Non-stop fun, antics, surprises…

We wanted an audience point of view of this year’s All-Star fundraiser, so here is a response from guest blogger Meg Crane.

Sarasvàti Productions presented a hilarious three-in-one performance at the Gas Station Arts Centre on Feb. 17. The fifth annual So You Think You Can Act fundraiser packed together short skits, improv and stand-up comedy for a night of entertainment, good food and tons of prizes.

This year was the All-Star Edition of the event, so winners from past four years were brought back to compete against one another.

Before a crowded theatre, Big Daddy Taz, Jenna Khan, Tracy Koga, Kerri Salki, Al Simmons and Troy Westwood tried their hands at acting. These local celebs, none of whom have a theatre background, were partnered with local actors Grant Burr, Kevin Ramberran, Johanna Burdon, Ian Bastin, Cheryl Gensiorek and Lyle Morris. We were promised by the evening’s emcee Lara Rae that the skits would have minimal props and costumes, and that the actors would be reading from the script.

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Anticipating hilarious stumbles over lines and bad acting, the audience was in for a surprise. The celebrities must have really wanted the trophy—which Lara Rae described as looking like something from a children’s beauty pageant—because they showed up costumed, with their lines mostly memorized and ready to give it their all.

This didn’t matter too much to judge Andrea del Campo. She was more interested in the costumes, collecting bits from each scene as she gave scores of 8 (or infinity?), 200 and D. Fellow judges Pablo Felices-Luna and Ari Weinberg dished out some solid advice, such as that it’s ideal for male actors to whip off their jackets during a performance to entice onlookers. Lara Rae had to agree.

But their opinions ultimately didn’t matter in deciding the winner. The audience cast their ballots and awarded the trophy to Al Simmons, whose skit was about an actor who was getting too old to be cast in roles.

Everyone left with more than memories of the non-stop jokes of the evening. Baskets filled with thousands of dollars’ worth of prizes were raffled off at the end of the night and several guests left with more than $400 worth of swag.

As if Sarasvàti didn’t give the audience enough, the lobby was packed with food from Charisma Of India and Jonnies Sticky Buns when the show was over. Each guest was even provided with a free glass of wine.

If you missed it, you missed out. The All-Star Edition of So You Think You Can Act won’t happen again, at least for a few years, because new celebs need to be given the chance to shine on stage.


Why So You Think You Can Act?

We’re so excited, So You Think You Can Act All-Star Edition is only 6 days away, but why should you come? In this blog, we’ve got the answer, or rather the answers, for those of you still on the fence!


  1. It’s a fun fundraiser! What’s better than a fundraiser for a non-profit theatre company? A fun fundraiser! We are dedicated to creating transformative theatre, and our next production is a community-based project on mental health. After an interview for the project, one person battling mental illness said “thanks for letting us get our stories out.” Monies raised will support this important initiative! Plus you will have a fun time drinking wine, eating great food and watching your favourite local celebrities try their hand at acting.
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    Big Daddy Tazz at his rehearsal with local actor Kevin Ramberran!

    Six All-Star Local Celebrities! To celebrate the fifth year of the fundraiser we’ve brought back past winners and favourite competitors to vie for the coveted trophy. We’ve got Big Daddy Tazz, Jenna Khan, Kerri Salki, Al Simmons, and Troy Westwood all coming back to reclaim their title, or redeem themselves by winning it this year. These celebrities are famous for things other than theatre, their only crack at acting was during their last SYTYCA competition, come see if they’ve been practicing!

  3. Awesome Raffle Prizes! As is tradition we’ve collected a wide variety of amazing raffle prizes for you to try your luck with. We’ve got tickets to Rainbow Stage, Theatre Projects Manitoba, Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, Manitoba Opera, Winnipeg Folk Fest, and more. We’ve got gift certificates for acting classes, shopping, car washes, and more. We’ve got a signed Blue Bombers football, a framed, signed Winnipeg Jets photo, and we’ve got even more than that! Come see for yourself before the show and at intermission.
  4. Critical Theatre Professional Judges! All three of our judges are theatre professionals who have vowed not to go easy on our celebrities. Ari Weinberg, Artistic Director of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, and Andrea del Campo, improv and actor extraordinaire, have promised to be especially tough. Pablo Felices-Luna, Artistic Director of Manitoba Theatre for Young People, on the other hand is our wild card, will he turn out to be the nicest judge of the bunch or the harshest? Find out on February 17th!
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    Our emcee, Lara Rae!

    A Hilarious Emcee! Our emcee, aka our referee, will keep everything under control with her quick wit and comedy skills. Lara Rae is the Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Club after all, so she knows what she’s doing. She will be joined by six fellow local actors who will be acting with our celebrities, filling our stage with a lot of laughs and talent.

  6. Great Wine Reception! After the winner has been crowned, it’s off to the lobby for great food and wine! Included with the ticket price is a glass of wine and food from Charisma of India, Jonnie’s Sticky Buns, and Grrrumpy’s Pizza & Café. Plus our celebrities will be out there too either celebrating their win or dealing with their loss – but with an evening this fun no one can really lose!

What better way is there to spend a night? Don’t miss out, and get your tickets now for So You Think You Can Act on Wednesday February 17th at the Gas Station Theatre! Tickets for the fundraiser are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Phone 204-586-2236, or click here to get your tickets now!


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Raffle licence (#MGCC5542)

“I hope I make it to the top 7”

We’ve been so caught up preparing to compete that we’d almost forgotten what great acting is really about; vulnerability.

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Amid trash-talk and competitive call-outs Big Daddy Tazz swoops in to steal our hearts with some genuine human insecurity.

We asked Tazz to share his strategy, and our hearts grew three sizes as he complimented the strengths of each and every celebrity he’ll be competing against instead of trying to scare them away.

“Maybe I don’t have a Juno like Al Simmons. Maybe I’m not all muscley and athletic like Troy Westwood. Sure, I can’t dance like Tracy Koga. Nor do I have the voice for apps that Kerri’s got. There’s no way that I have the same amount of energy for the radio that Jenna Khan’s got. But I have one thing all these other people don’t have – insecurity.”

And we ask, who, in their right mind doesn’t love a gracious underdog?

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Continuing on with this week’s trash-talk-free theme; rumor has it that former Blue Bomber Troy Westwood has been undergoing a mindful acting intensive in order to prepare for the competition. Although we were unable to reach him directly, we were able to reach his theatre instructor who gave us this statement:

“Troy is unable to answer questions right now as he is immersed in becoming the colour blue. Is he going to win the competition? That’s like asking if Leonardo DiCaprio is going to win an Oscar. I mean, I don’t know why not.”

We’re at a loss for words when it comes to speculating who is most likely to take home the title, but we can’t wait to find out.

For those who were there in 2014, you know that Troy Westwood and Big Daddy Tazz tied for the trophy. Now is your chance to see them compete for the ultimate win–or support one another selflessly– February 17th at So You Think You Can Act.

SYTYCA 2014 winners best

Local Talent Wild Card

We’ve heard from four of six celebrity competitors as they prepare to kick butt and takes names in this year’s Rage on the Stage. They’re talented, they’re motivated, and they’re hungry for the win, BUT they aren’t the only factors in this competition…

It’s time we introduce the Local Talent Wild Cards! Each one of these wonderful, talented, Winnipeg-based actors will be teamed up with a non-actor celebrity in order to help them compete for the ultimate So You Think You Can Act title.

Thought you knew who was set to take this year’s trophy? You might want to think again.

“In it to Win It” Jenna Khan is the only competitor who mentioned working with her scene partner as part of her game-plan. This is likely music to the ears of local talent wild card Lyle Morris (The Dance-Off of Conscious Uncoupling and Launched, Sarasvàti Productions’ FemFest). But if Jenna Khan “channels her inner diva” as promised, this team’s co-operational advantage will quickly become a distant memory. We’ll have to wait and see what happens when Jenna and Lyle bring Michel Tremblay’s Johnny Mangano and His Astonishing Dogs to the stage.

Tracy Koga, a self-described “warrior” is not one to shy away from competition. Is her scene-partner-in-crime Grant Burr (For, Union Station Theatre; The Naked Woman, Sarasvàti Productions) prepared for the “blood, sweat, and tears” Tracy expects him to shed along their path to victory? This team will bring David Freeman’s Jitters to the stage and leave their own jitters at home.

Kerri “Angry Skills” Salki partners up with the mesmerizing Johanna “Beast of” Burdon (Mars One, Winnipeg Fringe 2015; Heartbreak, A Bizarro Cabaret) to bring us Sky Gilbert’s Lola Starr Builds Her Dream Home. These fierce challengers share an affinity for competition. What happens when you mix one lethal compound with another? Explosions, baby.

“Shakespeare like a butterfly–Chekhov like a bee” Al Simmons has been calling out the pretenders left, right, and centre! Will coach Simmons be able to take Ian Bastin (Lion in the Streets, Black Hole Theatre; The Club, FemFest 2015) from actor/pretender to ruthless contender in order to bring this title home? We’ll watch as they perform the fittingly titled Opening Night by Norm Foster.

The pressure’s on for Big Daddy Tazz as he prepares to face-off with Troy Westwood yet again. His right-hand man Kevin Ramberran (Tape, Rope, The 28th Minute; The Pinkertons, Buffalo Gal) better be prepared to go to any length in order to bring this title home. This dynamic duo cuts their chops on Zastrozzi by George F. Walker. And this time, it’s personal.

With stakes just as high, Tazz’s rival Troy Westwood joins forces with Cheryl Gensiorek (Launched, FemFest 2014; Empty, Sarasvàti Productions) to take a crack at the All-Star Edition victory.  They’ll be performing Self-Help by Norm Foster, and they’ll be seeking it if they fall short.

Lookout for these Local Talent Wild Cards spicin’ up the competition!

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Not only does a ticket to So You Think You Can Act 2016 grant you the entertainment of seeing six celebrity non-actors compete for the championship title, it also grants you the chance to admire some serious Winnipeg acting talent. That’s double the entertainment! All for one good cause.



Tracy Koga vs. Jenna Khan

Tracy Koga, Host and Producer of Shaw Television’s Backstage and Energy 106 Host Jenna Khan have the experience that comes from a career in broadcasting on their side–perhaps they’ll even know a thing or two about how to project Ari Weinberg out of the water. But this advantage also makes them prime competition for one another in this year’s championship showdown. You do not want to miss seeing them on the stage of the Gas Station Arts Centre on February 17th in So You Think You Can Act. Recently, we asked Jenna and Tracy to talk strategy.

Jenna Khan

Jenna Khan’s career in broadcasting began in television in 2006. She is a staple of radio morning radio on Energy 106, where she co-host’s Energy Morning’s with Frankie and Jenna. “I am in it to win it, and someone who has the drive to wake up at 3AM everyday definitely does not lack motivation! My strategy is to channel my inner diva (not necessarily a stretch!) and trust my talented partner from our dynamic theatre community.”

As the actors know, Jenna’s ability to commit to something will serve her on stage.

“I am a highly competitive person. Every time I go out to a Games Night with friends I have to begin the evening with a disclaimer: “I apologize in advance for any yelling/swearing/name-calling that may ensue. You are my friends and I love you…”

Just when I was thinking that Jenna may have a soft spot she sent this video with a message to her opponents –


Tracy Koga

Tracy Koga’s background in ballet could be a huge asset in this competition.”I am not afraid of competition, the stage is my home.” Stage fright can’t touch her, and she’s got more than enough determination. “Years of training with the RWB has made me a warrior. Under a mask of beauty and grace I know what blood, sweat and tears are all about.”

She also has a way with words. Her message to opponents? “After this fierce pas de deux the only one getting an encore and taking a bow will be me!


These fiercely talented women have set the bar for the rest of the competitors. Come see Jenna Khan and Tracy Koga dominate in So You Think You Can Act 2016! Get your advance tickets at the $25 early bird rate.

Listen Here, You Celebrities!

As our six returning celebrity champions prepare to compete for the ultimate title in So You Think You Can Act 2016, our judges weigh-in on the incredible challenge that awaits them.

Ari Weinberg.JPGWhile barely suppressing his excitement for this highly anticipated battle, judge Ari Weinberg, Artistic Director of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre laid out his expectations: “I am expecting a full on West Side Story- type rumble of acting talent; I know the competition is going to be that fierce!”

Prepare yourselves for a judge who self-describes as “one part Judge Judy, one part Blake Shelton with a dash of Stanislavsky.” Weinberg is already throwing out challenges to competitors, “I’d like to challenge all the competitors to work on their voices- first and foremost you must be heard.” Celebrities would be wise to heed that call and come prepared to project Ari Weinberg right out of the water if they hope to impress him. I asked Ari if he had any advice for the celebrity competitors, to which he replied, “BRING IT ON!!!!” A message that has now set the tone for the entire competition.

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When I caught up with judge Andrea del Campo, actor and founding member of Outside Joke I was immediately taken aback by her intimidating disposition and stern stance on the subject of being a judge. She offered but one succinct sentiment which she stated ruthlessly enough to make any competitors blood run cold: “I expect blinding success or devastating failure from the competitors. Anything between is trivial.”As she effortlessly mounted her all-white thoroughbed I implored her to offer competitors some words of advice. She said nothing as she rode off into the distance. I deduce that competitors will face the challenge of a lifetime if they aim to impress her.

Pablo photo.jpgLastly, I spoke with Artistic director of MTYPjudge Pablo Felices-Luna who cautioned competitors about his style of judgement, “think of me as your good cop trying to be the bad cop. It works out to a mildly irritated cop.”Is Pablo a window of hope for our competitors, or is he their worst nightmare? There’s only one way to find out.

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And finally, our ref and emcee for the evening, Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival Lara Rae describes herself as “fair, but firm.” But as they say in sports games, ‘She who undervalues the referee undervalues the win.’ Lara explains that she is new to gender transition and therefore possesses “the combined wisdom of menopause with the fierce insanity of late puberty.”

She will personally “challenge every performer to take huge risks and be true to themselves regardless of how others might react.”

Stakes are high. Our competitors have their work cut out for them. You can catch the live action rumble of So You Think You Can Act on February 17 7:00 pm at the Gas Station Arts Centre. Tickets for the fundraiser are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Phone 204-586-2236, or visit our website to get your tickets now.




It’s the Rage on the Stage!

The fifth annual So You Think You Can Act fundraiser is Wednesday February 17th and it’s bound to be the Fight of the Century. We’ve rallied all of your favourite past celebrity competitors to duke it out for your viewing pleasure. Six! Count ‘em, Six! Local celebrities who are famous for anything but acting will be paired with actors to perform scenes. They’ll cut their chops on theatrical challenges in front of a panel of judges and you! Who will take home the title? There’s only one way to find out.

The wonderful and hilarious Founding Artistic Director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, Lara Rae will be emceeing all night, doing her very best to keep competitors on track and in line. But she’ll have her work cut out for her because this year’s theme is all about big breaks, fast fame, and huge divas.

Enough chit-chat! Announcing this year’s celebrities; six fierce competitors in too many corners to count we have….

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  • Al Simmons: Juno Award Winning musical comedy wizard. ‘Al has been called the Thomas Edison of Entertainers.’ Well, let’s see if he can invent his way out of this one!
  • Troy Westwood: Former professional Canadian football player. Troy played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for 17 years, earning an All-Star selection in 1992. The bigger they are, the harder they fall!
  • Big Daddy Tazz: Often described as ‘one of the most talented comics in the business’ he’s used to rave reviews and standing ovations. But can he stay in character?!
  • Jenna Khan: Co-Host of ‘Energy Morning’s with Frankie Hollywood’ on Energy 106 FM. Jenna knows how to win over Winnipeggers, but our panel of judges? That’s a whole other story!
  • Tracy Koga: Senior Producer and Host of Shaw Television’s “Backstage”. A former dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Tracy has danced all around the world. She can float like a butterfly, can she sting like a bee?
  • Kerri Salki: Produces and Hosts a radio show on 101.5 UMFM. She’s a voiceover actor who’s recorded everything from animated series to apps for smartphones. She could be stacked to slay in this competition, but audiences love an underdog.

    There all night to make sure these celebrities put their big piles of money where their mouths are is our cutthroat panel of judges, featuring… Pablo Felices-Luna, Artistic Director of MTYP; Ari Weinberg, Artistic Director of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre; and Andrea Del Campo, actor, singer, producer and founding member of Outside Joke.

    To ring in our 5th year we are offering a VIP package—buy a 5-pack of tickets and reap in some celebrity treatment for yourself. Our High Five All Star Experience entitles your group to wine upon your arrival, reserved seating, and a group photo with the celebrity competitor of your choice!

    You won’t want to miss this battle royale! Get your tickets to SYTYCA 2016 HERE! Stay tuned, we’ll be featuring each celebrity competitor in the weeks to come. Let the trash-talk begin.

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