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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Stories of Metamorphosis and the Art of Starting Over

seasonlaunch

Cotton candy liquid nitrogen cocktails and a cupcake making station! Transformative theatre, sugar and science! Sounds amazing doesn’t it? We are excited to present Transformation: Sarasvàti Productions 2016/17 Season Launch. There is so much going on in the world of Sarasvàti Productions for us to talk about. From our annual theatre festival of life-changing plays by women for everyone, to an eye-opening project featuring Canadian newcomers and their inspiring stories. Join us at The List – Winnipeg’s newest supper club, on Friday, August 5, 2016. We’ll be taking over the restaurant to give you a sneak peek of our enthralling new season of transformative theatre. Plus it’s part of First Fridays in the Exchange so you can check out an array of offerings before and after!

If you need more convincing, our Associate Producer Angie St. Mars gives you Top 6 reasons to support Sarasvàti this season.

  • Celebrate personal growth – This season’s theme is ‘transformation’ and highlights the beauty in change and starting over. 2016/17 focuses on personal growth and both the joy and pain that comes with it. Kicking off the season is FemFest 2016 featuring the emotional story of one woman’s journey from a husband and father, to becoming a powerful transgender spoken-word poet.
  • See the world through a new perspective – We’ll be announcing a new initiative that will be launched as part of our 2017 Cabaret of Monologues.
  • Help end stigma – After two years of gathering stories from the community we will be announcing the culmination of our mental health project.
  • Support local emerging artists – One of the most rewarding parts of this job is designing workshops for emerging theatre artists. As someone who fits into this category, I appreciate Sarasvàti’s desire to provide opportunities for artists to develop both artistic and business skills for low to no cost. I am especially excited to announce what we’ll be offering this year for emerging artists in all areas of theatre!
  • Promote diversity in theatre – Sarasvàti is dedicated to creating opportunities for diverse theatre artists and promoting equity in Canadian theatre. This season will provide various performance, showcase and training opportunities for diverse emerging and established artists.
  • Make theatre accessible – As part of Sarasvàti’s mission to make theatre accessible for all, we will be presenting plays at a number of new and unique venues. I am looking forward to taking transformative theatre into the community and engaging with new faces. It is pure joy to be able to collaborate with amazing people and community groups to promote human understanding. It is humbling and inspiring to be part of the drive to make Winnipeg an increasingly inclusive, vibrant city.

To learn more about Sarasvàti Productions 2016/17 Season, join us on August 5, 2016 at 7 pm at The List – 216 McDermot Ave. The event will feature more information on our upcoming projects, a free Cupcake Decorating Station sponsored by Cake-ology, and a special Transformation themed cocktail (that’s where the cotton candy liquid nitrogen comes in) created by the fantastic mixologists of The List. The event is free so be sure to pop in and show your support for Sarasvàti Productions.