New Beginnings and Endings

After two years of community interviews and workshops, the world premiere of New Beginnings took Winnipeg by storm! Over the course of the run, we had multiple sold-out shows and over 750 people came to see the play. Every performance offered a conversation circle to continue the dialogue sparked by this production, allowing audiences the chance to ask questions and learn more about the stories reflected in New Beginnings. Here are some of the great things people had to say!

It was wonderful, I cried and laughed. Those stories are so powerful. The first one with the burka is how we escaped.  I actually wore one for the first time in my life then. You guys did a great job bringing these stories to life.” – Ellie Towfigh via Facebook

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I’m excited to be a member of such an amazing company that inspires audiences to reach out and connect with others to promote social change in such powerful ways…  Perspective is hugely important to being a positive member of a community and I believe that it can often be overlooked.  But New Beginnings brings forward so many unique stories that can perhaps open horizons for our audiences and introduce the realities of immigration and resettlement.” – Alanna McPherson, Performer

“New Beginnings by Sarasvati Productions is beyond amazing. This production cannot end. The message of reality of resettlement should be heard by thousands more. The actors, content and music touched my soul.” – Judy Rose via Facebook

Thanks to a generous grant from the Inter-Action Program, we were able to offer a wide variety of accessibility services including ASL interpretation, child-minding, translation, transportation, and counselling for any audience members affected by the play’s subject matter. On May 24th, we played host to close to 100 Yazidi refugees from Operation Ezra, offering Kurmanji translation via headset and child-minding provided by Operation Ezra and West Central Women’s Resource Centre.

Congratulations on an excellent production! Thank you so much for having the Operation Ezra families at the show.  It was a great opportunity for them to experience live theatre. We really appreciate you going above and beyond to make it accessible to all. The translation and child care allowed many of the attendees to experience their first live show. We had no idea what to expect yet we found ourselves laughing at times and crying at times.  We recognized some of the stories which made it even more impactful.” – Karen Shpeller, Operation Ezra

Over the course of the run, we had representatives from Winnipeg’s newcomer community speak after the show, allowing audiences to hear their stories and share their own as well. We also hosted Kamta Roy Singh, whose story appeared in the play.

It was fantastic show last night. The individuals who act as Kamta and employee did amazing job. Congratulations.” – Kamta Roy Singh, Kamta’s Story

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Kamta Singh and Lu Fayokun

I would like to commend you, your cast and all the others involved in this performance a great “BRAVO” on an excellent performance. I was in attendance at the world premiere of Sarasvati Productions presentation of New Beginnings and was so impressed with it… A very great performance by the cast. Representatives of the Jamaican Association of Manitoba were invited to answer questions and share comments with the cast and audience at the end of the performance. A great evening.” – Patrick Moore, Jamaican Association of Manitoba

 

We couldn’t have made this production happen without the community members who participated in our workshops and allowed us to share their stories onstage. Big thank-yous as well to our incredible creative team, our hard-working volunteers, and everyone who came out to support New Beginnings!

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“New Beginnings”: On and Off-Stage!

Just 5 days until opening and we offer you the top 5 reasons this production should not be missed! With New Beginnings, we’re pulling together a lot of moving parts: from dancers to film, music to art, there are so many elements that make up one amazing show! But that’s not all we have going on.

1. Accessibility Services

As part of our commitment to making the show as accessible as possible – particularly for the groups represented in the production – we’re also offering child-minding, transportation, and translation services so as many people as possible can take part in New Beginnings. We’ll also have ASL interpretation at our May 25th performance!

2. Visual Art Installation by Newcomer Artists

Out in the lobby, we’re also featuring artists from all over the world! We’ll be screening Patrick Mugosa’s documentary Restoration: A Refugee’s Story and showcasing work by Natalia Dechevykh, Mannan Hamrasho, and Nadim Ado. We’ll also have OneNation Exchange bags available for purchase. As well, as you enter the theatre you can check out the amazing art installation by Indra Skuja-Grislis, done specially for New Beginnings!

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3. Conversation Circles

Even after the show, the work doesn’t stop: we’ll also be hosting conversation circles following each performance to continue the dialogue sparked by these thought-provoking stories. We’ll be hosting representatives from Welcome Place (Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council), Bread and Borders, the Jamaican Association of Manitoba, Institute for International Women’s Rights, Immigrant Women’s Oldtimers, Immigration Partnership Winnipeg, and community members featured in the production! For more info, stay tuned on social media where we’ll be announcing the different conversation facilitators for each performance.

4. Weekend Feasts

Over the two weekend performances, you’ll be able to feed your body as well as your mind thanks to our generous New Beginnings feast sponsors! Starting at 5:30 PM both days, you’ll be able to sample food from Viena do Castelo, Gohe Restaurant, and Baraka Pita with additional supplies provided by Safeway (Mountain and McGregor)! We’ll also be hosting an opening night reception on May 22nd with food  donated by Diversity Food Services.

 

5. Boundary Avenue

In addition, we’re proud to be partnering as a double bill with One Trunk Theatre’s latest show, Boundary AvenueThe production is spearheaded by Andraea Sartison, Liam Zarrillo, and Caroline Wintoniw together with Razak Iyal and Seidu Mohammed.  We’re offering discounted packages to check out both productions, available here!

 

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With so much going on, you won’t want to miss out on what an incredible experience this show as to offer! We already have one performance sold out and another one just a few seats away from filling up. Tickets are available now through our website or call us at (204) 586-2236.

Meet the Team Behind “New Beginnings”!

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New Beginnings is one of the biggest shows we’ve ever done: collaborating with artists across disciplines, including music, dance, and film-making! Get to know the amazing team bringing everything together!

What excites you about being on the New Beginnings artistic team? 

Gerry Atwell, Music Director: The subject matter is compelling and pertinent and the script is well researched, beautifully written and thought provoking. I love composing music and working with a talented creative team.

Brenda Gorlick, Dance Consultant: It is an absolute honour to work with such a diverse group of talented team members; I am extremely moved by the stories we are sharing and having a new appreciation for everyone’s journey.

Lindsay Johnson, Associate Producer: I have always admired Sarasvàti’s focus on producing theatre that sparks conversation about a wide range of important social issues. I am beyond thrilled to be a part of the artistic team who are helping stage the stories behind New Beginnings. It has been especially exciting for me to be involved in the community collaboration that shaped this production.

Cherissa Richards, Director: I love bringing these stories to life on-stage! I’m really excited to hear the personal stories of newcomers.

Saira Rahman, Snow Angel Films: It’s exciting to work with the other artists on the team – to learn from each by observing their creative process. I always like collaboration because of how enriched a piece can become with multiple perspectives.

 

What elements of the project do you personally connect with? 

Gerry: Even though I was born and raised in Winnipeg, people regularly assume I am from elsewhere and want to me to justify my presence and difference by categorizing it. “So where are you from?” is a question I have been asked all my life. My father chose Canada and all through his life he helped those who were adjusting to a new life here. I grew up sharing dinner with people from Russia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Uganda, and South Africa that my Dad met in passing and befriended.

Brenda: My brother and sister-in-law work for UNHCR so I’ve heard many of their experiences over the years of refugees’ stories.

Lindsay: I have loved getting to know members of my community that are outside of my day-to-day circle. It has been a fabulous experience watching my experience of Winnipeg grow in this way.

Saira: I felt a connection with the stories that included a parent and child. They made me remember my own experience growing up as my family tried to adapt to our new home. I’m honoured to be a part of this project because it honours my personal experience as a newcomer, although that was some time ago! My family had many new beginnings: East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), United Kingdom, Atlantic Canada, rural Manitoba, and finally Winnipeg!

 

 

Come see the culmination of this amazing team’s hard work starting May 22nd! We’re also featuring an opening dance piece choreographed by Emily Solstice and original art work by Indra Skuja-Grislis. Tickets are on sale now, available here!

Exploring Immigration Across Generations

Newcomer stories from all over the world will be appearing in New Beginnings: from Syria to Ethiopia, Vietnam to Zimbabwe! We have such a diverse range of artists bringing these stories to life, including some familiar faces as well as newcomers to Canada! Get to know this week’s featured New Beginnings artists below.

 

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Melissa Langdon

Melissa Langdon is thrilled to be a part of the New Beginnings team. She is a graduating Honours Acting student from the University of Winnipeg. Through her time at the university, she appeared in Time and the Conways, Concord Floral, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. She’s also appeared in a number of films including Grief (Kaiju Productions) and Harmonize (Prairie Kid Productions). In addition to performing as a dancer, Melissa appears in Usna’s story, which focuses on a group of women fleeing their home country of Afghanistan.

 

As the daughter of an immigrant parent, Melissa has learned so much about the struggles and triumphs that many newcomers face while arriving in Canada. “The conversations that have emerged while discussing the struggles of new Canadian citizenship and the immigration process have been extremely powerful: from resettling after arrival to long-term personal growth and adaptation,” says Melissa.

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Dagmawit Habtemariam

 

Dagmawit Habtemariam (or Dagm for short) is new to the Sarasvàti stage, having been born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She moved to Winnipeg with her husband and two children in July 2011. Her educational backgrounds include an M.A in Social Anthropology and a B.Ed. degree in History, both from Ethiopia. Currently, she is taking an undergraduate degree in Human Rights program at the University of Winnipeg while working as a Graduate Studies Admission Officer.

Dagm is excited to share the stories of immigrants’ lives with Winnipeggers: particularly culture shocks, the ordeals of coming to Canada, as well as hopes for themselves and their children in a new home. “I am an immigrant myself and the different scenes of the project discuss the opportunities, challenges and commonalities that immigrants face when moving to Winnipeg and Canada.”

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Anjali Sandhu

Dagm also appears in Karwan and Irekanmi’s stories, both of which focus on how different generations experience settlement. Joining Dagm in Karwan’s story is familiar face Anjali Sandhu. Anjali is a Winnipeg-based comedian, actor, writer and law student. She has performed stand-up at the Winnipeg Comedy Fest, SheDot Comedy Festival, Sirius XM’s Next Top Comic, and more. Anjali was a writer/adapter of The Trump Card which she performed with District Theatre Collective at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. She also wrote and performed an original piece for Sarasvàti’s 2018 Cabaret of Monologues, Flight 182. Anjali’s original show I’m Not Taylor Swift will premiere this summer at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

 

Like Melissa, Anjali also comes from a family of newcomers. “I’m excited about working with new artists,” says Anjali. “As the daughter/granddaughter of immigrants, I am excited to explore what my family members’ may have experienced through this piece.”

You can catch all of our amazing artists when New Beginnings premieres on May 22nd! The production takes place until May 27th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St). Don’t miss out – get your tickets today!

Our Next Community Collaboration Project!

A team of 9 artists collaborating, 9 performers, 9 dancers, musicians and dozens of community participants! It’s going to be one heck of a show. Over the past two years, we’ve been interviewing community members who are newcomers to Canada, working with numerous newcomer agencies and hearing the stories of dozens of individuals who have experienced resettlement. Now, we’ve compiled their stories into our final show of the 2017-2018 season, New Beginnings!

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“New Beginnings” Preview at FemFest 2017

The project incited passionate responses at the preview at FemFest 2017. This was the first step towards realizing this production on stage. Professional theatre artists teamed up with new arrivals in an exchange of stories, music, and dance. Inspired by the input we received, we’ve been workshopping the script since September and continuing to add stories from newcomers of all ages and backgrounds.

new beggining.jpgWe are excited to finally bring the collaboration to the stage later this spring! Witness the coming together of a diverse range of artists, community members, recent newcomers and established immigrants. Through the use of dance, music, visual art and storytelling, we will come together to explore the themes of displacement and resettlement.

Before the performance, you can also check out our lobby art installation featuring paintings, photography, and film by local refugee artists. We’ll also be offering an ASL-interpreted performance, translation services, and child-minding to make the show as accessible as possible. Following the performance, we’ll be hosting regular conversation circles to foster dialogue about the stories depicted and welcome people to offer their own stories in return.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we feature the amazing artists participating!

27907465_1675043125940329_5390131185813551337_o.jpgThis unique production will also run in the same space as One Trunk Theatre’s new show Boundary Avenue: a documentary-style play co-created by Liam Zarrillo, Andraea Sartison, and Caroline Wintoniw. The show looks at the town of Emerson and the influx of asylum seekers who have crossed into Manitoba over the past year. One Trunk Theatre is excited to share their research and to support those who lent their stories for the development of the play by donating back the proceeds from this production. There will be special opportunities to see both productions – check out Brown Paper Tickets for package deals!

You can catch the world premiere of New Beginnings May 22-27 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (at the University of Winnipeg). For more details and to purchase your tickets, click here!

The Power of FemFest

Just three days left to feel the power of FemFest2017. Audiences have been blown away by this year’s performances.  Come and experience it for yourself before it’s too late!

“Thank you for continuing to offer amazing meaningful theatre experiences to our community” – Teela Tomassetti

“Great evening !!!” – Francesca Cotroneo

Don’t miss the opening of Watching Glory Die by Judith Thompson produced by Mulgrave Road Theatre on Thursday SEPT 21 at 2:30 pm and again at 9pm. There will be a special Coffee Talk following the 7pm performance on Friday SEPT 22 with playwright Judith Thompson, director Emmy Alcorn and special guest Senator Kim Pate. Senator Pate is a nationally renowned advocate who has spent the last 35 years working in and around the legal and penal systems of Canada, with and on behalf of some of the most marginalized, victimized, criminalized and institutionalized — particularly imprisoned youth, men and women. Senator Pate continues to advocate for reform in solitary confinement and treatment of prisoners with mental health issues in Canadian prisons, two central issues in Watching Glory Die.  We are honoured to welcome the Senator to FemFest as a Coffee Talk speaker.

Senator Kim Pate Gives a Voice to Women in Prison – The Globe and Mail

We are thrilled to announce that there will be a Coffee Talk following every 7pm performance! Head to Two Indians tonight at 7pm and stay for a Coffee Talk with Two Indians director Sonya Ballantyne and consultant Marsha Knight.

Catch a sneak peek of our latest community-based theatre project: New Beginnings on Saturday SEPT 23 at 4pm. Admission is by donation.

Be among the first to hear brand new work by Winnipeg’s most celebrated female playwrights at the One Night Stand on the closing night of the festival. Special guest Judith Thompson joins us to share brand new work. Enjoy a toast to 15 years in the lobby following the event.

Check out some of the great articles and interviews about FemFest and the incredible artists involved.

FemFest Marks 15 Years of Celebrating Diverse Talent – Global Breakfast Television

Youth will be Served by Randall King, Winnipeg Free Press

BUNNY on CTV News

Two Indians preview with CJNU

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Real people, real stories, on loan for discussion

Is it possible to challenge prejudice through one conversation with a stranger?

If you ask the creators of the Human Library™ they’ll tell you that it is in fact one of the most effective ways.

FemFest2017 and the Winnipeg Public Library are proud to present The Human Library™ right here in Winnipeg.

“We need a space for dialogue about tough issues that we wouldn’t address in the supermarket”, says Ronni Abergel, a Human Library creator.

“We’re navigating through diversity by putting people in boxes. We don’t go back to the box and check if what’s in the box is in accordance with the label we put on that box,” he continued, “I do it also. I do it every day. I do it with the speakers, I do it with people I meet. I gather a little bit of information and I use that information to put them in a box.”

Abergel spoke in Groningen at a Tedx talk, “You can go to the Human Library and challenge your own stereotypes, challenge your prejudices. You have to be a little brave because you have to fess up. You have to admit to yourself that you’re thinking things about other people-probably things that you shouldn’t be thinking, but you’re doing that for your own comfort.”

The local Human Books come from all backgrounds and ways of life, but they all have one thing in common, for different reasons they are often subjected to stereotyping or prejudice. Imagine getting to sit down with some of these amazing human books:

 

Nigel Bart

Book Title: Whale Calling and the Purpose of a Rabbit

Nigel Bart - HeadshotNigel tells his story from early childhood to present about living with schizophrenia, dealing with the additional issues that come with mental illness, and recovering as the successful founder of Artbeat Studio.

 

Sadie Phoenix Lavoie

Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie - HeadshotBook Title: Resilience through art and literature

Resilience. Decolonization. Matriarchy. How do we bring matriarchal principles back to the Indigenous world?

 

Razak Iyal

Book Title: The Struggle of Refugees

Refugees are stranded around the world, struggling to maintain hope. Razak arrived in Canada as a refugee, lost his fingers to frostbite, and has overcome one of the biggest challenges of his life. This is a story about human rights.

 

Lara Rae - Headshot_smallerLara Rae

Book Title: Becoming Lara

A Life in Progress. Lara Rae is a proud transgender woman and a writer and comedian. She is an artistic director who uses creativity and life experiences to promote understanding not just for herself, but for other marginalized people.

 

 

 

RACHEL SMITH headshot cropped for blogRachel Smith

Book Title: Finding the Gift: How to Face Life’s Challenges

Most people do not expect to be a caregiver when they are in their mid-twenties. Rachel’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease then later, Lewy Body Dementia. Rachel’s hope is that by sharing her story she can help others with their own challenges.

 

The Human Library takes place on the second floor of the Millennium Library during these times:
    Thursday, September 21: 4-8 pm

    Friday, September 22: 1-4 pm

    Saturday, September 23: 1-4 pm

This is just a sample of what will be available to readers. Click here for more information, updates on additional books and details on how to reserve a Human Book visit.