Changing Lives: Students and Teachers Respond to ‘Diss’

Yesterday was the last show of our tour of Diss and we have completed 28 shows to 4000+ students, teachers and community members! This tour has been a success because of the wealth of encouragement and support we have received thus far! We wanted to take the time to show you some of the ways Diss has affected students and teachers. Compiled here is only a sample of the responses we have received. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have!

photo by Janet Shum   photo by Janet Shum

“Great performance – great cast!”

“The actors were highly engaging, and the creative team on the whole did a great job with the storytelling.  The forum theatre approach offered the students an opportunity to explore in depth the hard hitting issue of new immigrant gang involvement.   Those who took part in the interventions experienced on a personal level the struggles that surround the issue.  The ensuing discussion was authentic and informed in a way that would not have been possible without the forum theatre model.”

“[The students] said at first they thought it was going to be lame but they all really got into it.  The part where the mom kicked Sam out was the part that they all commented on.  I think they can all imagine (or have had) that type of fight with their parents and it really resonated with them.”

“The next day I talked some of the students to get some feedback, and I only heard positive praise. One student is sixteen and last year was wearing gang colors and had dropped out of school. Shortly after the play I approached this same student and asked him what he thought of the the play, and he responded with honesty, “It was good”. Another student the next day confessed that he had family members involved in the gang life and was more open to talking about his concerns with the school counsellor. I believe that this play might have been the turning point in possibly changing someone’s life.”

“It was funny, interactive and it made you want to pay attention.”

“Our reaction to the production was very positive and enthusiastic. Artistic Director, Hope McIntyre, succeeds in having youth actors fully engage with the community’s youth, and thus creates positive, much needed discussion around the issues of youth and gangs. Interesting and productive discussion was very much alive within our very interactive and lively audience. Their openness to youth coincided nicely with play’s theme of newcomer youth and their struggles with integration and gangs. Overall a very positive, informative experience… it would be great to see what else Winnipeg’s art scene has to offer!”

“Showed a good message and it was super enjoyable to watch.”

“I just wanted to thank you again for helping bring DISS to our school yesterday.  We had a diverse mix of students in the audience and this helped create a productive, positive, and memorable dialogue.  Such a great play and a great cast that connected well to our high school kids. Loved it.  Just loved it.”

Thanks again to all of those who attended shows at their school, community groups or the free show at the Winnipeg Public Library! Thank you as well to ArtCity, Evolution AV, the Manitoba Arts Council, The Winnipeg Arts Council, Manitoba Community Services Council Inc, the Richardson Foundation and the Winnipeg Foundation! Stay tuned for even more inspiring and energetic productions throughout our 2012-2013 theatre season! For more information on what we have to offer, visit www.sarasvati.ca!

Diss Evolution AV thanks

Making Their Mark: ‘Diss’ Actor Bios Part 2

WOW! Last night we performed our one-night only free showing of Diss to a packed house and extremely enthusiastic audience! The outpour of positive feedback and support for the show proves that audiences are hungry for stories of real people and real lives. Diss tackles peer pressure, youth gangs and gun violence in an honest and compelling way, and our audiences are really relating to its message. We cannot wait to continue the tour!

As promised, here is part 2 of our actor biography series. Today we feature the three who play the family at the centre of the story. Their story represents just one of (too) many immigrant families who struggle to find their place and sense of purpose in a new city.

  • Lacina Dembélé is Sam, a teenager eager to fit in as a Canadian. Lacina was born in a village named Kolia situated in the Ivory Coast. He spent a small part of his childhood in Sinfra and Abidjan then came to Winnipeg at the age of 4. At 11 years old, he learned how to play the flute then later the guitar, piano and drums. Emerging in the acting scene, he has appeared in Ripple Effect with Sarasvàti, at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, Festival Théatre Jeunesse and The Festival AFRIK. Lacina has the toughest character journey in the play and on top of that has to do all the beat boxing!
  • Cherrel Holder  plays Sam’s sister Tracy who fights to keep her brother from making the wrong choices.Cherrel was born in Trinidad and moved to Canada at the age of 11. Cherrel began acting in theatre in Junior High and continued throughout High School at Vincent Massey Collegiate, where she also began doing musical theatre, and exploring script writing. In grade 11 Cherrel entered the Scirocco High school Playwriting Competition and had her script Caroline performed on the MTC Warehouse stage. Cherrel graduated High School at the age of 17 with the highest mark in Theatre. Cherrel is now continuing her education in dance and does on-screen, theatre, and musical theatre work in her spare time. In Diss you not only get to see her acting skills but she raps and dances!
  • Lorraine James plays the mother, Maizie, who struggles to pay the bills and keep her family together.Lorraine goes back & forth with entry-level jobs in the service industry, pursuing her love of acting for film (You Kill Me), television (Cashing In), commercials (With Child, Without Alcohol) and theatre (Sarasvàti Productions, Fantasy Theatre for Children, Winnipeg/Vancouver Fringe Festival, Vancouver Theatre Sports League, Vancouver Playhouse, Theatre in the Raw and Walterdale Playhouse). Although the oldest cast member, Lorraine has learned to rap for the play and shows that she is truly young at heart!

Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks to hear what youth say about the show!

Making Their Mark: ‘Diss’ Actor Bios Part 1

Our high school and community group tour of Diss is underway! We are excited to perform for a variety of audiences and to encourage students to make positive choices in their communities. The actors in Diss are excited to see the reactions from the students and to work with them to creative meaningful interventions. So far the show has received rave reviews, enthusiastic participation and allowed youth to find solutions to peer pressure and gang violence.

Speaking of our actors, here’s a chance to get to know more about these talented artists! They come from a variety of backgrounds and levels of experience and have truly brought Diss to life. Today we feature part 1 of our actor biographies!

  • Eugene “GeNie” Baffoe plays EmJay the DJ, narrator and facilitator of the show. GeNie is an established hip hop dancer/choreographer in Winnipeg originally from Montreal, Quebec.  In the artistic world acting is his second passion. It has taught him how to play and/or create diverse characters and personalities. GeNie has yet to take a professional acting course of any kind but has managed to land a few high profile roles in stage productions such of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and RENT. Every year he hosts a non-profit charity dance showcase called “Dance 4 MS” which he began in 2009. Audiences have been amazed by his energy, ability to tackle a variety of characters and his confidence in guiding audiences through the interventions.
  • John Echanoplays Tyrone, a teen who quickly becomes embroiled in the gang lifestyle.John appeared in many school plays when he was a student at Tec Voc. Recently he appeared in an episode of the television program Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. He has taken classes at the Prairie Theatre Exchange for the past year. In his spare time he likes to ride his unicycle or play fetch with his dog Frodo. John has one of the biggest challenges in Diss as he plays a character who resorts to violence to solve his problems. When John comes out after the show audiences are amazed to find he is a really sweet guy. He even brings cake for the cast road trips!
  • Braiden Houle  plays the ringleader Jesse.Braiden was inspired to become an actor after learning of his relation to Adam Beach at the age of 12. After 2 weeks, he got his first audition for feature film Juliana and the Medicine Fish. After this experience, Braiden studied theatre at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People (MTYP). Braiden loves theatre and continued on with productions such as Will Work 4 Home (2009), Jumping Mouse (2010), The Moving Gallery (2010), and Fringe shows Little Red Riding Hood (2011) and Wings Of Darkness (2012). He was previously cast in Sarasvàti Productions forum theatre piece No Offense. We are excited to have Braiden back as he often has the challenge of improvising throughout multiple interventions.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars! Our free, public show of Diss is taking place on November 7th at 630pm at the Millennium Library. Reserve your spot today (204-586-2236) as seating is limited.

‘Diss’ Is Almost Here!

The time is almost here… presented by yours truly, Diss will be making its Manitoba debut tomorrow at the Manitoba Student Leadership Conference in Shilo!

Diss tells the story of a brother and sister, newcomers to a big Canadian city, as they search for belonging and a sense of status. The male is lured into dangerous behaviour by so-called friends who are actually recruiting for a gang. Their mother is a single mom working long hours at menial jobs to make ends meet. As the play unfolds the audience sees the changes in this family as they struggle to adjust to their new home and are affected by discrimination.

What makes Diss so unique, is that it allows students to share their thoughts and suggestions about situations that are played out in front them on stage. Performed in Forum Theatre style with hip-hop elements infused into it, audiences will have the opportunity to interact with the characters by telling them what they should do next. How cool is that? This gives the audience the chance to influence the characters’ decisions, but it also allows for self-reflection and an assessment of how they can make better decisions in their own lives.

The play was originally written by Rex Deverell, in partnership with the Toronto Police Service and youth with gang experience. As a result of including youth with gang experience in the development, the show is a realistic portrayal of family relationships, friendship, peer pressure, theft, gun violence and many other issues that affect young people living with gang presence in their communities.

Spots are still available for the fall 2012 tour! To book yours today, send us an email or give us a call (204.586.2236)! If you know a youth group that should catch the show, we will be offering a public performance in partnership with Winnipeg Public Libraries at the Millennium Library on November 7th at 6:30pm. It is a free performance for youth groups and agencies. Please call us to register for this performance as space is limited.

‘Diss’ Makes its Winnipeg Debut!

Sarasvàti Productions is pleased to be presenting the Winnipeg tour of Diss later this month! Written by Toronto playwright Rex Deverell, Diss tells the stories of immigrant and newcomer youth as they navigate through the complicated world of youth gangs, gun violence and the desire to fit in. Wanting to have the play truly reflect the realities of immigrant and newcomer youth in Winnipeg, Deverell came to Winnipeg in June to meet with youth from the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) and talked with them about their experiences since arriving in Winnipeg.

One of the amazing aspects of this production is the connections to the community. It seemed like a natural fit when the folks (and kids!) at Art City got together and created these incredibly colourful set pieces for us! It really is terrific to see so many people working together on this project. We look forward to bringing this art and the forum theatre performance (another great way for community input and participation) to schools and groups this season!

Diss will be touring Winnipeg area high schools and community group spaces from October 15-December 14, 2012. For more information on how your school, community or corporate group can book a show, please visit www.sarasvati.ca or call 204.586.2236!

An Evening with Playright Rex Deverell

Sarasvàti Productions is thrilled to present acclaimed playwright Rex Deverell at a special presentation this month. Deverell will be reading from his work at McNally Robinson Booksellers (1120 Grant Avenue) in the Travel Alcove on Tuesday, June 26, 2012. The event begins at 7:30pm – you won’t want to miss it!

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This event is possible with the support of McNally Robinson Booksellers, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Playwrights Guild of Canada. Throughout his career Deverell has spent many years in Winnipeg and this is a wonderful opportunity to welcome him back, hear selection from his plays, ask questions and have him sign copies of his work.

Rex Deverell was born in Toronto in 1941 and raised in Orillia, Ontario. He holds arts and theology degrees from McMaster and from Union Theological Seminary. In 1971, Rex began to write plays at first for the Globe Theatre school company in Regina, SK and ultimately became the Globe’s first permanent Playwright-in-Residence. His work has been anthologized, translated, produced internationally, and turned into operas. He has never lost his interest in writing for young audiences. He is currently an associate artist with Mixed Company Theatre in Toronto where he has developed new plays for youth, including Diss and Project Youth. His plays Les Miserable Old Guys and Wild Magic were hits at the Winnipeg Fringe.

We are also looking forward to Deverell’s collaboration at the end of the month with IRCOM (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba). Deverell will be working with community youth to adapt his play Diss to a Winnipeg setting. The play is an interactive theatre piece about youth gangs and gun violence. Sarasvàti Productions will produce a Manitoba high school tour of the show  in the fall of 2012. More information on this event (and how you can get involved) available shortly.

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