Five Must-See Events at FemFest!

Hard to believe we’re more than halfway through FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance! It’s been an incredible week of theatre already… Saturday saw an eclectic Opening Cabaret with musicians, comedians, and spoken word artists from across Winnipeg! On Monday, we crowned Alissa Watson as our Bake-Off winner with her scene The Switch, which will get its own reading at FemFest 2019. We also premiered some incredible touring shows from around the world, including Burnt and La civilisation, ma mère! As the festival comes to a close, here are some events you won’t want to miss.

 

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1.  Sound of the Beast

This solo piece by two-time Governor General’s Award Nominee Donna-Michelle St. Bernard (aka Belladonna the Blest) speaks truth to power using spoken word, storytelling and hip-hop. The show highlights St. Bernard’s quick wit and quicker rhymes in a performance that reflects on identity, oppression and what happens when authority is questioned. We’ll be hosting a talkback discussion after today’s matinee at 1PM, facilitated by Tamika Krush of QPOC Winnipeg. Don’t miss your chance to experience this powerful production for yourself!

 

White Man's Indian.jpg2.  White Man’s Indian

Darla Contois takes on the ensemble of characters that make up this transformative work, focusing on the story of Eva, a Cree teenage girl, and her journey through the maze of a White Man’s high school. Following the opening performance on September 18th, we hosted a panel with Darla, Matt B. Shorting of Onashowewin Justice Circle, and Gabrielle Fiddler of Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre to talk about the issues presented by the play, as well as the larger topic of Indigenous representation on stage. There are two more chances to take in this incredible one-woman show: tonight at 9PM and Friday at 7PM!

 

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3.  Walking Art Tour

Be one of the select few who will get to experience this brand-new event! We’ve brought in an incredible team of artists who will be performing at some of Downtown Winnipeg’s hidden gems. The tour is hosted by local comedienne Heather Witherden and features Emilie Lemay (visual art), Tiana Northage (spoken word), Alexandra Elliott and Hilary Anne Crist of Art Holm (movement), Dawn Lavand (stand-up comedy), and waNda wilsoN (music). Just twenty people will get to take part in this unique event: book your spot today so you don’t miss out! The tour wraps up September 22nd at 2PM.

 

SignLanguageInterpretationDayTranslationsInterpretation4.  ASL-Interpreted Performances

After responding to requests to make theatre more accessible to our community, we’re proud to announce that we’ll be offering ASL interpretation for three shows in this year’s festival! Come see Burnt tonight at 7PM, White Man’s Indian Friday at 7PM, or Sound of the Beast Saturday also at 7PM. Tickets start at $15 – get yours today!

 

one-night-stand-poster-april-11-e1524149136777.png5.  One Night Stand

Join us on the closing night of the festival as we toast to 16 successful years! We’ll be featuring sneak peeks of new work from celebrated female playwrights, including Leigh-Anne Kehler, Frances Koncan, Jo MacDonald, Cairn Moore, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. The series is coordinated by Tatiana Carnevale and features performances by Melanee Deschambeault, Katie German, Kim Kakegamic, Glenn Odero, Matthew Paris-Irvine, and Erica Wilson.

The festival is running until Saturday, September 22nd with all performances taking place at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St) unless otherwise noted. With so much to take in, you won’t want to miss a thing! Make sure to check out our full FemFest schedule for all our upcoming events.

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Our Downtown is Made for Walking

We’re introducing something new to the FemFest line-up this year: a brand-new Walking Art Tour! The tour will explore parts of Winnipeg’s downtown area, shining a light on some of our city’s hidden gems. The tour will feature a mix of spoken word, comedy, visual art, movement, and music as audiences tour the downtown area, spanning Memorial Boulevard to Ellice Avenue.

Get to know the incredible artists taking part in this year’s tour!

 

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How would you describe yourself to a stranger?

  • Daphne Finlayson, Coordinator: I am but a simple pun enthusiast who loves dogs and terrible jokes.
  • Dawn Lavand, Stand-Up Comic: A daydreamer without enough sleep.
  • Emilie Lemay, Visual Artist: French-Canadian painter inspired by extraordinary prairie skies.
  • Tiana Northage, Spoken Word Poet: What you see, is what you get – but good luck keeping track of what you see. This Winnipeg poet is a living chameleon, and her wardrobe’s a mood-ring. This package is fragile – please handle with care.
  • Wanda Wilson, Musician: Depends, I could say, “I’m the one with the hat”. Or “I’m kind of like a turtle”.
  • Heather Witherden, Host: Heather is a fun Mom-aged lady living her best life as a burlesque emcee by night and receptionist by day!

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

  • Alexandra Elliott, Movement Performer/Art Holm Curator: “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole.
  • Daphne: Oh gosh… it oscillates between classic 80’s chart-toppers and ambitious solos from Broadway musicals. Right now I’d have to say either “Limelight” by Rush or “More than a Feeling” by Boston.
  • Emilie: “Mamma Mia” by ABBA. I have even sung it a cappella once. Now my daughter sings it with me as a duet!
  • Tiana: “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows is an absolute BOP and I refuse to hear otherwise. You can catch me yelling “CUT UP MARIA” at The Good Will any Wednesday of the month.
  • Wanda: “Fight for Your Right” by The Beastie Boys.
  • Heather: “Baby Got Back”, no question.

Why should people be excited about your piece at FemFest?

  • Alexandra: Because the main prop is a doctor’s medical exam table and as of this current moment, I have no idea what will happen. But there will be two women clad in purple hospital gowns doing contemporary dance.
  • Daphne: Winnipeg’s Downtown Area is such a cool space, full of hidden gems and cool little spots waiting to be discovered. What I’m hoping to do with this tour is shine a light on just a few of these spots, combining art with architecture to showcase the beauty lurking under the surface of our city.
  • Dawn: Laughter is medicine. I can be hilarious – come get a dose, community-style.
  • Emilie: People will get to see a painting created live in the heart of the city and they will be a part of its creation story.
  • Tiana: Coming to see my performances is like getting a live diary reading. I’m letting you in on the sad scary thoughts you thought only you had. Together we can ride the emotions out, and leave with a sense of not being so alone.

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Also featured in the tour is fellow Art Holm curator Hilary Anne Crist. No stranger to performing in unconventional locations, Art Holm is a semi-annual performance series that showcases artists of different disciplines. She’ll be joining Alexandra as they preview a piece from their upcoming performance series titled Scooch Forward. Singer-songwriter waNda wilsoN will be serenading audiences from Saigon Park across the street from the University of Winnipeg. Wanda plays an eclectic mix of raw and sweet material, expressing strength, humour, hope and pain in her own alternative way.

You have two chances to check out this incredible line-up of artists: September 19th at 5:30PM and September 22nd at 2PM. The tour starts at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W). Space is limited – be sure to book your spot today! A total of just 40 audience members will get to experience this unique initiative.

Meet the New Batch of Bake-Off Playwrights!

We’re bringing back an audience favourite at FemFest: our annual Bake-Off! Each year, we challenge five fearless playwrights to cook up a scene using the secret ingredients of our choosing – in just eight hours. From there, the scenes are rehearsed with our fabulous team of actors, directed by coordinator Cairn Moore, and put to the test with an audience vote for the winner! The winning playwright will then get the chance to have their scene turned into a one-act play which will have a reading at FemFest 2019. This year’s mandatory ingredients included a drone, children’s laughter, and the Nellie McClung quote “democracy for women”.

Get to know the new batch of incredible writers behind this year’s Bake-Off!

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Ntara Curry

Ntara Curry is a multi-disciplinary artist, working primarily in professional theatre as a stage hand, stage manager, and actor.  She is delighted to also be bringing her skills as dancer and writer to FemFest 2018.  You can also catch Ntara in our co-production of The Game with Manohar Performing Arts of Canada!

 

 

 

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Jo MacDonald

After winning last year’s Bake-Off with OUR HOME & native land, Jo MacDonald is back to defend her title! Jo is Anishinaabe, a mom, theatre fan, writer, and an educator. She gave up dreams of super-villainy as it wasn’t as lucrative as depicted at the job fairs (false advertising… but then again what can you expect from an evil genius job pitch). She received her BA and B.Ed. from the University of Winnipeg.  You can catch a reading of last year’s winning Bake-Off script September 15th and also get a glimpse of Jo’s latest work at our One Night Stand series on September 22nd!

 

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Allison Stier

New to the Bake-Off is Allison Stier. Allison is a fledgling playwright who prefers the eating of baked goods rather than the mixing and kneading and baking. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she has loved putting words into delicious arrangements for the greater part of her existence. She is quite thankful that the ingredients for this Bake-Off are of the word variety, which in most cases, don’t result in a sink full of dirty dishes.

 

 

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Alissa Watson

As a Winnipeg born actress, educator, and now writer, Alissa Watson has studied theatre at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England, the Manitoulin Conservatory for Creation and Performance, and is an alumna of the Professional Training Ensemble (PTE@PTE). Alissa is a member of the sweet and cheeky Fu Fu Chi Chi Choir, the all-female Bouffon ensemble The Talentless Lumps, and co-founder of The Red Nose Diaries.

 

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Pamela Wolk

Last up is Pamela Wolk. Pamela completed a BA Honours in Theatre Studies from the University of Regina with stars in her eyes of life on the stage. Funny how plans change.  She was swept off her feet by a military man and followed him from posting to posting.  Twenty years later she is back on the theatre scene, most recently acting in Jo MacDonald’s Fringe comedy Mother’s Little Secret.

 

Bake Off Dir Cairn Moore Now

Cairn Moore

Returning as director for her third year in a row is Cairn Moore. Cairn is a director and playwright and teaches first year performance at the University of Winnipeg. Her award winning play SHIKSA premiered with Winnipeg Jewish Theatre in 2016. Breaking Through, co-written with Hope McIntyre, premiered in May 2017 with Sarasvàti Productions. With the generous support of the Manitoba Arts Council, Cairn is currently re-writing her first play HABsolute Perfection. Catch a sneak peak at the One Night Stand series!

 

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Bringing the scenes to life are local performers Grant Burr, Jane Burpee, Karam Daoud, Simba Meng, and Taesia Scratch. Come see the results of an eight-hour playwriting pressure cooker Monday, September 17th at 7PM at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film (400 Colony St at the U of W). Get your tickets today and vote to select the winner!

Learn from the Pros at FemFest 2018!

Ever sit in the theatre and wonder how the show was created? How the artist chose the topic? What training did they do to get to where they are? We have such an incredible line-up in store for this year’s FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance – now you can learn the process behind these powerful productions! In addition to taking in phenomenal performances, there will also be plenty of opportunities to hear from and interact with the amazing artists in this year’s festival.

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-16-46-23.pngThese sessions are so popular that one is already full! On Sunday, September 16th, we’ll be hosting our Devising from the Real World workshop with Burnt performer Norah Paton. Burnt was created using a “devised theatre” process, taking interviews from Burning Man participants and forming the collection of stories into a play. Paton’s style in particular focuses on the real world, hinging on documentary theatre. Using this approach, participants will learn ways to create work by drawing inspiration from their own personal, social, and political worlds. Space is currently sold out – contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca to be put on the waitlist!

2016_TPM 2016-17 - SOTB - web.PNGYou can also hear from Sound of the Beast powerhouse Donna-Michelle St. Bernard at her Real Thing Lecture presented in partnership with the University of Winnipeg Department of Theatre and Film. This lecture series focuses on that big question every young artist is dying to answer: how can I find my start in the real world? Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, a.k.a. “Belladonna the Blest”, will talk about her career as an emcee, playwright, and agitator using her experience in the “real world” of theatre and film. You can hear from her September 19th at 12:30PM at the U of W. Or if you are the type who loves to discuss a performance afterwards, come see the show on September 20th at 1pm and stick around after for a talkback with the artist.

White Man's Indian.jpgThere is also a chance to discuss the powerful play White Man’s Indian with both the writer/performer Darla Contois as well as a panel of community members who have experience with the content. White Man’s Indian follows the story of Eva, a Cree teenage girl, and her journey through the maze of a White Man’s high school. It is a hilarious quest for identity and spirituality. While the story by Contois sheds light on the harsh reality of growing up as an Indigenous girl in a white space, many themes of identity, discrimination and bullying are explored. The play encourages dialogue about the effects the systems have on Indigenous communities, specifically youth. Join the panel discussion after the 7PM performance on September 18th to discuss the complex issues tackled by the play.

One Night Stand Poster April 11That’s not all – we’re also bringing back our One Night Stand series to FemFest! This series gives playwrights the opportunity to test their work, while providing audiences a chance to take part in the developmental process. You can hear from some of our most celebrated playwrights and get a sneak peek at their latest projects. After curating our events at FemFest 2017 and the 2018 Carol Shields Festival at Prairie Theatre Exchange, host Tatiana Carnevale will show off what’s new from playwrights Leigh-Anne Kehler, Frances Koncan, Jo MacDonald, Cairn Moore, and Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. Our talented readers for this year’s series include Melanee Deschambeault, Katie German, Kimberly Kakegamic, Glenn Odero, Matthew Paris-Irvine, and Erica Wilson.

With so much to take in, you won’t want to miss a thing! Check out our full FemFest schedule for a list of all the incredible events you can check out at this year’s festival, running September 15-22.

 

Celebrating Our 2018/19 Season Launch!

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Resistance, Resettlement and Reconciliation – oh my! You’re invited to celebrate another incredible season of Winnipeg theatre! As part of First Fridays, Sarasvàti Productions will be hosting our annual Season Launch at Saddlery on Market, featuring free cupcakes courtesy of cake-ology! You can hear all about our incredible upcoming season of “Reimagining” featuring stories of Resistance, Resettlement, and Reconciliation.

The night will feature sneak peeks from a number of upcoming events, including the announcement of this year’s FemFest 2018 Bake-Off participants, One Night Stand series, and our brand-new Walking Art Tour. You can also enjoy a preview of The Game, a blend of Indian dance and theatre presented by Manohar Performing Arts of Canada. For a look at what’s coming up in the rest of our season, you can get a first glimpse of our new school tour, Home 2.0; learn who will make you laugh until it hurts at our annual Women’s Comedy Night fundraiser; be the first to know the theme for this year’s IWW Cabaret of Monologues; and new details will be revealed about our spring work-in-progress featuring stories of reconciliation.

Want to get creative? We’ll also be hosting a craft station with supplies generously donated by ArtsJunktion! Our speakers will also take part in our “Reimagining” Improv Game, telling us how they would re-purpose a common item to help tackle social issues!

Plus our exclusive FemFest 2018 t-shirts with original artwork by Danielle Morrison, printed by Floodway Printing Co., will be available for sale. For just $20 be one of the first to wear this fashionable tees.

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Join us on Friday, August 3rd as we look forward to another amazing year of life-changing theatre for everyone. The fun kicks off at 7PM – feel free to pop in as you enjoy other events hosted by First Fridays in the Exchange! For more information on the festivities, check out our event page.

Burnt: Norah Paton travels to Burning Man, Burning Man travels to FemFest

At FemFest this year, Norah Paton’s Burnt will take you on a theatrical trip to Burning Man, a temporary community in the desert in Nevada. You will meet all kinds of people played by Paton herself. The festival gets its name from the ritual of burning of a huge wooden effigy at the end of the festival. It is founded on ten principles: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.

Paton created the piece by visiting Burning Man in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and recording interviews with the people she met there. But instead of any old documentary, Paton wrote a script that is a collage of interviews and brought it to life with her captivating acting skills. She plays a surprisingly varied cast of characters, each with their own distinctly recognizable personality. Ian Huffam wrote in his review that “Paton’s physicality and vocal texture when embodying the subjects of her interviews deftly captures the essence of these people.”

The aesthetic of the show is wonderful, too. The sound design is by AL Connors and the play features electronic music, just as Burning Man does. Dominique Coughlin’s costume and set designs remind us of Le Petit Prince, as Ian Huffam points out, which shares its desert setting with Burnt. Lighting designer Sarah Mansikka creates fascinating visual effects. Dramaturges Emily Pearlman and Brad Long complete the artistic team.

Paton premièred Burnt at the Undercurrents Festival in Ottawa in 2017 and received glowing reviews. Jared Davidson described the première as “fascinating, clever, and immersive” and added “with a script and performance this strong, it will be interesting to see how it develops.” Our Artistic Director saw this production in Ottawa and was excited to share it with FemFest audiences.  And now that Paton has developed it further, Winnipeg theatregoers will see its best version yet.

Paton’s brilliance doesn’t stop at the sheer originality of this concept. The play also criticizes the hypocrisies of Burning Man: how a money-less city that operates on giving has become a capitalist venture, how a place where people are not supposed to leave any traces has developed a litter problem, and how racism and rape culture have crept into a community founded on inclusivity.

The Ottawa Citizen quoted Paton saying “Some of [the ten principles of Burning Man] are totally contradictory, and I definitely do look at those paradoxes…For me, it’s really interesting to see how this temporary city becomes a microcosm of all the issues or tensions or problems that we all see in our lives.”

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Come and enjoy Burnt at FemFest at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, 400 Colony Street, on Tuesday, September 18th or Wednesday, September 19th at 9:00 pm or on Thursday, September 20th at 7:00 pm and prepare to be amazed!

Seeing Our Vision Through: 2017-2018 Season Retrospective

Another great year of theatre has come and gone! We celebrated our 18th season here in Winnipeg, showcasing newcomer stories, tales of unstoppable women, some hilarious local comedians, and powerful theatre from all across Canada! Take a look back at what we’ve accomplished with our 2017-2018 season: Envision.

New Beginnings

 

New Beginnings by Sarasvati Productions is beyond amazing. This production cannot end. The message of reality of resettlement should be heard by thousands more. The actors, content and music (Gerry Atwell, Music Director) touched my soul.” – Jay Rose, Audience Member

Thanks to amazing support from Winnipeg’s newcomer and theatre community, the show enjoyed an amazing run with multiple sold-out performances! A generous grant from Canadian Heritage, allowed us to offer translation services for the performance in Arabic, Kurmanji, and French! Stay tuned in the fall for our school tour, Home 2.0, which focuses on youth stories of immigration and resettlement.

IWW Cabaret of Monologues: I am Unstoppable

I am so full of all the wonderful ideas, writing and acting I’ve heard this afternoon! I just feel unstoppable. Sarasvati is so wonderful for providing the encouragement and the space for people to say all these things that would be left silent for so much longer. Thank you for giving us your voices – you’re wonderful!” – Beverly Grace, Audience Member

This year’s Cabaret showcased artists from across disciplines, including stories of heartbreak, resettlement, grief, and staying unstoppable in the face of adversity. We also used ASL interpretation for the first time to make our performances accessible to the Deaf community! Thanks to support from the Manitoba Status of Women, we were able to tour pieces to communities that might not normally get to experience live theatre. Big thank-yous to all of the artists and playwrights who shared the stories of such inspiring, unstoppable women.

One Night Stand Series

We had three different One Night Stands this year, starting with FemFest and ending with the Carol Shields Festival of New Works! Thanks to producers Tatiana Carnevale and Daphne Finlayson, as well as a partnership with the U of W and Prairie Theatre Exchange, we showcased twenty new pieces from both experienced and emerging playwrights. You can catch the plays from ONS: Fringe and Fancy-Free next month at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival!

Workshops for Emerging Artists

“This workshop gave me new tools to be a better performer.”

“Extremely beneficial, will make producing and stage managing shows much easier, so much useful information.” – feedback from workshop participants

This year, we hosted ten workshops for nearly 100 emerging artists, covering Grant-Writing with a cereal buffet, Are You Technically Prepared with Allison Loat, The Actor’s Voice with Tom Soares, a Monologue Intensive with Sharon Bajer, and our informal mentorship sessions, Coffee with a Pro! We thank our partners Fools and Horses, Elements Restaurant, and the Graham C. Lount Foundation for helping us support up-and-coming artists in the community. We’re currently planning out next year’s series – if you have any suggestions for us, contact Daphne at associate@sarasvati.ca!

Support from NERI and crucial donors also allowed us to continue to work in partnership with Children of the Earth High School. We offered weekly theatre sessions for students. Thanks to the City of Winnipeg we are just wrapping up ten weeks with Gonzaga Middle School. We are well on our way to fostering some new, culturally diverse future theatre artists!

Women’s Comedy Night

After selling out in 2016, we had to bring back the event for another year! Eight of Winnipeg’s hilarious comediennes took part in our second annual Women’s Comedy Night back in November, packing the King’s Head for both a tamer 7PM show and a racier 9PM show. Don’t worry, we’ll be back again later in 2018 – stay tuned for more details!

FemFest 2017: Coming of Age

Our 15th FemFest saw some amazing work on the stage: from incredible touring artists like Tomboy Survival Guide, Judith Thompson’s Watching Glory Die, Falen Johnson’s Two Indians, as well as a reading of the 2016 Bake-Off winner, Kit and Joe by Jessy Ardern! Mark your calendars – FemFest 2018: Staging Resistance is happening September 15-22!

Thanks to all the audience members, artists, volunteers and community members who made our 18th season possible! For more on what we have coming up next year, stay tuned for details on our season launch in August.