Breaking Through has everyone talking!

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Molly (Dorothy Carroll) and Kennedy (Marsha Knight) are turned away from an emergency shelter.

Breaking Through opened on Tuesday and has had everyone talking since.

“Saw Breaking Through yesterday, and recommend it, it is honest but done with humour too. Still shows this week. I love all the characters, especially KoKo.” – Mary Scott

“I identify with some of the characters as I have gone through mental struggles of my own… I think what it certainly got across very well was that each character was a sort of individual element, not of their own choosing, but they’re trying to find some means of attaining normalcy. This is what I’ve gone through—the struggle to find normalcy when you have a condition that leaves you feeling anything but.”  – Patrick Lowe, Winnipeg Filmmaker

JoshRanville_MarshaKnight photo by Janet Shum (1024x683)

KoKo (Josh Ranville) is visited by her spirit guide (Marsha Knight)

“Brilliantly done and very well-researched. The actors really took on the roles. Everybody’s characters just stay with you.” – Angela, audience member

Check out a feature in The Times on actor Harry Nelken who plays Joe, a 72 year old character who has been living with schizophrenia since he was 19. Read the Winnipeg Free Press preview by Randall King and the blog review by Winnipeg theatre artist Lorraine James. Breaking Through has also been featured in the Winnipeg Free Press Arts & Culture, CBC News, The Herald, The Lance, The Pilipino Express, Global News Morning and more!

Come and see for yourself. There are four performances left! To see a performance schedule and book you tickets click here.

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“Plays like this are good messages. They’re valuable, in a sense. What I also like about the play is it was meant to be entertaining throughout. It wasn’t really a ‘downer’. It was trying to be an ‘upper’” – Patrick Lowe, Winnipeg filmmaker

Photos by Janet Shum.

 

 

Behind the Scenes with Breaking Through

With less than two weeks until Opening Night, the cast of Breaking Through are delving deep in to their characters who are born out of so many Winnipegger’s stories. For this week’s blog we visited the actors in action for a behind the scenes look into Breaking Through.

Harry Nelken as "Joe" in Breaking Through

Joe (Harry Nelken)

Harry Nelken plays Joe, a sometimes prickly, sometimes charming mental health centre resident with the story of a lifetime.

“What excites me about Joe: he’s a fighter, he’s compassionate, he thinks of others, he nurtures, he’s loving, and a kidder”, says Harry, “most of all, he accepts who he is and his lot in life.”

 

Richie Diggs plays an array of different characters as the Male Ensemble in Breaking Through.

Richie Diggs as "Absame" in Breaking Through

A fateful encounter at a bus stop between Absame (Richie Diggs) and Stef (Elena Anciro)

“Everyone needs a healthy mind, but anyone can get a sick mind.” My character says this in the play, thereby distilling the entire play to that simple comprehension, says Richie. “It is a key point to note, not just because one’s own self may sometimes be confronted with the challenges of living with a mental illness, but that when we encounter others battling these health challenges, that understanding, and support will be our participation, rather than stigma, or exclusion, or fear.”

Elena Ancrio as "Stef" in Breaking Through

Joe (Harry Nelken) and Stef (Elena Anciro); Joe fulfills duty as the unofficial ‘welcome committee’ of the mental health centre.

“What I love about Stef is that she is strong and resilient, that even when she is struggling, she has a quick wit and the instinct to help others”, says Elena Anciro. “The journey she goes on during the play has a really important message for all of us. I think whenever you are tasked with playing a character that is based on a real person or is experiencing something very specific (in this case, anxiety and OCD), it’s hard not to feel nervous about “getting it right.” It’s been amazing to work with Hope and Cairn’s script and to explore the text / subject matter with the cast. There’s been a very supportive and ‘safe space’ vibe to our rehearsals, which has really helped me feel relaxed about finding Stef and telling her story.”

 

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Val (Spenser Payne) saves face!

Spenser Payne plays Val. “I think Val’s story is a really great story to witness, says Spenser.  “It’s hard to live up to certain beauty standards in our world, and doing my research on this character, really realized how common it is for women, and men to deal with an eating disorder. It happens to anyone, doesn’t matter your size, or gender. There is massive pressure from our social media world to look a certain way, or act a certain way, and I think seeing Val struggle with This concept will really resonate with audiences.”

 

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KoKo (Josh Ranville) is visited by spirit guide (Marsha Knight)

“I play different family members to more than one character so I am in relationship with more than one other person who has mental health concerns”, says Marsha Knight, who plays the Female Ensemble.

 

“Not only am I looking at the nuances for each character”, says Marsha, “I am also looking at the relationship. Those are areas that every actor addresses – characteristics, a uniqueness, the dynamic. This time around, there is a heightened awareness when it comes to the relationship part.”

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Molly (Dorothy Carroll) stirs things up at the mental health centre.

 

“Molly is so intensely dynamic”, says Dorothy Carroll. “We see her in her highest and lowest moments, which has made it a real challenging journey. Finding a way “in” to someone struggling as Molly does, and discovering the “whys” has been most enlightening.”

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Dr. Morgan (Richie Diggs) and KoKo (Josh Ranville

“KoKo is a voice of wisdom in the play”, says Josh Ranville. “There are beautiful painful moments of hopelessness at the start of the play but I also get to climb out of the muck. KoKo is a light beacon for the other characters to accept themselves for who they are. What a journey I get to go on every night we perform.”

Breaking Through runs May 23-28 at the Asper Centre for Theatre an Film. To see a full list of showtimes and to book tickets visit sarasvati.ca.

Photos by Janet Shum.

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L to R: Joe (Harry Nelken) Stef (Elena Anciro) KoKo (Josh Ranville) Val (Spenser Payne) and Molly (Dorothy Carroll)

 

 

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/

Meet the Cast of Breaking Through!

This ace team of actors who will be working on Breaking Through includes many familiar faces and some who are brand new to Sarasvàti. We can’t wait to dive into rehearsals with this incredible team of artists!

Elena Anciro

Elena AnciroElena Anciro is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Theatre & Film. She was recently seen on stage in Alice in Wonderland (Theatre NorthWest), JONNO (Echo Theatre), and Chimerica (RMTC/CanStage). Her favourite Sarasvàti credits include: Fefu & Her Friends, Flood Control, and Empty. Elena is a member of Red Threads of Peace, a playback theatre troupe that merges artistry, social justice, and community building through improvised storytelling. She is honoured to be part of the premiere of this poignant and relevant new work.

Dorothy Carroll

Dorothy is excited to embark on this incredibly important project with Sarasvàti. Dorathy CarrollPreviously she appeared in Kayak (2010). A graduate of the University of Winnipeg Honours Acting program, favorite past shows include: Alice Through the Looking Glass (RMTC), Stripped Down Midsummer Nights Dream (SIR), Dutchman (play on Theatre), Hamlet (Bravura), The Producers (Rainbow Stage), Avenue Q (Winnipeg Studio Theatre), Little Women, Company (Dry Cold). Dorothy is the Associate Artistic Director of Bravura Theatre, and produces their Shakespeare in the Pub series here in Winnipeg. Watch for her production On Love (play on Theatre) in this year’s Winnipeg Fringe Festival!

Richie Diggs

Richie DiggsRichie Diggs (University of Winnipeg), is glad to be returning to Winnipeg for Breaking Through. Now living in Vancouver, B.C. he has previously been in Winnipeg features such as Trish Cooper’s Social Studies (Prairie Theatre Exchange) and Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s Pirates of Penzance. Richie starred in Firehall Arts Centre’s production of Social Studies for which he was nominated for the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards in the Best Lead Actor category.  Richie will star in Lynn Nottage’s Ruined at Dark Glass Theatre, Vancouver January of 2018.

Marsha Knight

Marsha KnightMarsha last appeared with Sarasvàti for Hope McIntyre’s production of Eden and assisted with facilitating workshops for Jail Baby. She has been in this business for over 20 years starting with Ian Ross’ Governor General’s award winning drama fareWel (PTE). She performed in fareWel two additional times, one being at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She was also in three separate productions of Rez Sisters (PTE, Theatre Northwest, Magnus Theatre). Her recent work includes Norm Foster’s Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun (Theatre Northwest), Shakespeare in the Ruins Antony & Cleopatra, and Drew Hayden Taylor’s Crees in the Caribbean  (Magnus Theatre). She thanks Hope McIntyre and Sarasvàti Productions for all their work in bringing these stories to light and for staging storytelling for us all to hear.

Harry Nelken

Mr. Nelken told us how happy he was to be part of this wonderful project.
Harry NelkenAn Equity member since 1978, he has worked extensively in theatres in Winnipeg and several Canadian cities. Selected credits: Glengarry Glen Ross, MTC  (Levine), Butcher, PTE (Josef), Zadie’s Shoes, PTE and Factory Theatre (Eli), Hamlet (Polonius), The Merchant of Venice (Shylock), S.I.R., Einstein’s Gift (Einstein), WJT/MTC, The Sunshine Boys (Al Lewis), Chemainus Theatre, B.C., All or Nothing (Unamuno) Shiksa (Abe), WJT,  The Hunting Party (Graves) for Agatha Christie Fest. At the 2017 Fringe, Mr. Nelken will be seen in Eastport.

Spenser Payne

Spenser PayneSpenser Payne is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program. She is founding member of The Talentless Lumps, Red Nose Diaries and Sweet and Salty Collective. When she’s not onstage, you can find her teaching at Prairie Theatre Exchange School or studying with clown duo Mump and Smoot. Recently she traveled with Prairie Theatre Exchange’s Munchbusters! and went to Ireland to work with clown master Phillipe Gaulier. She is excited to be back working with Sarasvàti after joining them in the 2016 FemFest Bakeoff and clowing around in FemFest’s Opening Cabaret!

 

Joshua Ranville

Joshua RanvilleJosh is an actor/musician from Winnipeg. Josh has been part of a few Sarasvàti productions in the past such as: Eden workshop, Breaking Through workshop. His most recent public theatre work was a one-man touring play with the Manitoba Theatre for Young People called Routes directed by Kimberly Rampersad. Josh trained for 3 years at Studio 58 in Vancouver B.C. Josh looks forward to playing Bass with Burnt Project 1 on the Scotia-Bank Stage for Aboriginal Day Live this summer.

Catch this amazing ensemble as they bring the world premiere of Breaking Through to life at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film May 23-28.

 

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 www.sarasvati.ca. Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks to learn more about the educational panels and special cameos as part of this amazing show!

Jail Baby: Biographies

After months of biting our nails in anticipation, Sarasvàti Productions is proud to finally announce our cast for Jail Baby!  We are excited to work with this amazing group of local actors for the world premiere of this new work! This stellar cast will be working with acclaimed director Ann Hodges, who started her involvement with Jail Baby when it was workshopped in 2011 for FemFest. Sarasvàti Productions is also excited to announce their incredible design team who will bring this play to life!

Jail Baby
by Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore
with Nan Fewchuk and Marsha Knight

Directed by Ann Hodges

Set/Costume Design by Abigail Myers

Lighting Design by Dean Cowieson

Sound Design by Chris Coyne

Starring: Ashley Chartrand, Melanie Dean, Shannon Guile, Daina Leitold, Megan McArton, Tracey Nepinak and Cory Wojcik.

Let’s take a look at the two actresses who will be playing the lead role of Jasmine. These two superb actresses will be playing young and present day Jasmine (respectively), and we couldn’t be more excited to see them take to the stage this May!

Ashley Chartrand photoEmerging theatre artist Ashley Chartrand made her Sarasvàti debut in 2008 with our school tour of Ripple Effect. In 2009/2010 she performed in No Offense…, the no-holds-barred play about racism in schools created as part of FemFest 2009. She also appeared in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues a coule years ago. Ashley is currently studying at the University of Winnipeg.

Melanie HeadshotIf you have seen some of our previous shows this past season, you will recognize Melanie Dean. Melanie was in FemFest 2012 favourite Empty, as well as in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues just a few short weeks ago!  Melanie was born in The Pas MB, and is a member of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation (Pukatawagan, MB). Mel attained her BA at the University of Winnipeg (2002) majoring in Performing Arts and English Literature. Nowadays, she can be found dancing on the Powwow trail somewhere on Turtle Island with her two beautiful children Shanley and Jesse. Mel’s other credits include, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Doug Nepinak’s The Crisis in Oka Manitoba with Red Roots Theatre Company, Doug Nepinak’sThe Life of Ruth and BBQ, William Inge’s Picnic, Dale Lakevold’s and Darrell Racine’s Stretching Hide at the University of Brandon, Frederico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, and MTC’s production of Tracy Letts August Osage County.

Fundraising campaign update: To date, we have raised $2,168.20 for our campaign, which will go directly towards Jail Baby. With just over a week left to donate, we need every one of our readers and friends to show your support! We only require 19 donations of $150 or more to reach our goal! So, phone a friend, and get them to donate as well!  Help us make our target today!

Be A Part of A Work of Art! (by Hope McIntyre)

Art can be created in the most amazing places!

Catherine McKenzie is an exceptional artist and she has also served time in a federal correctional institution, which is where she first started painting. A couple of years ago, the Winnipeg Free Press did a feature story on her art work and her inspiration. At the time of the interview, Cathy was incarcerated at the Okimaw Ochi Healing Lodge. This is where I met her in January 2012 as part of our work creating Jail Baby. Although I had read the WFP article I didn’t connect the story to Cathy until on the second day of drama workshops she brought in her portfolio of artwork. I recognized the painting immediately. Fellow facilitators Nan Fewchuk, Cairn Moore and I were all impressed with both her art work and her. This was a young woman who had made really bad decisions early in her life and now was able to recognize the anger she had been carrying around. Since meeting her we continue to correspond and she is now working in the community and trying to help other youth.

Urban Indian by Catherine McKenzie

Urban Indian by Catherine McKenzie

In just two months’ time, Sarasvàti Productions will be producing the world premiere of Jail Baby. After meeting over a hundred incarcerated women in developing this project, interviewing family members, correctional employees and talking with victims’ organizations; I am extremely proud to share this play. I have become convinced that it is crucial that we initiate a dialogue about the justice system in Canada without further delay.

We need your help to realize this goal and to make Jail Baby accessible to the full community.

With just 12 days left to donate to our fundraising campaign, we are asking you to show your support for this incredible production. Every donation, even just $10, is an important contribution to realizing this ambitious project.  In order to continue the remarkable work that we do, and to see this important and timely play brought to the stage, we need the support of our friends and fans right now more than ever. Help us tell the stories that are not being told and receive a range of benefits – click here for full details!