Spring into FemFest 2017 with a daring Cabaret

We absolutely love launching into FemFest with a dazzling Cabaret showcase of some of the most talented entertainers this city has to offer. The Cabaret has it all: everything from music, dance, comedy, theatre, film and a party to follow! Come and celebrate the launch of our 15th annual FemFest with us and enjoy this unstoppable line up of entertainment.

Cabaret BUNNY Now

BUNNY

Arguably Winnipeg’s best all-female-90’s-R&B-comedy-ukulele-duo, Bunny members B-Rabbit and HunnyBunny’s charming and unapologetic attitude will take you by surprise. This is the perfect duo to host the opening Cabaret, singing about everything from Instagram to networking to unsatisfying sex, this disarming pair doesn’t shy away from taboo subjects and real-life problems.

Opening Cabaret

Prairie Caravan Tribal Bellydancers

The awe-inspiring Prairie Caravan Tribal Bellydancers are back to entertain at another Cabaret! “Our women are a gorgeous mix of sizes, ages, and certainly personalities, but that is the beauty of Tribal”, says the troupe. “We are proud to say our troupe represents FIVE decades of age ranges among our ladies, proving that age is only a state of mind.”

Cabaret ChimwemweUndi - FemFest 2

Chimwemwe Undi

Chimwemwe Undi is a local poet and linguist, who has performed across Canada and the UK, and has been published widely. We’ve been hoping Chim would be in town for the Cabaret for a couple years now and we are so excited to have finally have her here to perform for all of you!

Phenomenal talents RobYn Slade and Jane Testar of Outside Joke take you on the wildly fun, unpredictable ride that is 50/50 Improv-Theatre Fusion. Actors have learned their half of the scene while talented improvisers go in blind. Audiences watch as each unlikely pair creates non-stop entertainment that will never be seen again.

Cabaret 5050 RobYn Slade Jane Testar

RobYn Slade and Jane Testar

Cabaret Logan Jax

Logan Jax

Logan Jax is a Cabaret past fave! Born on the day of Elvis, Logan took his first steps back in May 2015. Now, Logan is exploring his new voice and the world around him as his authentic self. Logan is writing, but not by way of music. Logan is writing policy that would protect transgender inmates from discrimination and violence in Manitoba prisons. While Logan isn’t busy smashing the patriarchy, he’s cuddling with his beautiful daughter who lights his life.

 

Cabaret Dianna Rasing Now

“I am a Sign Language Interpreter (by day) and have not done enough Stand Up to even call myself a stand-up comedian!”, says Dianna Rasing. But the audiences who saw Rasing’s breakout stand up set at Sick & Twisted’s Lame Is… a disability cabaret would say otherwise! Although brand new to stand up, Dianna’s sense of humour shines strong. You might also recognize her from the 2016 Winnipeg Fringe Festival where she wrote & performed Seducing Father Brian.

 

Cabaret CharleneMoore-Now

Charlene Moore

Charlene Moore is the director and producer of Moccasin Stories as well as a masters student of the Indigenous Governance program at the University of Winnipeg . “Moccasin Stories is my way of educating Manitoba on the reason for loss of this skillful craft”, says Moore, “[of] how this skill is coming back, and how resourceful, skillful, strong, and powerful Indigenous women are.” We are thrilled to give you a sneak peek of this awesome new film.

Ady Kay, Emily Solstice and Victoria Emilie Hill combine forces to perform Green.  Ady and Victoria are recent graduates of the Honours Acting Program at the U of W, and have continued to work together on projects such as The Patriarchy, their two-woman Acapella band.  Emily Solstice is a dancer in the School of Contemporary Dancers Senior Professional Program and has worked as a choreographer and performer in Winnipeg and across Canada.   They aspire to create meaningful movement based work and collaborate with other artists working in various mediums.

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Cabaret Connie Chappel-Now

Connie Chappel

Visual art joins our Cabaret thanks to MAWA. Connie Chappel’s piece Away from the Dark is a mixed media assemblage sculpture composed of familiar forms that reference the natural landscape and investigate life cycles through connections of fragments that transform from one material, structure or state to another.  Away from the Dark will be displayed in the theatre all evening.

Mindy and Marge are worldly travellers! The nomadic duo has done so much travelling that they feel it is their duty to pass on their wisdom to others. You may have already received expert travel advice from them if you saw Tourology: A Mindy and Marge Adventure as part of the Winnipeg and Edmonton Fringe Festivals in 2015, or Iceology: A Mindy and Marge Adventure as part of One Trunk Theatre’s Dollhouse of Commons last winter. Now enjoy Worldly Rituals: A Mindy and Marge Presentation at the Cabaret!

Stick around and mingle over pizza generously supplied by Garbonzo’s at the U of W AnX and wine from The Winehouse at our reception party after the show. We can’t wait to launch FemFest 2017 with you!

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Real people, real stories, on loan for discussion

Is it possible to challenge prejudice through one conversation with a stranger?

If you ask the creators of the Human Library™ they’ll tell you that it is in fact one of the most effective ways.

FemFest2017 and the Winnipeg Public Library are proud to present The Human Library™ right here in Winnipeg.

“We need a space for dialogue about tough issues that we wouldn’t address in the supermarket”, says Ronni Abergel, a Human Library creator.

“We’re navigating through diversity by putting people in boxes. We don’t go back to the box and check if what’s in the box is in accordance with the label we put on that box,” he continued, “I do it also. I do it every day. I do it with the speakers, I do it with people I meet. I gather a little bit of information and I use that information to put them in a box.”

Abergel spoke in Groningen at a Tedx talk, “You can go to the Human Library and challenge your own stereotypes, challenge your prejudices. You have to be a little brave because you have to fess up. You have to admit to yourself that you’re thinking things about other people-probably things that you shouldn’t be thinking, but you’re doing that for your own comfort.”

The local Human Books come from all backgrounds and ways of life, but they all have one thing in common, for different reasons they are often subjected to stereotyping or prejudice. Imagine getting to sit down with some of these amazing human books:

 

Nigel Bart

Book Title: Whale Calling and the Purpose of a Rabbit

Nigel Bart - HeadshotNigel tells his story from early childhood to present about living with schizophrenia, dealing with the additional issues that come with mental illness, and recovering as the successful founder of Artbeat Studio.

 

Sadie Phoenix Lavoie

Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie - HeadshotBook Title: Resilience through art and literature

Resilience. Decolonization. Matriarchy. How do we bring matriarchal principles back to the Indigenous world?

 

Razak Iyal

Book Title: The Struggle of Refugees

Refugees are stranded around the world, struggling to maintain hope. Razak arrived in Canada as a refugee, lost his fingers to frostbite, and has overcome one of the biggest challenges of his life. This is a story about human rights.

 

Lara Rae - Headshot_smallerLara Rae

Book Title: Becoming Lara

A Life in Progress. Lara Rae is a proud transgender woman and a writer and comedian. She is an artistic director who uses creativity and life experiences to promote understanding not just for herself, but for other marginalized people.

 

 

 

RACHEL SMITH headshot cropped for blogRachel Smith

Book Title: Finding the Gift: How to Face Life’s Challenges

Most people do not expect to be a caregiver when they are in their mid-twenties. Rachel’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease then later, Lewy Body Dementia. Rachel’s hope is that by sharing her story she can help others with their own challenges.

 

The Human Library takes place on the second floor of the Millennium Library during these times:
    Thursday, September 21: 4-8 pm

    Friday, September 22: 1-4 pm

    Saturday, September 23: 1-4 pm

This is just a sample of what will be available to readers. Click here for more information, updates on additional books and details on how to reserve a Human Book visit.

 

Meet the Cast of Characters

Breaking Through word collage

We began by listening.

We listened to the community, to caregivers, and to many people who are living with mental health issues. We gathered hundreds of stories and now, we have woven them into one great, big, beautiful inter-connected play.  This story is full of magic, songs (yes songs!!), hope, humour and truth. And we are thankful for the wonderful team of people who are going to help us tell it.

THE CAST

Ian Bastin will be reading for the prickly but charming, Joe. Suffering from schizophrenia  Joe has a long history with various treatments for mental illness. Joe is never short on stories to tell, but will anybody listen?

Kelsey Funk will be reading Molly. Molly has bipolar episodes which often manifest as religious fixations. As a single parent living in poverty, she is forced to rely heavily on her already over-stretched sister.

Spenser Payne will be reading Val, an aspiring actor who has bulimia. Val wears a mask to hide her reality. She struggles to defeat the voices inside her head that tell her she is not enough.

Rachel Smith will be reading Stef, who lives with OCD and anxiety. Stef’s mental health issues threaten to shut her in as she struggles to leave the house and maintain relationships—even with those who care for her the most.

Erica Wilson will be reading KoKo. KoKo is a young, Indigenous two-spirited person with attitude. Will her creativity and strength outshine the depression and suicidal tendencies brought on by a lifetime of trauma?

Akalu Meekis, Ashley Chartrand and Nan Fewchuck read for a wide range of characters—including caregivers, a psychiatrist, police officer, and spirit guide.

After the first read of the script of Breaking Through, the cast summed the story up with one word each. The above collage is the result. Let us know what you think after you hear the story!

Breaking Through
A staged reading by Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore
In collaboration with the Mental Health Community

Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (at U of W, 400 Colony Street)
Tickets $15 Regular / $10 Students & Seniors
May 22 at 3pm
May 24-27 at 7pm
May 28 at 3pm

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A Caregiver’s Perspective

RACHEL SMITH headshot cropped for blogRachel Smith has been a part of our mental health project since the project first launched. Rachel is a theatre artist currently based in Winnipeg. She is also a caregiver to her father, Morgan.

When my Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease my mind flooded with fears of the future. I wept at the idea of what was to come” said Rachel, “but then I realized that I could choose to dread what might happen or I could appreciate my Dad while he is still here.”

Rachel initially provided input to the project as a caregiver through interviews. She then became part of the community workshop series, helping us to present the script and gather feedback. We are very excited that Rachel will now be working as an actor in the workshop sessions and for the public staged readings of Breaking Through.

I think it is very important to talk about mental health. There is still a stigma around it and I don’t really understand why.”

The caregiver’s perspective is a powerful one. Caregivers face incredible demands, taking on the emotional and physical duties of caring for a loved one, providing support to family members all while trying to meet the demands of their own life and maintain their own emotional health. In addition, Rachel has had to deal with the effects of stigma and lack of understanding surrounding Morgan’s mental illness.

“I found there have been a lot of assumptions made, especially in the beginning. My Mom and I experienced accusations and blame placed for not doing something about it sooner. That somehow we should have been able to prevent it from happening or we should be able to stop it or do something about it. That somehow the difficulties we were experiencing were our own fault”, explained Rachel, “For myself, I found family suddenly coming to me to talk about what was happening almost like they were keeping it a secret from my parents.”

Rachel strongly believes in the value of human understanding surrounding mental health issues.

“One of my more amazing experiences was when there was no stigma, but an understanding. I described to a friend what I was going through in a lot of detail because he is a good friend who I have not seen in a while. He sat and listened, asked questions and then he began to cry. He completely empathized with me for what my Mom and I have been going through and gave me a big hug” said Rachel.  “I cannot help but think how wonderful it would be for others to experience that kind of empathy. For someone to say to them ‘I understand’ and give them a big hug.”

That’s why she is most excited to see how the audiences at staged readings of Breaking Through will respond to the ideas brought forward in the script.

“I feel that a project like Breaking Through is a great way to start the conversation. It is a way of communicating an understanding about what many people experience and why it is important to listen to them instead of making assumptions. It is also a way of telling people who are affected by mental illness in one way or another that they are not alone.

When we refuse to stigmatize people with mental issues we are able to see them for who they are.

“I think I most admire my Dad for his eagerness to help others and his gratitude for those who help him”, said Rachel, “when I think of my Dad I do not want to think of a disease; I want to think of who he is and how strong he is to get out of bed every morning with a smile on his face, ready to meet the challenges ahead.

You can read more about Rachel’s experience here and find resources for caregivers here.

Support Breaking Through by attending and adding your voice at the staged readings from May 22-28.

IWW SuperWomen Lift Up Communities

Rebellious Isobel Gunn, feisty Zelda Fitzgerald, and powerful Glory Girl are on the loose and are spreading a message of empowerment! For all of International Women’s Week these fascinating characters, and others, will be doing community performances around Winnipeg and surrounding areas in addition to the two public performances on March 7th at 4pm and 8pm. Keep reading to learn more about the community performances!

sarasvati (3)

Sarasvati SuperWoman – Designed by Emily Ormonde

Sunday, March 1st 3-5pm the Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba fundraiser will be showcasing “At the Gate” and “Zelda with a Z”. This Council does a lot to help women empower themselves, their families and society. If you want to support the Council and hear two great monologues click here!

Monday, March 2nd 12:30pm Portage Place Shopping Centre is hosting us again for “Glory Bound” “Zelda with a Z” “Loretta” and “John Fubbister”, this performance is free and open to the public!

Monday, March 2nd 7:30pm Rainbow Resource Centre is having us present “John Fubbister” at their Youth Drop In session. This performance will be followed by a talkback with actor Mallory James and playwright Sandy Klowak. We are very excited to be presenting at Rainbow Resource Centre for the first time!

Tuesday, March 3rd 10am this lucky U of M History Class will be getting an intimate performance of “John Fubbister” to help bring the history of Canada to life.

Tuesday, March 3rd 4:30pm will be the first of two performances the U of M Womyn’s Centre is hosting. First up is “Glory Bound” “John Fubbister” “Zelda with a Z” “Mutated” and “Loretta”

Wednesday, March 4th at 10:30am we are happy to be making our first visit to Siloam Mission to present “An Inheritance,” “Zelda with a Z” and “Loretta”

Thursday, March 5th 6pm we will be performing the unique monologue, “Mutated,” for the Cancer Care Young Adult Support Group. This is our first performance at Cancer Care and it will be followed by a talkback with actor Jenna Hill and assistant director Rachel Smith!

Anna Pazdzierski of Nova House in Selkirk and Kaeleigh Ayre, Andrea Houssin, Victoria Hill in 2014

Anna Pazdzierski of Nova House in Selkirk and Kaeleigh Ayre, Andrea Houssin, Victoria Hill in 2014

Thursday, March 5th 7pm is our first out of town performance where we will be visiting Nova House Women’s Shelter fundraiser in Selkirk. We will perform four monologues, “An Inheritance” “John Fubbister” “Glory Bound” and “Loretta”!

Friday, March 6th 2:30pm is our second performance at the U of M Womyn’s Centre where we will be presenting the rest of the monologues: “An Inheritance” “At the Gate” “Urban Nun” and “Of Heart and Tree”

Sunday, March 8th 2pm is our second out of town performance. We will be driving out to Genesis House Women’s Shelter for their fundraiser in Winkler. We will be performing three monologues for them: “Of Heart and Tree” “An Inheritance” and “Zelda with a Z.” Click here for more info!

To see all of these amazing monologues performed be sure to mark your calendars for March 7th, we have a show at 4pm and another at 8pm. Tickets are on sale now and are available online here or by phoning 204-586-2236! We tend to sell out, so get them sooner rather than later to avoid disappointment!

From Page To Stage

First Week of Rehearsals – Rachel Smith, Assistant Director

The first week of rehearsals is always exciting. The script is suddenly brought to life. The characters now have faces, bodies and voices. When the scenes are put up on the stage, the characters interact with each other, the props and their surroundings.

When reading the script it is easy to forget about the meaning created by props. One of the scenes begins with one of the characters writing on a piece of paper. When reading the script it is easy to forget about the paper but once it is on the stage the paper suddenly becomes a focal point.

In another rehearsal we had fun discovering how many ways a turnip (and other vegetables) can be used to represent genitals. The conversation takes part in the script but suddenly when there are props to play with it becomes so much more fun.

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The dynamic created by such a large cast is one thing that I find especially exciting about the show. I am fascinated by how the actors have begun to develop their characters. The characters different personalities that exist in the script are on the surface but once they become breathing, living beings they are no longer just characters, they are people; they have histories, personalities and relationships.

I am excited to see what the next two weeks of rehearsals will bring and am especially excited to see it in the Ralph Connor House. Working on Fefu and Her Friends so far has been a great experience and a lot of fun. The remaining rehearsals can only get better.

Just two weeks until opening – get your tickets now!

Behind the Scenes of Fefu: Meet the Directors!

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This spring challenge your preconceptions of life with Fefu and Her Friends! With all the snow, icy roads, and extra driving time added to our days, it’s hard to imagine what spring will look like. One thing we know for sure is that our directors are doing a fantastic job realizing their exciting vision for a truly unique show. Today, we wanted to introduce you to two fabulous members of our creative team. Our very own Artistic Director Hope McIntyre will be directing Fefu and Her Friends. We are also pleased to welcome Rachel Smith on board as Assistant Director. As a new director in Winnipeg, Rachel will be working closely with Hope as part of our on-going mentorship program and desire to provide emerging artists with professional opportunities. Keep reading to find out more.

myphotoHope McIntyre – Director

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 a published playwright, and has received awards and productions for her scripts across Canada, the U.S., and Australia. Jail Baby (co-written with Cairn Moore) premiered in May 2013 and has been published by Scirocco Drama. EDEN premiered in May 2012 and Empty premiered at FemFest 2012. Her directing credits include:  Grace and After (Alumnae Theatre), Drama At Inish (Toronto Irish Players), A Streetcar Named Desire (Rubber Gun Productions), Risk Everything and Problem Child (venus.calm), Revisioning (Short Pencil Productions), Bush-Ladies (Theatre by the River), Vinegar Tom and Ghost Sonata (University of Winnipeg) and dozens of productions for Sarasvàti Productions. In 2006 Hope was awarded the YWCA Women of Distinction Award and in 2008 won the Bra D’Or Award for supporting women playwrights through her work on FemFest. She currently teaches at the University of Winnipeg and has previously taught at Mount Allison University, Brandon University and University of Manitoba. She is a former President of the Playwrights Guild of Canada.

Why did you choose Fefu and Her Friends? Why are you producing it now?
I first encountered this play and the fabulous Maria Irene Fornes while doing my undergrad years ago. I was immediately drawn to her writing. I wanted to direct Fefu for my masters thesis back in 1996 but the committee felt it was too dated. I think in fact they did not have anyone with the knowledge of the style able to properly oversee the production as an advisor. It is a complex and layered text presented in a unique style and form. I’ve waited for a time when I felt ready as an artist to tackle the piece and for Sarasvàti to have the capacity to contract the seasoned actors we would require. Hiring eight women to perform the piece is a budget challenge but also an amazing chance to see some of Winnipeg’s strongest female performers on stage. I also feel that the themes of oppression and the exploration of how we attempt to repress our own feeling of discomfort echo much of what is happening in the world today. We do not have to look too far for examples of how figures of authority continue to dictate our behaviour and what is or is not appropriate. I am very excited to finally be working on a show that I started researching almost twenty years ago!

Rachel Elizabeth Smith - HeadshotRachel Smith – Assistant Director

Rachel Smith has just returned to Winnipeg after completing her MA in Theatre and Performance at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. She is a former student of the University of Winnipeg, having completed a BA Honours in Theatre and Film. This is her second time Assistant Directing, having previously worked on Way to Heaven at the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. Rachel is very excited to be working on Fefu and Her Friends.

What excites you the most about this project?
What most excites me about working on Fefu and Her Friends is that it is a site specific performance. I have recently done a fair amount research surrounding site specific work and am very excited to have been given the opportunity to be involved with one.

In addition to the setting of the performance, I am looking forward the second act of the play. During Act Two, there will be four scenes taking place at the same time in different rooms of the house. This is a unique and challenging aspect of the play that I am eager to contribute to and learn from.

Fefu and Her Friends by Maria Irene Fornes will run from May 22nd – June 1st, 2014 at Ralph Connor House (University Women’s Club of Winnipeg, 54 West Gate). Stay tuned as we announce our cast and members of our production team over the next few weeks!