The room on the left is painted green and has a desk inside. The room on the right is painted coral and in front of the door is the black large dog.

Now, enter the room on your left. What’s that intoxicating scent? It’s the smell of rain falling on freshly cut grass. Let the seafoam and green apple walls wrap you in their summertime vibes. With 5 new plants from Verde Plant Shop (one of them might be dying, but I’m trying my best, I swear) and an overarching accent colour of rose gold, I’m so happy to be able to carve out a comfortable space to learn and create in.

Frances Koncan sitting at their computer desk typing.

I know many people look down upon the things I talked about in this blog as frivolous or unnecessary, but holding space for each other and ourselves is important, and making sure that space feels good is important, too.

Frances Koncan sitting and reading while petting her dog.

So, I encourage all of you to refresh your own space! Get a new plant; touch up some paint; steal my dog; transition into a new role guiding a theatre company during a global pandemic. It’ll all work out, I promise.

Frances

Exploring Responses to Reconciliation

We’re excited to share what’s come out of Seven Visions: Reconciliation through Theatre project launch! We’ve had incredible audiences over the last few days respond to the notion of reconciliation. There’s one more chance to be part of the conversation tonight at 7pm!

We’ve had a great experience so far working with the amazing artists who are part of this project – here are just some of the reasons they’re excited to be involved as we look ahead to the next phase of the project!

I’m very excited about this project because I feel like the perspective that comes forward in the play is very important – very comedic, very funny, very relatable – to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. I’m really excited to see how that affects the audience.” – Darla Contois, Performer, OUR HOME & native land and Indigenous Advisory Committee member

 

 

As an artist engaged with this project, I’m hoping to work with some youth on creating art works that really bring forward their voices and their thoughts on reconciliation and what that means to them. The interactive art work we’re creating at the theatre allows for the public to come out and have their voices heard around reconciliation as well.” – Jaime Black, Visual Artist

I think it’s really important to have reconciliation in theatre because it’s a very important way of communicating different styles. Historically speaking, theatre came from settler colonies – Britain, mainly – and First Nations and Indigenous peoples’ way of communicating and passing down knowledge has been storytelling. What is storytelling but performance and theatre? The coming together and meeting in that spot is really important for reconciliation.” – Nova Courchene, Indigenous Project Coordinator

 

 

It’s been almost three years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report. It put out a challenge to all Canadians. While it was a legal proceeding and even bringing to bear the need for an apology, that doesn’t really bring reconciliation. What we present is an opportunity to have a difficult discussion in a creative and stimulating environment involving youth. There will be hard discussions and there will be hard topics, but it will also be creative and full of hope.” – Myra Tait, Vice President and Indigenous Advisory Committee member

 

 

We’ve had some incredible audience responses so far as community members interact with the art installations, writing down their thoughts and responses to how each of us can do our part for reconciliation. One audience member mentioned that growing up, Indigenous peoples’ history wasn’t taught in her school and it wasn’t until much later in life that she was able to learn more about her own history. Starting this project with a focus on youth allows for an earlier connection to one’s roots. As well, discussions after OUR HOME & native land focused on how each of us can avoid being a “George”: admitting when we don’t know something and recognizing the importance of listening when others have something to teach us.

Discussions from this event will also help us as we move forward in shaping the full production for May 2020. Huge thank you to Patrick Rabago for these incredible photos from the event so far! For more information on the project, check out our website.

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.

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.

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!