Launching IWW18

How do you pull together 10 performers, doing 10 pieces and touring to upwards of 15 locations? With a lot of help. For five years now Rachel Smith has been an integral part of the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. Rachel is part of choosing the theme, making monologue selections and directing pieces to be performed at the theatre and throughout the community. As we begin to choose our selections for IWW2018, we caught up with Rachel to talk about what she’s looking forward to about the project this year.

What does the IWW Cabaret of Monologues mean to you?

I have been fortunate enough to grow as a director throughout my time working on the cabaret. When I first joined the artistic team I had just graduated with my MA so I was eager to get more practical experience under my belt. Working on this event gave me the opportunity to have Hope McIntyre as a mentor and I feel this has strongly contributed to my growth as an artist.

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Rachel Smith

Working on monologues is challenging in many ways. The playwrights have to write an active and engaging performance for only one person. The actors have no other actors on stage to feed off of and sometimes have to react to an imaginary character. As a director we have to help the actors figure out how to bring the monologues to life; ensuring the performance is active and engaging.

Each monologue that I have worked on has presented its own unique challenges artistically and each actor is different to work with. Every time I have worked on the monologues I take something new away from them. The practical experiences I gain are matched by the expansive understanding that the different stories present.

What does this year’s theme ‘Unstoppable’ mean to you?

Each year the theme we choose offers new stories and new perspectives. The perspectives that are represented in the monologues are not often seen on stage elsewhere. The topics challenge the audiences and offer new ways of thinking about the themes we present. Working as a director on these stories ensures that my own biases are constantly being challenged. I hope that it does the same for audiences.

I think that the theme “unstoppable” is important because it can be inspirational. Everyone faces challenges at some point in their lives. For some people just getting out of bed in the morning can be a challenge. Sometimes the circumstances we find ourselves in can seem hopeless. Sometimes we need other people’s stories about how they are able to push through and keep going, in order to feel as though we can do the same.

What have some of the highlights been for you?

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Jane Burpee in Dave Carley’s “Urban Nun”

My favourite monologue that I have worked on has been the, somewhat crude, smoking Nun played by Jane Burpee. It was such a great monologue and I had so much fun working on it.

That being said, every year the monologues and rehearsals are so great that it is hard to narrow down the highlights. For me, working on the Cabaret, in general, is a highlight.

Why celebrate IWW with the Cabaret of Monologues?

The Cabaret of Monologues is a unique event where we are able to confront important societal issues while getting the chance to showcase talent from Canadian Women. We often get a range of work from all over Canada from women writers of various backgrounds. With the added bonus of being able to work with local, often up and coming, artists. It is a chance to have powerful stories portrayed by powerful women on stage.

One of my favourite aspects of the Cabaret of Monologues is that the monologues tour to different community organizations. This provides opportunities to bring the performances to people who may not be able to attend the full public event. Many organizations use the monologues as an opportunity to talk about circumstances that members of their communities may be confronting. It also provides opportunities for the performers to meet members of the community. This gives the event a more personalized atmosphere.

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Johanna Burdon performing at St. John’s Library

Stay tuned for the announcement of this year’s pieces in an upcoming blog! You can catch the 2018 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues March 10 at 4pm and 8pm at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are on sale now.  Those interested in booking monologues to tour to their community can contact Angie at associate@sarasvati.ca .

 

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How It All Comes Together

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This week we welcome our Associate Director’s perspective on our unique approach to International Women’s Week. Rachel Smith is an actor, director, writer and acting coach. She has a MA in Theatre & Performance from the University of Manchester, UK and a BA Honours in Theatre & Film from the University of Winnipeg. Rachel has worked with Sarasvati many times and enjoys her continuing work with the company. 

The Cabaret of Monologues is an event that I look forward to every year. It is such an interesting and diverse array of artistic works that beautifully captures the year’s theme. This year the theme of “Starting Over” was particularly relatable for me, and for many audience members who I encountered. Starting Over can mean different things for different people. The variety of monologues featured in the cabaret was a wonderful representation of the different perspectives on that theme. I found that I could relate to most of the monologues in one way or another.

This was the fourth year that I have been the Associate Director on the cabaret. I was delighted and honoured that I was able to work on them again this year. It is an interesting project to work on because it is not rehearsed like a normal play is. Ten separate pieces are rehearsed once a week until the weekend before the full cabaret when it all comes together. Many of the actors do not even meet until the dress rehearsal. Each monologue is given the same rehearsal guidelines but the individual pieces are so different. It is great to work with the different actors and work with the unique challenges within the individual pieces. When working on them during the months of January and February, they feel almost like separate entities that do not relate to each other. When they all come together at the beginning of March it is amazing to see the full picture: the collage that is revealed.

Each monologue is powerful in its own way. I felt that the monologues developed with the newcomers to Canada were especially powerful. Some of them had heartbreaking stories yet were filled with joy and hope. When the monologues were presented as whole it became all the more powerful. Rachel Awur Moijok Chol was one of the women whose story was told during the performance. Her story was presented as a voice over recording of Rachel speaking while Sydney Macfarlane did a movement piece. At the matinee performance on March 11, Rachel sang an absolutely beautiful song after her story was presented. While she sang, Martha Akuch Maketh joined her on stage dancing with Sydney, while the rest of the cast joined the trio to prepare for the curtain call. The image of all those women dancing together on stage is one I do not think I will ever forget. It was so incredibly powerful to see them all up there, these amazing women portraying such important stories.

– Rachel Smith

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Eager to experience more transformative theatre? Join us for the world premiere of Breaking Through (May 23-28) an awe-inspiring new play about mental health.

All the World’s a Stage this International Women’s Week

Hot off the heels of an incredibly successful community tour, our performers are ready to showcase this year’s line up of monologues this Saturday at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: Starting Over !  We are proud to provide a platform for women’s stories, to promote equity on Canadian stages and to provide access to the arts.

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We started off by taking the pieces that were created through community group story-sharing back to the groups of women who had helped us to create them. After well-received performances at Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba and Welcome Place, we set off to tour the wider community! Here are the great host groups, all amazing organizations worth checking out:

March 2 – Genesis House – Manitou, Manitoba
Genesis House exists so that people of South Central Manitoba will be free from family and intimate partner abuse achieving results that justify the relative worth. They provide a confidential service, which includes a shelter for abused women and their children, residential and non-residential programs and prevention through public education.

March 6 – UWSA Women Trans-Spectrum Centre
The Women-Trans Spectrum Centre is an accessible and inclusive resource centre for women and trans students on the University of Winnipeg campus. The centre is a great space to hang out, study, and build community.

March 7 – North End Women’s CentreNEWC IWW17 (2)
The North End Women’s Centre is a community based organization that provides women with support, knowledge, and opportunity as they move forward on their journey towards independence and healthier lifestyle.

 

March 7 – Nova House – Selkirk, Manitoba
Nova House is a shelter for abused women and children in the Interlake Region of Manitoba. They provide temporary shelter, counseling, support groups, and referral to community resources for women and their children.

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March 8 – North End Family Centre

The North End Family Centre is a community gathering place that provides a comfortable and safe environment for community members to connect and belong.

March 8 – U of M Womyn’s Centre
RRC IWW17 (1)The Womyn’s Centre provides a feminist voice and safe space for womyn on campus. The members strive to create a place where women are listened to and recognized, and facilitate women as they gather the information they need to make informed decisions in their lives.

March 8 – Rainbow Resource Centre
Rainbow Resource Centre provides support, education, and resources to foster a proud, resilient, and diverse LGBT2SQ+ community.

March 9 – Agape House – Steinbach, Manitoba
The mission of Agape House-Eastman Crisis Centre, Inc. is to empower women and children experiencing family violence by providing safe shelter, information, counseling, and ongoing support.

March 9 – Mount Carmel Clinic
Founded on the belief that everyone has the right to accessible health care, Mount Carmel Clinic goes the extra mile to help clients connect with the services they need—in their homes, workplaces and neighbourhood.

March 9 – St. John’s Library
In addition to offering the services of a public library, St. John’s Library offers an array of free programs and workshops for all ages.

March 10 – St. Aidan’s School, Aberdeen Campus
St. Aidan’s School Aberdeen Campus is a Grade 6-10 school, primarily focused on at-risk kids, and presently serving kids from about ten nations – Cree, Tanzania, Metis, Kaska, Canada, Eritrea, Congo, Ojibway, Ethiopia, Burundi.

March 10 – IIWR-MB
IIWR-MB is an organization open to all individuals, as well as organizations that have an interest in promoting women’s human rights.

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March 12 –The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians
The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians is a progressive Organization with strong and durable roots in the people and history of Canada.

March 19- Manitoba Storytelling Guild
The Manitoba Storytelling Guild supports and promotes the art of oral storytelling throughout Manitoba.

A great big thank you goes out to Manitoba Status of Women and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. Without them, this Cabaret would not be possible. Special thanks to Neighborhoods Alive! and NERI for supporting our North End performances.

Join us for a performance of the full line-up, and a lobby full of visual art on the theme of ‘Starting Over’ at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues, March 11, 2017.

 

 

Art Beyond the Stage

The artistic showcase is going beyond the stage at this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues with the help of our amazing Outreach Coordinator, Audrey Unger! A Masters student at the U of M, Audrey has been working with Sarasvàti Productions since September 2016 as part of her practicum in Peace and Conflict Studies.

“The theatre workshops done with several groups of women in November 2016 were a particular highlight”, said Audrey, who helped to organize these story-gathering workshops at a variety of organizations that serve immigrants and refugees. “Much joy and laughter was shared through interaction with theatre games and new friendships were formed by listening to each other’s stories.” Some of the pieces that will be performed on March 11th were developed directly from these workshops.

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Sarasvàti Outreach Coordinator Audrey Unger

Audrey has also been curating an incredible display of visual art in order to highlight this year’s Cabaret theme of “Starting Over”. The collection is made up of pieces in many mediums that have been created by Winnipeg-based artists including photography from the Eritrean Women’s Association and traditional outfits from Uganda and Iraq. Professional Artist Xavier Mutshipayi, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, will be present with his collection of paintings titled “Awakened Consciousness.”  Artist Briand-Nelson Mutima will also be present with a collection of his paintings. The lobby installation represents different moments from these artists’ experience as newcomers at various stages of life in Canada. “This is an opportunity for artists to showcase and discuss their work with the public audience”, said Audrey. “It has been a joy to connect with these new faces in the community.”

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Professional Artist Xavier Mutshipayi with his collection of paintings titled “Awakened Consciousness.”

There will be interactive opportunities as well! Many of the artists will be there to meet the public and chat about their work. Members of the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute, who were part of our story-gathering workshops, will be set up in the lobby to share info about their call for donations of winter clothing, blankets, toiletries, and furniture to meet the needs of newly arrived refugees. There will be opportunity to purchase items from Sew Fair, a local fair trade company that employs newcomer women.

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Last but not least, check out our photo booth, where you and your friends can take a selfie with your own call to action. We’ll have #beboldforchange arm bands and signs as part of CUPE’s International Women’s Day 2017 campaign.

You can take part in our lobby installation at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film before and after the performances on March 11th at 4pm and 8pm. Tickets are just $15 and available on-line or at the door. See you there!

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Tales of Starting Over Tackled by a Stellar Cast

We’ve got a lot of local talent packed into this year’s Cabaret, some familiar faces, and some new to Sarasvati. We’re pleased to introduce to you to some of the cast members of the 2017 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. Stay tuned next week for part two!

Cherrel Holder is an actress, dancer, and teacher in both arenas. She is a passionate multi-tasker who describes herself as “raw, enthusiastic, and annoyingly positive.” Cherrel will perform In My Country, an exposé of how Canada can appear to some as they arrive from other countries.

Many of you will be familiar with actor Erica Wilson who has worked with Sarasvàti many times, most-recently on Shattered.”I’m a girl with many faces”, says Wilson, “once a women said I had 5, I laughed and told her I currently had 7. I’m a workaholic that tries to do better every single year.” Wilson plays an Ojibwe Activist who finds herself faced with a big choice after speaking out at a rally.

Johanna Burdon is an actor and avid cyclist–perfect for her role in this year’s Cabaret where Johanna plays a character who is part-way through cycling across Canada.”I really like riding my bike”, said Burdon. “It’s my go-to form of transportation because it’s fun, healthy, good for the environment, easy, inexpensive, and reliable.”

Melanee Deschambeault is a full-time student in her 3rd year at U of M. She is an actor as well as one of the facilitators of Sarasvati’s  North End Youth Workshop Series. Melanee performs Questions and Answers, a piece that finds a young woman at a challenging moment in her life  as she attempts to re-enter the dating world after surviving rape.

And finally introducing Sarah London. Sarah is in her first year of studies at the University of Winnipeg. She was recently the subject of a mini-doc for The Orange Daisy Project which advocates for young women’s mental health. London will perform Wild Orchid, the monologue of a young woman with Autism who is trying to come to terms with the idea of breaking patterns.

We caught up with these performers to ask them a few fun questions and  get to know them better as they begin buckling down to rehearse!

If you could wake up tomorrow with any new skill, what would it be?
Erica Wilson: Contortionist, hands down. Its always been in the back of my mind but the way I’m going its such an unreachable goal.
Sarah London: A photographic memory to expand my capacity for knowledge.
Johanna Burdon: To be able to speak, write, and understand every language.
Melanee Deshcambeault: I would love to bilingual. French would be awesome!
Cherrel Holder: Sing like Lea Michelle.

Who is a local woman that inspires you?
Cherrel Holder
: My mom, Junette Holder, because she is a single parent from a third world country who fought to bring me and my two sisters to Canada for a better life, and in doing so has taught me the value of love and forgiveness.
Erica Wilson: I have been able to meet and work with so many kick-ass women in my life, just to name a few, Madison Thomas (also the playwright for the monologue I’m performing), Frances Koncan, Victoria Perrie, Emily Barker and Dee Thomas are just doing so well for themselves.
Sarah London:Your mom…just kidding. My mom inspires me, I probably don’t know your mom.

What would you do if you won a million dollars?
Sarah London: I would invest it, learn to play the stock market, take risks. Turn that million into millions.
Johanna Burdon:
Put half of it in a fund of some sort, so that it would grow, and spend the other producing theatre/donating to theatre companies.
Erica Wilson
: I’d pay off my mom’s debt, get her into her own little house fully paid and utilities paid for up to 20 years. Once that’s done pay my rent off for a year and travel. I’m a simple gal.

If you had to start over again in a new place, where would you want to go?
Cherrel Holder: New York – especially if it was Christmas!
Melanee Deschambeault: I would love to go to Montreal and audition for the National Theater School Of Canada.
Johanna Burdon: I can’t imagine getting a better start in any other city.

We are excited to get down to work with such an amazing cast. For more info on the pieces, or to get tickets visit our website!

 

Powerful Performances Provoke Dialogue

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Record-breaking attendance, 10 stories, 11 community performances and over 800 people affected. This year, we set out to do something different with our Cabaret of Monologues. We had chosen a challenging theme, Stolen Sisters, with the goal of inspiring change by creating a platform for women to share perspectives on gender-based violence. In order to include more perspectives we worked with many women who do not traditionally tell their stories in a theatre setting. We welcomed these women’s stories to the Cabaret in diverse forms; dance, spoken word, slam poetry, oral storytelling, and visual art. The result of these collaborative efforts was an incredibly powerful production.

“What a beautiful show. I don’t know how you do it again and again…was so moved by all of the pieces” said Cairn Moore, who was in the audience for Saturday’s matinee. Cairn is a playwright and director who’s play Shiksa is currently premiering at Winnipeg Jewish Theatre.

“The relevance of the topics, the passion of the performers and the emotional impact on the audience are transformational”, said  Ms. Terry Price, Department Head of Professional and French Language Services with the Manitoba Teachers’ Society. Ms. Price hosted performances of three pieces at the Canadian Teacher’s Federation Women’s Symposium.

Sharing the stage with non-traditional theatre performers was an exciting experience! So was performing the pieces throughout the community in non-theatre settings. Intimate, informal, and often ad hoc DIY performance spaces can pose challenges, but our performers rose to these challenges with exuberance! This gave us the chance to make this art accessible and to connect with so many non-theatre goers in our community.

“It was such an honour performing as part of the Sarasvati Transformative ‪Stolen Sisters‬ Cabaret of Monologues this evening at the Thunderbird House on ‪International Women’s Day‬”, said Shaneen Robinson, reporter at Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and performer in Stolen Sisters. “Thanks to all who came to show support in our fight to raise awareness and put a stop to ‪‎MMIW‬ in our country.”

We are especially thankful to have had the chance to perform this productions for staff and clientele of crisis and resource centres in and around Winnipeg.

“As a Manitoba women’s shelter director, I know that our staff hear many stories from women escaping abuse and violence – our work is very challenging. Today’s monologues were outstanding and I found the theme very relevant to the clients we support” said Pam Hadder, Executive Director at Agape House-Eastman Crisis Centre in Steinbach, Manitoba.

“The performers and the content of this year’s monologues were incredible! Each performer did an outstanding job of entertaining us and informing us of current social issues. Very dramatic, very thought provoking, and very important! Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to build awareness in our community”, said Anna Pazdzierski, the Executive Director of Nova House Inc.

Thank you to all of our supporters, volunteers, audience, community hosts, performers, writers, Board of Directors and funders for helping to make our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues – Stolen Sisters a huge success. It was a pleasure to work with so many amazing women.

Standing with our Stolen Sisters

How can you show your solidarity? This year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues is built around the theme of Stolen Sisters, and we do not take that lightly. We want our audiences at our performances on Saturday March 12 to not only hear these stories of gender-based violence, but to also expand their learning of other initiatives in our community. This year we received the help from practicum student Erin Schwartz to set up a variety of art installations and advocacy information for our audiences to interact with in the lobby, keep reading to find out what you’ll see!

 


Handmade felt faceless dolls from Nova House
: You may have seen them on our posters, but you’ll get to see them in person on March 12. These dolls represent the silencing of women, particularly those who are murdered and missing. They have been created by a variety of people, including those out of town sending them in to Nova House. Their target is to have a total of 1,200.

 

‘Mine is but a tear in a river’ photo exhibit by Tracey-Mae Chambers: Erin shared that “these photographs elicit a very visceral response” as they honour the 1,181 murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada. Experience it for yourself in our lobby or at the Edge Gallery and Urban Arts Centre where they are also being displayed. Tracey-Mae will also be doing an artist talk on Friday at this gallery, learn more here!

 

The red ribbon project to remember and honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: We will be demonstrating our support for this campaign that was started by Jennifer Flett, Pauline McGillivary, Janet Head and Rhonda Head from Opaskwayak Cree Nation by hanging red ribbons from the ramp railings that lead into the lobby at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Erin hopes that seeing this will inspire people to hang red ribbons in their communities as an act of remembrance and support.

 

We Care Quilt#WeCare Quilt: This quilt was created in collaboration with the #WeCare Campaign, The Institute for Women’s and Gender Studies, the Manitoba Crafts Museum, and the community. Erin was part of the team to coordinate this initiative last year that brought members of the community together to create “squares for the quilt to show their care for all who are missing and the need for immediate action.” To read more about this initiative and the team involved click here!

 

These projects all raise awareness, but we couldn’t stop there! There are three other components we’ve included to help keep the conversation going and to encourage everyone to take action. There will be a hands on writing response area for audience members to reflect, honour and show their care; Amnesty International Winnipeg will have a display with petitions and Stolen Sisters campaign materials; and there will be No More Stolen Sisters campaign material from the Canadian Federation of Students for people to take with them and place in their communities.

 

If you want to see all of this, ten powerful monologues, and the Buffalo Gals drumming group from the North End Women’s Centre, come down to the Asper Centre of Theatre and Film on Saturday March 12 at 4pm or 8pm. Tickets are available online here, by phone at 204-586-2236, or at the door and are only $10.

 

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