Behind the Scenes with Breaking Through

With less than two weeks until Opening Night, the cast of Breaking Through are delving deep in to their characters who are born out of so many Winnipegger’s stories. For this week’s blog we visited the actors in action for a behind the scenes look into Breaking Through.

Harry Nelken as "Joe" in Breaking Through

Joe (Harry Nelken)

Harry Nelken plays Joe, a sometimes prickly, sometimes charming mental health centre resident with the story of a lifetime.

“What excites me about Joe: he’s a fighter, he’s compassionate, he thinks of others, he nurtures, he’s loving, and a kidder”, says Harry, “most of all, he accepts who he is and his lot in life.”

 

Richie Diggs plays an array of different characters as the Male Ensemble in Breaking Through.

Richie Diggs as "Absame" in Breaking Through

A fateful encounter at a bus stop between Absame (Richie Diggs) and Stef (Elena Anciro)

“Everyone needs a healthy mind, but anyone can get a sick mind.” My character says this in the play, thereby distilling the entire play to that simple comprehension, says Richie. “It is a key point to note, not just because one’s own self may sometimes be confronted with the challenges of living with a mental illness, but that when we encounter others battling these health challenges, that understanding, and support will be our participation, rather than stigma, or exclusion, or fear.”

Elena Ancrio as "Stef" in Breaking Through

Joe (Harry Nelken) and Stef (Elena Anciro); Joe fulfills duty as the unofficial ‘welcome committee’ of the mental health centre.

“What I love about Stef is that she is strong and resilient, that even when she is struggling, she has a quick wit and the instinct to help others”, says Elena Anciro. “The journey she goes on during the play has a really important message for all of us. I think whenever you are tasked with playing a character that is based on a real person or is experiencing something very specific (in this case, anxiety and OCD), it’s hard not to feel nervous about “getting it right.” It’s been amazing to work with Hope and Cairn’s script and to explore the text / subject matter with the cast. There’s been a very supportive and ‘safe space’ vibe to our rehearsals, which has really helped me feel relaxed about finding Stef and telling her story.”

 

Breaking Through SpenserPayne (4)

Val (Spenser Payne) saves face!

Spenser Payne plays Val. “I think Val’s story is a really great story to witness, says Spenser.  “It’s hard to live up to certain beauty standards in our world, and doing my research on this character, really realized how common it is for women, and men to deal with an eating disorder. It happens to anyone, doesn’t matter your size, or gender. There is massive pressure from our social media world to look a certain way, or act a certain way, and I think seeing Val struggle with This concept will really resonate with audiences.”

 

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KoKo (Josh Ranville) is visited by spirit guide (Marsha Knight)

“I play different family members to more than one character so I am in relationship with more than one other person who has mental health concerns”, says Marsha Knight, who plays the Female Ensemble.

 

“Not only am I looking at the nuances for each character”, says Marsha, “I am also looking at the relationship. Those are areas that every actor addresses – characteristics, a uniqueness, the dynamic. This time around, there is a heightened awareness when it comes to the relationship part.”

Breaking Through DorothyCarroll_MarshaKnight_HarryNelken

Molly (Dorothy Carroll) stirs things up at the mental health centre.

 

“Molly is so intensely dynamic”, says Dorothy Carroll. “We see her in her highest and lowest moments, which has made it a real challenging journey. Finding a way “in” to someone struggling as Molly does, and discovering the “whys” has been most enlightening.”

Breaking Through RichieDiggs_JoshRanville

Dr. Morgan (Richie Diggs) and KoKo (Josh Ranville

“KoKo is a voice of wisdom in the play”, says Josh Ranville. “There are beautiful painful moments of hopelessness at the start of the play but I also get to climb out of the muck. KoKo is a light beacon for the other characters to accept themselves for who they are. What a journey I get to go on every night we perform.”

Breaking Through runs May 23-28 at the Asper Centre for Theatre an Film. To see a full list of showtimes and to book tickets visit sarasvati.ca.

Photos by Janet Shum.

Breaking Through HarryNelken_ElenaAnciro_JoshRanville_SpenserPayne_DorothyCarroll

L to R: Joe (Harry Nelken) Stef (Elena Anciro) KoKo (Josh Ranville) Val (Spenser Payne) and Molly (Dorothy Carroll)

 

 

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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/

Meet the Cast of Breaking Through!

This ace team of actors who will be working on Breaking Through includes many familiar faces and some who are brand new to Sarasvàti. We can’t wait to dive into rehearsals with this incredible team of artists!

Elena Anciro

Elena AnciroElena Anciro is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Theatre & Film. She was recently seen on stage in Alice in Wonderland (Theatre NorthWest), JONNO (Echo Theatre), and Chimerica (RMTC/CanStage). Her favourite Sarasvàti credits include: Fefu & Her Friends, Flood Control, and Empty. Elena is a member of Red Threads of Peace, a playback theatre troupe that merges artistry, social justice, and community building through improvised storytelling. She is honoured to be part of the premiere of this poignant and relevant new work.

Dorothy Carroll

Dorothy is excited to embark on this incredibly important project with Sarasvàti. Dorathy CarrollPreviously she appeared in Kayak (2010). A graduate of the University of Winnipeg Honours Acting program, favorite past shows include: Alice Through the Looking Glass (RMTC), Stripped Down Midsummer Nights Dream (SIR), Dutchman (play on Theatre), Hamlet (Bravura), The Producers (Rainbow Stage), Avenue Q (Winnipeg Studio Theatre), Little Women, Company (Dry Cold). Dorothy is the Associate Artistic Director of Bravura Theatre, and produces their Shakespeare in the Pub series here in Winnipeg. Watch for her production On Love (play on Theatre) in this year’s Winnipeg Fringe Festival!

Richie Diggs

Richie DiggsRichie Diggs (University of Winnipeg), is glad to be returning to Winnipeg for Breaking Through. Now living in Vancouver, B.C. he has previously been in Winnipeg features such as Trish Cooper’s Social Studies (Prairie Theatre Exchange) and Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s Pirates of Penzance. Richie starred in Firehall Arts Centre’s production of Social Studies for which he was nominated for the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards in the Best Lead Actor category.  Richie will star in Lynn Nottage’s Ruined at Dark Glass Theatre, Vancouver January of 2018.

Marsha Knight

Marsha KnightMarsha last appeared with Sarasvàti for Hope McIntyre’s production of Eden and assisted with facilitating workshops for Jail Baby. She has been in this business for over 20 years starting with Ian Ross’ Governor General’s award winning drama fareWel (PTE). She performed in fareWel two additional times, one being at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She was also in three separate productions of Rez Sisters (PTE, Theatre Northwest, Magnus Theatre). Her recent work includes Norm Foster’s Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun (Theatre Northwest), Shakespeare in the Ruins Antony & Cleopatra, and Drew Hayden Taylor’s Crees in the Caribbean  (Magnus Theatre). She thanks Hope McIntyre and Sarasvàti Productions for all their work in bringing these stories to light and for staging storytelling for us all to hear.

Harry Nelken

Mr. Nelken told us how happy he was to be part of this wonderful project.
Harry NelkenAn Equity member since 1978, he has worked extensively in theatres in Winnipeg and several Canadian cities. Selected credits: Glengarry Glen Ross, MTC  (Levine), Butcher, PTE (Josef), Zadie’s Shoes, PTE and Factory Theatre (Eli), Hamlet (Polonius), The Merchant of Venice (Shylock), S.I.R., Einstein’s Gift (Einstein), WJT/MTC, The Sunshine Boys (Al Lewis), Chemainus Theatre, B.C., All or Nothing (Unamuno) Shiksa (Abe), WJT,  The Hunting Party (Graves) for Agatha Christie Fest. At the 2017 Fringe, Mr. Nelken will be seen in Eastport.

Spenser Payne

Spenser PayneSpenser Payne is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program. She is founding member of The Talentless Lumps, Red Nose Diaries and Sweet and Salty Collective. When she’s not onstage, you can find her teaching at Prairie Theatre Exchange School or studying with clown duo Mump and Smoot. Recently she traveled with Prairie Theatre Exchange’s Munchbusters! and went to Ireland to work with clown master Phillipe Gaulier. She is excited to be back working with Sarasvàti after joining them in the 2016 FemFest Bakeoff and clowing around in FemFest’s Opening Cabaret!

 

Joshua Ranville

Joshua RanvilleJosh is an actor/musician from Winnipeg. Josh has been part of a few Sarasvàti productions in the past such as: Eden workshop, Breaking Through workshop. His most recent public theatre work was a one-man touring play with the Manitoba Theatre for Young People called Routes directed by Kimberly Rampersad. Josh trained for 3 years at Studio 58 in Vancouver B.C. Josh looks forward to playing Bass with Burnt Project 1 on the Scotia-Bank Stage for Aboriginal Day Live this summer.

Catch this amazing ensemble as they bring the world premiere of Breaking Through to life at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film May 23-28.

 

Thank You for Another Super IWW!

Twelve performances, three cities and nine SuperWomen! Our 11th International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues was a success – lots of people came out to celebrate and hear the incredible stories of nine amazing women written by talented Canadian playwrights. Thank you to all of our wonderful audiences for joining us to hear the stories of perseverance, self-discovery and empowerment!

Kim Kakegamic, Lorraine James, Jenna Hill, Samantha Walters & Mallory James at the UM Womyn's Centre

Kim Kakegamic, Lorraine James, Jenna Hill, Samantha Walters & Mallory James at the UM Womyn’s Centre

Kicking off the week we performed to a great crowd at the Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba High Tea fundraiser! We were happy to be able to support this amazing organization that does so much to empower women throughout Manitoba. We were happy to also perform at another organization that does a lot to empower women, the University of Manitoba’s Womyn’s Centre. We performed there not only once, but twice last week! During the two performances all nine monologues were performed for members and supporters of the Womyn’s Centre, which does so much to make the campus a safe place for all women.

Kim at Siloam

Kim Kakegamic at Siloam Mission

In addition we were hosted by Portage Place Shopping Centre and Siloam Mission to bring theatre to people who otherwise would not be able to see it. Many people from all walks of life stopped to watch Zelda Fitzgerald vent her frustrations and Glory Girl work her way out of her bounds. John Fubbister (aka Isobel Gunn) also told the youth drop in program at the Rainbow Resource Centre about her story of joining the HBC as a man in the early 1800s. Actor Mallory James and writer Sandy Klowak also held a talkback afterwards.

One of the most powerful presentations was Jenna Hill performing Mutated for the Young Adults Support Group at Cancer Care Manitoba. The piece launched the group in to an important discussion and many shared their personal experiences. It was a moving experience for the actor and our Assistant Director, Rachel Smith.

Some of our Cabaret cast with Nova House staff & cake in Selkirk!

Some of our Cabaret cast with Nova House staff & cake in Selkirk!

We also took a trip out to Selkirk to celebrate International Women’s Week with Nova House Shelter for Women and Children where the team was again treated to the most amazing deserts! For our final performance we traveled out to Winkler on International Women’s Day to join Genesis House Shelter’s celebration. This was the perfect end to our Cabaret of Monologues. Both organizations help abused women and children through a variety of programs and services and we were happy to bring these great monologues to them.

The Cabaret of Monologues wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and Manitoba Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection. We’d also like to thank all of our playwrights, actors, volunteers and of course audiences! And now, here in the office our attention is turning to the world premiere of Catherine Banks’ Miss N Me – tickets are on sale already because we’re just that excited! Hope to see you there!

Come Celebrate International Women’s Week with Us!

Are we there yet? What more do you believe needs to change in order to achieve gender equality? It’s that time of year when the world can celebrate how far we’ve come and reflect on how far we all have to go to achieving gender equality. International Women’s Day has been celebrated by the UN every year on March 8 since 1977 and has since been expanded to include activities throughout the week. This year there has been some great steps forward in the fight for equality for all women everywhere such as the UN Women’s Solidarity Movement HeForShe, the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict (the largest summit of its kind), and Malala becoming the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her amazing work advocating for girls’ education.

With these achievements and others we certainly feel like celebrating, so come celebrate with us at our full performances of our annual Cabaret of Monologues on March 7th! Hear from nine ordinary and extraordinary SuperWomen in a line-up of thought provoking and funny monologues written by talented Canadian playwrights and performed by local actors.

These amazing SuperWomen have already been empowering people with our community performances of select monologues. We’ve performed at Siloam Mission, Portage Place Shopping Centre, Rainbow Resource Centre, U of M Womyn’s Centre, Cancer Care and that’s not all, we have three more to go! The monologues have been a hit everywhere we’ve been, from the historical figure Isobel Gunn talking about her time working for the HBC in Rupert’s Land to Bea having to make a difficult decision about her mutated cells to Glory Girl having to escape from her nemesis.

To purchase tickets to see these awesome SuperWomen and others on March 7th at 4pm or 8pm in the UW Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, click here!

And if you want to do something on March 8th consider going to Winnipeg’s International Women’s Day march! It is open to all genders and ages and will offer light refreshments and inspiring speakers. The rally is meeting at 1pm at Portage Place and is walking to Union Centre at 1:30pm. For more information check out the Facebook event.

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S WEEK!

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9 Super Monologues, 9 Amazing Actors!

With winter settling in March feels a long way away, but that doesn’t mean we’re not busy working on our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues! A few weeks ago we announced the monologue line up, now we get to tell you who will be bringing these awesome monologues to life!

Elena Anciro has performed in our annual Cabaret of Monologues twice before and performed in our spring production Fefu and her Friends. We’re happy to have her back performing At the Gate by Sandra Drag about a remarkable woman’s tale of wrestling a family away from a horrific car accident.

Christine Rodriguez’s The Autism Monologue will be brought to life by Cabaret of Monologues newcomer Shanley Jardine. You may remember Shanley from the short piece The Exchange in FemFest 2013. The monologue is a heart-wrenching story of a mother attempting to make sense of her autistic son’s life. It’s a beautiful piece and we know that Shanley will do it justice.

Another newcomer, Kim Kakegamic, will be performing our FemFest 2014 Bake-Off winner’s energetic monologue Zelda with a Z. Frances Koncan lets us hear Zelda’s side of the story as she talks to us about her life with writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s a fun piece that Kim can really go crazy with!

Samantha Walters, Sarasvàti’s past Associate Producer and Emerging Artist in Residence, is back for her third Cabaret of Monologues in a row. You’ve seen her as Super Girl and now as Glory Girl, a comic book character come to life. Glory Bound by Scott Douglas sees Glory Girl attempt to escape her captors, although she discovers that she may not be bound against her will. We’re thrilled to have Sam back to the stage and can’t wait to see what she does with the role!

For Step Taylor’s Loretta we’ll be welcoming Lorraine James back to the Cabaret stage. Lorraine has done the Cabaret multiple times, including our trip to The Pas in 2008. She will play Loretta who has lied to her drug addicted son about losing her job so that he can focus on passing his exams, but what will happen when he finds out? Come and see for yourself on March 7th!

While Elizabeth Whitbread is new to the Cabaret of Monologues she just recently participated in our FemFest 2014 Short List reading. Jennica Grienke’s An Inheritance is a challenging piece that will see Elizabeth play a character in three different stages of her life. While challenging, it will be fascinating to see what Elizabeth brings to it.

Another FemFest 2014 actor, Mallory James, participates in her first Cabaret of Monologues as John Fubbister (aka Isobel Gunn) in Sandy Klowak’s riveting monologue. Mallory will play a remarkable woman who wouldn’t let anything stop her from adventuring into the wilds of Rupert’s Land. We can’t wait to see this strong historical figure come to life!

Cabaret of Monologues newcomer Jenna Hill will play Bea in Mutated by Carly Pokoradi. Bea is an adventurous young woman whose plans are put on hold when she’s faced with a life-altering situation. This is a very interesting piece and Jenna will bring a lot of depth and humour to it. Last year Jenna was seen in the world premiere of Trish Cooper’s play Social Studies at PTE.

Finally, Jane Burpee is back at the Cabaret after an amazing performance at this year’s Bake-Off. Jane has participated in multiple productions with us over the years, from So You Think You Can Act, to FemFest, to the Cabaret of Monologues, including a performance in the Portage Correctional Centre for Women in 2008. This year Jane will be playing the coolest nun in the convent who reveals her thoughts on life and God while at a nun retreat in Dave Carley’s Urban Nun.

There you have it, the monologues have been selected, the cast has been chosen and believe it or not the first IWW rehearsals start this week! We couldn’t be any more excited to see what these 9 talented actors bring to the stage as they lift these brilliantly written Super Women off of the page. You’ll get a chance to see the final product March 7th at 8pm, so mark your calendar and visit our website for more information by clicking here!

 

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Fefu and Her Friends: More Amazing Talent!

Fefu FB cover picAs the days grow longer, the countdown to opening night gets shorter! We are extremely excited here at Sarasvàti Productions for our upcoming spring production of Fefu and Her Friends. Known for its unique absurdist and surreal elements and its powerful use of space, we are positive this show will impress audiences and leave them wanting more. As a continuation of last week’s post, today we are pleased to feature two additional members of our talented all-female cast! Meet Elena Anciro who will play the role of Sue and Kelci Stephenson who will take on the role of Julia. Find out more about these two homegrown talents below.

Elena Anciro - HeadshotElena Anciro is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Theatre and Film. She is excited and honoured to bring Fefu and Her Friends to life with this fantastic group of women! Her previous Sarasvati credits include: A Kick in the Head (as director), Generation Nexxt, the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues, Empty, and Flood Control.  Her recent onscreen projects include “Foot of the Bridge” (40below Films), “Siberia” (NBC), and “Schism” (ZenFri). When she isn’t performing, Elena has the pleasure of working with youth across Manitoba as the Curriculum Developer for Career Trek, Inc.

Kelci Stephenson - HeadshotKelci Stephenson is happy to be home in Winnipeg again after a long winter traipsing around the prairies on tour. A graduate of the University of Winnipeg Honours Theatre program, she spent the past six months on the road with Stripped-Down Hamlet (Shakespeare In the Ruins), and Portage & Munsch: 50 Below (Prairie Theatre Exchange).

We got up close and personal with our stars so you could get to know them better! Take a look at what they shared with us.

What is your favourite play?
ELENA: That’s a tough one, but the most recent play I’ve read is “Kim’s Convenience” by Ins Choi. It’s been a while since I’ve read something that made me laugh that hard!

KELCI: August: Osage County or King Lear

What is your favourite thing to do on your day off?
ELENA: Playing with my nephews and breakfast with friends.

KELCI: Bake banana bread and read a book.

Where would you love to travel?
ELENA: New Zealand and Newfoundland are at the top of my travel list!

KELCI: New Zealand, Vietnam.

What would you do if you won a million dollars?
ELENA: The first two things I’d do is take my family on a trip and create a foundation that would support organizations working in the arts, community development, and education.

KELCI: Dance around like a maniac! As for what I would do with the money; take my family on a crazy vacation, and use the rest toward sustainability initiatives in Uganda with the Winnipeg-based organization Kwagala Foundation.

Fefu and Her Friends is a unique and immersive theatrical experience! The show will run from May 22nd-June 1st inside West Broadway’s stunning Ralph Connor House (54 West Gate). Want to find out more? Click here for more information on the show and to purhcase your tickets online. But hurry! With only 60 seats per performance, this show is bound to sell-out well in advance. Contact us to get your tickets today!