Looking Back on a Remarkable Year

Wow! It’s hard to believe how much can happen in a year. This week we look back on our greatest endeavours of 2017 made possible due to the amazing support of our donors, funders, volunteers, artists and community partners!

  • Theatre Workshops with North End Youth

We launched into 2017 with a focused series of theatre workshops for North End youth. Youth Coordinators Frances Koncan and Cherrel Holder alongside a series of guest artists introduced theatre techniques and worked on scenes with youth. On February 22nd we celebrated with a showcase of the youth involved. We have already heard from multiple youth that they have decided to pursue theatre and we have had the pleasure of continuing to work with these youth in skill-focused workshops and mentorship sessions. We are thrilled to be continuing with a series of theatre workshops at Children of the Earth School in the New Year!

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study theatre but now I’m sure!” – Sabil, Youth Participant

  • International Women’s Week

Last March, ten amazing women took to the stage in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. The theme was Starting Over, sharing stories of displacement, resettlement and life-changing moments. We toured to new community venues like North End Family Centre. We were so honoured to facilitate the sharing of these crucial perspectives which are all too often silenced.

“The performances took place in our typically very busy and noisy drop in space. However, the performances were so captivating that you could have heard a pin drop!”
-Kristi Beaune, Mount Carmel Clinic
“Our students connected with what the presenters were saying on a deep level. I would highly recommend the monologues.”
-Rob Visch, Principal St. Aidan’s Christian School

  • Launch of New Beginnings15781754_10211121667098878_6849065531477230353_n

We used the story-gathering conducted for International Women’s Week as a spring board to soar into our next community-based project: New Beginnings. We began reaching out to artists and meeting with partner organizations. In September, we gave audiences a sneak peek at what we have in the works at a FemFest preview. From May 22-27, 2018 you can witness the coming together of a diverse range of artists, community members, recent newcomers and established immigrants. Through the use of dance, music, visual art and storytelling we will share stories of resettlement.

“Great evening at FemFest and Sarasvati production of New Beginnings! Congratulations to Rosemary Kezaabu and Gertrude Hambira, two of the women who told their stories.” – Mary Scott, Audience Member
“It was such a wonderful night yesterday! So glad I was able to participate in this project.” – Patricia Gordon, Performer

  • FemFest 2017: Coming of Age

This FemFest audiences and artists came together to celebrate 15 years of life-changing theatre.  We were proud to present such provocative touring shows as Watching Glory Die by Judith Thompson. We had some incredible first-times, partnering with the West End Cultural Centre to present Tomboy Survival Guide and partnering with the Millennium Library to present The Human Library! It was so rewarding to offer filmmaker Sonya Ballantyne her first opportunity to direct for the stage with Two Indians. We were proud to honour some of Winnipeg’s most prolific female playwrights at the One Night Stand and toast to 15 years. Believe it or not planning has already begun for FemFest 2018!

“…one of the most incredible and moving pieces of art I have ever seen” – Tatiana Carnevale, Audience Member at Tomboy Survival Guide at FemFest 2017
“Wow. I have not been so moved by a piece of theatre for a long time” – Cheryl Costen, Audience Member at Watching Glory Die at FemFest 2017

  • Second Annual Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

Thanks to two fantastic audiences and eight hilarious comedians we almost sold out two back-to-back shows for our Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser. We heard nothing but glowing remarks from audience members. We can’t wait for next year!

“Awesome” – Audience Member
“Everyone is so talented!” – Audience Member

  • Workshops for Emerging Artists

    This season we’ve provided workshops and mentorship in theatre design, tech, directing, auditioning and more! One of the highlights was our playwriting masterclass with master playwright, Judith Thompson. We aren’t slowing down anytime soon! You can look forward to workshops in vocal technique, auditioning , dramaturgy and more in 2018!

    “Extremely beneficial. Going through the audition process (before, during, after) has made me feel that I have a much better idea of how the process works, especially with professional companies.” – Participant in Auditioning 101
    “All of it was pure gold.”
    – Participant in Coffee with Ann Hodges

We also rebooted our One Night Stand series with three opportunities throughout the year for playwrights to test material under the amazing leadership of Tatiana Carnevale!

  • COMMUNITY

This year also allowed us to work with several amazing community organizations. From doing workshops with youth leaders at SEED to presenting an overview of our work for the Council of Women of Winnipeg and PCWM. The largest initiative was the amazing experience preparing Can You See Me Now in partnership with West Central Women’s Resource Centre.  The women shared their experience of homelessness with such power that it truly opened eyes and hearts.

Here’s to another year of making and experiencing tranformative theatre together!

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Unite for 16 Days of Activism

How do you take action against gender-based violence?
Activism comes in many different shapes and sizes. It can be organizing a protest or having difficult conversation with a family member, it can be writing an article or standing up for someone on the bus. Whatever you do, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence are a time to galvanize your efforts.

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This year, the UNiTE Campaign will mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence under the theme, “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls” The theme reinforces the Campaign’s commitment to a world free from violence for all women and girls around the world, while reaching the most under-served and marginalized, including refugees, migrants, minorities, indigenous peoples, and populations affected by conflict and natural disasters, among others, first.

Campaign Goals

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Sarasvàti Productions (from L to R: Associate Producer, Angie St. Mars; Artistic Director, Hope McIntyre; Administrator Intern, Samantha Lussier; Administrator, Gail Thiesen)

Sarasvàti Productions is thankful for the organizations in Winnipeg  who are dedicated to providing support for women escaping violence as well as working tirelessly towards eliminating violence in our community. We are looking forward these great community events.

NOV 24 – Manitoba Association of Women’s Shelters invites you to An Evening with Margo Goodhand
Canadian Museum of Human Rights (85 Israel Asper Way) @ 5:30 – 9:30 PM
An evening of discourse with Margo Goodhand, author of Runaway Wives and Rogue Feminists. Light refreshments and a cash bar will be available. There is no admission charge but space is limited, so please RSVP to Deena at maws@maws.mb.ca.


NOV 25 – Institute for International Women’s Rights Manitoba invites you to Getting Back Up: Resilient Women in the Face of Violence
Sudanese Community Centre Winnipeg (129 Dagmar Street) @ 1:30-4 PM
IIWR-MB welcomes a panel of 5 women leaders to share how they faced and fought against violence. Come for a day of education, solidarity, and celebration! This is a free event, with snacks included.
NOV 29 – Willow Place Inc invites you to Challenge to Change 
Fairmont Hotel – Wellington Ballroom (2 Lombard Place) @ 4-9 PM
This is an evening to gather innovative individuals to engage change in the practices that create systemic barriers from families moving away from violence. Come to discuss understanding family violence policies and practices that create barriers, and how we can better serve our diverse community.
Tickets: $35 ** Limited amount of free tickets available to students please email cynthiao@willowplace.ca

NOV 30 – Wahbung Abinoonjiiag Inc|Children of Tomorrow invites you to End the Silence, Stop the Violence
Meet at 225 Dufferin Avenue @ 5:30 PM
Join the Wahbung Team for a community Domestic Violence Awareness Walk to “End the Silence, Stop the Violence.” Meet, Smudge, Walk and then gather for soup and bannock. All ages are welcome! There will be raffle prizes! There is no cost to attend. If you have any questions or would like to help out contact Kelsey at EIWG@wahbung.org

DEC 6 – Manitoba Status of Women and the Manitoba Women’s Advisory Council Annual Sunrise Memorial
Rotunda of the Manitoba Legislative building @ 8-9 AM
This is a memorial to commemorate Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. There is no cost to attend.
RSVP to 204-945-6281 or email msw@gov.mb.ca
The colour orange will be a key theme unifying all activities, and buildings and landmarks will be lit and decorated in orange to bring global attention to the issue of violence against women and girls.

Share your photos, messages and videos with #OrangeTheWorld and #16Days.

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Unleashing Our Potential

We are launching into 2018 with a game-changer! Thanks to capacity building support from the Winnipeg Foundation, Sarasvàti Productions is welcoming a new full-time member to the team!

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“The potential of Sarasvàti Productions to transform society through theatre has just been unleashed,” says Judy Wasylycia-Leis, President of our Board of Directors, “from the generous capacity-building support of the Winnipeg Foundation comes the promise of sustainability and the strength to grow as a force for community resilience and reconciliation.”

Administrative support may not sound like a glamorous change, but when you are a small non-profit this kind of support makes a phenomenal impact. The Winnipeg Foundation’s funding will support a full-time Administrator for three years. This human resource injection will helps us to strengthen our base so that we can fulfill our mission to transform society through theatre.

 

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Judy Wasylycia-Leis

 

“What a boost this grant means for our ability to offer authentic and direct cultural experiences at the grassroots level, to contribute to community vitality and identity, and to help change the world one play at a time”, says Judy.

This fall we also initiated additional capacity-building work thanks to support from Manitoba Community Services Council. This has allowed us to look at our office systems, ticketing and will also lead to important community consultations this winter.

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We at Sarasvàti Productions are excited to take things to the next level in 2018! Stay tuned as we announce our new team member, launch new systems and invite our community to share their thoughts on the future.

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.

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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What Does Starting Over Mean to You?

Have you ever relocated, tackled a new job, new relationship or even just discovered your true self? This year we explore what is perhaps the most universal topic we have tackled in the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. Erin Meagan Schwartz asked all of our performers what this year’s theme means to them.

“New adventure! But that was my idea when I was eleven years old and I came to Canada”, says Cherrel Holder, “then doing it when I was 20–moving to Australia for school–starting over was scary.” Check out the promo video for all of our performers responses!

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Kim Kakegamic rehearsing “The Pit” in front of playwright Alissa Watson and Directors Hope McIntyre and Rachel Smith. Photo by Nik Rave.

Alka Kumar shared her story of starting over with Angie St. Mars. The two co-wrote one of the monologue sin this year’s cabaret based on Alka’s experience. “Sharing my story provided me space for reflection, even helping me process my experience in a deliberate and considered manner”, said Alka, including that it is a technique and useful tool within narrative therapy. “I found this useful as it was a good opportunity to go back to my `lived experience’ after the fact, almost separating it out of myself (externalising it, as it were) and through such a process of articulation becoming more aware of it.”
The piece created from their process is called Diaspora. It focuses on an Indian woman, once a newcomer herself, as she welcomes a young newcomer to Winnipeg.

The Cabaret features monologues that take you through ten different stories of pivotal moments in very different women’s lives. From the moment when an Ojibwe activist must choose to apologize or stand by what she believes in, to the moment a young Nigerian woman tells her first generation immigrant parents that she wants to go home: this year’s selections will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

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“I hope the audience [members] who share my experiencing of my everyday dilemmas, struggles, and negotiations with my many homes will get to know me a little”, said Alka. “Even more significantly, I hope the monologue and my voice will resonate, and that it may help in their personal processes and journeys of reflection, and exploration, as ideas and emotions around identity, belonging, and being comfortable being who we are wherever home is are important questions for everyone.”

There are two chances to catch all ten monologues on March 11th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are available at the door, but we recommend getting them in advance, as this event will sell out.

 

Spotlight on Newcomer Stories

How do we welcome new members to our local circle?
How do we provide space to hear and understand their stories?
How do we work with them to be inclusive rather than insisting they adjust to our forms?
How do we give them a role in the arts?

These were our burning questions as we began curating work for the 2017 IWW Cabaret of Monologues. We had put out a call for stories of Starting Over, and while we were thankful to receive over 4o stellar submissions, something was missing. We set to work reaching out to dozens of women who had experience as a newcomer to Canada and invited them to collaborate.

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We went all over the community, dropping in for story-gathering workshops with newcomer women’s groups including the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute (CMWI), Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM), The Immigration Centre and more. We also lined up one-on-one interviews with women who were excited to share their story with the help of community contacts such as the International Institute for Women’s Rights Manitoba (IIWR-MB).

“The response to our call for collaboration has been overwhelming”, said Hope McIntyre, Artistic Director of  Sarasvàti Productions. “We are excited to continue to work with the amazing individuals and organizations in the long-term for our next community-based project!”

“There are few things more enjoyable than being told a good story”, said Angie St. Mars, co-writer of two of the collaborative monologues.”I would meet with the women who wanted to tell their stories. We would sit down together and record an interview. I’d go home, listen back, come up with a concept, and then write a draft. I sent each draft back-and-forth with the person who’d shared their story  and they would give me feedback throughout the writing pro0cess. This is great way to write a monologue.”

Monologues created through collaboration include:

Diaspora by Angie St. Mars and Alka Kumar
Lost Girls by Hope McIntyre with Rachel Awur Moijok Chol
You Say Tomato, I Say…Fine by Angie St. Mars from interviews
In My Country by Hope McIntyre with the women of IIWR-MB (Martha Akuch Maketh, Rosemary Kezaaba and Gertrude Hambira)

“I could have listened to the women I interviewed tell stories all day, and I hope that the audience will get swept up in them the way I did sitting across from these women”, said St. Mars. “Starting Over lends itself to so many great stories. This year’s line up is witty and intrepid and always, always so honest.”

Using the performing arts as a medium, we can inspire a larger conversation about the city, country and world we live in. It is an important time for Canada to be a leader in the future and it needs to begin with engaging people locally. What better way than through the arts?

There are two chances to see the full line-up, 4pm and 8pm on Saturday, March 11th.
Celebrate International Women’s Week with us!

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