The Long Journey to Breaking Through

Two years…that’s the average lifespan of a robin. Why work on a project for two years? It might be your first time reading about Breaking Through or perhaps you have you been following its progress for two years? Either way, as we launch in to rehearsals for the world premiere, we thought an overview was in order.

SMHC Playback

Playback group

In 2015 we launched “Mental Health is Everyone’s Health” with Artists in Healthcare Manitoba and Red Threads Playback Theatre. Much of the genesis was supported by the Selkirk Mental Health Centre where Red Threads did amazing playbacks sessions with residents who shared their stories and where co-writer Hope McIntyre had the honour of interviewing those in the geriatric and acquired brain injury ward. Sarasvàti also put out the word that we wanted to hear as many stories from as many perspectives. A need to break the silence and counter misrepresentation led to those with lived experience, health care workers and caregivers coming forward for interviews and to participate in open workshop sessions. We were hosted by the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society, Rainbow Resource Centre, St. John’s High School, Resource Assistance for Youth and Aurora Family Centre’s male newcomer peer support group. In total almost 400 people shared their experiences! We were blown away. Writers Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore with the support of facilitator Nan Fewchuk faced the difficult task of compiling so many diverse perspectives in to a compelling play. In fact, they would have liked a third year to take on this daunting task!

Nan Fewchuk and Cairn Moore

Nan Fewchuk and Cairn Moore make notes at a workshop reading of Breaking Through, 2016.

It was decided in consulting with all our partners that the ultimate goals was to increase empathy and understanding, highlight the reality that everyone has mental health, and demonstrate that everyone’s experience of illness is unique. All that as well as making it artistically engaging! Breaking Through was read in various drafts for those who contributed their stories. Then a full staged reading in May 2016 allowed actors to contribute their insights while testing the play out in front of an audience.

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Over one hundred feedback forms were received! Overall an extremely favourable response, but with amazing insights leading to round after round of rewrites. Then another workshop with actors thanks to the Manitoba Association of Playwrights and the guidance of Sharon Bajer in January 2017.

The process has already created a platform for people to talk about the importance of mental health for everyone. It is easy to think of mental health with an “us vs. them” mentality: people who have a mental illness and people who do not. However, it is important to know that this apparent line is a lot blurrier than many people may think. One in four Manitobans will receive medical treatment for a mental illness. Many people are affected in one way or another and some people to do not stop to consider their own mental health.

Finally we arrive at the beginning of the final stage. Our first read-through on Tuesday was exhilarating for everyone! We can hardly wait to share the results of this journey with the world or at least with Winnipeg audiences as a start.

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The world premiere of Breaking Through is coming up May 23-28, 2017 under the direction of Kevin Klassen with an accomplished Winnipeg cast and crew featuring Elena Anciro, Dorothy Carroll, Richie Diggs, Marsha Knight, Harry Nelken, Spenser Payne and Josh Ranville. Plus design team Kim Griffin (set/costumes), Dean Cowieson (lighting) and jaymez (video/sound).

For more information on Breaking Through and how to get tickets visit our website! http://sarasvati.ca/breaking-through-world-premiere/

Spotlight Behind the Scenes!

The world premiere of Breaking Through would not be possible without a small army of unsung heroes known as the design and production team.  This week we’ve tracked some down in order to shine the spotlight on the awesome folks who will be working hard behind the scenes.

Dean Cowieson – Lighting Designer Dean Cowieson

Dean is happy to work on the lighting for this powerful production of Breaking Through.  Dean has been the resident lighting designer for Le Cercle Moliere since 2005, as well as the resident lighting designer for Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers since 2006. Dean last worked with Sarasvàti Productions as the Lighting Designer for the production of Miss N Me. He has designed the lighting for various companies in Winnipeg as well as recently completing a three-city tour. In addition to his lighting design work he has also designed sets and costumes for various companies in Winnipeg.
Dean’s motto: “Are you hip to my jive?”

Kim Griffin – Costume & Set DesignerKim Griffin

Kim Griffin, B.I.D., B.A.(hons), M.A., is an Interior Designer, Set, Costume and Lighting Designer, and Cultural Studies scholar. Her company Donald-Haverty Design Group, started in the 1980s, has served hundreds of clients on residential, commercial, hospitality, medical and recreation projects. Her work analyzing scripts and interpreting atmospheres and characters has kept her busy for over 15 years working with various community theatres in Winnipeg. Knowledge and ability to use the elements of design, fine art concepts, practical applications, and human ergonomics and interactions make all her designs, whether for interiors or for the stage, specific and unique.
Kim’s motto: “It never hurts to help”

jaymezjaymez – Sound & Video Designer

With a multi-faceted and distinct visual style, jaymez has worked in the visual art, dance, theatre and music communities.   His video work has appeared in a number of international festivals, theatrical and dance productions and he has performed live video alongside dozens of musicians and artists.  He has created lighting, video and sound designs for a wide range of companies and choreographers. His work has been seen in a number of cities including Stratford, Edmonton, Regina, Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, Osnabrück, Germany and Utrecht, Netherlands.  jaymez is one half of the experimental voice and video duo The Gritty.  He currently sits on the board of Video Pool Media Arts Centre and is the Technical Director of Cluster New Music and Integrated Arts Festival.
jaymez’s motto: “I’m not very good at making things nice, that’s when my work is least interesting. ” -Es Devlin

Holly LaJambe – Stage Managerpicture017 - GREYSCALE HEADSHOT

Holly LaJambe is a Theatre Honors graduate from the University of Winnipeg. Her stage management credits include Fire & Water Music Festival, Gilbert & Sullivan Society, Girls Only Productions, Geri\the/atrics, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Prairie Theatre Exchange School, Winnipeg Pride. This will be her eighth time stage managing for Sarasvàti Productions. She has been involved with 2016 – Breaking Through Staged Reading, 2015 – Cabaret of Monologues, 2015 – Miss N’ Me, 2014 – Fefu and Her Friends, 2013 – Harold and Vivian Entertain Guests, 2012 – Diss Tour, and 2012 – Immigration Stories. She is excited to be involved with another of their projects addressing important social issues.
Holly’s motto: “I’m already calm. I’m the Stage Manager.”

Laura LindeblomLaura Lindeblom – Production Coordinator

Twelve years ago at York University, Laura decided that she wanted to be a production manager, and as luck would have it she’s been working in that role, as well as various other production departments, ever since. Her two full time jobs are as mother to one child (soon to be two) and production manager at Manitoba Theatre for Young People, and she is very grateful for the opportunity to work with Sarasvàti Productions again. Thanks to Kris, Kaia, and Blyth the puggle for all of their love and support.
Laura’s motto: “It’s totally fine for plans to change, but it’s always best to have a plan in the first place.”

Behind the Scenes of Miss N Me!

They may work behind the scenes, but we could not do it without our fabulous designers and production team. Learn more about our Miss N Me stage manager who has been keeping rehearsals running smoothly, as well as our lighting and sound designers who have been given a huge challenge with a complex script.

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Ainza Bellefeuille, Stage Manager

What is your favourite play? Wicked

What job would you most like to do if you weren’t working in theatre? Electrician

What is your favourite thing to do on your day off? Being outside BBQing and reading a book.

Where would you love to travel? The moon. But realistically, I would love to back pack through Europe.

If you had to sing one song on American Idol, what would it be? Without Love from the musical Hairspray.

What would you do if you won a million dollars? Buy myself a house and invest the rest.

If you were on an island and could only bring 3 things, what would they be? A machete, blanket and pot with lid.

James Jansen, Sound Designer

What is your favourite play? Fancymud by Le Frenchword (Seattle)

What job would you most like to do if you weren’t working in theatre? Well theatre is only a small part of what I do.  When I’m not working in theatre, I’m working in dance, film, music or sound.

What is your favourite thing to do on your day off? Catch up on work.

Where would you love to travel? Japan and Iceland.

If you had to sing one song on American Idol, what would it be? My Way… ala sid vicious

What would you do if you won a million dollars? Pay off some debt, buy a studio, invest in some equipment, donate the rest to some of my favorite orgs.

If you were on an island and could only bring 3 things, what would they be? Electrical infrastructure, adequate housing, internet access.  (is that cheating)

Anything else you’d like to add: I’m excited to work on this project and can’t wait to see how this strange script comes to life.  We have a solid team who I’m looking forward to working with and I think will definitely do the piece justice.

Dean Cowieson, Lighting Designer

What is your favourite play? Always current one I’m working on.

What job would you most like to do if you weren’t working in theatre? Travel writer.

What is your favourite thing to do on your day off? Get caught up.

Where would you love to travel? Everywhere – next goal is South America generally.

If you had to sing one song on American Idol, what would it be? Inda Godda Davida

What would you do if you won a million dollars? travel

If you were on an island and could only bring 3 things, what would they be? Water, food, clothes.

Have you seen the Lip Sync videos from the team! It’s not too late to submit to the competition for a chance to win amazing prizes. Check out the details.

Don’t forget to get your tickets!

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.

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!

Jail Baby: Biographies

After months of biting our nails in anticipation, Sarasvàti Productions is proud to finally announce our cast for Jail Baby!  We are excited to work with this amazing group of local actors for the world premiere of this new work! This stellar cast will be working with acclaimed director Ann Hodges, who started her involvement with Jail Baby when it was workshopped in 2011 for FemFest. Sarasvàti Productions is also excited to announce their incredible design team who will bring this play to life!

Jail Baby
by Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore
with Nan Fewchuk and Marsha Knight

Directed by Ann Hodges

Set/Costume Design by Abigail Myers

Lighting Design by Dean Cowieson

Sound Design by Chris Coyne

Starring: Ashley Chartrand, Melanie Dean, Shannon Guile, Daina Leitold, Megan McArton, Tracey Nepinak and Cory Wojcik.

Let’s take a look at the two actresses who will be playing the lead role of Jasmine. These two superb actresses will be playing young and present day Jasmine (respectively), and we couldn’t be more excited to see them take to the stage this May!

Ashley Chartrand photoEmerging theatre artist Ashley Chartrand made her Sarasvàti debut in 2008 with our school tour of Ripple Effect. In 2009/2010 she performed in No Offense…, the no-holds-barred play about racism in schools created as part of FemFest 2009. She also appeared in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues a coule years ago. Ashley is currently studying at the University of Winnipeg.

Melanie HeadshotIf you have seen some of our previous shows this past season, you will recognize Melanie Dean. Melanie was in FemFest 2012 favourite Empty, as well as in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues just a few short weeks ago!  Melanie was born in The Pas MB, and is a member of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation (Pukatawagan, MB). Mel attained her BA at the University of Winnipeg (2002) majoring in Performing Arts and English Literature. Nowadays, she can be found dancing on the Powwow trail somewhere on Turtle Island with her two beautiful children Shanley and Jesse. Mel’s other credits include, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Doug Nepinak’s The Crisis in Oka Manitoba with Red Roots Theatre Company, Doug Nepinak’sThe Life of Ruth and BBQ, William Inge’s Picnic, Dale Lakevold’s and Darrell Racine’s Stretching Hide at the University of Brandon, Frederico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, and MTC’s production of Tracy Letts August Osage County.

Fundraising campaign update: To date, we have raised $2,168.20 for our campaign, which will go directly towards Jail Baby. With just over a week left to donate, we need every one of our readers and friends to show your support! We only require 19 donations of $150 or more to reach our goal! So, phone a friend, and get them to donate as well!  Help us make our target today!

EDEN Log – Week 3

EDEN Playwright’s Log – Hope McIntyre

Yesterday we moved out of the rehearsal hall! Monday we load in to the theatre and we open on Friday. Hard to believe how quickly the time is going. We have an intensive four days of tech coming up but it is exciting to see it take shape. Tracy Penner, our fabulous Delilah in the play, said to me yesterday “your baby is almost done.” After so many years of working on the piece it does feel very much like I’ve created something very personal, although I can’t compare it to a human child, it will be a very special thing to share it with the world as well as being extremely nerve-wracking. At the same time it won’t ever feel like it is complete. I’m sure there will be adjustments after seeing it before an audience and hopefully with publication and second production…

Andrea del Campo and Tracy Penner in EDEN; photo by Janet Shum

This week was a mix of run-throughs of the play, working sections that needed cleaning up, costume fittings and final videotaping. The actors have made huge leaps thanks to director Sharon Bajer. It was great to have Wab Kinew take on the role of Eduardo, a character who appears on video at a key moment in the play. Our tech genius, Chris Coyne, also brought cameras in so the actors could start playing around with the live video feed. It looks really cool and really helps capture the world of the play. A key idea in the play is the power that comes with the control of the air waves.

Music was also starting to be integrated by yesterday and it adds a whole other element to the play. It will be amazing to see it on stage and the lighting design by Dean Cowieson will certainly add a great deal to Kim Griffin’s stark set design. After seeing what great work Jordan Popowich did with the promo video, I can’t wait to see the video sequences he has created for the play. There are some pretty crazy dream sequences that I haven’t seen yet!

It’s also really neat to see how Ali Fulmyk, our props coordinator extraordinaire has dealt with some of the challenges like a video camera that gets smashed to the ground in every performance. Not to mention military uniforms, quick changes and an array of dirtied-up clothes that our costume designer, Kelsey Noren, has had to deal with.

Of course the week before opening also means ramping up with media coverage and promotions. Our administrator, Robyn Pooley, has been very busy in the office working on all of this. Actor Andrea del Campo was on both CKUW’s Say It Sista and Eat Your Arts and Vegetables last Thursday. Marsha Knight will be on the NCI morning show on Tuesday and we hope to have a wide array of media out to our media call on April 25th.

Marsha Knight and Ti Hallas in EDEN; photo by Janet Shum

I’m starting to feel like the host of a party, hoping lots of people will show up. Winnipeg is so great, but there is always lots going on. I can’t wait to share the play and mostly the great work all of these artists have been doing. Hopefully everyone can make it out!

For performance dates and tickets check out the EDEN web page.