Exploring Responses to Reconciliation

We’re excited to share what’s come out of Seven Visions: Reconciliation through Theatre project launch! We’ve had incredible audiences over the last few days respond to the notion of reconciliation. There’s one more chance to be part of the conversation tonight at 7pm!

We’ve had a great experience so far working with the amazing artists who are part of this project – here are just some of the reasons they’re excited to be involved as we look ahead to the next phase of the project!

I’m very excited about this project because I feel like the perspective that comes forward in the play is very important – very comedic, very funny, very relatable – to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. I’m really excited to see how that affects the audience.” – Darla Contois, Performer, OUR HOME & native land and Indigenous Advisory Committee member

 

 

As an artist engaged with this project, I’m hoping to work with some youth on creating art works that really bring forward their voices and their thoughts on reconciliation and what that means to them. The interactive art work we’re creating at the theatre allows for the public to come out and have their voices heard around reconciliation as well.” – Jaime Black, Visual Artist

I think it’s really important to have reconciliation in theatre because it’s a very important way of communicating different styles. Historically speaking, theatre came from settler colonies – Britain, mainly – and First Nations and Indigenous peoples’ way of communicating and passing down knowledge has been storytelling. What is storytelling but performance and theatre? The coming together and meeting in that spot is really important for reconciliation.” – Nova Courchene, Indigenous Project Coordinator

 

 

It’s been almost three years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report. It put out a challenge to all Canadians. While it was a legal proceeding and even bringing to bear the need for an apology, that doesn’t really bring reconciliation. What we present is an opportunity to have a difficult discussion in a creative and stimulating environment involving youth. There will be hard discussions and there will be hard topics, but it will also be creative and full of hope.” – Myra Tait, Vice President and Indigenous Advisory Committee member

 

 

We’ve had some incredible audience responses so far as community members interact with the art installations, writing down their thoughts and responses to how each of us can do our part for reconciliation. One audience member mentioned that growing up, Indigenous peoples’ history wasn’t taught in her school and it wasn’t until much later in life that she was able to learn more about her own history. Starting this project with a focus on youth allows for an earlier connection to one’s roots. As well, discussions after OUR HOME & native land focused on how each of us can avoid being a “George”: admitting when we don’t know something and recognizing the importance of listening when others have something to teach us.

Discussions from this event will also help us as we move forward in shaping the full production for May 2020. Huge thank you to Patrick Rabago for these incredible photos from the event so far! For more information on the project, check out our website.

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Treating the Treaties with Humour

Well-written, very funny.”

“Hilarious!”

“Great way to convey serious info.”

These are just a few of the great things audiences had to say about OUR HOME & native land! Armed with bannock and ancestral knowledge, teaching “Mr. Mansplainer” and “Ms. Selfie-Important” about the Treaties will be as easy as the original signings! OUR HOME & native land confronts treaty violations and our history with wit and sarcasm as thick as the Indian Act.

Jo MacDonald

Jo MacDonald

After winning our 2017 FemFest Bake-Off, and a powerful reading at FemFest 2018, we’re excited to present a reading of Jo MacDonald’s revised script as part of our public project launch Seven Visions: Reconciliation Through Theatre! Writing a comedy that teaches folks about treaties is no easy task, but local playwright Jo MacDonald is up to the task. Jo is Anishinaabe, a mom, theatre fan, writer, and an Educator. She gave up dreams of super-villainy as it wasn’t as lucrative as depicted at the job fairs (false advertising…but then again what can you expect from an evil genius job pitch?). She received her BA and B.Ed. from the University of Winnipeg.  Jo had her Winnipeg Fringe debut with her comedy play Mother’s Little Secret this past July. Jo’s play NEECHIE-ITAS will premiere in Oklahoma this June.

 

Heidi Malazdrewich Headshot

Heidi Malazdrewich

Directing the reading is Heidi Malazdrewich, who previously dramaturged the play for its reading in September 2018. Heidi is a director, dramaturg, and theatre educator. Selected directing credits: The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night- Time (Canadian Premiere, RMTC/ Citadel Theatre), Ladies Foursome (Theatre Baddeck), Di and Viv and Rose (RMTC), Romeo and Juliet (SIR), Myth of the Ostrich (RMTC), The New Canadian Kid (MTYP), and The Secret Annex (World Premiere, RMTC). Heidi holds an MFA in directing from the University of Calgary and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theatre and Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Manitoba.

There was great feedback on the script in past iterations. It is being reworked with expert support. Acting as dramaturge for this reading is acclaimed Indigenous playwright Yvette Nolan.

 

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Yvette Nolan

Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) is a playwright, director, and dramaturg. Plays include BLADE, Annie Mae’s Movement, The Birds, The Unplugging, Gabriel Dumont’s Wild West Show (co-writer), the libretto Shanawdithit and the short film A Common Experience (w. Shane Belcourt). She has directed from coast to coast and north all the way to Dawson City, Yukon. As a dramaturg, she works across Turtle Island. From 2003-2011, she served as Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts. Her book Medicine Shows about Indigenous theatre in Canada was published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2015. She is an Artistic Associate of Signal Theatre.

You can enjoy a reading of MacDonald’s script as part of Seven Visions: Reconciliation Through Theatre project launch and presentation running May 4-9. Admission is pay-what-you-can-afford. For more information and to reserve seats, visit our website!

Kicking Off with Seven Circles!

We’re excited to officially kick off our Reconciliation Through Theatre project! We are honoured that seven organizations from around the city are hosting Indigenous Youth Visioning Circles, bringing together their youth to guide us in developing a framework for arts-based workshops. We’ll be starting off at Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad Inc. this Thursday – read on for more information about the exciting partnerships we have for this project!

 

Ndinawe-logo-horizNdinawemaaganag Endaawaad Inc. (or Ndinawe for short) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping at-risk youth in Winnipeg. Since 1993, their integrated services have been connecting vulnerable children and youth aged 11–17 with the shelter, culture, recreation, education, outreach and support they need for safe and healthy lives. Open every day of the year, Ndinawe is an immediate and reliable place of safety, connection and support for youth during times of high risk when other resources are unavailable to them.

 

logo_ILDII-300x87Indigenous Leadership Development Institute Inc. (or ILDII) is a non-profit organization established to build leadership capacity in Indigenous people. We’ll be working directly with their Empowering Indigenous Youth in Governance and Leadership (EIYGL) program. EIYGL is Indigenous and youth led that provides important ingredients that builds effective leaders through meaningful skill development.

 

imagesUsing a creative, dynamic approach, Marymound School delivers the provincial education curriculum from elementary grades to grade 11. Marymound School serves two populations of students. Some are young people who live in Marymound group homes or living units, while others, Day Treatment students, come from all over Winnipeg, and live at home with their parents, foster parents or other group homes.

 

Manitoba Youth Centre is the largest youth correctional centre in Manitoba and is located in Winnipeg. It houses both male and female young offenders. MYC is responsible for the care, custody and security of Sentenced and Remanded youth. Case-management, Programming and Spiritual care are offered regularly at the centre; in order to help young people make better choices and avoid criminal lifestyles.

 

CaptureKnowles Centre is a community-based, non-profit social service agency for children, adolescents and young adults facing difficult times in their lives. It began as a home for boys in 1907, and today provides a range of therapeutic and skills-based programs to young people from Manitoba and other communities throughout Canada. Their mission is to help young people and their families to address past struggles, to develop healthier relationships and ways of life, and to reach their full potential in the future.

 

WLogo-1Wahbung Abinoonjiiag was established to empower children and their families to break the cycle of violence. They do this by providing opportunities for holistic healing through culturally-appropriate teachings and activities in a safe and nurturing environment. They offer youth programs, to provide participants with a safe environment where youth can come hang out, be themselves, and get support from their peers and caring adults.

 

10183d2b-f704-4fe7-a968-516f5979c475nChildren of the Earth School is an Aboriginal education school that aims to serve students who, while undertaking a standard high school education, also want to learn about their Aboriginal heritage, values, and traditions. We’ve been running youth workshops at the school for the past few years as the school does not currently offer a drama program. We’re excited to return and work with the youth to prepare for our May 2020 production!

This is just Phase One of the project! You can see the results of the visioning circles at our public presentation and project launch May 4-9, 2019. We will then launch workshops in June and begin work combining the stories to create a full production, debuting May 2020. Follow the progress on our latest community collaboration project!

 

The Road to Reconciliation

“What are you going to do about the way this country treats Indigenous People,” asked Senator Murray Sinclair at the Winnipeg Foundation’s recent Vital Conversation. It is not an easy question. The word reconciliation is being used a lot lately, but not always with a full understanding of what it means let alone what it will require. Sarasvàti Productions is grappling with the role of theatre and the arts in this important process. Thanks to funding from the Winnipeg Foundation, we’re gearing up for the first phase of a long-term project. With the hard work of our Project Coordinator Nova Courchene, Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator Marsha Knight, Visual Artist Jaime Black, Graphic Designer Justin Bear, and the guidance of our Indigenous Advisory Committee, we are putting together an exciting public launch of the project from May 4 to 9.

 

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[Poster] Sarasvati - 7 CirclesThroughout April we will be working on Seven Circles, visioning sessions with youth. Seven organizations will host a space for youth to brainstorm and decide the parameters for a series of arts-based workshops. We are grateful to Children of the Earth High School, Indigenous Leadership Development Institute, The Knowles Centre, Manitoba Youth Centre, Marymound School, Ndinawe, and Wahbung Abinoonjiiag for their partnership.

At the May launch, Jaime Black will share what was heard in these consultation circles through an art installation. This presentation is part of our full project launch with a chance to share what we have heard as well as gather the community together for wider input. We’ll also be hosting a reading of Jo MacDonald’s OUR HOME & Native Land, winner of the 2017 FemFest Bake-Off. Director Heidi Malazdrewich and Dramaturg Yvette Nolan will be on board to help with the development of the play. This comedic piece about treaty rights will help to frame discussion and encourage public input.

The public presentation will take place on:

  • Saturday, May 4th at 2pm
  • Tuesday, May 7th at 1pm
  • Wednesday, May 8th at 10am
  • and Thursday, May 9th at 7pm

Members of the public are more than welcome to attend! Admission to this event is pay-what-you-can-afford at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W).

However, this is just the starting point for the project.  From June to November, workshops will take place at our partner organizations. Using storytelling, the youth will translate their experiences into different art forms. This first phase of the project will bring together youth, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and artists in several mediums.

Then in May 2020 a full public performance of the resulting work will take place. As a true community collaboration, what this performance will include will come directly from the youth so remains to be seen, created, dreamt and realized.

Inspiring Others at IWW 2019

At our 2019 International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues, we’re sharing stories that inspire! Through the power of storytelling, our lineup will showcase a variety of women’s experiences about what is means to embrace identity.

Hailley Rhoda

Hailley Rhoda

Hailley Rhoda is the puppeteer, playwright, and performer behind Talking about ED. This brand-new piece explores “the elephant in the room”: how disability and the secrecy surrounding it affects lives.

Hailley is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg’s Theatre and Film department. Hailley has worked with Sarasvàti on several projects, including Ripple Effect, Honey and Jupiter, and The Seduction Theory. She is the founding – and only – member of Chronically Ch(ill) Productions, a Winnipeg-based company interested in women in mythology, disability in the arts, and seeing just how complicated a puppet made from dollar store parts can get.

“This piece is the most of myself I’ve ever put onstage,” says Hailley. “Usually I get the mask of someone else’s words, or the framework of a pre-existing story to work behind. This is just me, and my lived experience, talking about the realities of living with disability in a way that I haven’t yet been brave enough to do.”

 

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Wanda Wilson

In Bare Bones, singer/songwriter Wanda Wilson portrays an eclectic mix of raw, sweet edge with a musical approach that is bold, courageous and out of the ordinary. Receiving CBC’s Most Unique Album of the Week Award (2009), her self-released debut project “Under Donald” is a solid testament to that. With Cree roots from northern Manitoba, Canada, Wilson’s material embodies strength, humor, hope and pain in her own alternative way.

“I’ve never shared my story before,” says Wanda. “It has been thirteen years and I still feel I have so much more to learn but I’m ready. It’s time. I know a lot of other people are hurting and one of several things I have learned in sobriety is that you are not alone.”

 

Taking the Cabaret into the stratosphere is Geraldine Sloan Truhill: Mommy’s Going to the Moon, Kids! In 1961, NASA denied training to the “Mercury 13”, an all-female band of astronauts. Refusing to take no for an answer, Geraldine fights for respect from NASA and her family.

Natalie FrijaPlaywright Natalie Frijia is a Toronto-based writer, theatre-maker, clown-wrangler, and adventurer. She has a PhD from the University of Toronto’s Graduate Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, and the School of the Environment. She was also a member of Storefront Theatre’s inaugural playwriting unit. Her plays have been workshopped and presented at Storefront Theatre, Rhubarb Festival, New Ideas Festival, and Fringe festivals across Canada.

 

 

Lauren Marshall Headshot

Lauren Marshall

Lauren Marshall is exceptionally honoured to make her first appearance with Sarasvàti Productions as Geraldine. Past stage credits include As You Like It (Midnight Productions), Of Mice and Men (Real Live), and Doubt (Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre). Lauren originally studied music education at Brandon University before discovering a love for the dramatic arts, and can be found substitute teaching in the band room in between auditions.

“I’m excited to play a woman who has always known from the very beginning what she wants to do with her life,” says Lauren. “Geraldine wants to fly. I’ve always admired people who have that early conviction. She is very different than me and that will be a lovely challenge.”

 

For all these pieces and more, you can check out our full line-up of monologues on Saturday, March 9! Don’t miss out – get your tickets today!

Poetry and Playwrights at IWW 2019!

We’re excited to share more about the fabulous artists behind this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues! This year’s theme is Here I Am, exploring themes of reclaiming identity and coming into one’s own.

Appearing in this year’s Cabaret are a number of artists writing and performing their own work, including long-time Sarasvàti collaborator Nan Fewchuk performing her piece, Thelma and Louise. While waiting in Cancer Care, Maggie reflects back on her life, her resentment towards her large breasts, and how the thought of losing one of them changes her perspective.

Nan Fewchuk

Nan Fewchuk

Nan is grateful to be a performer, director, and facilitator with Sarasvàti Productions, working on such favorites as Fefu and Her Friends, Fen, Jail Baby and Empty. Nan has performed with Rainbow Stage, Shakespeare in the Ruins, and Green Kids Inc. She produced and acted in the Fringe hits Dog Act and Or as well as working with the Manitoba Drama Youth Festival, Villa Rosa, The Peaceful Village, and the West Central Women’s Resource Centre. Nan co-founded the Indigenous youth group Neechisan at Garden City Collegiate where she taught drama for over twenty-five years.

Thelma and Louise was originally Nan’s final performance piece while studying at One Yellow Rabbit in Calgary. “Ten years later I’m finding it super interesting to further explore, dive deeper, and rework things, especially because I feel differently now than I did when I first wrote it,” says Nan. “As I grow older, I think so much more about my own mortality and have come to fully realize what really matters in life. I am so grateful for all of the good times and the wacky times, and for all of my family, friends, teachers, mentors,  coaches, and kind strangers who have taught me so much about life: how to  love, forgive, and journey forward.”

 

Shereen Ramprashad

Shereen Ramprashad

Also performing a work of her own creation is local spoken word artist Shereen Ramprashad. Shereen’s piece I am NOT a Victim is a charismatic, satirical poem challenging the media’s perception that women are – and always will be – a victim of something. Shereen is a colourful, witty and lively Canadian writer based out of Winnipeg. Her writings are a creative blend of intelligent metaphor and philosophy with undercurrents of subtext and observation. Shereen started her creative journey in her early forties with the intent of creating waves with poetry. Ten years later she’s doing just that with her interdisciplinary performance poetry and storytelling.

“Writing and performing is my way of presenting alternative perspectives on mainstream ideas and norms,” says Shereen. “I encourage critical thought of who we are as a society, where we are going, and how we want to see ourselves in the future. I think it’s important to find humour in hard times; satire is a powerful tool when it is used in the right context.”

You can see Nan and Shereen perform alongside seven other talented artists during the full Cabaret line-up on March 9th! Performances are at 4PM and 8PM at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W). Get your tickets today!

What Does Reconciliation Mean To You?

In January, we’ll be kicking off our next long-term initiative! Our new collaborative project will focus on reconciliation through storytelling and theatre. A team of Indigenous artists will work with Indigenous youth to capture their lived experiences and bring them to the stage. Storytelling will be used to explore the truth about current experiences of racism and discrimination in Winnipeg.  Ultimately a large community gathering and performance will take place engaging the public in the important and challenging dialogue about how to make a better community. Using the arts to explore the current reality of racism will allow us to take a powerful step forward towards true reconciliation.

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Marsha Knight

Beginning steps on this initiative are being undertaken by our Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator, Marsha Knight. Marsha has been involved in theatre for over twenty years in many capacities both on and off stage. She has worked on several past productions with Sarasvàti, including consulting on Two Indians at FemFest 2017 and performing in Breaking Through and Eden.

“When I learned of the Winnipeg Foundation’s funding announcement for reconciliation projects, I remember having varied feelings of elation and interest,” says Marsha. “I was quite excited at this opportunity for community building and to know that the Winnipeg Foundation made a commitment to the ongoing process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.”

This project will involve working with Indigenous youth, Knowledge Keepers, Elders, and professional artists to gather stories. “What is exciting for me is that we are asking the youth, with the guidance of the Knowledge Keepers and the support of artists, to develop a contemporary perspective of the teachings of this region of Turtle Island,” says Marsha.

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Jaime Black

Indigenous artist Jaime Black will also be on board to help bring the project to life.  Jaime is a Metis multidisciplinary artist based in Winnipeg. She studied English Literature at the University of Manitoba and has an Education degree from The Ontario Institute of Studies in Education. She has taught in Opaskwayak Cree Nation in the Pas, Manitoba, has worked developing art curriculum for the Urban Shaman: Contemporary Aboriginal Art, and has long been involved in the Aboriginal writers and artists communities in Winnipeg. She is also head of the REDress Project, an installation-based art project focused around the issue of missing or murdered Aboriginal women across Canada.

Phase One of the project will start this year as we engage in consultation circles within the community and then undertake workshops to explore their connection to the teachings. Phase Two will then bring in artists, performers, designers, and directors to shape the youth’s creations into our next full production, keeping in consultation with Knowledge Keepers to ensure the integrity of their stories as the production develops.

“The voices of Indigenous youth are strong and much wiser than most people allow,” says Marsha. “This production will be a beautiful, awakening message combining traditional and contemporary storytelling.”

We’ll be launching the first phase of the project with a public gathering in May 2019 with the full production to come in Spring 2020. Stay tuned as we announce more on this exciting new endeavour!