“Silence is the illness.”
This was said to me by a beautiful young woman who had battled an eating disorder, self-harmed and attempted suicide. The next week I was interviewing a geriatric patient at Selkirk Mental Health Centre and he tearfully told me that since his breakdown his friends had stopped calling, I thanked him before leaving and he grabbed my hand and said “thank you for letting us get it out.”
Those are the moments when I know we are having an impact. We need your help to continue to let those without a voice break the silence.
I founded Sarasvàti Productions to create theatre that was transformative. What is transformative theatre and how do you help?
Because of you we transform community. We either select a topic that is causing conflict in the community or community groups approach us to address an issue. Then, with your help, we reach out to associations, individuals, the broader public and create forums to hear from hundreds of people who are rarely given a voice. When we created Jail Baby, a young incarcerated woman was surprised upon hearing the script and proclaimed: “That’s me. That’s my story.” In reality it was a compilation of many people’s experiences but she was so grateful that someone cared enough to listen, write it all down and share what she had and her peers had been through. She had entered the room closed off and left beaming.
Thanks to you we transform our audiences. We then take these stories we hear at the forums and create a stage play. Those who attend our shows see the world through someone else’s eyes. The use of storytelling to highlight social issues elicits a personal and emotional response. Thanks to you we can make our work accessible to everyone for greatest impact – performing in correctional centres, in soup kitchens, in malls and even in elevators.
Taking theatre to people who either can’t afford or don’t feel comfortable in a theatre has resulted in our best performances. After performing monologues at Siloam Mission, a gentleman approached me to say that he never gets to go to theatre and he was grateful we brought it to him.
With your help we transform artists. We work with culturally diverse artists, emerging artists and artists who want more meaning in the work they do. Our mental health project has included newcomers, Indigenous artists, recent theatre graduates and artists with lived experience of a mental illness. Thanks to you we have launched dozens of careers and kept theatre training accessible to everyone. Because of your support artists have had the opportunity to work with masters like playwright Judith Thompson who inspired emerging artist Megan Andres to pursue her MFA:
The opportunities that Sarasvàti Productions has offered me has been a huge part of keeping my fire burning. That interaction with Judith Thompson, the mentorship from Hope McIntyre and the support of Sarasvàti Productions have not only been part of what kept me “alive” in theatre but have also assisted in reignited my drive to have a life in theatre. . . I can truly say that my involvement with Sarasvàti and the opportunities provided have helped set me on a path to a future in theatre; confident that I have a place and a voice that is valid in the world of theatre.
Thanks to you, we’ve addressed bullying, racism, the stigma of being a foster kid and newcomer youth being recruited in to gangs. After performing in one school a guidance counselor later told us that a student confessed the next day that he was being pressured to join a gang. The play changed that student’s life. That’s how important your gifts are.
Right now we are tackling the important topic of mental health, but we can’t do it without you. One in four Manitobans have received medical treatment for a mental illness. We have had the honour of hearing hundreds of people share their stories and we need your help to get these stories out to those who will benefit most. With your help we can meet the demand from youth that we take their stories to schools and share with their peers. In June we will create a version of our Mental Health Project for young audiences and tour the production to Manitoba high schools this fall. The initiative will culminate in a full public production of the general audience version in May 2017, when we will be able to perform for thousands of Manitobans thanks to you.
You can make it possible for us to take the show to schools that cannot afford the performance cost and to bring the show to community group members who cannot afford tickets. Imagine the transformation for those who shared their stories, for youth who see it is okay to talk about depression, for audience members who are inspired to react with greater compassion and for the artists who get to be role models. Let’s transform the silence into power.
Join me in promoting values of inclusion, compassion and equality! Make your gift today of whatever you can give to continue to change lives through theatre.
P.S. Give today – $25, $45, $50 or whatever you can give. Donate on-line at http://sarasvati.ca/about/donate-now/