Unleashing Our Potential

We are launching into 2018 with a game-changer! Thanks to capacity building support from the Winnipeg Foundation, Sarasvàti Productions is welcoming a new full-time member to the team!

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“The potential of Sarasvàti Productions to transform society through theatre has just been unleashed,” says Judy Wasylycia-Leis, President of our Board of Directors, “from the generous capacity-building support of the Winnipeg Foundation comes the promise of sustainability and the strength to grow as a force for community resilience and reconciliation.”

Administrative support may not sound like a glamorous change, but when you are a small non-profit this kind of support makes a phenomenal impact. The Winnipeg Foundation’s funding will support a full-time Administrator for three years. This human resource injection will helps us to strengthen our base so that we can fulfill our mission to transform society through theatre.

 

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Judy Wasylycia-Leis

 

“What a boost this grant means for our ability to offer authentic and direct cultural experiences at the grassroots level, to contribute to community vitality and identity, and to help change the world one play at a time”, says Judy.

This fall we also initiated additional capacity-building work thanks to support from Manitoba Community Services Council. This has allowed us to look at our office systems, ticketing and will also lead to important community consultations this winter.

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We at Sarasvàti Productions are excited to take things to the next level in 2018! Stay tuned as we announce our new team member, launch new systems and invite our community to share their thoughts on the future.

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Making Space for Women’s Experience of Homelessness

Homelessness means… “I am not worthy or worth enough to be or feel safe. I don’t deserve anything. I must have done something wrong.”

Too often defining homelessness is done by those without lived experience. This response from a participant who has spent years on the streets is an important part of a unique collaboration. Sarasvàti Productions’ artists have been working with women at West Central Women’s Resource Centre (WCWRC) on a new story-sharing project, the focus is women’s experiences with homelessness.

Women come to WCWRC for a variety of services – for support groups, job training, recreation or for a shower and a meal. The West End-based non-profit has a mandate to “empower women to help themselves, their families and their community to safer, healthier lifestyles”, so it’s no surprise that they are perfect pair with Sarasvàti Productions. Far from the first time these two organizations have worked together, WCWRC and Sarasvàti collaborated on an inter-generational project two years ago, artists have led workshops as part of programming and the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues have been performed at the Centre on several occasions. This time, a core group of women at WCWRC will be working with our facilitators so that their stories can be told on stage at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness.

“These women are the epitome of strength, courage, and resilience”, says Nan Fewchuk, one of  Sarasvàti Productions’ facilitators. “They share their harrowing stories with complete honesty, and are somehow able to still laugh at themselves, and at the absurdity of the situations in their lives. Pliny the Elder once said, ‘Home is where the heart is’. I am so grateful to each of these ladies for inviting me into their beautiful ‘homes’.”

Nan at WCWRC

Facilitator Nan Fewchuk at WCWRC

Working with the women at WCWRC is an important part of meeting our goals as a company. If we want to promote social change and human understanding we need to start by listening to folks who are often neglected in our community.  We are driven to create platforms for voices rarely heard on Canadian stages.

WCWRC is an amazing organization. They are packed to the rafters and busier than ever with newly increased hours and programming.  It’s a sign that the services they provide are in high-demand and that they are really working to serve the needs of the community. Sarasvàti is proud to be working with WCWRC and honoured to have the opportunity to share the stories of the women involved.  The public is invited to “Can You See Me Now”, a presentation of readings at 7:30pm on October 24th at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film – admission by donation. The presentation will also be part of the National Conference on Ending Homelessness and open to conference attendees on October 25th. CAEH17_logo_L-900x614

 

 

The Power of FemFest

Just three days left to feel the power of FemFest2017. Audiences have been blown away by this year’s performances.  Come and experience it for yourself before it’s too late!

“Thank you for continuing to offer amazing meaningful theatre experiences to our community” – Teela Tomassetti

“Great evening !!!” – Francesca Cotroneo

Don’t miss the opening of Watching Glory Die by Judith Thompson produced by Mulgrave Road Theatre on Thursday SEPT 21 at 2:30 pm and again at 9pm. There will be a special Coffee Talk following the 7pm performance on Friday SEPT 22 with playwright Judith Thompson, director Emmy Alcorn and special guest Senator Kim Pate. Senator Pate is a nationally renowned advocate who has spent the last 35 years working in and around the legal and penal systems of Canada, with and on behalf of some of the most marginalized, victimized, criminalized and institutionalized — particularly imprisoned youth, men and women. Senator Pate continues to advocate for reform in solitary confinement and treatment of prisoners with mental health issues in Canadian prisons, two central issues in Watching Glory Die.  We are honoured to welcome the Senator to FemFest as a Coffee Talk speaker.

Senator Kim Pate Gives a Voice to Women in Prison – The Globe and Mail

We are thrilled to announce that there will be a Coffee Talk following every 7pm performance! Head to Two Indians tonight at 7pm and stay for a Coffee Talk with Two Indians director Sonya Ballantyne and consultant Marsha Knight.

Catch a sneak peek of our latest community-based theatre project: New Beginnings on Saturday SEPT 23 at 4pm. Admission is by donation.

Be among the first to hear brand new work by Winnipeg’s most celebrated female playwrights at the One Night Stand on the closing night of the festival. Special guest Judith Thompson joins us to share brand new work. Enjoy a toast to 15 years in the lobby following the event.

Check out some of the great articles and interviews about FemFest and the incredible artists involved.

FemFest Marks 15 Years of Celebrating Diverse Talent – Global Breakfast Television

Youth will be Served by Randall King, Winnipeg Free Press

BUNNY on CTV News

Two Indians preview with CJNU

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A Toast to 15 Years: Celebrating Winnipeg Playwrights

Are you aware of the talented playwrights Winnipeg has to offer?

This city is home to female playwrights who challenge us, question us, inspire us and make us laugh. As a toast to 15 years of FemFest, we are celebrating some of Winnipeg’s most accomplished playwrights in this special edition of the One Night Stand.

Coordinated by Tatiana Carnevale, Sarasvàti Productions’ One Night Stand series gives playwrights the opportunity to test their work, while providing audiences a chance to take part in the developmental process. On Saturday, September 23rd at 7pm Judith Thompson will join five local playwrights as they present readings of work in development. Be one of the first people to hear this exciting brand new work!

One Night Stand Playwright Sharon BajerSharon Bajer is a member of the playwright’s unit at Prairie Theatre Exchange. Her plays include Molly’s Veil, Burnin’ Love, Hersteria, To the Country, The Mother Load, Jesus Does Laundry Too and The Gingerbread Girl (in progress). Coming up, Sharon will direct The Best Brothers at Western Canada Theatre Company and Theatre Northwest and Fly Me to the Moon at Prairie Theatre Exchange.

 

 

One Night Stand Playwright Columpa BobbColumpa Bobb was born in Canada and is the great grand daughter of Chief Dan George who was chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Many of her plays have been produced all across Canada. She has been nominated for the Dora Mavor Moore Award and the James Buller Award. In 1997 she won a Jessie Richardson Theatre Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.

 

One Night Stand Playwright Ginny Collins Now

 

Ginny Collins has worked with English and French theatre communities. Ginny’s play The Flats (Les Flats) was produced by Prairie Theatre Exchange and Theatre Cercle Moliere in 2017. Ginny’s other works include Good Intentions (WJT 2014) The Good Daughter, MBTV: Histoire en Direct, Prairie Spirits, and Terroristas. Ginny is under commission by Prairie Theatre Exchange for Revenge and Co. She is a member of the Prairie Theatre Exchange Playwrights Unit.


One Night Stand Playwright Trish CooperTricia Cooper began writing sketch comedy with the Royal Liechtenstein Theatre Company and wrote for Fringe Festivals across Canada including The Comment Card and Homely Woman #2 (with Vanessa Macrae). Hey pay Social Studies, developed and produced at Prairie Theatre Exchange, went on to be produced by Centaur Theatre in Montreal, and Firehall Theatre in Vancouver. Social Studies won Best Play at the Manitoba Book Awards.

 


One Night Stand Playwright Primrose Knazan
Jewish Filipino-Canadian playwright Primrose Madayag Knazan has been featured at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, the International Writers Festival, CBC Radio, the Carol Shields Festival of New Works, and Sarasvàti’s
FemFest. She has been published in three anthologies and represented Manitoba at the first Asian-Canadian Theatre Conference in Toronto.

 

Some playwrights will be reading their own work and others will have our One Night Stand ensemble of actors at their disposal, including Anita Daher, Melanie Dean, Renee Hill, Melissa Langdon and Steve Yurkiw. Sarasvàti Productions would like to thank to PGC and the Canada Council for the Arts’ Play Connect program for supporting Judith Thompson and Ginny Collins’ participation. 

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Join us in the lobby afterwards to celebrate another successful festival!

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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.

 

Summer Students make Strides at Sarasvàti

A world premiere, general auditions, FemFest brochure launch, outreach, a fundraising dinner, Timeraiser display, garage sale – how have we managed all of this in the last month? We’ve been very fortunate to welcome two hard-working summer students to team Sarasvàti thanks to Canada Summer Jobs. They’ve pitched in on so many important tasks and now they’re working on our 2017-18 Season Launch. Tamera and Larysa bring dedication and fresh ideas to the table and we are so pleased to hear from them in this week’s blog entry.

“I am proud to be at Sarasvàti Productions and to work in a community with a strong social conscience”, says Tamera, who began working as our Production Assistant in May.

TameraGrace-grown-FemFest17“So far my highlight of the summer was when I was backstage during Breaking Through. The cast and crew were all magnificent, as well as the story. It was very life-giving to support them through a smooth run of the show, as well as making sure everyone was comfortable and ready.

Aside from being able to work on their spring production, I have been spending most of my time in the office. This is my first time working in an office; it has been a good opportunity to improve my professional skills.”

Tamera is working on completing her double degree in Theatre and Business at the U of W.

“My original plan was to focus on acting, but I will be graduating with a focus in acting as well as production and business. For me, working with Sarasvàti has really clarified my desire to work in the not-for-profit sector. I want to continue finding opportunities to support those in the community.”

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Tamera Grace at TimeRaiser150 with Hope McIntyre looking for great new Sarasvàti volunteers.

“One of the great things about Sarasvati Productions is the opportunity it creates for discussion and understanding”, says Larysa, our Marketing & Community Outreach Assistant.

“Getting over fifty people to sit in one room, eat Ethiopian food, smell Ethiopian coffee beans, and listen to a difficult true story about becoming a refugee is no easy thing to organize. But, I think, this type of event is necessary for building healthy and strong communities. Like me, the people who listened to Saeed’s story may walk away feeling more empathy than they felt before. And that is no small achievement.”

IMG_4303Larysa is a Creative Communications student at Red River College and the director of Winnipeg Poetry Slam. She talks about her favourite experience while working with Sarasvàti—working at the Honouring Courage – Celebrating Diversity fundraiser dinner with human rights activist and speaker, Ali Saeed.

“We’re used to thinking of revenge as a bad thing. We think of threat, torture, and war. Ali Saeed calls this ‘red revenge’. But Saeed says there is one other type of revenge just as compelling: kindness, compassion and generosity. His word for this is ‘green revenge.’

Seven years Saeed spent imprisoned and sentenced to death in Somalia. Now he’s speaking to a roomful of people here at Gohe Restaurant for Sarasvàti Productions’ fundraiser. The entire room is quiet. The people I’m sitting with grimace and look downward.

Saeed talks about the cruelty he witnessed: forced abortion, lashings, hanging, cutting. Listening to Saeed, I am reminded of the safety I have here in Canada, a true luxury.

On his feet, Saeed wears loose Velcro sandals. He points to the burn marks on his heels, marks from the hardship he endured. Sandals are one of the few shoes he’ll wear because of the pain. Barefoot is preferable.

‘No one chooses to be a refugee,’ Saeed says.”

Larysa says working for Sarasvàti Productions has opened her mind to experiences outside of her own, which has been an invaluable experience.

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Larysa Musick at Honouring Courage – Celebrating Diversity Fundraiser Dinner for Sarasvàti Productions at Gohe Restaurant.

You can see some of their awesome ideas in action at the 2017-18 Season Launch, Friday August 4th 7pm at the Saddlery on Market (114 Market Ave).

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!