Mmmmarvelous Miss N Me!

Will the bubble wrap pop? Will the mermaid tail fall to pieces? Will the cast get sick of pecan pie? We are more than halfway through our run of Catherine Banks’ Miss N Me and people can’t stop talking about this show. And what they’re saying has affirmed that it’s weird, wonderful and well worth it.

Despite the surrealist elements Miss N Me is about a journey of self-discovery; it has a message for everyone. Another treat for the Manitoban audience for this world premiere is the playwright’s signature style of Atlantic Gothic. “I really believe theatre works best when it is about a very particular place and then it becomes universal,” says Banks.

In an interview with CityTV, actor Melanie Whyte and director Hope McIntyre discussed the poignancy of Banks’ writing, beneath the absurd antics. “Catherine has written a very wise play. It’s poetic and if you dig deeply into the script, you discover a lot of truth that I will use in my life from here on out.” says Whyte, who plays protagonist Dawna.

“There’s this really beautiful use of language, poetry, imagery and metaphor. In this play there’s rap, there’s dance, there’s waltzing, there’s clowns. She [Banks] really brings so many elements into her pieces and in all of her plays, they touch something really deep in all of us.” says McIntyre.

You won’t find theatre like this anywhere else! The uniqueness of of this production is apparent in the musical stylings of local artist Tiffany Ponce, who infuses this message of being true to herself in all of her original songs. The underscoring music was created by Winnipeg youth from Just TV at Broadway Neighbourhood Centre. Listen here.

We spoke with some audience members after seeing the performance and the consensus seems to be that this play is a griping ride.

“Very engaging from start to finish. It kept my attention. The variety of different aspects of Dawna’s journey- comedic, her imagination, the ups and downs of the journey. You laugh, the next moment your heart is touched. It’s so inspirational. I was ushering, and I was so engaged in the play I almost forgot I was supposed to usher! I loved it.” -Cheryl, volunteer

“Menopausal madness! You never know what was going to happen next!” -Cheryl, audience

“Just wonderful. High energy, innovative, and extremely well done. Everybody should see it!” -Maureen, audience

“I was smiling from start to finish. I loved the hidden meanings and imagination.” – Judi, audience

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And finally, our actors who have taken on the formidable task of bringing these characters to life have received some glowing reviews:

It also bravely embraces that weirdness, thanks particularly to fantastic comic performances from Alissa Watson and Colin Connor, taking on a huge range of roles as the curious characters Dawna encounters on her route… it pays off with a story that’s funny, moving, and miles from ordinary. – Joff Schmidt, CBC review

Winnipeg stage veteran Melanie Whyte literally drives the show as Dawna and does an admirable job of presenting an array of emotional states experienced by a woman in crisis. She takes advantage of her everywoman quality to create a sympathetic character worthy of audience attention. Whyte is ably backed by a trio of young actors, headed by Alissa Watson, who exhibits great versatility by portraying a sexy mermaid and a red-nosed clown, as well as a fortune-telling terrorist and overzealous anniversary planner. Colin Connor has a similar challenge inhabiting the likes of a randy fat man, Shakespearean lover and Elvis-impersonating Adonis. – Kevin Prokosh, Winnipeg Free Press

Just 4 more shows so don’t miss out, get your tickets here.

Welcome to the Team!

This week, we are excited to welcome our two summer students who will be busy preparing for the 13th annual FemFest! Alexei Hiebert is our new Production Assistant and Erica Hoiss is the Community Outreach Assistant. They’ve hit the ground running and we’re eager to see the great work they will bring to our next season! 

Erica is a graduate student in Peace and Conflict Studies at University of Manitoba. Originally from Red Deer, Alberta, she is an actor and Forum Theatre facilitator and is doing her thesis research in participatory theatre for peacebuilding. Erica recently volunteered to organize the 10th annual Winnipeg International Storytelling Festival and will be performing in the Fringe this summer in A Beautiful View with Snakeskin Jacket. 

Alexei is currently studying Theatre at the University of Winnipeg and is so excited to be working with Sarasvati Productions for the summer. Exploring as many different fields of theatre as they can, Alexei has a special love for production. They have worked on such shows as UofW’s Enchanted April, Semi-Monde, and The Cassilis Engagement. In addition to theatre, Alexei is a book worm and an aspiring visual artist. They have been featured in the Kelowna Art Gallery in British Columbia three times in the past. 

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And tech week for Miss N Me is upon us! We’ve moved in to the theatre today and finally get to climb into the plumbers van. If you want to see how we’ve managed to get a van onstage, get your tickets now! Just one week until opening! 

Have you checked out all of the MNM Lip Sync Battle videos yet? Stayed tuned for the announcement of the winners!

Why We Do What We Do

A Pitch From Our Artistic Director, Hope McIntyre

It is time to brag, boast, crow and show some swagger! I’ll admit it, I don’t always do the best job of tooting the company’s horn. When I was a kid it was a bad thing to be a show off. So, I keep my head down and do the work. The work gets done but not everyone knows about it and not everyone knows how amazing what we do is.

GeNie and kids

Why is Sarasvàti Productions unique? This year alone we opened the eyes to almost 4,500 youth and teachers to the reality of what youth in care experience. To have a young person stand up and say “thank you for helping my peers understand what I have been through” means the world to us. We have had dozens of emerging artists attend our workshop series and access important information to launch their careers as artists. I’ve gotten to see a child who was too shy to say his name become a potato on stage. I’ve sat in a room with 15 women, all but one was sexually abused as a child, and listened to them share their stories. Then being able to laugh with them as we play theatre games. We’ve brought to the stage dozens of stories that would not otherwise be told. What makes us unique is that we are using the arts in a very important, powerful and special way. We believe that the arts have the ability to empower, to teach, to inspire and to allow everyone to have a voice.

SNA BB session 8 (3)Over the last 17 years there have been lots of sacrifices because of the belief that the work we are doing is important. This has been proven to me time and time again when I see the direct impact. However, the reality is that for 17 years we’ve struggled for funding. Our unique position as a theatre company working in the community and dedicated to social change sometimes puts us at a disadvantage when competing for funding that is awarded based on artistic excellence. We combine professional artists with emerging artists and even with community members. On average only about 30% of our revenue comes from public sources and only 5% is for operating costs with multi-year stability. This reality is not the norm for a theatre company operating a full season and having done so for so many years. It may not be sustainable forever, but we have never posted a debt, we stretch every dollar and we now have an endowment fund to work towards long-term stability.

MNM buttonOkay, enough of the reality check – back to bragging! Miss N Me is our next production and it is a crazy, wonderful and empowering journey. The playwright is one of a few two-time Governor General Award winners. We have a fabulous team of local artists including our amazing cast of Colin Connor, Kevin P. Gabel, Alissa Watson and Melanie Whyte. Our design team of Brenda McLean, James Jansen and Dean Cowieson have an awesome challenge with a complex show and a tight budget. They are all miracle workers. Our Assistant Director Angie St. Mars is a powerhouse and Missy Elliott’s biggest fan! The show is worth seeing and it is worth supporting. We’ve just launched our donation campaign for this world premiere and it is a chance for the community to show that they do want this type of wonderful theatre to exist in Winnipeg!

Click here to give and get great donor benefits! We know not everyone can support us in this way so show your support by purchasing tickets here. If money is not an option then contact us to volunteer. If we’ve really won you over we are also recruiting for our Board of Directors and committees.

The Missy Elliott Factor

Some of you may be wondering, why Missy Elliott? Why would two-time Governor General Award winning playwright Catherine Banks write a play so heavily influenced by Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott? Well, there’s no need for us to answer for her! Below is a letter that Catherine sent to Missy Elliott to express her gratitude and how the play Miss N Me came about:

There is a poem I love by Yosano Akiko that begins “The day the mountains move has come” and ends “All the sleeping women are now awake and moving.” The first time I heard your lyrics you lit a fire that ignited my frozen core. Instant lava spilled out of me;—-awe, joy, surprise—I was so amazed that you were straight-up saying these wildly wonderful things.

“Real big butts make ya man wanna look (OH!)

Back it up, flip it up, skinny girls – eugh!” gave me my first real belly laugh in too many years. Honest to God, ridiculous, BUT TRUE!—–Oh, those words hit me in the sternum—– that a man would want to look at me if I had a great big butt—cause everyone all 48 years before had told me to keep my butt shrink-wrapped.

Missy-Elliott-This-Is-Not-a-TestI bought all of your cds but This is Not A Test was the one I played over and over. I have bought at least 10 copies since 2005—-I wear them all out.

Your lyrics lit up a path in NEON that I didn’t know I would be walking less than six month after I heard your music for the first time.

One day my life fell apart in one uttered sentence. I honestly don’t know if I could have made the journey from hearing that sentence to saying “No!” had I not been listening to your wisdom in the months before he said what he said.

My play is the seconds, hours, days, perhaps years that it takes a woman to go from the ending sentence she hears to learning she must save her own life.

The first time I read a scene from Miss N Me a theatre colleague said “What is it about 50 year old women and Missy Elliott.” I thought, “You mean it isn’t just me?” At that moment I realized that for all those months it had felt like you were talking just to me.

Catherine Banks

Catherine Banks

Your attitude so playful, honest, fearless and joyful—your lyrics about butts, relationships, knowing your worth and sex toys—-How all that made me feel is what I am trying to do with Miss N Me.

Because Dawna, the heroine, drives to NYC to ambush Missy I also drove to NYC. I listened to all your cds all the way—and it was fucking amazing! When I got to downtown Manhattan I felt like the king of the world—You are beyond amazing. Of course I didn’t get to meet you but what a gift to know you through your words. You are a true inspiration to me in every way. Thank you thank you thank you.

Now that you know all about how Miss N Me came to Catherine, check out the links below to learn about her writing process and how Miss N Me developed.

The first is a fun interview she gave way back in 2009, when she had just finished completing a draft of Miss N Me (called Missy and Me back then!): Umbrella Talk with playwright Catherine Banks

The second is a blog about a road trip she took to New York to help her add more realism to the play: Six Minutes Driving in Downtown Manhattan

The third article is an interview she gave after winning her second General Governor Award about her writing process: Catherine Banks – Governor General’s Literary Awards interview series

Tickets for the world premiere of Miss N Me are on sale now! You can either by tickets on line by clicking here or by phoning 204-586-2236.

Meet the Miss N Me Team!

They’ve all appeared in past shows with us, but you’ve never seen them like this before! We are super excited about the team that will be bringing our spring show to life. Catherine Banks (amazing two time Governor General Award winning playwright) has put the final touches on her newest play, Miss N Me, and entrusted us with the premiere . With the group of artists we have on board she will not be disappointed when the show opens on May 21st! Miss N Me is about Dawna, a hairdresser, who goes on a road trip to New York to meet her idol Missy Elliott and along the way she picks up a bunch of whacky hitch-hiking characters.

Melanie Whyte in Impromtu of Outremont

Melanie Whyte in The Impromtu of Outremont

We are thrilled to have Melanie Whyte taking the lead as Dawna! It has been far too long since we’ve worked together, ten years in fact! Melanie was in our TremblayFest production of The Impromptu of Outremont. Since then she’s been busy mostly using her singing talents in musicals such as Mary Poppins, Light on the Piazza and A Man of No Importance. She’s going to get to do a different type of singing in this play though. For her role as Dawna she’s going to have to channel her inner Missy Elliott and try out some rapping!

Kevin Gabel in EDEN

Kevin Gabel in EDEN

Playing Dawna’s teenage son, Justin, is Kevin Gabel. Kevin most recently partnered with Rana Bokhari in this year’s So You Think You Can Act competition, but three years before that he played another teenager in our production of Hope McIntyre’s EDEN. He is truly ageless and we’re happy he can still pull it off! But more recently Kevin has been playing older characters like the son in Theatre Project Manitoba’s production of Proud and Fred in Noel Coward’s Fallen Angels with Tara Players Theatre Company. Hopefully he’ll easily get back in touch with his inner teenager for Miss N Me!

Colin Connor & Alissa Watson in Harold and Vivan Entertain Guests

Colin Connor & Alissa Watson in Harold and Vivan Entertain Guests

Now here is where it gets crazy. The hysterical and talented Colin Connor and Alissa Watson will be teaming up again to play over eight crazy characters. Colin and Alissa have worked together on multiple occasions and make a great team. They just finished performing together in Theatre Incarnate’s Whitechapel Redemption, but before that they starred as the title characters in Jessy Ardern’s Harold and Vivian Entertain Guests as part of FemFest 2013! And before that they, again, played the title characters in The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine! Every time they appear onstage together they leave the audience in stitches and we’re sure it will be the same in Miss N Me. Among other characters Colin will be playing Fat Man, Clown Father, Adonis and Demetrius, while Alissa will be playing Clown Mother, Ms Excess Baggage, Mermaid and Fortune Terrorist.

Rounding out the creative team is Hope McIntyre directing with assistance from Angie St.Mars, set and costume designer Brenda McLean, lighting designer Dean Cowieson and sound designer James Jansen! All of the cast and crew have their work cut out for them in this whacky, imaginative play. Come see it May 21 to 31 at the UW Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are available online, just click here or phone 204-586-2236!

Looking Forward to a Transformative Year

Happy New Year everyone! What are your resolutions? Here are our top 5 resolutions for 2015!


Work It Night!

Work It Night!

The first item for our 2015 calendar is our third Work It Night event that we created in partnership with ACI Manitoba on January 19th. Artists from all disciplines, emerging and established, have brought their works in progress to present for audience reactions or feedback. It’s been amazing to see the work of so many diverse artists including animators, videographers, and poets! Join us and come out to share your work or support the presenting artists with your insights. It is a fun, relaxed and supportive environment to connect with other artists. Work It Night is the third Monday of every month at 7pm!


Sharon Bajer

Sharon Bajer

We are excited to have the multitalented Sharon Bajer facilitate How to Get Your Foot in the Door, a submissions workshop for emerging artists to learn how to format cover letters, resumes, scripts and headshots to industry standards while still standing out. Deadline to register and pay for this workshop is January 13th, so don’t delay! For more information and to read about the other fantastic workshops we have planned click here!


Our fourth annual So You Think You Can Act Fundraiser on February 18th will be a chance to have a great time while helping us do amazing work. See celebrities face off in scenes about power play and at the end – you get to choose who goes home with the trophy. There are also going to be amazing raffle prizes and a wine reception! Click here for information on how to get tickets.

Banner SYTYCA 2015


sarasvati (3)In March nine dynamic women will take the stage to bring the stories of nine amazing women to life in celebration of International Women’s Week. Come hear the empowering stories of Zelda Fitzgerald, Isobel Gunn, a young Mennonite woman, and even a superhero! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ve got two chances to see it on March 7th, the Cabaret has a history of selling out, so click here to purchase tickets now.


Catherine Banks

Catherine Banks

Who says a 50 year old can’t bust a rhyme inspired by Missy Elliott? We will challenge the status quo with the world premiere of Miss’N Me May 21 to 31! Miss’N Me is a brilliant and unique new play from two time Governor General Award winning playwright Catherine Banks. The play follows Dawna, a hairdresser, who steals her husband’s plumbing van and heads for New York City to meet Missy Elliott. On the way there she crosses paths with a host of wacky hitch-hikers. You don’t want to miss this one, so mark your calendars!

This will keep us busy for the first part of the year but we won’t stop there. FemFest 2015: Hear Her Roar! is already in the works and the line-up will be announced in May. The festival will run September 12 to 19 and will feature life-changing plays by women for everyone. We are also embarking on a new community collaboration exploring mental health with Artists in Health Care, Red Threads Playback Theatre and the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.

Join us in making 2015 an inspiring, transformative and life-changing year!

Wishing You an Inspiring Holiday Season!

It’s been an exciting year for Sarasvàti Productions, made all the better by our incredible board members, volunteers, artistic teams and of course our great audiences! We cannot thank you enough for your ongoing assistance and encouragement. Over the holidays we want to give thanks for all of our supporters and celebrate a wonderful year!

sytyca_20140219_IMG_9166 (1024x695)

The year began with our first ever tie between two celebrities for So You Think You Can Act when Troy Westwood and Big Daddy Tazz wowed the audience with their acting skills. Who knows what this year has in store with our diverse range of celebrity guests! Will the Taz name carry good luck and bring the trophy to Taz Stuart? Will dance beat out music as RWB’s André Lewis competes against musician Romi Mayes? Or will it be a second year for a former Bomber to adorn their mantelpiece with Chris Cvetkovic? Tickets are now on sale and make great gifts for loved ones!

Group Selfie of 2014 IWW Cabaret of Monologues Actors

Group Selfie of 2014 IWW Cabaret of Monologues Actors

Last March 10 talented actors took the stage in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. The theme was Rise Up, which meant the stories focused on young women. This year the theme is SuperWomen and will feature stories of women who have done incredible things! There will be a rebellious nun, a pioneering woman and an actual superhero, don’t miss it on March 7th!

Fefu Ensemble

Fefu Ensemble

We have been so pleased with the success of our annual spring production. Last year Fefu and Her Friends sold out many performances at the historic Ralph Connor House. It was a long awaited for production and the marvelous 8 women cast did an amazing job of it. This year we’re changing it up and will be bringing a completely new play to the stage in the premiere of Catherine Banks’ Miss’N Me. We can’t wait! Don’t miss Dawna’s road trip to meet Missy Elliot and all the strange characters she meets along the way.

Janis and Jujube lead the closing cabaret in song.

Janis and Jujube lead the closing cabaret in song.

Of course we rolled right in to a summer of planning FemFest 2014. Full of unforgettable moments capped by the audience sing along at the closing cabaret. Believe it or not planning has already begun for FemFest 2015: Hear Her Roar!

GV Group Shot

Giving Voice Team

We are ready for a holiday rest, after finishing off our fall with the results of our two year long collaborative production Giving Voice. We performed for over 4,400 people at 33 high schools and communities. This project was created in partnership with VOICES: Manitoba’s Youth in Care Network to help give youth in and from care a voice. Many students had their eyes opened and youth in care were empowered. It was amazing to see that show completed after years of hard work.

It has truly been a transformative year for us as we continue to challenge artists, audiences and society while promoting and reflecting diversity. Thank you all for helping to make this such a great year, and from all of us at Sarasvàti, we wish you and yours the happiest of holidays!

The Endowment Fund aka The Gift that Keeps Giving!

Back in 2007 a very supportive donor wanted to give us a lasting gift, and with the support of the Winnipeg Foundation we set up our endowment fund. This fund has been a huge support over the years helping us continue to create the work that we do. If you’ve ever thought of donating, now is the perfect time. Until November 30th any donations will be eligible for matching funds through the Endowment Incentive Program!

All gifts to our endowment fund are pooled and are permanently invested as capital, and the income earned is provided to us to continue to produce our annual productions. This creates a stable form of future income to ensure that we are able to continue realizing our artistic goals. Artistic goals that include: making our work accessible to the communities that we work with, supporting emerging artists, and promoting stories from marginalized groups. We can’t rely as heavily on box office revenue as other companies since many of the people we want to welcome to our shows have limited disposable income. We firmly belief that this shouldn’t be a barrier to viewing and participating in theatre.

Here are the top 5 ways the fund has helped us in the past! It has helped us to:

1. Create forum theatre pieces to empower youth around Manitoba:

Giving Voice - The Perfect Family

Giving Voice – The Perfect Family

From Ripple Effect to No Offense… to Diss to this year’s Giving Voice, we have been bringing powerful stories of school violence, racism, and bullying to thousands of students in Manitoba to encourage the discovery of positive solutions. So far Giving Voice has been called “a smashing hit” and an “excellent, excellent show” with amazing student and staff responses.

2. Produce a festival that showcases and celebrates female theatre artists:

The Naked Woman - Nan Fewchuk and Grant Burr

FemFest 2014 – The Naked Woman – Nan Fewchuk and Grant Burr

This year we celebrated the 12th annual FemFest, a festival of life changing theatre by women for everyone. Despite some great plays by women in Manitoba last year, the national statistics for last season reveal that only 23% of plays on Canadian stages were written by women. FemFest continues to support a future where female theatre artists are given equal opportunities.

3. Support emerging theatre artists: It can be a very uncertain world out there in the theatre industry when you are just starting out, we strive to make it less so by offering affordable skill development workshops and opportunities for emerging artists to work with us. We always offer workshops as a part of FemFest, but the past few years we have been working on offering workshop series during the rest of the season too!

Catherine Banks

Catherine Banks

4. Premiere ground-breaking new works: For our spring productions we seek out and develop interesting new works for a full scale production. Past productions include Eden, Jail Baby and last year’s sell out Fefu and Her Friends. This year we are premiering Miss’N Me, the latest play from two-time Governor General Award winning playwright Catherine Banks.

5. Create community-based work: We are excited to work with amazing community organizations who help to make Winnipeg vibrant, supportive and healthy. In the past we have worked with criminalized women through the Elizabeth Fry Society, with Winnipeg Harvest to tour Empty, with youth in care, with immigrant woman…and we are about to embark on our next long-term project exploring mental health in partnership with Red Threads Playback Theatre and the Selkirk Mental Health Centre. It is a timely issue and we know that everyone is touched in some way by mental health issues. We are excited to embark on this new journey!

If you want to help us continue to do all of this and more, please consider donating to our endowment fund. Click here to see our profile on the Winnipeg Foundation website. From here you can make an online gift, but if you’d rather donate by cheque or credit card over the phone, click here for those instructions! If you have any questions feel free to phone or email us: 204-586-2236,