Setting the stage

FemFest makes theatre accessible for women and students


The Asper Centre for Theatre and Film at the University of Winnipeg will be thriving again with the energy of FemFest 2015. The festival showcases diverse voices through varying art forms for a week in September and emphasizes the work of women, both locally and nationally.

Presented by Sarasvàti Productions, FemFest has been running since 2000 and is still going strong after 15 years of production. Hope McIntyre, artistic director at Sarasvàti, explains why it’s beneficial to keep the festival on campus.

“The theatre is the perfect size to accommodate the scale of shows but to also create a sense of intimacy,” McIntyre says. “Of course the early start poses challenges in terms of promoting to the student body and getting them involved, but it’s a great way though to introduce students to what Winnipeg has to offer.”

The festival is always chock-full with a variety of opportunities to learn. FemFest offers various workshops, from tips on how to self-produce while maintaining a day job, to presenting and collectively working on a piece in progress, to addressing the importance of meaningful storytelling.

Both familiar and new local talent will be making appearances in the festival. After selling out at the 2014 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, FemFest will be bringing back Mittelschmerz with Winnipeg’s Kim Zeglinski on the stage.

Premiering for the first time will be Frances Koncan with her play The Dance-Off of Conscious Uncoupling, a comedy exploring the concept of growing up.

Besides the diverse presentation of workshops and plays, this year’s FemFest will be featuring an international guest artist from Afghanistan.

“We haven’t had any international artists in a few years, so we are very excited to welcome Monirah Hashemi to perform as well as speak at the University of Winnipeg,” McIntyre says. “She currently lives in Sweden as she had to leave her country for her own safety. She is telling the stories of Afghan women, who rarely have a voice.”

FemFest aims at providing a platform for voices like these and others to be heard. It’s always a great opportunity to start conversations, especially when it comes to supporting women in pursuing art.

“Art should be for everyone, but female participation in theatre still hovers around 30 per cent,” McIntyre says. “The only way to change this is to offer opportunities to showcase women, help them to develop their craft and make sure that there is room for all stories on stage.”

Winnipeg has a lot of women artists, but McIntyre says their representation on a larger stage tends to be more hit and miss.

“There are good years, but then there are other years where no females artists are being produced. Lots of women are being trained and mentored in Winnipeg so there is great support in this way, but the next step is to give them a chance for professional opportunities.”

Published in Volume 70, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 10, 2015)

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