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,

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of year again!

One of the great things about this end of the year reflection period is remembering all of the terrific moments and events of the 365 days. And what a year it’s been for Sarasvàti Productions! Some highlights from the past year:

–          The inaugural (and wildly successful and talked-about) So You Think You Can Act fundraiser;

–          The world premiere of three plays: Eden (in May 2012), Immigration Stories and Empty (at FemFest 2012);

–          FemFest 2012 was our highest attended FemFest ever;

–          Our high school tour of Diss travelled the most miles for the most students out of all our previous tours to date! Check out the highlight video!

With all of that positive energy to reflect upon, no wonder we are just as excited to look forward to what the future holds! You can find out more about the rest of our events on our website,  which we promise will be just as big, bright and brilliant as last year’s (if not, more)! And with that, let’s take a look at our resolutions for 2013!

Janet Taylor, President (Board of Directors):  The Board’s focus for the new year is to continue all of the progress we’ve been making as an organization. I resolve to continue to network on behalf of Sarasvàti Productions in order to meet our target of increasing committee and board membership. Since we know that there is so much going on in Winnipeg, I also resolve to explore establishing a year long timeline for fundraisers, donation and sponsorship campaigns. Let’s hope that a year from now we are able to have the support necessary to continue to expand our programming!

Hope McIntyre, Artistic Director: 2012 was a hectic year for us, but one we are very proud of due to the impact our work has had, particularly on youth. My resolution for 2013 is to offer new opportunities to artists through our new emerging artist in residence program. At a recent Dialogue on Theatre hosted by the Professional Association of Canadian Theatre there was a lot of talk of both cultivating and investing in the next generation. I want to see twice as many young people in our audience and invite new artists to sit around the table with us.

Tali Sitschkar, Marketing and Development Coordinator: Just taking a glance at our amazing accomplishments from this past year has reminded me about all of the amazing arts and culture events in the city! My resolution for 2013: to see at least 13 theatrical productions this year! There is no shortage of great, local talent and I certainly do not want to miss out! There are so many amazing events taking place in the New Year, it’s hard to say which one I am most looking forward to! One thing’s for sure: I am excited to continue my term with Sarasvàti Productions!

On behalf of all of us at Sarasvàti Productions, we wish you all the best in 2013!

Changing Lives: Students and Teachers Respond to ‘Diss’

Yesterday was the last show of our tour of Diss and we have completed 28 shows to 4000+ students, teachers and community members! This tour has been a success because of the wealth of encouragement and support we have received thus far! We wanted to take the time to show you some of the ways Diss has affected students and teachers. Compiled here is only a sample of the responses we have received. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have!

photo by Janet Shum   photo by Janet Shum

“Great performance – great cast!”

“The actors were highly engaging, and the creative team on the whole did a great job with the storytelling.  The forum theatre approach offered the students an opportunity to explore in depth the hard hitting issue of new immigrant gang involvement.   Those who took part in the interventions experienced on a personal level the struggles that surround the issue.  The ensuing discussion was authentic and informed in a way that would not have been possible without the forum theatre model.”

“[The students] said at first they thought it was going to be lame but they all really got into it.  The part where the mom kicked Sam out was the part that they all commented on.  I think they can all imagine (or have had) that type of fight with their parents and it really resonated with them.”

“The next day I talked some of the students to get some feedback, and I only heard positive praise. One student is sixteen and last year was wearing gang colors and had dropped out of school. Shortly after the play I approached this same student and asked him what he thought of the the play, and he responded with honesty, “It was good”. Another student the next day confessed that he had family members involved in the gang life and was more open to talking about his concerns with the school counsellor. I believe that this play might have been the turning point in possibly changing someone’s life.”

“It was funny, interactive and it made you want to pay attention.”

“Our reaction to the production was very positive and enthusiastic. Artistic Director, Hope McIntyre, succeeds in having youth actors fully engage with the community’s youth, and thus creates positive, much needed discussion around the issues of youth and gangs. Interesting and productive discussion was very much alive within our very interactive and lively audience. Their openness to youth coincided nicely with play’s theme of newcomer youth and their struggles with integration and gangs. Overall a very positive, informative experience… it would be great to see what else Winnipeg’s art scene has to offer!”

“Showed a good message and it was super enjoyable to watch.”

“I just wanted to thank you again for helping bring DISS to our school yesterday.  We had a diverse mix of students in the audience and this helped create a productive, positive, and memorable dialogue.  Such a great play and a great cast that connected well to our high school kids. Loved it.  Just loved it.”

Thanks again to all of those who attended shows at their school, community groups or the free show at the Winnipeg Public Library! Thank you as well to ArtCity, Evolution AV, the Manitoba Arts Council, The Winnipeg Arts Council, Manitoba Community Services Council Inc, the Richardson Foundation and the Winnipeg Foundation! Stay tuned for even more inspiring and energetic productions throughout our 2012-2013 theatre season! For more information on what we have to offer, visit!

Diss Evolution AV thanks

Making Their Mark: ‘Diss’ Actor Bios Part 2

WOW! Last night we performed our one-night only free showing of Diss to a packed house and extremely enthusiastic audience! The outpour of positive feedback and support for the show proves that audiences are hungry for stories of real people and real lives. Diss tackles peer pressure, youth gangs and gun violence in an honest and compelling way, and our audiences are really relating to its message. We cannot wait to continue the tour!

As promised, here is part 2 of our actor biography series. Today we feature the three who play the family at the centre of the story. Their story represents just one of (too) many immigrant families who struggle to find their place and sense of purpose in a new city.

  • Lacina Dembélé is Sam, a teenager eager to fit in as a Canadian. Lacina was born in a village named Kolia situated in the Ivory Coast. He spent a small part of his childhood in Sinfra and Abidjan then came to Winnipeg at the age of 4. At 11 years old, he learned how to play the flute then later the guitar, piano and drums. Emerging in the acting scene, he has appeared in Ripple Effect with Sarasvàti, at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, Festival Théatre Jeunesse and The Festival AFRIK. Lacina has the toughest character journey in the play and on top of that has to do all the beat boxing!
  • Cherrel Holder  plays Sam’s sister Tracy who fights to keep her brother from making the wrong choices.Cherrel was born in Trinidad and moved to Canada at the age of 11. Cherrel began acting in theatre in Junior High and continued throughout High School at Vincent Massey Collegiate, where she also began doing musical theatre, and exploring script writing. In grade 11 Cherrel entered the Scirocco High school Playwriting Competition and had her script Caroline performed on the MTC Warehouse stage. Cherrel graduated High School at the age of 17 with the highest mark in Theatre. Cherrel is now continuing her education in dance and does on-screen, theatre, and musical theatre work in her spare time. In Diss you not only get to see her acting skills but she raps and dances!
  • Lorraine James plays the mother, Maizie, who struggles to pay the bills and keep her family together.Lorraine goes back & forth with entry-level jobs in the service industry, pursuing her love of acting for film (You Kill Me), television (Cashing In), commercials (With Child, Without Alcohol) and theatre (Sarasvàti Productions, Fantasy Theatre for Children, Winnipeg/Vancouver Fringe Festival, Vancouver Theatre Sports League, Vancouver Playhouse, Theatre in the Raw and Walterdale Playhouse). Although the oldest cast member, Lorraine has learned to rap for the play and shows that she is truly young at heart!

Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks to hear what youth say about the show!

Making Their Mark: ‘Diss’ Actor Bios Part 1

Our high school and community group tour of Diss is underway! We are excited to perform for a variety of audiences and to encourage students to make positive choices in their communities. The actors in Diss are excited to see the reactions from the students and to work with them to creative meaningful interventions. So far the show has received rave reviews, enthusiastic participation and allowed youth to find solutions to peer pressure and gang violence.

Speaking of our actors, here’s a chance to get to know more about these talented artists! They come from a variety of backgrounds and levels of experience and have truly brought Diss to life. Today we feature part 1 of our actor biographies!

  • Eugene “GeNie” Baffoe plays EmJay the DJ, narrator and facilitator of the show. GeNie is an established hip hop dancer/choreographer in Winnipeg originally from Montreal, Quebec.  In the artistic world acting is his second passion. It has taught him how to play and/or create diverse characters and personalities. GeNie has yet to take a professional acting course of any kind but has managed to land a few high profile roles in stage productions such of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and RENT. Every year he hosts a non-profit charity dance showcase called “Dance 4 MS” which he began in 2009. Audiences have been amazed by his energy, ability to tackle a variety of characters and his confidence in guiding audiences through the interventions.
  • John Echanoplays Tyrone, a teen who quickly becomes embroiled in the gang lifestyle.John appeared in many school plays when he was a student at Tec Voc. Recently he appeared in an episode of the television program Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. He has taken classes at the Prairie Theatre Exchange for the past year. In his spare time he likes to ride his unicycle or play fetch with his dog Frodo. John has one of the biggest challenges in Diss as he plays a character who resorts to violence to solve his problems. When John comes out after the show audiences are amazed to find he is a really sweet guy. He even brings cake for the cast road trips!
  • Braiden Houle  plays the ringleader Jesse.Braiden was inspired to become an actor after learning of his relation to Adam Beach at the age of 12. After 2 weeks, he got his first audition for feature film Juliana and the Medicine Fish. After this experience, Braiden studied theatre at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People (MTYP). Braiden loves theatre and continued on with productions such as Will Work 4 Home (2009), Jumping Mouse (2010), The Moving Gallery (2010), and Fringe shows Little Red Riding Hood (2011) and Wings Of Darkness (2012). He was previously cast in Sarasvàti Productions forum theatre piece No Offense. We are excited to have Braiden back as he often has the challenge of improvising throughout multiple interventions.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars! Our free, public show of Diss is taking place on November 7th at 630pm at the Millennium Library. Reserve your spot today (204-586-2236) as seating is limited.

‘Diss’ Guest Blogger: Lorraine James

Lorraine James is a Winnipeg-based actor, who has made appearances on stage and on screen. Lorraine is part of our cast for Diss, which is presently touring Winnipeg area high schools and community groups. Read on to find out more about Lorraine’s experiences on the set of Diss and what stands out most for her. You can also read more of Lorraine’s musings at her blog.


I’m privileged to be working with a young cast such as those in the play, “DISS”. I’m usually part of a hodgepodge of actors and this one is no exception. I scan all of them and wonder what my child would be like had I given birth twenty six years ago? Well, maybe just twenty. I have to remind myself that I’m the adult, but that doesn’t help when I have to romp around yet, doing a fake slap= loads of fun! All these young’uns come from all walks of life with their own experiences and I could learn from them. With the knowledge I’ve gleaned these forty-something years, I’m sure I’ll never know everything and anything about acting and the entertainment industry. I always look forward to projects like this when I wake up in the morning. If only it were a full-time job, I think to myself. That won’t happen in Winnipeg, but for the time being, I’m paying my dues here and there, wherever I can.

Continue reading

‘Diss’ Is Almost Here!

The time is almost here… presented by yours truly, Diss will be making its Manitoba debut tomorrow at the Manitoba Student Leadership Conference in Shilo!

Diss tells the story of a brother and sister, newcomers to a big Canadian city, as they search for belonging and a sense of status. The male is lured into dangerous behaviour by so-called friends who are actually recruiting for a gang. Their mother is a single mom working long hours at menial jobs to make ends meet. As the play unfolds the audience sees the changes in this family as they struggle to adjust to their new home and are affected by discrimination.

What makes Diss so unique, is that it allows students to share their thoughts and suggestions about situations that are played out in front them on stage. Performed in Forum Theatre style with hip-hop elements infused into it, audiences will have the opportunity to interact with the characters by telling them what they should do next. How cool is that? This gives the audience the chance to influence the characters’ decisions, but it also allows for self-reflection and an assessment of how they can make better decisions in their own lives.

The play was originally written by Rex Deverell, in partnership with the Toronto Police Service and youth with gang experience. As a result of including youth with gang experience in the development, the show is a realistic portrayal of family relationships, friendship, peer pressure, theft, gun violence and many other issues that affect young people living with gang presence in their communities.

Spots are still available for the fall 2012 tour! To book yours today, send us an email or give us a call (204.586.2236)! If you know a youth group that should catch the show, we will be offering a public performance in partnership with Winnipeg Public Libraries at the Millennium Library on November 7th at 6:30pm. It is a free performance for youth groups and agencies. Please call us to register for this performance as space is limited.

‘Diss’ Makes its Winnipeg Debut!

Sarasvàti Productions is pleased to be presenting the Winnipeg tour of Diss later this month! Written by Toronto playwright Rex Deverell, Diss tells the stories of immigrant and newcomer youth as they navigate through the complicated world of youth gangs, gun violence and the desire to fit in. Wanting to have the play truly reflect the realities of immigrant and newcomer youth in Winnipeg, Deverell came to Winnipeg in June to meet with youth from the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) and talked with them about their experiences since arriving in Winnipeg.

One of the amazing aspects of this production is the connections to the community. It seemed like a natural fit when the folks (and kids!) at Art City got together and created these incredibly colourful set pieces for us! It really is terrific to see so many people working together on this project. We look forward to bringing this art and the forum theatre performance (another great way for community input and participation) to schools and groups this season!

Diss will be touring Winnipeg area high schools and community group spaces from October 15-December 14, 2012. For more information on how your school, community or corporate group can book a show, please visit or call 204.586.2236!