Five Must-See Events at FemFest!

Hard to believe we’re more than halfway through FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance! It’s been an incredible week of theatre already… Saturday saw an eclectic Opening Cabaret with musicians, comedians, and spoken word artists from across Winnipeg! On Monday, we crowned Alissa Watson as our Bake-Off winner with her scene The Switch, which will get its own reading at FemFest 2019. We also premiered some incredible touring shows from around the world, including Burnt and La civilisation, ma mère! As the festival comes to a close, here are some events you won’t want to miss.

 

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1.  Sound of the Beast

This solo piece by two-time Governor General’s Award Nominee Donna-Michelle St. Bernard (aka Belladonna the Blest) speaks truth to power using spoken word, storytelling and hip-hop. The show highlights St. Bernard’s quick wit and quicker rhymes in a performance that reflects on identity, oppression and what happens when authority is questioned. We’ll be hosting a talkback discussion after today’s matinee at 1PM, facilitated by Tamika Krush of QPOC Winnipeg. Don’t miss your chance to experience this powerful production for yourself!

 

White Man's Indian.jpg2.  White Man’s Indian

Darla Contois takes on the ensemble of characters that make up this transformative work, focusing on the story of Eva, a Cree teenage girl, and her journey through the maze of a White Man’s high school. Following the opening performance on September 18th, we hosted a panel with Darla, Matt B. Shorting of Onashowewin Justice Circle, and Gabrielle Fiddler of Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre to talk about the issues presented by the play, as well as the larger topic of Indigenous representation on stage. There are two more chances to take in this incredible one-woman show: tonight at 9PM and Friday at 7PM!

 

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3.  Walking Art Tour

Be one of the select few who will get to experience this brand-new event! We’ve brought in an incredible team of artists who will be performing at some of Downtown Winnipeg’s hidden gems. The tour is hosted by local comedienne Heather Witherden and features Emilie Lemay (visual art), Tiana Northage (spoken word), Alexandra Elliott and Hilary Anne Crist of Art Holm (movement), Dawn Lavand (stand-up comedy), and waNda wilsoN (music). Just twenty people will get to take part in this unique event: book your spot today so you don’t miss out! The tour wraps up September 22nd at 2PM.

 

SignLanguageInterpretationDayTranslationsInterpretation4.  ASL-Interpreted Performances

After responding to requests to make theatre more accessible to our community, we’re proud to announce that we’ll be offering ASL interpretation for three shows in this year’s festival! Come see Burnt tonight at 7PM, White Man’s Indian Friday at 7PM, or Sound of the Beast Saturday also at 7PM. Tickets start at $15 – get yours today!

 

one-night-stand-poster-april-11-e1524149136777.png5.  One Night Stand

Join us on the closing night of the festival as we toast to 16 successful years! We’ll be featuring sneak peeks of new work from celebrated female playwrights, including Leigh-Anne Kehler, Frances Koncan, Jo MacDonald, Cairn Moore, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. The series is coordinated by Tatiana Carnevale and features performances by Melanee Deschambeault, Katie German, Kim Kakegamic, Glenn Odero, Matthew Paris-Irvine, and Erica Wilson.

The festival is running until Saturday, September 22nd with all performances taking place at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St) unless otherwise noted. With so much to take in, you won’t want to miss a thing! Make sure to check out our full FemFest schedule for all our upcoming events.

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Our Downtown is Made for Walking

We’re introducing something new to the FemFest line-up this year: a brand-new Walking Art Tour! The tour will explore parts of Winnipeg’s downtown area, shining a light on some of our city’s hidden gems. The tour will feature a mix of spoken word, comedy, visual art, movement, and music as audiences tour the downtown area, spanning Memorial Boulevard to Ellice Avenue.

Get to know the incredible artists taking part in this year’s tour!

 

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How would you describe yourself to a stranger?

  • Daphne Finlayson, Coordinator: I am but a simple pun enthusiast who loves dogs and terrible jokes.
  • Dawn Lavand, Stand-Up Comic: A daydreamer without enough sleep.
  • Emilie Lemay, Visual Artist: French-Canadian painter inspired by extraordinary prairie skies.
  • Tiana Northage, Spoken Word Poet: What you see, is what you get – but good luck keeping track of what you see. This Winnipeg poet is a living chameleon, and her wardrobe’s a mood-ring. This package is fragile – please handle with care.
  • Wanda Wilson, Musician: Depends, I could say, “I’m the one with the hat”. Or “I’m kind of like a turtle”.
  • Heather Witherden, Host: Heather is a fun Mom-aged lady living her best life as a burlesque emcee by night and receptionist by day!

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

  • Alexandra Elliott, Movement Performer/Art Holm Curator: “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole.
  • Daphne: Oh gosh… it oscillates between classic 80’s chart-toppers and ambitious solos from Broadway musicals. Right now I’d have to say either “Limelight” by Rush or “More than a Feeling” by Boston.
  • Emilie: “Mamma Mia” by ABBA. I have even sung it a cappella once. Now my daughter sings it with me as a duet!
  • Tiana: “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows is an absolute BOP and I refuse to hear otherwise. You can catch me yelling “CUT UP MARIA” at The Good Will any Wednesday of the month.
  • Wanda: “Fight for Your Right” by The Beastie Boys.
  • Heather: “Baby Got Back”, no question.

Why should people be excited about your piece at FemFest?

  • Alexandra: Because the main prop is a doctor’s medical exam table and as of this current moment, I have no idea what will happen. But there will be two women clad in purple hospital gowns doing contemporary dance.
  • Daphne: Winnipeg’s Downtown Area is such a cool space, full of hidden gems and cool little spots waiting to be discovered. What I’m hoping to do with this tour is shine a light on just a few of these spots, combining art with architecture to showcase the beauty lurking under the surface of our city.
  • Dawn: Laughter is medicine. I can be hilarious – come get a dose, community-style.
  • Emilie: People will get to see a painting created live in the heart of the city and they will be a part of its creation story.
  • Tiana: Coming to see my performances is like getting a live diary reading. I’m letting you in on the sad scary thoughts you thought only you had. Together we can ride the emotions out, and leave with a sense of not being so alone.

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Also featured in the tour is fellow Art Holm curator Hilary Anne Crist. No stranger to performing in unconventional locations, Art Holm is a semi-annual performance series that showcases artists of different disciplines. She’ll be joining Alexandra as they preview a piece from their upcoming performance series titled Scooch Forward. Singer-songwriter waNda wilsoN will be serenading audiences from Saigon Park across the street from the University of Winnipeg. Wanda plays an eclectic mix of raw and sweet material, expressing strength, humour, hope and pain in her own alternative way.

You have two chances to check out this incredible line-up of artists: September 19th at 5:30PM and September 22nd at 2PM. The tour starts at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W). Space is limited – be sure to book your spot today! A total of just 40 audience members will get to experience this unique initiative.

Our Friends at the Fringe!

It’s that time of year again! The Winnipeg Fringe Festival is coming up next week and as usual, you can catch our team out and about spreading the word on FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance, including the chance to win a free festival pass! Big thank-yous go out to all the companies who are helping us promote FemFest 2018.

We had the opportunity to preview some amazing shows at our One Night Stand series in May, featuring new work by eight local companies as part of Prairie Theatre Exchange’s Carol Shields Festival.  If you’re looking for some great shows to see, check out some of the fantastic productions put on by our past collaborators:

ONEDATECITY.fin (1)One Date City presented by It’s All Relative Productions

Written by Reba Terlson and co-created by Craig Terlson
Directed by Kaeleigh Ayre

Cast: Reba Terlson, Rachel Hiebert, Drew Jensen

Best friends Morgan and Julie have awful luck with dating. Julie just got out of a relationship and forgets how to date, and Morgan can’t remember the last time she had a worthwhile date. They place a high-stakes bet to see who can go on one great date.

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Mother’s Little Secret presented by Broken Record Productions

Written by Jo MacDonald, winner of the FemFest 2017 Bake-Off!

After her latest accident, two daughters conspire to move their mother into a retirement facility. But Casa Espia is no ordinary senior’s home.

 

 

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Animosity presented by Downside Up Productions

Written by Wren Brian

Directed by Ntara Curry & Sami Desiree

Cast: Melissa Langdon & Sophie Smith-Dostmohamed

Two people. Trapped in an abyss. Refusing to get along. In this absurdist/existentialist play two people struggle with feelings of fear, disconnection, and anger at each other, the space, and themselves. This is a companion piece to last year’s Anomie (winner of the Harry Rintoul Award for Best New Manitoban Play at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe).

 
Fractured Expectations Graphic (715x800)Fractured Expectations, a collective creation presented by Timeless Weaver

Directed by Rachel Smith, co-director of our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues

Cast: Alicia Coulson, Jacob Janzen, Matthew Lupu and Erica Wilson

What kinds of expectations do you have in life? Finish your degree and immediately find your dream job? Go on a blind date and find the person of your dreams? Expectations can become a positive mantra to help you achieve your goals. Other times they can be a curse: an endless stream of disappointments.

 

2018-96735-web.jpgConfessional presented by The 28th Minute

Written by Tennessee Williams

Directed by George Toles

Cast: Heather Roberts, Jen Robinson, Kevin Ramberran, Justin Fry, Sylvia Richardson, Ivan Henwood, Sherab Rabzyor Yolmo, and our 2018 production assistant Reid Girard!

Tennessee Williams’ play-writing voice is always a lyrical plea for mercy. In Confessional, he takes us to Monk’s Bar, not far from Treasure Island Trailer Park. Eight characters, variously down and out, form a loose community of the not quite vanquished.

 

2018-125778-web.jpgThe Last 48 presented by ArtLaunch Theatre Company

Written by Camille Intson

Directed by Raffie Rosenberg and Simon Miron

Cast: Wes Rambo, Chris Sousa, Pamela Roz, Jack Maier, and Emily Meadows

Stage Managed by our Associate Producer, Daphne Finlayson

Five young associates are forced into competing for spots at a top advertising agency by a mysterious robotic surveillance system. When the workers begin to realize that their pairing together is anything but random, the company’s system of ethics is questioned as the employees struggle to complete their tasks.

There are dozens of more great shows, with amazing artists we have had the pleasure to work with and will feature in our season, but we only have so much space! Check out the Winnipeg Fringe Festival’s website for a full look at what’s up next for independent, experimental theatre!

Burnt: Norah Paton travels to Burning Man, Burning Man travels to FemFest

At FemFest this year, Norah Paton’s Burnt will take you on a theatrical trip to Burning Man, a temporary community in the desert in Nevada. You will meet all kinds of people played by Paton herself. The festival gets its name from the ritual of burning of a huge wooden effigy at the end of the festival. It is founded on ten principles: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.

Paton created the piece by visiting Burning Man in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and recording interviews with the people she met there. But instead of any old documentary, Paton wrote a script that is a collage of interviews and brought it to life with her captivating acting skills. She plays a surprisingly varied cast of characters, each with their own distinctly recognizable personality. Ian Huffam wrote in his review that “Paton’s physicality and vocal texture when embodying the subjects of her interviews deftly captures the essence of these people.”

The aesthetic of the show is wonderful, too. The sound design is by AL Connors and the play features electronic music, just as Burning Man does. Dominique Coughlin’s costume and set designs remind us of Le Petit Prince, as Ian Huffam points out, which shares its desert setting with Burnt. Lighting designer Sarah Mansikka creates fascinating visual effects. Dramaturges Emily Pearlman and Brad Long complete the artistic team.

Paton premièred Burnt at the Undercurrents Festival in Ottawa in 2017 and received glowing reviews. Jared Davidson described the première as “fascinating, clever, and immersive” and added “with a script and performance this strong, it will be interesting to see how it develops.” Our Artistic Director saw this production in Ottawa and was excited to share it with FemFest audiences.  And now that Paton has developed it further, Winnipeg theatregoers will see its best version yet.

Paton’s brilliance doesn’t stop at the sheer originality of this concept. The play also criticizes the hypocrisies of Burning Man: how a money-less city that operates on giving has become a capitalist venture, how a place where people are not supposed to leave any traces has developed a litter problem, and how racism and rape culture have crept into a community founded on inclusivity.

The Ottawa Citizen quoted Paton saying “Some of [the ten principles of Burning Man] are totally contradictory, and I definitely do look at those paradoxes…For me, it’s really interesting to see how this temporary city becomes a microcosm of all the issues or tensions or problems that we all see in our lives.”

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Come and enjoy Burnt at FemFest at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, 400 Colony Street, on Tuesday, September 18th or Wednesday, September 19th at 9:00 pm or on Thursday, September 20th at 7:00 pm and prepare to be amazed!

“Home 2.0” Comes to Schools This Fall!

“Can you name a time that you’ve had to start all over? New school? New house? New activity? Throughout the course of the show, we’ll be like flies on the wall watching the stories of people who had to start over. What you are about to see is from true stories shared by people about coming to Canada.” – Joker, Home 2.0

Imagine sitting in your school gym and getting to experience music, dance, and visuals from half a dozen different cultural groups played out before your eyes, all threaded together to tell the journey of displaced people arriving to Canada. At the end of the performance, the actors invite you on stage to step in to the shoes of a character and explore solutions to the challenges they faced.

In May, we saw the culmination of the first part of our newcomer community collaboration project, New Beginnings. Now we’re continuing the project with Home 2.0!

Home 2.0 was created especially for youth, focusing on their experiences of resettlement. Young audiences will engage with characters their own age, allowing youth to see themselves and their stories represented onstage. By sharing stories of immigrant and refugee youth who have resettled in Canada, Home 2.0 will foster important dialogue around the challenges of newcomers. For many youth, this might be the first time they see their experiences represented in the arts. For others, it might be the first time they’ve been able to really grasp what it’s like to be forced to leave your home and start again halfway across the world.

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Like our previous school tours, Home 2.0 is performed “forum theatre style”, meaning the audience gets a say in the events onstage. Forum Theatre is a lively and effective way to look at and counter issues that our community faces today by encouraging audiences to take an active role in the show rather than acting as bystanders. The show offers students the chance to watch the “worst case scenario” play out before them – followed by the opportunity to change the ending, offer solutions, or provide support for the characters. By challenging what happens, youth are able to think about how they would act or how they wish they had acted in a similar scenario. Ultimately, the show promotes empathy and compassion, educating students on the experiences of starting over in a new country.

We’ll be touring the show throughout Winnipeg and Manitoba October 15 through to December 7, visiting schools in the community to promote inclusion and understanding. If you’re a teacher looking to bring the show to your students, contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca for more information!

Seeing Our Vision Through: 2017-2018 Season Retrospective

Another great year of theatre has come and gone! We celebrated our 18th season here in Winnipeg, showcasing newcomer stories, tales of unstoppable women, some hilarious local comedians, and powerful theatre from all across Canada! Take a look back at what we’ve accomplished with our 2017-2018 season: Envision.

New Beginnings

 

New Beginnings by Sarasvati Productions is beyond amazing. This production cannot end. The message of reality of resettlement should be heard by thousands more. The actors, content and music (Gerry Atwell, Music Director) touched my soul.” – Jay Rose, Audience Member

Thanks to amazing support from Winnipeg’s newcomer and theatre community, the show enjoyed an amazing run with multiple sold-out performances! A generous grant from Canadian Heritage, allowed us to offer translation services for the performance in Arabic, Kurmanji, and French! Stay tuned in the fall for our school tour, Home 2.0, which focuses on youth stories of immigration and resettlement.

IWW Cabaret of Monologues: I am Unstoppable

I am so full of all the wonderful ideas, writing and acting I’ve heard this afternoon! I just feel unstoppable. Sarasvati is so wonderful for providing the encouragement and the space for people to say all these things that would be left silent for so much longer. Thank you for giving us your voices – you’re wonderful!” – Beverly Grace, Audience Member

This year’s Cabaret showcased artists from across disciplines, including stories of heartbreak, resettlement, grief, and staying unstoppable in the face of adversity. We also used ASL interpretation for the first time to make our performances accessible to the Deaf community! Thanks to support from the Manitoba Status of Women, we were able to tour pieces to communities that might not normally get to experience live theatre. Big thank-yous to all of the artists and playwrights who shared the stories of such inspiring, unstoppable women.

One Night Stand Series

We had three different One Night Stands this year, starting with FemFest and ending with the Carol Shields Festival of New Works! Thanks to producers Tatiana Carnevale and Daphne Finlayson, as well as a partnership with the U of W and Prairie Theatre Exchange, we showcased twenty new pieces from both experienced and emerging playwrights. You can catch the plays from ONS: Fringe and Fancy-Free next month at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival!

Workshops for Emerging Artists

“This workshop gave me new tools to be a better performer.”

“Extremely beneficial, will make producing and stage managing shows much easier, so much useful information.” – feedback from workshop participants

This year, we hosted ten workshops for nearly 100 emerging artists, covering Grant-Writing with a cereal buffet, Are You Technically Prepared with Allison Loat, The Actor’s Voice with Tom Soares, a Monologue Intensive with Sharon Bajer, and our informal mentorship sessions, Coffee with a Pro! We thank our partners Fools and Horses, Elements Restaurant, and the Graham C. Lount Foundation for helping us support up-and-coming artists in the community. We’re currently planning out next year’s series – if you have any suggestions for us, contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca!

Support from NERI and crucial donors also allowed us to continue to work in partnership with Children of the Earth High School. We offered weekly theatre sessions for students. Thanks to the City of Winnipeg we are just wrapping up ten weeks with Gonzaga Middle School. We are well on our way to fostering some new, culturally diverse future theatre artists!

Women’s Comedy Night

After selling out in 2016, we had to bring back the event for another year! Eight of Winnipeg’s hilarious comediennes took part in our second annual Women’s Comedy Night back in November, packing the King’s Head for both a tamer 7PM show and a racier 9PM show. Don’t worry, we’ll be back again later in 2018 – stay tuned for more details!

FemFest 2017: Coming of Age

Our 15th FemFest saw some amazing work on the stage: from incredible touring artists like Tomboy Survival Guide, Judith Thompson’s Watching Glory Die, Falen Johnson’s Two Indians, as well as a reading of the 2016 Bake-Off winner, Kit and Joe by Jessy Ardern! Mark your calendars – FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance is happening September 15-22!

Thanks to all the audience members, artists, volunteers and community members who made our 18th season possible! For more on what we have coming up next year, stay tuned for details on our season launch in August.

New Beginnings and Endings

After two years of community interviews and workshops, the world premiere of New Beginnings took Winnipeg by storm! Over the course of the run, we had multiple sold-out shows and over 750 people came to see the play. Every performance offered a conversation circle to continue the dialogue sparked by this production, allowing audiences the chance to ask questions and learn more about the stories reflected in New Beginnings. Here are some of the great things people had to say!

It was wonderful, I cried and laughed. Those stories are so powerful. The first one with the burka is how we escaped.  I actually wore one for the first time in my life then. You guys did a great job bringing these stories to life.” – Ellie Towfigh via Facebook

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I’m excited to be a member of such an amazing company that inspires audiences to reach out and connect with others to promote social change in such powerful ways…  Perspective is hugely important to being a positive member of a community and I believe that it can often be overlooked.  But New Beginnings brings forward so many unique stories that can perhaps open horizons for our audiences and introduce the realities of immigration and resettlement.” – Alanna McPherson, Performer

“New Beginnings by Sarasvati Productions is beyond amazing. This production cannot end. The message of reality of resettlement should be heard by thousands more. The actors, content and music touched my soul.” – Judy Rose via Facebook

Thanks to a generous grant from the Inter-Action Program, we were able to offer a wide variety of accessibility services including ASL interpretation, child-minding, translation, transportation, and counselling for any audience members affected by the play’s subject matter. On May 24th, we played host to close to 100 Yazidi refugees from Operation Ezra, offering Kurmanji translation via headset and child-minding provided by Operation Ezra and West Central Women’s Resource Centre.

Congratulations on an excellent production! Thank you so much for having the Operation Ezra families at the show.  It was a great opportunity for them to experience live theatre. We really appreciate you going above and beyond to make it accessible to all. The translation and child care allowed many of the attendees to experience their first live show. We had no idea what to expect yet we found ourselves laughing at times and crying at times.  We recognized some of the stories which made it even more impactful.” – Karen Shpeller, Operation Ezra

Over the course of the run, we had representatives from Winnipeg’s newcomer community speak after the show, allowing audiences to hear their stories and share their own as well. We also hosted Kamta Roy Singh, whose story appeared in the play.

It was fantastic show last night. The individuals who act as Kamta and employee did amazing job. Congratulations.” – Kamta Roy Singh, Kamta’s Story

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Kamta Singh and Lu Fayokun

I would like to commend you, your cast and all the others involved in this performance a great “BRAVO” on an excellent performance. I was in attendance at the world premiere of Sarasvati Productions presentation of New Beginnings and was so impressed with it… A very great performance by the cast. Representatives of the Jamaican Association of Manitoba were invited to answer questions and share comments with the cast and audience at the end of the performance. A great evening.” – Patrick Moore, Jamaican Association of Manitoba

 

We couldn’t have made this production happen without the community members who participated in our workshops and allowed us to share their stories onstage. Big thank-yous as well to our incredible creative team, our hard-working volunteers, and everyone who came out to support New Beginnings!