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,

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.

Jail Baby A Resounding Success!

On behalf of the staff, cast and crew, we would like to thank everyone for coming out and supporting the world premiere of Jail Baby. Phew! What a ride it’s been! I remember first reading the script months ago and thinking, “Wow, this is going to be big. This is going to have an impact.” Everyone I have spoken with who has seen the show has been in complete awe of its honesty, its intensity and its story. The play inspired dialogue that has continued well past the post-show panels, car rides and home and has now become part of the public discussion. Now that I have finished my year-long position with Sarasvàti Productions, I can proudly say that I have been a part of a company that inspired positive social change, all while maintaining artistic excellence and performing some kick-ass theatre! I am looking forward to future events and will be sitting in the audience with a giant smile on my face!
–Tali Sitschkar

Kangaroo Court small

We are pleased to present one last community performance tonight, May 30, at the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre. Tea & Bannock with drumming by Lorne Redsky and dancing by Shanley Spence will take place when the doors open at 6:30pm and then Jail Baby will take the stage at 8pm. Tickets are just $5!

Here are just a few of the responses we’ve received thus far from audiences and supporters:

Barbara Toews – Provincial Council of Women
Jail Baby is transformational theatre at its best. It’s a tough story, but it was told with sensitivity and just enough humour to give the audience a break from the reality of the difficult circumstances the women in the play found themselves in. Jail Baby draws audience members into that environment for 90 minutes. It would be wonderful if every Canadian could have this experience. Perhaps if our Minister of Public Security, Vic Toews, understood the tragedy of the lives of the women portrayed in this play, he would invest money into programs that would help change lives through education and employment and not look to more jails as the answer!

Judy Wasylycia-Leis – former Member of Parliament
Jail Baby is theatre at its finest. It entertains, educates and challenges. It is filled with edge-of-the-seat suspense, a rich script made more powerful by the authenticity of the voices, and thought-provoking drama that forces a rethinking on every aspect of our corrections system from the need to shackle women while giving birth in prison to the root causes of disproportionate incarceration among aboriginal women. Not since Agnes McPhail, the first woman MP in Canada, stood in the House of Commons brandishing a whip used against female inmates, has anything challenged our treatment of women in Canadian Corrections like Jail Baby.

Susan Horodyska – Women’s Enterprise Centre
Sarasvàti Productions brings deeply rooted contemporary issues to the stage with Jail Baby. Hard realities are delivered with complexity and satire mixed with the hope of healing. The play invites and inspires awareness, dialogue and action about important issues facing all of us today, locally and across Turtle Island/Canada.

In Your Own Words – Responses to Jail Baby

What a week it’s been!  Last Thursday we opened our new play Jail Baby to a very enthusiastic and supportive audience. The packed house was brought to tears and laughter, with lots of folks attending the opening night reception not only to celebrate the world premiere, but also to discuss the issues brought up during the performance. Over the long weekend momentum continued, and despite the heavy rain, our friends and fans came out and participated in our post-show panels, which have been a great hit! We have just four shows left of this incredible play and we hope you can make it out!

Take a look at what some of the audience members had to say after the opening night show! Tickets are still available for tonight and this weekend! Please visit or call 204-586-2236 to book!

In addition, below the cut you’ll find some reviews of the show from our colleagues across Winnipeg. What we’ve learned over the course of the week is that everyone agrees that this play could not have come at a better time – now more than ever we need to hear the voices of women in the justice system and to bring the issues facing them to the forefront of public discussion.

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Jail Baby Opens TONIGHT!

We are just hours away from the world premiere of Jail Baby and we couldn’t be more excited! After several years of development, research and interviews, the play that takes an honest and compassionate look at the issues facing criminalized women has finally arrived.

If you are a regular reader of our blog, you already know about all of the great aspects of this production that make it a must-see. In case you haven’t been keeping up, or if you need a refresher, here are some important figures you should know:

–          5 Winnipeg lawyers participating in cameos in the play.

–          11 opportunities to see the play – come as many times as you’d like!

–          $18 is the cost of one adult ticket (price drops to $12 for students and seniors). That’s about as much as an IMAX-3D movie ticket; but nothing is more “3D” or more exciting than live theatre! We even have two Pay What You Can matinees (May 19/26) if that works for you!

–          19 justice and community organizations participating in after-show panels, discussing topics related to the play such as safety and security, the call for more prisons and connections between foster care and crime.

–          63 incarcerated or recently released women were part of the play’s creation. Women were interviewed, participated in drama workshops and storytelling sessions allowing them to be creative and resulting in an authentic and compelling play.

(photos by Janet Shum)

We are very overwhelmed and honoured to be receiving so much hype and support around this production – and it hasn’t even opened yet! Here is just a snippet of some of the press we have received thus far.

At the Edge of Canada: Indigenous Research – “Jail Baby: Stories about children born in prison

Canstar Community News Sou’Wester – “Play to portray serious issue with a dream of change

Community News Commons – “Jail Baby tackles issues of crime, poverty and motherhood on stage

CBC Scene – “New play based on real stories of incarcerated women

Canstar Community News The Times – “Jail Baby an emotional roller-coaster for actor

Breakfast Television – Interview with Hope McIntyre and Tracy Booth

Winnipeg Free Press – “Winnipeg play shines light into cells of women awaiting trial

Tickets are still available but are going fast! To book either visit or call 204-586-2236!

Winnipeg lawyers take to the stage!

As you may already know, Sarasvàti Productions is set to premiere the play Jail Baby in just over a week! This timely and compelling play takes a look at the harsh lives of incarcerated women and seeks to dismantle the myths and stereotypes that permeate public discussions.

You may also already know that Jail Baby, much like the other work that Sarasvàti Productions has produced or written, is highly steeped in community involvement. This play could not have come to be if it wasn’t for the 60+ incarcerated and recently released women who shared their stories in drama sessions or interviews, along with corrections workers, mediation services, victims groups and families of criminalized women.

The play started in the community and we are excited to maintain this connection. Stay tuned for details on post-show panels with community members, criminalized women and experts. In the meantime, we are excited to announce that we have five Winnipeg lawyers doing cameos in the show! Playing a parodied version of a dithering old judge, these lawyers will be featured in the Kangaroo Court scene – one of a few scenes which provide comedic relief in an otherwise deeply emotional story.

Saul Simmonds is a founding partner of Gindin Wolson Simmonds Roitenberg and has been practicing criminal law since 1980. He has lectured on gang violence; the role of DNA in the courts; disclosure; impaired driving; wiretaps, and other topics of concern in criminal defense law. Aside from past appearances in the MTC lawyer’s show, Saul is also an avid triathlete.

Rachel Margolis is a partner at Aikins Law. She practices in the areas of corporate and commercial law, representing both small and large businesses alike; this includes mergers and acquisitions, commercial real estate and corporate finance. She has previously been involved with the Food Banks of Canada (serving on their board of directors) and writes for

Bonnie Gembey is a Winnipeg lawyer practicing at Gembey Law Office. Working primarily in the area of criminal defense, throughout her 12+ year career she has also worked with family and child protection defense law. As the sole practitioner at her firm, Bonnie is committed to working toward improvements in the justice system, including continuing development of the Mental Health Courts, the development of and FASD diversion court in Manitoba and advocating for prisoner’s rights.

Amanda Sansregret is a criminal defense lawyer for Legal Aid Manitoba. Amanda has previously worked on such landmark cases involving HIV disclosure and condom usage and those involving chronic repeat offers. Most recently, Amanda has participated on a panel alongside Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba Executive Director Tracy Booth and Liberal Party of Manitoba leader Dr. Jon Gerard, exploring the link between youth in foster care and later involvement with the criminal justice system. She is also the chair of the St. Norbert Behavioural Health Foundation.

Loretta Ross is a member of the Hollow Water First Nation in Manitoba and obtained her law degree from Queen’s University. Loretta has been a practicing lawyer for over 20 years and has served as legal counsel to numerous First Nation governments and organizations including the Assembly of First Nations and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.  Loretta’s legal practice has ranged from child and family matters, trust and corporate law as well as land claims. In her spare time, Loretta loves to curl, golf and watch her children participate in their extra-curricular activities.

With just over a week until opening night, it’s time you purchased your tickets!

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Go behind the scenes of Jail Baby

For the past few months, we have had Heba Abdel-hamid, a Masters student at the University of Manitoba, working behind the scenes for us here at Sarasvàti Productions. Completing her practicum in the faculty of Peace and Conflict studies, Heba has been our community outreach liaison for our new play Jail Baby (premiering in just a couple of weeks). Recently, Heba interviewed some of the Jail Baby team to learn more about what it’s like to work on a project of such importance. She’s even asked some of your questions! Read on to learn more about a play that is generating lots of great buzz!


We are officially less than three weeks away from our world premiere of Jail Baby! Earlier this week the cast and crew met for the first time! Deep in the recesses of the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, we did our first table read and looked at designs of the set and costumes!

After featuring the actors’ biographies, we decided to ask them some specific questions so audiences can get to know them better. It’s clear that our cast is not only talented, but insightful and passionate about the play!

Is there an actor you would like to get to know more, or feel a connection with? We look forward to hearing your responses! Read below the cut to learn about these talented actors!

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Jail Baby guest blog: Nan Fewchuk

Have you picked up your tickets for Jail Baby yet? With less than a month to go before the curtain rises on this amazing production, we invite you to take a behind the scenes look at the process. Jail Baby contributor and assistant director Nan Fewchuk guest blogs for us today!


Nan Fewchuk

I am presently pinching myself for a reality check.  It’s true.  I have been offered the opportunity to assistant direct Jail Baby under one of Canada’s finest and respected professional directors, the brilliant Ann Hodges!

One might not understand the feeling of euphoria I am experiencing with this opportunity. It stems from the first time I saw Ann’s work in the 1980’s when she directed Romeo and Juliet for Shakespeare in the Ruins. I still remember the incredible effect the show had on me. It was so innovative, imaginative, funny, compelling and powerful. My curiosity was sparked. I wanted to know what she did and how she did it.  I didn’t know who this woman was, but from that moment it was a dream of mine to work with her. Since then, I have continued to admire and respect the work of this talented woman, one of the few who have been invited to play hard ball in what is basically a male dominated force in theatre.

As an Assistant Director, I am looking very forward to experiencing the rehearsal process, especially seeing the actual transition of the text from page to stage. I am curious as to how the actors will take direction, interpret script, and translate the voices of real incarcerated women into characters of their own. I anticipate a great deal of interesting and intellectual dialogue to be exchanged among directors and actors as we work together solving challenging problems with sensitive material.  And of course, I know we will have a whack of fun with the stellar cast through it all!

This spring will bring to light a most incredible journey for me as a theatre artist. What better way to see it to fruition than to grow as a director along side the genius Ann Hodges. Over the past two plus years, the “Jail Baby” project has been an extremely important, exciting and heartfelt one which I am deeply passionate about, and incredibly grateful to be part of. I will cherish the memories of the time spent with so many wonderful women. One special lady that we met at the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge and with whom I am presently corresponding, recently emailed me. I leave you with her words:

Another thing I’m excited about is the play! You’ve probably been super busy. I think it’s pretty awesome that anybody even bothered to shed light on the issue. Incarceration seems to be something that most people in society have the wrong idea about. Everybody has these ideas of what incarceration is supposed to solve…. I’m thankful that there are people out there like yourself that actually care enough to try and make change.

Jail Baby runs from May 16-26 2013 at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are available online via credit card at or to reserve seats you can call 204-586-2236.

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:

Jail Baby Biographies: The Creative Team

We may have been a little premature in our previous post, Winnipeggers. It turns out winter is still keeping our hands, cars and roads icy. But, that doesn’t mean that the creative juices aren’t flowing! As you already know, we are just weeks away from the world premiere of Jail Baby, a play that has been close to ours hearts for many years. Based on the true stories of incarcerated women, this play could not have happened without the community interest and input for which we are extremely grateful!  Let’s take a look at the biographies of some of our creative team behind Jail Baby.

We are very lucky to have the incredible talents of Ann Hodges as director. Ann directed a workshop presentation of the play in 2011 and has made huge contributions to the scripts development. She is also one of Winnipeg’s top directors! Ann Hodges is a graduate of the National Theatre School. Ann’s directing credits include Manitoba Theatre Centre, Manitoba Opera, Calgary Opera, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Theatre Projects, Dry Cold, Edmonton Opera, Vancouver Opera, Great Canadian Theatre Company, Blyth, Persephone, Shaw, and Opera Lyra.  Career highlights include a directing workshop with Peter Brook (National Theatre), directing the 2002 North American Indigenous Games Opening Ceremonies, and MTC’s recent production of August: Osage County starring Martha Henry.  Ann has written numerous adaptations of operas for young audiences which have been produced across Canada, including the libretto for Vancouver Opera’s acclaimed production of Naomi’s Road.

Hope McIntyreOur very own artistic director is also co-writer and had the privilege of working with dozens of inspiring women as part of the creation process. Hope McIntyre has a BFA (University of Saskatchewan) and an MFA in directing (University of Victoria). She also completed an apprenticeship in England. Hope is in her fourteenth year as Artistic Director of Sarasvàti Productions. She is an award-winning playwright. Most recently EDEN premiered in May 2012 and Empty premiered at FemFest 2012. In 2006 Hope was awarded the YWCA Women of Distinction Award. She currently teaches at the University of Winnipeg. She is a former President of the Playwrights Guild of Canada. She is excited that Jail Baby will premiere and be published next month.

Cairn MooreAs co-playwright and facilitator over the last three years for drama workshops with incarcerated women, Cairn Moore has been a huge part of this process. Cairn is a director and playwright. She teaches first year performance at the University of Winnipeg and is Associate Artistic Director of FemFest. In 2012, Cairn placed first in the Jewish Canadian Playwrighting competition, which included a workshop and public reading as part of the Chutzpah! Festival in Vancouver. SHIKSA will be produced with the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre in April, 2014. Jail Baby is her most recent work. Cairn is also editor/writer of Generation NeXXt, a scene book anthology for young female actors (SCIRROCCO).

We also need to give a big shout out to Nan Fewchuk and Marsha Knight who facilitated sessions with women and gave valuable script feedback!

Jail Baby runs from May 16-26, 2013 at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony Street). Tickets are $18 or $12 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets and to see show times, please visit Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks to learn more about the educational panels and special cameos as part of this amazing show!