Getting to know the Band behind Tomboy Survival Guide

Tomboy Survival Guide RobinToma

photo by Robin Toma

On stage Ivan Coyote, Sal Zori, Pebbles Willekes and Alison Gorman are known for rousing audiences from their seats with a high-energy story-driven performance that will leave you breathless. Off stage this fantastic four have a lot of interesting hobbies and strong feelings about fishing. Get to know the talented collaborators of Tomboy Survival Guide in this week’s blog. As a special feature we’ve been asking all FemFest artists about their childhood after all our theme this year is Coming of Age!

Ivan Coyote
Writer/Lead Vocals

  • third generation Yukoner now based in Vancouver
  • author of eleven books, creator of four short films, six full-length live shows, and three albums
  • will be given a Honorary Doctorate of Laws at Simon Fraser University for their writing and activism
  • if Ivan wasn’t doing this they would be an electrician
  • as a child they would play the saxophone and write stories and go fishing

Sal Zori
Drummer/Percussionist

  • born in Iraq and grew up moving back and forth between the United Arab Emirates and Canada
  • for a brief time was the percussionist for Aretha Franklin
  • DIY-er, tennis player, videographer, barista
  • playing tennis was a favourite past-time as a child
  • hates karaoke
  • If you could go back in time, where would you go and why? “1920’s. The music.”

Pebbles Willekes
Bass

  • born and raised in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • Graphic designer, WordPress nerd, avid gardener & cook of vegetarian food
  • has fantasized about running a small farm
  • “I spend most of my childhood outside, in the West side of Amsterdam, riding my bike, building huts in the dense butterfly bushes. Roasting potatoes over a campfire.  Making up stories about how me and my best friend were stranded on an island and had to survive.  Started playing music (punk rock) when I was 14, then most time was spent inside.”
  • go-to karaoke song? Rebel Rebel – David Bowie
  • If you could go back in time, where would you go and why? “I’d probably go back to the late 60’s, early 70’s, to see a young Bowie in concert”

Alison Gorman
Trumpet

  • “ I eat a troubling amount of olives.”
  • go-to Karaoke song – Runaround Sue
  • “My brother used to take me fishing at the crack of dawn every weekend. I hated fishing, but liked hanging out with him. (He still thinks I like fishing).”
  • “If I weren’t in music. Jeez. I had a brief, failed attempt at an air traffic control career. Packing groceries in bins, I suppose.”
  • If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why? “Vancouver 1990’s? I’d buy up all that real estate, yo.”
  • Alison directs the band Queer As Funk [link], Vancouver’s own LGBTQ Motown, soul and funk band – they play weddings!

See Tomboy Survival Guide at FemFest 2017 one-night-only SEPT 17 at the West End Cultural Centre. Tickets on sale now.

Mulgrave Road Theatre brings harrowing Thompson play to FemFest

“Judith Thompson’s Watching Glory Die is a call to action and a cri de coeur.”
-THE CHRONICLE HERALD

Watching Glory Die (3)

Watching Glory Die

In her recent play, Judith Thompson turns our attention to the flaws within the Canadian prison system. Inspired by the true story of New Brunswick teenager Ashley Smith who died while under suicide watch in an Ontario prison in 2007, Watching Glory Die is a deliberately fictionalized portrait of three women intertwined by systemic abandonment.

“Politically charged and some of Thompson’s best story-telling”
-HALIFAX BLOGGERS

Watching Glory Die emmy headshot (artistic director)

Emmy Alcorn

After a successful run in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Mulgrave Road Theatre has been touring this powerful production across the country. We are excited to welcome them to Winnipeg to deliver this incredible piece of theatre at FemFest 2017. Director Emmy Alcorn (Artistic Director of Mulgrave Road Theatre, Nova Scotia Established Artist Award) brings this powerful play to the stage with perfect balance. “I believe there is a way to lift everyone up in society. We live in an abundant world and must ensure that everyone is treated fairly, that they have food and shelter; that they are loved”, says Alcorn.

Watching Glory Die Stephanie MacDonald Headshot (cast) now

Stephanie MacDonald

Award-winning actor Stephanie MacDonald brings these three women to life in a performance that is described in a review by the Chronicle Herald as “masterful, intense, deeply focused and totally convincing.”  In Watching Glory Die MacDonald plays all three characters: Glory, a fictionalized version of Ashley Smith; Rosellen, Glory’s mother and Gail, a guard at the prison where Glory is incarcerated. “It’s not just the precision between roles that is captivating, but how honestly and instantly MacDonald apparates from one woman’s deep emotional state to the next” –HALIFAX BLOGGERS

“Thompsons powerful writing skills are on display” – TORONTO STAR

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Watching Glory Die

The play does not shy away from the harrowing moments of this story. Chief among questions raised throughout the play is, “What would I do?” “The impossible is happening in our country,” Thompson said in an interview about Watching Glory Die with the Toronto Star. “The system destroyed Smith. And it happened where least expected.”

Judith Thompson is a multiple award-winning playwright and is highly regarded as one

Watching Glory Die (1)

Watching Glory Die

of Canada’s most prolific playwrights. She is the author of such notable plays as The Crackwalker, White Biting Dog and Lion in the Streets. Her work is a staple of theatre programs in Universities across Canada. There are three chances to see Watching Glory Die at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film: September 21 at 2:30pm and again at 9pm, September 22 at 7pm.

“Watching Glory Die shocks, clarifies and engages.” —Evan Andrew Mackay, Post City Toronto

Stay tuned for more FemFest news!
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FemFest Celebrates 15 Years!

Our beloved festival in support of women playwrights turns 15 this year! We are celebrating with the theme Coming of Age and a line-up that will blow you away.

We are ecstatic to be bringing in one of the most highly regarded playwright’s in Canadian history, two-time Governor General award-winning playwright Judith Thompson!  Thompson will join us for Mulgrave Road Theatre’s production of her play Watching Glory Die,  a harrowing play based on the true story of Ashley Smith. She will also teach a playwriting master class (September 20, 21 and 22 from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.) give a Real Thing lecture and be part of the Human Library ™.

Tomboy Survival Guide is a live stage experience that defies genre and gender boxes with fearless truth-telling and compassionate defiance. Ivan Coyote and an all-tomboy band take the audience on a musical journey navigating the narrow halls of public washrooms, skirting the childhood threat of being picked to be a flower girl, triumphing over tying a double Windsor knot, and discovering the beauty in being handsome, not pretty, all along. This is also our first time taking FemFest to the West End Cultural Centre!

We focus our in-house attention on producing Two Indians by Falen Johnson directed by Sonya Ballantyne. After years apart two cousins meet in a Toronto alley to recreate a ceremony from their childhood, but can they remember how? When the words missing and murdered, truth and reconciliation, occupation and resistance are everywhere, how do two Mohawk women stand their ground?

We’ll share a workshop preview of New Beginnings, a work in development created with the Winnipeg newcomer and refugee community.  Come and see a preview of this exciting culmination of story and dance from around the world.
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As a company dedicated to transforming society through theatre, we’ve witnessed the impact  that story-sharing can have on breaking down stereotypes and prejudices. This year we are thrilled to present a Human Library ™ as part of FemFest.  In partnership with the Millennium Library, Sarasvàti Productions has curated an incredible line up of Human Books that you can ‘take out’ for a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

Bake off 2016The beloved Bake-Off is back! This FemFest favourite challenges 5 local female playwrights to write a scene in 8-hours using three key top-secret ingredients. Scenes will be performed as part of the Festival on Sept. 18.
Winner of the FemFest 2016 Bake-Off, Jessy Ardern presents a reading of her play in progress, Kit and Joe.

WebFor ages 6 and up, Castlemoon Theatre presents Grounded Heroes. 10 year old Jess loves Lego, but her friends think it’s childish and weird. While researching a class assignment, Jess encounters three girls from history who were also a little bit weird for their time, and together they discover what it means to be true to yourself.

And you definitely won’t want to miss our closing night! This season, we brought our classic One Night Stand play reading series back with a vengeance. In honour of Winnipeg’s own celebrated female playwrights we’re curating a special One Night Stand dedicated to showcasing works in progress by some of these prolific writers who will be joined by Judith Thompson.

Workshops, readings and a dynamite Opening Cabaret will be a staple again this year. Get your passes now and celebrate 15 years of FemFest!

Take A Bow!

Spectacular! Fun! Powerful! Remarkable!

These are just a few of the words audiences have used to describe FemFest 2016: Transformation!

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The Seduction Theory Cast, Playwright Sherry MacDonald and Director, Hope McIntyre

This year’s collection of amazing works included the world premiere of The Seduction Theory by Sherry MacDonald. The all-star cast – comprised of Hailley Rhoda, Hannah Wigglesworth, Grant Burr and Merri-Lou Paterson – brought to life the moving story of 15-year-old Cass as she tries to break out of a system that shames and silences young girls. Sherry received a slew of great feedback from a special talkback after the opening show, which she’ll take into her planned expansion of the play.

The Opening Night Cabaret presented an array of diverse local talent including improv master Robyn Slade, indigenous filmmaker Sonya Ballantyne, Alissa Watson and Spenser Payne of Red Nose Diaries and many more! A huge thank you to our Cabaret sponsors, Garbonzo’s University of Winnipeg AnX, Baked Expectations & Banville & Jones for providing our packed-house with delicious food, dessert and beverages!

Morro & Jasp Do Puberty gave FemFest goers side-splitting laughter with the hilarious take on puberty and periods! The clown duo also mentored a handful of local artists with their Impulse & Play: Discovering your Inner Clown workshop and The Real Thing Lecture presented in partnership with the University of Winnipeg Department of Theatre and Film.

The annual fan-favourite Bake-Off was a hit, with its mixture of dramatic, heartbreaking and comical pieces. This year’s five emerging playwrights stretched their writing chops with Jessy Ardern ultimately winning Audience Choice and the Janet Taylor Award! She’ll have a chance to have her winning scene, Kit & Joe, developed for FemFest 2017!

Featuring fantastic movement and vocal performances along with amazing on-stage chemistry, Mouthpiece received standing ovations for its beautiful piece of trauma, triumph and will power.

Shocking, raw and scarily honest, audiences were also moved to tears by the frank theatre company theatrical poem Miss Understood by Antonette Rea. FemFest’s first trans* artist charmed her audiences and brought forth an important message about gender equality to Winnipeg.

SHORTs from the Shortlist provided extra entertainment every night. New this year was the SHORTs Showcase, featuring all nine chosen pieces. The staged readings took place at Garbonzo’s University of Winnipeg AnX who donated their space for the private SHORTs party!

All and all, FemFest 2016 was a blast! With a line-up brimming with so much talent, and lovely engaging audiences every night, FemFest and Canadian Theatre keeps getting better and better every year! We’re exciting to see what FemFest 2017 will have in store – it is our 15th anniversary afterall! If you are an artist wanting to get involved check out the call for submissions.

Shorts Earn a Showcase!

SHORTS from the Shortlist at FemFest 2016
Review by Meg Crane

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The FemFest Shorts team

If you happened to catch the Shorts, then you’re probably rearranging your schedule to see the full readings on Sept. 24 at Garbonzos.

 

Without props, complete memorization of lines or even a stage, the actors draw the audience into the stories and leaving everyone laughing and gasping throughout the 10 minute performances. In moments, they’re able to build up suspense and captivate the small classroom full of people.

A by donation show, you’ve got nothing to lose by checking it out. Expect your Saturday afternoon plans.


You can catch shorts as fillers for the remaining nights of FemFest. Solo Journeys by Kirsten Van Ritzen and Saudade by Frances Koncan will be read on September 23rd at 8:15pm, entry by donation; and September 24th at 8:15pm will feature The Living Library by Linda McCready. This year for the first time a Shorts Showcase is also being offered so audiences can see all nine pieces! To make it truly a celebration it will be hosted at Garbonzo’s Pizza Pub so you can order a drink and food to accompany the entertainment. The full showcase is $15 a ticket and takes place on September 24th at 3pm at Garbonzo’s in the U of W AnX. Click for details!

Miss Understood Leaves You Speechless

Miss Understood from the frank theatre company
Review by Meg Crane

miss-undertood-muscleWith stunning audio and visuals, Miss Understood is a powerful story told from a voice we so infrequently hear. Antonette Rea is a trans woman who comes to us from the streets of Vancouver where she worked the streets.

Along with two other performers, she owns the stage with a voice that demands to be heard and impressive high heels. This trio share a connection and closeness that can be felt from off-stage. Throwing a laugh or comforting touch as they bring Rea’s prose to life, it’s difficult at times to tell where the acting ends and the real emotions begin, or if the whole piece is infused with real, raw human emotions.

Her poetry translates so well to the stage, it feels like that’s where she’s meant to be. Rea stands in front of us, vulnerable, but with a tough exterior. She owns her story. There are few moments when we see underneath. We see the deep sadness and pain from the many horrific things society has done to her. There’s a moment when she first mentions a brutal assault at the hands of authorities that only the most callous person’s heart would not stop, then jumpstart again with an ache and desire to reach out and comfort her.

Rea could easily fill the hour with her trauma. Instead, she gently brings the audience up and down, peppering the performance with moments of light and humour. We get to see the saucy, adorable and fun side of this powerful woman.

This is a must-see show for everyone. Rea makes herself relatable and brings us into her world. She shows us how difficult it is to be a pre-op, trans woman selling sex to make it by.

Bring tissue and expect to be left without words.

They are two more chances to catch the show at FemFest – September 23 at 7pm and September 24 at 9pm. Click for details and tickets. Rea will also be doing a free reading from her poetry at Bison Books on September 24 at 1pm.

Come One, Come All – FemFest is Great Transformative Theatre!

img_20160917_160757Wow! What a whirlwind week it’s been so far and just three more days to catch shows that likely won’t be seen again in Winnipeg!

The first day of FemFest 2016 kicked off with a moving premiere performance of The Seduction Theory and full house for the Opening Night Cabaret!

The Seduction Theory actors Hailley Rhoda, Hannah Wigglesworth, Merri-Lou Paterson and Grant Burr brought Sherry’s and director Hope McIntyre’s vision to life and wowed audiences in the first few days of the fest. The opening production also featured a special talkback, where audiences discussed on-going issues facing young women in the 1950s and today.

The Cabaret was a blast – with back-to-back spectacular performances from some of Winnipeg’s best in theatre, comedy, music, film and dance!

On day two, Winnipeg’s theatre and comedy community got silly with Morro & Jasp! The clown duo, Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee, took eighteen emerging clowns under their wing with their Impulse and Play: Discovering your Inner Clown workshop. They continue their comedy streak in Winnipeg, with performances of Morro & Jasp do Puberty until Thursday.

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Janet Taylor Bake-Off Award winner Jessy Ardern with Janet Taylor’s family

Monday night’s Bake-Off gave audiences something to laugh and cry about! Taking ingredients duct tape, unbridled passion and class and turning it into this year’s Bake-Off Audience Choice, was playwright Jessy Ardern with her scene Kit and Joe. Jessy received the Janet Taylor Bake-Off award of $500. Congrats to all the playwrights who were chosen for the Bake-Off!

 

Don’t miss out on the last chance to catch some great transformative theatre (or see it all again!)

Morro & Jasp Do Puberty
Thursday, Sept. 22, 1 pm
This is your last chance to see Morro & Jasp Do Puberty at FemFest. Check out what audiences are talking about with the clown sister’s hilarious look at growing up! A definite must-see for anyone who loves to laugh (which is basically everyone)!

Mouthpiece
Thursday, Sept. 22, 7 pm | Friday, Sept. 23, 9 pm
This artistic piece encapsulates the ups-and-downs and swirls of thoughts that go through a young woman’s head as she deals with a life-altering tragedy. It’s first performance at FemFest was met with a standing ovation for the incredible performances. It is riveting, powerful and truly a masterclass in acting.

Miss Understood
Thursday, Sept. 22, 9 pm | Friday, Sept. 23, 7 pm | Saturday, Sept. 24, 9 pm
Spoken-word poet, Antonette Rea takes you on an emotional journey through her life lived in isolation and discrimination as a trans* woman in Downtown Eastside Vancouver. This one is sure to bring you to tears. Help us welcome this show from Vancouver and our first trans* artist to FemFest!!

Poetry Reading with Antonette Rea
Saturday, Sept. 24, 1 pm, Bison Books, 424 Graham Ave.
Meet Antonette Rea and hear excerpts from her work. This free poetry reading takes place at Bison Books and will include a special Q&A session.

SHORTs Showcase
Saturday, Sept. 24, 3 pm, Garbonzo’s University of Winnipeg AnX, 471 Balmoral St.
New this year is the SHORTs Showcase. Catch all nine SHORTs from the Short-List all in one sitting! This will be a riot of laughs, tears and heart-stopping stories.

The Seduction Theory
Saturday, Sept. 24, 7pm
This will be your last chance to see The Seduction Theory on the FemFest stage. You definitely don’t want to miss out on this world premiere.

For tickets and more information, please visit femfest.ca or call 204-586-2236. Tickets are also available at the door.