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’.”

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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

 

 

Women’s Comedy Night: The Sequel!

Our Women’s Comedy Night Fundraiser was so popular in 2016 that we decided to bring it back for another year! Some of Winnipeg’s funniest women take to the stage November 15th at the King’s Head Pub (120 King St).  Returning as host is fabulous comedian Dana Smith.

The night will feature a diverse line-up of local comedians at different levels of experience, from seasoned pros to emerging newcomers. Check them out!

Dana Smith.JPGDana Smith runs the very successful Women’s Open Mic Comedy show at Wee Johnny’s Irish Pub, which has been regularly featured in CBC’s Top 5 Things to Do in Winnipeg. It has also sparked a vibrant community of women who do stand-up comedy in Winnipeg. She has been featured in JFL Northwest (Vancouver), Oddblock Comedy Festival, and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.

 

Anjali Sandhu - Headshot

Anjali Sandhu is a Winnipeg-based comedian, actor and writer. She performed stand-up at the SheDot Comedy Festival in Toronto as well as Sirius XM’s Next Top Comic and The Park Theatre’s Empow(her)ment. Anjali is currently working on her first solo stand-up show, I’m Not Taylor Swift.

 

 

Carole Cunningham headshot.jpgCarole Cunningham has been performing since 2015 and is a regular at Women’s Open Mic. Carole has performed in the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and has produced several shows, including Token 2016. A regular host at Crickets Comedy Club, Carole’s dry and observational humour addresses marriage, children, and navigating life as a woman over thirty-five.

 

danielle-kayahara-headshot.jpgDanielle Kayahara is a benevolent cat owner and relative newcomer to the Winnipeg comedy scene. Fuelled by equal parts anxiety and caffeine, she remains convinced that the former has nothing to do with the latte. Danielle is extremely excited to have the opportunity to bring her unique blend of storytelling and silliness to the stage in support of a worthy cause.

 

Florence SpenceFlorence Spence is a stand-up comedian from York Factory Cree Nation. Raised in both Winnipeg and the reserve, she has been able to translate the hardships of growing up with seven brothers, being a single parent of three and now a grandmother, into comedy gold. Her witty observations and captivating stage presence set Florence Spence up to be your next favorite comedian.

 

Heather Witherden - Headshot.jpgHeather Witherden is also known as “Winnipeg’s Favourite Wisecracking Mom”. From the north end of Main Street, Heather got married, had three kids, and started writing jokes in the baby book to amuse herself. She finally got onstage with her jokes in 2006 and had since appeared at Rumors Comedy Club, The Winnipeg Comedy Festival, CBC Radio’s Definitely Not the Opera, and So You Think You’re Funny.

 

Kate Schellenberg - Headshot (2).JPGKate Schellenberg is originally from the East Coast. She got tired of the mild winters, cheap lobster, and being near the ocean, so she packed her bags and headed to Manitoba. So far this year, she has appeared at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, Oddblock Comedy Festival, and Rumors Comedy club where her honest and self-deprecating style made her a favorite with local crowds.

 

Lara Rae headshot.jpgLara Rae is a thirty-year veteran of stand-up. She is the A.D of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and was the first trans woman to host the CBC national program, The Current. She lives in West Broadway with her two rats, Frida and Nina, named after two awesome role models.

 

 

2016 showed us that one show simply wasn’t enough, so we decided to double your chances of seeing some hilarious comedy! This year we’ll have an early show (doors at 5:30, show at 7PM) and a racier late-night performance (doors at 9, show at 9:30PM). Tickets are just $15 and available here. Get them before they’re gone and support a great cause!

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.