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.

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Consulting with Youth: Seven Visions

The first component of our Reconciliation through Theatre project is in the books! Over the past few weeks, our team has been meeting with Indigenous youth to discuss what they’d like to see for our upcoming workshop series. We’ll be sharing a full recap of these first meetings at Seven Visions: Reconciliation through Theatre running May 4-9, but read on for a teaser!

Project Coordinator Nova Courchene, Visual Artist Jaime Black, and our Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator Marsha Knight have been hard at work meeting with youth across our seven different partner organizations.

 

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For our sessions with Ndinawe, our team looked at creating an ongoing art project for youth to drop in and add on their versions of the teachings. By giving them a way to express themselves, the youth were more likely to open up through art than chatting around a table each session. We’re excited to see how this piece will evolve over time!

At Wahbung Abinoonjiiag, participants believed parents passing along the Seven Sacred Teachings was important to help youth connect with their culture, stemming from elders down to their families and younger siblings.

For one youth, the teachings are about “history, teaching about what your ancestors did. Learning from your history, and how to be a good person.”

“Reconciliation” can mean many different things to different people. At the Indigenous Leadership Development Institute, youth shared their own definitions:

Reconciliation means fixing your wrong doings.”

Reconciling is about your past self and who you are now, and you become your true self from the meeting of the two.”

Reconciliation is about reconnecting others together, bringing people together and connecting one another.”

For youth at Children of the Earth High School, reconciliation takes on a different meaning: “Say someone burned your house down and is now helping you rebuild a house. Not just going ahead and building the house themselves, but finding out what you need in that house.” Youth were also interested in the evolution of Indigenous fashion over time, from the seventies and traditional regalia through to present day appropriation by the fashion industry. As the head of the REDress Project, Jaime was able to offer insight on the use of fashion to shine a light on missing and murdered Aboriginal women across Canada.

Possible art forms for the workshops will cover anything from film, visual art, music, animation, improv, Claymation – you name it! Our team was able to share in a smudging ceremony with the youth at Knowles Centre before kicking off their conversations. For their participants, athletics is an important a way to express themselves and build trust with new members.

For youth at Manitoba Youth Centre, there was an importance of learning about reconciliation with both sides in mind. When two members had had a conflict, they got together and talked.That was an important way to look at reconciliation without placing blame on one side.

Some organizations received an “ancestor stone” to maintain throughout the journey of the project. Marymound youth learned about the importance of the elder stones, how the spirits of their ancestors are contained in the rocks to offer guidance and support.

We’re excited to continue working with these youth and look forward to seeing the final production in May 2020! Join us for one of the 4 presentation dates between May 4 to 9 to learn more and provide input on the project.

 

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Announcing Our New Mentorship Project!

Are you ready to launch into the next stage of your training? We’re kicking off the start of our brand-new “Launchpad Project”! Beginning in May 2019, a team of local emerging artists will get together to create a brand-new devised piece to be showcased at this year’s festival. If you’ve ever wanted to create something new with your peers, this is the project for you!

Our Coffee House for Emerging Artists back in August highlighted that  artists are looking for is a platform to perform, show off their skills, and get recognized for their work by their peers. Training and development opportunities only go so far without an outlet to show what an artist can do. We’re responding to this need in the community by offering a team of emerging artists – performers, directors, writers, dancers, designers, you name it! – the chance to work together and create something new for a public audience.

We’re taking to the community to recruit a group of emerging theatre artists to participate in a four-month intensive to create a brand-new production to be showcased at FemFest 2019: All the World’s A Stage.  Our goal is to make this program accessible with honorariums to participants and transportation subsidies – that’s right artists, getting paid to create theatre! We know how important it is to get that first paid opportunity and feel validated as an artist. This project will also give artists the opportunity to show off their skills to the wider theatre community.

Artists may come from any background, education, ability, or age group provided they meet the criteria for an emerging artist: being in an early stage of their career while demonstrating a strong aptitude for working in theatre. Older artists making a career switch are also welcome to apply. We will largely be focusing the project on women, non-binary, and trans-spectrum artists eighteen and older with a demonstrated interest in performance.

The process will start with a workshop intensive, covering topics like improvisation, creating devised work, movement, physical theatre, playwriting, and vocal skills. Mentoring artists from Winnipeg’s professional theatre community will offer their support and feedback in the creation of the new work. Throughout the course of the project, participants will gain the chance to be mentored by professional artists and make valuable connections.

Interested artists are advised to contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca to learn more about the project or request assistance in completing the application.

See the attached call for submissions for more information!

Kicking Off with Seven Circles!

We’re excited to officially kick off our Reconciliation Through Theatre project! We are honoured that seven organizations from around the city are hosting Indigenous Youth Visioning Circles, bringing together their youth to guide us in developing a framework for arts-based workshops. We’ll be starting off at Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad Inc. this Thursday – read on for more information about the exciting partnerships we have for this project!

 

Ndinawe-logo-horizNdinawemaaganag Endaawaad Inc. (or Ndinawe for short) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping at-risk youth in Winnipeg. Since 1993, their integrated services have been connecting vulnerable children and youth aged 11–17 with the shelter, culture, recreation, education, outreach and support they need for safe and healthy lives. Open every day of the year, Ndinawe is an immediate and reliable place of safety, connection and support for youth during times of high risk when other resources are unavailable to them.

 

logo_ILDII-300x87Indigenous Leadership Development Institute Inc. (or ILDII) is a non-profit organization established to build leadership capacity in Indigenous people. We’ll be working directly with their Empowering Indigenous Youth in Governance and Leadership (EIYGL) program. EIYGL is Indigenous and youth led that provides important ingredients that builds effective leaders through meaningful skill development.

 

imagesUsing a creative, dynamic approach, Marymound School delivers the provincial education curriculum from elementary grades to grade 11. Marymound School serves two populations of students. Some are young people who live in Marymound group homes or living units, while others, Day Treatment students, come from all over Winnipeg, and live at home with their parents, foster parents or other group homes.

 

Manitoba Youth Centre is the largest youth correctional centre in Manitoba and is located in Winnipeg. It houses both male and female young offenders. MYC is responsible for the care, custody and security of Sentenced and Remanded youth. Case-management, Programming and Spiritual care are offered regularly at the centre; in order to help young people make better choices and avoid criminal lifestyles.

 

CaptureKnowles Centre is a community-based, non-profit social service agency for children, adolescents and young adults facing difficult times in their lives. It began as a home for boys in 1907, and today provides a range of therapeutic and skills-based programs to young people from Manitoba and other communities throughout Canada. Their mission is to help young people and their families to address past struggles, to develop healthier relationships and ways of life, and to reach their full potential in the future.

 

WLogo-1Wahbung Abinoonjiiag was established to empower children and their families to break the cycle of violence. They do this by providing opportunities for holistic healing through culturally-appropriate teachings and activities in a safe and nurturing environment. They offer youth programs, to provide participants with a safe environment where youth can come hang out, be themselves, and get support from their peers and caring adults.

 

10183d2b-f704-4fe7-a968-516f5979c475nChildren of the Earth School is an Aboriginal education school that aims to serve students who, while undertaking a standard high school education, also want to learn about their Aboriginal heritage, values, and traditions. We’ve been running youth workshops at the school for the past few years as the school does not currently offer a drama program. We’re excited to return and work with the youth to prepare for our May 2020 production!

This is just Phase One of the project! You can see the results of the visioning circles at our public presentation and project launch May 4-9, 2019. We will then launch workshops in June and begin work combining the stories to create a full production, debuting May 2020. Follow the progress on our latest community collaboration project!

 

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.”

 

BrooklynAliceLee_photobyPatrickRabago

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.

 

Queering Theatre Wrap-Up

This past Sunday, we took to the community to begin a conversation about the representation and practice of queer stories on stage. Local performing artists Elissa Kixen, Davis Plett, Lara Rae, and Liam Zarrillo spoke to their experiences of performing, creating, or working as a queer artist. Members of the circle were given the floor to share their stories and thoughts as well, creating a thought-provoking dialogue about how the LGBT+ community is reflected in the work produced both on stage and in popular culture.

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Important points raised during the discussion centered on themes of how one’s identity is reflected in the work we create. Even subconsciously, it’s possible to have a queer perspective to one’s work before folks were ready to come out publicly with their identities. Folks found themselves identifying with different themes presented in works that don’t present as being queer, but still reflect ideas and experiences that mirror those of the LGBT community – however unintentionally!

Representation was also a common theme: contrasting the need to discuss the history and harsher realities of the LGBT+ community with the desire for queer youth to see a positive future for themselves. Members of Rainbow Resource Centre mentioned the generational divide in this conversation. For many people, these discussions weren’t around when they were growing up. The representation they saw on screen was that of corrective violence, discrimination, or misinformation. As one speaker mentioned, it’s important to talk about when a character or show “misses the mark” while also acknowledging what they may have been trying to say about a queer experience. As well, including a variety of queer experiences in different characters avoids putting the responsibility of any one character to be all things to all people.

Currently in the theatre world, there is a larger discussion at work surrounding content warnings: what to include, how to include it, and when an artist would prefer not to give warnings for their work. Folks at the discussion offered up the different viewpoints to this topic: contrasting the desire to be surprised by the story with the need to be appropriately prepared to receive triggering content. Content warnings may take different forms: from a simple list of triggering themes available through a production’s website or offering more information through box office staff. One idea was also to allow folks to decide for themselves if they wanted to receive warnings through envelopes available at the theatre. Audience members could then open and check the envelopes for particular warnings before heading into the show. The main idea was that anyone who may be at risk can make an informed decision about whether or not to see a show while other audience members can experience the plot twists as the artist intended.

As well, the discussion delved into how it’s possible to apply a queer perspective to more than just the content on stage, but the process as well. This may include a more devised process than following a set script, an open dialogue about safe spaces in rehearsals, and getting rid of ticket prices to open the event up to people of all income levels. Attendees also discussed how to reshape the relationships between collaborators to ensure all voices on a project were given equal value. An important point was also raised about how to make events more accessible: including information clearly and publicly about whether or not the venue is wheelchair-friendly, if there are gender-inclusive washrooms on-site, and making events by donation instead of a fixed admission. The idea was to make all of this information part of common practice to put the onus on the producers to anticipate the needs of their audience.

While the discussion of “Queering Theatre” could easily have lasted longer than two hours, that was all the time we had! There is also much more that was tackled in the two hours that we can encapsulate in a single blog entry. A big thank-you to Rainbow Resource Centre for hosting us, to our incredible line-up of speakers, our fantastic facilitator Erin Meagan Schwartz, and everyone who came out to join the conversation. For more on the other workshops we have in store for this season, be sure to visit our website!