Wishing You an Inspiring Holiday Season!

It’s been an exciting year for Sarasvàti Productions, made all the better by our incredible board members, volunteers, artistic teams and of course our great audiences! We cannot thank you enough for your ongoing assistance and encouragement. Over the holidays we want to give thanks for all of our supporters and celebrate a wonderful year!

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The year began with our first ever tie between two celebrities for So You Think You Can Act when Troy Westwood and Big Daddy Tazz wowed the audience with their acting skills. Who knows what this year has in store with our diverse range of celebrity guests! Will the Taz name carry good luck and bring the trophy to Taz Stuart? Will dance beat out music as RWB’s André Lewis competes against musician Romi Mayes? Or will it be a second year for a former Bomber to adorn their mantelpiece with Chris Cvetkovic? Tickets are now on sale and make great gifts for loved ones!

Group Selfie of 2014 IWW Cabaret of Monologues Actors

Group Selfie of 2014 IWW Cabaret of Monologues Actors

Last March 10 talented actors took the stage in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. The theme was Rise Up, which meant the stories focused on young women. This year the theme is SuperWomen and will feature stories of women who have done incredible things! There will be a rebellious nun, a pioneering woman and an actual superhero, don’t miss it on March 7th!

Fefu Ensemble

Fefu Ensemble

We have been so pleased with the success of our annual spring production. Last year Fefu and Her Friends sold out many performances at the historic Ralph Connor House. It was a long awaited for production and the marvelous 8 women cast did an amazing job of it. This year we’re changing it up and will be bringing a completely new play to the stage in the premiere of Catherine Banks’ Miss’N Me. We can’t wait! Don’t miss Dawna’s road trip to meet Missy Elliot and all the strange characters she meets along the way.

Janis and Jujube lead the closing cabaret in song.

Janis and Jujube lead the closing cabaret in song.

Of course we rolled right in to a summer of planning FemFest 2014. Full of unforgettable moments capped by the audience sing along at the closing cabaret. Believe it or not planning has already begun for FemFest 2015: Hear Her Roar!

GV Group Shot

Giving Voice Team

We are ready for a holiday rest, after finishing off our fall with the results of our two year long collaborative production Giving Voice. We performed for over 4,400 people at 33 high schools and communities. This project was created in partnership with VOICES: Manitoba’s Youth in Care Network to help give youth in and from care a voice. Many students had their eyes opened and youth in care were empowered. It was amazing to see that show completed after years of hard work.

It has truly been a transformative year for us as we continue to challenge artists, audiences and society while promoting and reflecting diversity. Thank you all for helping to make this such a great year, and from all of us at Sarasvàti, we wish you and yours the happiest of holidays!

Giving Voice and Changing Lives

There were tears, cheers of support, inspiring stories, insightful responses, group hugs, so many transformative moments, dancing and a lot of laughter (especially in the van during road trips)! This morning the Giving Voice team took their final bow at Gimli High School. They have performed this inspirational show written collaboratively by youth in and from care a total of 33 times to over 4,200 youth, teachers, CFS workers and members of the general public. They have traveled over 3,186 km to 16 different cities and towns around Manitoba. The responses to the show have been overwhelmingly positive. See below to read a select few for yourself:

“The performance was great. It was a real eye opener to our students to what some people’s life situations actually involve. Our students loved the opportunity to get up on stage in their attempts to make things better for the main characters, and the actors were amazing in welcoming our students to the stage. A great event for any school, as we all have students in care, and we all need to show a caring side to any new students in our buildings.” – Principal in Prairie Rose School Division

“The theme of the play was fantastic. I didn’t expect that they would use social media to tell a story about teens in foster care. It was wonderful how they told a heavy topic in a manner that captured all of our attention. I was truly touched by the play.” – Student in Pembina Trails School Division

“Giving Voice was one of the most powerful high school matinees I have ever attended. To capture the attention of 120+ students is not an easy task but to also inspire them and then encourage them to participate in a meaningful way was amazing to view. The content was thoughtfully chosen, to illustrate the lives of those in care….All too often students feel/think that material provided to them (such as live theatre, videos, texts) is not relevant or applicable to their lives. Giving Voice illuminated aspects of the Child Foster System for all to understand but in a way that truly gave voice to those so often under-represented. Bravo to Sarasvàti for once again providing a thought provoking, engaging theatre experience.” – Teacher in Seven Oaks School Division

“The forum style of presentation gave students an opportunity to really get involved in the issue of kids in care. The way in which students and their ideas were welcomed by the cast encouraged many of our students to go onstage and become part of the scenes, and play a role in making a difference. Sarasvati Productions always leave a lasting impression!” – Teacher in River East Transcona School Division



“What impressed me the most was how realistic the play was written.” – Student in River East Transcona School Division

“Theatre in general and Forum Theatre in particular has the power to get people talking about issues that all too often remain untouched. Watching my grade 9-12 students get up and engage in multiple interventions, digging and exploring the topic of foster care from a number of perspectives, reminded me why it is SO vital that the Arts/Dramatic Arts are a part of the learning that each and every student takes on in schools daily.” – Teacher in Hanover School Division

“Absolutely brilliant. It was so moving and insightful. My students enjoyed it THOROUGHLY.” – Teacher in Pembina Trails School Division


Thank you so much for 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 VOICES: Manitoba’s Youth in Care Network, Manitoba Community Services Council Inc, The Winnipeg Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, Winnipeg Arts Council, The General Child and Family Services Authority, Manitoba Teachers’ Society, and Children and Youth Opportunities.


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, info@sarasvati.ca

Ten Shows and Counting!

The Giving Voice team has been on the road for just over two weeks now, they have ten shows under their belt, but they are nowhere near done yet! In fact, they are only a third of the way through, there are still many more schools and youth to empower and inspire all around Manitoba. The team’s been rocking their shows and the reception has been amazing!

Warming Up at St.Aidan's!

Warming Up at St.Aidan’s!

The first stop on the Giving Voice tour was at Miles Mac here in Winnipeg. The occasion was all the more special since this school was the alma mater of stage manager Sydney Hayduk. The students loved it, particularly some self-identified youth in care who found it a huge relief to have their friends hear about what life can be like in the system. Next, the team had to wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed for a 6:30am departure time to make it to Brandon’s Vincent Massey High School for an 11am show. Well, at least the gals were awake, the boys slept through the whole drive! In the end it was worth the early morning for the extremely energetic reception the team received. So far VMHS holds the record for quickest student interventions, they were keen to stop the action and solve the problems!

After a restful weekend the team hit the road again to go to Lac du Bonnet, which had over 200 students packed into their gym to see the show! “Excellent, excellent show! Student and staff response has been amazing.” was the note we received from teacher Penny Osis. Afterwards the cast posed for pictures and were interviewed by the Lac du Bonnet Clipper!

St. Aidan’s Christian School was a smaller venue but the first one where the teachers also jumped in to take part. Murdoch MacKay’s students had a lively discussion about what happens when the bully becomes the victim. October 24th was a special performance as the team performed at Drama SAGE day to an audience full of teachers. The teachers loved it although they weren’t as quick to jump in as their students have been! Several argued that the play isn’t just for high schoolers, but important to educate adults and to encourage more foster parenting. Thankfully we have an opportunity for people of all ages to catch the show for free in the Carol Shields Auditorium at the Millennium Library on Sunday November 2nd at 2:30pm. Psst, reservations are almost full, phone or email us while you still can to reserve! Click here for info.

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The team on the road!

This week the team have been business bees driving out to perform two shows at Teulon Collegiate and then St. Laurent School the next day. Here’s an amazing response to the St. Laurent show from cast member Emily Barker who plays Sally: “Today post show I had three girls come up to me (ages 12 & 13) and share their experiences. They were each in foster care and they had been bullied. One as recently as being physically bullied the day before the show. They were courageous and kind, and seemed eager to share their stories with me. Standing in front of me was basically three “Sally’s”, and this was just one show in our tour. How many more kids are out there having this experience?!”

Wednesday they got to stay home in Winnipeg while they put on the show for over 350 students in Tech Voc’s huge theatre! Today, they are heading out to Steinbach Regional Secondary before getting Halloween off to rest…or go trick or treating, or dancing, or whatever they would like to do with their well-deserved break!

Hopefully they don’t get too comfy though, next week they have to be in tip top shape for seven shows in a row Sunday through Friday! Keep breaking legs Giving Voice team!

Ready, Set – Inspire!

And they’re off! The Giving Voice team officially began their seven week long school and community tour yesterday. We are thrilled to finally be sharing this production with over 3,000 youth around Manitoba and giving all of them a chance to share their voice in the discussion around youth in care, whether they have firsthand experience or are learning about it for the first time.

On Thursday the team received an enthusiastic response to the preview at Graffiti Gallery hosted by our partner VOICES: Manitoba’s Youth in Care Network. It was great for the cast to be able to present the work in front of an audience, especially to finally be able to practice the intervention scenes! We had a lot of brave people step forward to try out some positive solutions to the situations presented. At one point we even had two audience members onstage at once playing characters in a scene!

Marie presenting Andrea with flowers!

Marie presenting Amanda with a gift for all her hard work!

After the successful performance came some laughter, hugs and tears as Marie, Program Coordinator at VOICES, made a speech honouring the contributions of three wonderful women to the creation of Giving Voice: Amanda Gauthier, the mentor of the 2012-2013 Voices Leadership Team, who turned their idea for a play by and about youth in care into reality; our very own Hope McIntyre for leading this project from start to finish; and Alexis Martin for being the lead consultant on this project and lending so much of her story to the production.

Afterwards, everyone had a great time eating some tasty snacks and talking about the show with the Giving Voice team. But the team couldn’t talk long since they had to practice taking down and packing up the set, when they’re in schools they’ll only have 30 minutes to load out so that the students can have their gyms and theatres back!

Yesterday morning the tour started at Miles MacDonell and our first high school audience was very responsive! It helped that it is the alma mater of our very own stage manager, Sydney Hayduk.

If you missed the fabulous performance on Thursday and aren’t a high school student lucky enough to catch it at school, don’t forget that the public has one other chance to see the Giving Voice team in action! November 2nd at 2:30pm in the Carol Shields Auditorium in the Millennium Library, seating is limited! If you want to reserve seats phone us at 204-586-3336 or email wren@sarasvati.ca


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Giving Voice to Youth in Care

While we were all having fun with FemFest, the Giving Voice cast has been hard at work rehearsing for our October 13 to November 28 school tour. They will be traveling around Winnipeg and rural Manitoba with this timely and important forum theatre piece. Since we began developing the piece, there is been a big demand to see the final product. For youth who won’t catch it at their schools and for adults interested in this powerful play, there are two chances for the public to come and see it!

With all the attention CFS has been getting in the news recently, Giving Voice stands out by providing a voice to youth who are actually in the care system and the challenges they face every day, particularly the stigma being in care carries and the bullying that can result. Manitoba has the highest rate of youth in care in Canada, which makes this play all the more relevant to all Manitobans. We hope this play will spark conversations about the state of Manitoba’s foster care system and will contribute to positive change within our community.

If you’d like to be part of the conversation, the first opportunity to see this play written by and about youth in care is at our community preview on October 9th at 7:30pm in the Graffiti Gallery. This performance is being hosted by VOICES: Manitoba’s Youth In Care Network, the program who’s youth initiated this entire production. Two years ago after seeing our productions of Empty and Diss they looked for a way to get their stories on stage. Marie Christian, the Program Coordinator at VOICES, reached out to us and we’ve been collaborating on this project ever since. Admission to this performance is by $5 donation with all proceeds going to support the VOICES’ scholarship program.

Our second community performance comes halfway through the school tour on November 2nd at 2:30pm in the Carol Shields Auditorium in the Millennium Library as a part of the Winnipeg Public Library’s teen program. As much as we’d like to, it’s not possible for us to make it to every school, and this is a great opportunity for youth groups to come experience and be empowered by Giving Voice, and who knows, maybe they’ll be telling their own story onstage next year!

If you’re curious for a sneak peek, check out the story CBC did on us here! For more information on Giving Voice you can visit our website or phone us at 204-586-2236. Please note, seating is limited for both performances, so get there early!

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Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014!

Where did the time go?! It’s hard to believe 2013 has finally come to an end. One of the greatest parts about a New Year is the opportunity to reflect upon all that you accomplished in the last 365 days. What was your greatest artistic achievement in 2013? Share it with us on Facebook or Twitter. We would love to hear from you!

Our achievements include:

– The 2nd annual (and wildly entertaining) So You Think You Can Act fundraiser

– The successful sold out IWW Cabaret of Monologues: Wild Women performance

-The world premiere of the much awaited Jail Baby

FemFest 2013: Revelation and Revolution which featured the world premiere of Harold and Vivian by Jessy Ardern who is one of Winnipeg’s Group of 7 Female Playwrights

-The creation and workshop presentation of Giving Voice, our latest youth based play created in partnership with VOICES: Manitoba Youth in Care Network. In November, Giving Voice did a test run in three Winnipeg High Schools for our upcoming fall tour and received an incredible amount of positive feedback and rave reviews!

It was truly a fantastic year but we are just as excited (if not more) for 2014! Be sure to check out our website for a list of upcoming events. First up is our 3rd annual So You Think You Can Act fundraiser which we promise will be just as fun, fabulous, and gut-wrenching as last year! With that, let’s take a look at our resolutions for 2014.

Andrea Geary (President, Board of Directors): The Board’s focus for 2014 is to keep growing our audience base, in other words – get more bums in the seats – and to keep our board structure strong. I resolve to keep spreading the word on behalf of Sarasvàti Productions in hopes of increasing our audience numbers and our committee and board membership. I suggest that all readers resolve to come out to see one of our performances this year, and also support us by attending our upcoming annual So You Think You Can Act fundraiser at the Gas Station Theatre on Feb. 19.

Hope McIntyre (Artistic Director): As I research the amazing Maria Irene Fornes in preparation for our May production of Fefu and Her Friends, I am resolving to turn off the producer brain when I enter the rehearsal room and find that deep place Fornes talks about in the gut that tells us what needs to be on stage.

Samantha Walters (Associate Producer): Coming on board with Sarasvàti Productions in September has been an incredible opportunity for me. It has given me so much insight into how much hardwork, time, and dedication it takes to do what we do! My resolution for 2014 is to help Sarasvàti grow by educating others on what we do and the importance of our work, particularly those who are not involved in the arts. I also hope to provide more opportunities for emerging artists to develop their skills and career. First up is our workshop with Stratford actor Bethany Jillard on How to Get from Here to There on January 31st, 2014!

On behalf of our team at Sarasvàti Productions, we wish you all the best in 2014! Also, thank you for continuing to support our blog! Take a look at our wonderful 2013 report below.

Report Excerpt – “A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.”Click here to see the complete report.

Transforming Tomorrow – Help us make a difference!

“I laughed so hard my face hurt!” This is just one of the comments from the sold out crowd at our recent Rumor’s Comedy Fundraiser. A huge thank you to all of our supporters for coming out, to our amazing board for their work and to the Fundraising and Development Committee who coordinated it all. We know there is fundraising fatigue out there. It’s a tricky business trying to bring in the funds necessary to support the arts. The question is often raised why the arts can’t support themselves. From our perspective it is the nature of the type of art we create. It is community based, our goal is to make it accessible to all and it often includes working with marginalized groups who do not have the funds to cover the costs. The power of the work we do is clear to those who see it in action. More broadly as we joined our colleagues for Arts Day at City Hall on November 12th, what became clear is that the arts are an important investment not just due to their community building potential but because of their strong economic impact. With 25,000 Winnipegers employed in the industry and 1 billion in gross domestic product, we contribute a huge amount to the local economy and for each dollar spent on the arts it comes back several times over in benefits to other local businesses.

So, although we love creating great art and believe in the impact of the work, we also know we cannot do it alone. There are lots of ways you can get involved as volunteers and as audience. We are about to announce our So You Think You Can Act line-up and tickets for this fundraiser are already available. It is always a great time as you watch local celebrities try their hand at acting. As the holidays approach consider tickets to this amazing night out as a gift for friends or family. As well, the end of November is the deadline for us to receive matching funds for donations to our endowment. Your contribution to the endowment fund will result in double the value and provides you with a charitable tax receipt before the end of tax year.

Our endowment fund is held at The Winnipeg Foundation and is another great way to nurture growth in your community and maximize available funding. Long term financial stability is essential to achieving our mandate. By making a donation to our endowment fund, you will help us to continue creating and producing important, powerful works. In the past, interest from the endowment fund has supported our annual FemFest and unique projects like Jail Baby. One project we are extremely excited about is Giving Voice, our latest youth-based piece created by and about youth in care. This piece will tour to Manitoba high schools in the fall of 2014 in order to increase understanding of what youth in foster care and group homes undergo. Community support has allowed us to workshop with over 30 youth in care and share the work with test schools. We need your help to make the tour accessible to all youth!

Don’t forget that 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! Click here and help us make a difference in our community and transform lives through the power of theatre.