The Long Journey to Breaking Through

Two years…that’s the average lifespan of a robin. Why work on a project for two years? It might be your first time reading about Breaking Through or perhaps you have you been following its progress for two years? Either way, as we launch in to rehearsals for the world premiere, we thought an overview was in order.

SMHC Playback

Playback group

In 2015 we launched “Mental Health is Everyone’s Health” with Artists in Healthcare Manitoba and Red Threads Playback Theatre. Much of the genesis was supported by the Selkirk Mental Health Centre where Red Threads did amazing playbacks sessions with residents who shared their stories and where co-writer Hope McIntyre had the honour of interviewing those in the geriatric and acquired brain injury ward. Sarasvàti also put out the word that we wanted to hear as many stories from as many perspectives. A need to break the silence and counter misrepresentation led to those with lived experience, health care workers and caregivers coming forward for interviews and to participate in open workshop sessions. We were hosted by the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society, Rainbow Resource Centre, St. John’s High School, Resource Assistance for Youth and Aurora Family Centre’s male newcomer peer support group. In total almost 400 people shared their experiences! We were blown away. Writers Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore with the support of facilitator Nan Fewchuk faced the difficult task of compiling so many diverse perspectives in to a compelling play. In fact, they would have liked a third year to take on this daunting task!

Nan Fewchuk and Cairn Moore

Nan Fewchuk and Cairn Moore make notes at a workshop reading of Breaking Through, 2016.

It was decided in consulting with all our partners that the ultimate goals was to increase empathy and understanding, highlight the reality that everyone has mental health, and demonstrate that everyone’s experience of illness is unique. All that as well as making it artistically engaging! Breaking Through was read in various drafts for those who contributed their stories. Then a full staged reading in May 2016 allowed actors to contribute their insights while testing the play out in front of an audience.

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Over one hundred feedback forms were received! Overall an extremely favourable response, but with amazing insights leading to round after round of rewrites. Then another workshop with actors thanks to the Manitoba Association of Playwrights and the guidance of Sharon Bajer in January 2017.

The process has already created a platform for people to talk about the importance of mental health for everyone. It is easy to think of mental health with an “us vs. them” mentality: people who have a mental illness and people who do not. However, it is important to know that this apparent line is a lot blurrier than many people may think. One in four Manitobans will receive medical treatment for a mental illness. Many people are affected in one way or another and some people to do not stop to consider their own mental health.

Finally we arrive at the beginning of the final stage. Our first read-through on Tuesday was exhilarating for everyone! We can hardly wait to share the results of this journey with the world or at least with Winnipeg audiences as a start.

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The world premiere of Breaking Through is coming up May 23-28, 2017 under the direction of Kevin Klassen with an accomplished Winnipeg cast and crew featuring Elena Anciro, Dorothy Carroll, Richie Diggs, Marsha Knight, Harry Nelken, Spenser Payne and Josh Ranville. Plus design team Kim Griffin (set/costumes), Dean Cowieson (lighting) and jaymez (video/sound).

For more information on Breaking Through and how to get tickets visit our website! http://sarasvati.ca/breaking-through-world-premiere/

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Spotlight on Director Kevin Klassen

Breaking Through launches into rehearsal at the end of this month. Leading the team of this world premiere is director, Kevin Klassen. We’re pleased to turn the spotlight on Kevin in this week’s blog.

Kevin Klassen is thrilled and grateful to be working with Sarasvàti on this challenging play, and with this exciting collection of artists. His directing credits include: JONNO, Dr. Kellogg’s System, Lulu: A Monster Tragedy, Le Grand-Guignol Sur La Prairie, MissAdventurous Perils of Pauline, Poet And The Rent (Echo Theatre); Dog Act (Nancan Boogie Productions) and Merry Wives of Windsor (SIR). He is currently developing an immersive theatrical adventure called Dracula Unearthed for Echo Theatre, to be experienced at the Dalnavert Museum this coming Halloween!

 How would you describe yourself as a director?

I consider it my job as director to help create on stage what the playwright is trying to put on the page. That leap of imagination is the primary task, and then helping to lead and facilitate that leap for everyone else involved: especially the audience. Ensuring that what the audience experiences is as much as possible what the collaborating artists intend.

Kevin Klassen

What was the impetus for directing Breaking Through?

I was honoured and flattered to be asked in the first place, and after reading the script I felt that I understood what Cairn and Hope were after, and that I had something to offer in terms of bringing it across to an audience in an entertaining, meaningful way. It tickled my imagination.

What about the script excites you? 

I think that the challenges faced by people who are affected by mental illness is a very important subject. I think the play does a very good job of balancing the serious realities of this issue with playful and creative methods of storytelling- it’s got a robust strain of humour and a rather bold theatricality.

If you could say one thing to the Artist who inspired you most, who would it be? And what would you say?

Choosing one is hard. I’ll choose the person who had the most direct impact on my sense of myself as an artist: Reg Skene. And I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to say thank you.

What do you hope the audience will be talking about on the car ride home from Breaking Through?

I hope they talk about how glad they are that they came, how much there is to consider when dealing with mental health issues, and how crucial it is to our society that we tackle these issues with compassion and intelligence and imagination- even if it means that some people have to pay a little more in taxes.

Breaking Through runs May 23-38, 2017 at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film.

 

SYTYCA: Meet the Judges and Emcee!

SYTYCA 2014 promo banner

Who will be this year’s Simon Cowell? Will the emcee be able to keep the judges from taking over the show? Find out at our 3rd annual So You Think You Can Act fundraising event on February 19th, 2014! For those who are not familiar with the event, local non-actor celebrities are paired up with actors to perform scenes, our judges comment in a hilarious manner and then YOU get to vote for a winner! Last year Kerri Salki of 102.3 Clear FM took home the trophy prize and the audience was entertained by the carefully chosen scenes and from our celebrities,  the judges and host. Today we are pleased to feature this year’s judges and well known Winnipegger as our emcee! Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for our celebrity bios and to hear more about which scenes they’ll be working on!

Ace Burpee - HeadshotACE BURPEE – Emcee

We are pleased to welcome Ace back. He won the inaugural So You Think You Can Act trophy in 2012. Ace Burpee is from Cooks Creek, Manitoba. He currently works as the host of the Ace Burpee Show with Chrissy Troy on 103.1 Virgin Radio. Prior to that, he played in the NHL. This is not true. At all. Prior acting experience includes being on float with Beethoven the dog in Beethoven’s Christmas Adventure. Ace was cut from the scene prior to release.

Sharon Bajer - HeadshotSHARON BAJER – Judge

Sharon is an actress, playwright and director and currently the Directing Artist-in –Residence at Rainbow Stage. Recent credits include acting in The Seagull and A Christmas Story at RMTC, directing Portage and Munsch (PTE), Run for Your Wife (Festival Antigonish), Bloodless (White Rabbit Productions), Riddle Me Home (Tapestry New Opera), The Ends of the Earth (PTE@PTE) and Cry After Midnight and Eden for Sarasvati. Sharon was a participant in Stratford’s Michael Langham Workshop in Classical Direction for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Sharon is a member of the Playwrite’s Unit at PTE. She has written several plays including Hersteria, Burnin’ Love and Molly’s Veil. Sharon is a graduate of Studio 58.

Ardith Boxall - HeadshotARDITH BOXALL – Judge

A graduate of the University of Winnipeg, Ardith has performed with many professional theatre companies and recently directed Our Country’s Good for the U of W Theatre Department. Selected acting credits include, Three Sisters (zone41/TPM), Shakespeare’s Dog at the Manitoba Theatre Centre/National Arts Centre, Zaidie’s Shoes and The Norbals at Prairie Theatre Exchange, Crave with English Suitcase and The Darling Family by Linda Griffiths. In 2005, Ardith took the reins as Artistic Director of Theatre Projects Manitoba where her directing credits include John and Beatrice, North Main Gothic, Age of Arousal, The Daffodil Man, God’s Country: Tales of Doom from the North End, The Monster Trilogy, Chekhov and Me, Area 51, Hi Diddle Dee Dee, Seeing Red, and Floodgates.

Kevin Klassen- HeadshotKEVIN KLASSEN – Judge

Kevin has been performing, producing, writing, and directing professional theatre in Winnipeg for 18 years now. He is currently working on “The Cherry Orchard” for Theatre By The River/Echo Theatre. He has been a member of Shakespeare in the Ruins for the past 10 years, and currently serves as Artistic Co-Chair. He thinks all competitive artistic events are terrible except this one.

So You Think You Can Act is just over one month away! Tickets are $25 dollars and include a wine reception. There will also be thousands of dollars in raffle prizes and a 50/50 draw! There is no better way to spend your evening on Feburary 19th. Tickets can be purchased online by clicking here or from our office by calling (204) 586-2236!

Local Celebrities Ham it Up!

Former Bombers, morning show hosts, radio personalities, and a comedian!? We’ve got it all at this year’s 3rd annual So You Think You Can Act fundraising event! Join us on Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 as local celebrities are paired up with theatre actors to test our their acting chops in front of a panel of judges – much like your favourite reality television competition shows! The judges will provide insightful feedback, positive reinforcement, and side-splitting commentary. Then, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better then this, we let the audience take matters into their own hands and let YOU choose the winner! Today, we are pleased to announce our celebrities and judges. We would also like to welcome back the hilarious Ace Burpee to the stage! Ace was the inaugural event winner back in 2012 and will be hosting this year’s event. For a list of complete bios, please click here.

INTRODUCING…

THE EMCEE: Ace Burpee – Host of the Ace Burpee Show with Chrissy Troy on 103.1 Virgin Radio

Ace Burpee - Headshot

THE JUDGES: Sharon Bajer (Actress, Playwright, and Director), Ardith Boxall (Artistic Director of Theatre Projects Manitoba) and Kevin Klassen (Artistic Co-Chair of Shakespeare in the Ruins)

Judges banner 

THE CELEBRITIES:

  • Alison Gillmor – Winnipeg Free Press and CBC radio
  • Jim Ingebrigtsen – TV Producer/Host
  • Obby Khan – Former Winnipeg Blue Bomber
  • Eva Kovacs – Global Morning News
  • Kris Laudien – CTV Morning Live anchor
  • Big Daddy Tazz – Comedian
  • Troy Westwood – Former Winnipeg Blue Bomber

Celebrity Banner

Get your tickets now before it’s too late! Just $25 gets you into the show as well as the after-show wine reception. All proceeds go to Sarasvàti Productions. Tickets can be purchased online from our website or from our office by calling (204) 586-2236. Don’t forget, tickets to So You Think You Can Act make a fabulous holiday gift for that hard to buy for person on your list!

We hope you’ll help support Sarasvàti Productions and join us for a fun filled evening on Feburary 19th at the Gas Station Arts Centre. Who do you hope will take home the grand prize?