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 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!

Jail Baby – An Introduction

It’s hard to believe that in just six months’ time our production of Jail Baby will make its world premiere! Three years in the making, Jail Baby is the result of drama workshops in correctional institutions with a wide range of women offenders. It is a heart-wrenching story that finds hope and humour in the most unlikely places.

We are excited that renowned Winnipeg director Ann Hodges will be at the helm of the production. She is already hard at work preparing for the show! We are also excited to announce that the play written by Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore (with Nan Fewchuk and Marsha Knight) will be published by Scirocco Drama in conjunction with the world premiere! Copies will be available for purchase during the performance run.

Our goal is to create transformative theatre so the show will also include special panels exploring the issue of women offenders, the high representation of aboriginal women in prison and restorative justice. As well, stay tuned for special cameo appearances by some of Winnipeg’s best lawyers and judges!

Jail Baby recognizes and examines the issues and realities of incarcerated women from their perspectives thereby dispelling the myths about female criminals. The play also shows the perspective of those affected by crime. These issues are extremely relevant right now in Canada and around the world. We have shared on our Facebook and Twitter stories of the plight of women incarcerated around the world in recent weeks. According to the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba, the number of women in prisons has grown 50% over the last decade. EFS Manitoba estimates that with the new Omnibus Crime Bill, the number of women in prisons is expected to rise. Check out this infographic from the National Post to see what and where the numbers are.

Jail Baby will run from May 16-26, 2012 at the University of Winnipeg’s Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. After the run, we are hoping to also do some special community performances.

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 – Marsha Knight

Marsha Knight has also been involved with EDEN through several workshops and readings. It is great to have her on board for the full incarnation of the play and of her character, Essa. Essa is an elder who must decide how best to guide her people and in particular how to help the young generation. Here are her answers to our questions from April 24th:

1. What is one thing every actor needs to know? If you can’t handle being told ‘no’ – don’t get into the business.  Because when it comes to auditioning or submitting proposals, you’ll hear ‘no’ a lot more than you hear ‘yes’.

2. What does every great story have to have? hhmmmm.  If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise? Every great story has to have…. a reason? an audience? But why did the tree fall in the first place?

3. What is your favourite word? I don’t have a favourite word.  How about saying ‘not printable’.  That way, people may think my favourite word is a straight-forward/rich/good old-fashioned expletive. Actually – to think for a second – my favourite word is ‘Thank-you’.  And I’ve made a point for learning how to say it in a few languages.

4. If I could grant you a single wish, what would it be? Three more wishes.

Complete the sentence:

6. If I wasn’t typing this email interview right now, I would be… making my supper before heading out to work.  Work being today’s rehearsal.  The crew has been busy setting up the theatre and today, our rehearsal time has moved from morning/afternoon to afternoon/evening.  Excited to see the new digs today.

7. You know me as a actor but in truer life I’d have been… working at the Canadian Space Agency – aerodynamics, space exploration, pilot, astronaut.

Marsha Knight as Essa in EDEN; photo by Janet Shum

Marsha’s been in the industry for over 15 years, both on and off stage.  Her latest stage work was Norm Foster’s Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun for Theater Northwest.  She has been a part of the EDEN workshops since its early drafts.  She has also recently worked with Sarasvati Productions on developing Jail Baby, a new play based on drama sessions with criminalized women.