8 Days of Stellar Theatre

Let the countdown begin! Just two days until we take over the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film and some other spaces to showcase the best in Canadian theatre by women for everyone. You bet we are beyond excited for FemFest 2017: Coming of Age.

This year’s festival is jam-packed with stuff you won’t find anywhere else. Our 15th annual festival is guaranteed to leave a lasting impact on you.  Here’s the festival breakdown to help you plan your FemFest-filled week!

Ivan Coyote Reading
SEPT 16 • 4 PM

FemFest brings you the opportunity to meet & greet this multiple award-winning writer and LGBTQ advocate. This event is free and catered by Elements Restaurant—need we say more?

Opening Cabaret and Reception
SEPT 16 • 7 PM

Our beloved annual variety show is back! The cabaret includes pizza from Garbonzo’s U of Winnipeg AnX and wine courtesy of The Winehouse. You won’t want to miss this!

Tomboy Survival Guide
SEPT 17 • 8 PM at the West End Cultural Centre

Part anthem, part campfire story, and part instructions for the dismantling of the gender stories we tell ourselves and each other.  Prepare to dance and shout!

Bake-Off
SEPT 18 • 7PM

FemFest-favourite returns to stage five new scenes written by playwright’s under-the-wire.

Kit and Joe
by Jessy Ardern
SEPT 18 • 9 PM

Bake-Off winner Jessy Ardern left us on a cliff-hanger with her scene last year. Now it’s time to find out what really happened between Kit and Joe all those years ago.

Grounded Heroes
by Castlemoon Theatre
SEPT 19 • 7 PM

Bring your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to this reading of a new play for ages 6 and up!

Two Indians
by Falen Johnson

SEPT 19 • 9 PM,  SEPT 20 • 9 PM,  SEPT 21 • 7 PM,  SEPT 22 • 9 PM

When the words missing and murdered, truth and reconciliation, occupation and resistance are everywhere, how do two Mohawk women stand their ground?

New Beginnings
SEPT 20 • 7 PM, SEPT 23 • 4 PM

Join us for the launch of Sarasvàti Productions’ next community-based project featuring speaker Ali Saeed.

Watching Glory Die
by Judith Thompson
Produced by Mulgrave Road Theatre
SEPT 21 • 2:30 PM,  SEPT 21• 9 PM,  SEPT 22 • 7 PM

Inspired by the true story of New Brunswick teen Ashley Smith,   this one-woman show is must-see theatre!

Human Library™
In partnership with the Winnipeg Public Library (at the Millennium Library)
SEPT 21 • 4 PM – 8 PM,  SEPT 22 • 1 PM – 4 PM,  SEPT  23 • 1 PM – 4 PM

Real people are on loan to readers for discussion. Difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered.

One Night Stand and a toast to 15 years!
Coordinated by Tatiana Carnevale
SEPT 23 • 7 PM

This city is home to female playwrights who challenge us, question us, inspire us and make us laugh. Check out their newest work in development along with a reading by guest playwright Judith Thompson. Made possible with the support of the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada and the Canada Councils’ PlayConnect program.

Tickets are selling fast! Get yours in advance.

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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!

Rethinking Mental Illness: New play grounded in truth

MORGAN: Your worker says you have been behaving differently.

KOKO: I pride myself on behaving differently.

-excerpt from Breaking Through by Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore

The stories of five individuals struggling with mental health issues interweave in Sarasvàti Productions new play, Breaking Through. Playwrights Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore created Breaking Through as part of community-based two-year Mental Health is Everyone’s Health project. The project saw McIntyre and Moore team up with Artists in Health Care, Red Threads Playback Theatre and the Selkirk Mental Health Centre as well as working with multiple community organizations and the public. The resulting play is an exploration of mental illness grounded in real experience.

This week, we catch up with the playwrights to talk about the journey of this new, provocative play – from inspiration to early stages of production.

1)            What was the impetus that got you going on Breaking Through?

McIntyre: Meeting with so many people and hearing their stories was all the inspiration needed. We were lucky to have several individuals contact us to share, others show up to the open sessions and amazing workshops at numerous organizations. There was never an issue of lack of material or desire to write but more so too much material!

Moore: For me it was during our visits to female prisons across Canada during the writing of Hope and I’s play “Jail Baby.” Early on I realized at least 30 percent of the women we were meeting, had serious mental illness. In prison, those issues were not, and would never be, addressed.  I wanted to be a part of changing that.

Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore at the book launch of their play ‘Jail Baby’

 

2)            Do you feel like your understanding of mental health has changed while working on this play? How?

McIntyre: Not changed per say as I have worked with and had many people in my life who struggled with mental health prior to this project. I think what I realized is that every individual has their own experience and own perspective. One of the challenges is to show the myriad responses and points of view. Some have been devastated by the medications they were prescribed and lost quality of life whereas others we spoke with believe the medications saved their lives. There are no easy answers or one size fits all solutions but a need to really honour each story.

Moore: Definitely. Particularly when it comes to medication in North America. While visiting Selkirk Mental Health Centre, I realized that what I originally thought was “mental illness” was really the side effects of medication. That was a scary moment.

3)            While doing research, workshops and interviews with the public, what surprised you most?

McIntyre: The willingness of people to share was the most surprising. There was clearly a desire to talk about it in order to educate, increase awareness and to stop feeling like it was something that needed to be hidden. Many people I knew beforehand in other capacities came forward to share. I feel I started to stop and listen more after going through this process. Asking someone how they are doing, really doing, can be such an important thing.

Moore: That most of us experience mental health issues, even those people who may seem like they have the world by the tail. I was surprised at just how sick people can get. How much care takers and loved ones sacrifice to help those suffering from mental illness. How very real psychosis is, to those who experience it. That we need to recognize people with mental illness, are not their illness, for example, a person is not schizophrenic; they are a person with schizophrenia. The illness should not define them, any more than cancer should define someone. That person is not cancer; they are a person who has cancer. We really need to rethink how we talk about mental illness.

4)            What do you hope the audience is talking about on the car ride home from Breaking Through?

McIntyre: I hope they are opening up about their own struggles, discussing the reality that it is universal and exploring how we should support anyone who is going through a rough time by providing them with what they need.

Moore: I hope there is passionate debate. Talking about mental illness is the first step. It is my greatest wish as a playwright, to raise questions, rather than answer them. Silence is the most difficult hurdle. We should be able to talk about mental illness with our friends, in our work place, without fear of being stigmatized.

Breaking Through premieres on May 23rd and runs until May 28th at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film. Tickets are available now on our website or by calling the office at 204-586-2236.

How It All Comes Together

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This week we welcome our Associate Director’s perspective on our unique approach to International Women’s Week. Rachel Smith is an actor, director, writer and acting coach. She has a MA in Theatre & Performance from the University of Manchester, UK and a BA Honours in Theatre & Film from the University of Winnipeg. Rachel has worked with Sarasvati many times and enjoys her continuing work with the company. 

The Cabaret of Monologues is an event that I look forward to every year. It is such an interesting and diverse array of artistic works that beautifully captures the year’s theme. This year the theme of “Starting Over” was particularly relatable for me, and for many audience members who I encountered. Starting Over can mean different things for different people. The variety of monologues featured in the cabaret was a wonderful representation of the different perspectives on that theme. I found that I could relate to most of the monologues in one way or another.

This was the fourth year that I have been the Associate Director on the cabaret. I was delighted and honoured that I was able to work on them again this year. It is an interesting project to work on because it is not rehearsed like a normal play is. Ten separate pieces are rehearsed once a week until the weekend before the full cabaret when it all comes together. Many of the actors do not even meet until the dress rehearsal. Each monologue is given the same rehearsal guidelines but the individual pieces are so different. It is great to work with the different actors and work with the unique challenges within the individual pieces. When working on them during the months of January and February, they feel almost like separate entities that do not relate to each other. When they all come together at the beginning of March it is amazing to see the full picture: the collage that is revealed.

Each monologue is powerful in its own way. I felt that the monologues developed with the newcomers to Canada were especially powerful. Some of them had heartbreaking stories yet were filled with joy and hope. When the monologues were presented as whole it became all the more powerful. Rachel Awur Moijok Chol was one of the women whose story was told during the performance. Her story was presented as a voice over recording of Rachel speaking while Sydney Macfarlane did a movement piece. At the matinee performance on March 11, Rachel sang an absolutely beautiful song after her story was presented. While she sang, Martha Akuch Maketh joined her on stage dancing with Sydney, while the rest of the cast joined the trio to prepare for the curtain call. The image of all those women dancing together on stage is one I do not think I will ever forget. It was so incredibly powerful to see them all up there, these amazing women portraying such important stories.

– Rachel Smith

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Eager to experience more transformative theatre? Join us for the world premiere of Breaking Through (May 23-28) an awe-inspiring new play about mental health.

All the World’s a Stage this International Women’s Week

Hot off the heels of an incredibly successful community tour, our performers are ready to showcase this year’s line up of monologues this Saturday at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues: Starting Over !  We are proud to provide a platform for women’s stories, to promote equity on Canadian stages and to provide access to the arts.

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We started off by taking the pieces that were created through community group story-sharing back to the groups of women who had helped us to create them. After well-received performances at Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba and Welcome Place, we set off to tour the wider community! Here are the great host groups, all amazing organizations worth checking out:

March 2 – Genesis House – Manitou, Manitoba
Genesis House exists so that people of South Central Manitoba will be free from family and intimate partner abuse achieving results that justify the relative worth. They provide a confidential service, which includes a shelter for abused women and their children, residential and non-residential programs and prevention through public education.

March 6 – UWSA Women Trans-Spectrum Centre
The Women-Trans Spectrum Centre is an accessible and inclusive resource centre for women and trans students on the University of Winnipeg campus. The centre is a great space to hang out, study, and build community.

March 7 – North End Women’s CentreNEWC IWW17 (2)
The North End Women’s Centre is a community based organization that provides women with support, knowledge, and opportunity as they move forward on their journey towards independence and healthier lifestyle.

 

March 7 – Nova House – Selkirk, Manitoba
Nova House is a shelter for abused women and children in the Interlake Region of Manitoba. They provide temporary shelter, counseling, support groups, and referral to community resources for women and their children.

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March 8 – North End Family Centre

The North End Family Centre is a community gathering place that provides a comfortable and safe environment for community members to connect and belong.

March 8 – U of M Womyn’s Centre
RRC IWW17 (1)The Womyn’s Centre provides a feminist voice and safe space for womyn on campus. The members strive to create a place where women are listened to and recognized, and facilitate women as they gather the information they need to make informed decisions in their lives.

March 8 – Rainbow Resource Centre
Rainbow Resource Centre provides support, education, and resources to foster a proud, resilient, and diverse LGBT2SQ+ community.

March 9 – Agape House – Steinbach, Manitoba
The mission of Agape House-Eastman Crisis Centre, Inc. is to empower women and children experiencing family violence by providing safe shelter, information, counseling, and ongoing support.

March 9 – Mount Carmel Clinic
Founded on the belief that everyone has the right to accessible health care, Mount Carmel Clinic goes the extra mile to help clients connect with the services they need—in their homes, workplaces and neighbourhood.

March 9 – St. John’s Library
In addition to offering the services of a public library, St. John’s Library offers an array of free programs and workshops for all ages.

March 10 – St. Aidan’s School, Aberdeen Campus
St. Aidan’s School Aberdeen Campus is a Grade 6-10 school, primarily focused on at-risk kids, and presently serving kids from about ten nations – Cree, Tanzania, Metis, Kaska, Canada, Eritrea, Congo, Ojibway, Ethiopia, Burundi.

March 10 – IIWR-MB
IIWR-MB is an organization open to all individuals, as well as organizations that have an interest in promoting women’s human rights.

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March 12 –The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians
The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians is a progressive Organization with strong and durable roots in the people and history of Canada.

March 19- Manitoba Storytelling Guild
The Manitoba Storytelling Guild supports and promotes the art of oral storytelling throughout Manitoba.

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.

Join us for a performance of the full line-up, and a lobby full of visual art on the theme of ‘Starting Over’ at the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues, March 11, 2017.

 

 

Art Beyond the Stage

The artistic showcase is going beyond the stage at this year’s International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues with the help of our amazing Outreach Coordinator, Audrey Unger! A Masters student at the U of M, Audrey has been working with Sarasvàti Productions since September 2016 as part of her practicum in Peace and Conflict Studies.

“The theatre workshops done with several groups of women in November 2016 were a particular highlight”, said Audrey, who helped to organize these story-gathering workshops at a variety of organizations that serve immigrants and refugees. “Much joy and laughter was shared through interaction with theatre games and new friendships were formed by listening to each other’s stories.” Some of the pieces that will be performed on March 11th were developed directly from these workshops.

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Sarasvàti Outreach Coordinator Audrey Unger

Audrey has also been curating an incredible display of visual art in order to highlight this year’s Cabaret theme of “Starting Over”. The collection is made up of pieces in many mediums that have been created by Winnipeg-based artists including photography from the Eritrean Women’s Association and traditional outfits from Uganda and Iraq. Professional Artist Xavier Mutshipayi, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, will be present with his collection of paintings titled “Awakened Consciousness.”  Artist Briand-Nelson Mutima will also be present with a collection of his paintings. The lobby installation represents different moments from these artists’ experience as newcomers at various stages of life in Canada. “This is an opportunity for artists to showcase and discuss their work with the public audience”, said Audrey. “It has been a joy to connect with these new faces in the community.”

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Professional Artist Xavier Mutshipayi with his collection of paintings titled “Awakened Consciousness.”

There will be interactive opportunities as well! Many of the artists will be there to meet the public and chat about their work. Members of the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute, who were part of our story-gathering workshops, will be set up in the lobby to share info about their call for donations of winter clothing, blankets, toiletries, and furniture to meet the needs of newly arrived refugees. There will be opportunity to purchase items from Sew Fair, a local fair trade company that employs newcomer women.

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Last but not least, check out our photo booth, where you and your friends can take a selfie with your own call to action. We’ll have #beboldforchange arm bands and signs as part of CUPE’s International Women’s Day 2017 campaign.

You can take part in our lobby installation at the Asper Centre for Theatre & Film before and after the performances on March 11th at 4pm and 8pm. Tickets are just $15 and available on-line or at the door. See you there!

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What Does Starting Over Mean to You?

Have you ever relocated, tackled a new job, new relationship or even just discovered your true self? This year we explore what is perhaps the most universal topic we have tackled in the International Women’s Week Cabaret of Monologues. Erin Meagan Schwartz asked all of our performers what this year’s theme means to them.

“New adventure! But that was my idea when I was eleven years old and I came to Canada”, says Cherrel Holder, “then doing it when I was 20–moving to Australia for school–starting over was scary.” Check out the promo video for all of our performers responses!

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Kim Kakegamic rehearsing “The Pit” in front of playwright Alissa Watson and Directors Hope McIntyre and Rachel Smith. Photo by Nik Rave.

Alka Kumar shared her story of starting over with Angie St. Mars. The two co-wrote one of the monologue sin this year’s cabaret based on Alka’s experience. “Sharing my story provided me space for reflection, even helping me process my experience in a deliberate and considered manner”, said Alka, including that it is a technique and useful tool within narrative therapy. “I found this useful as it was a good opportunity to go back to my `lived experience’ after the fact, almost separating it out of myself (externalising it, as it were) and through such a process of articulation becoming more aware of it.”
The piece created from their process is called Diaspora. It focuses on an Indian woman, once a newcomer herself, as she welcomes a young newcomer to Winnipeg.

The Cabaret features monologues that take you through ten different stories of pivotal moments in very different women’s lives. From the moment when an Ojibwe activist must choose to apologize or stand by what she believes in, to the moment a young Nigerian woman tells her first generation immigrant parents that she wants to go home: this year’s selections will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

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“I hope the audience [members] who share my experiencing of my everyday dilemmas, struggles, and negotiations with my many homes will get to know me a little”, said Alka. “Even more significantly, I hope the monologue and my voice will resonate, and that it may help in their personal processes and journeys of reflection, and exploration, as ideas and emotions around identity, belonging, and being comfortable being who we are wherever home is are important questions for everyone.”

There are two chances to catch all ten monologues on March 11th at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are available at the door, but we recommend getting them in advance, as this event will sell out.