Meet the Team Behind “New Beginnings”!

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New Beginnings is one of the biggest shows we’ve ever done: collaborating with artists across disciplines, including music, dance, and film-making! Get to know the amazing team bringing everything together!

What excites you about being on the New Beginnings artistic team? 

Gerry Atwell, Music Director: The subject matter is compelling and pertinent and the script is well researched, beautifully written and thought provoking. I love composing music and working with a talented creative team.

Brenda Gorlick, Dance Consultant: It is an absolute honour to work with such a diverse group of talented team members; I am extremely moved by the stories we are sharing and having a new appreciation for everyone’s journey.

Lindsay Johnson, Associate Producer: I have always admired Sarasvàti’s focus on producing theatre that sparks conversation about a wide range of important social issues. I am beyond thrilled to be a part of the artistic team who are helping stage the stories behind New Beginnings. It has been especially exciting for me to be involved in the community collaboration that shaped this production.

Cherissa Richards, Director: I love bringing these stories to life on-stage! I’m really excited to hear the personal stories of newcomers.

Saira Rahman, Snow Angel Films: It’s exciting to work with the other artists on the team – to learn from each by observing their creative process. I always like collaboration because of how enriched a piece can become with multiple perspectives.

 

What elements of the project do you personally connect with? 

Gerry: Even though I was born and raised in Winnipeg, people regularly assume I am from elsewhere and want to me to justify my presence and difference by categorizing it. “So where are you from?” is a question I have been asked all my life. My father chose Canada and all through his life he helped those who were adjusting to a new life here. I grew up sharing dinner with people from Russia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Uganda, and South Africa that my Dad met in passing and befriended.

Brenda: My brother and sister-in-law work for UNHCR so I’ve heard many of their experiences over the years of refugees’ stories.

Lindsay: I have loved getting to know members of my community that are outside of my day-to-day circle. It has been a fabulous experience watching my experience of Winnipeg grow in this way.

Saira: I felt a connection with the stories that included a parent and child. They made me remember my own experience growing up as my family tried to adapt to our new home. I’m honoured to be a part of this project because it honours my personal experience as a newcomer, although that was some time ago! My family had many new beginnings: East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), United Kingdom, Atlantic Canada, rural Manitoba, and finally Winnipeg!

 

 

Come see the culmination of this amazing team’s hard work starting May 22nd! We’re also featuring an opening dance piece choreographed by Emily Solstice and original art work by Indra Skuja-Grislis. Tickets are on sale now, available here!

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Exploring Immigration Across Generations

Newcomer stories from all over the world will be appearing in New Beginnings: from Syria to Ethiopia, Vietnam to Zimbabwe! We have such a diverse range of artists bringing these stories to life, including some familiar faces as well as newcomers to Canada! Get to know this week’s featured New Beginnings artists below.

 

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Melissa Langdon

Melissa Langdon is thrilled to be a part of the New Beginnings team. She is a graduating Honours Acting student from the University of Winnipeg. Through her time at the university, she appeared in Time and the Conways, Concord Floral, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. She’s also appeared in a number of films including Grief (Kaiju Productions) and Harmonize (Prairie Kid Productions). In addition to performing as a dancer, Melissa appears in Usna’s story, which focuses on a group of women fleeing their home country of Afghanistan.

 

As the daughter of an immigrant parent, Melissa has learned so much about the struggles and triumphs that many newcomers face while arriving in Canada. “The conversations that have emerged while discussing the struggles of new Canadian citizenship and the immigration process have been extremely powerful: from resettling after arrival to long-term personal growth and adaptation,” says Melissa.

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Dagmawit Habtemariam

 

Dagmawit Habtemariam (or Dagm for short) is new to the Sarasvàti stage, having been born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She moved to Winnipeg with her husband and two children in July 2011. Her educational backgrounds include an M.A in Social Anthropology and a B.Ed. degree in History, both from Ethiopia. Currently, she is taking an undergraduate degree in Human Rights program at the University of Winnipeg while working as a Graduate Studies Admission Officer.

Dagm is excited to share the stories of immigrants’ lives with Winnipeggers: particularly culture shocks, the ordeals of coming to Canada, as well as hopes for themselves and their children in a new home. “I am an immigrant myself and the different scenes of the project discuss the opportunities, challenges and commonalities that immigrants face when moving to Winnipeg and Canada.”

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Anjali Sandhu

Dagm also appears in Karwan and Irekanmi’s stories, both of which focus on how different generations experience settlement. Joining Dagm in Karwan’s story is familiar face Anjali Sandhu. Anjali is a Winnipeg-based comedian, actor, writer and law student. She has performed stand-up at the Winnipeg Comedy Fest, SheDot Comedy Festival, Sirius XM’s Next Top Comic, and more. Anjali was a writer/adapter of The Trump Card which she performed with District Theatre Collective at the 2017 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. She also wrote and performed an original piece for Sarasvàti’s 2018 Cabaret of Monologues, Flight 182. Anjali’s original show I’m Not Taylor Swift will premiere this summer at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

 

Like Melissa, Anjali also comes from a family of newcomers. “I’m excited about working with new artists,” says Anjali. “As the daughter/granddaughter of immigrants, I am excited to explore what my family members’ may have experienced through this piece.”

You can catch all of our amazing artists when New Beginnings premieres on May 22nd! The production takes place until May 27th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St). Don’t miss out – get your tickets today!

Looking Back on a Remarkable Year

Wow! It’s hard to believe how much can happen in a year. This week we look back on our greatest endeavours of 2017 made possible due to the amazing support of our donors, funders, volunteers, artists and community partners!

  • Theatre Workshops with North End Youth

We launched into 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 have had the pleasure of continuing to work with these youth in skill-focused workshops and mentorship sessions. We are thrilled to be continuing with a series of theatre workshops at Children of the Earth School in the New Year!

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study theatre but now I’m sure!” – Sabil, Youth Participant

  • International Women’s Week

Last March, ten amazing women took to the stage in our International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. The theme was Starting Over, sharing stories of displacement, resettlement and life-changing moments. We toured to new community venues like North End Family Centre. We were so honoured to facilitate the sharing of these crucial perspectives which are all too often silenced.

“The performances took place in our typically very busy and noisy drop in space. However, the performances were so captivating that you could have heard a pin drop!”
-Kristi Beaune, Mount Carmel Clinic
“Our students connected with what the presenters were saying on a deep level. I would highly recommend the monologues.”
-Rob Visch, Principal St. Aidan’s Christian School

  • Launch of New Beginnings15781754_10211121667098878_6849065531477230353_n

We used the story-gathering conducted for International Women’s Week as a spring board to soar into our next community-based project: New Beginnings. We began reaching out to artists and meeting with partner organizations. In September, we gave audiences a sneak peek at what we have in the works at a FemFest preview. From May 22-27, 2018 you can witness the coming together of a diverse range of artists, community members, recent newcomers and established immigrants. Through the use of dance, music, visual art and storytelling we will share stories of resettlement.

“Great evening at FemFest and Sarasvati production of New Beginnings! Congratulations to Rosemary Kezaabu and Gertrude Hambira, two of the women who told their stories.” – Mary Scott, Audience Member
“It was such a wonderful night yesterday! So glad I was able to participate in this project.” – Patricia Gordon, Performer

  • FemFest 2017: Coming of Age

This FemFest audiences and artists came together to celebrate 15 years of life-changing theatre.  We were proud to present such provocative touring shows as Watching Glory Die by Judith Thompson. We had some incredible first-times, partnering with the West End Cultural Centre to present Tomboy Survival Guide and partnering with the Millennium Library to present The Human Library! It was so rewarding to offer filmmaker Sonya Ballantyne her first opportunity to direct for the stage with Two Indians. We were proud to honour some of Winnipeg’s most prolific female playwrights at the One Night Stand and toast to 15 years. Believe it or not planning has already begun for FemFest 2018!

“…one of the most incredible and moving pieces of art I have ever seen” – Tatiana Carnevale, Audience Member at Tomboy Survival Guide at FemFest 2017
“Wow. I have not been so moved by a piece of theatre for a long time” – Cheryl Costen, Audience Member at Watching Glory Die at FemFest 2017

  • Second Annual Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser

Thanks to two fantastic audiences and eight hilarious comedians we almost sold out two back-to-back shows for our Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser. We heard nothing but glowing remarks from audience members. We can’t wait for next year!

“Awesome” – Audience Member
“Everyone is so talented!” – Audience Member

  • Workshops for Emerging Artists

    This season we’ve provided workshops and mentorship in theatre design, tech, directing, auditioning and more! One of the highlights was our playwriting masterclass with master playwright, Judith Thompson. We aren’t slowing down anytime soon! You can look forward to workshops in vocal technique, auditioning , dramaturgy and more in 2018!

    “Extremely beneficial. Going through the audition process (before, during, after) has made me feel that I have a much better idea of how the process works, especially with professional companies.” – Participant in Auditioning 101
    “All of it was pure gold.”
    – Participant in Coffee with Ann Hodges

We also rebooted our One Night Stand series with three opportunities throughout the year for playwrights to test material under the amazing leadership of Tatiana Carnevale!

  • COMMUNITY

This year also allowed us to work with several amazing community organizations. From doing workshops with youth leaders at SEED to presenting an overview of our work for the Council of Women of Winnipeg and PCWM. The largest initiative was the amazing experience preparing Can You See Me Now in partnership with West Central Women’s Resource Centre.  The women shared their experience of homelessness with such power that it truly opened eyes and hearts.

Here’s to another year of making and experiencing tranformative theatre together!

Unstoppable Women in Theatre

International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: I Am Unstoppable is bursting at the seams with talented writers and creators. Though we’ve long-admired them, we are excited to be working with these artists for the very first time! Get to know them as we do the same in this week’s blog.

I Am Unstoppable created and performed by Joanna Hawkins

Joanna Hawkins is a proud Deaf woman who is strongly involved within the Deaf community. She’s an ambassador to hearing ( non – deaf ) individuals about deaf culture in order to break barriers between their worlds.

Joanna Hawkins headshot 2017Originally from Lodz, Poland, Joanna now resides right her in Winnipeg and we feel lucky to have her. She has a history of working with the Manitoba Cultural Society of the Deaf, as well as performing with 100 Decibels : A Deaf Mime Troupe.

“Being involved with the 100 Decibels troupe, our goal is to create a barrier free world between the Deaf and the hearing (non-deaf), “I Am Unstoppable” is a piece I have been thinking about for a while”, says Joanna.

“I have been rejected to enroll in performing arts at University of Manitoba just because of my deafness. They couldn’t imagine myself acting with a sign language interpreter on the stage. Years later, I landed on the stage as a 100 Decibels actress, including other performances, therefore no one has stopped me from becoming an actress. Having a hearing loss doesn’t mean you need to give up something.”

Saviour Self by Andrea Scott

Andrea Scott is a professional playwright and producer.
“I trained as an actor and still audition but have been transitioning to positions that will allow me to eventually rule the world”, says Andrea.

“‘Saviour Self’ is from a play I wrote called ‘All Most Be Longing’ about the role riots, rebellion, and rage played in forming Toronto starting with the Anti-Greek riots of 1918. the play was developed while I was in the Stratford Playwright Retreat & the Tarragon Workspace program in 2016.

Andrea Scott headshot 2017A friend told me story about how her brothers tried to protect her during the Yonge Street riots of 1992 by ordering her stay home. She chose, instead, to get a front row seat by walking down to the Eaton Centre to watch the chaos. It made me think of how young women are often perceived as invisible when uprisings happen when in reality they are in the thick of the action and, sometimes direct instigators.”

Andrea describes her connection to the piece:
“I grew up in a world where positive images of black females were scarce but my parents always expected me to work towards excellence. Nobody expected anything of me, encouraged my talent, or intelligence in school. In fact, I had a guidance teacher try to get me to drop down to basic levels in English from the advanced levels I was in during my 4 years of high-school. I was told not to bother auditioning for the school play because ‘there were no black roles’, and my favourite high school teacher was surprised to see me go to Graduate school because she always assumed I’d be a housewife (for some bizarre reason).”

“Every person of colour who was a teenager knows how it feels to be watched in a store. Well, what if the perceived greater danger existed outside the doors of the shop rather than inside and embodied by a black girl? And what if she used that small window of time to help herself in a way that escapes the awareness of so many people? ”

See these pieces and so many more created and performed by women on March 10th. Tickets are on sale now!

Stay tuned for features on the rest of our fabulous artists in upcoming blogs!

What it means to be Unstoppable

Living through riots, learning to teach yoga as a senior, accepting your true self and conquering all odds. This year we celebrate International Women’s Week with a Cabaret of Monologues and performance art that shines a spotlight on the the many ways in which women are unstoppable. Join us in the theatre on March 10th to see the full line-up.  We are thrilled to announce that we will be providing ASL interpreters at the performance.

If you are part of a community group looking for a way to celebrate, book a selection of pieces to host!

We are thrilled to announce this year’s incredible line-up!

Saviour Self by Andrea Scott
Performed by Reena Jolly
Where were you in 1992 when Yonge Street exploded in riots? Josephine Benedict was a swaggering teenager looking to take care of herself, one tampon at a time.

Flight 182 created and performed by Anjali Sandhu
Where are you from? The Jungle Book, 20th century supermodels, ignorant politicians…nothing will stop Rani from being accepted as Canadian.

I Got 99 Problems, My Penis is Just One created and performed by Cynthia Fortlage
One transgender woman’s exploration of her journey to womanhood. This piece delves deep into Learning to be a Feminist, Loss of Privilege, and the Subtleties of Sisterhood.

I Am Unstoppable created and performed by Joanna Hawkins
Can you remember a time when nothing stood in your way? The innocence of childhood can make you feel unstoppable, but how do we persevere after the barriers and discrimination in the dominant world are fully perceived? Deaf artist, Joanna Hawkins explores this through mime.

Captain of My Ship by Kathy France
Performed by Ady Kay in collaboration with Victoria Hill and Emily Solstice
A woman recounts her coming of age story, reliving the confusion and fear that define a young woman’s entry into sexual awareness.

I’ve Never Been Very Good at Drawing Hearts, But I Keep Trying by A.b. Norris
Performed by Monica Thurn und Taxis
Using images captured during a lunar eclipse, this audio-visual media and collaborative performance piece explores (dis)connection between the persistent need to love/be loved and actually being good at either.

I Am a Warrior by Sue Higgs
Cathy signs up for a course. Nothing unusual about that, except for the fact that Cathy is in her late 60’s in a class full of twenty-something’s.

Sweet An Nice by Althea Cunningham
Performed by Lorraine James
Pregnant with a child, Jamaican immigrant Celestine seeks a better life in a new country. After getting a family to sponsor her, she moves thousands of miles across several oceans to discover it’s far from what she imagined it to be.

ObScene created and performed by Kristy Janvier
By holding onto our beliefs or judgements, how can we create connection? A performance art piece that explores healthy sensuality as a means of release.

Perfect Pie by Judith Thompson
Performed by Anna Binder
When prompted by a long-estranged friend, Patsy explains what it’s like to have an epileptic seizure. From master playwright Judith Thompson’s ground-breaking play about how you cannot escape where you come from.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we get to know the artists involved!

Unite for 16 Days of Activism

How do you take action against gender-based violence?
Activism comes in many different shapes and sizes. It can be organizing a protest or having difficult conversation with a family member, it can be writing an article or standing up for someone on the bus. Whatever you do, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence are a time to galvanize your efforts.

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This year, the UNiTE Campaign will mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence under the theme, “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls” The theme reinforces the Campaign’s commitment to a world free from violence for all women and girls around the world, while reaching the most under-served and marginalized, including refugees, migrants, minorities, indigenous peoples, and populations affected by conflict and natural disasters, among others, first.

Campaign Goals

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Sarasvàti Productions (from L to R: Associate Producer, Angie St. Mars; Artistic Director, Hope McIntyre; Administrator Intern, Samantha Lussier; Administrator, Gail Thiesen)

Sarasvàti Productions is thankful for the organizations in Winnipeg  who are dedicated to providing support for women escaping violence as well as working tirelessly towards eliminating violence in our community. We are looking forward these great community events.

NOV 24 – Manitoba Association of Women’s Shelters invites you to An Evening with Margo Goodhand
Canadian Museum of Human Rights (85 Israel Asper Way) @ 5:30 – 9:30 PM
An evening of discourse with Margo Goodhand, author of Runaway Wives and Rogue Feminists. Light refreshments and a cash bar will be available. There is no admission charge but space is limited, so please RSVP to Deena at maws@maws.mb.ca.


NOV 25 – Institute for International Women’s Rights Manitoba invites you to Getting Back Up: Resilient Women in the Face of Violence
Sudanese Community Centre Winnipeg (129 Dagmar Street) @ 1:30-4 PM
IIWR-MB welcomes a panel of 5 women leaders to share how they faced and fought against violence. Come for a day of education, solidarity, and celebration! This is a free event, with snacks included.
NOV 29 – Willow Place Inc invites you to Challenge to Change 
Fairmont Hotel – Wellington Ballroom (2 Lombard Place) @ 4-9 PM
This is an evening to gather innovative individuals to engage change in the practices that create systemic barriers from families moving away from violence. Come to discuss understanding family violence policies and practices that create barriers, and how we can better serve our diverse community.
Tickets: $35 ** Limited amount of free tickets available to students please email cynthiao@willowplace.ca

NOV 30 – Wahbung Abinoonjiiag Inc|Children of Tomorrow invites you to End the Silence, Stop the Violence
Meet at 225 Dufferin Avenue @ 5:30 PM
Join the Wahbung Team for a community Domestic Violence Awareness Walk to “End the Silence, Stop the Violence.” Meet, Smudge, Walk and then gather for soup and bannock. All ages are welcome! There will be raffle prizes! There is no cost to attend. If you have any questions or would like to help out contact Kelsey at EIWG@wahbung.org

DEC 6 – Manitoba Status of Women and the Manitoba Women’s Advisory Council Annual Sunrise Memorial
Rotunda of the Manitoba Legislative building @ 8-9 AM
This is a memorial to commemorate Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. There is no cost to attend.
RSVP to 204-945-6281 or email msw@gov.mb.ca
The colour orange will be a key theme unifying all activities, and buildings and landmarks will be lit and decorated in orange to bring global attention to the issue of violence against women and girls.

Share your photos, messages and videos with #OrangeTheWorld and #16Days.

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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