FemFest provides a voice for all

The festival highlights disability, cultural and queer experiences in the community

Theatre provides a great way to represent the different aspects of a community. With Winnipeg becoming more diverse, FemFest aims to do just that and more.

Sarasvàti Productions will host its annual FemFest at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film under the theme “All the World’s a Stage” from Sept. 14 to 21.

Sarasvàsti’s artistic director Hope McIntyre says, “this year’s theme stems from the idea of taking the theatre out of the theatre and taking the community into the theatre.

“The arts and theatre are part of our lives and experiences, and storytelling is part of what we do.”

Founded in 2003, FemFest’s mandate is to use theatre for social change.

“Our goal is to bring stories and voices to the stage that are not always explored, such as women, marginalized groups and queer experiences,” McIntyre says.

The festival features an array of performances, including in-house productions, workshop presentations, readings and three touring shows.

This year, FemFest is opening its doors to artists with disabilities and accessibility issues for the first time. Raising Stanley / Life with Tulia, a touring show featuring Ottawa storyteller Kim Kilpatrick, tells her life’s journey with the four guide dogs she has handled.

“As Kim is blind, we as seeing people may not understand how she lives, raising and handling guide dogs, and how she can put on a performance show like this, so this show is quite unique,” McIntyre says.

The second touring show is Like Mother, Like Daughter, and its director, Rose Plotek, says, “this intergenerational piece explores what is passed on through the matriarchal line.”

What makes this show unique is that the entire cast consists of local mothers and daughters.

“We requested mothers from either the Indigenous community or who is an immigrant or refugee, so that we can explore the different cultural issues of mother-daughter relationships in our community,” McIntyre says.

Like Mother, Like Daughter has two different segments.

“The afternoon show features the mothers and daughters playing a game of questions and answers. The women have written out the questions, and they dictate the stories being told,” Plotek says.

“In the evening show, the audience can have a meal with the mothers and daughters, and both parties can interact and ask questions. This is a time for the audience to relate and validate their experiences with the cast.”

4inXchange rounds out FemFest’s touring shows, and it is organized by xLq, a pop-art performance group that addresses queer issues.

“Although their piece is about capitalism, their performance style uses different modes, which include using four audience members along with the performers, and this allows for an interactive and intimate experience,” McIntyre says.

As FemFest features an array of established playwrights, it also offers a platform for emerging artists, seen in The Launchpad Project’s To Kill a Lizard.

Senior University of Winnipeg theatre student Emma Welham says “This drama/comedy performance is an original piece written by emerging artists. What makes FemFest unique is that it gives a platform to artists like me, who normally would not have one.

“It also tells the stories of community, and everyone feels seen and represented.”

FemFest will run at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film at the University of Winnipeg (400 Colony St.) from Sept 14 to 21. Tickets can be purchased on sarasvati.ca and range from $15 to $50.

Published in Volume 74, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 12, 2019)

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