Jail Baby Sparks Dialogue

Jail Baby has been a long-term project for Sarasvàti Productions. It has meant three years of working with women in correctional institutions, undertaking interviews with those who work in corrections and justice, meeting with families of criminalized women and consulting with numerous groups such as restorative justice providers and victims groups. Our goal is to explore all facets of each story we choose to tell on stage and this means a need to reach out to community groups, individuals and organizations who work with the issues on a daily basis. Winnipeg is an amazing city due to its large number of volunteers, social agencies and organizations that work tirelessly to improve the community in which we live. It is our honour to work alongside them.

As part of our goal to use theatre to increase human understanding, we want Jail Baby to spark an important dialogue about how we balance the need for community safety with the complex factors behind criminal activity. We are very inspired by many of the people we have had the pleasure to talk to thus far and pleased to be hosting a series of post-show panels to allow the audience to participate in a timely and much needed dialogue. Panels will run after performances from May 17 to 25. Each panel will include three speakers who can share information about different topics explored in the play and from different perspectives. We are hoping for a healthy debate. Our panels will cover topics including:

  • What are the connections between being poor and marginalized and ending up incarcerated?
  • How do we find the balance between safety/security and justice in Canada?
  • What are the challenges in finding a stable foster home for children when their parents are incarcerated?
  • Why is there such a high correlation between being aboriginal, incarcerated and having a substance abuse problem?
  • Will building more prisons solve our problems and make our communities safer?
  • What are the needs of women when released and what programs are available?
  • Why do so many women cycle in and out of the system, from foster care, to juvenile detention to adult correctional facilities? Is there a revolving door?
  • What is the focus of the Canadian correctional system?
  • How can we move towards a restorative/healing model in work with criminalized women?

Let us know which question concerns you the most.

We are pleased to have representatives from the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg; Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba; Mediation Services; Sage House; Transition, Education Resources for Females (New Directions) and Voices – Manitoba’s Youth in Care; as well as north end activist Michael Champagne, lawyer Amanda Sansregret and Associate Professor Debra Parkes (University of Manitoba Faculty of Law). Further panelists are still being confirmed.

Tickets are now available for the show and check out our website in early May for full details on the panel schedule. In the meantime, check out the promo video by the fabulous Jordan Popowich:

“The Heart and Soul of a Nation”

Earlier this year, arts groups in Britain were stunned to find that their federal funding had been either cut completely or reduced drastically. Melissa Leong of the National Post points out that many Canadian arts organizations rely on federal funding for their operations, and there are worries and discussions at home about what programs get cut in a fragile economy. To summarize, the panelists surveyed in the article all believe that arts and culture are “the heart and soul of a nation,” and that funding should at least be partially restored. Chances are if you are reading this blog, you agree in the importance of arts funding.

But what does this mean for us? How does it relate to our Sarasvàti Productions and our programming?

Sarasvàti Productions partnered with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba three years ago to gather stories from incarcerated and recently released women. The resulting play was titled Jail Baby, and after much development and feedback, it is finally ready to make its world premiere in May 2013. This is an absolutely unique, one of a kind production. We know that Jail Baby will have a significant impact on the community from which the stories came, and we also hope that it creates positive dialogue in the mainstream as well.

So what can YOU do to help!?

Just a few days ago, we launched our online-fundraising campaign, with all funds raised going toward the Jail Baby project. Not only do we plan on having a traditional theatre run for the show, but we also want to bring the show into the communities from which the stories came. While we do have some funding, it is also imperative that we receive support from the community. We have a proud history of producing work that inspires positive social change, with each project receiving more support than the last. We are confident that you will see the powerful effect that Jail Baby can have.

What better time to pledge your support for Sarasvàti Productions and for Jail Baby than by contributing to our campaign this holiday season?  We have great prize incentives for each pledge level, but we know you will be giving for more than just ‘stuff.’ You understand the standing that comes with Jail Baby, and we hope that you will help us see it through. For more information, please visit http://sarasvati.ca/get-involved/support-jail-baby/

Jail Baby – An Introduction

It’s hard to believe that in just six months’ time our production of Jail Baby will make its world premiere! Three years in the making, Jail Baby is the result of drama workshops in correctional institutions with a wide range of women offenders. It is a heart-wrenching story that finds hope and humour in the most unlikely places.

We are excited that renowned Winnipeg director Ann Hodges will be at the helm of the production. She is already hard at work preparing for the show! We are also excited to announce that the play written by Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore (with Nan Fewchuk and Marsha Knight) will be published by Scirocco Drama in conjunction with the world premiere! Copies will be available for purchase during the performance run.

Our goal is to create transformative theatre so the show will also include special panels exploring the issue of women offenders, the high representation of aboriginal women in prison and restorative justice. As well, stay tuned for special cameo appearances by some of Winnipeg’s best lawyers and judges!

Jail Baby recognizes and examines the issues and realities of incarcerated women from their perspectives thereby dispelling the myths about female criminals. The play also shows the perspective of those affected by crime. These issues are extremely relevant right now in Canada and around the world. We have shared on our Facebook and Twitter stories of the plight of women incarcerated around the world in recent weeks. According to the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba, the number of women in prisons has grown 50% over the last decade. EFS Manitoba estimates that with the new Omnibus Crime Bill, the number of women in prisons is expected to rise. Check out this infographic from the National Post to see what and where the numbers are.

Jail Baby will run from May 16-26, 2012 at the University of Winnipeg’s Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. After the run, we are hoping to also do some special community performances.