Why We Do What We Do

A Pitch From Our Artistic Director, Hope McIntyre

It is time to brag, boast, crow and show some swagger! I’ll admit it, I don’t always do the best job of tooting the company’s horn. When I was a kid it was a bad thing to be a show off. So, I keep my head down and do the work. The work gets done but not everyone knows about it and not everyone knows how amazing what we do is.

GeNie and kids

Why is Sarasvàti Productions unique? This year alone we opened the eyes to almost 4,500 youth and teachers to the reality of what youth in care experience. To have a young person stand up and say “thank you for helping my peers understand what I have been through” means the world to us. We have had dozens of emerging artists attend our workshop series and access important information to launch their careers as artists. I’ve gotten to see a child who was too shy to say his name become a potato on stage. I’ve sat in a room with 15 women, all but one was sexually abused as a child, and listened to them share their stories. Then being able to laugh with them as we play theatre games. We’ve brought to the stage dozens of stories that would not otherwise be told. What makes us unique is that we are using the arts in a very important, powerful and special way. We believe that the arts have the ability to empower, to teach, to inspire and to allow everyone to have a voice.

SNA BB session 8 (3)Over the last 17 years there have been lots of sacrifices because of the belief that the work we are doing is important. This has been proven to me time and time again when I see the direct impact. However, the reality is that for 17 years we’ve struggled for funding. Our unique position as a theatre company working in the community and dedicated to social change sometimes puts us at a disadvantage when competing for funding that is awarded based on artistic excellence. We combine professional artists with emerging artists and even with community members. On average only about 30% of our revenue comes from public sources and only 5% is for operating costs with multi-year stability. This reality is not the norm for a theatre company operating a full season and having done so for so many years. It may not be sustainable forever, but we have never posted a debt, we stretch every dollar and we now have an endowment fund to work towards long-term stability.

MNM buttonOkay, enough of the reality check – back to bragging! Miss N Me is our next production and it is a crazy, wonderful and empowering journey. The playwright is one of a few two-time Governor General Award winners. We have a fabulous team of local artists including our amazing cast of Colin Connor, Kevin P. Gabel, Alissa Watson and Melanie Whyte. Our design team of Brenda McLean, James Jansen and Dean Cowieson have an awesome challenge with a complex show and a tight budget. They are all miracle workers. Our Assistant Director Angie St. Mars is a powerhouse and Missy Elliott’s biggest fan! The show is worth seeing and it is worth supporting. We’ve just launched our donation campaign for this world premiere and it is a chance for the community to show that they do want this type of wonderful theatre to exist in Winnipeg!

Click here to give and get great donor benefits! We know not everyone can support us in this way so show your support by purchasing tickets here. If money is not an option then contact us to volunteer. If we’ve really won you over we are also recruiting for our Board of Directors and committees.

Meet the Miss N Me Team!

They’ve all appeared in past shows with us, but you’ve never seen them like this before! We are super excited about the team that will be bringing our spring show to life. Catherine Banks (amazing two time Governor General Award winning playwright) has put the final touches on her newest play, Miss N Me, and entrusted us with the premiere . With the group of artists we have on board she will not be disappointed when the show opens on May 21st! Miss N Me is about Dawna, a hairdresser, who goes on a road trip to New York to meet her idol Missy Elliott and along the way she picks up a bunch of whacky hitch-hiking characters.

Melanie Whyte in Impromtu of Outremont

Melanie Whyte in The Impromtu of Outremont

We are thrilled to have Melanie Whyte taking the lead as Dawna! It has been far too long since we’ve worked together, ten years in fact! Melanie was in our TremblayFest production of The Impromptu of Outremont. Since then she’s been busy mostly using her singing talents in musicals such as Mary Poppins, Light on the Piazza and A Man of No Importance. She’s going to get to do a different type of singing in this play though. For her role as Dawna she’s going to have to channel her inner Missy Elliott and try out some rapping!

Kevin Gabel in EDEN

Kevin Gabel in EDEN

Playing Dawna’s teenage son, Justin, is Kevin Gabel. Kevin most recently partnered with Rana Bokhari in this year’s So You Think You Can Act competition, but three years before that he played another teenager in our production of Hope McIntyre’s EDEN. He is truly ageless and we’re happy he can still pull it off! But more recently Kevin has been playing older characters like the son in Theatre Project Manitoba’s production of Proud and Fred in Noel Coward’s Fallen Angels with Tara Players Theatre Company. Hopefully he’ll easily get back in touch with his inner teenager for Miss N Me!

Colin Connor & Alissa Watson in Harold and Vivan Entertain Guests

Colin Connor & Alissa Watson in Harold and Vivan Entertain Guests

Now here is where it gets crazy. The hysterical and talented Colin Connor and Alissa Watson will be teaming up again to play over eight crazy characters. Colin and Alissa have worked together on multiple occasions and make a great team. They just finished performing together in Theatre Incarnate’s Whitechapel Redemption, but before that they starred as the title characters in Jessy Ardern’s Harold and Vivian Entertain Guests as part of FemFest 2013! And before that they, again, played the title characters in The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine! Every time they appear onstage together they leave the audience in stitches and we’re sure it will be the same in Miss N Me. Among other characters Colin will be playing Fat Man, Clown Father, Adonis and Demetrius, while Alissa will be playing Clown Mother, Ms Excess Baggage, Mermaid and Fortune Terrorist.

Rounding out the creative team is Hope McIntyre directing with assistance from Angie St.Mars, set and costume designer Brenda McLean, lighting designer Dean Cowieson and sound designer James Jansen! All of the cast and crew have their work cut out for them in this whacky, imaginative play. Come see it May 21 to 31 at the UW Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are available online, just click here or phone 204-586-2236!

Who’s Got the Power?

Banner SYTYCA 2015Superman, an environmental terrorist, a creepy date and a widow whose husband was eaten by a bear. These are just some of the characters that this year’s celebrities will tackle at So You Think You Can Act. This year’s event is only two short weeks away and rehearsals have begun! It’s been a pleasure introducing the celebrities to their acting partners and hearing these hilarious scripts come off the page. Under this year’s theme of Power Play, we have found writing by a mix of work by emerging Winnipeg writers and some of Canada’s most established playwrights. Although each get only 2 hours to rehearse under the direction of Cairn Moore, they have great material to work with. Keep reading to see what scenes and which actors each celebrity is working with!

Rana Bokhari will be playing Maria in Michael Healey’s political dark comedy Generous with Kevin Gabel. This play was produced a couple years ago by Theatre by the River and of course Healey’s play Proud was produced by Theatre Projects this past fall with Kevin Gabel also appearing in it. We are also pleased to announce that Kevin will be in our spring production of Miss N Me!

Chris Cvetkovic gets to play Superman opposite Lyle Morris in Ken Mitchell’s play Heroes. What happens when Superman and the Lone Ranger meet in their Chief’s office waiting room? We are pleased to have Lyle on board after his great performance in Launched at FemFest 2014.

André Lewis with Danielle Savage will be playing the title characters in Harold and Vivian Entertain Guests by Jessy Ardern. This piece won our first Bake-Off at FemFest 2012 and was fully produced at FemFest 2013. Danielle Savage helped take Troy Westwood to victory last year – can she do the same this year?

Kelly Linehan will be tackling the character of Lorrie in George F. Walker’s play Featuring Loretta with Spenser Payne. Lorrie’s husband has been eaten by a bear and she needs to figure out what to do with her life. Kelly should have a blast working with Spenser, who is also part of the Talentless Lumps.

Romi Mayes will be playing the wannabe terrorist Melissa with Cheryl Gensiorek in Terroristas by Ginny Collins. Last year we included Ginny’s piece Good Intentions, which had premiered at Winnipeg Jewish Theatre in 2013. This will be Cheryl’s third time in this event and in 2013 she helped Kerri Salki win the trophy.

Doug Speirs will be playing Man in Eye to Eye by Christopher Graybill with Nan Fewchuk playing Woman in this hilarious ten minute play about a first date gone awry. Nan has appeared in multiple pieces with Sarasvàti Productions, most recently The Naked Woman at FemFest 2014. Hopefully she can stay focused as Doug Speirs lays it on thick.

Taz Stuart gets to try his hand at romantic comedy as Rudy in Norm Foster’s Wrong for Each Other with Liz Whitbread. Liz is about to appear in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. She also appeared in a Norm Foster scene at last year’s event, helping Big Daddy Tazz tie for first with Troy Westwood.

Between these hilarious scenes, the comedic talents of the judges, Trish Cooper, Toby Hughes and Gordon Tanner, and witty hosting by Jon Ljungberg this will be one super fun night! And if that wasn’t enough we also have thousands of dollars’ worth of raffle prizes (raffle licence #MGCC5542). Don’t miss out, buy tickets now! Tickets can be purchased online here or by phoning us at 204-586-2236. Rana Bokhari started off strong in our blog polls, but was over taken by Kelly Linehan. Unfortunately Kelly wasn’t ahead for long before Romi Mayes beat her by a nose. And the guys really haven’t been feeling the love. Now that the scenes are revealed will that all change?

Celebrity Banner SYTYCA2015

EDEN Playwright’s Log – After Opening

Producing a new play is a very risky business. It is untested material and not known to audiences. It also feels like a shot in the dark, not knowing how it will play before an audience until it is actually in front of the audience. After the countless hours of work leading up to opening, it feels odd to settle in to a run. The work doesn’t stop on opening night though. The show keeps growing as the actors discover new moments and different audiences bring different energies. As a playwright, you learn something new about the piece at every performance. You get lots of feedback from the audience and from watching moments played over and over again.

And then there are the reviews! One of the most difficult parts of the business. Very necessary but can be very difficult. Many theatre artists, particularly actors, choose not to read them until after the run. A good review can make you over confident and as a result you stop working at it. A poor review can make you second guess everything and begin to hesitate in performance. In the long run they can be informative, but also need to be taken alongside the larger feedback of audiences. I’m grateful that Winnipeg allows for a diversity of responses to produced plays. Many of my colleagues in New York have found a single review from the New York Times can make or break their play. A scary thought as I’m sure everyone has had the experience of seeing a show that was poorly reviewed and loving it. Good theatre is certainly not an objective thing. I’ve always loved discussing plays in class with my students and finding widely different responses. That is the beauty of art.

Kevin P. Gabel as Adam; photo by Janet Shum

Last week I went with a couple of actors to talk to youth in a drama club at IRCOM (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba). They are coming to see the show next week and we wanted to introduce them to the play first. They had such great questions about theatre, both the profession and the behind the scenes magic. They were shocked to hear how long I’d been working on the play. To date they said the theatre they had seen was boring. We certainly don’t think they will be bored by EDEN, so I challenged them to let me know afterwards what they think. One young man replied that it would be horrible if it was boring after all the years of work I put in. Others jumped in by echoing something I had said earlier, as artists we learn from all experiences and the only way to develop our craft is to take risks and learn from them. In fact, I just read an interesting article by Nicholas Kazan (Elia Kazan’s son). Apparently Arthur Miller was told to make many changes to Death of a Salesman because it was unproducable with the flashbacks. He decided to go ahead as written and if it failed at least it would fail as he intended it rather than making changes and never knowing if his initial impulses were right. Such is the leap of faith we make as playwrights!

Many have been asking what the next steps are with a new play after the world premiere. In most cases, the playwright learns a lot from that first production and makes changes afterwards. This new version of the script is then sent out to other theatres in hopes of a second production. Something that is rare in Canadian theatre. A world premiere has a certain cache but second productions are very difficult to secure. Ideally after the premiere you can also get the script published, which opens it up to other markets including the possibilities of it being studied in classrooms and read by theatre lovers who may never have the opportunity to see the show. With a piece as large as EDEN, a second production in Winnipeg or a tour of this production are not likely to happen. That means that the odds are this will be the only chance for Winnipeg audiences to experience the show!

With 11 more shows, I hope to continue to learn from the piece, the audiences and the beautiful work the actors are doing! I would certainly love thoughts from anyone in the audience!

Full details on the EDEN web page including a photo gallery with new images from our dress rehearsal.

Tom Soares and Marsha Knight in EDEN; photo by Janet Shum

EDEN Feature – Kevin P. Gabel

In order to let our audiences get to know some of the actors in EDEN better, we asked them to answer a few questions. It’s a bit like Inside the Actors Studio.

Since he was the quickest draw, in terms of replying, we’ll start with the youngest actor in the cast. Kevin P. Gabel plays Adam, the resistant hero of the play who is forced into a journey of self-discovery. Kevin told us he stayed up late toiling over the answers to these questions.

1. What is one thing every actor needs to know? How to listen.

2. What does every great story have to have? A question that needs answering.

3. What is your favourite word? “Groovy.

4. If I could grant you a single wish, what would it be? A truckload of grant money.

Complete the sentences:

5. If I wasn’t typing this email interview right now, I would be… looking at my script.

6. The most surprising thing that happened to me was… winning a watch for a random draw prize.

7. A common misconception of me is… people think I’m Jewish.

8. You know me as a actor but in truer life I’d have been… a dragon.

Kevin P. Gabel as Adam; photo by Janet Shum

Some of Kevin’s stage credits include the University of Winnipeg’s production of Howard Barker’s The Possibilities and last year’s five-star Fringe Festival hit Brain Cravers: The Curse of Extollo. On film, he has appeared in Shelagh Carter’s debut feature Passionflower, as well as a number of short films including Deprivation, The Hell of It, and Rush Hour Paul. He is also the award-winning writer-director of such short films as The Projectionist, Lindsey, and The Drive Home. Kevin is currently studying in the University of Winnipeg honours acting program. The Drive Home was just nominated for 5 awards at the U of W Student Film Festival!

EDEN Log – Week 2

EDEN Playwright’s Log – Hope McIntyre

We’ve just finished the second week of rehearsals and wrapped it up with a first stumble-through of the play. It’s wonderful to see the play take shape in a first run and get a real sense of how it all fits together. The actors get a real feeling for their character’s through-line and the designers get a clear sense of technical needs. This show does certainly have its technical challenges with both recorded video and live video feed. There is a camera on stage that will project live footage but also an actor offstage who has video conversations with characters on stage. This all means balancing the rehearsal time with working the live action and shooting video footage. It’s amazing though to picture what it will be like when it all comes together!

Kevin P. Gabel as Adam and Andrea del Campo as Ev; Photo by Janet Shum

As things continue to progress beautifully in the rehearsal hall, I am still hit by things outside that echo the world of the play. For example, last Saturday when I was reading the paper I came across an article about refugees fleeing Syria who are using video to prove the government is massacring citizens (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/world/syrian-refugees-bring-tales-of-horror-146514835.html). There were some lines that seemed to have come straight from the script for EDEN. This relevancy of the piece is sad. When writing the script I was really projecting forward to explore what would happen if a culture of fear continued to dominate, a culture where those who are different or disagree are branded terrorists and sanctioned. Unfortunately, with the global situation we don’t have to project forward to see the extremes in the play. In fact the research the team has been doing has found many historical examples that echo the play.

Throughout the rehearsals, director Sharon Bajer, and the cast have been drawing on many sources. In fact Sharon has been consistently referencing 24 with Keifer Sutherland. There is a character in the play very similar to Jack Bauer, except Jack Bauer is seen as a hero. It will be interesting to see if the audience sees George, played by Tom Soares, to be justifiable in his interrogation techniques. Some of the cast also recently saw The Hunger Games and found many parallels. But again, real life trumps fiction as Ti Hallas who is playing the Minister of Labour, Stacy, was intrigued by reports that our current Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt allegedly asked the RCMP to “arrest these animals” after Air Canada workers slow clapped and sarcastically said “Oh, great job” to her as she walked through Lester B. Pearson Airport on March 22nd. Of course there have been two sides to this story but it all feeds in to what EDEN is exploring – an ‘us and them’ mentality with two versions of the truth.

With such a great group of actors, there were even moments of goose bumps for those of us watching the run yesterday. It’s hard to brag about my own writing but I feel okay saying that the performances will be amazing and the direction has truly brought the script to life. I also was so pleased with having the involvement of grass dancer Wayne Ruby. We shot video of him on Tuesday and he is truly a wonderful dancer and a very special person. I was so impressed with his dedication to the traditions he has chosen to carry forward. He does Pow-Wow Clubs for youth every night of the week at different places in Winnipeg. He is such an important role model to them. Also this week actor Marsha Knight met with our translator and coach to work on the Cree chants in the play. We’ve been pleased to have the support of so many associations and community groups. All of these elements mean there is a lot to keep on top of but they truly make the play into a very special event.

Marsha Knight as Essa; Photo by Janet Shum

The rehearsal hall is also such a positive and creative environment. The apple pie, cookies, Tim bits and chocolates people keep bringing in surely help!

Hard to believe there is less than two weeks until opening – more info and tickets on the EDEN webpage.