A Time to Give Thanks, A Time to Give

We have been overwhelmed and overjoyed with the positive responses we have received from students, teachers and the community with our world premiere of Empty at FemFest 2012, followed by a short community tour.  Here are just a few responses from students:
The play was very effective because it moved me so much that I went to talk with someone about volunteering at Winnipeg Harvest.
-I learned so much from this play.  I didn’t realize just how many people have to use food banks and have to make decisions like whether to feed their families or pay rent.
-The play made me respect volunteers more and realize just how many volunteers places like that need.
-I would tell the writer/director/actors that they did an amazing job and that it was really moving and heartbreaking.
-It felt real, like I had actually walked into and viewed the lives of people who visit food banks.

photo by Janet Shum  photo by Janet Shum

Sarasvàti Productions offers the combined benefit of contributing to artistic achievement while also supporting important social and community issues (such as poverty and food banks, as seen in Empty). Long term financial stability is essential to achieving our mandate. What better way to nurture growth in your community and maximize available funding than by supporting our endowment fund. An endowment fund is where gifts are pooled and permanently invested as capital and only the income earned is used for charitable purposes. An endowment creates a stable form of future income. A donation to the endowment fund assures the legacy of the donor is respected in perpetuity.

Sarasvàti Production’s endowment fund operates through the Winnipeg Foundation. There are matching programs available from both the Winnipeg Foundation and the federal government with the intention of encouraging private donors to contribute and provide future funding to charities. A donor’s gift may be doubled and the next deadline for the federal matching program is November 30th. If you are considering a gift to the company now is the time!

1. Contribute to our endowment fund at the Winnipeg Foundation.
2. Or to make a gift by cheque, please send to: The Winnipeg Foundation RE: Sarasvàti Productions Endowment Fund 1350-One Lombard Place Winnipeg, MB   R3B 0X3

‘Empty’ Shines a Light

Empty, our original, in-house production (created with the support of the Winnipeg Arts Council ‘With Arts’ Program and the Winnipeg Foundation), had its world premiere at FemFest 2012 last week to an extremely enthusiastic and responsive audience. We knew before FemFest that we wanted to take this show out into the community and thanks to the additional support of RBC Foundation this has been made possible. It is important to us to share this incredible work with folks who may not have access to or typically go to theatre shows. To kick-off our tour, we brought the play into the place that inspired the play: Winnipeg Harvest. Over the lunch hour, we performed the show for Winnipeg Harvest volunteers, staff and community members. The response has been overwelmingly positive.

“On behalf of all the Winnipeg Harvest team members who were there, thank you so much for presenting Empty today at lunchtime. You have done an excellent job of capturing the reality faced by Winnipeg Harvest clients in your script. The actors, director and crew all make it come alive and be real. As I looked around the room during the performance, I could see that you were having a profound effect on everyone there. Many, including David, were moved to tears. Your play was acting as a catalyst for their increased consciousness of their individual situation and how that is reflected in the systemic reality. Drama can be a powerful force for social change. Emptyis very powerful. We all hope it leads to the kinds of changes we all want.” – Donald Benham, Director of Hunger and Poverty Awareness (Winnipeg Harvest)

Sylvia Kuzyk, Elena Anciro and Melanie Dean; photo by Janet Shum

As we were approaching community groups and schools about this project, the response and interest was paramount. There is such a thirst for ‘real stories’ about ‘real people.’ We are excited to be offering a production that was written not only with food bank users in mind, but with direct input from food bank users, volunteers and staff throughout the entire creation and writing process. When our own Artistic Director Hope McIntyre was commissioned to write this piece, she knew from the start that this project and the resulting production would be able to reach out to individuals and communities in an enlightening way. We look forward to a successful run!

We have two community shows that are open to the public and you’re invited!

7pm Thursday, September 27 in partnership with the Provincial Council of Women at the Society of Manitobans With Disabilities (825 Sherbrook Street); $10 admission
8pm Thursday, October 4 at Graffiti Art Gallery a special show for youth (109 Higgins Ave); admission is free but seats need to be reserved (call 204.586.2236 for details)

September 24 2012 – FemFest 2012: a Smash Hit!

Sarasvàti Productions is humbled by the unwavering support and love that we have received from the fantastic turn-out and interest in FemFest 2012: Staging Identity. The festival closed this past weekend and although we are sad that it is over, we are happy to know that so many Winnipeggers were able to experience and appreciate transformative plays by women. It is hard to pick out highlights from this years festival because of the wide variety of topics and issues each of the plays raised. The audience response to our shows has been overwhelming! We are proud of the work we have put out this year and for the last 10 years of Winnipeg’s only and Canada’s favourite female playwright festival!

As part of our 10 year anniversary of FemFest, we have put together a series of videos, speaking with many of the amazingly talented women who have contributed their stories and work to the festival over the years. As well, we have compiled a short video, looking back on this past FemFest and what some favorite moments were! Check it out on our youtube page!

Just because FemFest has passed does not mean Sarasvàti takes time off! We are excited to announce that Empty, an in-house production that debuted at FemFest, will be touring Winnipeg high schools and community groups in the upcoming weeks. The tour starts tomorrow, with a free show at Winnipeg Harvest at 11:45am! Admission is free but we encourage you to bring a tin for the bin!

As well, we will have many more events and shows throughout the 2012-2013 season – and we cannot wait to see you at all of them! For more information about our season line-up, check out www.sarasvati.ca

FemFest 2012 to wrap up this weekend!

We could not be more thrilled with the incredible amount of support and encouragement we have received this week as part of FemFest 2012! There are only two days left of the festival but there are still tons of incredible performances to see!

Friday, September 21:

7pm – Empty: Created with the assistance of the Winnipeg Arts Council WithArts Program, Empty tells the true and poignant stories of people at a local food bank and explores the human side of poverty.

8:15pm – The Possible Lives of Dolores Garcia Rodriguez: a reading by playwright Jordan Hall, Co-created with ACTvist Theatre Collective’s Zoe Green, Possible Lives explores the 2006 repeal of therapeutic abortion rights in Nicaragua and their effects on the lives of three different women. When do we decide to create change, and when do we decide to ignore the issues?

9pm – My Pregnant Brother: a one-woman show by Montreal playwright and actor Johanna Nutter, this stranger than fiction story is based off of the true events that took place when one day on a park bench, Johanna’s brother revealed that he was pregnant! Absolutely heart wrenching and mesmerizing!

My Pregnant Brother; photo by Pam Price

Saturday, September 22:

2pm – Empty

7pm – Immigration Stories: SOLD OUT!: Created in partnership with the Immigrant Women’s Association of Manitoba, Immigration Stories tells the true stories of senior immigrant women and their experiences coming to and navigating through their new lives in Winnipeg. Experience the trials, tribulations and triumphs of these amazing, head strong women. Although tickets are sold out audiences are welcome to take a risk and come just before the show in case there are no-shows.

9pm – Closing Cabaret: Hosted by Virgin Radio’s Chrissy Troy, the closing cabaret is a celebrating of female talent from across disciplines! Including: Gear Shifting Performance Work, MAWA artists Cindy Dyson and Nora Kobrinsky, slam poetry by Ali Tataryn, Prairie Caravan Tribal Bellydance, a short film by Leslie Supnet and musical guest Flo!

Tickets can be purchased online at www.femfest.ca or you can try your luck by purchasing at the door! (We recommend buying ahead of time – shows are filling up quickly! Tickets bought ahead of time will be available at the box office)

In Depth: Empty with Nan Fewchuk

We are pleased to welcome guest blogger Nan Fewchuk who is directing Empty at FemFest 2012. To learn more about how you can get your tickets to Empty and other shows, visit www.femfest.ca.


Empty, written by Hope McIntyre, is a thought provoking work which takes us inside a Winnipeg foodbank and further, inside the lives of its users. McIntyre penned the play after volunteering at one of the food banks here in Winnipeg, and interviewing several of the regular clientele. Their stories reflect their real life situations. Theirs is a life empty of more than stomachs and cupboards, and hearing their voices helps to bring a better understanding of why these characters are at a place where “everybody knows their names.” The answers may not be what you were expecting.

When Hope first asked me if I was interested in helping her facilitate some drama workshops for food bank clients at the First Unitarian Universal Church, I was thrilled, but I admit I felt a wee bit embarrassed. Although I had been volunteering with Siloam Mission at the time, it occurred to me that I had never stepped foot into a food bank and knew very little about how they operated or who used them. That soon changed for me after spending time not only volunteering, but being invited to sit in on the reading of the play by the clients themselves, each playing the character Hope created for them based on their true life stories. What a treat! Moving, funny, and painfully truthful, I was enlightened. So, when later asked if I would be interested in directing the play as a workshop presentation for the community and Winnipeg Harvest, it was a no brainer.Now a year later, I am honoured to be directing this important work for FemFest and am thrilled that we will be touring schools this fall.

The play tackles tough issues honestly and with humour. It helps educate the audience member who may be holding negative, stereotypical perceptions of who these people are, and sheds light on the different perspectives of the food bank community. Questions are raised not only from the outside, but also amongst the users themselves who confront each other about their own biases.

Sadly, there are 58,000 people using a food bank in Manitoba each month, and 1 in 5 of those are children.  As a society and community of caregivers, it is our responsibility to learn more about the situation, and Empty is up for the challenge. With a stellar cast featuring Winnipeg’s own Sylvia Kuzyk, this journey will leave you feeling far from empty.