Theatre that Transforms Us – 2016/17 Season Retrospective

Cotton candy cocktails, ghosts, riots, vans stuck in the snow, standing ovations, tears and a lot of laughter. It really is hard to believe that another season has gone by – our 17th one in Winnipeg to be exact! Just over a year ago, we launched a season themed on Transformation and it truly was life-changing.

Breaking Through
“They were commenting on how they thought they were the only ones feeling a certain way until seeing this play and being able to realize that they are not alone.” – Loveeza Arshad, Friends Housing

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The cast of Breaking Through takes a bow

Thanks to your support we enjoyed an incredibly successful run of the culmination of our Mental Health project. We hope the dialogue will continue outside the theatre for some time to come. We’ll keep you posted as we work towards publishing the play!

 

IWW 2017 Starting Over
“Engaging and inspiring, these powerful performances rooted in real experiences provided brilliant insight. In our case, the complex realities of both youthful and mature immigrant women were are the forefront. Exploring these themes is so vital, with increased cultural diversity and amid global striving for women’s rights. Women of all nations and cultures can relate to themes of place, space, marginalization, hope, potential…”– Pamela Hadder, Agape House-Eastman Crisis Centre

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A packed house at IWW2017: Starting Over

This year, we worked closely with newcomer women and girls and the results were some incredible pieces.  We were proud to provide a platform for women’s stories, to promote equity on Canadian stages and to provide access to the arts. A great big thank you goes out to Manitoba Status of Women and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. Without them, this Cabaret would not be possible. Special thanks to Neighborhoods Alive! and NERI for supporting our North End performances.

One Night Stand Series
“Amazing job, everyone! And for those involved in [my piece], thank you so much for helping me bring that world to life… Truly an inspirational night!” –  Marjorie Roden, featured playwright

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One Night Stand Fringe Frenzy! at Carol Shields Festival of new Works

With the help of producer Tatiana Carnevale and Prairie Theatre Exchange we re-launched the One Night Stand playreading Series. The Series gives playwrights the opportunity to test their work, while giving audiences a chance to take part in their development process.  Look out for the launch of One Night Stand next season at closing night of FemFest! We will be featuring readings from Judith Thompson and our most celebrated local playwrights.

 

Workshops for Emerging Artists
“So much good info!”
“Extremely beneficial”
“It was great! More workshops!” – Feedback from workshop participants

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Our Artistic Director Hope McIntyre facilitates at Auditioning 101

We served 85 emerging artists with our Emerging Artist workshop series this season.
We tackled some of our most-requested workshops this year with Grantwriting & Taxes for Artists, Auditioning 101 and Mock Auditions for Advanced Actors.  We thank our partners Winnipeg Arts Council, Manitoba Arts Council, ACI Manitoba, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Theatre Projects Manitoba and Winnipeg Jewish Theatre for helping us support education opportunities for emerging artists. Plans for the 2017/18 Emerging Artists Workshop Series are already underway! Drop us a line if there is a workshop you’d like to see.

North End Workshop Series
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study theatre but now I’m sure!” – Sabil, youth participant

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Youth facilitator Erica Wilson offers direction as the youth participants work on their scene

We kicked-off 2017 with a focused series of theatre workshops for North End youth. Youth Coordinators Frances Koncan and Cherrel Holder alongside a series of guest artists, introduced theatre techniques and worked on scenes with youth. On February 22nd we celebrated with a showcase of the youth involved. We have already heard from multiple youth that they have decided to pursue theatre and we look forward to supporting them with mentorship in 2017/18.

 

 


Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

“Congratulations! What a great evening!!” – Brigit Krasovec
“Great turn out! Amazing show.” – Tim Gray

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Actions shots of some of the comedians at the Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

We took a leap and tried something brand new with our comedy fundraiser. We teamed up with Winnipeg’s hilarious women comedians to produce the Women’s Comedy Night. The event saw unprecedented success—selling out and packing the venue with an incredible mix of Sarasvàti supporters and comedy fans. We had a blast and you better believe we’ll be doing this again next year.

 

 


Shattered
High School Tour

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The cast of Shattered

“Things aren’t what they seem and we should never assume things about people. I learned a lot and I
could tell my fellow audience members also learned something new. I realized a lot more people in our
school had experience with mental illness than I thought.” -Student at Fort Richmond Collegiate

We broke pervious records by performing to 6,161 youth and educators in Manitoba. Shattered has received overwhelming praise from teachers and students alike. It was also transformative for the cast who were touched by the number of youth who approached them after performances to share their own struggles with mental health.


FemFest2016: Transformation

We were proud to present such provocative touring shows as Miss Understood, Mouthpiece, as well as clown favourites Morro & Jasp Do Puberty. The world premiere of the previous year’s Bake-Off winner Sherry MacDonald’s The Seduction Theory made a huge impact as audiences discussed the ways we continue to victim-blame.

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These are just a few of our highlights. What stood out for you? Save the date for August 4th at 7pm and stay tuned for exciting details about our 2017/18 season launch.

FemFest Celebrates 15 Years!

Our beloved festival in support of women playwrights turns 15 this year! We are celebrating with the theme Coming of Age and a line-up that will blow you away.

We are ecstatic to be bringing in one of the most highly regarded playwright’s in Canadian history, two-time Governor General award-winning playwright Judith Thompson!  Thompson will join us for Mulgrave Road Theatre’s production of her play Watching Glory Die,  a harrowing play based on the true story of Ashley Smith. She will also teach a playwriting master class (September 20, 21 and 22 from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.) give a Real Thing lecture and be part of the Human Library ™.

Tomboy Survival Guide is a live stage experience that defies genre and gender boxes with fearless truth-telling and compassionate defiance. Ivan Coyote and an all-tomboy band take the audience on a musical journey navigating the narrow halls of public washrooms, skirting the childhood threat of being picked to be a flower girl, triumphing over tying a double Windsor knot, and discovering the beauty in being handsome, not pretty, all along. This is also our first time taking FemFest to the West End Cultural Centre!

We focus our in-house attention on producing Two Indians by Falen Johnson directed by Sonya Ballantyne. After years apart two cousins meet in a Toronto alley to recreate a ceremony from their childhood, but can they remember how? When the words missing and murdered, truth and reconciliation, occupation and resistance are everywhere, how do two Mohawk women stand their ground?

We’ll share a workshop preview of New Beginnings, a work in development created with the Winnipeg newcomer and refugee community.  Come and see a preview of this exciting culmination of story and dance from around the world.
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As a company dedicated to transforming society through theatre, we’ve witnessed the impact  that story-sharing can have on breaking down stereotypes and prejudices. This year we are thrilled to present a Human Library ™ as part of FemFest.  In partnership with the Millennium Library, Sarasvàti Productions has curated an incredible line up of Human Books that you can ‘take out’ for a one-of-a-kind learning experience.

Bake off 2016The beloved Bake-Off is back! This FemFest favourite challenges 5 local female playwrights to write a scene in 8-hours using three key top-secret ingredients. Scenes will be performed as part of the Festival on Sept. 18.
Winner of the FemFest 2016 Bake-Off, Jessy Ardern presents a reading of her play in progress, Kit and Joe.

WebFor ages 6 and up, Castlemoon Theatre presents Grounded Heroes. 10 year old Jess loves Lego, but her friends think it’s childish and weird. While researching a class assignment, Jess encounters three girls from history who were also a little bit weird for their time, and together they discover what it means to be true to yourself.

And you definitely won’t want to miss our closing night! This season, we brought our classic One Night Stand play reading series back with a vengeance. In honour of Winnipeg’s own celebrated female playwrights we’re curating a special One Night Stand dedicated to showcasing works in progress by some of these prolific writers who will be joined by Judith Thompson.

Workshops, readings and a dynamite Opening Cabaret will be a staple again this year. Get your passes now and celebrate 15 years of FemFest!

Breaking Through has everyone talking!

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Molly (Dorothy Carroll) and Kennedy (Marsha Knight) are turned away from an emergency shelter.

Breaking Through opened on Tuesday and has had everyone talking since.

“Saw Breaking Through yesterday, and recommend it, it is honest but done with humour too. Still shows this week. I love all the characters, especially KoKo.” – Mary Scott

“I identify with some of the characters as I have gone through mental struggles of my own… I think what it certainly got across very well was that each character was a sort of individual element, not of their own choosing, but they’re trying to find some means of attaining normalcy. This is what I’ve gone through—the struggle to find normalcy when you have a condition that leaves you feeling anything but.”  – Patrick Lowe, Winnipeg Filmmaker

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KoKo (Josh Ranville) is visited by her spirit guide (Marsha Knight)

“Brilliantly done and very well-researched. The actors really took on the roles. Everybody’s characters just stay with you.” – Angela, audience member

Check out a feature in The Times on actor Harry Nelken who plays Joe, a 72 year old character who has been living with schizophrenia since he was 19. Read the Winnipeg Free Press preview by Randall King and the blog review by Winnipeg theatre artist Lorraine James. Breaking Through has also been featured in the Winnipeg Free Press Arts & Culture, CBC News, The Herald, The Lance, The Pilipino Express, Global News Morning and more!

Come and see for yourself. There are four performances left! To see a performance schedule and book you tickets click here.

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“Plays like this are good messages. They’re valuable, in a sense. What I also like about the play is it was meant to be entertaining throughout. It wasn’t really a ‘downer’. It was trying to be an ‘upper’” – Patrick Lowe, Winnipeg filmmaker

Photos by Janet Shum.

 

 

Behind the Scenes with Breaking Through

With less than two weeks until Opening Night, the cast of Breaking Through are delving deep in to their characters who are born out of so many Winnipegger’s stories. For this week’s blog we visited the actors in action for a behind the scenes look into Breaking Through.

Harry Nelken as "Joe" in Breaking Through

Joe (Harry Nelken)

Harry Nelken plays Joe, a sometimes prickly, sometimes charming mental health centre resident with the story of a lifetime.

“What excites me about Joe: he’s a fighter, he’s compassionate, he thinks of others, he nurtures, he’s loving, and a kidder”, says Harry, “most of all, he accepts who he is and his lot in life.”

 

Richie Diggs plays an array of different characters as the Male Ensemble in Breaking Through.

Richie Diggs as "Absame" in Breaking Through

A fateful encounter at a bus stop between Absame (Richie Diggs) and Stef (Elena Anciro)

“Everyone needs a healthy mind, but anyone can get a sick mind.” My character says this in the play, thereby distilling the entire play to that simple comprehension, says Richie. “It is a key point to note, not just because one’s own self may sometimes be confronted with the challenges of living with a mental illness, but that when we encounter others battling these health challenges, that understanding, and support will be our participation, rather than stigma, or exclusion, or fear.”

Elena Ancrio as "Stef" in Breaking Through

Joe (Harry Nelken) and Stef (Elena Anciro); Joe fulfills duty as the unofficial ‘welcome committee’ of the mental health centre.

“What I love about Stef is that she is strong and resilient, that even when she is struggling, she has a quick wit and the instinct to help others”, says Elena Anciro. “The journey she goes on during the play has a really important message for all of us. I think whenever you are tasked with playing a character that is based on a real person or is experiencing something very specific (in this case, anxiety and OCD), it’s hard not to feel nervous about “getting it right.” It’s been amazing to work with Hope and Cairn’s script and to explore the text / subject matter with the cast. There’s been a very supportive and ‘safe space’ vibe to our rehearsals, which has really helped me feel relaxed about finding Stef and telling her story.”

 

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Val (Spenser Payne) saves face!

Spenser Payne plays Val. “I think Val’s story is a really great story to witness, says Spenser.  “It’s hard to live up to certain beauty standards in our world, and doing my research on this character, really realized how common it is for women, and men to deal with an eating disorder. It happens to anyone, doesn’t matter your size, or gender. There is massive pressure from our social media world to look a certain way, or act a certain way, and I think seeing Val struggle with This concept will really resonate with audiences.”

 

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KoKo (Josh Ranville) is visited by spirit guide (Marsha Knight)

“I play different family members to more than one character so I am in relationship with more than one other person who has mental health concerns”, says Marsha Knight, who plays the Female Ensemble.

 

“Not only am I looking at the nuances for each character”, says Marsha, “I am also looking at the relationship. Those are areas that every actor addresses – characteristics, a uniqueness, the dynamic. This time around, there is a heightened awareness when it comes to the relationship part.”

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Molly (Dorothy Carroll) stirs things up at the mental health centre.

 

“Molly is so intensely dynamic”, says Dorothy Carroll. “We see her in her highest and lowest moments, which has made it a real challenging journey. Finding a way “in” to someone struggling as Molly does, and discovering the “whys” has been most enlightening.”

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Dr. Morgan (Richie Diggs) and KoKo (Josh Ranville

“KoKo is a voice of wisdom in the play”, says Josh Ranville. “There are beautiful painful moments of hopelessness at the start of the play but I also get to climb out of the muck. KoKo is a light beacon for the other characters to accept themselves for who they are. What a journey I get to go on every night we perform.”

Breaking Through runs May 23-28 at the Asper Centre for Theatre an Film. To see a full list of showtimes and to book tickets visit sarasvati.ca.

Photos by Janet Shum.

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L to R: Joe (Harry Nelken) Stef (Elena Anciro) KoKo (Josh Ranville) Val (Spenser Payne) and Molly (Dorothy Carroll)

 

 

Our Next One Night Stand is a Fringe Frenzy!

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6364_PTE_Carol.Shields_PlayItForward_Horizontal_ColourOne Night Stand Series Producer Tatiana Carnevale has curated an action-packed afternoon of playreadings as part of the Carol Shields Festival of New Works. This special Fringe Frenzy edition features preview readings of six new plays from local companies who will be premiering these works at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. Here’s a peek at what the event has in store.

Anomie by Wren Brian
Presented by Downside Up Productions
Directed by Eric Rae
Performed by Victoria Hill & Eric Rae 

When everything is taken away, what’s left?Anomie_ONS3

Two people struggle against each other and the empty space they’re trapped in to find a way out.  Not knowing how or why they ended up in an “abyss”, the two search for meaning and understanding in their existence and in their relationship. Riffing on absurdism and existentialism (and not without a dash of humour), this play explores how we deny and deal with meaninglessness.

Harper & Row by Rebekah Enns and Sarah Flynn
Presented by Naked Theatre productions
Naked Theatre ProductionsDear Universe,
Did you know the pen is mightier than the sword? We’ve been trying to figure out what that means. Could you send us a sign, or at least some more peaches?
Signed, Harper & Row

Naked Theatre presents an original piece about two girls just trying to figure it all out. With pens as their defense against the world, all they need now is an envelope, a stamp and someone to write back.

Riot Resist Revolt Repeat by Frances Koncan
Presented by Vault Projects
Directed by Frances Koncan
Performed by Melanee Deschambeault, Sandy Klowak, Frances Koncan, Eric Rae, Karmelle Spence-Sing, and Erica Wilson

In the near-future, in a city surrounded by walls and a world where water is scarce and a Riot Resist_ONS3luxury available only to the very rich, a Revolution is beginning. Iskwe, a young Cree woman, is struggling with bipolar disorder. Her current state of depression is further complicated by the loss of sister, who went missing one year ago. While being treated in a hospital run by a white supremacist Doctor, Iskwe meets two new friends who believe her to be her sister – the missing leader of the Revolution. Together, they embark on a journey to find her missing sister and destroy the Wall that keeps them from their sacred lands, but a mysterious person known only as The Gatekeeper has other plans. As Iskwe’s mental health continues to deteriorate under discriminatory, colonial treatment methods, the boundaries between the world of the Wall and the world of the Hospital begin to disintegrate, leaving her more confused than ever… and more powerful.

(Un)Happy Medium by Heather Madill
Presented by Kiss the Giraffe Productions
Directed by Alan Mackenzie
Performed by Heather Madill, Kami Desilets, Joseph Aragon

Madill_ONS3“I’ve got two lousy roommates. They don’t pay rent, they don’t clean up, and they’re so loud I can’t hear my own thoughts. One keeps me always on edge, the other sucks my will to live. But I can’t evict them, so I’ve got to make this work somehow. I swear they’re real, but most people don’t believe these jerks can possibly exist, so I don’t usually talk about them. But today… I’m gonna have to make an exception.”

Inertia by Gislina Patterson, Davis Plett, Angelica Schwartz, and Erin Meagan Schwartz
Presented by Happy Accidents

Inertia is an experimental theatre piece devised by a collective of intermedia artists. inertia squareDeviating from narrative-lead performance, Inertia is a mediation on haunting, magic, semiconscious inheritances and predators. The collective is made up of Gislina Patterson (writer and theatre artist), Davis Plett (cultural studies academic, poet, director, musician and technical wizard), Angelica Schwartz (director, Studio58 production grad) and Erin Meagan Schwartz (improviser, theatre artist, gender studies scholar, and activist). The collective aims to deconstruct the hierarchy of theatre production and creation, queering theatre tech by attacking heteronormativity in the community and canon. Inertia draws on Shakespeare, in-yer-face theatre, and clowns.

Filter This by Craig Terlson and Reba Terlson
Presented by It’s All Relative Productions
Directed by Kaeleigh Ayre
Performed by Reba Terlson, Sam McLean, Jesse Nobess

Filter This_ONS3Olivia and Dan come from two different worlds. Olivia lives on social media, documenting every moment of her life. Dan lives without a cell phone, or anything that distracts him from being present. A chance meeting at a park, has the two wonder if they could live in each other’s world, and find a deeper connection. Along for the ride is their friend the meme, who tweets, snaps and instagrams their lives. Filter This is a comedy that asks do opposites attract? And if so, must they tweet about it?

Catch readings from each of these enticing new plays on May 13 at 3:30pm at Prairie Theatre Exchange, 3rd Floor Portage Place. Free admission. Enjoy the 2017 Carol Shields Festival of New Works!

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!

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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/

Spotlight Behind the Scenes!

The world premiere of Breaking Through would not be possible without a small army of unsung heroes known as the design and production team.  This week we’ve tracked some down in order to shine the spotlight on the awesome folks who will be working hard behind the scenes.

Dean Cowieson – Lighting Designer Dean Cowieson

Dean is happy to work on the lighting for this powerful production of Breaking Through.  Dean has been the resident lighting designer for Le Cercle Moliere since 2005, as well as the resident lighting designer for Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers since 2006. Dean last worked with Sarasvàti Productions as the Lighting Designer for the production of Miss N Me. He has designed the lighting for various companies in Winnipeg as well as recently completing a three-city tour. In addition to his lighting design work he has also designed sets and costumes for various companies in Winnipeg.
Dean’s motto: “Are you hip to my jive?”

Kim Griffin – Costume & Set DesignerKim Griffin

Kim Griffin, B.I.D., B.A.(hons), M.A., is an Interior Designer, Set, Costume and Lighting Designer, and Cultural Studies scholar. Her company Donald-Haverty Design Group, started in the 1980s, has served hundreds of clients on residential, commercial, hospitality, medical and recreation projects. Her work analyzing scripts and interpreting atmospheres and characters has kept her busy for over 15 years working with various community theatres in Winnipeg. Knowledge and ability to use the elements of design, fine art concepts, practical applications, and human ergonomics and interactions make all her designs, whether for interiors or for the stage, specific and unique.
Kim’s motto: “It never hurts to help”

jaymezjaymez – Sound & Video Designer

With a multi-faceted and distinct visual style, jaymez has worked in the visual art, dance, theatre and music communities.   His video work has appeared in a number of international festivals, theatrical and dance productions and he has performed live video alongside dozens of musicians and artists.  He has created lighting, video and sound designs for a wide range of companies and choreographers. His work has been seen in a number of cities including Stratford, Edmonton, Regina, Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, Osnabrück, Germany and Utrecht, Netherlands.  jaymez is one half of the experimental voice and video duo The Gritty.  He currently sits on the board of Video Pool Media Arts Centre and is the Technical Director of Cluster New Music and Integrated Arts Festival.
jaymez’s motto: “I’m not very good at making things nice, that’s when my work is least interesting. ” -Es Devlin

Holly LaJambe – Stage Managerpicture017 - GREYSCALE HEADSHOT

Holly LaJambe is a Theatre Honors graduate from the University of Winnipeg. Her stage management credits include Fire & Water Music Festival, Gilbert & Sullivan Society, Girls Only Productions, Geri\the/atrics, Prairie Theatre Exchange, Prairie Theatre Exchange School, Winnipeg Pride. This will be her eighth time stage managing for Sarasvàti Productions. She has been involved with 2016 – Breaking Through Staged Reading, 2015 – Cabaret of Monologues, 2015 – Miss N’ Me, 2014 – Fefu and Her Friends, 2013 – Harold and Vivian Entertain Guests, 2012 – Diss Tour, and 2012 – Immigration Stories. She is excited to be involved with another of their projects addressing important social issues.
Holly’s motto: “I’m already calm. I’m the Stage Manager.”

Laura LindeblomLaura Lindeblom – Production Coordinator

Twelve years ago at York University, Laura decided that she wanted to be a production manager, and as luck would have it she’s been working in that role, as well as various other production departments, ever since. Her two full time jobs are as mother to one child (soon to be two) and production manager at Manitoba Theatre for Young People, and she is very grateful for the opportunity to work with Sarasvàti Productions again. Thanks to Kris, Kaia, and Blyth the puggle for all of their love and support.
Laura’s motto: “It’s totally fine for plans to change, but it’s always best to have a plan in the first place.”